Page 107 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 107

 The two shipyards were disposed of in the following years. The East India Company now entered into shipping contracts with private shipowners. These were one voyage contracts at an agreed price per ton. The owners of the ships were Thames-side shipbuilders - including the new owners of the former Company yards at Deptford and Blackwall - and the big business world of London. Around 1680 Sir Henri Johnson Jr. held shares in 39 ships, 33 of which had been chartered by the East India Company. In this way some of the Company's directors hired their own ships! Such overlapping of interests was forbidden in 1708, but even so it remained a small world of shipowners, with close links with the Company, who hired out their ships. It was customary for the ships to make a number of consecutive voyages, after which the owners and their captains had the tacit right to make another ship available. The term 'hereditary bottoms' was used openly.3
What it boiled down to was that the East India Company hired cargo space in privately owned ships built specifically for the Asia trade, and this from a closed circle of shipowners. These owners had a monopoly enabling them to exact high rates. The periods of hire were fixed in advance. To exceed the time limit cost the Company extra money. This is why Chaudhuri writes as a matter of course about 'the efficient utilization of ships'4, something much less applicable in the VOC's case. The shipowners also supplied the ship's companies. Mostly the ships were used for four voyages out and back, but more or less than this number was not exceptional.
One of the abuses of the English system was the chartering of too many ships. In 1772 the Britisch government intervened, partly to safeguard the navy's interest in the stocks of shipbuilding materials. It was now forbidden to charter ships as long as the number already available was not reduced below a certain level. In 1796 the East India Company was forced to hire ships by public tender.5 It is not known whether the English system was cheaper than that of the VOC. Rates of hire could be geared by the shipowners to the period of four voyages. There was no need for the system to stimulate the building of faster ships. But the contracts did provoke close attention to the duration of voyages. The VOC in the East had free disposal over its own ships, which the East India Company had not.
Other foreign companies were, like the VOC, owners of their ships. The Compagnie des Indes built ships in its own yards at Lorient from 1720. In Portugal the Crown was owner. The Compagnie van Oostende had acquired its thirteen ships by purchase (1722— 1727/31). T h e Danish Asiatisk Kompagnie owned from 1732 a shipyard i n Copenhagen and only very exceptionally acquired ships from third parties. T h e Swedish Ostindiska Kompaniet, established in Gothenburg in 1731, purchased its ships from private Swedish shipyards, principally in Stockholm.6 The East India Company therefore was the only large concern not in ownership of its means of transport.
The East Indiamen were built in Europe, not in Asia. In the large VOC shipyard on the small island of Onrust outside Batavia only repairs were undertaken. Smaller ships only,
3 Chaudhuri, The English East India Company, 95-100; Sutton, Lords of the East, 17-31.
4 Chaudhuri, The trading world,!1.
5 Cotton and Fawcett, East Indiamen, 41-50. I.e., 39, the fascinating account of a captain who,
having been dismissed for smuggling, promptly bought the French ship MODESTE, which he
managed to hire out to the Company under the name LOCKO via his former ship's husband! 6Denoix,'LaCompagniedesIndes',149-150;Boxer,ThePortugueseseaborneempire,57and209;
Velschow, 'Voyages', 148; Koninckx, Swedish East India Company, 156-157; Degryse, 'De mari- tieme organisatie', 19-24 and 49-55.

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