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World’s Oldest Shipping Company Closes in Industry Slide

World’s Oldest Shipping Company Closes Amid Industry Decline
Photographer: Xabier Mikel Laburu/Bloomberg

The world’s oldest shipping company sold its last vessel and is going out of business, according to the liquidator.

Stephenson Clarke Shipping Ltd., started in 1730, has been placed into liquidation, according to a statement from accounting firm Tait Walker. The Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England-based shipper, which employed nine people, sold off its final vessel in July, according to the statement.

The Baltic Dry Index, a gauge of rates to transport dry-bulk commodities including grains and coal by sea, is down 55 percent this year and on course for a fourth annual slide in five years, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The current slump is “one of the worst experienced for many years,” the shipping company said in the statement.

“News of the closing of Stephenson Clarke clearly shows how challenging the current economic climate is for shipping,” the U.K. Chamber of Shipping said in an e-mailed statement. “Stephenson Clarke was an historic company and longstanding member until recently and we were very sorry to hear this news.”

Contracting Economy

The U.K. shipping industry had 12.6 billion pounds ($19.7 billion) of revenue in 2010, according to the most recent data on the website of the chamber, which speaks for members from P&O Ferries Ltd. to container carrier CMA CGM SA. The country’s economy will shrink 0.15 percent this year, the average of 40 economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg shows.

Stephenson Clarke owned dry-bulk carriers for short-sea voyages, its website shows. It was the world’s oldest shipping company, according to industry newspaper Lloyd’s List, which traces its founding to 1734.

“The size of the company and its small fleet mean that its failure is unlikely to have implications for wider shipping markets,” said Marc Pauchet, a London-based analyst at ACM Shipping Group Plc, the U.K.’s third-largest shipbroker. Still, Stephenson Clarke’s demise is symptomatic of a global surplus of vessels, he said.

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