Proud of our past, ambitious for the future

History of the Denholm Group

The history of the Denholm Group is largely to do with the ownership, operation and servicing of ships a brief resume is given on this page. A full version can be obtained on application.


In 1866, James Denholm set up his Ships Agency in Greenock, on the Firth of Clyde.  In 1869 he was joined by his younger brother John and the business of J. & J. Denholm was begun.

David Sinclair2.jpgIn 1872, the brothers found investors to back the purchase of their first sailing ship, David Sinclair.  A further ten sailing vessels followed before they made the transition to steam in 1882.  The first steam ship was the 'Carronpark' and this started a theme of vessels named after the five Greenock parks. 

Denholm weathered both World Wars during which they lost a total of 11 vessels to enemy action.  After the Second World War the company, now run by John Denholm's sons John and William, made the decision to rebuild the fleet, despite the greatly increased cost of ships post war. 

A number of joint owning companies were formed with Connels, Lithgows and Clarksons and in each of these ventures Denholm's role was to technically manage the ships. Before long they were approached to manage ships which were owned by third parties and a ship management business was born. Under the guidance of William Denholm's sons Ian and Robert the ship management business grew to be a world leader in the field and at one point had over one per cent of the world tonnage under management.

Foreseeing the slump in shipping markets following the oil shocks of the 1970's the Denholm's decided to diversify their interests away from the owning and operation of ships. Firstly they developed the original ship agency business through a series of acquisiitons into what is the Logistics business today. Then they bought the Seafoods business of Christian Salvesen and developed this into today's Seafoods business. Finally through a series of acquisitions they developed the current Oilfield Services business. This diversification was led by Ian Denholm's son John and he still heads up the business today.

The Ships Agency continued to develop and expand as Denholm Shipping Services.  In 2003 this was added to, with the acquistion of the Bahr Behrend Group of companies to form the basis of what was to become the  Logistics Division. 

Today, despite bureaucratic restrictions, the Seafoods Division maintains a strong presence in the Fishing industry of Scotland.  With a pelagic processing operation in Peterhead and Fishselling and Vessel Support operations around the coast of Scotland and Northern Ireland, Seafoods remains a significant part of Denholm business.

When painting ships and structures, the need to prepare and access these quickly becomes apparent.  To the painting business were added pressure washing and scaffolding operations and companies and so from Denholm Offshore Services came the Industrial Services Division.

This Industrial Services Division in turn spawned the Oilfield Services Division which tackles specific support to the Oil & Gas industry and now has operations not only in the UK but around the Middle East and the Caspian Region.