Research guide C11: The Merchant Navy: The Handy Shipping Guide

This guide provides a brief introduction to the Handy Shipping Guide, published between 1887 and 1988.

The Handy Shipping Guide was published weekly on Saturdays, from 30 April 1887 until December 1988. It is an important source of detail for economic and maritime history research, covering a period of just over a century. It supplements both Lloyd's Weekly Shipping Index and Lloyd's Loading List (the National Maritime Museum only holds certain issues of both) and is therefore a useful research tool.

The Guide contains various important sources of information:

  • A list of all foreign, continental and coastwise ports and the ships presently to sail thereto. This gives details of all vessels that were being loaded or prepared for voyages, by destination port (arranged alphabetically by port). In this way, it offers much the same information as Lloyd’s List, but by destination, not current position
  • Arrived outwards from home ports. This lists every ship that has arrived at an overseas port in the preceeding week, having left a UK port (but including vessels registered in any country), alphabetically by ship name. This list is not broken down by destination.
  • Cleared Outwards. Organised by port, then date, then alphabetically by ship name, this lists all vessels in British ports that have cleared customs in preparation for departure in the preceeding week. This information was gathered directly from the Customs service.
  • Entered Inwards. This is again a list based on customs information, listing all vessels coming from overseas ports into the UK and entering customs
  • Homeward Bound. This lists all UK registered ships that had left foreign ports bound for the UK and had not yet returned, with notes such as 'long overdue', when relevant. It is arranged by port of departure, then alphabetically by ship.
  • Lists of Loading Brokers. These lists provide the contact details of loading brokers, arranged by (British) port.

The format of the Guide varies slightly over time, and from 1945 until the end of its publication, only the first list is included. It is also worth noting that there is an extensive range of advertisements for shipping companies and support industries, with full indexes.

The Handy Shipping Guide is a rare publication, and the Library is fortunate to have a significant collection. However, there are several gaps in our holdings. We have the following issues available for consultation:

  • January 1887–March 1890
  • December 1899–December 1900
  • January 1910–December 1910
  • January 1920–December 1920
  • January 1930–December 1930
  • January 1938–December 1988

Please note that due to the size of the collection, the Handy Shipping Guide is currently held off-site, and up to eight days' notice is required to retrieve issues for readers. Please email the Library at library@rmg.co.uk for assistance.

Next steps

Other guides which may be useful for researching the Merchant Navy are:

For general research help see:

Although care has been taken in preparing the information contained in this document, anyone using it shall be deemed to indemnify the National Maritime Museum from any and all injury or damage arising from such use.