Sunday, 5 August 2012

British India Boat

British India Steam Navigation Company was formed in 1856 as the Calcutta and Burmah Steam Navigation Company. Under the hand of Lord Inchcape (James Mackay) who had become chairman in 1913, the company became part of the P&O group of companies in 1914 through a complex amalgamation, but continued with its own identity and organisation for another nearly 60 years until 1972, when it was entirely absorbed into P&O.

As one of the largest shipowners of all time, the company owned more than 500 ships and managed 150 more for other owners. At its height in 1922, BI had more than 160 ships in the fleet, many built on Clydeside, Scotland. The main shipping routes of the line were: Britain to India, Australia, Kenya, Tanganyika. The company ran services from India to Pakistan, Ceylon, Bay of Bengal, Singapore, Malaya, Java, Thailand, Japan, Persian Gulf, East Africa and South Africa. BI had a long history of service to the British and Indian governments through trooping and other military contracts.

Lowry refers to the company in his novel Ultramarine; "Outside, I found the crowd watching a ship come into the harbour. "P.& O. boat over there" - these comments provoke an argument over whether it is a P.& O. boat or a "British India boat". (Pg. 79).

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