Chapter 14 Modernizing Seaborne Communication in Nineteenth-Century Greece

The Role and the Contribution of the Hellenic Steam Navigation Company, 1857–93

In: Mediterranean Seafarers in Transition
Apostolos Delis
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1 Introduction

The introduction and establishment of steam navigation in Greece in the nineteenth century can be attributed to the Hellenic Steam Navigation Company (hereafter HSNC or the company). The company was founded in 1857 after long and persistent efforts by the Greek state to institute steam navigation communications within domestic waters. The HSNC was founded as a private joint stock company, with the state being the major shareholder, and having as a principal aim “the establishment and maintenance of regular (sea) transport by at least five steamships between the coasts of Greece and between them and abroad, without (this latter causing) any harm to domestic communications”.1 Therefore, the company from the outset had the character of a public interest entity in the service “of the nation”, an expression that is to be found repeatedly in public documents and newspapers of the period discussing issues related to the HSNC.

The company was bankrupt by 1893, and contemporaries, as well as Greek historiography, addressed severe criticism on the causes of the failure of the company, ranging from mismanagement, involvement in politics, to problematic relations between the state and domestic capitalists.2 However, during these 36 years of service the company contributed to multiple aspects of the modernization of the country and brought structural changes to the economy, society, and everyday life; it is thus unjust to treat her story as a plain failure. In fact, the HSNC introduced passenger shipping, and unified a fragmented national territory of many islands and extensive coastline that was sparsely populated. In parallel, it was instrumental for the state and its ability to exercise sovereignty in the domestic territory. It also enhanced trade and communication with the Greek merchant diaspora, established in the ports of the Ottoman Empire and Egypt, to the extent to which the geopolitical conjunctures between Greece and the Ottoman Empire allowed. The steamships that operated its lines were of the most up to date technology and proved to be very reliable vessels, most of them outlasting the company itself. The company also introduced modern shipbuilding and marine engineering into Greece, and trained the very first generation of artisans and engineers in the country. The arsenal of the company, built in 1861, not only established a ship repairing and marine engineering centre of prime importance in the eastern Mediterranean, but also functioned as a centre of education and apprenticeships for future Greek engineers.3

The aim of this chapter is to show that the HSNC, despite being a typical joint stock company, was in essence an undertaking of national scope and of public character, that established steam navigation and contributed to the modernization of seaborne communications of Greece. The analysis will focus on: the role of the state in instituting and supporting steam navigation; on the impact of the contractual obligations between the HSNC and the state in the economic performance of the company; and the change in public policy from the 1880s, which promoted competition among the HSNC and other Greek steamship companies, a period when the centre of gravity was shifting towards Piraeus at the expense of the declining Syros. In the first part of the paper the analysis will take into consideration specific aspects, such as the forms of state support in the development of steam navigation. The second part will deal with the fleet, the lines, and the economic performance of the company, always in comparison with case studies from Britain, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea. The concluding part will offer a final assessment of this state-HSNC relationship; the factors that led to the bankruptcy of the company but also its contribution and impact on Greek seaborne communications.

2 The Role of the State on the Development of Steam Navigation

The development of regular domestic and international seaborne communications was already a primary concern for the Greek state from the early years of its constitution (1830). In 1833, the Greek government contracted the French banker François Feraldi to establish lines of sailing packets between Greece and foreign ports of high political and commercial interest where a Greek population resided. The service, that cost the Greek government 4,000 drachmas per month, included lines to Trieste via Brindisi, to Livorno via Messina, to Marseilles via Malta, to Smyrna and to Alexandria via Chania (Crete).4 The service, despite having performed quite satisfactorily for two years was gradually superseded by the penetration of French and Austrian steamers in Greek ports.5 In 1837, the Arsenal of the Royal Hellenic Navy in Poros, built two wooden paddle steamers, the Maximilianos and Otho, for a mail and passenger service on the domestic lines between Piraeus, Nauplion, and Syros; based on another source this line also included Kalamaki, Tinos, and Kythnos.6 In 1843, the main Greek seaports of Piraeus, Syros, and Patras were served by Lloyd Austriaco, based on a convention signed between the company and the Greek government. This convention was renewed in 1852 after a three-year long debate between the political parties that supported the creation of a domestic navigation company and those who wanted to secure a reliable seaborne communication service even if it was through a foreign company. In fact, in 1849, the director of the National Bank of Greece, Georgios Stavros, and the wealthy diaspora entrepreneur and Greek Ambassador of Egypt in Alexandria, Michail Tositsas, made a first attempt to institute a steam navigation company, named the Societé de navigation a vapeur grecque et pour la canalisation du Detroit de l’ Eubee, which failed after the assignment of the postal convention to Lloyd Austriaco.7 In 1853, another group of capitalists, mainly from Patras, with the collaboration of Greek entrepreneurs based in Britain, sought the purchase of steamers, once again unsuccessfully.8

Finally, in 1855, prior to the constitution of the company, the Greek Parliament passed a bill for the purchase of steamers, financed by the National Bank of Greece and commissioned to the same group of British–based entrepreneurs that were entrusted by the merchants of Patras a few years earlier.9 This time the effort succeeded, and three new steamers were ordered from British shipyards on the account of the National Bank of Greece. Two of them, the Βασίλισσα της Ελλάδος (Queen of Greece) and Ύδρα (Hydra), arrived in 1856 and begun service in August under the General Direction of the Post Offices of Greece, before the creation of the company.10 Meanwhile, fierce competition over the location of the imminent Steam Navigation Company’s headquarters had already begun between the capitalist elites of Patras and Syros and to a lesser extent Piraeus. Syros prevailed due to its position as an international commercial and maritime crossroads in the eastern Mediterranean, but also due to the National Bank of Greece’s strategy to penetrate this very important market, where the merchant class was traditionally hostile to the bank.11

The efforts of the Greek government to institute reliable seaborne communications within and beyond the country are related to specific needs of the modern state that emerged in the nineteenth century. These included a mail service, for government and private correspondence, along with the transport of officials, civil, and military personnel and materiel. Before the advent of the steamship sailing packets under direct state jurisdiction or under contract, a private entrepreneur, like Feraldi, provided these kinds of services. In Britain, the Post Office ran the mail service in overseas destinations like the North Atlantic, the West Indies, and the Iberian Peninsula through government sailing brigs. The French state, on the other hand, contracted private shipowners of sailing ships, usually brigs, to carry the mail to the West Indies and South America. In all cases, sailing ships proved an unreliable means for a regular service, run either directly by the state or through a private contractor.12 By the early 1830s, the steamship was already a viable means of transport, and in Britain steamships connected large parts of national territory, including also foreign ports in the North Sea.13 At that time, state authorities in many, mostly European, countries realized the potential of the steamship for the development of domestic and overseas communications and mail services. Despite its imperfect stage of technical advancement, the wooden paddle-driven steamer offered regularity, that was the fundamental condition required for scheduled voyages. Early steamers suffered from a lack of space due to the size and weight of the engines, the great amount of coal required for those engines, and the low-uneconomical pressure operating boilers, due to the fear of explosion due to the uneven quality of their fabricated material.14 Notwithstanding all these constraints, the steamship revolutionized maritime transport in terms of speed and regularity, and states adopted her as a powerful tool of control in domestic and overseas-colonial possessions, and for political, military and economic expansion and penetration into foreign areas and markets.15

The support by various states for the development of steam navigation followed different forms and patterns, which depended upon the special political and economic aims and conditions of each country. One form of development was the creation of a state-owned fleet of steamships. A second one was that of the state granting a postal subvention or mail contract to a private ship owning company with an annual subsidy, in exchange for specific services performed for the state, such as the conveyance of mail and the use of steamers as auxiliary ships for the navy.16 A third form was that in which the state granted to a private company not a postal convention with the payment of an annual subsidy, but rather indirect aid in the form of privileges, such as a monopoly of navigation on specific routes, exemption from import duties on shipbuilding materials, exemption on port taxes and dues, and preferential treatment in ports, loans, etc.17

