The Newcastle company was founded in 1730, a time when the Tyne was globally renowned for its coal trade, by brothers Ralph and Robert Clarke, who bought an interest in a 300-tonne sailing vessel.
The company grew from its roots in shipowning and coal factoring to manage a fleet of bulk carriers and smaller vessels. Its fleet operated mainly within northern Europe, the Mediterranean including the Black Sea, the Atlantic islands, Scandinavia and the Baltic, carrying bulk and project cargoes.
But it has now ceased trading and is in liquidation after selling off its last vessel last month. “While previous economic downturns have been weathered, the current market is one of the worst experienced for many years with no upturn forecast for at least 12 to 18 months,” said a company spokesman.
Allan Kelly, the liquidator, from Tait Walker accountants, said the prolonged economic downturn had had a severe impact on the shipping market, due to excess market capacity and low freight income. SCS peaked in the mid-1990s, when it owned 12 vessels, with £35m annual turnover. But despite a profitable period in 2004-8, recent years have been difficult and it gradually sold off its vessels.
“Vessel rates have been incredibly depressed,” said Mr Kelly. “It gets to a point where a business model is unviable.”