Netherland Line

The Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland ("Netherlands Steamship Company") or SMN, also known as the Netherland Line or Nederland Line, was a Dutch shipping line that operated from 1870 until 1970, when it merged with several other companies to form what would become Royal Nedlloyd.[note 1]

The company's motto, Semper Mare Navigandum ("Always sail the seas"), conveniently fitted the same initials.

Company history


The SMN was founded on May 13th, 1870 in Amsterdam for the trade between North Western Europe and the former Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) via the newly opened Suez Canal. One of the founders was Prince Hendrik, nicknamed "The Seafarer".

Early years

Initially all transport to and from the East Indies was by mail boat. These vessels carried passengers, mail and some freight, and a fast and regular service was required. Passengers from or for Holland often went by train to and from Naples, Marseilles or Genoa in order to keep the travelling time as short as possible.

In the early days the company profited from shipping goods produced by the government-run plantations and industries in the East Indies, from Bangka tin to tobacco and copra. From Europe came manufactured goods, factory equipment and railroad materials.

From 1870 to 1879 the company used its own warehouses in Den Helder (Nieuwediep) for loading and unloading. With the 1876 opening of the Noordzeekanaal (North Sea Canal) connecting Amsterdam directly to the North Sea an easier route to its home base became available. The Oostelijke Handelskade (Eastern Trade dock, 1883–1910) and the Java and Sumatra docks became the center of the SMN in The Netherlands. In Europe ships called regularly at Amsterdam, Southampton and Genoa. In the Dutch East Indies ships plied mainly to the ports on the northern coast of the island of Java, e.g. Jakarta (then known as Batavia), Surabaya and Tanjung Priok. Coal was regularly taken at Valletta, Port Said, Aden, Colombo and Sabang.

In the early decades of the 20th century the company opened new routes operating across the Pacific Ocean between Java and the American West Coast, and, via the Panama Canal, between Java and New York City.

After the mail boats came more specialised vessels: freighters (some with passenger accommodation) and the widely known passenger liners, including famous ships such as Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft (launched 1925), Christiaan Huygens (1927), Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (1929), and Oranje (1938).

World War II and Post-War activities

During the Second World War many of the company's ships were commandeered to support the Allied military effort, and a number were lost to enemy action.

Following the birth of the State of Indonesia in 1949, and the subsequent loosening of the old colonial ties, trade with the former colonies declined (some trade with Indonesia remained possible until 1960; thereafter Dutch vessels were no longer allowed to ply in Indonesian waters). In dire need of new business, the company intensified development of its other routes linking Holland, South Africa, North and South America, India and the Far East and also built up its chartering business.

In addition to its freight and passenger services, SMN also actively took part in other transport ventures for example, Martin Air Charter (now Martinair), the specialized LNG tanker Antilla Cape, Container Terminal Amsterdam (CTA) and van Swieten Trucking. In the 1960s SMN acquired Hollandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij with regular services to England and West Africa.

Starting in the late 1950s, the advent of mass air travel spelled the end of the ocean liners. The company's passenger routes were closed and the ships sold, leaving the company to concentrate on freight, which from the 1970s onwards increasingly meant container ships.

Collaborations and mergers

Hailing from Amsterdam, SMN always enjoyed friendly competition and rivalry with Rotterdam shipping company Rotterdamsche Lloyd (KRL), especially on the East Indies route. In 1963 SMN and KRL jointly founded Nedlloyd Lines (NLL). From 1968 the SMN also closely cooperated with KJCPL–RIL (Royal InterOcean Lines) of Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

This cooperation amongst friendly Dutch shipowners eventually resulted in a full merger. On January 20th, 1970, the SMN joined with three other companies to form the Nederlandsche Scheepvaart Unie (NSU) and ceased to exist as a separate entity, having just failed to reach its 100th anniversary. The NSU partners were:

  • Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland (SMN)
  • Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd (KRL)
  • Koninklijke Java-China-Paketvaart-Lijnen (KJCPL)
  • Vereenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaartmaatschappij (VNS)

Later on NSU became Nedlloyd, and in 1977 the name changed to Koninklijke Nedlloyd ("Royal Nedlloyd"). In 1981 the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot-Maatschappij (KNSM) completed the group.

In 1996, Koninklijke Nedlloyd merged its container shipping interests with the British company P&O to become, as P&O Nedlloyd, a major player in the worldwide container trade. In 2005 A.P. Moller-Maersk Group (Maersk) from Denmark acquired P&O Nedlloyd and the newly formed Maersk Line subsequently became the world’s largest container shipping line.


SMN headquartered at the IJgracht in Amsterdam, later at the Scheepvaarthuis (Shipping House) together with other shipping companies. Employees arriving by bicycle came through the side entrance and used the famous Paternoster elevators to reach their floors. A monumental staircase led directly to the directors' floor.

The company also maintained offices in Jakarta.


The history and heritage of the Stoomboot Maatschappij 'Nederland' and other Dutch shipping companies is preserved at the Amsterdam and Rotterdam maritime museums.


The Netherland Line's first vessel, SS Willem II, was launched in 1871. Its last under that flag were the Neder "L-class" vessels Neder Linge and Neder Lek, launched in 1967/68. The following is a selected list of the vessels operated by the company throughout its 100-year history. Tonnages are approximate.

  • Bali
  • Balong
  • Banda
  • Banggai
  • Batjan
  • Batu
  • Bawean
  • Bengkalis
  • Boissevain
  • Borneo
  • Celebes
  • Christiaan Huygens (liner, 16,000 tons, launched 1927, destroyed by mine 1945)
  • Colombia
  • Johan de Witt
  • Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (liner, 19,000 tons, launched 1929, sold and renamed Lakonia 1963, destroyed by fire 1963)
  • Karakorum
  • Karimata
  • Karimun
  • Koning der Nederlanden (3,000 tons, sunk on 5 October 1881. Three of her lifeboats with a total of 90 passengers and crew were never found.)
  • Marnix van Sint Aldegonde (liner, 19,000 tons, launched 1930, sunk by torpedo 1945)
  • Neder Ebro
  • Neder Eems
  • Neder Lek (freighter, 10,000 tons, launched 1968)
  • Neder Linge (freighter, 10,000 tons, launched 1967)
  • Neder Rhone
  • Neder Rijn
  • Neder Waal
  • Neder Weser
  • Nieuw Holland
  • Oranje (liner, 20,000 tons, launched 1938, sold and renamed Angelina Lauro 1964, destroyed by fire 1979)
  • Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft (liner launched 1925, caught fire at builders, another fire ended her career)
  • Poelau Laut
  • Prinses Amalia (see Mata Hari)
  • Radja
  • Raki
  • Roepat
  • Rondo
  • Rotti


  1. Nedlloyd itself later merged with Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) to become P&O Nedlloyd, now a part of Maersk.
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