The General Council of British Shipping was an organisation created under the joint authority of the Chamber of Shipping (MSS.367/COS) and the Liverpool Steam Ship Owners' Association (MSS.367/LSS). Set up in 1941, its aim was to formulate and express the united views of the shipping industry as a whole on all questions of major policy. As well as the Chamber and Liverpool Association, the General Council included members from the Shipping Federation, acting in a purely advisory role, but who also added to the representative character of the Council. The Council itself met in the offices of the Chamber of Shipping, with the Chamber's President acting as its general secretary.
The Council concerned itself with all matters regarding shipping, and included sections that dealt with liners, tankers and tramp ships, and committees on such topics as shipbuilding, shipping defence and railway wagon demurrage. However, one of its main concerns, and one that is covered in detail within the extant archive, is the question of increased competition from air transport. Having been frustrated in its efforts during the 1940s, in the following decade the General Council exerted pressure on the government to ensure that shipowners had a greater opportunity of becoming involved in the development of independent air services.
The General Council continued in this form until 1963, when it was felt that the new range and complexity of problems that the British shipping industry faced had changed. A single national organisation was agreed to be the best way of continuing, an organisation which would also reduce confusion in the minds of government departments and the public. Therefore, the previously independent Liverpool Steam Ship Owners' Association agreed to join the Chamber of Shipping, thus making the General Council no longer necessary. The Council had its last meeting on the 21 March 1963, before being formally dissolved in the September of that year.
An important distinction to make is between this organisation and a later council bearing the same name. The second General Council of British Shipping came into existence after the merging of the Chamber of Shipping and the British Shipping Federation in 1975. Records for this body are listed with those of the Chamber (MSS.367/COS).
Reference: Chamber of Shipping Annual Reports, 1942-1943, 1947-1948, 1952-1955, 1963-1964 (MSS.367/COS/1/4/28, 33, 38-40, 48).