Charles Hunting Sylvia Edward Aisbert Gibson Duffield Ely Place Eric Shawyer in Office

Founded by Edward Aisbett Gibson in 1893, E. A. Gibson and Company Limited, Shipbrokers, had been advertised at the time as 'merchants, coal exporters, steamship owners and brokers and London agents for Partridge Jones and Co. Ltd, Llanerch Colliery, Newport and Cardiff'. But it was Gibson's link with Newcastle-based ship-owner Hunting & Son that was to prove the formative influence and since the 1920s the shipbroking company has belonged to the family group, now called Hunting plc.

Charles Hunting Senior was a wealthy Victorian businessman who had made a fortune from the coal industry. Around 1870 he turned his attention to shipping and bought stock in several ship owning companies. A few years later, he bought his son, Charles Samuel Hunting, a handsome 21st birthday present: a pair of second-hand sailing ships called the Genii and Sylvia. These vessels were registered under the business name of Hunting & Pattison but this was duly dissolved to be replaced by Hunting and Son in 1892.

By 1889 Hunting and Son had around a dozen general cargo steamships which were supplemented by an order for its first oil tanker, the 5,000dwt Duffield, one of the first oil tankers ever built.. It was then that Edward Aisbett Gibson stepped in and, with Charles Samuel, E A Gibson and Company Limited was formed. Almost immediately E. A. Gibson was awarded exclusive chartering rights to the Duffield and later that year Hunting & Son withdrew altogether from the London broking scene, handing on all its business to Gibson. E. A. Gibson bounded into the new century actively engaged in the short sea trades around Europe, in timber, coal, coal tar products and general cargo.

In 1913 Edward Aisbett Gibson died, just as hostilities and the threat of submarine attack were about to bring commercial shipping to a standstill. Business virtually ground to a halt and the Hunting Fleet was pressed into military service being reduced to just four ships by the end of the war.

Reconstruction of the E. A. Gibson business came in the form of Bill Green, who had been recruited as an office boy in 1916 when he was just 13. He went on to become a deal maker of consummate skill, constantly on the lookout for new opportunities in the fields of shipbroking and oil. Cornering the creosote market for Gibson was one of his first achievements and by the young age of 24 he became the managing director.

Meanwhile the Hunting business was also on the way back. C. S. Hunting had died in 1921 but sons Percy and Lindsay were set on a course of rebuilding and expansion. By the mid-1920s they had chosen to concentrate on the oil trade and had ordered a series of new motor (as opposed to steam) tankers. To consolidate the move, it was decided to relocate Hunting's headquarters down to London, in 1925, and simultaneously to absorb the shipbroking business of E.A. Gibson.

Green was quick to build up oil business and, in anticipation of the refining trade being switched to points of consumption rather than points of production, Gibson concentrated on handling crude oil as specialists. In a very short time the company became recognised throughout Europe as the principal brokers for crude oil sales. Green himself correctly predicted the boom - and subsequent bust - in tanker rates on the eve of the Great Depression and closed his first $lm oil deal in 1929, while still in his 20s.

During the 1930s, Gibson's tanker chartering operations were widened and the dependence on Hunting business reduced from around 75% of income to little more than 20%. Green, was meanwhile on the lookout for foreign expansion possibilities and in 1939 opened an office in Paris and, at the same time, an associated office was also opened in Morocco.

Gibson's business, however, was all but reduced to scratch again by World War Two when most of the staff were called up, and the skeleton 'office' that remained was moved out of London, where it performed only nominal business for the government.

The company sprang back after the war, 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. But Green himself turned his attention towards establishing an oil and gas office in Canada, and in 1957 moved there full time.

Richard Haigh Hunting proceeded to take charge of Gibson’s which prospered during the post-war years, largely thanks to the oil booms of 1949-52 and 1955-57. This oil dependence was soon to change, however, in line with the Hunting fleet strategy to diversify away from tankers for the first time in 30 years and re-enter the dry cargo trade, from the late-1950s onwards. The company merged with dry cargo brokers Fergusson Wild in December 1961, becoming E. A. Gibson Fergusson Wild (Shipbrokers). The sale and purchase department was opened the following year.

Richard subsequently turned his attention to other sectors within the Hunting group leaving tanker department boss Eric Shawyer - a rising 'star' of the shipbroking world - to run Gibson’s. R. H. Hunting nevertheless remained Gibson chairman until 1988, playing an active role in fund-raising for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and as a BIMCO director.

Eric Shawyer joined E. A. Gibson straight from school in 1948. He worked for two years in the general office and Agency department, before being called away to serve his national service in the Royal Air Force. On his return, in 1952, he joined the dry cargo chartering department before transferring to tanker chartering three years later. He progressed quickly through the ranks becoming manager of the department in 1962 and managing director in 1969..
In 1970 Gibson entered the record book when it concluded the first ever block fixture of a fleet of one million tons deadweight belonging to H Waage of Norway for charterer Shell. (The company had a special commemorative plaque made - moulded from the tampion of the largest ever gun built for a warship - which to this day occupies pride of place in their offices.)
Eric Shawyer captured the ‘golden years’ of shipping and was made chairman and chief executive in 1988. He retired in 1998 ending an illustrious career with the company spanning over 50 years. He was associated with many organisations and shipping bodies during his half century with Gibson’s. The greatest honour bestowed upon him was the award of the CBE in 1998 for his services to shipping.

The man with the task of guiding Gibson’s through to the new millennium was Peter Lilley. He joined the company in February 1980 in the gas division before being made a director in 1987 and taking over from Eric Shawyer as managing director in July 1998. As the head of the gas chartering department, his appointment was a historic move for a company whose key position had previously only been held by a tanker man.

Peter retired in 2008 having overseen an expansion of the successful gas section into Hong Kong and the Addition of LPG product broking, as well as a successful entry into the specialised sector. His successor was Nigel Richardson who joined Gibson in 1982 having previously worked as a tanker broker for G.W.Pritchard-Gordon and Cambridge Tankers.
Nigel was responsible for establishing a successful clean and dirty products section in Gibson, and actively brokered fixtures until 2008. During his first year as managing director Gibson has focussed its activities, and expanded into an international company of over 140 staff, located in London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Houston.

Today, Gibson is proud of its rich heritage which has been enhanced by its close association to Hunting plc, both companies having focussed their activities in the oil, gas and energy sectors. This depth and breadth of services aligned to a modern and competitive approach to business will greatly assist Gibson not only survive the current world financial and trade turmoil, but to survive triumphantly. Gibson strives to deliver, world wide.