In 1870, Victorian business man Charles Hunting Senior bought stock in several ship owning companies. This included buying his son, Charles Samuel Hunting, a pair of second hand sailing ships as a 21st Birthday present. His repertoire of vessels continued to grow and by 1889, Hunting and Son had around a dozen cargo steamships.
Supplemented by an order for its first oil tanker, the 5,000dwt Duffield, Edward Aisbett Gibson stepped in and, with Charles Samuel, E A Gibson and Company Limited was formed in 1893. Gibson's link with Newcastle-based shipowner Hunting & Son proved to be the formative influence and from the 1920s until 2015 the shipbroking company has belonged to the family group, now Hunting PLC.
In 1913 Edward Aisbett Gibson died, just as hostilities and the threat of submarine attacks were about to bring commercial shipping to a standstill. Business virtually ground to a halt, and the Hunting Fleet was pressed into military service, reducing down to just 4 ships by the end of the First World War.
The post-war reconstruction of E.A. Gibson came in the form of Bill Green, a 13 year old that joined the team as an office boy. Cornering the creosote market for Gibson was one of his first achievements and by the time he was 24, Green had become the managing director or E.A. Gibson and Company Limited.
Hunting passed away in 1921 but his sons, Percy and Lindsay were actively rebuilding and expanding the company. By the mid 20’s they had chosen to concentrate on the oil trade and a series of new motor tankers had been ordered. Hunting’s headquarters were relocated down to London in 1925, simultaneously absorbing the shipbroking business of E.A. Gibson.
Gibson started to concentrate on handling crude oil and in a very short time the company was recognised throughout Europe as the principle brokers for crude oil sales. Green correctly predicted this boom, as well as its subsequent bust and in 1929, Green closed his first $1m deal, on the eve of The Great Depression.
During the 1930’s, Gibson’s tanker chartering operations were widened and the dependence on Hunting business reduced to little more than 20% of their income. Gibson’s business however, was all but reduced to scratch again by World War Two when most of the staff were called up. The ‘skeleton’ office which remained was moved out of London, where only nominal government business was performed.
The company sprang back after the war, with Richard Haig Hunting proceeding to take charge. Gibson was rapidly expanding and diversifying in order to provide suitable employment for its returning workforce. It re-entered dry cargo broking, enlarged its tanker and agency departments and started an aviation department.
Gibson prospered during its post-war years, largely thanks to the oil booms. This changed in line with the Hunting fleet’s strategy to diversify away from tankers for the first time in 30 years. Merging with dry cargo brokers Fergusson Wild in December 1961, the company became E.A. Gibson Fergusson Wild (Shipbrokers). Haig turned his attention to other sectors, leaving Eric Shawyer, a renowned rising star of the shipbroking world, to run Gibson. Shawyer became Managing Director in 1969.
Peter Lilley brought Gibson through the millennium, taking over from Eric Shawyer in 1998 as Managing Director. As head of the gas chartering department, his appointment was a historic move for a company whose key position has previously only been held by a tanker man.
Retiring in 2008, Lilley had overseen the expansion of the successful gas section into Hong Kong, the addition of LPG product broking as well as the successful entry into the specialised sector. Lilley’s successor Nigel Richardson joined Gibson in 1982. During Nigel’s first year, Gibson expanded into an international company of over 180 staff, located in London, Houston, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Adding to the wave of developments occurring in the global shipbroking industry, E. A. Gibson Shipbrokers separated from Hunting PLC in April 2015 after more than 120 years of association. Gibson then became a fully independent, employee owned company run on behalf of and for the benefit of all of the worldwide employees of the company.