Union Steam Ship Company flag

Union Steam Ship Company flag

The Union Steam Ship Company (USSCo) was formed in Dunedin in 1875 to take over the fleet of the Harbour Steam Company. A fusion of Otago and Scottish capital, the USSCo was ably led by James Mills and dominated the New Zealand coastal and trans-Tasman trades by the end of the 1870s. In 1890 the company took over the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Co. It also operated mail liners to Vancouver and San Francisco, Pacific Island steamers, and a small service to the United Kingdom.

By 1914 the tonnage of the USSCo's fleet exceeded that of the five largest Australian shipping lines combined. The company's market dominance earned it the nickname the ‘Southern Octopus’. The USSCo was sold to the British shipping giant P&O in 1917. It came under joint Australian and New Zealand ownership in 1972 but struggled in the 1990s under the control of corporate invester Ron Brierley. In 2000 a tug and barge made the last voyage before the 125-year-old Union Steam Ship Company was liquidated.


Community contributions

9 comments have been posted about Union Steam Ship Company flag

What do you know?

Shelley Maguire(Kehoe)

Posted: 04 Jul 2022

Hello, I am trying to find information on my paternal grand father whom I have very little information about. I have documents stating he was aboard a ship from this company in the 50's particularly the 1958. I know he passed away in 1990 in christchurch.
James Thomas Kehoe AKA Jim


Posted: 27 Jan 2021

My Great Uncle, Francis Edward O'Neill was an officer on SS Breeze and SS Calm. I would like to know any information about him and his service on theses ships please.

David Morris.

Posted: 17 Sep 2019

Hello I am trying to locate a Merchant Seaman I last heard of back in the mid 1960s.?I sailed with him an NZSC ship the Sussex. The lastI heard of him he was with USSCo.Hid name is Jack Walker (AB) called Ginger because of hair.Any help appreciated.or get me in touch with someone who could help me.

Faye Brea

Posted: 28 Feb 2019

Johnny Ham or John Ham could be an Irishman working on a ship NZ and UK 1947-48 Ship think Rangitikei Also anyone know experiences of Keith Arthur Strand I have information re his time on the Awatea which was bombed WW2.


Posted: 08 Apr 2015

Have an Ancestor who was a male Nurse on board the Manuka, from Sydney to Dunedin, / Auckland, and other ports, sailed 17 January 1909. Trying to find his Christen name. Keith

peter crumpton

Posted: 22 Jul 2014

I am searching for 2 old friends who possibly joined USSCo,,in the 1950s from UK John Victor Burgess Master Mariner
Francis William Cooper Mate cert

Kate Sevier [ nee McCarthy]

Posted: 21 Apr 2014

I am researching my family history and the World war 1 record of my Grandfather, Jack Edmond McCarthy. His occupation is stated as Clerk and last employer the U.S.S. Coy.

Gavin McLean

Posted: 23 May 2011

Hi Alf There were 3 Gales in the Canterbury Steam Shipping Co fleet: Gale(1) 1921-2 Gale (2) 1922-35 and Gale (3) 1935-62 Full information on them all can be found in the book Canterbury Coasters by Gavin McLean, NZ Ship & Marine Society, Wellington, 1987 and 1988 editions. Cheers Gavin

Alf Parfitt

Posted: 23 May 2011

Hi I am looking for information on the GALE a costal vessel