New Zealand Maritime Museum

Northern Steam Ship Company


Shaky Beginnings 1881-1887

Once the company was established, there was growing demand from small coastal settlements for Northern Steam Ship Company steamships to call at their wharves. For the first three years the Company grew in stature and reputation and sought to expand its fleet.

In 1883 the Company decided to purchase new steamers intended for the Tauranga, Russell and Auckland trade and Captain McGregor was sent to Britain to make arrangements for building the new vessels. In 1884 the Company took delivery of CLANSMAN, which cost 20,000, and GAIRLOCH.

CLANSMAN at Kawau 1914 Photograph: Furniss collection

The CLANSMAN at Kawau 1914
Photograph: Furniss collection.

Despite growing demand and expansion of the Company's fleet, the financial situation was not very encouraging. The Company was spending money to build up its fleet and expand its services. The older vessels in the fleet experienced machinery breakdowns and there were several accidents, all of which caused delays in the timetable and cost the Company money. Also, the small ports served by the Company were not fully developed and the amount of trade was small and therefore did not provide much profit. The Depression of the 1880s affected all industries including the timber industry, which nearly collapsed and was one of Northern Steam Ship Company's major sources of trade.

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