Overview of the most important moments in the history of Loodswezen North.


I957 saw work proceed on the new salt factory, Akzo in Delfzijl. An aluminium industry was also built that was cheap and ran on natural gas. The development of the factory injected life and money into the port and formed a large part of the shipping industry in the area. Below is an overview of the most important moments in the history of Loodswezen North.

10 BC to 1300

The development of the Dutch pilot service
In the year 10 before Christ, Drusus the stepson of Emperor Augustus tries to sail to Borkum without any success. Flavius described the people that dwelt in the coastal areas as pitiable. They looked for protection from the water in the hills.

Fishermen as pilots
The port of Emden began to develop and grow from about the year 800 onwards. 700 years later, Groningen stated to develop into a port that, in the summer, could be reached by the Friesche Zeegat and the Reitdiep. Fishermen began acting as pilots for German ports along the river Eems, but at the time, it took days before a pilot was available.

From 1300 to 1700

The Prussian government ordered the placement of buoys on the Eems in 1539. In 1665, De Ruyter sailed up the Eems with his Westindische fleet and discovered that there were no pilots and no buoys, but nevertheless and with a lot of luck, reached ‘Doekegat’.

From 1700 to 1900

1780 saw a period of growth for Emden with a modest pilot service available to ships. In 1800, Delfzijl began to develop and though it became more important and more easily reached, most of the shipping set sail for Emden. The Hugenoten travelled from Delfzijl to Emden and from their, on to South Africa. The magistrate of Emden announced that the Kingdom of Hanover had drawn up a set of conditions for piloting vessels around Emden and Delfzijl. It was compulsory for ships destined for these ports to take on a pilot. Because German fishermen satisfied the profile of a pilot, the Kingdom of Hanover decided that fishing around that area was made exclusively available to them. The Dutch trade department complained of these measures in 1879, as they were still in force at this time. After the Napoleonic war in 1813, the river Eems became the border between Germany and the Netherlands and both countries agreed to the drawing up of a border known as the LW-landline. The ports of Groningen, which was the largest in the north, and Delfzijl were in competition with one another at this point. The natural position of the Eems meant that it was the perfect place for ships to shelter in adverse weather conditions. Some, however, were stranded on the reef at Borkum or on the Uithuizerwad. This prompted the investigation of the possibilities of setting up a Dutch piloting organisation for the Friesche Zeegat. However, there were hardly any fishermen available as most of them lived in Oostmahorn and Zoutkamp. In 1824, the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Hanover drew up a treaty that the Eems belonged to Germany. In 1828, the Dutch government wanted to commence with a general piloting service. The ship owners from Groningen, however, didn’t want the competition and their cargo fees were sky high.

The realisation of the Dutch pilot service

In 1845, there was an attempt to set up a pilot service for Delfzijl and Emden without success. The private pilot service continued, however. Nevertheless, a committee came to an agreement concerning piloting in the Friesche Zeegat and the Eems, in 1853. In 1857, the Dutch pilot service was born with two pilot boats stationed in Oostmahorn. One of them sailed around the entrance to the Eems and, unfortunately, after a very heavy storm in 1860, both boats did not return to port. One was never heard of again, but the other sailed into Cuxhaven, after a number of weeks. The Emden town council proposed a restarting of the general pilot service, but this didn’t happen and it remained a service exclusive to Emden. Moreover, the Germans attempted to sabotage the Dutch pilot service by removing the buoys.

The growth of the port of Delfzijl

In 1876, the Eemskanaal was built between Groningen and Delfzijl, making the Eems of great importance. The pilot service in Oostmahorn was disbanded in 1888, though by the end of the century and beginning of the twentieth century, a Duch pilot service did exist. Because they used old fashioned schooners, however, they could not operate outside the Eems area, something that the German cutters could do. It is for this reason that the Germans operated in the Eems, whilst the Dutch stayed in Doekegat. A huge storm raged in 1894 that destroyed the port of Borkum where many ships had sheltered. In just a few hours most of them were sunk. A steam ship entered the port of Delfzijl, but although the pilot cutter braved the elements and tried to locate the crew, none could be found. They had all been drowned. The Dutch government finally realised that these pilot boats were insufficient for a pilot service. In 1918 the service was still only available close to Delfzijl and there was still no general pilot service available. The Germans, on the other hand, had better boats and after the 2nd World War, had just started working with a Castor-Pollux class boat.

