HISTORY OF REEDEREI ZÜRICH AG, BASEL

(MIGROS)

 

Reedereigeschichte Deutsch    Storia della compania Reederei Zürich (Migros)     

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After Mr. Gottlieb Duttweiler and the MGB, Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund, Zürich withdrew in 1943 under adverse circumstances from the shipping company Maritime Suisse S.A., Mr. Duttweiler nevertheless still pursued after the termination of the WW II various shipping projects.

One idea was the creation of an American / Italian / Swiss shipping company with initially three Victory and three Liberty ships, sailing on a regular liner service between the USA and the Mediterranean Sea.

Other endeavours were to offer a low cost passenger service between the USA and Europe. Various vessels were under consideration, for example:

1) s/s SANTA CRUZ ex PRESIDENT JOHNSON, 16'111 BRT, displacement 26'700 tons

2) s/s JOHN ERICSSON ex KUNGSHOLM, 16'500 BRT, built 1928 in Germany

Various ship brokers offered in the six years after the war innumerable vessels for purchase. One of them was the Danish ship owner Christian Clausen from Svendborg, son of Captain Carl Clausen from Haderslev, who already was in contact with Mr. Duttweiler since 1947.

Mr. Gottlieb Duttweiler (1888 - 1962) was a business man from Zürich und was a descended of an ancient Zürich family. His father was engaged in a leading position in the LVZ, Lebensmittelverein, Zürich (cooperative food stores), probably this influenced his social attitude. In 1923 he married Mrs. Adele Bertschi from Horgen (a village on the Lake of Zürich), but the marriage remained without descendants. In his early years he gathered also valuable experiences abroad, working in Le Havre, Brazil, Spain and Genova. On August 15, 1925 he founded Migros, today one of the largest supermarket chains in Switzerland with its own production and service companies, organised as a cooperative. The various oppressive measures taken by the authorities against Migros, forced Mr. Duttweiler into politics and in 1935 he was elected together with six other candidates on the list of the "independents" into the national council. In 1936 he founded his own political party, the LdU, Landesring der Unabhängigen (circle of the independents), advocating a social/liberal policy. He formed also the term of the "social capital". Mr. Duttweiler remained in the national assembly until his death, interrupted only from a 3 years spell in the council of states, where he represented the canton of Zürich. During his time in the federal assembly he always stood up for the interests of Swiss maritime and river shipping. However, after Mr. Duttweiler's death the party sank to insignificancy and was finally dissolved in 1999, see also www.migros.ch .

The shipping company Reederei Zürich AG with its registered address at Limmatstrasse 152, Zürich was founded on July 26, 1951 on initiative of Mr. Gottlieb Duttweiler, of MGB, Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund, Zürich, together with his friend, Mr. Ernst Göhner, a construction entrepreneur of Zürich. The share capital amounted to 3,5 Mio. CHF, paid in two equal amounts. On the board were Mr. Gottlieb Duttweiler as president, Mr. Ernst Göhner as vice-president, Mr. Heinrich Rengel of the MGB-administration and Mr. Oskar Meier.

Mr. Ernst Göhner (1900 - 1971) was the fourth child out of six of a glazier from Zürich. After the early death of his father he had to take over the family's glazier's workshop. In 1925 he married Amelia Burkhard, also this marriage remained without offsprings. First he purchased a door and window factory (today Ego Kiefer AG), then he founded the construction company Ernst Göhner AG, constructing the first standard buildings, using prefabricated elements. He was a longtime friend of Mr. Duttweiler. Together with him and Mr. Dieter Bührle (another industrialist from Zürich) he defended the interests of Swiss maritime and river shipping. In 1954 he became a board member of the Schweizerischen Reederei AG (Swiss Shipping Company Ltd). Before his death he tranferred his fortune into the non-profit making Ernst Göhner Foundation to which Panalpina also belonged.

Now two new, fast freighters were ordered from shipyard of H.C. Stülcken, Hamburg. The value for each unit was 5,0 Mio. DM without the main engines, which were ordered separately from Sulzer Brothers Ltd. of Winterthur for a total price of 3,75 Mio. CHF. The Swiss government financed 75 % of the building costs under the terms, that in case of need during a crisis situation, the vessels would be immediately put at the government's disposal. The keel laying was in November 1951 and the first vessel, the ADELE was launched on July 15, 1952. According to the "Brückenbauer" ("Bridge Builders" the journal of Migros) the nice crew accommodations were commendably mentioned in Hamburg's local news papers.

The two ships, the ADELE and the AMELIA, named after the wives of the two share holders, were delivered to her owners in autumn 1952 and went for six years on time charter with Saguenay Terminals Inc. Montreal, a subsiderary of the large Canadian Aluminium company ALCAN and were in service on the linie Northeurope - Westindies (Carribean Sea) - Canada. As all ship's names of the Saguenay ships commenced with the prefix SUN, the two vessels were renamed after delivery to SUNADELE and SUNAMELIA. Later the charter parties for the two vessels were extended for a few times.

Some of the parliamentarians, but also Swiss news papers were disturbed about the English prefix SUN in the name of a Swiss ship and other were indignant with the charterers, the Thurgauer Arbeiterzeitung (the worker's news paper of the canton of Thurgau) wrote on September 27, 1952: "….herewith it was announced to the amazed national councillor, that the Migros vessel "Sun-Adele" was chartered for 6 years to the Canadian aluminium trust, which carries for all his vessels the prefix SUN. Therefore Migros and the aluminium trust ("rascals") hand in hand. How is it said? The sun is shining for all people". Note Mr. Duttweiler was always fighting against the big trusts, like oil companies, food companies etc. and probably at a time called them "rascals".

