News & Events

The Society's 188th Annual General meeting wil be held in April, which will be followed, as is poractice, by a buffet lunch for all attending. 

The AGM also saw history being made in that, for the first time in it's long history, the Society voted in it's first female Chairperson in the person of Linda Potter of Armac, who replaces Michael Harrison of Active Shipping and who will remain both a member of the Scoiety, and a valued committee member.

The meeting also welcomed a new member this year, V Marine Fuels Ltd.

The  full committe now comprises:

Mike Harrison.  Active Shipping Ltd

Linda Potter. Armac Shipping.

Nigel Tarrant. Admiral Harding Ltd.

Graham Pearson. Casper Shipping Ltd.

Peter Knight. Denholm-Wilhelmsen Ltd.

Bob Jones. GAC Shipping (UK) Ltd.

Neil Bixby. T & L Sugars Ltd (trading as Kentships)

Harry Corkerry.  Inchcape Shipping Services Ltd.

Our next annual luncheon is being held , as is traditional, on or by the River Thames. This year it will be held in the Autumn and as with 2014 the venue will be The Dickens Inn, St. Katherines Dock by the Tower of London.  Members take the oportunity of using the lunch to entertain friends and clients.  If you are not a member, and would like to attend why not join the Society ?

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Call or email us to discuss joining our society.

Tel: 07850 674 969

A Brief History of the Society

The London Shipowners’ and River Users’ Society, originally called the General Shipowners’ Society, was formed in 1811. At a time when cross country communications were difficult and slow and shipowners sought to protect their interests through local, often highly individual, port associations, the Society represented the first serious attempt at achieving a national voice.

The Society’s first minute book was opened on 11 September, 1816, to transcribe proceedings of a general meeting held at the City of London Tavern, Bishopsgate Street. References were made to the Society’s activities since 1811. Early problems included dissatisfaction with ship classification and piracy; Parliamentary Bills for Passing Tolls proposed by fund-seeking harbour authorities and high costs for Pilotage. In 1813, in conjunction with shipowners in North and South Shields and Liverpool, the London Committee had recorded a major success with the introduction of an Act to limit the liability of shipowners where accidents or other occurrences affected the value of freight.

A meeting was held by the Society at the George and Vulture Tavern, Cornhill, in May 1825 to discuss the lack of maritime partisanship in Parliament. Speakers complained that, while other branches of the economy such as commerce, agriculture and industry in general found zealous champions in Parliamentary affairs, matters affecting British shipping met with comparative indifference or downright neglect. A resolution calling for a more virile and positive shipping policy was passed.

Despite these brave words, the Society almost ceased to exist for the next few years as many of its subscribers withdrew or reduced their contribution, probably because of apathy or lack of faith in the Society’s effectiveness. There may also have been concern at the Society’s inability to stem the free trade movement which had been gaining momentum in the early 19th century.

Nevertheless, there was sufficient enthusiasm among shipowners to maintain a society and a committee was formed to look at the basis for reactivating a lasting organisation. Some urgency was attached to the committee’s work given “the almost ruinous state of the British shipping interest”. Despite this, it was not until October 1831 that sufficient funding was assured and the Society, with Nathaniel W Symonds as newly appointed Secretary, took offices at 72 Cornhill in the City of London.

Following a period of extreme depression, shipping’s fortunes improved in the 1830s, stimulated particularly by lucrative passenger revenue, in large part resulting from the emigrant trade. Even so, the Society warned of cheaper foreign competition and restrictions on British shipowners carrying passengers while foreign owners clearing from British ports were unrestricted. The Society’s intervention and influence resulted in an eventual amendment of the Passenger Act.

In the meantime, the free traders had been gaining increasing support. The Corn Laws (which had protected farming interests in Great Britain) were repealed in 1846. The Society was concerned that the Cromwellian Navigation Laws (which restricted British trade to British ships) would also be repealed. Despite all the Society’s efforts and opposition, the spirit of the age to bring down barriers to encourage trade, prevailed. Thus, on 1 January 1850, the Act repealing the Navigation Laws came into force.

In line with owners’ predictions, British shipping did suffer in the years immediately following repeal, mainly at the expense of the expanding American fleet. Nevertheless, free trade was here to stay and in due course British shipping would benefit greatly, becoming pre-eminent in the colonial era and maintaining its advantage for many years.

The Society’s continuing representations to Government for better conditions resulted in the appointment in 1860 of a Select Committee of the House of Commons to look into the affairs of merchant shipping. However, the Committee’s eventual report did nothing to aid shipowners who were far from impressed by the results.


One particularly interesting point made by the Select Committee regretted the failure of foreign states to exercise reciprocity of trading rights, the cornerstone of the structure of free trade. It noted, however, that no administration whether Liberal or Conservative had suggested retaliatory measures against defaulting states and attributed the depression to over-production of ships.

Regrettably, the old rivalries between the London organisation and those in the other ports ended the original dream of a national organisation based on the Society.

There remained, however, a strong desire from shipowners throughout the country for a united body along the lines of the Central Chamber of Commerce. Meetings in May 1877 resulted in the birth of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom, established to bring about concerted action by all of Britain’s shipowners. The Chamber and the Society worked very closely and with a shared secretariat until 1913.

Two world wars and an intervening trade slump had devastating effects on shipping. However, the Society continued to protect and promote its members’ interests and, following the end of the second conflict, helped to press for the early release of service personnel to man the ships so vital to the country’s economic reconstruction.

Over the years, the Society’s role has broadened significantly to represent all river user interests. This expanded role was properly acknowledged in 1996 when the Society was renamed the London Shipowners’ and River Users’ Society, followed again by a further change, in 2013, when the Society changed it’s name to “London’s River Users Society” which it was felt best reflected the continuing change in the profile of it’s membership.



November 2013.