From 1900 to the present day

The German pilots were united in around 1950. To become a German pilot, applicants had to have a Masters certificate and the necessary experience. To become a Dutch pilot, a 2nd Mate’s certificate was satisfactory. Delfzijl was a typical example of a port dealing in goods from the Oostzee and Chili.

This changed in 1958 with the developments of the salt and gas industries. Delfzijl became Emden’s competition. The differences that still existed between the German and Dutch governments concerning the coastal area, were finally laid to rest in an agreement.

The Eems-Dollard treaty The Eems-Dollard treaty
was signed in 1960. The regulation of the pilot services for Delfzijl as well as Emden was specified. Ships destined for, and leaving, Dutch ports would be piloted by Dutch pilots. Dredging and the placement of buoys were also decided in this treaty. The Dutch pilot service had become a state run company.

Development of the Delfzijl and Eemshaven ports
1957 saw the building of the Akzo salt factory and the aluminium industry that was run on cheap natural gas. This gave the port an enormous boost and most of the shipping was concentrated around these industries. The pilot service was maintained by two cutters and a tender. In the 1970s, one of the cutters was taken out of service to cut costs. The new ship, Albatros, replaced it temporarily. At the same time, a new Eemshaven was dredged just north of Delfzijl for the expansion of the chemical cluster in the north. The economic recession, however, stopped this and, as a result, Eemshaven has shown little activity since. At the moment, we are trying to attract more ships to these ports, most of which are short sea shipping in combination with longer distance, sea-going ships. Eemshaven is developing, as a result, into a port that works in conveying a diversity of goods in transit to other areas. It has a sugar and RoRo terminal and Wagenborg Stevedoring want to develop a forrest product terminal. In the 90s in Delfzijl, a new quay was built where a number of companies have established themselves. AKZO Nobel is at the centre of the chemical industry park close to Delfzijl and Aldel produces aluminium with good results.

Development of the port of Harlingen and the pilot service
In the 1900s, Harlingen was a transit port primarily for timber and agricultural products. Ships were piloted from the Stortemelk by a sail boat operating from Terschelling. Transport on and off the island was achieved by means of sail boat and ferries (Pilots were sometimes left on a sandbank and picked up afterwards.). These sail boats were replaced at the end of the century by motor boats. There was always a strict separation of pilots from Harlingen and those from Terschelling with the latter piloting only incoming ships and the former, the outgoing. The Harlingen pilots also took the ships destined for Amsterdam via the Zuiderzee. A large number of these ships were the so-called Denmark trade going to and from Denmark. Later, in the 20th century, ships became larger and these shipping routes were dredged in order to make their sailing easier. Timber, agricultural products and ship building were the primary economic factors. Now, at the end of the 20th century, a large salt factory, Frisia Zout, is situated in Harlingen. The pilot service has been integrated with that of the Eems. Six of these pilots come from Harlingen, four of which also work on the Eems. The pilot boat is stationed at Terschelling and pilots are taken there on the ferry, or if necessary, are picked up by the pilot boat.

The privatisation of the pilot services
In 1987, the minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, decided to investigate the privatisation of Loodswezen in the Netherlands, which eventually took place in 1988 and Looswezen B.V. was born. At the time, the Noord was piloted by a large sea-going pilot boat (Wega), the pilot tender (Albatros) on the Eems and a pilot tender (Zeekoet) for Terschelling. There were a total of 48 pilots supported by personnel numbering 103. In 1995, the service was reorganised and the number of personnel brought down to 60, including 35 pilots. In 1999, smaller pilot launches were introduced from Eemshaven for use on the Eems. Two pilot launches were in operation here, that took pilots to the boarding point at Westereems. Pilotage involved 27 personnel, 12 of which were pilots. In 1996, in the area of Harlingen, the Zeekoet was sold and replaced by a smaller vessel and the number of personnel reduced to 9 members and 7 pilots.

Today, the organisation has 15 pilots supported by 21 personnel. It is a small, well-oiled organisation that maintains a high quality at low costs.