The world's oldest shipping company, a British firm started during the reign of George II, is going out of business after 282 years of sailing.

Stephenson Clarke Shipping Ltd., which sold its last six dry bulk container vessels in July, was sunk by plummeting rates for shipping commodities like coal, iron and grains. Rates crashed -- they are down 55 percent so far this year -- because dry bulk shipping companies ordered large numbers of vessels from 2007 to 2009, when freight rates climbed to record highs, creating an oversupply that has been made worse by the global economic slowdown.

On Aug. 3 a liquidator was appointed to dispose of the remaining assets of the company, which is based in Newcastle, England.

"While previous economic downturns have been weathered, the current market is one of the worst experienced for many years with no upturn forecast for at least 12 to 18 months," the company said in a statement.