The History of Danish Shipping

The keywords of Danish Shipping are efficient protection of its members’ interests.

This was already the intention from January 17 1884 when the Organisation was founded in Copenhagen. The founding fathers all belonged to a group of industrious and enterprising shipowners, who ventured into the steamship business. They did that at a time when sailing ships were still a great majority in Denmark. To best protect their joint interest they formed the Steamship Owners’ Organisation.

The Employer Role
The Organisation dealt very little with salary and working conditions for seafarers during its first years. The attitude was that the individual shipowner should take care of the conditions of the employees.

This attitude, however, was not sustainable since Denmark, similar to the rest of Europe, became the centre of a growing social and political consciousness during the last years of the 19th century. That triggered industrial conflicts, strikes and lock-outs, as well as the formation of trade unions. At the beginning of 1898 the Organisation consequently changed course and, after threats of strike, entered into its first trade agreement with the Stokers’ Union on June 1 1898.

Difficult Act of Balance

In view of the uncertain situation preceding World War One it was decided in 1914 to hire a paid secretary and rent meeting- and office spaces for the Organisation.

The War also introduced new challenges for shipping and for the Organisation. The Danish authorities wished to ensure the country’s supply chains and consequently introduced certain limitations to the “liberty of the seas”. At the same time new taxes were imposed on the industry. The warring countries’ torpedoing of cargo ships and the presence of sea mines made insurance of equipment and persons even more necessary. Because of Denmark’s neutrality in the years around the War it was nevertheless a good period for the Danish shipping industry.

Adversity and growth

The period between the two world wars was dominated by depression and crisis, and the size of the Organisation’s secretariat was largely constant up to 1940.

The standardisation of maritime transport in the 1960s and 1970s has played a major role in globalisation and the explosive growth in world trade over the last 25 years. As a logic consequence the Organisation’s staff has increased considerably and today it employs 55 people, who all work in the interest of the Danish Shipping business nationally and abroad.