Who We Are

John Shirley Ltd are an unusual international freight forwarder. Although we ship around the world our expertise is the Balkans, and Eastern Europe, in particular Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia. Slovenia and Slovakia and the Ukraine. We speak the languages and have a firm grasp of what is happening there now and how to best get the goods collected or delivered, quickly and efficiently.

Employing major shipping lines and hauliers from throughout the Balkans and eastern Europe, as an international freight forwarder, we are the key to the transportation of goods for commercial organisations and multi-national charitable bodies. We oversee the loading, transit, and discharge of dozens of trucks and containers a week all over Europe from our base at Dover Harbour Station in Dover.

In addition to our gung-ho approach to shipping we try to reduce our ecological footprint as best we can. We have no company cars, we use bicycles in conjunction with the train, we recycle and we plant where possible around the yards. At the bottom of the page there is a photograph at the Green Apple Awards in November 2012, where we were awarded a Bronze in the Transport category. In April 2013 we bought the former Dover Harbour Station from P&O. It was built in 1861 and closed in 1927. It has been used as a bonded warehouse and during WWII as a morgue. There is cell with a steel door under the clocktower which is a mystery and we recently found a working sash window behind some paneling. In 2014 we demolished steel fabrications on the site of the customs baggage halls and partly rebuilt the arched walls. In 2015 we discovered a double chimney taking the smoke from the fireplaces in two adjacent rooms. By the end of that year we had created two spaces named after famous engineers: The Gilbert Scott Suite and the John Grimshaw Rooms. In 2017 we tackled the St.Sava Room and the Booking Hall which are now known for live music with bands such as The Sugar Hill Gang and Bad Manners having played there. Currently we are working on the Brunel Room where we have uncovered yet another fireplace.

Green Apple Awards at the House of Commons in November 2012. John Shirley received a bronze.

In the impressive and distinctive surrounding of the House of Commons not far from the Great Hall where Nelson Mandela spoke, where Charles the 1st was put on trial and many years before that, William Wallace (Braveheart) in 1302 The Green Organisation presented the company with a Bronze for cutting carbon. Arriva North West won the Gold and Logica the Silver. Appropriately in a corner of the room were two company Brompton folding bicycles which had been combined with the High-Speed 1 train to get from Dover to the ceremony.Mr.Shirley commented that “with this award customers can be sure that we do all we can to meet the exigencies of Corporate Social Governance”.

People we work with

Our Team

John Shirley

John Shirley founded the company at the age of 34 after gaining experience working as a commodity trader in London.

The decision to specialise in Eastern Europe was inspired by his travels around the Balkan region and after achieving fluency studying Serbo-Croatian as an undergraduate at the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, UCL London.

After to-ing and fro-ing over a possible company name, his wife Emily suggested to him ‘John Shirley LTD’ as when you associate your name with something, you become personally invested in its professional outcome. The company has now existed for 22 years, having seen various staff coming and going and, at other times, having an added family dynamic (specifically John’s three adult children) to take over the reins of specific operational roles. John has overseen the company growing and adapting over its two decades of existence and has witnessed particular highlights such as during the Bosnian War period when the government used John Shirley LTD’s specialist services to assist in the humanitarian aid effort in that region.

To this day, the company is still involved in sending humanitarian aid but now not just to Bosnia, but all over Europe and occasionally even further afield to destinations such as Asia or Africa.

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Margaret Shirley

Margaret has three years experience working in the freight industry with specific focus on the IT and operations side of the company.

Courses taken: A Level French and Introductory Croatian at the School of Eastern European and Slavonic Studies, UCL.

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Julia Harrington

Julia joined John Shirley Limited from Saint Ronan’s School based in Hawkhurst. In August 2010, she took over responsibility for the Accounts.

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Winnie is a Jackadoodle who fulfils the role of office dog.

Her favourite things to do include; chasing seagulls, begging treats off Julia and loudly greeting the postman in the mornings.


Company Statistics


professionals in our team


years of successful work


satisfied clients


square meters warehouse