Huddart Parker Limited was an Australian shipping company trading in various forms between 1876 and 1961. It was one of the seven major coastal shippers in Australia at a time when shipping was the principal means of interstate and trans-tasman transport. The company started in Geelong, but in 1890 shifted its offices to Melbourne. By 1910 Huddart Parker had grown to rank 24th of the top 100 companies in Australia by asset value.
The company was founded on 1 August 1876 in Geelong as Huddart, Parker & Co. Pty. Ltd, by James Huddart, T.J. Parker, John. Traill, and Captain T. Webb. Earlier, in the 1850s, James Huddart's uncle, Captain Peter Huddart had made his fortune importing coal for use in the Victorian goldfields. He was the first major operator handling coal from the port of Geelong. Mr. T.J.Parker, was a merchant who arrived in Geelong from London in 1853. The trading activities each built up through the gold-rush era and beyond led to a linking of the businesses of their descendants and successors, to become Huddart Parker & Company.
After 1876 Huddart Parker expanded rapidly. By 1886 it had inaugurated the Melbourne-Adelaide shipping service and in 1882 entered the Sydney Melbourne trade. During the early 1890s its steamers were running to the principal ports of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, and in 1893 it was also trading with ports in New Zealand.
From 1889 there was a three-way battle between the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand, Huddart Parker and the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Company (TSNCo) on the Tasmanian routes (Melbourne-Launceston, Hobart-Melbourne and Hobart-Sydney). The TSNCo did not have other routes to absorb their Tasmanian losses, and was bought out by the USSCo in 1891. The rivalry between the USSCo and Huddart Parker lasted to 1895 despite an earlier agreement in 1893. There was undercutting by cheap fares and steamers shadowing each other from port to port. The USSCo Rotomahana and Mararoa would sail alongside the Miowra and Warrimoo, with other ships e.g. the Te Anau and Manapouri sailing before and after so bracketing the Huddart Parker ships. The 1895 agreement between the two lines pooled the Auckland-Sydney profits and losses; the Melbourne-Launceston profits were divided 4/7 to the USSCo and 3/7 to Huddart Parker; and the Sydney-Hobart passenger trade was excluded but the cargo and stock trade was divided 2/3 to USSCo and 1/3 to Huddart Parker.
One of the original directors, John Traill, had survived the other directors by 1886, and remained chairman until his death at 92, in 1916.
By 1890, Traill had moved the company from offices on the wharves at Geelong to 466 Collins Street, in the heart of Melbourne.
The company registered in Victoria in 1889 as a proprietary company and converted to a public company in 1911.
In 1921 Huddart Parker came to an agreement with the Union Company to establish a joint venture operation on the Bass Strait where both companies owned a 50% stake in the company Tasmanian Steamers
During World War I five of the company's vessels were requisitioned for the war. The SS Wimmera was sunk on 26 June 1918 following collision with a German mine north of Cape Maria van Diemen, New Zealand, killing 26 passengers. In World War II, three of the company's passenger ships, Zealandia, Westralia and Wanganella were pressed into war service.
Huddart Parker was finally taken over by Bitumen and Oil Refineries Australia Limited in October 1961
Notable ships owned by Huddart Parker
- SS Coogee, purchased in 1888 for the Bass Strait trade
- SS Nelson, purchased in 1890, sunk on its first voyage, at the mouth of the Tamar River.
- SS Elingamite, Trans-Tasman passenger steamer, sunk north of New Zealand in 1902, with a large amount of gold on board.
- SS Zealandia, 1910–42, notable cargo and passenger vessel which served as a troopship in both World War I and World War II, sunk in the air raids on Darwin, 19 February 1942.
- HMAS Westralia, Trans-Tasman liner, in service from 1929 to 1960; requisitioned for war service in 1939.
- TSMV Wanganella, Trans-Tasman liner, in service from 1933 to 1962
- McLean, Gavin The Southern Octopus p49-66 (1990, New Zealand Ship and Marine Society & Wellington Maritime Museum)
- Barker, Anthony (2001), What Happened When: A Chronology of Australia from 1788, Allen & Unwin, ISBN 1-86508-426-3
- Merrett, David (2000), Business Institutions and Behaviour in Australia, Routledge (UK), ISBN 0-7146-4994-5
- Plowman, Peter (2004), Ferry to Tasmania, Rosenberg Publishing, ISBN 1-877058-27-0
- Australia's Merchant Navy: Huddart Parker
- Serle, Percival (1949). "Huddart, James". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.