Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij(KPM)


Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM) was founded by the Dutch to operate a regional shipping line in the Indonesian Archipelago. At its height, KPM operated more than 140 ships ranging from small vessels of less than 50 tons to large passenger liners exceeding 10,000 tons with services extending from the Dutch East Indies to South Africa to the west, Australia to the east and China to the north. Part of its fleet was based in Singapore.

Early History
Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM) was founded by Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland (SMN) and Rotterdamsche Lloyd (RL) in 1888. SMN and RL had been operating regular steamship services between Holland and Java for almost twenty years, and they started KPM to form a feeding line for the home steamers.  At that time the inter-insular mail services were being operated by the Nederlandsch-Indische Stoomboot Maatschappij (NISM), a subsidiary of the British India Steam Navigation Company. KPM commenced operations on 1 January 1891 with 29 small steamers - 13 new steamers and 16 from its predecessor, NISM 

KPM's fleet expanded rapidly, but two vessels were lost in Singapore Harbour in the early 1900s - Reijniersz was destroyed by fire on 23 January 1907, and Djambi sank in 1909 after it collided with the Messgeries Maritimes steamer, Polynesien.  With the increase in operations, KPM set up an office at 2-3 Collyer Quay in 1914, and a service from Penang and Singapore to the China ports was started in 1916.  By around 1920, KPM had 92 vessels that operated 50 services with about 300 ports of call. Two well-known fast steamers Melchior Treub and Rumphius ran the weekly service to Java and Sumatra, and 10 services connected Singapore and the Dutch East Indies with 84 ports of call.

In 1931, the KPM Building in the business district was opened. By then, Singapore had become a key centre of KPM's activities, with part of its fleet based in Singapore, and KPM's contribution to the maintenance of Singapore's trade was recognized by the government  At the start of the World War II, KPM's fleet had grown to 146 vessels that ran more than 70 services with more than 400 ports of call. Its services extended beyond the East Indies region with nine international routes to South Africa to the west, Australia to the east and China to the north covering other countries like Indochina, Mauritius, Thailand and Myanmar as well. It had grown into the second largest Dutch steamship company and had become synonymous with shipping in the Dutch East Indies.  

World War II and Beyond
During the war, KPM lost about two thirds of its fleet. After the war, KPM attempted to rebuild its fleet. However, the rebuilding programme was overtaken by changes in the political landscape. In 1957, KPM discontinued its inter-island trade in Indonesia due to the changes in the political situation, and shifted its focus to international services.  In 1966, it merged with Koninklijke Java China Paketvaart Lijnen (KJCPL) to form Royal Interocean Lines (RIL).  In 1970, RIL and Nedlloyd Lines merged their offices in Singapore into Interocean Lines (S.E.A.) Pte Ltd.  The advent of containerisation, and the foundation of ScanDutch, saw RIL and the East Asiatic Company formed Nedlloyd EAC Agencies Pte Ltd on 1 April 1972 to operate their shipping agency business in Singapore and West Malaysia.  Nedlloyd EAC handled container and conventional liner services for ScanDutch, Nedlloyd Lines and EAC Bulk Services, and it became one of the largest agency organisations in Southeast Asia. 

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia & Chan Fook Weng


Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2, pp. 201-202). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE) 

Singapore Free Press. (1935).  One hundred years of progress: Centenary number, October 8, 1935 (Section 2, p. 12) [Microfilm: NL3615]. Singapore: Singapore Free Press. 

Singapore International Chamber of Commerce. (1979).  From early days (pp. 203-205).  Singapore: The Chamber.  
(Call no.: RSING 380.10655957SIN)

Singapore retrospect through postcards, 1900-1930 (pp. 36, 39). (1982). Singapore: Sin Chew Jit Poh [and] Archives and Oral History Dept.
(Call no.: RSING 769.4995957 SIN)

TheShipsList. (1997-2007). Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij 1888-1967. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://www.theshipslist.com (then click on Fleets Lists > Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij 1888-1967).

The information in this article is valid as at 2007 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject.  Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Commerce and Industry>>Transportation
Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij(KPM)
Law and government>>Safety administration>>Marine transportation
Shipping companies (Marine transportation)--Southeast Asia

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