Merchant Shipping

Whilst the advent of many independent ship management companies is perhaps a relatively recent phenomenon, the actual designation of “Ship Manager” is by no means new although the even older title of “Ship’s Husband” is the one that appeared in the United Kingdom’s Merchant Shipping Act 1894. The need for this dates back to the way ships were owned in the very early days when a voyage to the other side of the world was a highly speculative venture and it was not unusual for a ship to be purchased for one specific round trip.  The finance for the voyage would be spread amongst several merchants who usually agreed to leave the management of the vessel to one of their number. Even after merchant shipping became less of a gamble the amount of capital needed to buy a vessel was still such that the ownership was often spread amongst several persons.  To this day there is a reminder of this practice because a British Bill of Sale for a merchant ship not only provides for more than one name under ‘buyer’ but still refers to how many 64ths each part-owner is subscribing to the total.  Apparently they never expected more than sixty-four persons becoming involved. The problem caused by this spread of ownership was that of knowing who to approach for a decision or to accept responsibility and it was with a view to regularising this that the Merchant Shipping Act in Section 59 requires that when a ship is registered under British flag the name and address of the Managing Owner shall be provided and if there is not a managing owner (i.e. the actual owner or one of the part-owners who is nominated as the manager) “…..there shall be so registered the name of the ship’s husband or other person to whom the management of the ship is entrusted…..”; similar laws apply in other maritime countries.