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Happy 70th birthday BACA

From humble beginnings in a City of London coffee shop to the modern age of international air charter, we take a look back at BACA’s long and illustrious history.

A look back at BACA

The history of BACA’s parent organisation, the Baltic Exchange, actually stretches back 275 years, to a coffee house in the City of London.

In the early 1700s, with trade increasing through the Port of London, enterprising sea captains needed somewhere to negotiate prices and arrange their next load of cargo. Much like the insurance brokers who gathered at Mr Lloyd’s, the group gravitated towards the coffee shops of the Square Mile.

In 1744, the Virginia and Maryland coffee house on Threadneedle Street changed its name to Virginia and Baltick to reflect the region where its clientele traded. At the start of the 1800s, a committee of coffee house regulars was created and formal trading processes and regulations were introduced, with the Baltic Company Limited launching in 1857.

In 1900, the Company joined the London Shipping Exchange and became the Baltic Mercantile & Shipping Exchange and moved to nearby St Mary Axe.

The advent of air charters

Air charters began in 1929 and in the mid-1940s an aviation division was set up to focus on this exciting new industry. Originally known as the Air Freight Advisory Committee, the Airbrokers’ Association was created in 1949 – the first airfreight exchange in the world.

In 1976 membership was extended to airlines and the organisation changed its name to the Baltic Air Charter Association (BACA).

On 10 April 1992, the historic Baltic Exchange building was destroyed by an IRA bomb. With the site unsalvageable, BACA took up various temporary homes before moving to 38 St Mary Axe in 1995. The site of the original Exchange is now home to 30 St Mary Axe – better known as the Gherkin.

One surviving element of the original building is a section of the Baltic Exchange Memorial Glass – a huge stained glass dome that once topped the foyer – which was painstakingly reconstructed for display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

A bright future

In 2017, the Association incorporated and became a Company Limited by Guarantee, changing its name to BACA – The Air Charter Association Ltd.

Now, after nearly three centuries, the Association continues to evolve and grow, with membership doubling in the last decade. The last five years in particular have seen a number of changes including the Association’s first ever conference and exhibition, Air Charter Expo (ACE) and a number of new events and initiatives.

Chairman Nick Weston said, “During our 70th year, BACA shall continue our work to become the global voice of brokers worldwide. These are busy but exciting times and the BACA Council will be working hard to deliver an outstanding 70th anniversary year for our members, including a rebrand which will be launched at our birthday party event.”

We think that’s well worth raising a toast. Congratulations BACA and happy birthday!



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