Sea Containers

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Sea Containers
IndustryPassenger transport
Marine container leasing
Key people
Bob Mackenzie (CEO & President)
James Sherwood (Founder)

Sea Containers was a Bermudan registered company which operated two main business areas: transport and container leasing. It filed for bankruptcy on 16 October 2006. In 2009 its maritime container interests were transferred to a new company SeaCo Ltd, with the winding down and liquidation of the remainder of the group continuing.[1]


Yale University graduate and retired United States Navy officer James Sherwood founded Sea Containers in 1965, with initial capital of $100,000,[2] it was later listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In May 1989, Tiphook launched an unsuccessful takeover bid for the company.[3]

Over 40 years, Sherwood expanded Sea Containers from a supplier of leased cargo containers, into various shipping companies, as well as expanding the company into luxury hotels and railway trains, including the Venice-Simplon Orient Express and the Great North Eastern Railway train operating company.

Although valued with a net worth of £60million in the 2004 Sunday Times Rich List,[4] as Sea Containers hit financial troubles, he resigned from each of his companies in 2006. In 2005, Sea Containers sold its 25% share in Orient-Express Hotels.[3]

Chapter 11[edit]

In March 2006, Sherwood resigned from all positions in the various Sea Containers Companies. Sherwood was replaced by company doctor Bob Mackenzie, while Ian Durant became senior vice-president of finance.[5]

Despite selling various businesses and assets, Sea Containers announced in early October 2006 that it was unlikely to be able to pay a $115m (£62m) bond due up on 15 October. On 16 October, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.[6]

On 6 November 2006 the Department for Work & Pensions wrote to Sea Containers that it must pay £143m to its two UK pension schemes if it wants to wind them up.[7]

On 11 February 2009, its maritime container interests were transferred to a new company SeaCo Ltd, with the wind down and liquidation of the remainder of the group continuing; the major shareholders in the new company were the former Sea Containers Ltd bondholders and two of the group's UK pension funds.[1]


Ferry services[edit]


Related activities include:

  • Hart Fenton: a naval architecture and marine engineering company, sold to Houlder in 2006[9]
  • Sea Containers Chartering



Sea Containers container leasing business was conducted mainly through GE SeaCo, a joint venture with GE Capital formed in 1998. GE SeaCo was sold to the HNA Group for approximately $1 billion on 15 December 2011 and now operates as Seaco.[15]

Other former activities[edit]

  • Sea Containers Property Services Ltd – property development, property asset management.
  • The Illustrated London News Group (ILNG) – publishing
  • Fruit farming – Sea Containers owned plantations in West Africa and South America.
  • Fairways & Swinford – UK-based business travel agency

Former internet property of Sea Containers Ltd[edit]

In March 2016 the domain of was acquired by World Sea Containers


  1. ^ a b "Sea Containers Implements Plan of Reorganisation". 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  2. ^ "Sea Containers Ltd. - Company History". Funding Universe. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Sea Containers grabs at a lifeline The Observer 7 May 2006
  4. ^ "Sunday Times - Rich List". The Times. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  5. ^ Collapse was not my fault says Sea Containers boss The Independent 22 October 2006
  6. ^ Sea Containers files for Chapter 11 protection The Guardian 16 October 2006
  7. ^ "Pension threat to Sea Containers". BBC News. 6 November 2006. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  8. ^ New owner to keep SeaStreak ferries afloat Associated Press 18 March 2008
  9. ^ Hart, Fenton & Company Limited Land, Sea & Air Magazine 15 November 2011
  10. ^ GNER pays £1.3bn to retain East Coast mainline The Guardian 23 March 2005
  11. ^ GNER to surrender top train route BBC News 15 December 2006
  12. ^ East Coast franchise handover Railway Gazette International 31 December 2007
  13. ^ Conveted franchise operated by Bermudan company The Independent 17 October 2000
  14. ^ Green Light for High Speed Services for Kent - Four Bidders Selected for new Kent Franchise Strategic Rail Authority 22 December 2003
  15. ^ HNA completes acquisition of GE SeaCo Seatrade Maritime News 19 December 2011