Stannard Bros is connected to the Stannard family, who have had one of the longest associations of any family with commercial maritime activities on Sydney Harbour. Their business expanded to cover ports around Australia until the family sold most of its operations to other interests in the 1980s.
The company was registered in 1923 as Stannard Bros in NSW. The business was then run by Albert Stannard, the third generation of the Stannard family. His grandfather was William Stannard, who arrived in Australia in 1835. After serving in the Royal Navy which was followed by some success on the Californian Goldfields, William returned to Sydney in 1854 where he became a waterman, rowing passengers across Sydney Harbour. By 1864 he was settled in Double Bay and had a small fleet of sailing boats and pulling boats for hire.
William married in 1856, and his first born William followed him in the trade, obtaining his waterman's license in 1881, as well as being trained as a boat builder. In 1911 when his parents died William (the son) took over the business, which was then operating from the Man-O-War steps on the eastern side of Bennelong Point. It was also known as Fort Macquarie. In 1915 his son Albert became part of the family business helping with their pulling boat ROSE. By the 1920s Albert was running the business, which as well as pulling boats included petrol powered launches. The Stannards were abreast of the times, which was to be a feature of their continued expansion and success.
Stannard Bros provided a versatile service on the Harbour during the 1920s and 30s. Based around a fleet of wooden launches (with names taken from country towns) and powered lighters they carried stores, cargo, passengers and tradesmen between ships and shore or from wharf to wharf around the Harbour and Parramatta River. The passenger launches operated from Fort Macquarie, while the lighters ran from a new depot at the bottom of Erskine Street in Darling Harbour. Their first diesel tug BLACKHEATH was launched in 1937.
World War II saw Sydney Harbour almost overwhelmed with activity on occasions, and the Stannard Bros fleet worked hard with little time for maintenance. At the war's end they bought their first big tug, a surplus 40 ft tow boat they called BEGA, and continued on as before servicing shipping and commercial activities. Albert's son Alan was managing the business by the end of the 1940s, the fourth generation of what was then one of the most well respected names about the harbour.
Stannard Bros (Port Kembla) Pty Ltd was formed in 1953 as Port Kembla developed into a thriving commercial port and in the same year Stannard Bros Towage Pty Ltd was formed with its first vessel the 40 ft tow boat EDEN working at Whyalla. It was later joined by sister ship LEETON.
Towards the end of World War II Stannards had taken over Holmes shed at McMahons Point in East Crescent Lavender Bay and had their own slipways and repair facility for both their own craft and to take on work for other companies. In 1958 they moved to WM Ford's site in Berrys Bay, bringing continuity to shipbuilding on that site for a few more decades. In 1963 Stannard Bros Slipway and Engineering was formed and their naval architect John Boulton designed steel tugs for service around the country. One of the early ones was GLADSTONE, (HV000174) the first ever tug for the Queensland port of that name.
Stannards tug activities saw the company expand to more than ten ports around the country and there was a brief move to include operations in Singapore and New Zealand. By the 1980s much larger shipping firms were operating in the same field and same ports, and the Stannard family gradually sold off their major operations to these larger firms and came back to maintaining a much smaller business known as Stannard Marine Services, managed by Chris Stannard. In 1967 they had taken over the venerable Nicholson Bros lighterage and ferry company and their base at Snails Bay, but this site was later sold off leaving them sharing the Berrys Bay site. The yard was then known as the North Sydney Marine Centre, but in 2009 this is now one of many sites for the Noakes Group of marine services.