Page 108 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 108

 destined for service in Asia, were purchased from Asiatic shipbuilders in India and later also in Java. Financial and practical considerations (the supply of certain materials) always made the Heren Zeventien cling to building at home. The use of the SCHAAPHERDER (5884), built in the Indies in 1690, and of the BATAVIER (6967), launched in Batavia in 1735, for return trips between home and Asia was quite exceptional. Shipbuilding in the home country provided work for one's own people and kept the money at home. For organisational reasons the East India Company abandoned the idea of shipbuilding in Bombay. Besides, vested interests caused opposition from the Thames-side shipbuilders. Not until well into the eighteenth century, in 1777, did scarcity of shipbuilding materials in England and experience of the high quality of Indian shipbuilding lead the Company to the purchase of the odd ship in Bombay. These teak ships were longer lasting than the European ones.7 In fact the VOC had preceded the British with such a purchase. In 1772 the trading post in China purchased from the governor of Macao, in replacement of a recently wrecked East Indiaman, another slightly larger ship, and named it HERSTEL- DER (7877). This ship had been built in Bombay and would prove a very good buy. The hull planking, joined with rabbets and not caulked, provided excellent watertightness.8 However, no further purchases followed. The Portuguese on the other hand from the sixteenth century had their East Indiamen built in Goa, and later in Brazil as well.9
The East India Company did not deploy old ships. Most of the time the ships made four voyages, and rarely did they serve for longer than ten years. The VOC on the other hand used its vessels for as long as they were in a fit state. Six, seven or more voyages by one ship were not exceptional.
The MEIJENBURG (2227), built in 1713 by the Zeeland chamber, made eleven voyages to Asia up to 1738, after which the ship was broken up in Batavia. This was the highest number of return trips ever made by a VOC ship. The use of an older but regularly maintained ship could be more economical than the acquisition of a new one. Older ships remaining at sea did not necessarily lose much of their original speed. The MEIJENBURG completed the passage from the Cape to Batavia on her ninth and tenth voyage in the same time as on her first and second (2227,2299, 2938 and 3101)! The VOC did not insure its own ships, only the hired ones. It had rules on the assessment of a ship's depreciation after its return home.1 0
Tables 23 and 24 give a survey of the average time taken by ships in completing the passage between the Republic and the Cape, according to their age.
In the eighteenth century the VOC kept its ships longer in the Asia return trade than before. A fixed rule is not apparent. The French, Danish and Swedish companies acted in the same way as the Dutch.1 1
The VOC was during its existence the largest shipowner in the Asiatic trade. It had more ships at sea making more voyages between Europe and Asia than any other company,
7 Chaudhuri, The English EastIndia Company,98; Chaudhuri, The trading world, 202; Cotton and Fawcett, East Indiamen, 50-51; Qaisar, Shipbuilding in Mughal empire, 160-164; Dermigny, La Chine, 790-794.
8 Mulder, 'H et vergaan van het fregat Rhijnsburg', 625-628.
9 Mauro, Le Portugal, 43-49; Boxer, The Portuguese seaborne empire, 57 and 207-211.
10 Van Hogendorp, Stukken raakende ... Oost-Indië, 269-270; Jörg, Porcelain, 24.
11 Dermigny, La Chine, 208; G0bel, 'Kinafarter', 28-41; Velschow, 'Voyages', 149-150; Koninckx,
Swedish East India Company, 173.

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