The first form of the development of steam navigation was followed by France in 1837, when a fleet of ten state-owned steamers operated from Marseilles via Tyrrhenian Sea ports to the eastern Mediterranean (one line to Istanbul and a second to Alexandria) under the jurisdiction of the French Post Office. The steamers were assimilated with French Navy ships, operated by naval personnel under martial legislation, but since they were not designed for commercial exploitation they were not attractive to shippers and passengers alike, and thus not competitive against British and Austrian steamers. Soon this service proved inefficient and constantly in debt, which led the French government to the decision to end this arrangement, and to search for a solution involving postal subvention to a private company.18

The second form of steam development was the most widespread and perhaps the most successful in terms of service for the state and for the sustainability of steamship navigation. In Britain, the ineffectiveness of mail sailing brigs and an awareness of the viability of the steamship for longer routes, led the government to the solution of granting mail contracts to private steamship companies. The first mail contract was awarded by the Post Office to the General Steam Navigation Company (GSN) for a service to Rotterdam and Hamburg in 1834.19 In 1837, the administration of mail contracts passed from the Post Office to the British Admiralty, and a series of contracts were granted for domestic lines, but more importantly for oceanic routes. In the same year, the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company was awarded a mail contract for a service to Spain and Portugal, which, in 1840, was extended to the Mediterranean, and in 1845 to India and later to China, and altered its name to Peninsular and Oriental (P&O). In 1839, the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (better known as Cunard) was granted a contract to carry mail from Liverpool to Halifax and Boston and later to New York. In 1840, the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was awarded the mail contract for the West Indies and South America, in 1845 the Pacific Steam Navigation Company the contract for Pacific South America, and in 1856 the Union Line for South Africa.20 With the exception of the General Steam Navigation Company, that had operated since 1824 on Channel and North Sea routes and the Union Line that was founded as a collier line in 1853, the rest of the companies were formed ad hoc, with the sole objective of obtaining mail contracts. In fact, these companies begun to operate only after they were awarded mail contracts. The high initial capital investment and running costs of a steamship enterprise before the 1860s, when the steamship was neither technologically advanced nor economically efficient, rendered steamship operation without a mail contract an almost unsustainable undertaking.21 In some companies, certain members of the founding groups were already experienced shipowners of steam ship companies in British waters (the Scottish Burns and MacIver in Cunard, and the Irish Bourne and Williams in P&O), but in others, like the Royal Mail, no previous experience of steamship navigation existed.22

Similarly, in France and in the Russian Empire, the mail contract or postal subvention was the sine qua non condition for the creation and viability of steam navigation companies. After the failure of its state-owned postal steamers, the French government, in 1851, assigned to Messageries Nationales, a company of stagecoaches from Paris, the contract for the sea transport of mail, specie, passengers, and merchandise in the Mediterranean. With no previous experience except in river steam navigation, Messageries Nationales created in 1852 as Messageries Maritimes, had as its initial fleet previously state-owned postal steamers; its administrative headquarters were in Paris, its fleet base in Marseilles, and the shipbuilding and ship-repairing establishment was in nearby La Ciotat. The annual subvention guaranteed the sustainability of the service and the expansion of the company, which very soon took subsequent mail contracts for Atlantic South America in 1857, for Indochina in 1861, and from Indochina to China and Japan in 1864.23

In Russia, the government and mercantile elites of Odessa, since the 1830s, had sought to establish their own steam navigation communications within the Black Sea up to Istanbul. Finally, the Russian Steam Navigation and Trading Company (RSNTC) was founded in 1856, with the aim of promoting Russian shipping and commercial interests in the area, along with the carriage of mail, passengers, and merchandise. The government paid a subvention per mile and also granted extensive privileges and financial support to the company, including duty free import of ships and of shipbuilding material, tax exemption on goods transported on the company’s ships, financial assistance for annual ship repairs, free concession of land for the establishment of the company’s infrastructure, etc. Thanks to this kind of overwhelming state support and to a very flexible policy based on the profitability of the lines, RSNTC gradually managed to expand and to sustain lines in the Mediterranean, northern Europe including the Baltic Sea, and as far as the Persian Gulf.24

In the third form of indirect aid for steam shipping lies the case of Lloyd Austriaco, at least in the early period of its history. The company was formed in 1836 in Trieste by a group of local businessmen supported by the magnate Salomon Mayer von Rothschild. The interest of Rothschild in investing in a new technology related to state interests, in parallel with Vienna’s policy of extending the imperial intelligence system in the eastern Mediterranean through the mail service, led to the granting of the first contract to Lloyd Austriaco in 1837 to carry mail to the Adriatic, Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and to Egypt. The Austrian government did not offer an annual subvention to the company but rather privileges, such as a navigation monopoly of the Trieste-Venice line, fiscal equality with Austrian Navy ships, facilities for quarantine procedures, state guarantees for loans, and all the revenues from the transport of mail. From 1855 up to the First World War, when the previous system proved no longer efficient, the Austrian government took a more direct role in the affairs of the company, and paid an annual subvention on specific lines. During this period, Lloyd Austriaco expanded beyond the Mediterranean to Bombay in India in 1872, and from there to Ceylon, Calcutta, and Singapore in 1877, to Hong-Kong and Shanghai in 1881, to Brazil in 1882, and to Japan in 1893.25

The case of Lloyd Austriaco presents resemblances with that of the HSNC in Greece. In fact, in the latter’s first twelve-year contract with the Greek government in 1857, the company, instead of any subvention, received a set of privileges. These included: a) a navigation monopoly within domestic waters; b) a security of payment of 5% interest per year up to two-thirds of the paid-in capital; c) a duty exemption on imported ships and material used for the repairing and outfitting of the company’s ships; d) assimilation of privileges of the company’s steamers with naval ships, namely exemption of payment of port and sanitary dues and of the time-consuming controls of shipping papers by the port authorities; and e) concession of public land for the construction of its arsenal and other company’s buildings.26 Very soon, however, also in this case, the payment of an annual subvention proved to be the only solution for the company in order to overcome the constant deficit from the service. In 1861, the Board of Directors claimed that the company was on the verge of collapse, and obtained 150,000 drachmas in temporary government aid, but not a commitment for an annual subvention.27 In 1862, after a turbulent year during which the company’s operations were interrupted and damaged due to political troubles that led to the dethronement of King Otho, the managing directors obtained from the new government a permanent annual subvention of 300,000 drachmas “absolutely necessary for the subsistence of our national company … as happens in other nations in favour of steam navigation companies executing postal services”.28 The annual subvention increased to 370,000 drachmas in 1864, due to the incorporation the year before of the British-protected Ionian Islands to the Greek Kingdom as a dowry by Britain to the new King George I, which expanded the lines and increased the mileage of the HSNC.29 In 1871, after two years of negotiations with the government for the renewal of the contract that expired in 1869, the company was granted a new five-year contract that raised the amount of the annual subvention to 650,000 drachmas. This considerable increase was given in exchange for the opening to foreign competition of the most commercial lines—that of the Ionian Islands, the Syros-Piraeus and the Patras-Piraeus routes—to which the company strongly objected. This concession to foreign competition by the Greek government was forced by Britain in exchange for the lowering of the import duty on currants, the staple export commodity of Greece in the nineteenth century. In fact, two days before the signing of the new contract with the HSNC, the Greek government signed another contract with Burns and MacIver, managing directors of Cunard and of The British and Foreign Steam Navigation Company, an unsubsidized steamship company that traded directly from Britain to the Mediterranean, and also acted as feeder to the transatlantic lines of Cunard. The contract conceded to the British company the right to include in their Mediterranean lines the ports of Patras, Corfu, and Syros.30 The 1871 contract was renewed in 1877 for three more years and for the same amount of annual subsidy; it continued also in its last twelve–year contract, from 1880 up to 1892, shortly before the dissolution of the company in the middle of 1893.31

