Today in Transportation History – 1881: A New Steamship Company is Formed in New Zealand

A group of 19 businessman meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, formed a new shipping company. The Northern Steam Ship Company (NSS) was specifically established to take over both the vessels and business of the Auckland Steam Packet Company.

Despite what appeared to be a strong start, NSS struggled financially during its first several years of existence. This situation changed dramatically in 1887 when an enterprising accountant (and enthusiastic bowler) named Charles Ranson was appointed manager of the company. NSS subsequently forged ahead as a major shipping force to be reckoned with throughout the northern region of New Zealand. The company’s ships eventually expanded their presence and services in a number of creeks, bays, and rivers in that part of the world.

By the time Ranson finally stepped down as manager in 1921, the company’s number of vessels had grown from eight to 40; the NSS workforce, for its part, jumped from only 100 employees to approximately 500. In addition, cargo increased from 51,000 tons to 220,000 tons per year while the number of passengers grew from 39,000 to 190,000 annually. NSS remained in operation until 1974.

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