Here is a recap of the key milestones across our history.

  • 1872

    The China Navigation Company (CNCo; renamed to Swire Shipping in October 2021) commenced operations on the Yangtze River, operating Mississippi-style paddles steamers. The Yangtze River was China’s most important trading corridor at the time.

  • 1873

    Tunsin became the first vessel to sail under the CNCo flag. In the same year, CNCo built its first ship, s.s. Pekin, a paddle steamer for service on the lower Yangtze.

  • 1882

    After securing the lucrative soya bean and ‘beancake’ trade, CNCo became the most profitable company on the Yangtze River, doubling its annual net profit by this year.

  • 1886

    CNCo started a liner service to Japan carrying Tai-Koo Sugar northbound from Hong Kong and lifting rice for Australia.

  • 1910

    Within 30 years, it expanded its fleet and services to include calls into Australia, Japan, Russia, and Southeast Asia.

  • 1920

    Under the stewardship of John Samuel Swire’s two sons, the 1920s saw CNCo expanding its fleet to more than 80, hitting a peak. Taikoo Sugar is the brand of choice in China.

  • 1945

    After World War II, Swire Shipping pioneered new trading routes from Australia to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

  • 1960

    In the 1960s and ‘70s, CNCo introduced the revolutionary “containerised” method of carrying cargo on these Pacific trades, using self-geared vessels with mobile gantry cranes.

  • 1973

    CNCo had its first month-long cruise which went as far as Singapore, with calls at Hong Kong, Bangkok and Manila; also in the same year “Coral Princess” had the privilege of being the first foreign cruise ship to visit China.

  • 1975

    Prince Tomohito of Japan travelled on Coral Princess as a member of an Asian Youth voyage. The cruise on which the prince travelled was the 100th undertaken by the Coral Princess from Japan since her inauguration in July 1971. In that time, she carried more than 40,000 passengers.

  • 1981

    Lindblad Explorer, an ice-strengthened vessel jointly owned by CNCo and Lindblad Travel, became the first tourist ship to cross the South Magnetic Pole.

  • 1997

    In 1997, China Navigation appointed Margaret Pidgeon, Master of Chengtu, as its first female ship Captain.

  • 2008

    CNCo formed Swire CTM Bulk Logistics, a 50/50 joint venture with Monaco-based C Transport Maritime (CTM), the commercial arm of DryLog, a 100% subsidiary of Ceres Shipping.

  • 2009

    Around the year-end, CNCo closed its office in Hong Kong and shifted the strategic management of its business to Singapore, integrating Swire Shipping’s liner trades management from Sydney. A year later, the Singapore office was officially opened by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua (Singapore’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and 2nd Minister for Finance and Transport) as its Guest of Honour. This event coincided with a visit from London by James Hughes-Hallett, Chairman of John Swire & Sons Ltd

  • 2011

    CNCo commenced an unprecedented new building programme to replace its entire fleet over four years. In total, 12 multipurpose vessels and 28 handy-size bulk carriers were ordered by the company for delivery between 2013 and 2016. All but four of the ships are constructed at Mainland Chinese shipyards.

  • 2012

    CNCo launched Swire Bulk as its dry bulk trading division. Within two years of its inception, Swire Bulk would establish a solid operating platform and market presence, backed by an active shipbuilding programme to serve its customers all over the world.

  • 2014

    CNCo acquired Pacifica Shipping, the leading domestic liner operator in New Zealand.

  • 2015

    Swire Bulk Logistics entered into a long-term partnership with New Zealand’s largest cement manufacturer, Golden Bay Cement (GBC), a trading division of Fletcher Building Limited – to build, own and operate a dedicated, self-discharging cement carrier, CNCo’s first. The 9,000dwt vessel, “Aotearoa Chief”, was built at Jinling Shipyard in mainland China and commenced operations around 2016.

  • 2018

    CNCo and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment (SPREP) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Moana Taka Partnership to address critical waste management issue in the Pacific islands.
    The MOU allows for CNCo vessels to carry containers of recyclable waste from eligible Pacific Island ports, pro bono, to be sustainably treated and recycled in suitable ports in Asia Pacific.
    This innovative Partnership would see CNCo clinching several industry sustainability awards over the next few years.

  • 2018

    CNCo expanded its presence in North America presence with the opening of its new office in Vancouver.

  • 2018

    CNCo opened its China headquarters officially in Shanghai, marking a significant return to its birthplace 147 years ago, and a significant milestone in its history.

  • 2018

    The University of the South Pacific (USP) and CNCo sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to conduct feasibility studies for the design costs and plan for new generation ships for the Pacific region which is committed to low carbon sea transport. This laid the basis for Project Cerulean, which CNCo made a further commitment of US$4m to, in 2021, as part of its Sail Green programme.

  • 2020

    In October, CNCo formed Swire Projects to provide specialist shipping services to the energy, resource and infrastructure sector.

  • 2021

    In January, Swire Bulk separated from CNCo to become an independent entity to accelerate growth and efficiency.

  • 2021

    CNCo announced that it was committed to reducing our GHG footprint, ultimately to net zero by, and preferably well before, 2050.

  • 2021

    Swire Shipping launched its new integrated landside service to complement our traditional port-to-port services, to achieve our goal of simplifying supply chains.

  • 2021

    CNCo formally became Swire Shipping Pte. Ltd. in October, leveraging on the latter’s market eminence to deliver innovative and sustainable shipping solutions.

  • 2022

    CNCo/Swire Shipping celebrates its 150th anniversary, backed by its purpose of enriching lives through connecting its customers and communities around the world.