EIC arms

East India Company
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Ships

From its first charter in 1600, the English East India Company (EIC) operated one of the most extensive shipping operations in support of its trading enterprises during the colonial period. The merchant or mercantile fleet was responsible for carrying cargoes outward to the east, returning richly laden with exotic goods which found a ready (and profitable) market in Europe.

What you will find in the search results

This database at present focuses on vessels which were in the East India Company's merchant service, which operated from 1600 to 1834.

Sometimes vessels were employed by the Company for a short time although generally employed in other roles (see the FAQ about ship roles). If they were in the mercantile service for any period, however short, you will find them here.

Other vessels

The East India Company had other sea services, and there were also independent traders, some who had permission to trade and others who did not. These are NOT routinely covered here, although I may cover them later.

  • Bombay Marine/Indian Navy (1613-1863)
  • Royal Indian Marine/Navy (1877-1947)
  • Pilot Service (harbours, ports and rivers)
  • Country Service (local merchant shipping in Asia)
  • Interlopers (ships which 'trespassed' on the EIC trade)
  • Licensed ships (ships which had permission to trade)

Note also that the term 'East Indiaman' was used fairly loosely and could refer not only to ships of the English East India Company (EIC) but also to the trading companies of other nations, such as the Dutch, Danish or French companies, and also, more generally to any ship trading to the east.

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