Howard Smith

Howard Smith's incorporation in 1883 in Melbourne, a further step in the vision of Captain William Howard Smith, followed some thirty years of steadily increasing involvement in the Australian coastal trade, and gathered under one company banner seventeen ships, sixteen steam and one of sail. In December 1914, Howard Smith Limited became the parent company of an entity which had coalesced from a variety of smaller shipping interests in the immediately-preceding years, Australian Steamships Limited.

Maritime service to the nation, coping with competition pressures, economic downturns and the vagaries of the seafaring industry brought the Company, with many ships passing through its hands, to the Great War in 1914 with a fleet of thirty-seven ships of 200 or more gross tons. The next four eventful years found its vessel Canberra trooping between the Mediterranean and the Far East and saw the Era sunk in the Mediterranean in May 1918, as well as the Cycle being bombed in 1916 but surviving. The rest of the fleet served largely in Australian waters.

Coal, sugar, cement, steel, machinery and general cargo were staple trades for Howard Smith's shipping between the wars, only the Canberra operating a passenger service. At the outbreak of the Second World War the fleet numbered eighteen ships, fewer than at the first War but of greater average tonnage:-

Ship

Built

Gross Tons

In Service

Period

1907

2791

1907-1946

Burwah

1908

2273

1908-1947

Aeon

1913

3763

1913-1955

Canberra

1913

7710

1913-1947

Time

1913

3322

1913-1949

Innisfail

1912

399

1916-1946

Macedon

1916

4368

1916-1955

Kowarra

1916

2125

1919-1943

Kintore

1903

231

1919-1943

Era

1921

3148

1921-1955

Lady Isobel

1921

1408

1926-1955

Caledon

1927

1083

1927-1956

Euro

1897

255

1930-1948

Caldare

1930

760

1930-1956

Marimba

1913

139

1932-1961

Marrawah

1910

472

1936-1947

Age

1936

4734

1937-1968

Cycle

1939

3952

1939-1961

Canberra again went into service, under requisition from 1941, periodically trooping, carrying about 650 personnel. Kowarra was lost to enemy action, torpedoed by a Japanese submarine while en route Bowen-Brisbane with a cargo of sugar, on 24 April 2024 with the loss of twenty-one lives. Age, Period and Canberra, though experiencing enemy attacks and loss of crew lives, survived, as did the remainder of the fleet, to resume after 1945 the Company's peacetime service to Australia.