CP Ships

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CP Ships was a large Canadian container shipping company, since 2005 a part of Hapag Lloyd.

The company became an independent corporation in 2001 when it was demerged by conglomerate Canadian Pacific Limited (CP) and is incorporated in Saint John, New Brunswick but headquartered in Gatwick, United Kingdom. Its 82 ships were registered in a number countries including the UK, Bermuda, Liberia, and Germany and most of the crews were Asian. Its primary ports remain Montreal and Vancouver.

Canadian Pacific Steamships

In 1884, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) began purchasing sailing ships as part of a railway supply service on the Great Lakes. In that same year, CPR received sufficient encouragement from talks with the British government in London that plans began to be formalized for establishing trans-Pacific steamship routes between Vancouver and the Far East.[1]

The trans-Pacific services of Canadian Pacific were begun by Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, the Dutch-American builder of the railroad network in 1887. In that year, Sir William chartered three vessels—the SS Abyssinia, the SS Parthia, and the SS Batavia—as a beginning of the CP fleet.[2] Orders were placed for three new ships to be built to CP specifications, and the first of the Empress ships were in regular service by the beginning of the next decade.[2]

In 1891, CPR adopted a new name—the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company (CPSC).[3] The CPSC became one of the many shipping companies operating in and out of Liverpool. This branch of the CPR expanded as people emigrating from Europe to North America provided a larger number of passengers and the company also started holiday cruises. Like other shipping companies, CPSC built larger ships to cope with the demand.[4]

In the late 19th century, CPR initiated an ocean-going service between the port of Vancouver, British Columbia and Hong Kong, with calls at Japan and China, and later at Manila, Philippine Islands and Honolulu, Hawaii. This service provided a link for CPR's transcontinental railroad passenger and freight services. During 1887, temporary steamship service was initiated on a Vancouver-Yokohama-Hong Kong route.[5] From 1887 through 1941, the Canadian Pacific Railway provided steamship service between Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and Hong Kong with calls at Japan and China, and later at Manila, Philippine Islands and Honolulu, Hawaii. Three ships were built at Barrow-in-Furness in England, and the three sailed together towards Vancouver in 1890, with initial voyages projected for January 15, February 15, and March 15 of the new year. An 11-foot scale model of the ship was put on display in Canadian Pacific's New York offices. In an effort to lure American Chinese passengers to sail with CPR from North America to Shanghai and Hong Kong, prominent members of the Chinese community in New York were invited to examine the scale model and its amenities.[6]

In 1887, steamship routes between Vancouver and Australia were initiated.[7] Cunard sold three ships to CPR for the Australian route—the SS Abyssynia, the SS Parthia, and the SS Batavia.[8]

Fleet expansion

In 1891, CPR and the British government reached agreement on a contract for subsidized mail service between Britain and Hong Kong via Canada.[9] The route began to be serviced by three specially designed Empress liners—the RMS Empress of China and the RMS Empress of India. Each of these "Empress" steamships sailed regularly in the period from 1891 through 1912. In that year, the Empress of China struck a reef near Tokyo, and she was subsequently towed to Yokohama where she was scrapped. The Empress of India would continue in service through 1914. The third of the three original empresses, the RMS Empress of Japan, sailed regularly from 1891 through 1922. These three ships and the others which comprised the "Empress fleet" carried mail, passengers, and freight speedily across the Pacific for over half a century.[10]

File:CPEmpress France India Britain 1926.jpg
Three steamships docked together -- the SS Empress of France, the SS Empress of India, and SS Empress of Britain. Note the curved bow of the 1891 Empress of Britain in contrast with the straight-sided bows of the newer ships in the CP fleet. (1926)

In 1903 the company began operating ships on the Atlantic between Halifax, Nova Scotia and the United Kingdom. In 1906, two vessels were built in England: the SS Empress of Scotland and SS Empress of Ireland. These two practical vessels would gain quite a lot of fame. They each had a full capacity of 1,530 passengers. There were accommodations for 310 first class passengers and 470 second class passengers for people traveling back and forth between Canada and Europe, along with a large capacity for immigrants. The two sisters each had accommodations for 500 third class passengers berthed in simple four-berth cabins, and 250 steerage passengers berthed in vast dormitories. The Canadian Pacific Line transported many immigrants from Europe to Canada, primarily from Great Britain and Scandinavia. In 1914 the Empress of Ireland sank after a collision with the Norwegian freighter Storstad in the St. Lawrence River. In just 14 minutes after the collision, 1,012 of the 1,477 passengers and crew aboard her drowned as she ship foundered.

Advertising booklet, circa 1930.

In 1915, the business had grown to the point where it was spun off into a separate entity formally known as the Canadian Pacific Steamships Ocean Services Ltd.[11]

The new company acquired the successful Allan Line and expanded to become a major international cargo carrier and operators of luxury passenger liners such as the Empress of Britain and the Empress of Canada.

