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South Australian shipping lines: Adelaide Steamship Company - Expansion

Coal contracts

Meanwhile in the late 1880s coal entered the Adelaide Steamship Company's arena. Originally it had intended to avoid the coal carrying business because of the involvement of major shareholders in the business, but the advent of other shipping companies into what ASC perceived as their playing field, forced their hand. The railways coal contract was successfully bid for in 1886 and ASC discovered then just how big the coal trade was. The potential seemed boundless. The Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd contract was next and then they were forced to buy a new ship especially for the trade. The Barrier at 2036 tons was still not enough and more and more ships were chartered.

Now Adelaide Steamship Company turned ruthlessly upon an old competitor, Howard Smith, and extended their passenger service to Sydney. Another rate war ensued.  A third company Australasian Steam Navigation Co acted as mediator: Adelaide Steamship Company would keep out of Queensland, but retain the Sydney trade. They had outstripped Howard Smith, but the company fought on doggedly.  Now ASC won the contract with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company - they were into the Queensland trade. Australasian United Steam Navigation Company retaliated by announcing that they would run to Western Australia. The battle was resumed. This intense competition had a lasting effect upon Adelaide Steamship Company forcing them into rapid expansion. They now operated from Derby to Cairns, via most of the southern ports. The competition also helped set off the first of the conflicts between capital and labour.

Twentieth century expansion

In the early 20th century predictions on a great future for the Eyre Peninsula prompted Adelaide Steamship Company to buy new ships for the trade in Spencer Gulf.  The Rupara and Paringa were bought from the United Kingdom. This was the beginning of the 'Gulf Trip Excursions'.  From Saturday to Thursday the ships made the round trip from Port Adelaide, Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Port Lincoln and home. But Eyre Peninsula did not go ahead as expected, and ASC now had more ships than trade. So they expanded to the West Coast, treading on the toes of the existing West Coast Shipping Company. Having provoked yet another 'war' the Adelaide Steamship Company was determined to win it. In 1913 West Coast Shipping and Gulf Steamship Company joined forces as Coast Steamships to fight ASC, but they still lacked the resources and after 14 months of cut throat competition Adelaide Steamship Company bought them out. This time however ASC made it a subsidiary company and Coast Steamships operating the well known Karatta functioned until 1966.

During World War I several Adelaide Steamship Company ships were requisitioned, as were other privately owned ships: Grantala and Warilda as hospital ships and Wandilla and Willochra as troopships. Yankalilla and Echunga were also commandeered. By the end of the war when their ships were returned to them, ASC controlled most of the powered shipping trade in South Australia, and operated around most of the Australian coast. Their fleet was a mixture of old and new - it was time to modernise and rationalise. Older ships were disposed of and three motor ships were bought - Mulcra, Momba and Mundalla. Later the diesel-engined Minnipa was purchased for the Gulf trade, and in 1931 the Moonta was added to the fleet. Morialta joined these two vessels after World War II.

The ASC directors did miscalculate the effects of the opening of the Transcontinental Railway to Western Australia: believing it would curtail their coastal trade they sold two of their newer ships.  This error eventually forced the purchase of a new ship the Manunda, 9155 ton and able to carry 312 passengers in 2 classes. The Manoora joined her as a coastal cruise ship.

With World War II, ASC was forced to surrender nine ships to the Navy, including the Manoora and Manunda which became an Armed Merchant Cruiser and a hospital ship. The Manunda was in Darwin harbour during the Japanese bombing and was able to bring 260 military and civilian casualties to safety in Fremantle. In all during the war she carried about 30,000 sick and wounded back to Australia from the Middle East and New Guinea. It was 1948/49 before Manoora and Manunda were returned to civilian service after an expensive re-fit.

Adelaide Steamship Company operates new fast steamers
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Coastal cruising
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Gulf cruise on the Moonta
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Gulf Trip holiday
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To Western Australia by sea
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