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Fred. Olsen History

Braemar bethed in Dubrovnik

The Olsen family business can be traced back to 1848.  Here, a young shipmaster called Fredrik Christian Olsen (known as the First Fred. Olsen) entered shipowning on his own account.  His earliest vessels were wooden schooners of little more than 50 gross tons.

1848 -  A dramatic period, the start of the second Industrial Revolution, repeal of the Navigation Act and the Crimean War. The first Olsen family ship-owner, Fredrik Christian Olsen, starts operating two small Brigatine sailing ships in Hvitsten, a small village on the Oslofjord in Norway. These very quickly grow to a fleet of three-masted Barks (a type of sailing vessel), transporting timber and ice mainly to Britain.

1850 to 1860 - Fredrik Christian’s brothers, both also captains, become ship-owners – Petter in 1852, then Andreas in 1860 – adding more vessels to their combined fleet. After Fredrik Christian dies in 1875 Petter continues the operation of his vessels.

1880 - Petter’s son, Thomas Fredrik Olsen (Fred.), takes command of one of his father’s vessels at the age of 23, becoming a ship-owner in 1884.

1892 - Fred. Olsen purchases his largest sailing ship, the four masted full rigger, Morning Light (later lending its name to the Morning Light Pub on board each of the current four ships).

1896 - Fred. Olsen places an order on behalf of a newly-established company, A/S Bonheur, for the first steamship in his fleet, Bayard – named after one of the vessels that started his ship-owning career. The purchase starts a family custom that most of the Fred. Olsen ships should bear names beginning with the letter ‘B’. This period can be seen as the start of the third Industrial Revolution.

1901 - Fred. Olsen acquires the Færder Steamship Company, a first decisive venture into the passenger business. First passenger links with Grangemouth in Scotland.

1906 - First passenger links with Newcastle established.

1914 to 1918 - 23 of the fleet of 44 ships are lost during the events of World War I.

1926 - With the diesel engine powered Brabant, a new generation of passenger vessels commences operation. Fred. Olsen & Co were among the very first to use diesel engines, starting in 1914.

1933 - Fred. Olsen dies and his sons Rudolf and Thomas Fredrik (Thomas) take over the running of the business, the latter from the USA during World War II.

1936 - Thomas introduces figureheads to modern ships.

1938 - The Olsens introduce the Black Prince and the Black Watch, named in honour of England and Scotland respectively.

1939 to 1945 - Black Prince and Black Watch are lost in the turmoil of World War II, along with 26 other vessels.

1948 - The start of the greatest and last Industrial Revolution; advances in every field of human endeavour.

1951 to 1953 - Blenheim, named in honour of Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim Palace, the Churchill family seat, is introduced to the fleet, followed two years later by Braemar, named in tribute to Scotland and the British Royal Family. The new ships are among the most eye-catching liners of the period.