Blue Star Line

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Blue Star Line
Industry Shipping
Fate Sold to P&O Nedlloyd in 1998
Founded 1911
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Area served Worldwide
Services Container transportation

The Blue Star Line was a British passenger and cargo shipping company formed in 1911, and in operation until 1998.


Blue Star Line was formed as an initiative by the Vestey Brothers, a Liverpool-based butchers company, who had founded the Union Cold Storage Company to take advantage of refrigeration practices. They developed a large importation business, shipping frozen meat from South America to Britain, initially from Argentina on ships of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, and other shipping lines that called at South American ports. The high prices charged for transport by these companies led the Vestey brothers to start to operate their own ships.[1] They chartered their first ships from 1904, and began to buy their own ships from 1909 onwards. The Blue Star Line was officially inaugurated on 28 July 1911, initially using second-hand ships. They ordered their first new ship in 1914, and by the outbreak of the First World War were operating twelve refrigerated cargo ships.[2] These were initially prefixed 'Brod', e.g. Brodfield, Brodholme and Brodland. Ships of the company were identifiable by their red funnels with black tops and narrow white and black bands, with a white circle with blue five-pointed star on the red background. Their hull colours were either black or black with a white band, and red boot-topping.[1]

The company supplied beef to allied forces in France during the war, and began an expansion programme after it was over. The name format was altered with the introduction of the 'Star' suffix to ship names, the first being Royalstar, later renamed Royal Star, in 1919. The company expanded its operations to include services to the Pacific coast of North America from 1920, and Australia and New Zealand from 1933. The Blue Star Line acquired Frederick Leyland and Company in 1935 and operated it as a subsidiary, while moving into passenger transport with the ordering of all-first class ships like Arandora Star.[1][2]

Second World War[edit]

By 1939 Blue Star Line operated 39 ships. Many were requisitioned during the Second World War and the fleet suffered heavy losses, 29 ships being sunk. The Blue Star Line bought Lamport and Holt Line in 1944 and Booth Steamship Company in 1946, and ships were often transferred back and forth between the subsidiary companies.[2]


MV Brasil Star, launched in 1947, was one of the replacements for war losses

Another building programme was enacted to replace wartime losses, supplemented by the purchase or hire of existing ships. In 1952 Austasia Line was formed to operate services between Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia, while Blue Star Line took over the North American routes previously operated by the Donaldson Line in 1954.[1] In 1957 Blue Star Line joined with three other shipping companies, the New Zealand Shipping Company, Port Line and Shaw, Savill & Albion to form the Crusader Shipping Company, and in 1965 entered a partnership with Italian shippers to form Calmeda S.p.A di Nav, Cagliari.[1] Blue Star Line now had global interests, with ports of call on the Pacific North American coast, in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South America and Italy. They were also one of the major shareholders, along with several other large shipping firms, in British United Airways.[2]

Reorganisation and decline[edit]

Blue Star Line divested itself of its holdings in British United Airways in 1968 and became one of the founding partners that year in Associated Container Transportation (ACT), along with the Ben Line, Cunard (Port Line), Harrison Line and Ellerman Lines. Blue Star Line gradually moved towards containerization, ending its passenger services to South America in 1972.[1][2] Blue Star took over ACT's Pacific Australia Container Express (PACE) line which operated between the USA and Australia.[3]

In 1982–83 Blue Star Line assisted in the defence of the Falkland Islands by managing the barracks ship TEV Rangatira at Port Stanley.[4][5]

Blue Star Line was bought by P&O Nedlloyd in 1998, which acquired the name and most of the assets, with the exception of most of the reefer ships, which were kept by the Vestey Group under the name Albion Reefers, and then merged with Hamburg Süd's reefer fleet under the name Star Reefers.[2] Star Reefers was sold in July 2001 to Norwegian interests, and then subsequently merged with NYK Group as NYK Star Reefers Ltd. The Blue Star Line ships bought by P&O Nedlloyd, which included those operated as part of ACT, continued in service with P&O Nedlloyd under Blue Star Line names and liveries. Some of the original Blue Star vessels sold to P&O Nedlloyd traded until February 2003 on the West Coast of America to Australia and New Zealand. They were the America Star (ex ACT 3), Melbourne Star (ex ACT 4), Sydney Star (ex ACT 5) and Queensland Star (ex ACT 6). The last vessel trading, to carry the Blue Star funnel colours was the America Star, which was handed over to be broken up on the 19th February 2003.[2]

Reederei Blue Star[edit]

P&O Nedlloyd formed Reederei Blue Star in 2002 as a ship management company, from which it chartered ships. P&O Nedlloyd was bought by AP Moller Maersk Group in 2005 and merged into its operations to form Maersk Line. Reederei Blue Star continues to operate as part of Maersk Line.[2]

On 18th June 2009 Komrowski took over the ship management company Reederei Blue Star GmbH, Hamburg, from Maersk Ship Management Holding B.V., Rotterdam. As of July 2012, the Komrowski Group-owned Blue Star merged with Komrowski Befrachtungskontor and E.R. Schiffahrt to form The Blue Star Holding.

Second Blue Star Line[edit]

The Second Blue Star Line's flag

Australian billionaire and tycoon Clive Palmer has formed a second Blue Star Line, which will feature an RMS Titanic replica as its possible flagship.[6] Palmer claims Titanic II will be the safest cruise ship in the world when it sets sail in 2016 from Southampton, England, bound for New York, following the ill-fated Titanic's original planned route. It had been stated that the newer 'Blue Star Line' has no relation to the older company of the same name, and does not have any legal rights to the White Star Line name as some people assumed, as that company's brand name is owned by Carnival Corporation and Cunard Line.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Blue Star Line". Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Star Line History.html "Blue Star Line (Est. 1911)". Retrieved 7 February 2012. [dead link]
  3. ^ Asian Shipping[citation needed] (229–240). 1998. p. 6. "When Blue Star took over the PACE service it gained all four of these ships, which were renamed America Star, Melbourne Star, Sydney Star, Queensland Star. It also acquired the ACT 10, built in 1980 for the Shipping Corporation of New ..." 
  4. ^ Castell, Marcus (2003–2005). "The Turbo Electric Vessel Rangatira of 1971". The New Zealand Maritime Record. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "Union Steam Ship Company's T.E.V. "Rangatira"". Blue Star on the Web. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Calligeros, Marissa (30 April 2012). "Clive Palmer plans to build Titanic II". Fairfax Media. 
  7. ^ "Man overboard? Aussie tycoon insists Titanic II good idea". CNN. 27 February 2013.