Sea Containers

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Sea Containers
IndustryPassenger transport
Marine container leasing
Key people
Bob Mackenzie (CEO & President)
James Sherwood (Founder)

Sea Containers was a Bermudan registered company which operated two main business areas: transport and container leasing. It filed for bankruptcy on 16 October 2006. In 2009 its maritime container interests were transferred to a new company SeaCo Ltd, with the winding down and liquidation of the remainder of the group continuing.[1]


Yale University graduate and retired United States Navy officer James Sherwood founded Sea Containers in 1965, with initial capital of $100,000.[2] It was later listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In May 1989, Tiphook launched an unsuccessful takeover bid for the company.[3]

Over 40 years, Sherwood expanded Sea Containers from a supplier of leased cargo containers, into various shipping companies, as well as expanding the company into luxury hotels and railway trains, including the Venice-Simplon Orient Express and the Great North Eastern Railway train operating company.

Although valued with a net worth of £60million in the 2004 Sunday Times Rich List,[4] as Sea Containers hit financial troubles, he resigned from each of his companies in 2006. In 2005, Sea Containers sold its 25% share in Orient-Express Hotels.[3]

Chapter 11[edit]

In March 2006, Sherwood resigned from all positions in the various Sea Containers Companies. Sherwood was replaced by company doctor Bob Mackenzie, while Ian Durant became senior vice-president of finance.[5]

Despite selling various businesses and assets, Sea Containers announced in early October 2006 that it was unlikely to be able to pay a $115m (£62m) bond due up on 15 October. On 16 October, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.[6]

On 6 November 2006 the Department for Work & Pensions wrote to Sea Containers that it must pay £143m to its two UK pension schemes if it wants to wind them up.[7]

On 11 February 2009, its maritime container interests were transferred to a new company SeaCo Ltd, with the wind down and liquidation of the remainder of the group continuing. The major shareholders in the new company were the former Sea Containers Ltd bondholders and two of the group's UK pension funds.[1]


Ferry services[edit]


Related activities include:

  • Hart Fenton: a naval architecture and marine engineering company, sold to Houlder in 2006[9]
  • Sea Containers Chartering



Sea Containers container leasing business was conducted mainly through GE SeaCo, a joint venture with GE Capital formed in 1998. GE SeaCo was sold to the HNA Group for approximately $1 billion on 15 December 2011 and now operates as Seaco.[15]

Other former activities[edit]

  • Sea Containers Property Services Ltd – property development, property asset management.
  • The Illustrated London News Group (ILNG) – publishing
  • Fruit farming – Sea Containers owned plantations in West Africa and South America.
  • Fairways & Swinford – UK-based business travel agency

Former internet property of Sea Containers Ltd[edit]

In March 2016 the domain of was acquired by World Sea Containers


  1. ^ a b "Sea Containers Implements Plan of Reorganisation". 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  2. ^ "Sea Containers Ltd. - Company History". Funding Universe. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Sea Containers grabs at a lifeline The Observer 7 May 2006
  4. ^ "Sunday Times - Rich List". The Times. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  5. ^ Collapse was not my fault says Sea Containers boss The Independent 22 October 2006
  6. ^ Sea Containers files for Chapter 11 protection The Guardian 16 October 2006
  7. ^ "Pension threat to Sea Containers". BBC News. 6 November 2006. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  8. ^ New owner to keep SeaStreak ferries afloat Associated Press 18 March 2008
  9. ^ Hart, Fenton & Company Limited Land, Sea & Air Magazine 15 November 2011
  10. ^ GNER pays £1.3bn to retain East Coast mainline The Guardian 23 March 2005
  11. ^ GNER to surrender top train route BBC News 15 December 2006
  12. ^ East Coast franchise handover Railway Gazette International 31 December 2007
  13. ^ Conveted franchise operated by Bermudan company The Independent 17 October 2000
  14. ^ Green Light for High Speed Services for Kent - Four Bidders Selected for new Kent Franchise Strategic Rail Authority 22 December 2003
  15. ^ HNA completes acquisition of GE SeaCo Seatrade Maritime News 19 December 2011