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The Fleets

European & Australian Royal Mail Company Ltd. 1856-1858

After the end of the Crimean War when a lot of ships were released from Government service and the Admiralty invited tenders for a new Australian contract but the conditions of this tender were so strict that P&O which was in a strong position east of Suez decided not to accept these conditions.
The mails had to be carried between Suez and Melbourne via Point de Galle in screw steamers with stringent penalties in the event of failure or too late to arrive at the destination.

A number of tenders were submitted but only one was worthy of consideration ; the European & Columbian Steam Navigation Co., a Glasgow concern founded by Robert Henderson & Co. in 1853 with the intention of running a direct service between the United Kingdom and the Isthmus of Panama as a fast route to the Californian gold fields. Orders had been placed for the construction of two ships the EUROPEAN and COLUMBIAN.
But when the two ships were completed the gold rush was over but the Crimean War was started so the two ships were chartered to the French Government as transports.

As said when the Crimean War was over the company was re-organised as European & Australian Royal Mail Company Ltd. and three more iron screw steamers were ordered and one ship the ONEIDA was purchased from the Canada Ocean Steam Ship Co. to provide a regular service between Suez and Melbourne according to the new contract.

Also several ships were chartered pending completion of the company’s own vessels and the service was started at the beginning of 1857. Already in 1857 complaints about the conduct of the line were being heard in the House of Commons and the London press. The company was not able to maintain their monthly schedule since there were no funds with which to pay the charter dues. A merger with the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was proposed and in September 1857 management was assumed by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, but the situation did not improve due ships' hazards and expensive reparations of ships and in 1858 a new merger with the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was proposed but the Parliament rejected the proposal and the European & Australian Royal Mail Company Ltd. was wound up. The ships a variety of barges and stores went to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company took over the entire service till 1859 when the contract was terminated.

Many thanks to Henk Jungerius and Ted Finch for their assistance in collecting this data. The following list was extracted from various sources. This is not an all inclusive list but should only be used as a guide. If you would like to know more about a vessel, visit the Ship Descriptions (onsite) or Immigrant Ship web site.

Vessel Built Years in Service Tons
Asian 1858 built by Scott & Co., Greenock | 1858 sold before completion. 2,300
Australasian 1857 built by J. & G. Thompson, Glasgow | 1859 sold to Cunard not renamed, 1869 rebuilt and renamed Calabria, 1876 sold to Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Co. converted to cable ship, 1897 scrapped. 2,902
Columbian 1857 built by Simons, Renfrew | 1859 sold to Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O) not renamed, 1865 sold to Scott & Co. refitted into a cargo ship, 1866 reverted to P&O, 1877 sold to Hajee Cassum Joosub, Bombay, 1886 scrapped. 2,379
European 1857 built by Scott & Co., Greenock | 1859, sold. 2,198
Oneida 1855 built by Scott & Co., Greenock | ex- Oneida, 1857 purchased from Canada Ocean Steam Ship Co., 1859 taken over by Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, 1874 sold to Ellis & Sons, London became sailing ship. 2,293
Tasmanian 1858 built by Laurence Hill, Glasgow | Laid down as Melbourne, 1859 taken over by Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, 1878 sold and scrapped. 2,956

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