It becomes clear that state subvention through mail contracts was instrumental, almost a sine qua non condition, for the development of steam navigation, especially in the early stages of the technical development of the steamship, but also during the second half of the nineteenth century. Up to the 1860s, the factors that restricted the viability of a steamship enterprise without state support were not only technical, but also institutional, and financial. During this period, the prevalent system of partnership in shipping in the Mediterranean was to divide the ownership of the ship into 24 shares (called quirats in French or carati in Italian), between active and passive shareholders, whereas in Britain the 64th system of shares prevailed, suitable for tramp shipping operations.32 However, these institutional forms of partnership were not adapted for steamship liner enterprises that needed to attract large capital and to offer investment security. Initial heavy expenditure on a fleet of steamships, coal stations, technical establishments and numerous, maritime, technical, and administrative staff needed for a steamship liner company, were beyond the reach of individual resources and of the ship partnership forms of the age of sail. In fact, in order to overcome these constraints, steamship liner companies either formed as partnerships (Cunard) or most of them were joint stock firms (P&O, GSN, Royal Mail, Messageries Maritimes, Lloyd Austriaco, RSNTC, HSNC), which for the period 1830s to 1850s was highly unusual in shipping, both in Britain and in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the limited liability often granted to some of these companies offered greater investment security.33

However, the operation of a shipping firm within the protective framework of state support and subventions created a peculiar status of privileges as well as constraints. Steamship liner companies created to provide a service of national or public importance, despite the fact that they enjoyed privileges along with subventions, faced many constraints at the same time resulting from contractual obligations. In order to maintain the regularity of scheduled steamship voyages, they had to perform at a certain specified speed and often at a higher cost than a tramp or a non-subsidized operator. Then, in order to maintain the schedules at designated ports and to avoid delays, which caused penalties, steamships often had to abandon potential profits from cargo or passengers or catch market opportunities that sailing to non-designated ports would offer. Furthermore, public servants and military personnel and materiel travelled on discount fares. In the British case, Admiralty officers, often with some assistants, responsible for the mail conveyance constantly carried on board, sailed along to supervise the correct conduct of the postal service, at the expense of the company for lodging and food. In addition, the ships of the subsidized companies had to be built with the specific requirements of the naval authorities, since they were used as auxiliary ships in case of necessity.34

In Greece, in similar fashion, the government dictated the number, size, and speed of the ships, as well as the itinerary under the jurisdiction of the Post Office. In the first 1857 contract, the company had to employ five steamers with no less than 70 hp engines and capable of at least 10 mph in speed. In the 1880 contract, the company had to add within a year from the beginning of the contract, three more steamers, two of them of no less than 700 tons and the other one of no less than 600 tons, and they all had to attain the speed of at least 11 mph. No change in the itinerary was possible without the consent of the government and prior consultation with the Post Office, and the company had to pay penalties for unjustified delays or omissions at designated ports. Furthermore, civil, military, and naval personnel and convicts travelled with a 30% discount and government material with a 50% discount, and public money, as well as public and private correspondence, were carried free of charge. In the 1857 contract, Post Office personnel, when on board for work purposes, were allowed free passage, and from the 1871 contract, and in all other contracts afterwards, the company had to accept on board a postal clerk, for whom they had to provide lodging and food, and a working room, and his authority was equivalent to that of the ship’s officers. In case of necessity, the government could order the transport of troops with the company’s ships in exchange for a compensation, and from 1871 a Royal Commissioner was appointed to control the company’s affairs at its headquarters in Syros.35

In fact, this array of obligations caused the Board of Directors of the HSNC to complain systematically to the Greek government about certain issues, such as the unprofitability of specific lines, like the Cyclades and western Greece, and the compensation for expenses and lost profits for the use of its ships as transports for troops and refugees during the Cretan War (1866–69).36 Therefore, state subsidized steamship companies had to balance incompatible requirements, on the one hand, to perform an often-non profitable service for which they received the subvention, and on the other, to pursue profit opportunities as business firms naturally do.37 The only exception to this scheme was the case of the RSNTC a few years after its foundation, whose General Assembly in 1861 voted to pursue a policy dictated by commercial interests and not by geostrategic priorities. In 1864, the government sold all its shares and withdrew from its ownership of the company, even though it continued to pay an annual subvention.38

A further issue was the renewal of the contract with each government, its terms, duration, and the amount of subvention. In many countries, since the middle of the nineteenth century, the policy of public spending in exchange for steamship services from a particular company, was severely criticized and was under scrutiny, including accusations of monopoly, high costs, and inefficiency every time the renewal of a contract was at stake. In Britain, the Post Office took back the responsibility for the mail contract in 1860 from the Admiralty, and changed the policy towards more competitors for the same line, while at the same time offered lower amounts of subvention and shorter contracts.39 Generally, the renewal of the contract was an arduous process that took a great deal of time, and negotiations with government institutions and often its renewal put at stake the continuity or the dissolution of a business.40 This concern with the risk of dissolution of the company was expressed in the correspondence of the Board of Directors of the HSNC with the government during the negotiations for the renewal of the expired contract in 1869, and in 1862 when mounting debts and a lack of more funding from the government threatened the existence of the company.41 Public accusations of mismanagement, overspending, and inefficiency against the HSNC took many forms, either through articles in the press or the publication of studies lobbying to challenge certain privileges, like the navigation monopoly, the type of management, or the change of headquarters of the company from Syros to Athens.42 This type of lobbying was instigated by competitors interested in obtaining the contract themselves, but also reflected a new form of government policy towards privileged companies like the HSNC after the 1870s, when steam navigation reached a mature stage and more companies entered into domestic communications. This was the case with the clause of the 1880 contract, which provided that after the first three years of the contact, if another company with at least 15 million drachmas capital could offer better terms than the HSNC, then the government should make a competition call.43 Unsurprisingly, already in 1881, an effort was made by Stefanos Skouloudis, an entrepreneur and politician tied to interests in the Panellinios Steam Navigation Company, to merge the two companies and create a greater one with a large capital base. This project however proved to be against the interests of the shareholders and directors of the HSNC, since Skouloudis could neither maintain the promise to ensure large capital or to keep the headquarters of the new company at Syros. Besides, the HSNC, as the prime mover in steam navigation which had greater assets (ships, an arsenal, and other infrastructure) and investments than anyone else from 1857, could only lose in any merger.44

3 The Economic Performance of the HSNC

The first fleet of the HSNC was built in British shipyards between 1856 and 1860. Five steamers were built at the Clyde, two in the north-east and two at the Thames, in renowned shipbuilding firms and with the cutting-edge technology of the period, all but one with an iron hull and all but two with a screw propeller (see Table 15.1). Two more, old second-hand steamers, were purchased by the Greek government in 1864 for the service to the recently annexed Ionian Islands. In the 1850s, steamship technology experienced structural changes with shifts from wood to iron, from paddle to screw, and the invention of the compound engine that improved navigation and economic performance.45 However, subsidized companies in Britain like the Royal Mail, Cunard, and P&O, due to objections from the Admiralty with the adaptation to iron and screw, were resistant to these innovations. In fact, iron-screw steamers were initially built for lines outside the mail contract of the subsidized companies, or from unsubsidized companies like Inman Lines in the Atlantic and the British and Foreign Steam Navigation Company of the Cunard group operating in the Mediterranean.46 The second group of steamers were purchased partly as an obligation of the 1880 postal convention, and were integrated into the fleet between 1881 and 1883, as well as the Sfaktiria and Mykali, which were initially purchased by the Greek Navy and sold in 1887 to the HSNC. All but one of the steamers were built in Britain, six of them were second-hand, there was one new build from Britain, the Pelops, and another new build from France, the Theseus, probably the finest vessel (Table 14.1).47