At the beginning, until about 1955 (the exact date we do not know) the technical management and the crewing of the ships was allocated to the shipping company C. Clausen, Copenhagen. During the first 3 to 4 years the crews of the two vessels were mainly from Denmark, only very few Swiss were on board. In this time the seamen were employed under Danish working conditions and were paid in DKK according to the Danish wage scale

After the management by C. Clausen was terminated, this changed quite quickly and the majority of the crew members were now from Switzerland, with the exception of the nautical officers, who were usually from Germany or the Netherlands. Now the Swiss wage scale was applied, which of course was considerably less then the Scandinavian wages.

After the Reederei Zürich AG took over the running of their vessels themselves, probably the first operating office was opened at the Schoffelgasse 7 in the old town of Zürich.

The first director of the company was Gottfried Isler, who was for many years leading the local office of the Schweizerische Reederei AG in Rotterdam and who was also consul of Switzerland in this city. However after some dissensions with the board of directors he left the company in January 1967.

Two years after the foundation of the company, on June 1, 1954 the river Rhine shipping company Rodolphe Haller Rheinreederei AG, Geneva, belonging to the forwarding company Rodolphe Haller AG, Geneva was purchased. This fleet of seven dry cargo river ships was now operated by the Rheinreederei Zürich AG, which was founded on June 3, 1954. At the beginning the operational business was conducted from the old office of Haller AG at the Malzgasse 7, Basel.

Under the pressure of the boycott of Migrol (the oil distribution company of Migros) two river dry cargo vessels, the WALENSEE and the ZUGERSEE were converted in 1955 to tank vessels, to ensure the supply line to Migrol. As a side remark, then it has nothing to do with the Reederei Zürich, Mr. Duttweiler, as an outsider had also great difficulties to purchase crude oil for Migrol and to crack the syndicate of the oil multis. For example, in the year 1951 Iran was nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which in turn led to a boycott of Iran by Great Britain. Mr. Jean Arnet of Migrol now purchased from Iran a consignment of 15'000 tons of crude oil, probably at a very favourable price. To transport the crude to Europe the first batch of 1000 tons was loaded on the small tanker ROSE MARY (owner: Arosa Line, Geneva / Cost Rica flag). Unfortunately, the ship was intercepted by the British, when passing Aden and the cargo was confiscated.

For similar reasons a cargo terminal and a workshop were constructed in Weil a/R, Germany, just after the boarder in Basel, because at the time, nobody was willing to provide a building site on the border of the river Rhine in Basel.

In the year 1963 the two companies, the Rheinreederei Zürich AG and the Reederei Zürich AG were put together for organisational reasons. We assume, that at this occasion the operational office at the Unteren Rebgasse 11 in Basel was opened and the other offices were closed down.

In February 1966 the time charter of SUNADELE with Saguenay was terminated and the ship resumed its original name ADELE until she was sold in November of the same year. The SUNAMELIA remained in the Saguenay charter until December 31, 1968 and was then also renamed AMELIA sailing for more then one year until she was sold in February 1970. The company expected larger repairs during the coming class renewal, therefore it was decided to sell the ship. The ocean going ships were not replaced anymore, therefore the era of ocean shipping ended.

The shore based personnel of the Reederei Zürich AG consisted at the end of 1967 of 15 office staff and 4 service engineers for the river vessels. The company employed also some employees, serving for many years, such as Mrs. Weber, the crewing officer, Captain Rudolf Weber and the engineer Mr. Willi Nüesch. Captain Weber joined the company in 1956 as a chief officer, became master and finally worked in the office in Basel. Mr. Willi Nüesch a former Sulzer engineer was the technical manager of the company.

At the begin of the 70ties the Rhine fleet consisted of 12 dry cargo motor barges and 4 tank motor barges and in 1984 there were still 16 units, but with a carrying capacity of 26'000 tonnes. Various river vessels were ordered by the shipping company, constructed and put into service under the supervision of Mr. Nüesch.

On August 8, 1978 the dry cargo motor vessel GREIFENSEE, loaded with a cargo of cellulose, sank during a heavy thunder storm in the port of Weil a/R, downstream of Basel. The skipper tried to shift the vessel to a more safe berth, when the ship suddenly was pushed below the water. The vessel was refloated under the supervision of Mr. W. Nüesch with the help of some salvage experts, but due to the extensive damages suffered, the company decided to dispose of this vessel.

From 1980 the Migros (MGB) commenced to participate in the financially troubled SRN, Schweizerische Reederei & Neptun AG and in 1984 the MGB obtained the share majority of SRN. On March 1, 1986 a common operating organisation for the two companies, Reederei Zürich AG and SRN was initiated to run the ships of two fleets in common.

Although in 1997 the SRN was brought back into black figures, the interest of the MGB in the river Rhine shipping faded away quickly and on February 21, 2000 the SRN was sold to the German Rhenus Group, therefore two traditional Swiss shipping companies disappeared and today you cannot find the logo or the company flag of the SRN in any part of the port of Basel.

The company Reederei Zürich AG was deleted on September 30, 1996 from the commercial registry.

Note: The today Reederei Zürich AG in Zürich has nothing in common with the old Reederei Zürich, but after the deletion of the old company from the commercial registry it simply took over the now free name.

HPS-SwissShips, August 2011                        

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