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Paquet (Shipping company, France)

Last modified: 2014-02-01 by ivan sache
Keywords: paquet | letters: cnp (white) | letters: npc (white) | letters: ncp (white) | lozenge (red) | stars: 5 (white) | letters: cfn (black) | compagnie francaise de navigation | nouvelle compagnie de paquebots |
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History of Paquet

Nicolas Paquet (1831-1909) was the elder son of a wine-grower from Lorraine. Aged 17, he was hired by the Messageries Nationales and worked in Dunkirk and Reims. One of his distant relatives, Antoine Vautier, appointed him as his secretary in Marseilles. Vautier was director of the P.L.M. (Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée) railway company, specifically in charge of the building of the railway line between Marseilles and Avignon. The material used in those works was shipped from Antwerp by sailing ships of the Belgian Deppe company, and consigned by the Caussac et Jules Vautier house. Vautier assigned Paquet to work with his brother Jules, so that Paquet learned how to manage maritime affairs. Paquet was sent for three years in Algiers to study the wheat market. Aged 26, he was appointed Vautier's authorized representative after Caussac's withdrawal from business. Two years later, Jules Vautier passed away and his brother asked Paquet to take Vautier's assets and found a consignation company, which became a shipping company.

Paquet named the company Compagnie de Navigation Nicolas Paquet Aîné et Cie. In 1860, the company signed a contract with the Spanish government for the transport of troops to Morocco, where the Rif war had broken out. Paquet's first ship was SS Languedoc, initially bought in 1855 by Vautier and Caussac, and purchased in 1863 by Paquet in co-ownership with Deppe and Bristaud. Paquet bought another two ships and created the first scheduled service between Marseilles and the coast of Morocco.
In 1861, the company, renamed Compagnie de Navigation Marocaine, was associated to a commerce company set up by Paquet in the most important towns of Morocco. The shipping company progressed slowly, extending its lines to the Canary islands in 1868. The main activity of the Moroccan line was transportation of wool. Since the fleet was fully used only three months per year, Paquet attempted to find new outlets. Helped by his brother, he established the first French lines to Caucasus and the Black Sea.
The company, renamed in 1874 Compagnie de Navigation Arménienne et Marocaine, linked Marseilles to Constantinople, Batum and Poti. The line, initially used to ship sugar from Marseilles, was successful in spite of problems caused by quarantines, the war between Greece and Turkey, a customs conflict between France and Romania, etc.. In 1878, the company owned nine ships.

Paquet pushed in 1891 a law extending subsidizes initially granted to ocean navigation to coastal navigation. Trafic increased, especially with Morocco. Paquet was in charge of all the transport activity required by the war of "pacification" of Morocco decided in 1907. The Moroccan lines were extended to subsaharian Africa the next year. The service by cargo-passenger ships from Marseilles to Oran, Casablanca and Dakar lasted 65 years. Nicolas Paquet died in 1909, aged 88. He was vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce (now Chamber of Commerce and Industry) of Marseilles from 1891 to his death.

In 1913, the name of the company, which operated 15 ships, was shortened to Compagnie de Navigation Paquet. During the First World War, the fleet of the company was commissioned for the transport of troops from Africa, the evacuation of the Serbian army, the transport of Russian troops from Arkhangelsk to Brest and the American resupplying of Bordeaux and Saint-Nazaire. The company lost four ships.
After the war, the company resumed its service to Morocco, the Canary islands, Senegal, Levant and Black Sea. The service of Black Sea, less and less profitable because of the increased English and Italian competition, was definitively suppressed in 1934. Conversely, the Moroccan lines became more and more profitable, because of the development of administration and tourism. Six modern liners were allocated to this line between 1922 and 1935, including SS Anfa, which brought back to France mMarshal Lyautey in 1925; MS Maréchal-Lyautey, the first screw-propelled ship of the company, built in 1924; her sister-ship MS Nicolas-Paquet; and MS Chella, the company flagship. Paquet also established a chain of hotels in Morocco and bought a series of cargo ships to import Moroccan vegetables and fruit to France (one of the main actions of Lyautey had been to promote the development of agriculture in Morocco).

