Ship operation services (19th - 20th century)

Since the age of sail ship operation services have been a sine qua non component of the mechanism of the shipping industry. These services include the supply of food, fuel, working materials and equipment, freight and insurance agency, ship repairing, towing, piloting, and everything else related to shipping operation. Among the most important professions and businesses engaged in these services are specialized merchants on maritime stores known as ship chandlers as well as ship agents, coal merchants, ship repairing and engineering firms, tugboat companies, water suppliers and stevedores.

Ship operation services, an industry within an industry, played a vital role in the operation of the ships and occupied an important share of the operational costs, along with crew costs. Often, the professionals of this sector created business ties with the shipowners and captains of the ships they served, and maintained their collaboration throughout the working life of a ship, especially on the regularly visited ports. Some of these professionals, agents or suppliers, further solidified these business ties with shipping by purchasing shares in their clients’ ship. The purchase of shares of a ship by shipbuilders, contractors or suppliers is not a novelty in the shipping industry; it already existed in the age of sail. However, the network of shareholders in some of the Greek ships, including professionals and firms from ports ranging from the Black Sea and the Mediterranean to Northern Europe and the UK, indicates the degree of integration of certain Greek ship-owning firms within the steamship economy.

Unpublished material from the archival sources enables us to reconstruct the full network of these businesses, which provided their services to ships across the globe. More specifically, the data on mapping come from account papers of four cargo steamships (see table below) belonging to the shipping firm S. G. Embiricos of Andros. The account papers of the archive of S. G. Embiricos are kept at Kaireios Library of Andros

Ship Name Tonnage Shipbuilder, Place of Construction/ Engine Builder Year of Construction Engine details Period of ownership/of documented operation
2514 grt/
1595 nrt
J. L. Thompson & Sons Ltd., North Sands/J. Dickinson, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland 1890 T3cyl (22, 36, 59 x 39in), 222nhp 1899-1916/1899-1916
George M. Embiricos 3636 grt / 2324 nrt Short Brothers Ltd., Sunderland/J. Dickinson & Sons Ltd, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland 1904 T3cyl (25, 42, 68 x 45in), 324nhp 1904-1916/1908-1916
Vasilefs Constantinos 4070 grt/
2489 nrt

Short Brothers Ltd., Sunderland/J. Dickinson & Sons Ltd, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland

1913 T3cyl (25, 42.5 & 69 x 45in), 353nhp 1913-1917/1913-1917
Ellin 4577 grt/
2780 nrt
Short Brothers Ltd., Sunderland/J. Dickinson & Sons Ltd, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland 1913 T3cyl (25.5, 42.5 & 72 x 48in), 386nhp 1913-1936/1913-1925


The four steamships are part of a fleet of eight owned by S. G. Embiricos during the first phase of its existence, from 1899 to 1915, and only one, Ellin, survived after WWI when the firm rebuilt its fleet. The reconstruction of the ship operation services network of the four steamships is based on those bills and receipts of payment and includes information about the name of the business, the type of activity, the port, the address (when recorded) and the type of business. The exact position of every firm on the map (pinned in the form of a red steering wheel) is based on the address stated in the documents or found by historic city guides of the period. When this type of information is not available, then the coordinates of the specific port, where the firm was located, are given instead (pinned in blue steering wheel).

Visit the map with all ships