The 2,693grt Moonta was built in 1931 by Burmeister & Wain at Copenhagen. In 1955 she was sold to Hellenic Mediterranean Lines and renamed Lydia. Her full story is told on page 63. (The late Allan Green collection)

Sea transport has mostly been a challenging industry in Australia, sourcing sufficient freight to support a regular service due to a relatively small population concentrated in the 5 main cities, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth. Prior to 1900 Darwin was little more than a frontier outpost, and it was not until 1911, when the township’s name changed its name from Palmerston to Darwin did it start to grow significantly.

Since the Gold rush days, the tendency had been to build road and rail to the hinterland rather than coastwise between major cities. This policy created a situation whereby there was little competition to what coastal shipping already existed, even the foreign ‘Mail Ships’ operating between Europe and Australia, did not pose any real competition to Australian shipowners.


However, with the passing of WW1 the situation started to change in Australia; the impact of the global conflict, followed thereafter by ongoing industrial friction and unrest due to strengthening unions, particularly in the maritime sector, greatly compromised Australian coastal shipping, causing it to become vulnerable and to function less effectively. The competitive edge shipping had once enjoyed quickly diminished and provided opportunities for a rapid expansion in interstate road and transport infrastructure. Rail links between major coastal cities were established during the early 1900s and absorbed much of the passenger and freight traffic shipping had hitherto monopolized.

The Adelaide Steamship Company was one of the pioneering Australia Coastal shipping companies. The company was established by a group of South Australian pastoralists and businessmen in 1875, initially to provide sea freight and passenger services between Adelaide and Melbourne, and for the next 100 years it successfully provided conventional shipping operations around the entire Australian continent.

The second acquisition by the Adelaide Steamship Company was the 730grt the Franklin, built in 1880 by D & W Henderson at Partick, Glasgow, with a compound engine of 280 horsepower. She was built initially for Spencer’s Gulf Steamship Co. Ltd. Capable of carrying 60 passengers, she serviced the outports of South Australia until December 1882 when taken over by Adelaide Steamship Company, and continued servicing many of their coastal routes thereafter. She was wrecked on 18th April 1902, at Point Malcolm, Israelite Bay, Western Australia when operating as a mail steamer on a voyage between Albany and Esperance.


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