Page 116 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 116

 The VOC lost relatively more ships in the China trade than the two northern companies. A total of eleven outward and nine return voyages ended prematurely, eight of them between Sunda Strait and Canton. Out of these twenty, twelve were lost between 1779 and 1793. The Danes and Swedes were no longer confronted with losses after 1769, before that year ten times, but only once in the South China Sea.2 9
Did the speedy and safe conduct of Asiatic shipping in general and of the China trade in particular escape the Heren Zeventien s attention? This was not the case, as can be shown in a number of ways.
The level of navigational skills
During the 1720's and 1730's the VOC was repeatedly afflicted by shipping disasters. N o fewer than 62 ships went down in these two decades. It happened particularly in the area round the Cape and on the Java to the Cape route. These losses did not go unnoticed in political circles, the States of Holland and the States-General. Doubts were expressed about the professional competence of the officers. Consideration of these matters was stimulated by Governor-General V an Imhoff s so-called Consideratiën, presented to the Heren Zeventien in 1741.30 In 1742 the master's instructions were revised. This was found to be an improvement. Calling at the Cape became subject to tighter regulations. A s already explained, during the southern winter months Table Bay was no longer to be used, False Bay being appointed a substitute. New rules were made for departure dates from the Republic and Asia. Masters and mates were given an extra incentive to greater speed by a revision of the existing bounty scheme for fast voyages. In 1746 any passage to Batavia or India, completed within six months, was awarded with nine hundred guilders, within five and a half months with as much as twelve hundred. For voyages of less than six and a half or seven months six- and three hundred guilders were already payable.31 On the whole these measures had a positive effect on safety and duration of voyages. Every year a number of ships stayed within the six months limit (exclusive of time spent at the Cape), a few even within five months. V an Imhoff s suggestion that the Cape should be passed by altogether in winter after victualling at the Cape Verde Islands, was not put into practice however.
In 1742, again following proposals by Van Imhoff, the long drawn out discussion on the quality of East Indiamen was concluded. With three new rates based on the Englishman Bentham's ideas, few shipwrecks occurred for the time being.
Van Imhoff also stimulated greater interest in the status and skills of ships' officers. In 1742 and 1748 it was decided that promotions were to be linked to certain requirements of skill and experience. Full time instruction at the new Zeemanscollege in Amsterdam
was made compulsory. In Batavia in 1743 an Académie de Marine was opened for the training of officers. Status was raised by the use of the title of captain for masters of larger vessels, though they were not made equal in rank to naval officers. For this their standard was not yet considered sufficiently high. Y et a number of unemployed naval officers
29 Jörg, Porcelain, 195-201; G0bel, 'Kinafarter', 38-41; G0bel, 'Voyages to China', 21; Koninckx, Swedish East India Company, 158-159. To what extent the overloading of East Indiamen played a part in the disasters is not considered here.
30 Krom, Gustaaf Willem van Imhoff, 83-97; Heeres, 'De 'Consideration", 463-472 and 565-572; Veenendaal (ed.), 'Isaac de Pinto', 129; Steur, Herstel of ondergang, 38-47.
31 Res. Gouverneur-Generaal en Raden of 12.7.1746, printed in Van der Chijs, Plakaatboek V , 339.

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