Table 14.1
Table 14.1
Table 14.1
Table 14.1

The fleet of the Hellenic Steam Navigation Company

Source: Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, 1863, 75, 158, 220, 258, 261, 344, 351, 375; accessed on 20 May 2021; Maria Panopoulou, Οικονομικά και τεχνικά προβλήματα στην ελληνική ναυπηγική βιομηχανία 1850–1914, [Economic and Technical Problems in the Greek Shipbuilding Industry, 1850–1914] (Athens: KEPE, 1993), 203; accessed on 20 May 2021

The company begun operation in July 1857 with the Hydra, Queen of Greece and Panellinion. The first two, in the previous year, operated under the Post Office administration awaiting the foundation of the company. These three steamers ran five lines embracing most of Greece at the time, up to Chalkida in the northern borders, around the Peloponnese, and the major islands of the Cyclades.48 In 1858, the arrival of the Omonoia and Karteria extended the lines to Crete and Thessaloniki, and increased the number of voyages by one-and-a-half times and the number of passengers by three and a half times (see Table 14.2).49 In 1860 new steamers arrived, the Otho Amalia, Eptanisos, and Byzantion, and more domestic lines were added, plus external lines to Crete, Constantinople, southern Turkey, as it was called, and a line that linked Constantinople to Corfu. Consequently, the traffic increased to 120,000 passengers 0n 367 voyages. The reduction in traffic in 1862 was due to the political turmoil that led to the expulsion of King Otho, but in 1864, when the steamers Athinai and Ionia were added to the fleet, new lines opened to the recently annexed Ionian Islands and to the Ottoman Empire. One that called to European Turkey, more likely included ports of the Aegean, like Volos and Thessaloniki, and the other that called in Asiatic Turkey probably included Smyrna and other eastern Aegean islands, which led passenger traffic to reach its peak with 145,000 people.50 From 1865 to 1880, the company made approximately 450 voyages and carried between 106,000–125,000 passengers per year. Only in 1881, after the arrival of three more steamers (Elpis, Ermoupolis and Pineios) and the inauguration of the new itinerary with more lines, did the traffic increase to 607 voyages, carrying 247,000 passengers (see Table 14.2). The average number of passengers per voyage up to 1864 was 370 people. After that year, and up to 1880, this figure decreased to almost 250 passengers per voyage, most likely due to the interruptions on the lines with the Ottoman Empire after the Cretan War of 1866–69.

Figure 14.1
Figure 14.1

The steamship Panellinion and her officers

Source: Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους [History of the Greek Nation], vol. ΙΓ (Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon, 1970–80), 270
Table 14.2
Table 14.2

Traffic of the HSNC fleet, 1857–1881

Source: Processed data from Γενική Συνέλευσις …, ισολογισμός [Balance Sheets], 1857, 1862, 1865, 1866, 1868, 1870, 1872, 1877, 1882; and General State Archives, Syros, Γακ/Ανκ Συρου, Ι Στατιστικα, vol. 1: Ελληνική Ατμοπλοΐα. Στατιστικός πίναξ από του έτους 1857 μέχρι του έτους 1865. [Statistical table from 1857 to 1865]

The analysis of the revenues of the HSNC from 1861 to 1881 shows that approximately three-quarters came from passengers. Commodities were not a negligible share, but never more than a quarter of the total revenues, while the specie occupied a very low percentage (Table 14.3). This must be attributed to the fact that most commercial ports of the company’s lines, like Syros, Patras, or Piraeus were also served by foreign steam navigation companies taking part in the trade of commodities and specie. The large number of passengers carried per voyage as Table 14.2 indicates, the share of revenues from passengers as presented in Table 14.3, and the limited number of cabin passengers on the HSNC’s steamers, reveals that most of the revenues came from steerage passengers.51 Passenger revenues were the most important even for the largely subsidized British companies operating in ocean navigation. For the Royal Mail, in the period 1844–90, passenger receipts accounted on average for 38% of the total, freight from specie and cargo 29%, and mail contract receipts 30.6%.52 For Cunard, in 1846, passenger receipts accounted for more than half of the total, cargo receipts for less than an eighth, while from the 1860s onwards steerage passengers from Liverpool to the United States constituted the principal revenue for the most important transatlantic companies.53

Table 14.3
Table 14.3

Percentage of category of revenues

Source: Processed data from Γενική Συνέλευσις …, ισολογισμός [Balance Sheets], 1857, 1862, 1865, 1866, 1868, 1870, 1872, 1877, 1882

The most profitable lines for the HSNC were the external ones with the Ottoman Empire, including major ports like Smyrna, Constantinople, or Thessaloniki. In fact, in 1861 and 1864, the lines of “southern Turkey” and “European Turkey” were the most profitable respectively, while in the latter year the “Asiatic Turkey” line also had an important contribution (Table 14.4). In 1865, an outbreak of cholera in the ports of the Ottoman Empire interrupted the service for months and reduced the revenues of the company.54 In 1866, the outbreak of the Cretan Revolution (1866–69) led to the disruption of the lines with Ottoman ports up to 1881 when Crete reintegrated into the service, and in 1887–88 when new lines extended up to Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Smyrna, Mytilene, Alexandria, and to the lower Adriatic up to Brindisi.55 Among the domestic lines, that of the Peloponnese was the most profitable throughout the examined period of 1857–81. The Ionian Islands line proved the second-most profitable, whereas the Gulf of Euboea and the Argolis Gulf lines had an important share for most of the period. These lines included important commercial cities and towns of Greece, like Syros, Piraeus, Patras, Kalamata, Nauplion, Corfu, Cephalonia, and Zakynthos, which carried not only larger numbers of passengers but also a higher quantity of goods that raised the revenues. On the other hand, the lines of the Cyclades and western Greece, outside the big ports of Syros or Patras, were consistently the least profitable, since they comprised of small rural ports that served undeveloped economies. In fact, it was not a coincidence that the Board of Directors of the HSNC systematically complained about the unprofitability of the line of the Cyclades, and that their two unsubsidized competitors in the 1880s (Panellinios and Goudis) did not include the Cyclades in their itineraries.56

Table 14.4
Table 14.4

Percentage of the total revenues of voyages of the HSNC per line, 1857–1881

Source: Processed data from annual balance sheets from Γενική Συνέλευσις της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοΐας, 1858, 1862, 1865, 1866, 1868, 1870, 1872, 1873, 1877, 1882.

The “energy expenses of the steamers” as they were referred to, including coal and labour, were by far the largest outlay for the company during the twenty-year period from 1861 to 1881 (Table 14.5). However, this percentage of running expenses decreases steadily throughout this period, and up to 1881 by almost 19%. The most important cost item of the running expenses was coal, that had a determining impact on the economy of steamship navigation, both in liner and tramp shipping throughout the nineteenth century, inaugurating the prime importance of fuel (coal, oil) in ship operation up to the present day.57 In fact, coal was also the biggest running cost item in the nineteenth century for several passenger/liner steamship companies, like P&O, Cunard, and the RSNTC.58 In the Royal Mail’s running expenditures, during the period 1844–90, coal, despite its decreasing percentage, constituted on average 37.5% of the total costs, wages 17%, provisions 23% and the rest included port dues, salaries, legal and office overheads, etc.59 In the case of the HSNC, coal seems to determine the reduction of running expenses (Table 14.5) since its percentage dropped from 42% in 1861 to 20% in 1881. Despite contemporary accusations of non-efficient use of ship engines and of the high consumption of coal, the evidence (Table 14.6) shows that from 1861 to 1881 the consumption of coal was reduced by more than 50% in terms of consumed tons/voyage and 63% in terms of paid value of consumed coal/voyage.60 This steady and impressive decrease in coal consumption over the twenty-year period must be mostly attributed to improvements and changes in the engines, like the introduction of new condensers to the Hydra and Panellinion, and of a compound engine to the Omonoia in 1874.61 Labour expenses, despite accounted for an important share of the running costs, were far less than fuel costs and were relatively stable throughout the examined period, oscillating between 14 and 18%.