Most of the Paquet fleet was lost during the Second World War and the remaining ships were obsolete. The building of a new, modern fleet started in 1946. The new flagship, MS Lyautey was launched on scheduled lines to Morocco and Senegal in 1952. However, the cargo ships were progressively sold to foreign or French rival companies, and passenger trafic decreased because of the ascendancy of air transport. In the 1960s, all the French shipping companies had to restructure and most of them created subsidiaries dedicated to passenger transport.
In 1960, Paquet created the wholly-owned subsidiary Compagnie Française de Navigation (CFN) for the service of the Marseilles-Israel line, to which three liners were allocated, MS Phocée (ex MS Koutoubia), MS Césarée (ex MS Djenné) and MS Galilée (ex MS Lyautey). The creation of the CFN allowed Paquet to bypass the Arab League's boycott of firms trading with Israel and to maintain good relations with Morocco. The Israel line was suppressed in 1966.

In 1964, Chargeurs Réunis absorbed Fraissinet and its two subsidiaries, Fabre and SGTM, but kept only the cargo ships. Paquet absorbed the five remaining liners of the west African line and created the Nouvelle Compagnie de Paquebots, operating MS Foch, MS Général-Leclerc, MS Foucauld, MS Général-Mangin and MS Jean-Mermoz (later MS Mermoz). The company sold most of its liners operating on scheduled lines, keeping only cruise liners. Its last flagship, MS Ancerville, once the biggest French liner, operating on the Dakar line, was sold in 1970.

In July 1993, the Commission of the European Communities accepted the concentration of Il Ponte (Italy), Chargeurs and Accor (France), which jointly toook the control of Costa Crociere. Chargeurs and Accor acquired a stake in Costa Crociere, which was partly paid with the transfer of Compagnie des Croisières Paquet. Costa acquired MS Mermoz, which is still marketed under the Paquet label, although Paquet is today only a travel agency.

Source: Paul Bois. Armements marseillais - Compagnies de navigation et navires à vapeur (1831-1988), published by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Marseille-Provence [boi03].

Ivan Sache, 9 February 2004

House flags of Paquet

Compagnie de Navigation Nicolas Paquet Aîné et Cie

[Flag of Paquet 1]         [Flag of Paquet 2]

House flag of Compagnie de Navigation Nicolas Paquet Aîné et Cie, two versions - Images by Ivan Sache, 9 February 2004

P. Bois [boi03] shows the house flag of Compagnie de Navigation Nicolas Paquet Aîné et Cie as horizontally divided blue-red-blue (1:2:1) with the white letters "NP & CIE" on the red stripe. The flag was also used by Compagnie de Navigation Marocaine and Compagnie de Navigation Arménienne et Marocaine.
A poster advertizing the lines to Contantinople, the Black Sea and Morocco, shows the flag charged with letter "NPC" instead of "NP & CIE".

Ivan Sache, 9 February 2004

Compagnie de Navigation Paquet

[Flag of Paquet 1]         [Flag of Paquet 2]

House flag of Compagnie de Navigation Paquet, two versions - Images by Ivan Sache, 9 February 2004

P. Bois [boi03] shows the flag of Compagnie de Navigation Paquet as similar to the previous one, but with the white letters "CNP".
Here again, some posters show a different flag, being blue with a red lozenge charged with the white letters "CNP".

Ivan Sache, 9 February 2004

Nouvelle Compagnie de Paquebots

[Flag of Paquet 5]

House flag of Nouvelle Compagnie de Paquebots - Image by Ivan Sache, 9 February 2004

P. Bois [boi03] shows the flag of Nouvelle Compagnie de Paquebots as similar to the previous one, but with the white letters "NCP" and five white stars, two in the upper blue stripe and three in the lower one.

Ivan Sache, 9 February 2004

Compagnie Française de Navigation

[Flag of Paquet 6]

House flag of Compagnie Française de Navigation - Image by Ivan Sache, 9 February 2004

P. Bois [boi03] shows the flag of Compagnie Française de Navigation as light blue with two white stripes in the upper and lower part of the flag and the black letters "Cie FN" in the blue stripe. I guess that the design of the flag was inspired by the flags of Marseilles and Israel.

Ivan Sache, 9 February 2004

Compagnie des Croisières Paquet

[Flag of Paquet 7]

House flag of Compagnie des Croisières Paquet - Image by Ivan Sache, 9 February 2004

The flag of Croisières Paquet, as shown by Joseph Nuesse, is blue with a horizontally divided blue-red letter "P", crossed by a seabird.

Ivan Sache, 27 February 2004