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Société Navale Caennaise (Shipping company, France)

Last modified: 2014-05-24 by ivan sache
Keywords: societe navale caennaise | letters: snc (white) | bouet | letters: fb (white) | compagnie maritime de transport de goudron | cross: saltire (blue) | letters: cmtg (blue) |
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[Societe Navale Caennaise house flag]

House flag of SNC - Image by Ivan Sache, 22 November 2003

See also:

Presentation of SNC

Société Navale Caennaise (SNC, locally known as "la Navale") is another example of a shipping company that followed the model of dynastic capitalism, successfully picking up again after the two World Wars, and eventually disappeared during the big horizontal integration that took place in the French shipping sector in the 1990s.
Caen is the capital of the department of Calvados, and of the Region of Lower-Normandy and one of the former capitals of the Duchy of Normandy. Caen is linked to the English Channel by the Canal from Caen to the Sea, parallel to the river Orne and has therefore an important and ancient port of commerce, originally established downtown, in the St. Pierre Basin.

SNC was founded by the Lamy family, which kept control of the company until June 1988. Originally coal merchants, the Lamy bought their first ship in 1837 and incorporated the René et Georges Lamy company in 1898. In 1903, several smaller, local shipowners joined Lamy and the company was renamed Société Navale Caennaise - G. Lamy et Cie. Georges Lamy managed the company until his death in 1951. It was decided that all the company's ships would bear a mythological name, the first of them being the Thisbé.
Lamy purchased steamers from the shipyards of Sunderland (England), so that he owned seven steamers in 1914. All of them were requisitioned by the Navy during the First World War, and only three ships survived the war. In 1920-1924, Lamy bought another five ships in England and his first French ship, the Circé 2, in 1926. The main competitor of Lamy in Caen was Armement Fernand Bouet, also founded in 1903. However, Bouet did not recover from the War and sold its five ships to Lamy between 1928 and 1934. That same year, the Lamy company was incorporated as the LLC Société Navale Caennaise - Anciennement G. Lamy & Cie, with Georges Lamy as its CEO. The SNC operated 17 ships in 1939. Once again, all these ships were requisitioned by the allied forces or captured by the Axis forces, and only five of them were still usable in 1945.

Georges Lamy progressively appointed his son-in-law, Georges Guillin, as his successor. The SNC could buy six new and two second-hand ships as war damages. Between 1951 and 1960, twelve liberty-ships granted by the Marshall plan were added to the fleet, which were the first ocean-going ships owned by the SNC.
The SNC penetrated the Mediterranean market in 1958 and operated "polythermic" ships, with both refrigerated holds and wine tanks. In 1960, the company expanded to the Indian Ocean and to the coast of Africa, especially for tropical hardwood shipping. Including also chemical, ore and wine tankers, the SNC fleet peaked to 27 units. The Algerian independence caused a first crisis at the SNC, which had to abandon wine transportation between Algeria and France. While the SNC diversified out of shipping activity, Guillin died in 1979 and was succeeded by the husband of one of his nieces, Jean-Michel Blanchard.

In 1979, the SNC group was restructured, keeping only four main sectors, shipping to the African coast, Mediterranean Sea (via the Sudcargos company) and the Indian Ocean, and wine transportation (via the NTV Leduc company). One of the main competitors of the SNC, Delmas, raided the SNC in 1989 and bought 29% of the shares of the company. The Bolloré group bought 12% of the shares to oppose to Delmas. In June 1988, the Lamy family abandoned its 59% of the shares to Bolloré. In 1992, Bolloré incorporated the SNC to Delmas, which had been absorbed a few years before. The SNC ceased to operate ships, although some of the ships formerly sailing under the SNC house flag are still sailing under other name and flag.

The most famous of the SNC ships was the unfortunate Niobé, sunk by the German Air Force in the port of Le Havre on 11 June 1940. Only 11 passengers and crew members survived the attack. The number of passengers was not exactly known, and the rumor spread that several Dutch and Belgian Jewish diamond merchants were on board. The Niobé was therefore supposed to have carried a "diamond treasure". The wreck was eventually localized in 2002 but its exact location was not disclosed to prevent desecration attempts.

Source: La Navale website, maintained by former employees of the SNC.

Ivan Sache, 22 November 2003

House flag of SNC

The house flag of SNC is rectangular, in proportion 1:2, horizontally divided white-red-white (1:2:1) with the letters "SNC" in white on the red stripe (same source as above).

Ivan Sache, 22 November 2003

Armement Fernand Bouet

[Bouet house flag]         [Bouet house flag]

House flag of Armement Fernand Bouet, two variants - Image by Ivan Sache, 3 October 2010

Armement Fernand Bouet was a shipping company based in Caen. Founded in 1903, the company operated in 1913 eight modern ships (1,750-2,400 tons), transporting 600,000 tons of good each year. At the end of the First World War, the company had lost 68% of its tonage and could not recover. Bouet eventually sold its last ships to its local rival, SNC, in 1934.
See L'Armement Caennais by F. Bouet & G. Lamy, pp. 39-31, in Le Calvados, Special issue, Supplement to L'Illustration économique et financière, #8, 25 July 1925.

The house flag of Armement Fernand Bouet is shown in Lloyd's book of house flags and funnels of the principal steamship lines of the world and the house flags of various lines of sailing vessels, published at Lloyd's Royal Exchange. London. E.C. (1912) [LLo12], also available online thanks to the Mystic Seaport Foundation, #1051, p. 87, as a white flag with a blue border and a blue diamond charged with the letters "FB".
The Yearbook of the Central Committee of France Shipowners (1922) shows a similar house flag, but the diamond has curved edges.

Ivan Sache & Dominique Cureau, 3 October 2010

Compagnie Maritime de Transport de Goudron

[House flag of CMTG]         [House flag of CMTG]

House flag of CMTG, two versions - Images by Ivan Sache, 10 March 2014

The Compagnie Maritime de Transport de Goudron (CMTG), founded by the SNC, operated the oil tanker Donges.

The house flag of the CMTG, as shown on a color plate, is white with a blue saltire cantonned with the blue letters "C", "M", "T" and "G". Merchant Marine Houseflags and Stack Insignia (US Navy Hydrographic Office, 1961) shows the flag with black letters.

Ivan Sache & Klaus-Michael Schneider, 10 March 2014