The following resources in the museum library will assist your research into coastal ships.


Ronald Parsons has written several books on early ships registered at Australian ports which summarise the register entries and are arranged under the names of the vessel's owner. To find these books (listed below), search the author index of the catalogue under Parsons Ronald.

In addition, the library has a selection of titles about individual shipping lines. For example, a book by Mike Richards which provides a history of the North Coast Steam Navigation Company (and the North coast run). To locate such titles, search the catalogue subject index for the name of the company.

Australian shipowners and their fleets

Ronald Parsons. Magill S.A. Ronald Parsons, 1972-1982.
387.5240994 PAR

Coast to coast: The great Australian coastal liners

Peter Plowman. Dural, N.S.W. Rosenberg Publishing, 2007.
387.20994 PLO

Australian coastal passenger ships

Ronald Parsons. Magill S.A. R.H. Parsons, 1981.
387.20994 PAR

Australian coastal shipping

Barry Pemberton. Carlton, Vic. Melbourne University Press, 1979.
387.20994 PEM

Steamers in the south

Ronald Parsons. Adelaide. Rigby, 1979.
387.24320994 PAR

The vanished fleet: Australian coastal passenger ships 1910–1960

T.K. Fitchett. Adelaide. Rigby, 1976.
387.2430994 PAR

Sail in the South: A selection from the A.D. Edwardes collection of shipping photographs in the State Library of South Australia

Text by Ronald Parsons. Adelaide. Rigby, 1975.
387.220994 PAR

Looking to buy books? Shop online at the museum store.

Registers of Shipping

Tips for using registers

It's often difficult to identify a vessel with a common name when searching registers, so information such as the approximate tonnage and the name of the master can be very useful, especially when using the British Register of Ships. Finding out the (approximate) year that the vessel was built will also help considerably. Searching two or three years after the build date will probably yield results if the approximate year search does not. Even searches five years on can be useful.

Lloyd's Register

A yearly, alphabetical listing of mainly British owned vessels by name compiled by Lloyd's Register in London. It is particularly useful when researching large vessels. The register provides technical specifications of each vessel, dates and place of build, names of owners, masters and (up to the 1850s) destinations. Between 1890 and 1947 sailing vessels and steamers were listed separately. The library holds 1776-1880 in microfiche and 1880 onwards in hardcopy (on the reference shelves).
REF 387.5

For a fee, Lloyd's Register Historical Research Service will search ship's histories and yacht plans/survey reports. Its website says: "We can provide information on Lloyd's Register classed ships from 1784 and on merchant ships of more than 100 gross tons, regardless of class dating from the mid-1870s".

Register of British Ships. Australian Section 1833–1981

National Archives. (Microfilm)

The British Register (Australian section)

Records details for each port, including appropriation registers, registers and continuation registers. We have created a guide to the microfilm which explains the range of information available from the British Register. The library also has an index to help you locate vessels by name and number. The originals of the British Register are held by the Australian Archives and copies can be accessed at regional offices.

Indexes to the British Register (by official number and name of ship) are also held by the library and these are often the most effective way of locating a reigster entry.

Index to the Australian Section of the British Register of Ships 1840-1986. Part 1 Index by Ship Name. Part 2 Index by Official Number

Compiled by Andrew Elliason.
REF 387.20994 REG

Composite index to ships registered in Australian ports under British merchant shipping acts 1827 to 1980

Compiled by Robert R. Le Maistre. - [Canberra?. National Archives of Australia?], 2002.
REF 387.20994 AUS
Also available online.

Register of colonial vessels in the port of Hobart [CUS 38/1/1-CUS 38/1/6]

Archives Office of Tasmania. (microfilm).
Covers the period 14 January 1830-30 April 1855. This compliments the British Register microfilm which is missing early Tasmanian registrations.

Register of Australian and New Zealand Shipping

This register was published by the Marine Underwriters and Salvage Association from around 1870 to 1942, however information was not updated all that frequently in later years so we recommend you also consult the Register of British Ships.
Library holds 1924/25,1925/26,1927/28,1933/34,1937,1941,1949.
REF 387.50994 REG


The museum does not hold any official logs. To find out where different logs are held we recommend consulting the following book, which includes a section on shipping.
Finding families: The genealogists guide to the National Archives of Australia
Compiled by Margaret Chambers. Sydney. Hale & Iremonger, 1998.
REF 929.934 NAT


For help in finding illustrations or photos, see our research guide, Pictures of ships in the Australian trade, which lists useful websites and resources held in the museum library.

Journal Articles

The following magazines also have useful articles about Australian built ships, owners and fleet lists.

The log: Quarterly journal of the Nautical Association of Australia Inc

Library has Vol.1, no.1(1954)-.

The Australasian Shipping Record: Journal of the Australasian Maritime Historical Society

Library has Vol.1, no.1(1970); missing Vols 6 and 17.

Australasian ships and ports

Library holds 1990-.


The shipping columns in major newspapers are useful for tracing movements of coastal vessels. Finding information can be time consuming as the newspapers are not indexed.
The library holds the following newspapers:

  • Sydney Morning Herald (microfilm) 1833-1895. Available online at Australian newspapers 1803-1954
  • Argus (Melbourne) (microfilm) 1846-1895 and Sydney Gazette (microfilm) 1803-1842. Available online at Australian newspapers 1803-1954
  • Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List (microfiche) 1844-1860. Also available online at the National Library Ferguson Project
  • Australasian Shipping News (microfilm) 1877-1900
  • Sydney Mail (microfilm) 1860-1871
  • Daily Commercial News (microfilm) Jan-Jun 1895; 1900-1956

Whilst coastal vessel movements weren't well reported in the major newspapers, the smaller coastal traders specialist newspapers such as the Daily Commercial News and Australasian Shipping News often carried small shipping company advertisements which can help researchers find out which ships belonging to a particular line or what route a particular vessel traded.
The National Library's Trove Australian Newspapers site is continuing to grow and currently contains newspapers both regional and the large circulation dailies from the capital cities from around Australia for the period between 1803 and 1954.

Useful Addresses

Nautical Association of Australia
GPO Box 142

Australasian Maritime Historical Society
P.O.Box 2307
Murray Bridge, South Australia, 5253