Ben Line, Ben Line Steamers Limited, originally based in Leith, Scotland

Ben Line Agencies (previously Ben Line Steamers) is a Singapore-based shipping agency, operating across Asia. As of 2013, the company had over 110 offices and 2000 employees. Ben Line Agencies operates four specific areas: Port Agency, Liner Agency, Offshore Support and Project Logistics services.

The company in its previous form was founded in Scotland in 1825 under the name of Ben Line.

Ben Line Ship Image Fast Cargo Liner Benloyal Courtesy Gracesguides

Ben Line Fast Cargo Liner Benloyal Courtesy: Gracesguides

The Ben Line or Ben Line Steamers, Limited was a Scottish shipping company based in Leith, Scotland which pioneered the Far East Europe trade. A private company, it was largely owned by members of the Thomson family from Leith and the Mitchell family from Alloa.

A brief timeline:

1839 William and Alexander Thomson went into the shipping business as partners, importing marble from Italy and taking coal to Canada returning with timber.

From 1859 the company operated routes to Singapore, China and Japan and this became its major source of business.

By the mid-1880s New routes had been established to the Baltic; the Canadian trade had run down.

1919 Name changed to Ben Line Steamers Ltd.

By 1927 the Baltic trade had ceased.

Ben Line Shipping Advert HK Sunday Herald 29.10.1950

HK Sunday Herald 29.10.1950

During the 1970s the Ben Line diversified into oil drilling, container ships and the transportation of chemicals

1972 Formed the Ben Line Ship Management Ltd with Galbraith Wrightson Ltd in 1972.

1976 Took over the Sheaf Steam Shipping Co. Combined with East Asiatic Co., Copenhagen, to run a weekly service to the Far East.

1992 Sold its remaining ships. (1)


  1. Ben Line – Grace’s Guides


  1. gracesguides Home Page Grace’s Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 107,736 pages of information and 149,663 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
  2. British and Burmese Steam Navigation Company – Grace’s Guides

This article was first posted on 29th October 2017.

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  • Laszlolehotai

    I recently acquired a hand pump foghorn from the The Ben line steamers and a ship called SS Benmachdui I was wondering if I could get some more information on this ship the foghorn is in excellent shape and has the markings of the company and the ship on it any information would be appreciated thank you

  • Rachel Best

    I have a rum jug from Ben Line Steamers. Copper one.

  • Jenny Norvick

    My father, Charles George Herridge, sailed with the Ben Line (from London?/Southampton? to Malaya/Singapore docking, at the then Port Swettenham. It was in 1939 but before the European war broke out in September. Are there any shipping records which would show his journey? It was a cargo ship he travelled on.

    • Hello Jenny

      Thank you for your comment about your father’s connection to the Ben line shipping company. I can’t personally answer your question about whether there are any shipping records which might show his route to Port Swettenham from the UK in 1939 before WW2 broke out. However, Peter Cundall, an Australian with a background in shipping, might be able to help you, and I will contact him, and see if he can help answer your query.

      Best wishes
      Hugh Farmer

  • Peter Cundall

    Hello Jenny,

    Unfortunately I am not able to provide a definitive answer. Ben Line operated a cargo service from the UK (typically sailing from Leith then London) to the Far East. The cargo ships had limited passenger accommodation. I have copies of all the wartime shipping movements sourced from the National Archives. Some of these include shipping movements from late 1938/early 1939. As an observation none of these show Ben Line ships stopping at Port Swettenham until after the war began. Rather they are shown as arriving and sailing Penang then Singapore. But there is an important caveat- typically 4 days is shown to get from Penang to Singapore. That strongly suggests to me the ships did stop en-route, likely at Port Swettenham and loaded and discharged cargo. A voyage from Penang to Singapore could generally be assumed to take two days.

    I am not sure where you live, but if in the UK you could visit the Guildhall Museum Library in London that has voyage cards for Ben line ships (easy to find as all the ship names started Ben……) which hopefully will give more information than the records I hold.

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