When it came to tackling the problem of sailing-ships or steamships early in the 19th century, some people in the Austro-Hungarian Empire realized the great future of steam-navigation. It is due to this recognition that Austrian Lloyd, the biggest and most important shipping company of the Austrian merchant marine, came into being.
Early in the 19th century the mail had to be transported by sailing-ships of the Austrian-Hungarian navy. There were often delays and business tours always took a lot of time. Therefore the foreign competitors became stronger and stronger. Then Karl Ludwig Freiherr von Bruck (8th October 1798 - 23rd April 1860), a merchant from Trieste, had the brilliant idea to found a company for the regular service of a steamship line. To begin with, seven insurance companies of Trieste decided to found a company similar to the London "Lloyd´s". And so in 1833 the "Austrian Lloyd Trieste" was founded.
Within a short time Lloyd gained importance and influence and the direction applied to Emperor Ferdinand I to agree to the original idea of founding a steam-navigation in Levant. Thus on 20th April 1836 the direction was able to order that a second department, namely "steam-navigation", was to be installed next to the already existing department "Trade and Sea Reports". On 2nd August 1836 the general meeting of the second department of Lloyd decided on the building of six steamships. For this reason the year 1836 is the actual year of birth of the steam-navigation company of the Austrian Lloyd.
On 12th April 1837 the first steamship, built in England, arrived in Trieste. Her name was Arciduca Lodovico.
As Lloyd transported mail on all its lines, Ferdinand I granted in December 1842 that the passenger steamships were allowed to fly the post flag and the officers and the crew were allowed to wear uniforms.
In 1844 the "First Danubian Steam-Navigation Company (DDSG)" came to an agreement with Lloyd, in which it was settled that their line via Constantinople to Smyrna passed with all its equipment to the possession of Lloyd.
Already in the year 1844 Lloyd endeavoured to get the permission for the post transport between England and India via Trieste and Alexandria.
In May 1845 the Austrian Lloyd was declared to belong to the postal service of the monarchy.
In May 1848 the company started to build the S.S. Vorwärts and they launched her on 10th April 1849. This name was chosen by the company as their motto, hoping that there would follow another era as profitable as the previous one.
In order to be able to repair its own steamships Lloyd installed its own repair-dock soon after its foundation. After eight years of building, the arsenal was finished in the bay of Servola in 1861.
In 1865 the first steamship that was completely built of iron was launched. Her name was Austria and with 1,700 tons she was the biggest ship of the Lloyd-fleet at the time and she was built exclusively of native material in the Lloyd-arsenal.
At the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal in October 1869 Austrian Lloyd was present with its steamships Pluto, Vulcan and America. Soon after the opening of the Suez Canal the line Trieste-Bombay was started and a weekly service between Trieste and Port Said was installed.
By opening the line to Bombay Lloyd had become a world shipping company and moreover, Lloyd had the chance to take over a part of the East-Asian shipping. Thus the line Trieste-Bombay was extended to Colombo in autumn 1879 and early in 1880 to Singapore and Hong Kong.
Already in 1879 Lloyd decided to build an administration building suitable for the size of the company. The laying of the foundation-stone of the Lloyd-palace was on 6th December 1880 and in 1883 it was already finished. It is situated on one of the most beautiful squares of Trieste and it is still an outstanding sight in Trieste.
On 27th September 1886 the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of Lloyd started with the launching of S.S. Imperator. S.S. Imperator really deserved the title of a jubilee steamer because of her size and outfitting. And it certainly was not exaggerated that she was called the most beautiful ship of the Austrian merchant marine so far.
In 1886/87 the total number of vessels has been up to 86, the highest number.
By building the twin-screw steamer Graf Wurmbrand and by organizing a new express line Trieste-Cattaro in 1894 a further impulse for tourist traffic in Dalmatia was set. The line to Alexandria was also modernized by building four new express steamers: Habsburg, Bohemia, Cleopatra and Semiramis. This line and the line to Bombay became the most profitable passenger lines of Lloyd and later on.
The setting up of pleasure cruises in 1907 turned out to be a project of lasting value and a big market.
The speed of shipping in Levant was raised and in the overseas service twelve passages to Calcutta were set up, instead of nine. Moreover, the company transferred the headquarters of the administration from Trieste to Vienna, where on 25th May 1907 the first general assembly of Vienna took place.
By enlarging the harbour of Trieste to the Emperor Franz-Josef-Harbour and by finishing the railway across the Alps in 1909 new impulses were set for Lloyd. At the same time internal reforms were effected and for every line the according type of ship was chosen to make a maximum profit at a minimum of expenses. By building the S.S. Gablonz and Marienbad, both were assigned for regular services, Austrian Lloyd advanced into the top of the world shipping companies.
Since the existence of the company the line to Alexandria was the most important and most profitable branch of Lloyd, which could be maintained in spite of international competition. The cuisine was excellent and on board it was so comfortable that many travellers preferred the steamships of Lloyd.
The splitting of shipping and shipbuilding worked out as a good idea. As long as both branches had been in one hand there had always been technical and financial difficulties. This problem was solved by Lloyd by abandoning the Lloyd-arsenal with the exception of the repair dock and the dry docks. A new established limited company, in which Lloyd and Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino had equal shares, took over the shipbuilding yard in San Rocco on condition to build ships not only for the Austrian Lloyd, but also for other customers.
In 1912 Lloyd organized a new express line Trieste-Shanghai. This was one of the last expansions of the lines of the company.
At the end of the war, Austrian Lloyd dissolved. On 28th November 1918, after almost 80 years of international reputation as Austrian-Hungarian company, the members of the board of directors resigned their seats because of the changed political conditions. An Italian government commissioner was appointed as a provisional director. World War I had destroyed this flourishing company.
Between the wars Austria had no deep-sea fleet. The history of the Austrian Lloyd reopens in 1951 when the articles of association for the new Austrian Lloyd were drawn up on March7.
In 1978 the Austrian Lloyd bought their first ship, the MS Arlberg, 44,600 tdw, with Vienna as port of registry. Since that time the "Österreichischer Lloyd/Krohn Schiffahrtsgruppe" has shown a constant and rapid increase in their fleet with ships ranging from 3,000 to 120,000 tdw.
P.S. Above info was taken from the official webpage of the Company in 2005.
The related web address i.e. http://www.oelsm.com/dhistory.html does not carry the same content anymore.
See also the “Retrieving the Past” as well as the “Austrian Lloyd Mail Examples - Mail from another Era” pages on this site.
< back to main: Retrieving the Past