Page 192 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 known. Early in the eighties the Heren Zeventien noticed an enormous overcapacity.
Towards the end of the century it became customary for around 80% of the tonnage
arriving in Asia to be used again on the homeward voyage, once more with the exception
of the period 1740-50. The Navale Magi which in 1670 still recorded 107 ships, was in
1775 reduced to 35 ships. In table 36 is indicated what percentage of ships departed from
Asia. Until around 1680 generally nearly half the ships stayed in Asia, from then on this
became gradually less. From 1710 roughly speaking four out of five East Indiamen returned
to the Republic. This development in the eighteenth century runs more or less parallel
to that of shipping volume and average tonnage per ship. This had been different in the
seventeenth century, when the government in Batavia tended to exclude the smaller ships
from the homeward trade. This explains why the average tonnage of the homeward fleet
at that time was markedly greater than that of the outward bound fleet.
Surveying both centuries of shipping in their entirety, the period up to 1660 and the
years 1700-1730 may be characterized as of rapid growth. In the intervening decades this
growth was only gradual. After 1730 - with the exception of the years 1740-50 - shipping
movements remained at the same level as was reached in that year. This continued until
the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War. The ships required for this traffic were in the eighteenth
century relatively smaller in number and were used increasingly for a direct regular link,
which by no means was the case in the previous century.
Cargoes of outward bound ships
For the acquisition of Asiatic products and for the development and maintenance of a
trading and administrative apparatus in Asia and at the Cape, goods and funds were
needed, as well as personnel. The outward bound ships therefore did not sail entirely in
ballast, though the holds were never as crammed with useful cargo as on the homeward
voyage. The Republic and the rest of Europe manufactured no products for which there
was a great demand in Asia or which could compete with Asiatic products. The loading
of some ballast was inevitable: sand, blocks of stone and old iron. Trade in Asia had to
a great extent to be conducted with precious metals from Europe. To this effect and to
finance the Company's business expenses and internal currency circulation each ship car-
ried an amount of silver, gold and copper coins. These so-called contanten (currency)
have always drawn most attention, obscuring the fact that there were also goods on board
for trading (koopmanschappen)
and for internal use in the overseas business.
The Heren Zeventien each year received the considered eysch (demand) from the Hoge
Regering in Batavia, indicating which commodities for trade and own use, and how much
cash were considered necessary. For the trade goods the net profit per item of the previous
year was quoted, for the internal goods the destination was given, e.g. for the cooper's
shop, or for the dispensier (store master). The accounting system of the Hoge Regering
however makes a clear distinction impossible. A l l goods and moneys unloaded from the
outward ships arriving in Asia were debited at cost price to the account of Generale
Compagnie in Nederland.
Neither does the bookkeeping in the Republic allow for a clear differentiation between
the various commodities and their quantities, since all costs connected with the equipping
of the ships were included under the heading equipage. These related to the commodities,
Company goods and currency, as well as the provisioning of the ships themselves, the
2 Gaastra, Geschiedenis van de VOC, 106-107.

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