The economic crisis has claimed a historic victim- Stephenson Clarke Shipping Ltd, the world’s oldest shipping company, has sold its last remaining ship and is headed for liquidation. The company has been trading for almost 300 years, starting in 1730 when it began carrying bulk coal and grain on short sea routes. The company is four years older than Lloyd's List, which was founded in 1734.
A statement by Stephenson Clarke Shipping and accounting company Tait Walker says that the company has been placed into liquidation after selling off its last remaining vessel last month. The company said, in a statement, “While previous economic downturns have been weathered, the current market is one of the worst experienced for many years, with no upturn forecast for at least 12-18 months.”
Stevie Clarke, as the company was locally known, was founded by Ralph and Robert Clarke during the reign of King George II, and prospered shipping coal from Newcastle, later expanding into the European, African and Mediterranean markets. It was forced to sell its six ships one by one after the dry freight markets collapsed two years ago and rates for all the cargoes it carried- coal, grain and iron ore- were particularly hard hit. The mayhem was only magnified by the huge tonnage overhang that plagues the markets even today.
The turmoil that has battered shipping shows no signs of easing. Stephenson Clarke may appear to be just another casualty, but, sadly, an era will end with its liquidation.