Danish Shipping

Danish Shipping's history

Since the beginning, Danish Shipping has focused directly on the needs of its members – as employers, as business enterprises and as international actors. From the end of the sailing ship era to today's high-tech shipping, the key word has always been effective interest protection.

The last thing was already in the air on 17 January 1884, when nine men met at the Hotel Phønix in Bredgade, Copenhagen. They all belonged to the group of forward-looking and progressive shipowners who bet on steam-powered ships at a time when sailing ships were still the majority. At the meeting, they decided to establish the 'Steamship Association Association' to look after their common interests.

Denmark had not yet fully adjusted after the defeat and the loss of a third of the country's area to Germany in 1864. The Danish economy was largely based on agricultural production. Official Denmark therefore went all out to compensate for the loss by developing and making agriculture more efficient and increasing production on the land that was left.

The urban industries, industry, trade and shipping, were politically treated as stepchildren. It was primarily the interests of agriculture that were in view.

In the years after 1850, however, the city's businesses had seen a significant development, not least led by the great business leader of the time C.F. Tietgen, who did not approve of the official business policy. His king's thought was that the city businesses should join together and cooperate in order to "enlist the country's legislative power itself as an effective partner in the competitive struggle facing Danish business life," as he wrote.

The foundation of 'Damp­skibs­re­de­ri-Foreninge' was clearly inspired by C.F. Tietgen, and the organization became one of the country's first lobby organizations to emerge in the new political climate after the introduction of the people's government.

After the organization's first year of existence, there were 20 members and a total of 140 registered ships, of which the United Steamship Company alone was registered with 84 ships.

The employer role

With the exception of a single case in December 1884, where the remuneration of crew on laid-up ships was discussed, in the early years of the organization very little was dealt with wages and working conditions for seafarers. The organization did not act as a negotiating party in such matters, and it was the position that the individual shipping company itself had to sort out the conditions vis-à-vis the employees.

However, this attitude could not be sustained, as Denmark, like the rest of Europe in the last years of the 19th century, became the scene of a growing social and political consciousness, which triggered labor struggles, strikes and lockouts and the formation of trade unions. At the beginning of 1898, the organization therefore changed course and, under threats of strike, entered into its first collective agreement with a trade union, Søfyrbøderne, on 1 June 1898.

Since then, the function as a negotiating organization for employers in the shipping industry has been a significant part of Danish Shippings' area of activity.

The development of working conditions at sea led to the establishment, supported by legislation in 1906, of a company which took out compulsory accident insurance for seamen. In the same year, it was decided to abolish the much-discussed "testimony book" for seafarers and instead set up a medical office, which was to carry out examinations of all the seamen who were hired for service on the members' ships. The doctor's office exists to this day.

Difficult balance

In the organization's first year, the secretarial task was carried out by Supreme Court litigator R. Strøm, but after his appointment as director of the national bank in 1888, it became the incumbent chairman's task to manage the organisation's secretariat.

In light of the uncertain situation leading up to the First World War, it was decided in 1914 to hire a paid secretary and rent meeting and office premises for the organisation. On 1 October 1914, the organisation's first independent domicile could thus be inaugurated at Holbergsgade 1 in Copenhagen. The facilities were supplemented after a few years when, after the Freight Board, they took over a lease on Sankt Annæ Plads not far away.

The First World War, however, presented new challenges for the shipping industry and for the organisation. The Danish authorities wanted to secure the country's supplies of goods, and they therefore introduced certain restrictions on the freedom to sail freely, just as new taxes were imposed on business. The warring countries' torpedoing of cargo ships and mine-laden waters also led to a need for insurance schemes for equipment and people. As a result of Denmark's neutrality, however, the period around the First World War was, business-wise, a good period for Danish shipping.

Own house

In 1919, the question of building a domicile was discussed for the first time. The premises in Holbergsgade and on Sankt Annæ Plads were no longer sufficient for the organization's activities, and eyes fell on a plot of land in Amaliegade belonging to Frederiks Hospital, whose business had been transferred to the newly founded Rigshospital a few years before. They decided on a project drawn up by architect Emanuel Monberg, which contained both office and meeting rooms for own use, accommodation for the organisation's first director and premises for letting, mainly to companies connected to the industry.

Danske Rederier's secretariat moved into the new premises in the fall of 1922, and on March 16, 1923, it was possible to hold the first general meeting in its own premises.

After its construction, the building attracted a lot of attention as a striking neoclassical building that was carefully integrated into the existing environment of buildings from the time of the founding of Frederikstaden. Architect Monberg was awarded the Eckersberg Medal for his work. Read more about the building in the link below. 

Hardship and growth

The period between the world wars was characterized by economic depression and crisis, and the size of the organization's secretariat remained largely constant until 1940.

However, with the outbreak of World War II, the Danish merchant fleet was divided as a significant number of ships chose to seek allied ports. However, industry regulations and the like imposed additional tasks on the organization, making it necessary to expand the secretariat. When the war ended and trade restrictions were dismantled, there was some reduction in the organization's staff.

The stan­dar­diza­tion of shipping, which began in the 1960s and 1970s, has helped lay the foundation for the globalization and explosive growth in world trade that we have experienced over the past 25 years.

Danish Shipping's secretariat has grown again, and today the organization employs approx. 50 employees

A modern interest organisation

Today, Danish Shipping is a modern interest organisation representing the interests of shipping companies in negotiations with the government, ministries, members of parliament, the press, interest groups, employer organisations, and trade unions. The organisation has also included offshore activities in its scope.

Furthermore, Danish Shipping is active in­ter­na­tio­nal­ly, advising government delegations and participating as a member in various international shipping organisations in the EU and globally.

In May 2017, Danish Shipping received a new name and logo. Since 1959, Danish Shipping had been known as the Danish Shipowners' Association, but with the change in logo, the organisation's name was also updated.

You can read more about the logo and name of Danish Shipping below.