Table 14.5
Table 14.5

Cost structure of the years 1861–1881 (as a percentage)

Source: Processed data from annual balance sheets from Γενική Συνέλευσις της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοΐας, 1858, 1862, 1865, 1866, 1868, 1870, 1872, 1873, 1877, 1882
Table 14.6
Table 14.6

Coal consumption, 1861–1881

Source: Processed data from annual balance sheets from Γενική Συνέλευσις της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοΐας, 1858, 1862, 1865, 1866, 1868, 1870, 1872, 1873, 1877, 1882

Administration expenses, in which agencies costs must have occupied a conspicuous part, had even a lower percentage, increasing up to the Cretan War period, and then decreasing again after the withdraw of the external lines up to 1875. The intensification of lines after that year could have caused the increase in administration costs from 1875 to 1881. Ship repairs and maintenance costs, another important cost category, had a linear increasing trend of 19% during the whole period, due to the ageing of the fleet and the growing necessity not only for regular maintenance, but also for improvement of the ships’ efficiency with the introduction of new and up to date engines, condensers, and boilers.

Annual fixed charges, insurance, and depreciation occupied an important share in the costs. In 1860, an insurance fund was created to act as a “self-insurer’ for the fleet. This was a common practice in other passenger/liner steamship companies of the period (P&O, Royal Mail) due to uneconomic insurance rates and to the low risk of incidents for ships of this category.62 In practice, the HSNC’s ships were partially insured by external insurers and in parallel, a sum corresponding to 4.5 to 5% of the remaining (usually higher) uninsured part of the vessels was set aside for the fund. From 1870 onwards, a special analysis of ship insurance accounts and of the insurance fund no longer appears on the balance sheets, but instead a reserve fund is created, probably from the same resources and for the same purpose, namely for the replacement, damage, and loss of ships. A significant consequence of the policy of self-insuring is that the percentage of insurance costs steadily decreases from 8% in 1861 to just 1.5% in 1875 (Table 14.5). Thereafter the company no longer paid for ship insurance from externals, nor is the insurance fund mentioned in the balance sheets, assuming that ship insurance was covered by the general reserve fund. Fleet depreciation was regularly applied to the accounts of liner steam navigation companies as another resource, mostly for asset replacement rather than as a cost of using a fixed asset, while it was not calculated at all in the accounts of tramp shipping companies.63 British companies like P&O and Royal Mail used an annual rate of 5%, the HSNC initially adopted a 6% rate, which was considered very high by the Board of Directors. In fact, in 1862, the company obtained from the government a reduction from 6 to 3% on ships’ depreciation that remained the same up to the end.64 Overall, the percentage of depreciation was quite stable, under 10%, rising only after 1875 above 6% of the total costs (Table 14.5).

The economic performance of the HSNC is based mostly on the balance sheets of thirteen years and on aggregate data of another five years, namely covering the 1857 to 1871 period, and leaving aside most of the 1870s and all the years after 1881, which are half of the years of the company’s activity. The available data demonstrates the role of annual subventions in the economic performance of the company in multiple ways. Firstly, in the receipts of the company, in which the percentage of the annual subvention rose steadily throughout the years, from 8% in 1861 to 32% in 1880 (Table 14.7). During the period of the first contract up to 1871, the average percentage of the subvention to receipts was approximately 15%, while after this and up to 1881, when the annual subvention doubled, the percentage reached 28.5%. The rate of dependency on the receipts from the subvention in the case of Messageries Maritimes was on average at 32% for the period 1852–90, decreasing only in the 1870s to 24%, before rising again in the 1880s.65 For the Royal Mail, the average percentage of the subsidy to receipts from 1844 to 1854 was slightly above 50%, and gradually as the economic performance of the company improved, it was reduced to just above 30% up until 1875, when it further decreased below 15% up to 1890.66 At P&O, the average percentage for the period 1840 to 1914 was 22.5%, which lowered to under 20% only after 1890.67

Table 14.7
Table 14.7

Economic performance of the HSNC (in drachmas), 1857–1881

Source: Processed data from annual balance sheets from Γενική Συνέλευσις της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοΐας, 1858, 1862, 1865, 1866, 1868, 1870, 1872, 1873, 1877, 1882 and Γακ/Ανκ Συρου, Ι Στατιστικα, vol. 1: Ελληνική Ατμοπλοΐα. Στατιστικός πίναξ από του έτους 1857 μέχρι του έτους 1865

In terms of contribution to profitability, the annual subvention also had an important impact. Only six out of its eighteen years of activity were profitable, in 1862, 1864, and the years after the signing of the second mail contract, namely 1871, 1875, 1880, and 1881 (Table 14.7). The fact that the HSNC was performing better after the 1871 contract, when the subvention was doubled, can be seen also in the return on capital, where the rates, despite the fact that they were below 10%, increased in ten years from 2.8 to 7.3%. The annual subvention played a significant role in all years but especially in the profitable ones, which without the subvention would have been at a loss. Bigger companies, like Lloyd Austriaco, also faced a similar situation, which, without the annual subvention, would have been at a loss in all the years between 1855 and 1910.68 British companies like the Royal Mail, from 1844 to 1858 and from 1867 to 1870, were constantly at a loss without the subsidy, while P&O from 1846 to 1868 was also at a loss without the subsidy in all but four years.69 The RSNTC, on the other hand, was again different, by presenting a profit in all but two years during the period 1857–1913, with the subvention only having a major impact in the early years up to 1876, on average 48% of the profit. From 1880 onwards, the subvention was reduced considerably, under 1 million rubles, while the average contribution to the profits dropped to 32% in the 1880s, to rise gradually again, from 1890 to 1913, to 54%.70

4 Conclusions

The establishment and development of steam navigation in Greece in the middle of the nineteenth century was a state affair. The state laid all the groundwork for the foundation and growth of the HSNC in order to provide a public service, through privileges, subventions, and concessions. The company in its turn responded perfectly to the aims of a public service. It provided seaborne connections to almost the entire country, from the most commercial to the least-developed and thinly-populated coasts and ports. It also provided its ships, personnel, and materials for the state as needed during war or peace, for the transport of troops, refugees, state representatives, officials and personnel, contributing to a national cause, for the enforcement of the law, and for the political and social control of Greek territory. The company, for all these services it provided, often contrary to a rational business policy, had to bear financial losses over the years. Moreover, the state had paid, since 1861, a much lower subvention for these services compared with the subsidies paid by other governments to their own respective companies.71 The state had limited resource capacity, delaying those payments, sometimes for years. Furthermore, every diplomatic dispute or war with the Ottoman Empire cost the company its most profitable lines, either with trading ports and conspicuous diaspora merchants, or with populations like at Thessaloniki, Volos, Smyrna, and Istanbul. Despite all that, the company did maintain a fleet that was able to connect all domestic ports and coasts. It also maintained another costly establishment within the same enterprise, the Arsenal of Syros, essential for the maintenance and improvement of the fleet. The state renewed its contract with the company several times from 1857 to 1880, but gradually, from the 1870s onwards, curtailed certain privileges under public criticism influenced by liberal policies and external pressure, which favoured foreign steam shipping, like the above-mentioned case of the contract with Burns and MacIver.

