The UK’s oldest shipowner, Stephenson Clarke Shipping, has gone into liquidation after more than 280 years in business.
The bulk carrier operator, founded by the brothers Ralph and Robert Clarke who bought a 300 ton-sailing vessel in 1730 when King George II was on the throne, sold its last ship in July as it gave up the struggle to survive the global economic downturn that has driven freight rates close to historic lows.
The company for long focused on the domestic seaborne coal trades, but following the mass closures of the nation’s mines moved into bulk shipping, carrying grain, steel, and alumina and project cargoes in northern Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean and West Africa.
At its height in the 1990s, Stephenson Clarke operated more than 30 single deck bulk carriers, ranging from 1,100 to 12,000 deadweight tons.
But the Newcastle-based firm was forced to sell vessels in a bid to slash costs in a deepening bear market for bulk shipping.
“It is with great regret that the company has had to cease trading. 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 to 18 months,” the company said.
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