Like other shipping companies, Canadian Pacific provided ships to carry troops in both World Wars. In WWI, some ships were refitted as Armed merchantmen. In WWII, the CP fleet carried over a million tons of cargo and a million troops and civilians during the Second World War.[4]

In each of the post-war periods, the company sought to compensate for ships lost at sea by expanding its fleet.

Over time, the passenger steamship business changed. By the 1950s, rapidly growing competition from airlines began to cut into the business and the company diversified into tanker fleets and bulk carriers.

The Canadian Pacific fleet expanded in bursts, responding to changed economic conditions and perceived changes in the market for passenger liner travel. The evolution of this fleet mirrors some of those developments. In the following graphic table, the dates of maiden voyages are indicated with each ship's name.[12]

Active Service Vessel Name Launch Date Maiden Voyage Other Names Notes Loss Date
Canadian Pacific Railway (1884–1915)
1887 SS Abyssinia[13] 1870 1870 . Pacific 1891
1887 SS Parthia.[14] 1870 1870 . Pacific 1956
1887 SS Batavia.[15] 1870 1870 . Pacific 1924
1891 RMS Empress of China.[16] 1890 1891 . Pacific, 1891–1911 1912
1891 RMS Empress of India.[17] 1890 1891 SS Loyalty (1914–1919) Pacific, 1891–1914; war service, 1914–1919 (British Raj/Gwalior) 1919
1891 RMS Empress of Japan.[18] 1890 1891 . Pacific, 1891–1914; war service, 1914–1919; Pacific, 1919–1922 1926
1906 RMS Empress of Britain.[19] 1905 1906 SS Montroyal, 1924–1930 Atlantic, 1906–1914; war service, 1914–1919; Atlantic, 1919–1930 1930
1906 RMS Empress of Ireland.[20] 1906 1906 . Atlantic, 1906–1914 1914
1913 RMS Empress of Asia.[21] 1912 1913 . Pacific, 1913–1914; war service, 1914–1919; Pacific, 1919–1941; war service, 1941–1942 1942
1913 RMS Empress of Russia.[22] 1912 1913 . Pacific, 1913–1914; war service, 1914–1919; Pacific, 1919–1939; war service, 1940–1945 1945
1914 RMS Empress of France.[23] 1912 1914 SS Alsatian (1914–1918) Atlantic (1912–1914); war service (1914–1917); Atlantic (1918–1934) 1934
Canadian Pacific Steamships Ocean Services Ltd. (1915–1971)
1921 RMS Empress of India.[24] 1907 1908 SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm (1907–1919, 1919–1921); USS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm (1919); SS Empress of China (1921); SS Montlaurier (1923–1925); SS Montieth (1925); SS Montnairn (1925–1929) Atlantic, 1908–1914; inactive, 1914–1919; Atlantic, 1920–1929 1929
1922 RMS Empress of Australia[25] 1913 1919 SS Tirpitz (1919–1921); SS Empress of China (1921) Atlantic, 1919–1939; war service, 1939–1951 1952
1922 RMS Empress of Scotland.[26] 1905 1906 SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria (1906–1919, 1919–1921); USS Kaiserin August Victoria (1919) Atlantic, 1906–1914; inactive, 1914–1919; Atlantic, 1920–1930 1930
1922 RMS Empress of Canada.[27] 1920 1922 . Atlantic, 1922–1939; wartime service, 1939–1943 1943
1928 RMS Duchess of Athol.[28] 1927 1928 . Atlantic, 1928–1939; war service, 1939–1942 1942
1928 SS Duchess of Bedford.[29] 1928 1928 RMS Empress of France (1947–1960) Atlantic 1960
1929 SS Duchess of Richmond.[30] 1928 1928 RMS Empress of Canada (1947–1953) Atlantic, 1929–1939; war service, 1939–1947; Atlantic, 1947–1953 1953
1929 SS Duchess of York.[31] 1928. 1929. Keel laid down as Duchess of Cornwall Atlantic, 1929–1939; war service, 1939–1943 1943
1930 RMS Empress of Japan.[32] 1929 1930 RMS Empress of Scotland (1942–1958); SS Hanseatic (1958–1966) Pacific, 1930–1942; war service, 1942–1947; Atlantic, 1948–1958 1966
1931 RMS Empress of Britain.[33] 1930 1931 . Atlantic, 1931–1939; war service, 1939–1940 1940
1942 RMS Empress of Scotland.[32] 1929 1930 RMS Empress of Japan (1930–1942); SS Hanseatic (1958–1966) Pacific, 1930–1942; war service, 1942–1947; Atlantic, 1948–1958 1966
1947 RMS Empress of Canada.[30] 1928 1929 SS Duchess of Richmond (1929–1947) Atlantic, 1929–1939; war service, 1939–1947; Atlantic, 1947–1953 1953
1948 RMS Empress of France.[29] 1928 1928 SS Duchess of Bedford (1928–1947) Atlantic, 1928–1839; war service, 1939–1947; Atlantic, 1948–1960[34] 1960
1953 RMS Empress of Australia[35] 1924 1924 SS de Grasse (1924–1953); Venezuela (1956–1962) 1962
1956 RMS Empress of Britain.[36] 1955 1956 SS Queen Anna Maria (1964–1975); SS Carnivale (1975–1993); SS Fiesta Marina (1993–1994); SS Olympic (1994–1997); SS Topaz (1998–2008) Atlantic, 1956–1976; Caribbean, 1976–1994 2008
1957 RMS Empress of England.[37] 1956 1957 SS Ocean Monarch (1970–1975) Atlantic, 1957–1970 1975
1961 RMS Empress of Canada.[38] 1960 1961[34] SS Mardi Gras (1972–1993); SS Olympic, SS Star of Texas, SS Lucky Star, SS Apollo, and SS Apollon Atlantic, 1961–1972; Caribbean (1972–2003) 2003
CP Ships (1971–2005)
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As of July 2009, no photograph or other image of this ship has yet been uploaded.