Overall, the company could not easily develop and sustain its external lines, not only due to the tensions between Greece and the Ottoman Empire, but also due to competition from the much better state-supported western European steamship companies. In the 1880s, the company also had to face internal competition; two new non-subsidized companies, Panellinios and Goudis, emerged on the domestic lines in 1881. Panellinios, the larger of the two, was founded by a group of powerful Greek diaspora capitalists who were established in Greece in those years, and played a key role in the economy and politics of the country during the period of the belle epoque.72 During the 1880s they lobbied constantly for the creation of a “Great Steamship Navigation Company” through a merger with the HSNC, as described in the project proposed by Stefanos Skouloudis. It was during this period of intense speculative activity by Greek Diaspora capitalists in every sector of the Greek economy, when the state changed its priorities towards investing in a steam navigation project with headquarters at Piraeus, the capital’s port. Piraeus, which was barely inhabited in 1830, gradually became the biggest Greek port by the 1870s, while Syros, the commercial and maritime centre of the eastern Mediterranean, was still important but in continuous decline. Therefore, the state, thanks to the growth of the port of Piraeus and the diaspora capitalist group settled in Athens, no longer needed Syros and its local merchant class as much as it did in the 1850s. The HSNC was no longer a national business but rather a Syros company, and the last important bulwark of Hermoupolis in its struggle to retain its position in the national division of shipping labour.73

From the signing of the second contract in 1871, and until 1881, the company performed quite well, having a fund of 400,000 drachmas and 800,000 from the government owed as Cretan War compensation. However, the 1880 contract demanded the purchase of three steamers (the Elpis, Ermoupolis, and Pineios) for the new extended itineraries to the Lower Adriatic, Ottoman Empire, and Egypt. Moreover, the pressure from the competition, and the threat of a merger into the “Great Steam Navigation Company” that begun in 1881, led, in 1883, to heavy investment in three more steamers (the Theseus, Pelops, and Chios) and in infrastructure for Neorion on Syros, in order to accommodate the new bigger ships. The cost of investment reached almost 6 million drachmas, which the company never managed to cover and which led to its financial ruin in 1893.74 The tariff war, the threat of the merger, and the inadequate Greek institutional framework in shipping finance, still based on high interest maritime loans, proved disastrous for the survival of the company.75 Britain had to rescue P&O and Cunard, the two passenger line giants in two circumstances, in 1867 and 1902 respectively.76 In Greece the state had no intention of saving the Syros-based HSNC and in retaining its former status and privileges.

Figure 14.3
Figure 14.3

Steamships under repair in the Arsenal of Syros, 1904

Source: Ενθύμιον Σύρου [Souvenir from Syros] (Athens: Gnosis Publishers, 1993), 261

During the 36 years of its activity, the company not only fulfilled all the objectives and requirements given to it by the state, but also had a great impact on the modernization of the country. It introduced and established passenger shipping, which unified a fragmented geographical territory, stimulated and facilitated transactions, shortened the distances, and contributed crucially to the political, economic, and cultural integration of the country. It also introduced industrial shipbuilding and marine engineering through the establishment of Neorion, where several engineers, artisans, and specialized workers trained and worked. After the collapse of the HSNC, several passenger steam navigation companies in Piraeus and Syros sprang up, but none of them—with the exception of the short-lived Oceanic Hellenic Steam Navigation Company and also Oceanic National Steam Navigation (1908–37) both from Andros—managed to reach the size and impact of the HSNC on Greek seaborne communications.77 The Neorion shipyards at Syros, the first ship building establishment in Greece, and the only one that survives today despite its financial difficulties, stands as an unequivocal testimony to this legacy.


Ελληνική Ατμοπλοΐα. Προκαταρτικά Β. Διατάγματα και Καταστατικόν [Hellenic Steam Navigation Company. Preliminary Royal Decrees and Articles of Association], Εν Ερμουπόλη, Τύποις Γ. Μελισταγούς Μακεδόνος (Ermoupolis: 1857), 20.


Among the several articles in Syros, Piraeus and Athens newspapers in the nineteenth century, I also cite an influential essay by Aristides Dosios, Κρίσεις και σκέψεις περί της ελληνικής ατμοπλοΐας [Criticism and Reflections concerning the Hellenic Steam Navigation], (Athens: 1869). The most representative secondary bibliography on this topic, includes Konstantinos Papathanassopoulos, Εταιρεία Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοΐας (1855–72). Τα αδιέξοδα του προστατευτισμού [Hellenic Steam Navigation Company (1855–72). The Impasse of Protectionism] (Athens: Cultural Foundation of National Bank, 1988); Vasilis Kardasis, Από του ιστίου εις τον ατμόν. Ελληνική Εμπορική Ναυτιλία (1858–1914) [From Sail to Steam. The Greek Merchant Marine (1858–1914)] (Athens: ETBA, 1993); Georgios Dertilis, Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Κράτους [History of the Greek State], vol. B΄ (Athens: Estia, 2005), 787–794. On the issue of the criticism towards the company, see also Apostolos Delis, “The advent of steam navigation in Greece in the nineteenth century”, in Greek maritime history from the periphery to the center eds. Alexandra Papadopoulou and Katerina Galani (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2022).


Apostolos Delis, “From parallel growth to great divergence: Greek shipbuilding from the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries,” History of Technology, no. 33 (2017) (Special Issue: History of Technology in Greece from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-first Century, eds. Stathis Arapostathis and Aristotle Tympas): 33–38.


Konstantinos Papathanassopoulos, Ελληνική εμπορική ναυτιλία (1833–1856). Εξέλιξη και αναπροσαρμογή [The Greek Merchant Marine, (1833–1856). Development and Readjustment] (Athens: Cultural Foundation of National Bank, 1983), 99, 352–59; Arthur de Rothschild, Histoire de la poste aux lettres et du timbre-poste depuis leurs origines jusqu’à nos jours (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1880), 177; Tryfonas Evangelidis, Ιστορία του Όθωνος Βασιλέως της Ελλάδος (1832–1862): Κατά τας νεωτάτας πηγάς ξένων τε και ημετέρων ιστορικών [History of Othon, King of Greece (1832–1862) Based on the Most Recent Sources of Foreign and Domestic Historians], (Athens: Aristides Galanos, 1894), 85–86.


Godfrey Levinge, The Traveller in the East; a Guide (London: 1839), 82–83; John Murray (Firm), A Hand-Book for Travellers in the Ionian Islands, Greece, Turkey, Asia Minor, and Constantinople … including a Description of Malta; with Maxims and Hints for Travellers in the East. With Index Maps and Plans (London: 1840), 14; Rothschild, Histoire de la poste, 177; Great Britain. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British and Foreign State Papers 1834–1835, vol. 23 (London: H.M. Stationery Office, 1852), 445.


Μαρία Στ. Πανοπούλου, Οικονομικά και τεχνικά προβλήματα στην ελληνική ναυπηγική βιομηχανία 1850–1914 (Athens: ΚΕΠΕ, 1993), 202–203; Rothschild, Histoire de la poste, 177; Jean Alexandre C. Buchon, La Grèce continentale et la Morée: voyage, séjour et études historiques en 1840 et 1841 (Paris: Ch. Gosselin, 1843), 53–54, 57; Papathanassopoulos, Ελληνική εμπορική, 100.


Papathanassopoulos, Ελληνική εμπορική, 99–100, 113–169.


Papathanassopoulos, Ελληνική εμπορική, 204–211.


Papathanassopoulos, Εταιρεία Ελληνικής, 26, 35; Ελληνική Ατμοπλοΐα. Προκαταρτικά Β. Διατάγματα [Hellenic Steam Navigation Company. Preliminary Royal Decrees and Statute] (Hermoupolis: 1857), 47; ΙΑΕΤΕ [Historical Archive of the National Bank of Greece], ΧΧV ΕΡΓΑ, ΑΝαυτιλιακά, φάκελος 32, υποφάκελος 4, 1856–72.


Κανονισμός της Υπηρεσίας των Ελληνικών Ατμοπλοίων [Regulation of the Greek Steamers Service] (Athens: 1856), 1. The newspaper Αίολος, n. 623, 11 August 1856, p.3; and n. 620, 28 July 1856, published in Papathanassopoulos, Εταιρεία Ελληνικής, 212–214.


Kardasis, Από του ιστίου, 27–30.


David Howarth and Stephen Howarth, The Story of P&O: the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1995), 16, 18; Robert G. Greenhill, British Shipping and Latin America, 1840–1930: the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (PhD diss., University of Exeter, 1971), 17–18; Robert Greenhalgh Albion, Square-Riggers on Schedule: The New York Sailing Packets to England, France, and the Cotton Ports (Hamden CT: Archon Books, 1965), 17–18; Marie-Francoise Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes. L’essor d’une grande compagnie de navigation française 1851–1894 (Paris: PUPS, 2007), 39–40.


