Dutch Maritime Ventures


In 1606 the Duyfken, owned by the Dutch East India Company and stationed in the East Indies, made a voyage of exploration looking for "east and south lands" which took it on the first historically recorded voyage to Australia.

That was part of the Dutch expansion into the Spice Trade between Asia and Europe. The newly formed Dutch nation, the United Provinces, was already by the far the most successful shipping nation in Europe. They owned far more ships than any other nation. England had only about one-eighth the number of ships.

Shipbuilding plank-first

The Spanish, with whom the Dutch were at war, could not ban Dutch shipping from their ports because they were so dependent on grain brought from the Baltic by Dutch ships.

There were a number of reasons for the Dutch success. The new nation was ruled more by merchants than the aristocracy. Many ships were owned and operated by cooperatives or partnerships. Modern systems of credit, insurance, and trade were developed in Amsterdam.

Dutch shipwrights, building plank-first, evolving the shape of the ship by eye, were able to build whatever shape they thought would serve best, whereas builders of frame-first ships were constrained by the type of shapes they could develop by unsophisticated techniques of drawing a ship's plan.

Insignia of the Dutch East Indies Company

The Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) was set up to coordinate the activities of several Dutch companies competing in the Spice Trade - to provide a united opposition to the Portuguese, Spanish and English competitors. The Company was given the power to wage wars and to make treaties with foreign princes; powers which no King would give away to merchants.

The VOC became the largest corporation in world. Not only did it monopolise the spice trade to Europe it took over much of the shipping in Asia. VOC ships sometimes sighted the Australian coast on their way to Java and voyages of discovery to Australia and New Zealand were made by VOC ships during the 17th century.