Irrawaddy Flotilla Company

From FIBIwiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Irrawaddy Flotilla Company

The ‘Irrawaddy Flotilla Company’ (IFC) was a passenger and cargo ferry company, which operated services on the Irrawaddy River in Burma. The IFC operated from 1865 until the late 1940s. At its peak in the late 1920s, the IFC fleet was the largest fleet of river boats in the world, consisting of over 600 vessels carrying some 8-9 million passengers and 1¼ million tons of cargo a year [1]


The Company had its origins in the East India Company’s preparations for the 2nd Anglo-Burmese War in 1852. The fleet originally consisted of four steamers and four flats (as barges were known in south Asia) . The Company was Scottish-owned, and was managed by 'P Henderson & Company' from Glasgow until May 1864 when the assets were sold to ‘Todd, Finlay & Co’ who already owned the ‘Burma Steam Tug Co[1]. The agreement stated that the fleet must sail twice a month between Rangoon and Thayetmyo and that it must leave Rangoon within 24 hours of the mail ship arriving from Calcutta. By Jan 1865, the costs were much higher than expected so ‘Todd, Finlay & Co’ floated a new company' [2].

The IFC was formed in 1865 as the ‘Irrawaddy Flotilla and Burmese Steam Navigation Co Ltd’, primarily to ferry troops up and down the Irrawaddy River and delta. In 1875, the company's name was shortened to the ‘Irrawaddy Flotilla Company’ [1].

By 1930 the IFC owned over 600 vessels and carried over 9 million passengers per year. During the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942 the whole of the IFC was scuttled. The fleet was operational again by Aug 1945. Upon independence of Burma in 1948 the company was nationalised and became part of the’Inland Water Transport Division’[2] .

Cargos Carried

The IFC soon was carrying passengers, rice, government stores, and mail from Rangoon to Prome, Thayetmyo and Mandalay, and then extended in 1868 to Bhamo

Production from the 'Magwe Oilfields' operated by the ’Burmah Oil Company commenced in 1881 and the IFC shipped the crude oil to Rangoon. This arrangement continued until 1908 with the opening of a 275 miles(443km) long pipeline to the 'Syriam Refinery' [3].

The IFC’s services became indispensable to the oil fields up river at Yenangyaung and Chauk for carrying supplies and heavy equipment. Partly because the railway to Mandalay followed the path of the Sittaung River rather than the Irrawaddy River, the company stayed relevant and useful well into the twentieth century, even after independence from Britain in 1948 [1].

Coal Supplies

From 1891 coal for the IFC steamers was partly supplied from the Kebwet Mine, the coal was also carried for the Burma Railway(BR). By 1923 23,000 tons of coal had been extracted and carried by IFC. The coal was of inferior quality and supply ceased in January 1905. See separate page for further information

The 'Shevbo Mining Syndicate' was established in 1891 to extract coal at Kebwet.

Duyinzeik-Thaton Tramway

In December 1900 the 'Duyinzeik-Thaton Tramway' "passed into the hands of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company" is stated in the 1908 Imperial Gazetteer of India:-

"From December 1900 the tramway passed into the hands of the 'Irrawaddy Flotilla Company'. The receipts amounted in 1903 to Rs.32,000. In all 34,362 persons travelled by tramway in that year" [4].

The background to the aquisition of this tramway, or for how long this arranement existed, has not been determined. See 'Duyinzeik-Thaton Tramway' for more information

Irrawaddy Flotilla Company Railways

The records show that the ‘Irrawaddy Flotilla Company’ (IFC) operated number of 2ft/610mm narrow gauge(NG) locomotives. The IFC had dockyards at Dalia, Mandalay and Moulemin with foundries at Rangoon and Pazundaug. The IFC also carried our river training works.

It is probable that the locomotives were used at these operations – but no further information had been found

The Royal Museums, Greenwhich have Photographic Album " Irrawaddy Flotilla Co. Ltd. photograph album relating to residences and steamers" dated c.1914. Amongst this collection is a photograph ALB0298; Negative number: B2725(Z) 44." Narrow gauge railway with native people on each side" [5]. This record has not been examined

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Wikipedia “Irrawaddy Flotilla Company” ; Retrieved 15 Oct 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 “Industrial Railways and Locomotives of India and South Asia” compiled by Simon Darvill. Published by ‘The Industrial Railway Society’ 2013. ISBN 978 1 901556 82-7. Available at Reference: Entry YA10 page ....
  3. “Industrial Railways and Locomotives of India and South Asia” compiled by Simon Darvill. Published by ‘The Industrial Railway Society’ 2013. ISBN 978 1 901556 82-7. Available at Reference: Entry YA03 page ....
  4. Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 9, p. 185-186; 1908; Retrieved 16 Oct 2017
  5. ‘The Royal Museums, Greenwhich’ – “Photographic Album No ALB0298” ; Negative number: B2726(F) 79.; Retrieved 15 Oct 2017