In 1857, a Scotsman by the name of Robert Mc Andrew founded a shipping company in London. The firm acquired its first small steamer for use in the Spanish trade in the same year.
In the 1860s Robert Mc Andrew & Co. embarked on an extensive expansion programme, opening branch offices throughout Spain, as well as building and acquiring new vessels. 27 new ships were contracted for, most ranging in size from 600 – 700 gross tons.
In 1870 the letter “a” was incorporated into the companys name to make it easier to pronounce in Spanish and Portuguese, so Mc Andrew & Co. became Mac Andrew & Co.
By 1900 the company had 23 ships under the Spanish flag and 7 under the British flag. The fleet gradually changed to a smaller number of slightly larger vessels and by 1914 consisted of 10 Spanish and 8 British ships.
During the First World War the firm lost 7 ships, but it took over the Liverpool based Hall’s Line.
In 1917 the Mc Andrew family decided to sell the business and accepted an offer from Sir Owen Crosby Philipps. A new company called Mac Andrews & Co. Ltd. was formed as a subsidiary of Philipps ‘ Royal Mail Group. All of the ships were transferred to the British flag.
Mac Andrews was operated by a a board of trustees until the end of 1935 when it was bought by Andrew Weir & Co. Ltd. as a subsidiary for their United Baltic Corporation. At the outbreak of the Second World War the fleet strength was 20 vessels. These small fruit carriers were ideal for the Admiralty as anti-aircraft ships, convoy rescue vessels and store carriers. Half the fleet was lost to enemy action and 104 crew members were killed.
The post war rebuilding programme modernised, rather than expanded the fleet. Containerisation was introduced and by 1973 the fleet was down to 3 ships, plus chartered tonnage. In 2003 Mac Andrews was acquired by French shipping company, CMA-CGM.