Sea Containers Ltd. was a Bermuda-registered company which operated two main business areas: transport and container leasing. The company filed for bankruptcy on 16 October 2006. In 2009 its maritime container interests were transferred to a new company SeaCo Ltd, with the winding down and liquidation of the remainder of the group continuing.
Yale University graduate and retired United States Navy officer James Sherwood founded Sea Containers in 1965, with initial capital of $100,000. Over 40 years, Sherwood expanded Sea Containers from a supplier of leased cargo containers, into various shipping companies, as well as expanding the company into luxury hotels and railway trains, including the Venice-Simplon Orient Express and the Great North Eastern Railway franchise from London to Edinburgh.
Although valued with a net worth of £60million in the 2004 Sunday Times Rich List, as Sea Containers hit financial troubles, he resigned from each of his companies in 2006.
In March 2006 the company sold its share of Orient-Express Hotels.
In March 2006, Sherwood resigned from all positions in the various Sea Containers Companies. Sherwood was replaced by company doctor Bob MacKenzie, while Ian Durant became senior vice-president of finance.
Despite selling various businesses and asets, Sea Containers announced in early October 2006 that it was unlikely to be able to pay a $115m (£62m) bond due up on 15 October. On 16 October, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The documents revealed that Sea Containers has paid Sherwood $500k, MacKenzie just under £1.4m, and Durant £1.1m.
On 6 November 2006 the UK Pensions regulator wrote to Sea Containers that it must pay £143m to its two UK pension schemes if it wants to wind them up.
On 11 February 2009, its maritime container interests were transferred to a new company SeaCo Ltd, with the wind down and liquidation of the remainder of the group continuing. The major shareholders in the new company were the former Sea Containers Ltd bondholders and two of the group's UK pension funds.Silja Line – fast and conventional services in the Baltic Sea. In June 2006 Silja Line was purchased by Tallink, a ferry company from Estonia. The fast catamaran service SuperSeaCat was separated from Silja Line and operated until 2008 when it bankrupted.
SeaStreak – following the Sea Containers bankruptcy of 2006, this operation was sold to New England Fast Ferry.
On March 24, 2006 Sea Containers announced its intention to withdraw from the ferry business. These were:SeaStreak – fast ferry services between New York City and New Jersey (since sold to New England Fast Ferry)
SNAV-Hoverspeed – a joint venture with Italian ferry operator SNAV. Uses the former Seacat Danmark as Zara Jet.
Aegean Speed Lines – a joint venture in Greece with the Eugenides Group. The service uses the former Hoverspeed Great Britain as Speedrunner 1, which operated in the English Channel and held the Hales Trophy and Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the North Atlantic.
The following businesses have already been discontinued:Hoverspeed English Channel services
Related activities include:Hart Fenton – a naval architecture and marine engineering company, now incorporated in Houlder Ltd
Sea Containers Chartering Ltd.
GNER – a train operating company which operated high-speed express train services on the United Kingdom’s East Coast Main Line from 1996 through 2007. It was replaced by National Express East Coast which has subsequently been replaced with East Coast and then Virgin Trains East Coast.
Sea Containers container leasing business was conducted mainly through GE SeaCo, a joint venture with GE Capital formed in 1998. GE SeaCo was sold to HNA Group of China for approximately $1 billion on December 15, 2011 and now operates as Seaco.Sea Containers Property Services Ltd – property development, property asset management.
The Illustrated London News Group (ILNG) – publishing
Fruit farming – Sea Containers owned plantations in West Africa and South America.
Fairways & Swinford – UK-based business travel agency