111 Years Of Liverpool Shipowning
This famous line with the colourful red, yellow and black funnels was based in Liverpool, but originally had Spanish nationals as managers. The line was first established in 1863 in Liverpool as an owner of three masted sailing ships under the Spanish flag operating passenger and cargo services from Liverpool to the Spanish colonies in the Philippines and Cuba. The managing partnership of Olano, Larrinaga & Company in Liverpool had as its principals the 35 year old Ramon de Larrinaga, a master mariner and the son of a wealthy Basque merchant, and Jose Antonio Olano, a fellow Basque master mariner.
The shipowning company in Bilbao was Olano & Compania, which was renamed in 1870 as Compania de Navegacion a Vapor Olano, Larrinaga & Compania. In April 1871, the first steamer entered service from the Sunderland yard of Oswald & Company as Buena Ventura of 1,763 grt on dimensions of length 278 feet by beam of 34.4 feet, and powered by compound two cylinder steam engine by the builders giving a service speed of eleven knots. She was the first steamer under the Spanish flag to pass through the Suez Canal, and the company fleet of sailing ships were then switched from the Philippines trade to the Cuban and Gulf of Mexico trades. Buena Ventura also became famous for her capture on 22nd April 1898 by a warship of an American battle squadron as the first hostile act in the Spanish – American War of 1898.
Legend has it that the white Larrinaga houseflag bearing three red clasped hands dates from this period of the construction of the Suez Canal. Juan de Longa, a master mariner and the brother in law of Ramon de Larrinaga had joined the other two partners in the enterprise, and the three partners were uncertain whether to gamble on a new steamer using the shorter route to the Philippines through the new canal, or play it safe and remain in sail. They decided to let a toss of a coin decide the matter, and it came down in favour of building the first new steamer, Buena Ventura (Good Luck). The partners shook hands on it, and the three hands of the handshake were to form the houseflag for well over one hundred years until the demise of the company in 1974.
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