Queensland Places - Shipping via Torres Strait - The Queensland Line

As Queensland continued to develop through the last quarter of the nineteenth century, there was a growing need for efficient and regular access, via shipping, to overseas markets. In 1880, as a means of ensuring stable and regular shipping to Queensland, the government entered into an agreement with the British-India Steam Navigation Company for a Torres Strait route. This contract was initially described as a mail contract but quickly developed into a comprehensive shipping service.

The initial term of the agreement was eight years and the terminus of this so called “Queensland Line” was to be Brisbane. A number of terms and conditions were negotiated by the Queensland government, as part of this service, including “Queensland Line” ships not being permitted to sail south of Brisbane without the sanction of the government. As well, there was a series of ports of call stipulated in both directions along the route. These ports of call included the Queensland ports Keppel Bay, Bowen, Townsville, Cooktown and Thursday Island. Overseas ports stipulated were Batavia or Singapore, Colombo, Aden, Port Said, Naples, London and other English ports. The “Queensland Line” was initially established as a four-weekly service.

In addition to the carrying of general cargo, the “Queensland Line” ships brought many immigrants to Queensland, with the service being continued successfully up until the years following the First World War. The “Queensland Line” provided a range of benefits for Queensland. The commercial interests of central and northern Queensland were safe guarded by this reliable and effective shipping service. As well, the service enabled migrants to make their way to Queensland by the shortest route and avoid the long voyage via the southern Australian ports.

Over time, the British-India Steam Navigation Company went through a complex history of company amalgamation, eventually becoming part of the P & O Group.

Duke of Portland, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 54208

This image shows one of the Queensland Line ships, the Duke of Portland at anchor in Brisbane in around 1900.

Brian Randall, Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.

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