Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company

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The Euphrates and Tigris Navigation Company was a steamship operating company, founded by the Lynch brothers on April 25, 1861. Though steamships were first introduced in the region in 1836 by Colonel F. R., the E & T Steam Navigation Company played a fundamental role to the region's trade revival and prosperity during the second half of the century. The E & T Steam Navigation Company was primarily established for transport services between Baghdad and Basra. Under the company’s management, two steamers made a regular weekly journey to Korna and Basrah along the Tigris (a distance of 800 km). Notably, steamers did not travel beyond Baghdad, which was only occasionally endeavored by sailing vessels, travelling to Samarra or beyond. Turkish vessels may have also made the trip, but these vessels were inefficient when compared to the E & T Steam Navigation Company’s vessels.

The E & T Steam Navigation Company operated primarily along the Tigris River, as it was preferred to the Euphrates for its ease of navigation. By 1908, eight to ten steamers, along with a few sailing vessels, travelled the Tigris River each year (were these all under the E & T Steam Navigation Company?). Still, by 1870, two steamers travelled the Euphrates, until one was lost in 1871 at Ardashir Island, after which use of the second steamer was discontinued.

Travelling along the Tigris likewise posed unique problems for steamships. Periodic floods transformed some areas of the river into vast lakes, making navigation difficult. And during the dry season of autumn and winter, the river’s water level would often diminish to such shallow levels, that the steamers risked grounding. This risk was aggravated by peasant farmers who lived along the banks of the river, as their irrigation channels would often decrease the total river flow, reducing levels of river water. To compensate for this risk, steamships were often unloaded and disembarked at these stretches, and laborers would pull the steamships with ropes.