Privately owned vessels in naval campaigns ca. 1850-1950

May 2019
357
Earth
There are a few unique examples of privately (rather than state) owned vessels taking part in naval operations during this period. For example:
  • During the American Civil War, some private ship owners accepted letters of marque from the Confederacy and sent their vessels on privateering runs. This was most common in the first year of the war, after which the strengthening of the Union blockade made privateering a less practical business.
  • During the Bakumatsu era in Japan, feudal domains like Tosa and Satsuma organized naval forces which were under the ownership of their daimyo rather than the Shogun or the Emperor. For example, the Kaientai: Kaientai - Wikipedia
Anyone have other examples? I'd include auxiliaries in this thread as long as ownership of the vessels remained in private hands during their service in naval operations and was not changed to national/government ownership.
 
Oct 2015
999
Virginia
The Paris Declaration of 1856 abolished privateering (a common practice up to then) that is belligerent powers issuing "Letters of Marque" allowing privately owned vessels to seize enemy ships. 55 major powers agreed to the declaration; the USA, Venezuela, Costa Rica, China, Bolivia, Honduras and El Salvador did not.

During the American Civil War, the USA declared it would respect the "Declaration", the Confederacy did not, leading to the problems with the "Alabama Claims" et al.

Bolivia apparently issued Letters of Marque in 1879 during the War of the Pacific.

Since the USA never formally accepted the Declaration, and the Constitution specifically allows it, there were some issues related to Goodyear owned blimps hunting submarines in the early days of WW2, and some nonsense in congress advocating private action against "terrorists" in 2007 and 2009.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,351
Kansas
There are a few unique examples of privately (rather than state) owned vessels taking part in naval operations during this period. For example:
  • During the American Civil War, some private ship owners accepted letters of marque from the Confederacy and sent their vessels on privateering runs. This was most common in the first year of the war, after which the strengthening of the Union blockade made privateering a less practical business.
  • During the Bakumatsu era in Japan, feudal domains like Tosa and Satsuma organized naval forces which were under the ownership of their daimyo rather than the Shogun or the Emperor. For example, the Kaientai: Kaientai - Wikipedia
Anyone have other examples? I'd include auxiliaries in this thread as long as ownership of the vessels remained in private hands during their service in naval operations and was not changed to national/government ownership.
Yes an Australian shipping Company Burns Philp had one of their vessels working as a communication ship during the D Day invasion

Sorry ignore this. She was taken over by the government

 
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May 2019
357
Earth
The Paris Declaration of 1856 abolished privateering (a common practice up to then) that is belligerent powers issuing "Letters of Marque" allowing privately owned vessels to seize enemy ships. 55 major powers agreed to the declaration; the USA, Venezuela, Costa Rica, China, Bolivia, Honduras and El Salvador did not.
Thanks, I'm aware of the Paris Declaration. As you say, not all maritime nations became a party to it, and also some nations only became a party later (for example, Mexico and Spain in the early 20th century, and Japan in the 1880s I believe...). I did wonder if any continued the practice of privateering after 1856, aside from the CSA.

Bolivia apparently issued Letters of Marque in 1879 during the War of the Pacific.
I had heard they wanted to, but wasn't sure if they actually did it. Do you know of any vessels that actually operated under Bolivian letters of marque? I'd be very interested to hear about it.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,675
The Paris Declaration of 1856 abolished privateering (a common practice up to then) that is belligerent powers issuing "Letters of Marque" allowing privately owned vessels to seize enemy ships. 55 major powers agreed to the declaration; the USA, Venezuela, Costa Rica, China, Bolivia, Honduras and El Salvador did not.

During the American Civil War, the USA declared it would respect the "Declaration", the Confederacy did not, leading to the problems with the "Alabama Claims" et al.
The Confederacy pretty much destroyed US merchant shipping. This was not done by privateers, but by Confederate Navy ships built in England with Confederate officers and mostly British crews recruited in Birmingham, England.

The Alabama Claim involved Britain paying compensation to the US. The US viewed Britain as being involved in severely damaging the main competitor to the British merchant marine.
 
May 2019
357
Earth
The Confederacy pretty much destroyed US merchant shipping. This was not done by privateers, but by Confederate Navy ships built in England with Confederate officers and mostly British crews recruited in Birmingham, England.

The Alabama Claim involved Britain paying compensation to the US. The US viewed Britain as being involved in severely damaging the main competitor to the British merchant marine.
You're right on that. Confederate privateers were not nearly as effective as might have been hoped. But they still existed, and the CSA issued letters of marque through to 1864, so for this thread I'm including them as an example of privately owned vessels undertaking naval operations.