120 Years Wagenborg

1898 - 2018

Wagenborg’s 120th anniversary means looking back on highlights and milestones – the people, places, events, and ships that make up the Wagenborg story. It all began in 1898, when our founder Egbert Wagenborg settled down ashore.

Egbert Wagenborg, the founder of the company, settled down ashore in 1898 and set up in business as “E. Wagenborg shipping agent Delfzijl”. For many years, the company remained small but successful in the freight business, forwarding, towage, and passenger services. 

In 1988, the fourth generation of Wagenborg initiated a major new construction programme and expanded its activities on land. This unique approach has enabled Wagenborg to grow into a logistics conglomerate with an international reputation. Today, the group operates across the entire spectrum of maritime logistics, with 3000 employees all over the world.

1898 - ‘E. Wagenborg scheepsbevrachter Delfzijl ‘

After sailing aboard his tjalk the Broedertrouw, Egbert Wagenborg settled down ashore with his family in Delfzijl, and their second vessel, the Liberté, was completed. This was the start of the firm of “E. Wagenborg shipping agent Delfzijl”. The focus was entirely on the timber trade, unloading timber from seagoing ships and transporting it to and from local timber traders.

1900-1920 - The first commercial activities

Egbert Wagenborg developed a wide range of commercial activities. The fleet was expanded by buying the Concurrent, which was joined towards the end of the year by the steel tjalk Concurrent II. Egbert also bought the steamer Jo. In 1908, the Niestern yard completed the Liberté II, Wagenborg’s flagship. 

Egbert Wagenborg saw an opportunity for a passenger service between Delfzijl and Emden with the Anna Meika. In 1908 a specially built passenger ship – the steel steamship Vooruitgang joined the Anna Meika, (later renamed Vooruitgang II).

Stevedoring company set up

Then came the First World War. Ships were unable to cross the North Sea to Antwerp, Rotterdam, or Amsterdam. The port of Delfzijl was therefore busy handling shipments of wood from the Baltic. A new business activity began when the stevedoring company “Stuwadoorsmaatschappij N.V.” was established in 1917.

1927 - Motor vessels and longer sea journeys

Wagenborg decided to undertake longer sea journeys. The first charter, for a consignment of roof tiles, was arranged in 1924 for m.v. Weldaad of Daniël Pot, grand father of Peter Pot. From then on, the number of charters increased steadily year by year.

In 1925, Egbert’s son Geert and his son-in-law Lourens Vuursteen joined the company. Wagenborg flourished under the new management. The number of charters and the arrival of motorised vessels made it possible to maintain regular operating schedules. Lourens Vuursteen’s commercial ambitions came into their own when the first motor vessel, the Fivel was purchased in 1927.

1930-1940 - Growth despite the recession

Despite the economic recession in the 1930s, the company continued to grow, with new offices in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Groningen. The 150 hp tugs Golfbreker and Woelwater joined the fleet.

1940-1950 - New shipping office

The outbreak of the Second World War had a major impact on shipping. Nevertheless, the regular shipments of sawn timber from the Baltic to Delfzijl continued unabated. 

In the 1940s, Wagenborg built a new shipping office in Delfzijl, with the unusual addition of an observation post on the roof. This enabled shipping agents to see ships arriving far off down the Eems estuary. That was extremely efficient because loading and unloading could be arranged for the precise moment when the ships arrived in port.

1950-1960 - 500-tonners dominate the fleet

The 1950s and 1960s were a period when Wagenborg made its mark as a shipping company with an extensive fleet of 500-tonners. It proved difficult to find new names for the vessels, so the company decided to name them after rivers, with the extension “…borg”. The Egbert Wagenborg held a special position among them in the early 1950s.

In 1954, the Kroonborg, with its mid-ships bridge, was the largest Dutch coaster, with a load capacity of 1025 tonnes and a 1200 hp diesel engine. Also, the first large seagoing vessels were ordered, the Balticborg and Bothniaborg. Wim Vuursteen was closely involved in the construction process for the characteristic Wagenborg vessels Kroonborg, Oranjeborg, Nassauborg, Prinsenborg and Balticborg, who mostly were built at shipyard Amels in Makkum.

1960-1970 - New construction brings the fleet up to 24 vessels

Wagenborg started a new construction programme so as to reduce the age of the fleet. Vessels like the Lingeborg, Berkelborg, Bothniaborg, Schieborg, Delfborg, Hunzeborg, and Vechtborg were added. The Egbert Wagenborg was sold and the sister ships Geulborg and Roerborg were commissioned. That brought the fleet up to 24 vessels, representing 17,700 dwt in load capacity.

In the late 1960s, the timber package trade was introduced. Wagenborg therefore converted several vessels for the necessary operations. Also, Wagenborg ordered two tugs, the Waterpoort and the Waterman, each with a 750 hp engine.

1970-1980 - A new generation of timber carriers

Wagenborg commissioned a vessel with a square hold, the Scheldeborg. This was the first in a new generation of vessels for the timber trade and joined the fleet in 1970. In 1974, the Maasborg – at 3500 tonnes slightly larger than its sister ships – the Scheldeborg and the Rijnborg were added, bringing the number of “…borg” vessels up to thirteen.

Link between maritime and road transport

The Wagenborg Terminal – with its own quays and storage facilities – was established. With the new terminal and a great deal of storage capacity, Wagenborg became the indispensable link between maritime and road transport.

1980-1990 - Wagenborg takes over ferry services

The Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management decided to sell off its maritime services. Wagenborg was an obvious candidate to acquire them, doing so as of 1 January 1986. A new generation of passenger vessels was designed. The first was the Sier, with the Oerd following a few months later. Their predecessors, the state-owned Prins Willem IV and Prinses Anna, joined the Wagenborg fleet after being renovated and renamed Brakzand and Simonszand.

