The Ship Finance Industry is has to be as old as ships themselves...
There are many theories about when ships first started to be used. So it is not easy to find a common ground to start from when examining the topic. But modern ship financing can be said to have started approximately 500 years ago. Financing of ships during this period started to focus on the interaction between shipowners and bankers.
These relationships flourished in big port towns such as Amsterdam.
Hamburg and Rotterdam were two other big European ports. These types of ports were hubs that would handle masses of cargo at the time. They still do. Ship finance during this period was similar to that of the previous millennia. Shipping expeditions were set-up and completed as once-off projects. Large groups of investors were involved.
Exploration started to become less important
Especially during the last part of this period. Merchant shipping now became the dominant maritime activity.