About

At W.E. Dowds (Shipping) Ltd., we have a rich history of providing exceptional steel stevedore services to clients across various industries. Our History page is dedicated to sharing our story, from our humble beginnings to becoming a reputable and trusted name in the industry.

Our History

W.E. Dowds was established in 1960 by William Dowds. The company started in Newport Docks as a coal trading business, owning two small mines in Monmouthshire, and buying locally mined coal. Primarily the coal was sold to Uskmouth Power Station but also exported through Newport and Cardiff Docks.

W.E. Dowds Youtube Video - Introducing a premier location for your steel into the UK Introducing a premier location for your steel into the UK

1965

The company was given six months’ notice to leave Newport Docks. At this time Bill owned a small piece of land situated near to the River Usk. However, his land did not have access to the river and so Bill swapped plots with another local family who owned land situated on the river front. This allowed Bill to build Penmaen Wharf which became known locally as Dowds Wharf. In addition to crawler cranes, Dowds also operated a small fleet of tipper lorries and worked in conjunction with a local haulier to offer distribution services.

The company began to sell coal to British Steel at Llanwern and Dowds Wharf was used for exporting coal and importing coke both on its own account and for third parties. In 1978 W.E. Dowds Ltd. entered a joint venture with BFC (Fuels) Ltd and opened a coal exporting venture from Graigola Wharf in Swansea Docks.

History - 1965 - W.E. Dowds (Shipping) Ltd. From left to right: Joe Lynch, Dyker, Jerry Thomas and Tommy Young

The business also operated its own vessels, the MV Brandon and the MV Colston mostly shipping coal to Holland from Swansea. This was also the year in which Charles Dowds, William’s son, joined the company and would later step in to replace his father as Managing Director of the company.

Charles was keen to expand the operation and over the next five years the company continued to handle import and export steel and other products. Bill continued to focus on the coal business.

History - 1980 - W.E. Dowds (Shipping) Ltd. Crane offloading coal from Russia

1983

The miners’ strike severely affected the organisation, permanently closing Graigola Wharf and temporarily closing the Newport wharf to coal exports. The direction of the company started to change. In the 1980’s it became a buyer of imported coking coal for British Steel and purchased surplus coke breeze for export. Dowds were also contracted by British Steel to screen sinter and coke inside Llanwern steelworks. As well as continuing to handle steel coils for British Steel, Dowds became the main import facility for Alcan Deutschland handling aluminium ingots and coils. It was at this time that Dowds began to work with Ensidesa of Spain and the German company Thyssen thus taking the first steps towards becoming a specialist steel handling business. Whilst this business developed the stevedoring operation also began to diversify as Dowds began handling other products such as animal feed, fertiliser timber, salt and sand.

History - 1983 - W.E. Dowds (Shipping) Ltd. Loading export coils for British Steel

1989

The Dock Labour Scheme was abolished. Until then, in the 63 DLS ports, the port authorities were prevented by law from allowing any non-port related activity within their boundaries. With the end of the Dock Labour Scheme in 1989 private companies were permitted to supply stevedoring services within scheme ports. Dowds, seeing an opportunity to expand its business, became the first independent company to move into an ABP port, opening a warehouse to receive steel coils. By this time the end of iron making in Llanwern was in motion and so the long history of solid fuel trading for Dowds was coming to an end. All attention was now given to stevedoring and distribution under a new company W.E. Dowds (Shipping) Ltd.

History - 1989 - W.E. Dowds (Shipping) Ltd. Steel coils at Penmaen Wharf, with Newport Transporter Bridge in the background

In 1989 the company moved all its business into the Newport Dock. Starting off with a single warehouse in the port, the company then built another shed and in the early 2000’s built a third shed. So far, the business had handled coaster size vessels but soon the first deep sea vessels were arriving at Newport with part cargos. This prompted the business to invest in heavier forklifts, the first Kalmar 25 tonne forklift being bought, and additional full-time employees. The company was now becoming known as a steel handling and distribution specialist and it expanded steadily.

History - 1988 Lorry Loading Steel Coil - W.E. Dowds (Shipping) Ltd. Loading palletised steel coils, 1989

Changing Times

The use of IT in retail warehousing and distribution was being developed and Charles Dowds was keen apply the technology into the Dowds business. He pioneered wireless based stock management software with an external IT developer – a first in the steel distribution sector. A key feature of the system was its accessibility to customers who were now able to view their stock at Newport and request deliveries.

Two full-time IT developers were employed to provide flexibility in refining the system further. The software is still in use today and has proved a key selling point in our relationship with steel traders and producers.

Additional services were offered including container stuffing, coil preparation and discharge of project cargos.

History - Changing Times - Handheld Scanner - W.E. Dowds (Shipping) Ltd. Hand held terminals were introduced 2003

Rapid growth from 2003 onwards resulted in investment in further warehousing facilities, I.T. and personnel. During this time, the business has never lost sight of its goals to provide a consistent, high-quality service with integrity at its core.

The business has continued to expand and now operates 8 covered warehouses in Newport and one in Cardiff Dock, in addition to open storage for ‘long product’ and plate. Most warehouses are equipped with heavy overhead cranes operated by remote control to improve safety and efficiency. Coil tongs are now a standard fitment to each crane to ensure that coils are handled in a safe manner, avoiding damage.

The business owns 14 heavy forklifts, up to 33 tonne capacity, some designed to be lifted aboard when discharging cargo from deep sea vessels. Steel coil consignments of up to 30,000 tonnes have been received, with all at W.E. Dowds taking pride in the speed of discharge and the efficient onward distribution of products.

History - Project Cargo - W.E. Dowds (Shipping) Ltd. Project cargo being discharged, 2018

We continue to serve many major customers in the steel producing, trading and processing sectors.

The business owns 14 heavy forklifts, up to 33 tonne capacity, some designed to be lifted aboard when discharging cargo from deep sea vessels. Steel coil consignments of up to 30,000 tonnes have been received, with all at W.E. Dowds taking pride in the speed of discharge and the efficient onward distribution of products.

We continue to serve many major customers in the steel producing, trading and processing sectors.

History - Steel Coils unloaded from vessel - W.E. Dowds (Shipping) Ltd. 30,000t coil cargo being discharged, 2023