Formed in 1853 as a steam collier company named the Southampton Steam Shipping Co to bring coal from South Wales to Southampton for the large liner companies.
In the same year it became the Union Steam Collier Co, but in 1854 all their five ships were taken over as transports for the Crimean War. Returned to their owners in 1856, they remained idle due to the large stocks of coal accumulated at Southampton.
The company made unsuccessful ventures into the UK - South America and Birkenhead - Hamburg routes, but in 1857 they were awarded the mail contract between the UK and South Africa.
In 1876 a joint mail contract with the Castle Line was awarded by the Colonial Government with the proviso that the two companies did not amalgamate.
This contract expired in 1899, and after much political manoeuvring, the two companies merged to become the Union-Castle Mail SS Co and received the new mail contract.
South Wales ports to Southampton.
Southampton - Rio de Janeiro - Buenos Aires.
Birkenhead - South Coast of England ports - Hamburg.