Maritime Service

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The East India Company Maritime Services could be divided into three main categories:

  • EIC Mercantile Marine. The Mercantile Marine was the principal merchant shipping service supporting the company's trade with India and the Far East. It was in operation from 1600 to 1834.
  • Bombay Marine. The Bombay Marine was the fighting navy of the EIC. In the later nineteenth century and twentieth century it was renamed several times, ultimately becoming the Royal Indian Navy in 1935.
  • Bengal Marine. The best known part was the Bengal Pilot Service which was responsible for guiding shipping along the Hooghly River between Calcutta and the Bay of Bengal. The river could only be navigated by day on account of the many dangerous banks and shoals.[1] Bengal Marine also included War Steamers, also called Sea Steamers, which were ships fitted with guns, and river boats which were used to transport troops and other passengers, and cargo. In (at least) the 1840s-1850s the river boats were part of Inland Steam, or the Inland Steam Service and were described as Iron Steam Vessels appropriated to Inland Navigation, consisting of Steamers, Accomodation Boats and Cargo Boats. It seems likely that once private riverboat companies were established they took over the services of Inland Steam.

In 1877 the Bombay Marine and the Bengal Marine were combined to form HM Indian Marine, which became the Royal Indian Marine in 1892 and the Royal Indian Navy in 1935.

Old postcard showing shipping on the River Hooghly, Calcutta

FIBIS Resources

FIBIS Research Guide No. 2 An Introduction to British Ships in Indian Waters : Their Owners, Crew and Passengers by Richard Morgan with a Foreword by Lawrie Butler, 68 pages, published 2012, with Bibliography and Index

  • Part I – the East India Company’s Maritime Service
  • Part II – Country Ships
  • Part III – A note on Interlopers
  • Part IV – The Marine Service
  • Part V – Independently owned commercial (steam) Ships
  • Appendix 1: Summary of information on Free Mariners and Passengers in Directories
  • Appendix 2: The Indian Marine Service in the IOR L/F/10 and other Series.

Available from the FIBIS Shop

For updates to the first edition, see British Ships in Indian Waters.

"HEIC Maritime Holdings at the National Maritime Museum", an article by Geraldine Charles, can be found in the FIBIS Journal.

  • "Part 1" FIBIS Journal Number 4 (Autumn 2000)
  • "Part 2" FIBIS Journal Number 6 (Autumn 2001)

"Gahan, Eaton & Co" by Nigel Penny FIBIS Journal Number 21 (Spring 2009) pages 11-19. A family history of sea Captains, Master Attendants and Merchants.

"Wrecked or Captured, the East India Company Ships that Failed to Arrive", a fascinating talk given by Andrea Cordani, writer and researcher on East India Company Ships, at FIBIS's Spring lecture meeting in May 2009, is available on FIBIS youtube channel. The presentation that accompanied this talk and a book list for further reading can be found in the FIBIS Social Network

An edited edition of this talk is available in FIBIS Journal, No 22 (Autumn 2009), page 15. This edition also contains an article "The Loss of an East Indiaman in 1807 : account by Samuel Rolleston" on page 23. For details of how to access these articles, see FIBIS Journals.

The FIBIS Database has

Other related articles

Records at the British Library

  • IOR/L/MAR Marine Department Records.
There are three main series: L/MAR/A Ships' Journals 1605-1705; L/MAR/B Ships' Journals 1702-1856; L/MAR/C Marine Miscellaneous Records 1600-1879.
Note, some of these Ships' Journals have been digitised, and the digital versions may be accessed from links from the British Library's Catalogue for Archives and Manuscripts.
Also see Ships' Journals.
  • A description of Marine Miscellaneous Records IOR/L/MAR/C 1600-1879.(Discovery) "The collection is in process of re-arrangement and listing in separate series L/MAR/1-9 according to type and provenance". Included in these records are "personnel records of the Company's maritime service (at all levels of employment, but including particularly the appointment and services of commanders and mates of East Indiamen), the Bombay Marine, the Indian Navy, and the Bengal Pilot Service" but no further details are given.
Note however, by using the British Library Search Archives and Manuscripts the British Library website has what appears to be later information, with details of records up to IOR/L/MAR/C/915 including
  • IOR/L/MAR/C/883 Courts martial on officers of the Indian Navy ‎ (1835-1840)
  • IOR/L/MAR/C/887 List of Passengers, Mails and Packets to and from India 1838-1845
  • IOR/L/MAR/C/905 Index of engineers with details about allotment of pay ‎ (1860-1873)

British Library records on findmypast

The India Office Records on the pay site findmypast are

  • IOR/L/MAR/C/688 Lists of appointments to Bombay Marine and Pilot Service, 1822-1832.
  • IOR/L/MAR/C/710-714 Volunteers (cadets) for the Indian Navy, 1838-1859
  • IOR/L/MAR/C/785-788 Poplar pensioners, with particulars, 1809-1821
  • IOR/L/MAR/C/789-840 Poplar: petitions with certificates and other documents attached for pensions, compensations etc, 1809-1838

British Library records on FamilySearch (LDS) microfilms

For digitised microfilms available in the LDS (Mormon) library catalogue, see IOR Marine records on LDS films or search the FamilySearch Library Catalogue using keywords India Office Marine Department. (See FamilySearch Centres for viewing information.)

