Chambers of Commerce and of Shipping are voluntary local institutions whose object is to promote, each in its own branch, the mercantile and maritime welfare of the nation and particularly of their district; to collect, classify, and diffuse statistical and other information on all matters of general commercial and maritime interest; to co-operate in promoting, opposing, or amending measures touching the interest of the commercial community; to point out and obtain the removal of all acknowledged grievances affecting merchants or ship-owners as a body, or mercantile and maritime interests; to receive and decide references on matters of usage and custom in dispute, recording such decisions for future guidance and thus assisting to form and improve the code of practice for simplifying and facilitating business ; to communicate with the Board of Trade and other departments of the Government or public authorities in general and with similar associations in other places, and all subjects of general mercantile and marine interest, and to arbitrate between parties willing to abide by the judgment of the Chamber.
The institution of Chambers of Commerce in the United Kingdom has existed in principle since the year 1783, when one was started in Glasgow by Royal Charter; Liverpool did not establish one till the year 1850, and London in 1881.
The formation of such bodies is left entirely to the private enterprise of the trading community of a place; the Chambers are mercantile associations, duly “incorporated, wherein every important branch of local trade or industry is represented.
In some the members are divided into sections, according to their particular line of business, the interest of each section being intrusted to a working committee, the Chairman whereof holds a seat in the Council, by which the business of the Chambers is administered.
The funds required to meet the exigencies of the Chamber are supplied by regular contributions paid in by the members. The membership of the Chamber is granted on application, the election being proposed by one and seconded by another of the existing members.