Our history

Overview

BIMCO – which was founded under the title of "The Baltic and White Sea Conference" in Copenhagen in 1905 was the first organisation to see the benefit in joining forces with other countries to secure better deals and standard agreements in shipping.

As the organisation grew and became more international it was renamed -The Baltic and International Maritime Council –and at present day – simply BIMCO.

The early days

The sailing ship, previously the carrier for cargoes, was being replaced by the faster and more cost effective steamship in the early 20th century. More and more steamship owners were met with increasing competition with freight rates and something needed to happen to stop a number of owners going out of business.

Thomas Cairns, of Cairns, Noble & Co from Newcastle Upon Tyne and John Hansen of CK Hansen, Copenhagen realised that owners working together - despite being in competition - would be the answer. As the new season was approaching for the timber trade, Cairns sent Hansen a telegram in January 1905 asking him whether owners in the Baltic states might want to agree on timber trade rates.

The result was a gathering on 16-18 February 1905 in Copenhagen of shipowners from across Scandinavia, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Finland, France and Latvia. A minimum freight rate was set for the coming year and agreed by all the delegates.

In addition to agreeing a firm rate for freight at the gathering, a number of delegates requested establishing uniform charter party terms to safeguard profit for the owners. The fixed freight rate pricing would never happen but the standardisation of charter parties and other shipping documents would go on to benefit the maritime industry for over the next 100 years and is still going strong today.

BIMCO today

BIMCO is now the world’s largest international shipping association, with more than 2,200 members globally. We provide a wide range of services to our global membership – which includes shipowners, operators, managers, brokers and agents.

BIMCO is also recognised worldwide for the clarity, consistency and certainty of its standard maritime contracts.

Our aim is to produce flexible commercial agreements that are fair to both parties. We work with industry experts to produce modern contracts tailored to specific trades and activities. Our world recognised contracts are widely used and this familiarity provides greater certainty of the likely commercial outcome - helping members manage contractual risk.

*Information courtesy of David Souden from his book, – “All in the same boat” The story of BIMCO.