Arratoon V Apcar & Company, Hongkong 1924-1933, information needed

HF: Our article, Beer in Hong Kong – Part Three – The Oriental Brewery 1908-1912, includes  “It was announced early in March 1913 that the [Imperial] brewery had been purchased:-by Mr Arratoon V Apcar of Messers Arratoon V Apcar and Co, Hongkong … on behalf of a syndicate of which Mr Apcar is a member…” I had not heard of this company before. HK Company records suggest it was incorporated on 9th September 1924 and dissolved on 10th October 1933.

Further information about this Hong Kong company would be very welcome. It is possible that its actual name was the abbreviated Apcar & Co or Apcar Line. Please contact Hugh Farmer

Some information about the origins of the firm, “Apcar and Company was a firm founded in 1819 in India that engaged in shipping, import and export. The most profitable trade was in opium, shipped from India to Hong Kong and thePearl River. The Apcar Line also carried Indian and Chinese laborers for work in Malaya and Singapore. The line was sold to the British- India Steam Navigation Company in 1912.

Arratoon Apcar was born in 1779 at New Julfa in Isfahan, Persia. He was the second son of Apcar, the ancestor of the family. He came to Bombay when he was sixteen and found employment with an Armenian merchant there, trading with China and Manila. After his patron died, he continued in this trade in his own right. His brother Gregory Apcar came to India in 1808 and joined Arratoon in Bombay.The trading company of Apcar & Co. was founded in 1819 by Arratoon Apcar.

SS Catherine Apcar 1893

SS Catherine Apcar 1893

Arratoon Apcar moved his company to Calcutta around the end of 1830. In Calcutta the company moved into shipping, carrying both passengers and freight. The most profitable cargo was opium. Until P&O began shipping opium from Calcutta in 1851, the trade was divided between Jardine Skinner and the Apcar Line. Even then, P&O had limited shipping capacity. While Jardines carried opium for the larger suppliers, the Apcars with their Arratoon Apcar and Catherine Apcar sailing boats catered to many smaller local dealers. With slower boats, they charged much lower rates than Jardine Skinner, ranging from Rs8 to Rs10 per chest compared to upward of Rs28 per chest charged by Jardine Skinner. However, the Apcars may have had private arrangements with the dealers that locked them into using Apcar services.

The Apcar Line’s fleet became well-respected, efficiently carrying both cargo and Chinese coolies, mostly between Singapore, Hong Kong and Amoy, but also making regular voyages to Japan. From 1855 Apcar & Co. started to convert their fleet to steam. The Apcar Line was providing regular service to Singapore from 1856. The Apcar clippers dominated the opium trade until the 1870s, carrying their cargoes from Bombay or Calcutta, with a stop in Singapore, on to Hong Kong or the Canton River. 43 voyages of opium ships to China were listed in 1865, of which 17 were Apcar ships. The Apcars and Jardine Skinner exported opium to Singapore for use by the Chinese in the Malay Peninsula or for distribution to other locations in south east Asia.Eventually the Apcars were forced out of the Dutch East Indies by protectionist measures. Between 1875 and 1880 Captain Chapman James Clare (1853-1940) served on Apcar & Co. opium steamers trading between Hong Kong and Calcutta.

In the 1880s the Apcar Line was sailing monthly from Calcutta to Hong Kong via Penang and Singapore. On 22 May 1888 the steamship Arratoon Apcar collided with the steamship Hebe in the Strait of Malacca, with both ships suffering considerable damage. Both vessels were held to have been at fault. In 1901 the firm of David Sassoon, Sons & Co. were still the agents in Hong Kong of the Apcar Line. They maintained this agency after the purchase of the Apcar Line by the British India Steam Navigation Company.


  1. Wikipedia – Apcar and Company 

This article was first posted on 13th April 2016.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Beer in Hong Kong – Part Three – The Oriental Brewery 1908-1912


  • Dr.Shinji Shigematsu

    very interewsting article. I am tracing the history of the Apcar &co. in Japan and SEA and in India. The Apcar Line had branch offices in Kobe and Yokohama and had iregular fleets among Nagasaki and China. If needed I shall let you know more information regarding the Apcar & co. in Japan.

  • Peter Cundall

    The book BI- The British India Steam Navigation Co by W A Laxon and F W Perry provides a fleetlist for all Apcar vessels taken over by British India 27 Feb 1912. This includes the fact that Sirdhana and Santhia retained Apcar names in Chinese characters on the hills of the ships. The book was published by the Worls Ship Society in 1994.

  • Thanks for posting this intersting article. I am looking for information on the Apcars in India.

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