Land activities Expand

Wagenborg took over Lommerts KSM (Kranen, Speciaal transport en Montage) and Kramer Transport in 1985. At the time, the company had an impressive fleet of trucks, tanker semi-trailers, drainage vehicles, mobile cranes, and a heavy transport division. 

The start of series construction

A study of new ship designs resulted in a dry cargo vessel with a tonnage of between 1250 and 1500 tonnes. Two years later, two new ships began flying the Wagenborg flag, the Polarborg and the Lindeborg. In 1983, an impressive series construction began with the Ferus Smit shipyard, during which a dozen 1,300 / 1,500 ton vessels were added to the fleet for a number of years, together with captain owners.

The fourth generation at Wagenborg

Koop Wagenborg, Egbert L. Vuursteen, and Wim Vuursteen all retired from the company. Rob Wagenborg and Egbert Vuursteen joined it, Rob as director of Kramer Transport B.V. and Egbert as commercial manager of the shipping division. In 1988 Bert Wagenborg also decided to retire, exactly 100 years after grandfather Egbert put out to sea in his tjalk. There was a change of management on 15 December 1988, with Rob Wagenborg and Egbert Vuursteen being appointed directors of Wagenborg Beheer B.V.

Growth continues 

The acquisition of Reining also resulted in an expansion of onshore activities to the south and east, which created a need for new sites there. Labie and Sons (in Dongen) was acquired in 1995 and Reining Spedition GmbH in Bottrop (Germany) in 1996. The same year saw the establishment of Reining Warehousing B.V.

1990-2000 - Explosive expansion of the shipping division

With a view to expanding Wagenborg’s shipping division, another extensive new construction programme was initiated in 1990, comprising four vessels of approximately 3000 dwt with the highest Finnish ice classification. These were named Flinterborg, Balticborg, Eemsborg, and Bothniaborg. The Rijnborg was added in 1991, followed four months later by its sister ship the Scheldeborg. These six vessels were suitable for the Saimaa-trade.

In 1994 Wagenborg introduced container ships with a capacity of 558 teu: the Reestborg and the Reggeborg. Between 1992 and 1996, the Bijlsma shipyard supplied 17 coasters, suitable for both sea voyages and inland navigation, with a load capacity of between 2200 and 2500 tonnes. This was in cooperation between Wagenborg and captain-owners.

In 1995, the Kroonborg was named in the presence of Prince (now King) Willem Alexander. The first two attempts to smash the champagne bottle on the ship’s bow both failed, but with the help of the Prince Majesty the bottle hit the ship at the third attempt!

In its 1998 jubilee year, Wagenborg was assigned the designation “Royal”.

2000-2010 - From heyday to crisis

The shipping industry was experiencing its heyday. Wagenborg’s freight activities now extended far beyond its roots in Delfzijl. Although the head office was still located there, Wagenborg Shipping Sweden was established in Malmö in 2001. In 2003, the company’s Canadian branch – Wagenborg Shipping North America Inc. – was opened in Montreal, and a year later the Greek branch was opened in Piraeus under the name Holland Hellenic Shipping Agencies.

In 2008 begon de scheepvaarteconomie aan een lange intensieve crisis.  

The fleet made up of Wagenborg’s own vessels and those of affiliated captain-owners grew rapidly. A total of more than a hundred ships were added to the fleet during that period, including the Beatrix, which was named by Queen Beatrix in 2009. Wagenborg was in the midst of an extensive new construction programme, comprising several series of vessels of between 8000 and 17000 dwt with the highest Finnish ice classification.

Wagenborg introduces special transport solutions with nedlift

In 2001, Wagenborg Nedlift was introduced as a new name for total solutions in the field of crane rental, special transport, assembly and project engineering.Nedlift was created in the past by merging a number of different family businesses, such as Lommerts KSM, Kramer, De Groot KSM and Van Wesel.

2010-2018 - Today, as a family business, Wagenborg works internationally in various industries and employs 3,000 people.

In recent years, several innovative and specialized vessels have been added to Wagenborg’s fleet. Zo voltooide In 2013, Wagenborg completed an important seven-year period of shipbuilding at the Hudong Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. Since 2006, the Chinese yard has delivered 25 ships from 17,000 up to 21,000 dwt with ice class 1A. 

The biggest vessel in the Wagenborg fleet, the Reestborg, was delivered in 2013 by shipyard Ferus Smit. This is a 23,000 dwt multipurpose vessel, and the first of three vessels in a series with an “eco-bow”. In combination with low engine capacity, it has an extremely low EEDI (Energy Efficiency Design Index). Wagenborg also developed a new type of vessel, which came into service in 2017. This open-top multi-purpose ice class vessel, the Egbert Wagenborg is a leader in its segment as regards sustainability, with a load capacity of 14,300 tonnes and very low fuel consumption. The ship received the prestigious KVNR Shipping Award from the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR).

There are also plenty of developments within offshore. The first steps were taken outside the Caspian Sea by a 10-year contract for the construction and operation of the “Walk to Work” vessel Kroonborg. In 2018, the relationship between NAM and Wagenborg will be further expanded with the addition of the Kasteelborg as the second Walk to Work ship. In addition, other long-term charters are closed for the Redsborg in the Caribbean and the Antarcticborg in Canadian Arctic waters. Speaking of this region: Wagenborg made history in 2016 by being the first European shipping company to make the north-west passage without assistance from icebreakers.

In 2017, Rob Wagenborg changed his directing role to that of Commissioner of Royal Wagenborg. The company’s board now consists of Egbert Vuursteen (CEO), Jeroen Seyger (CFO), and Maarten Tromp (COO).