Notable CP figures

Ronald Stuart receiving his VC from King George V outside Buckingham Palace

CP Ships

In 1971, the company changed its name to CP Ships Ltd.

In 1984 it entered a joint venture with Compagnie Maritime Belge called Canada Maritime to secure North Atlantic container traffic for its rail facilities in Montreal. This "new" company prospered and the fortunes of CP Ships revived in the early 1990s and in 1993 Canadian Pacific bought out its partner in Canada Maritime, and that company was merged in CP Ships reviving the fleet. The next decade saw the company grow through acquisition. In April 1995 CP Ships purchased the Cast Group out of a bankruptcy proceeding, and subsequently bought Lykes Lines in July 1997 also out of bankruptcy, Contship Containerlines in October 1997 at a profitable level, Australia-New Zealand Direct Line in December 1998 also being profitable, Ivaran Lines in May 1998 (unprofitable), TMM Lines (unprofitable, 50% in January 1999, rest 50% in January 2000), in August 2000 Christensen Canadian African Lines (CCAL) at small profitability and Italia Line in August 2002 at breakeven business results. By 2001 it was the seventh largest carrier in the world, and dominated the North Atlantic. When it was spun off into a separate company it represented 8% of Canadian Pacific's revenues and was a source for a large portion of CPR's rail traffic — much originating from CP Ships' Montreal Gateway Terminals.

Soon after gaining its independence the company suffered from a general economic slowdown; however, it recovered much faster than its competitors and returned to profitability in 2002. By 2004 the global shipping industry was booming, and consolidating, and CP became the target of a number of take over rumours.

During its independence, CP Ships operated its seven distinct brands (Ivaran and CCAL were not operated as brands after takeover but were absorbed into the Lykes brand) and used the slogan "Regional Focus, Global Scale." However, prior to being bought out by Hapag Lloyd, CP Ships had already made the decision to get rid of the brand identities and operate solely with the CP Ships brand. For the CP Ships brand they had mostly unlogoed CPSU brown dry box containers (some had the flag on the back door but no wording) as well as refrigerated containers.

TUI AG-Hapag-Lloyd

On August 21, 2005, German conglomerate TUI AG offered to acquire CP Ships Limited for 1.7 billion (US$2.0 billion) in cash, and merge it with TUI's Hapag-Lloyd division.

On August 30, 2005, Ship Acquisition Incorporated, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of TUI AG made a formal offer for 100% of CP Ships shares. The deal was approved by the boards of both CP Ships and TUI AG and was presented to CP Ships shareholders for approval.[46]

On October 19, 2005 CP Ships and TUI AG jointly announced that 89.1% of CP Ships shareholders, representing 84,095,325 common shares, had accepted Ship Acquisition Inc.'s August 30 offer. The shares were to be taken up the next day, followed by payment of $21.50 USD per share on October 25, 2005.[47] Following the purchase and merger, TUI AG's combined Hapag-Lloyd and CP Ships fleet will comprise the fifth largest by capacity in the worldwide container shipping market.