Note: Microfilm ordering services has ceased however all microfilms have been digitised and most/all? are currently available for viewing on a FamilySearch computer at a FamilySearch Centre, and most of the records originating from the British Library also appear to be viewable at FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries. Locate these records through the FamilySearch catalogue.


See also, Ships and sailing reading list.

A biographical index of East India Company Maritime Service officers, 1600-1834, by Anthony Farrington London: British Library, 1999
A companion volume to the "Catalogue", see above, the biographical index provides summaries of the sea careers of some 12,000 individuals who made the voyage to Asia as commanders, mates, surgeons, or pursers in the service of the EIC. The information has been compiled from the surviving ships' journals, logs, paying-off books and associated sources in the Company's archives at the British Library. Available at the British Library UIN: BLL01007402159, on "Open Access".

Malim Sahib's Hindustani

A Malim Sahib was a ship’s officer. There was a specialised nautical, bazaar baht or bat, vocabulary spoken by Indian crews. A dictionary was published in 1920, The Malim Sahib's Hindustani [2], which became a required text book for all Cadets, Officers, Radio Officers and Engineers, on joining the British India Steam Navigation Company.[3] The language was a mixture of Hindustani-Gujarati-Marathi-Konkani (Ratnagiri), a little Urdu..... a pot pourri of words, but simple and effective.[4] The vocabulary was considered similar to a dialect, in that a European who had learnt this vocabulary was said to speak Malim Sahib's (Sahibs) Hindustani. Available online to search, but not view Google Books 1958 reprint edition.

The officers' titles were: Captain - Captain sahib; C/O - Burra malim sahib; 2/O - Majla Malim sahib; 3/O - Sajla Malim sahib; 4/O - or other Junior - Chota malim sahib.[4]

Refer below for references to earlier use and publications.

External links

  • East India Company Ships developed by Andrea Cordani, but she is no longer updating the website, which now has a new URL. Includes Ship roles - what do they mean? A glossary of Ship roles defining terms such as 'Regular Ship' , 'Extra Ship' and 'Country Ship.' The previous site is now archived.
  • East-India Company ship routes 1798-1834 by Philip Brohan. Video. Retrieved 16 October 2014.The dates of the voyages are shown in the bottom left hand corner of the video screen, and may at times be obscured by the toolbar. Move the computer's mouse from the toolbar to below the video screen to reveal. The video indicates the seasonal variations in the ships' voyages.
  • National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
    • National Maritime Museum Research Guides
    • Maritime Memorials in respect of ships’ crews’ deaths. Search for entries for India, Burma, Burmah and Myanmar, Ceylon and Sri Lanka, and other countries such as China, Singapore etc. (Entries for Karachi were classified as India). Some entries are listed below.[5], or search by name. An associated National Maritime Museum website.
    Update noted 2023/01. This database now appears only to be available to researchers onsite at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, see the page Searching for lives lost at sea
    However, noted 2023/01/24 the website "Maritime Memorials" seems to be freely available again.
    Also see Historical books online, below, for some deaths in the Middle East, including maritime related deaths.
  • CLIP - the Crew List Index Project. A not-for-profit volunteer project, with databases of British seafarers and ships records, set up to assist research into the records of British merchant seafarers of the late 19th and early 20th century.
  • See the Fibiwiki page Ireland for Irish Crew Lists 1863-1921. Crews could originate from all over the world.
  • See the Fibiwiki page Hong Kong for the free Searchable database for Hong Kong Cemetery which indicates there were sailors buried there.
  • "The History of British Marine Engineers Licensing" by Manfred Grignard. Koninklijk Gallois Genootschap/Royal Belgian Institute of Marine Engineers Magazine, 2006 No 5 (September?].
  • British Maritime History - Realistic genealogical guides to surviving records and more, Len Barnett’s site, has sections on:
Also includes Dictionary of Sea Terms 1841/51 Adapted from The Seaman's Friend... by R. H. Dana 1st ed. 1841, 6th edition 1851.
British India Steam Navigation Company from the Ships’ List.
A History of the British India Steam Navigation Company Limited,, now archived. Includes a list of ships, with details.
‘Chota Sahib’ by Captain John de Barr. The Coast Men of British India’s fleet. In BI the Coast referred to the Coast of India., now archived.
Troopships and Trooping by R G Robertson, now archived, Includes mention of troopships to India. link.
The trooping season between India and the United Kingdom lasted for about seven months each year. The gap, April-October/November in India was the same each year – to avoid the worst of the heat in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.


