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11 1833-1850 CREATING A SALVAGE BUSINESS The entrepreneurial story of a professional salvage business: How did SVITZER start? What challenges did the young company meet? How were they overcome? The story of the salvage company Em. Z. Svitzers Bjergningsentreprise (SVITZER) begins in 1833. Emil Zeuthen Svitzer was then 27 years old and had just taken his fi rst steps into the world of salvage. He grew up near Copenhagen in a rectory where his father was the vicar. At the age of 14 he got a traineeship in a trading company in Copenhagen belonging to the merchant Jacob Holm, whose business activities included shipbuilding. In 1829 Em. Z. Svitzer gained his trade licence and became a partner in the timber trading company J.A. Lange & Co. When Lange died Em. Z. Svitzer took over the business. While in the timber trade Em. Z. Svitzer experienced the dangers of shipping. Timber was mainly shipped to Copenhagen from Norway and Sweden and some of Em. Z. Svitzer’s shipments were wrecked. This gave birth to the idea of starting a professional salvage company. SHIPPING – A RISKY BUSINESS Shipping was a risky occupation in the early 19th century. The sea routes to and from Copenhagen via the Kattegat and the Sound were not easy to navigate with their shallow water and strong currents. There were no navigational aids warning of nearby coasts and no weather forecasts warning of heavy wind, fog, rain or snow. Charts of the Danish coastline were incomplete and those that existed were effectively unobtainable, as they were considered a matter of national security for the Kingdom well into the 19th century. Sailors had to rely on experience and many lost not only their vessels but also their lives to the sea. When Em. Z. Svitzer started his salvage company, Denmark was just coming out of the long economic depression that followed the diplomatic crisis with England during the Napoleonic wars. The crisis had culminated in the English seizure of the Danish fl eet and the bombing of large parts of Copenhagen in 1807. The salvage vessel CAMILLA acquired by SVITZER in 1839. Drawn by Jakob Petersen.


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