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The Southampton Shipowners Association (SSA) was founded as long ago as
. At that time the Port of Southampton, and indeed the shipping industry as a whole was entering an era of unprecedented change for both passengers and freight. The advent of containerisation was quickly to lead to the port’s reclaiming of land beyond the Western Docks to construct not only additional berths but importantly to invest in the modern infrastructure enabling the far more rapid turnaround of (ever-larger) vessels; indeed the “box boat” was soon to become a familiar sight in Southampton water. In the Eastern docks, as the traditional passenger line trades began to fall into decline through air travel, plans were being drawn up to accommodate RoRo Ferries onto new linkspans. The Port’s geographical position with the unique advantage of having double tides and seventeen hours of high water daily were and continue to be strong marketing points.

With this background in mind the Port Agents (Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers) and Freight Forwarders had already formed their local branches, and sharing common interests with the former group, the SSA was founded with a structure equally divided between domiciled Shipowners’ and Port Agents’ representatives. The position of Chairman/Vice Chairman alternated each year between a shipowner’s and a port agent’s representative with the executive committee similarly reflected.

The membership included representatives from Cunard, P&O Line, Union Castle Line, Fyffes Bananas (25 Berth) who were soon joined by names such as Dart Container Line, Atlantic Container Line, OCL, Ben Line, Thoresen Ferries, P&O Ferries and Swedish Lloyd. The Esso Petroleum Company (now ExxonMobil) with its large fleet of tankers were early members – the Esso Terminal at Fawley was expanding considerably and it was in the mid 1960’s
when the Nab Channel and approach channels were dredged to accommodate tankers with 14m+ draft. Early Port Agents members included Sandell Brothers, Benjamin Ackerley & Son, G A Haswell, Wainwright Bros, Escombe McGraph, McGregor Gow & Holland, John Horn & Son to name a few.

Regulation, procedures and simply the way things are done have gone through continual change over the ensuing years; communications in those years relied upon the telephone, telegram, radio link-call and telex, often needing the skills of shorthand typists and secretaries… how unrecognisable from today’s world of instant cell phone comms and advanced I.T.!


Shipping lines and their agents found that membership of local committees was important to keep updated with every aspect of our changing industry. Indeed membership of one of the most important committees coincided with the 1968 legislation bringing the then Southampton Harbour Board under the direct authority of the British Transport Docks Board (BTDB), which later became ABP when the Government sold its interest in the company in the
early 1980’s – legislation dictating the forming of the Southampton Local Board now known as the Southampton Port Consultative Committee.


As has been documented elsewhere the Port owners continued to invest to maintain Southampton as one of the UK’s most important ports. However many ups and downs were experienced during the 1970s and 1980s not helped by restrictive labour regulations and a troubled economic climate. Some activities, notably the passenger liner trade, for so long the famous mainstay of the port trade, virtually disappeared whilst the cross channel ferry trade transferred to neighbouring Portsmouth. Undoubtedly a turning point was the abolition of the Dock Labour Scheme in July 1989 bringing about competition, flexibility and the necessary ingredients to give customers the confidence of committing the level of support and investment that we see in the Port of Southampton today. Importantly, the increasingly popularity of cruising in the UK holiday market led to a renaissance in the passenger ship sector, which continues to grow year on year.

One setback during the early millennium occurred, when ABP’s application to develop its land estate at Dibden Bay was rejected by the Secretary of State
following a public enquiry. However, since that time ABP has been sold to private investors, who have funded the continued expansion of virtually every
area and terminal within the port; Containers, Passengers, RoRo, Bulk, Fruit to name the major categories, whilst undertaking a major dredging project to
accommodate the next generation of ultra-large container vessels. With Brexit approaching, the Port of Southampton had never been more important to serving the interests of the nation, and of course is a massively important economic hub providing jobs and investment for the region.

The aim of the Association has always been to watch, safeguard and promote the interests of members in all matters relating to their business in the Port of Southampton.

In particular the Association aims:
  • To monitor where practicable proposed legislation, customs and usages affecting shipping within the Port and to take steps to obtain proper recognition and protection.

  • To actively promote the views of the Association and influence relevant authorities.

  • To become affiliated to any other association or body, having objectives similar to those of the Association.

  • To give Government, public bodies and other authorities facilities for ascertaining the views of the Association on all matters commensurate with the stated objectives of the Association.

  • To nominate representatives on national or local bodies to represent the Association.

Today, a number of the original 1960s memberships remain, whilst many new faces have joined. In order to reflect modern day changes the SSA has widened its activity & scope to cover related marine interests and facilitate a broad cross section of the port community.

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