Historical books online

Pirates of the Eastern Seas (1618-1723). A Lurid Page of History by Charles Grey 1933
Grey was also the author of The Merchant Venturers of London : A record of Far Eastern Trade and Piracy during the 17th Century by Charles Grey 1932. Available at the British Library UIN: BLL01001510311 and, searchable, but not viewable on HathiTrust Digital Library.
A Register of Ships, Employed in the Service of the Honorable the United East India Company 1760-1810 by Charles Hardy and Horatio Charles Hardy 1811 Google Books. Also available on Ancestry.
Images from original manuscript with many drawings. Royal Museums Greenwich.
Vol.1 1832, Vol.2 1833, Vol.3 1834, Vol.4 1835, Vol.5 1836, Vol.6 1837, Vol.7 1838, Vol.8 1839, Vol.9 1840
Vol.10 1841, Vol.11 1842, Vol.12 1843, Vol.14 1845, Vol.16 1847, Vol.17 1848, Vol.18 1849, Vol.19 1850
Vol.20 1851, Vol.21 1852, Vol.22 1853, Vol.23 1854, Vol.24 1855, Vol.25 1856, Vol.26 1857, Vol.27 1858, Vol.28 1859, Vol.29 1860
Vol.30 1861, Vol.31 1862, Vol.32 1863, Vol.33 1864, Vol.34 1865, Vol.35 1866, Vol.36 1867, Vol.37 1868, Vol.38 1869, Vol.39 1870
Vol.40 1871, Vol.41 1872, Vol.42 1873, Vol.43 1874, Vol.44 1875, Vol.45 1876, Vol.50 1881
HathiTrust Digital Library editions, including editions only accessible in some regions such as North America.
The Old 'Country Trade' of the East Indies by William Herbert Coates, Comm. R N R (retired) 1911
The Opium Clippers by Basil Lubbock, first published 1933
Coolie Ships and Oil Sailers by Basil Lubbock 1935 Books to Borrow/Lending Library
Fiction- Sea stories. Deep Sea Warriors by Basil Lubbock 1910 The story of the crew on a voyage from Calcutta to Cape Town.
2nd edition 1805 with title The Midshipman's or British Mariner's Vocabulary: Being a Universal Dictionary of Technical Terms and Sea Phrases …
An English and Hindostanee Naval Dictionary of technical terms and sea phrases ... by the late Captain Thomas Roebuck, 4th Edition, revised and corrected by William Carmichael Smyth 1848 Google Books. Previously published in 1841 as part of another book "English and Hindostanee Naval Dictionary of Technical Terms, and Sea Phrases", page 125 The Hindoostanee Interpreter: Containing the Rudiments of Grammar; an Extensive Vocabularly; and a Useful Collection of Dialogues. To which is Added a Naval Dictionary of Technical Terms, and Sea Phrases by William Carmichael-Smyth 1841 Google Books
A Laskari dictionary, or, Anglo-Indian vocabulary of nautical terms and phrases in English and Hindustani, chiefly in the corrupt jargon in use among the Laskars or Indian sailors A re-edited and revised edition by George Small, Missionary of the previous works by Roebuck and Smyth. 1882


  1. Henry Alfred Coggan’s Diary 1865. London to Calcutta. The author, aged 19, worked his passage to India as a crew member on board the Staffordshire.
  2. Woods, Chris. American English & Malim Sahib's Hindustani Rootsweb India-British-Raj Mailing List 11 September 2008, archived. The Malim Sahib's Hindustani: for use both ashore and afloat in connection with Lascars and all other low-caste natives of India who speak the bazaar "bat” by C T Willson, Bombay Pilot Service. “For ship's officers who wish to acquire a working knowledge of low Hindustani spoken by native crews, coolies, servants and longstoreman generally. All nautical terms and words in common use both ashore and afloat are included."
  3. Feltham, John. Sea Cunny Rootsweb India Mailing List 24 October 2002, archived.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "The Maalim Saabs Hindustani" Part 1, Part 2 Mariner’s Nostalgia website. Mandatory for British Officers on B I Ships.
  5. Some entries are listed in Maritime cemetery entries from National Maritime Museum website Rootsweb India Mailing List 5 January 2014, now archived. The correct Notes and Queries reference for the Karachi burials mentioned appears to be Vol 170 1936. Note it is now possible to Search in Notes and Queries 1849-2014 collection This collection is a series of digitised microfilmed weekly editions. If you have a reference, select the required year from the filters on the left hand side of the webpage. In addition, there may be other editions which can be found by a general search for this title. It is possible to Search text contents for the whole collection.
  6. India-British-Raj List post Maritime Resources 'Articles of Agreement' by Chris Woods dated 30 August 2013, archived.
  7. Wilde, Liz. Master Attendant Rootsweb India Mailing List 23 July 2010 and Wilde, Liz. Master Attendant Rootsweb India Mailing List 25 July 2010, now archived.