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Compagnie Des Messageries Maritimes

company, services, ships and marseilles


This steamship company, the oldest French navigation enterprise, arose first from a Convention passed on Feb. 28, 1851 with the Minister of Finance, "for the establishment and exploitation of a maritime postal service in the Mediterranean." The first sailing under the Messageries flag was the departure of the "Hellespont" for Civita Vecchia on Sept. 9, 1851. On Jan. 19, 1852 the Corn pagnie des Services Maritimes des Messageries Nationales was constituted and was authorised as an active company by a decree of the President of the Republic, dated Jan. 22, 1852. Its present name was adopted on Aug. 1871.

The first regular lines of the company were from Marseilles by Malta and Italy to Constantinople and Alexandria and in 1853 the company extended its services to different parts of Greece. In the following year the services to Algeria and Tunis were instituted and in 1855, the 16 original ships had grown to 58. In 186o on the authority of the State, an Atlantic Mail line was inaugurated from Bordeaux to Senegal, Brazil and La Plata. In 1862 services to the chief ports of India, Indo-China, Dutch East Indies and China proper were instituted and two years later Reunion and Mauritius Islands were included. In 1866 the lines were extended to take in Japan. In 1872 the fleet owned by the company numbered 64 ships, in 1912, 62, representing a gross tonnage of 285,161. The earlier ships were not suited to the long

voyages undertaken and their replacement was a long and tedious , affair. In 1914 there were 6o steamers in the company's service (tonnage 284,000) ; a little over io years later the company had lost 22 ships (117,00o tons) in war and 31 ships from other causes, a total of 258,00o tons. In the same period 55 ships were added to the company (representing 469,000 tons gross).

In 1921 the entire organization of the company was altered. The whole fleet of passenger liners was transferred, by law of July 28, 1921, to a new company, called the Societe des Services Contractuels des Messageries Maritimes. This new company runs regular passenger services from Marseilles to all parts of Asia and Africa, to Australia, to the islands of the Pacific via the Panama Canal, to all the important ports of Asia Minor and the Mediterranean, as well as circular tours, and is responsible for the fulfilment of the postal services.

The Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes however still exists, but is now mostly concerned with cargo-boats. These sail regu larly from Marseilles or the north of the Continent, to the prin cipal ports in the world, with the exception of those in America. It also possesses several coastal services in Australia, Indo-China and Madagascar. (J. D. DU S.)