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Alfred Holt and Company, marketed as the Blue Funnel Line, was founded by Alfred Holt on 16 January 1866. The main operating subsidiary was the Ocean Steam Ship Company, which owned and operated the majority of the company's vessels.
A Dutch subsidiary, the Nederlandsche Stoomvaart Maatschappij Oceaan, was founded in 1891, as was the East India Ocean Steam Ship Company, operated from Singapore. This latter was sold in 1899 to Norddeutscher Lloyd. The company acquired the competing China Mutual Steam Navigation Company in 1902, keeping it on the books as a separate company but operating it as part of the Blue Funnel Line.
Ships of the Blue Funnel fleet all had names from classical Greek legend or history. The majority were cargo ships, but most of the Ocean SS Co cargo ships also had capacity for a few passengers. The line also had a small number of purely passenger vessels.
The Blue Funnel Line came to an end in 1988, when Ocean Group withdrew from the Barber Blue Sea Service, its last shipping line.