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.
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