John Armstrong and David M. Williams, The Impact of Technological Change on the Early Steamship in Britain, Research in Maritime History 47, (St. John’s, Newfoundland: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2011), 23–24, 66, 151–152, 155.


Denis Griffiths, “Marine engineering development in the nineteenth century,” in The Advent of Steam. The Merchant Steamship before 1900, ed. Robert Gardiner (London: Conway Maritime Press, 1993), 164; David J. Starkey, “The industrial background of the development of steam,” in The Advent of Steam, ed. Gardiner, 133; Anthony Slaven, “The shipbuilding industry,” in The Dynamics of Victorian Business, ed. Roy Church (London: Routledge, 1980), 110–111; Anthony Slaven, “Modern British shipbuilding, 1800–1990,” in The Shipbuilding Industry: a Guide to Historical Records, ed. L.A. Ritchie (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), 2–3; Freda Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism. The P&O Company and the Politics of Empire from its Origins to 1867 (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2006), 176.


Greenhill, “British shipping”, 19; Francis E. Hyde, Cunard and the North Atlantic 1840–1973: A History of Shipping and Financial Management (London and Basingstoke: Springer), 1975, 36; Freda Harcourt, “British oceanic mail contracts in the age 0f steam, 1838–1914,” The Journal of Transport History, no. 9.1 (1988), 1; eadem, Flagships of Imperialism, 1–2, 16; Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes, 152–59; Matteo Barbano, “Steamers for the empire: the Austrian Lloyd and the transition from sail to steam in the Austrian merchant marine (1836–1914)”, in the present volume; Anna Sydorenko, “Russian Steam Navigation and Trading Company: the transition from sail to steam in the Russian Black Sea (1856–1914)”, in the present volume.


Grosvenor M. Jones, Government Aid to Merchant Shipping. Study of Subsidies, Subvention, and other Forms of State Aid in Principal Countries of the World (Special Agents Series 119) (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1916), 8. Jones distinguishes between the term “subvention”, that is used in an agreement between the state and a private company in exchange for a service, and the terms “subsidy” and “bounty” as synonymous with financial support by the state without an expected service or return. However, later historians used the terms “subvention”, “subsidy” and “mail contract” quite interchangeably.


Jones, Government Aid, 8–9; Harcourt, “British oceanic mail”, 5.


Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes, 50–53, 78–81.


Sarah Palmer, “ ‘The most indefatigable activity’ The General Steam Navigation Company, 1824–50,” Journal of Transport History, no. 3.2 (1982), 11; Harcourt, “British oceanic mail”, 1.


Harcourt, “British oceanic mail”, 2; Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 4, 68, 191–92; Hyde, Cunard and the North, 8; Greenhill, “British shipping,” 13; Marischal Murray, Union-Castle Chronicle 1853–1953 (London, Cape Town, and New York: Longmans, Green and Co, 1953), 12–13.


Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 1, 3, 228; Greenhill, “British shipping,” 15, 51; Hyde, Cunard and the North, 9–12.


Crosbie Smith and Anne Scott, “ ‘Trust in providence’: building confidence into the Cunard line of steamers,” Technology and Culture, no. 48.3 (July 2007), 473, 478–80; Hyde, Cunard and the North, 9; Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 3, 22–34, 38; Greenhill, “British shipping,” 151.


Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes, 60–146; Kalliopi Vasilaki “The port of La Ciotat and its maritime community towards industrialization (1836–1916),” in the present volume.


Sydorenko, “Russian steam,” in the present volume.


Barbano, “Steamers for the empire,” in the present volume.


Ελληνική Ατμοπλοΐα. Προκαταρτικά Β. Διατάγματα, 23.


Γενική Συνέλευσις της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοΐας, Έκτακτος και Τακτική. Συγκροτηθείσα εν Ερμουπόλει την 25 Οκτωβρίου 1862, [General Assembly of the Shareholders of the Hellenic Steam Navigation Company. Held at Hermoupolis on 25 October 1862], 4–5.


Γενική Συνέλευσις … 1862, 3–6.


Γενική Συνέλευσις της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοΐας, Συγκροτηθείσα εν Ερμουπόλει την 15 Απριλίου 1865 [General Assembly of the Shareholders of the Hellenic Steam Navigation Company. Held at Hermoupolis on 15 April 1865], 4–5; Periodical Πανδώρα [Pandora], no.16.363 (1865): 81–82.


IAETE [Historical Archive of the National Bank of Greece], ΧΧV ΕΡΓΑ, ΑΝαυτιλιακά, φάκελος 32, υποφάκελος 4, 1856–72, Έκτακτος Γενική Συνέλευσις των Μετόχων της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοΐας (Συμπεριλαμβάνουσα και τας τακτικάς εργασίας των ετών 1868 και 1869) Συγκροτηθείσα εν Ερμουπόλει τη 20η και 22α Ιανουαρίου 1872, [General Assembly of the Shareholders of the Hellenic Steam Navigation Company. Held at Hermoupolis on 20 and 22 January 1872], 2; Papathanassopoulos, Εταιρεία Ελληνικής, 109–110, 122, 130–132, 169–173, 175–180; Hyde, Cunard and the North, 16–18.


Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως του Βασιλείου της Ελλάδος [Government Gazette of the Greek Kingdom], no. 50.2 (July 1877), 226; no. 125 (19 December 1880), 593–594.


Gordon Boyce, “64thers, syndicates and stock promotions: information flows and fund-raising techniques of British ship owners before 1914,” The Journal of Economic History 52, no. 1 (March 1992), 183; Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes, 53–55.


Boyce, “64thers, syndicates,” 188; Palmer, “ ‘The most indefatigable,” 2–3; Harcourt, “British oceanic mail,” 2; Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes, 112–13; Barbano, “Steamers for the empire,” in the present volume; Sydorenko, “Russian steam,” in the present volume; Greenhill, “British shipping,” 204.


Robert E. Forrester, British Mail Steamers to South America, 1851–1965. A History of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and Royal Mail Lines (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), 4; Harcourt, “British oceanic mail,” 5; Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 2, 70; Jones, Government Aid, 16; Hyde, Cunard and the North, 45; Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes, 683–684.


Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως του Βασιλείου της Ελλάδος [Government Gazette of the Greek Kingdom], no. 24.3 (August 1857), 178–80, no. 50.2 (July 1877), 226–28; no. 125 (19 December 1880), 593–95; Papathanassopoulos, Εταιρεία Ελληνικής, 175–80.


Gennadius Library, Ελληνική Ατμοπλοΐα: Έγγραφα της Ελληνικής Κυβερνήσεως και του Διοικητικού Συμβουλίου της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοΐας:. αφορώντα εις τας περί ανανεώσεως της συμβάσεως διαπραγματεύσεις (Ερμούπολις: 1869), [Hellenic Steam Navigation Company: Documents of the Greek Government and of the Board of Directors regarding the negotiations for the renewal of the new contract] 66; Γενική Συνέλευσις … 1862, 3; … 1870, 4, 6; … 1874, 4; … 31 March 1877, 5.


Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 68; Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes, 683–684.


Sydorenko, “Russian steam,” in the present volume.


Harcourt, “British oceanic mail,” 7–9, 14–15; Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 196; Greenhill, “British shipping,” 39–40; Forrester, British Mail Steamers, 13–14, 40.


Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 2, 229; Greenhill, “British shipping,” 15.


Gennadius Library, Ελληνική Ατμοπλοΐα: Έγγραφα της Ελληνικής, 80; Γενική Συνέλευσις … 1862, 2.


Such articles were often published in Syros newspapers, such as Ένωσις [Enossis] in 1861, Πατρίς [Patris] from 1866 to 1893, and Πανόπη [Panopi] from 1871 to 1890. Aristides Dosios, a journalist and economist, published a libelous study against the HSNC during the 1869 negotiations for the renewal of its contract entitled Κρίσεις και σκέψεις περί της ελληνικής ατμοπλοΐας [Criticism and Reflections Concerning Greek Steam Navigation] (Athens: 1869).


Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως, 19 December 1880, 592–593.


Γενική Συνέλευσις … 1882, 6–7; Syros newspaper Ναυτίλος [Nautilus], no. 2, 12 December 1881; Πανόπη, no. 783, 14 November 1881.


Simon Ville, “The transition to iron and steel construction,” in Sail’s Last Century. The Merchant Sailing Ship, 1830–1930, ed. Robert Gardiner (London: Conway Maritime Press, 1995), 53; Greenhill, “Steam before,” 21–22; Anthony Slaven, “The shipbuilding industry,” in The Dynamics of Victorian Business, ed. Roy Church (London: Routledge, 1980), 110–112; idem, “Modern British shipbuilding, 1800–1990,” in The Shipbuilding Industry, ed. Ritchie, 2–3; Griffiths, “Marine engineering,” 169–71; Basil Greenhill, “Steam before the screw,” in The Advent of Steam. The Merchant Steamship Before 1900, ed. Robert Gardiner (London: Conway Maritime Press 1993), 16–17; Ewan C.B. Corlett, “The screw propeller and merchant shipping 1840–1865,” in The Advent of Steam, ed. Gardiner, 85, 96.


Hyde, Cunard and the North, 29–31; Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 12; Greenhill, “British shipping,” 186–187; Forrester, British Mail Steamers, 40–41.


Newspaper Πατρίς, no. 898, 8 October 1883, 2; Πανόπη, no. 968, 1 October 1883, 2; no. 974, 22 October 1883, 1–2.


Γενική Συνέλευσις … 1858, ισολογισμός [balance sheet].


Υπόμνημα Συνοπτικόν, 10–11.


Γενική Συνέλευσις … 1865, 4, and ισολογισμός [balance sheet].


Even the largest steamers of the HSNC still in service after the dissolution of the company, in 1902, had a capacity of between 38 to 56 first class, and 35 to 51 second class, passengers: see Antonios P. Foustanos, Ημερολόγιον της Σύρου, [Syro’s Directory] (Syros: 1902), 242–45.


Processed data from Greenhill, “British shipping,” Appendix 1, 417–18.


Hyde, Cunard and the North, 80–81.


Γενική Συνέλευσις της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοϊας, Συγκροτηθείσα εν Ερμουπόλει την 28 Απριλίου 1866, 3.


Γενική Συνέλευσις της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοϊας, Συγκροτηθείσα εν Ερμουπόλει τη 10 Ιουνίου 1868, 2–3; Αναχωρήσεις της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοίας εκ Πειραιώς, Εν Αθήναις εκ του τυπογραφείου του Ανδρέου Κορομηλά, 1882; Κων. Φ. Σκόκου, Ετήσιον Ημερολόγιον, Χρονογραφικόν, Φιλολογικόν και Γελοιογραφικόν του έτους 1887, 28, 31–33; John Edwin Sandys, An Easter Vacation in Greece (London and New York: Macmillan, 1887), 154–155, 164. Newspaper Ήλιος, no. 109, 28 August 1888, 1; Πρόνοια, no. 1285, 4 August 1888, 3.


Έγγραφα της Ελληνικής Κυβερνήσεως και του Διοικητικού Συμβουλίου της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοία. Αφορώντα εις τας περί ανανεώσεως της συμβάσεως διαπραγματεύσεις, [Documents of the Greek Government and of the Board of Directors regarding the negotiations for the renewal of the new contract] 66; Γενική Συνέλευσις … 1862, 3; … 1870, 4, 6; … 1874, 4; … 31 March 1877, 5; Σκόκου, Ετήσιον Ημερολόγιον, 35–39.


Apostolos Delis, “Ship operation in transition: Greek cargo sailing ships and steamers, 1860s–1910s,” in the present volume.


Christopher J. Napier, “Fixed asset accounting in the shipping industry: P&O 1840–1914,” Accounting, Business and Financial History 1, no. 1 (1990): 49; Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 187; Hyde, Cunard and the North, 128; Sydorenko, “Russian steam,” in the present volume.


Data from Greenhill, “British shipping,” Appendix 1, 417–418.


Dosios, Κρίσεις και σκέψεις, 139–146.


Γενική Συνέλευσις των Μετόχων της Ελληνικής Ατμοπλοΐας, Συγκροτηθείσα εν Ερμουπόλει τη 10η Ιουνίου 1874, [General Assembly of the Shareholders of the Hellenic Steam Navigation Company. Held at Hermoupolis on 10 June 1874], 2. The fuel economy, through the introduction of the compound engine, also became evident in the accounts of the Royal Mail by early 1870s: see Forrester, British Mail Steamers, 67.


A.J. Arnold and Robert G. Greenhill, “Contractors’ bounties or due consideration? Evidence on the nature of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’s mail contracts, 1842–1905,” in Management, Finance, and Industrial Relations in Maritime Industries: Essays in International Maritime and Business History, eds. Simon. P. Ville and David M. Williams (Research in Maritime History 6) (St. John’s Newfoundland: International Maritime Economic History Association, 1994), 119–20; Forrester, British Mail Steamers, 21; Napier, “Fixed asset”, 33.


Napier, “Fixed asset”, 43, 48; Forrester, British Mail Steamers, 21; Gordon Boyce, “Accounting for managerial decision making in British shipping, 1870–1918”, Accounting, Business and Financial History 5, no. 3 (1995): 364–366; see also the Greek steamship tramp companies in Delis, “Ship operation,” in the present volume.


Γενική Συνέλευσις … 1862, 6.


Processed data from Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes, Table 41, 323 and Table 99, 610.


Processed data from Greenhill, “British shipping,” Appendix 1, 417–418.


Processed data from Harcourt, “British oceanic mail,” Table 1, 6.


Barbano, “Steamers for the empire,” in the present volume, Table 1.


Data from Greenhill, “British shipping,” Appendix 1, 417–418; and from Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 193.


Data from Sydorenko, “Russian steam,” in the present volume.


Pierre A. Moraitinis, La Grece tell qu’elle est (Paris: 1877), 372.


Kardasis, Από του ιστίου, 66–68; Christos Hadziiossif, “Η μπελ επόκ του κεφαλαίου,” [“The Belle Epoque of capital”] in Ιστορία της Ελλάδος του 20ου αιώνα. Οι απαρχές 1900–1922, [History of Greece in the Twentieth Century. The Beginnings 1900–1922], ed. Christos Hadziiossif, vol. A1 (Athens: Vivliorama, 1999), 324–326.


Newspaper, Πανόπη, no. 1006, 22 February 1884, 1; no. 1029, 12 May 1884, 1; no. 1096, 9 January 1885, 2.


Newspaper, Ήλιος, no. 86, 20 March 1888, 1; no. 301, 12 June 1890, 2–3; Πανόπη, no. 1018, 4 April 1884, 1; no. 1029, 12 May 1884, 1.


Newspaper Ο Οικονομολόγος, no. 50, 22 March 1884, 1; Πανόπη, no. 1029, 12 May 1884, 1; Ήλιος, no. 86, 20 March 1888, 1.


Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism, 3, 191–222; eadem, “British oceanic mail,” 15.


Anastasios I. Tzamtzis, “Τα ελληνικά υπερωκεάνια: Από την πρώτη υπερπόντια γραμμή το 1907, έως το τελευταίο ταξίδι του «Αυστραλίς», το 1977,” [The Greek Ocean Liners. From the first line of 1907 to the last voyage of Australis in 1977] Elzoni, 28 March 2013, (accessed 9 February 2021).

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Mediterranean Seafarers in Transition

Maritime Labour, Communities, Shipping and the Challenge of Industrialization 1850s — 1920s

Series:  Brill's Studies in Maritime History, Volume: 14


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