By Bruce Peter
It is quite extraordinary that Denmark with its tiny population not only carries over ten per cent of global sea trade but also has two of the world’s largest shipping companies, Maersk Line and the 150-year-old DFDS. To celebrate its 150 years Bruce Peter, who is half-Danish, has produced a monumental, 480-page history of DFDS. Following on his fascinating 2014-published Danish Liners of the World, Bruce Peter has produced another excellent and well-written company history.
Under the leadership of Denmark’s leading banker Carl Frederk Tietgen an elite group of entrepreneurs and ship owners met in the Copenhagen Stock Exchange on December 11, 1866 to found Det Forenede Dampskibs-Selskab (DFDS), the United Steamship Company. Among the founders were names still familiar today, the ship owner Em. Z. Svitzer, the brewer I.C. Jacobsen who founded the Carlsberg brewery and Carl Christian Burmeister and William Wain whose company Burmeister & Wain pioneered marine diesel engines. Flying the distinctive white Maltese Cross on a blue background, DFDS started its operation on January 1, 1867.
The company expanded rapidly, especially after the completion of a new port at Esbjerg in 1874 which allowed faster services to the east coast of England. In 1898 the Skandinavien-Amerika-Linien was formed to operate the Copenhagen-Christiana (Oslo)-New York passenger-cargo route. A number of impressive liners were built for the service including the two funnelled Frederik VIII (1913/11,850gt). By 1914 with such an extensive network liner network DFDS by default became Denmark’s national flag carrier. Hard hit by the Wall Street Crash in 1929 the company closed its transatlantic route and focussed its energies on its North Sea services. In 1937 it took delivery of the 3,038gt Kronprins Olav, the first of its ultra-modern design passenger ferries which culminated in the 1960s with the beautifully proportioned Winston Churchill and England. By then DFDS also operated freighter services to the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic. In the 1980s it had a brief but unsuccessful foray into the US cruise market with Scandinavian World Cruises. However, with its focus on roll-on, roll-off shipping, DFDS is now one of the world’s leading ro-ro ferry operators.
This complicated story has been well set out and is very readable, supported throughout by an amazing array of over 600 photographs, many in colour. This book is highly recommended.
* Published by Nautilus Forlag, Anker Engelunds Vej 1, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark, www.nautilusforlag.dk, 480 page hardback, price 399 Danish Krone plus postage.
Review by Peter Newall