New Zealand Maritime Museum

Northern Steam Ship Company


The Ranson Period 1887-1921

Fortunately for the Northern Steam Ship Company, James McCosh Clark met Charles Ranson in 1887. Charles Ranson was an English accountant, with experience in the shipping industry. He had come to settle in New Zealand, but he did not find the career and fortune he was hoping for and was contemplating returning to England. After talking with Mr. McCosh Clark, Charles Ranson saw the opportunity he had been looking for. He promised that he could turn the Company around and make a profit, if he was given the opportunity to become Manager.

On 31st May 1888 at the Annual Meeting it was discussed whether the Company should be wound up after four years of consecutive losses. At the next Director's meeting on 6th June, Mr. Cruickshank proposed that Captain McGregor should be removed from the position of Managing Director and that Mr. Charles Ranson should be appointed manager of the Company. This was to become a new era for the Northern Steam Ship Company as Charles Ranson began to re-organize the business.

Auckland wharves 1914.
         Photograph by Henry Winkelmann.
         Auckland City Libraries (N.Z.) (W1335)
The Auckland wharves with several NSS Co vessels 1914
Photograph by Henry Winkelmann
Auckland City Libraries (N.Z.) (W1335)

The first thing Ranson did was to retrench staff and sort out the problems with the Jubilee Steam Ship Company. He also set about putting the Company's finances in order and purchased three second-hand steamers: screw-steamer ROTOMAHANA and two little Thames paddle steamers, TE AROHA and ENTERPRISE. Also the Company had two more steamers built, WAIOTAHI and OHINEMURI. OHINEMURI was put on the Auckland - Paeroa run in direct competition with the Hauraki Steamship Company, forcing that company to sell to the Northern Company. During the 1890s the Northern Steam Ship Company became one of the leading coastal shipping companies of New Zealand.

During the 1900s under Ranson's progressive policies the Northern Steam Ship Company opened up new ports such as Raglan, Katikati, Maketu and Canaan Landing in Te Puke and built wharves at ports not controlled by Harbour Boards. The fleet was gradually enlarged and included a number of fine passenger vessels, such as NGAPUHI and RARAWA, designed by George Gow, who rose to become the Company's new Chief Superintendent. In 1904 the Company decided to introduce a new attraction - the Annual Summer Cruise. This was very popular up until 1908 by which time the novelty had worn off.

The development of railways in New Zealand during this period had an effect on the nature of the Company's services. For instance in 1908 the Main trunk railway between Auckland and Wellington opened and this caused a decline in passenger traffic on the New Plymouth service. The Northern Steam Ship Company and Union Steam Ship Company agreed that there was not enough traffic for two steamers on this service and decided to continue it as a joint service.

Charles Ranson retired in 1921 and was succeeded by Captain Hammond.