In 1885 Andrew Weir bought a four-master barque named the "Willowbank". It was his first step towards founding an enterprise that by the turn of the century would be the largest private fleet ever to fly the British flag.

AWS incorporated 4 shipowners - United Baltic Corporation, MacAdrews, Ellerman, Bank Line - whose main activity for many years had been shipping and transport related services.

Today AWS are no longer involved in liner shipping themseves, however do offer services related to shipping - such as: ship management including ship building and technical supervision, stevedoring, bunker service as well as cruises on board of cargo vessels.