Our two hundred years of history as a business is both our foundation and the inspiration which teaches us to always be looking and thinking ahead.
The past has shown us that strong values and a willingness to learn, innovate and adapt will always ensure our future in a rapidly changing business landscape.
Here is a snap shot of our journey so far over the last two centuries:
At the time when Napoleon was causing havoc in Europe, the Americans had won their war of independence and Liverpool was beginning to exert itself as a port. John Bibby began trading as a shipowner in Liverpool with his partner John Highfield. By 1836 the Bibby fleet consisted of 18 ships and John had moved the business forward independently of his partner.
By 1840 John had become a very wealthy and influential man, owning a sizeable fleet and a thriving metals business. However, tragedy struck, when he was attacked and brutally murdered on the 19th July 1840. The case of this murder has never been closed. John’s death left his sons with a prosperous business and together John and James took the helm of the Bibby Line.
In 1859 Bibby Line’s Venetian was the first vessel built by the Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff. Of the first 23 ships built by the yard 18 were for the Bibby Line. Gustav Wolff stated that the business would never have gone on as it had, had it not been for the friendship and assistance of James Bibby. In total the Harland & Wolff shipyard built 37 ships for Bibby Line, the last of them in 2003.
In 1891 Bibby Steam Ship Co. was established under the management of Bibby Bros & Co leading an assault upon the worlds shipping lanes. The Lancashire recorded the best time for the run to Burma in 23 days and 20 hours, gaining the reputation for reliability by never having had a voyage disrupted.
In 1902 and with Arthur Wilson Bibby at the helm Bibby Line became one of the “Four Bs” and was voted by the Trade Unions as “the ideal type of employer. The other three were Birchalls, Blue Funnell and Booth Line – Bibby Line had the distinction of being the longest established of the four.
At the outbreak of WWI the Bibby Line ships supported the war effort by acting as hospital ships, troop ships and armed merchant cruisers. Oxfordshire alone carried 53,000 wounded during the war. By the end of the war Bibby Line had carried over 200,000 British and 25,000 American troops. The Worcestershire became a casualty of the war.
From the 1850s, the company flag was plain red which came about from the practice of signalling the arrival of a steamer off Anglesey by means of a red flag semaphore signal alerting the owners that arrival was imminent. Following confusion, and detainment in Hamburg in 1926 because the port believed the plain red Bibby flag represented a Bolshevist ship, the Bibby family crest of a yellow and black dagger was added to the flag.
Now under the leadership of Sir Harold Bibby and at the outbreak of WWII, Bibby Line consisted of 11 ships, all of which were requisitioned for the war. The Yorkshire and The Shropshire were both torpedoed while on duty. On D-Day, four of the vessels operating as troopships, the Cheshire, Devonshire, Lancashire and Worcestershire carried 10,000 men.
With Sir Derek Bibby now at the helm the company more than trebled its overseas earnings and the total tonnage of the Bibby Line in the 1970s exceeded one million tons. In 1970, Bibby Line was awarded the highest honour that can be bestowed on a UK company – The Queens Award to Industry and again in 1976 and 1982 with The Queens Award for Export Achievement and in 2001 for Enterprise.
In September 1980 came the tragic loss of the oil-bulk-ore carrier Derbyshire (formerly known as The Liverpool Bridge) with all hands. She was overwhelmed by a typhoon in the South China Sea. This remains to this day Britain’s biggest peace time loss at sea.
Bibby Line became involved in ‘factoring’ in 1981. For the first couple of years the factoring business was run from Bibby Line’s accounts department, then it migrated to its own department, and in 1985 became Bibby Financial Services Ltd. Today it operates worldwide with thousands of clients globally. In 1982, Bibby Line began to diversify its maritime business to include interests such as Coastels and jack up platforms.
In 1985 Sir Derek Bibby employed non-family member Simon Sherrard as Managing Director, later becoming Chairman, of the newly established parent company Bibby Line Group. Bibby Distribution (BDL) was also formed this year, which now operates 2,300 trucks and trailers, with 90 depots around the UK, and more than two million square feet of warehousing accommodation.
The company moved its head office to 105 Duke Street, a building dating from 1800. The building became Liverpool’s first public library until 1860. Michael Bibby, the eldest son of five children to Sir Derek and Lady Bibby also joined the business this year as finance director for Bibby Line, before becoming Managing Director of Bibby Line Group in 2000.
The Bibby Offshore business began trading as a division in its own right in 2003. With a base in the oil and gas capital of Aberdeen; Bibby Offshore became a global provider of dive support services to the industry. During 2006 Bibby Line Group purchased two new businesses. A health & safety advisory service – Bibby Consulting & Support (sold in 2013) and GreenAcres Woodland Burials (sold in 2017).
Bibby Line Group celebrated its Bicentenary in 2007. A yearlong calendar of events took place with three main streams – fundraising, volunteering and celebrating. By the end of the year, £1.2m was donated to over 350 charitable causes. During 2007 the business also acquired a majority stake in the growing retail fascia group Costcutter.
This year also saw the Group continue to diversify with the purchase of the construction asset hire company Garic UK. Bibby Line Group’s investment has enabled Garic to remain a key market player, in a competitive sector. Currently Garic has four sites across the UK and is one of the most trusted specialised plant and welfare facility providers in the UK.
Bibby WaveMaster 1, the purpose-built Service Operations Vessel (SOV) launches to serve the offshore wind market, providing unique Walk To Walk technology that allows crew to directly access turbines. Bibby Offshore and GreenAcres leave the Group.
Sir Michael Bibby moves into a non-executive role after 25 years at BLG – 18 as Managing Director. During 2019, BLG Head Office relocates to Walker House in Liverpool.
Sir Michael Bibby becomes Chairman of the Group in June 2020. In December, BLG sells Bibby Distribution to Menzies Distribution and agrees the sale of Costcutter Supermarkets Group to Bestway Wholesale. Also in December, Jonathan Lewis who joined the Group in July 2019, is announced as new Group Managing Director, starting in January 2021.
Bibby Line Group’s continues to manage a robust and diverse portfolio of businesses in industries including financial services, marine and infrastructure.