International identifiers

SCAC codes

CP Ships (UK) Limited: CPSU
Hapag-Lloyd: HLCU and HLXU

Operator Codes

CP Ships (UK) Limited: CPS
Hapag-Lloyd: HLL

9000 Series Codes

Hapag-Lloyd: 9529

BIC Codes

CP Ships: CPSU
Hapag-Lloyd: HLCU, HLXU
ex Australian New Zealand Direct Line: AZLU
ex CAST Line: CASU
ex Canada Maritime: CMUU
ex Contship Containerlines: CSQU, HAMU, PLVU, CLGU, TLEU, PSBU, PCRU, FANU (Fantainer)
ex Flota Mercante Grancolombiana: FMGU
ex Ivaran Lines: IVLU
ex Italia Line: ITAU
ex Lykes Lines: LYKU
ex Tecomar: TEMU
ex Transportacion Martima Mexicana: TMMU

See also


  1. "Canadian Railroad Interests; To Connect with Steamships to Japan," New York Times. November 28, 1884.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Pacific Air Routes Replace Ship Line; Canadian Company Abandons Pre-War Service of Fleet, Maps Overseas Flights," New York Times. April 10, 1949. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "nyt1949" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Tate, E. Mowbray. (1986). Transpacific Steam: The Story of Steam Navigation from the Pacific Coast of North America to the Far East and the Antipodes, 1867–1941, p. 144.
  4. 4.0 4.1 E. Chambré Hardman Archive: CP Innovations.
  5. "Railway Management; the Canadian Pacific." New York Times. May 13, 1887.
  6. "The Chinamen Were Pleased; They Viewed the Model of the Canadian Pacific's New Ships." New York Times. December 23, 1890.
  7. "A New Line of Steamships," New York Times. February 19, 1887.
  8. "Manager Tuttle's Mission," New York Times. February 20, 1887.
  9. "Rivals of Pacific Mail; Canadian Pacific Steamers Cutting into China Traffic," New York Times. October 10, 1891.
  10. Postal History Society of Canada:trans-Pacific mail service and the "Empress fleet"
  11. "To Transfer C. P. R. Fleet; Ships and Railroad to be Managed by Separate Companies," New York Times. February 25, 1915; "Canadian Pacific Divorces Ships; Forms Company to Take Over Its Boats and Those of the Allan Line, Which It Owns. PRICE IS PUT AT $24,000,000 Railway to Get All of New Corporation's $10,000,000 Stock and $14,000,000 Debentures," New York Times. August 24, 1915.
  12. A note on disambiguating ships with the same name on article texts: Although conventionally used today, unofficial names or sobriquets like RMS Empress of Japan II are not used here, since each ship's official name was simply Empress of Japan. Instead, the year the ship entered service is used to tell the ships apart when names are repeated (as in article names), hence RMS Empress of Japan (1891) and RMS Empress of Japan (1930) -- not RMS Empress of Japan and RMS Empress of Japan II.
  13. Haworth, R.B. Miramar Ship Index: Abyssinia, ID#1063765.
  14. Miramar Ship Index: Parthia, ID#063797.
  15. Miramar Ship Index: Batavia, ID#1063756.
  16. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of China, ID#1098953.
  17. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of India, ID#1098887.
  18. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Japan, ID#1098911.
  19. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Britain, ID#1120940.
  20. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Ireland, ID#1123972.
  21. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Asia, ID#1135226.
  22. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Russia, ID#1135197.
  23. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of France, ID#1136266.
  24. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of India, ID#1144402.
  25. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Australia, ID#1145300.
  26. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Scotland, ID#1144375.
  27. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Canada, ID#1146215.
  28. Miramar Ship Index: Duchess of Athol, ID#1160505.
  29. 29.0 29.1 Miramar Ship Index: Empress of France, ID#1160482.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Miramar Ship Index: Duchess of Richmond, ID#1160631.
  31. Miramar Ship Index: Duchess of York, ID#1161202.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Japan, ID#5514232.
  33. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Britain, ID#1162582.
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Transport News and Notes; Empress of France Will Be Retired," New York Times. November 27, 1960.
  35. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Australia ID#1185887.
  36. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Britain ID#5103924.
  37. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of England ID#5103948.
  38. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of Canada ID#5103936.
  39. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30194, p. 7424, 20 July 1917. Retrieved on 2008-05-28.; London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31021, p. 13694, 19 November 1918. Retrieved on 2008-05-28.
  40. Snelling, Stephen. 2002. The Naval VCs, p. 142.
  41. Obituary for Captain Ronald Neil Stuart, The Times Retrieved 23 May 2007
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 "Capt. Samuel Robinson, Who Won Fame For Rescue Work in Jap Quake, Dies," New York Times. September 7, 1958. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "nyt1958" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "nyt1958" defined multiple times with different content
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
  44. Vancouver Maritime Museum
  45. London Gazette: no. 32973, p. 6778, 12 September 1924. Retrieved on 2008-04-23.
  46. Press release, TUI, August 21, 2005, http://www.tui.com/en/pressemedien/press_releases/2005/2005_08_21_CP_Ships.html 
  47. Press release, October 19, 2005, http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/October2005/19/c3125.html 


  • Snelling, Stephen. 2002. The Naval VCs. Stroud, Gloustershire: Sutton. 10-ISBN 0-750-91395-9; 13-ISBN 978-0-750-91395-9

External links

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