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Like the rest of the Kingdom the shipping industry experienced a deep decline and had just started to get back on its feet. Denmark’s main export cargo was grain headed for England where the industrial revolution was already gathering strength. In 1824 Danish ships obtained a reciprocal agreement with British ports, enjoying the same rights in British ports as British ships, and trade boomed. Apart from timber to be used as building material the main import to Denmark from England was coal. The increase in shipping activity also resulted in more vessels needing salvage assistance. SALVAGE IN THE 19TH CENTURY In the fi rst half of the 19th century salvage was usually undertaken by local fi sher men paid either by the King or the shipowner. The fi shermen had typically formed a local salvage guild and would undertake the salvage with their own boats. Vessels grounding and wrecking were not unusual and salvage was an important extra income for these local communities, especially during times when bad weather made fi shing diffi cult. If the vessel belonged to a declared enemy the wreck was considered the property of the Danish Kingdom. Em. Z. Svitzer wanted to develop a professional business assisting and recovering vessels in need and their cargoes. Assistance could be to vessels that had grounded but could be re-fl oated, to vessels damaged but still fl oating, or to vessels completely wrecked at sea. At the time this was in fact an entrepreneurial idea. In 1827 a small company near Copenhagen had been founded on the same idea, but closed when the owner died just three years later. When Em. Z. Svitzer started his salvage business in 1833 there was no similar professional salvage company in Denmark and today SVITZER is amongst the oldest of its kind in the world. Recognizing that he was a tradesman, not a sailor, Em. Z. Svitzer quickly partnered with master mariner H.C. Larsen. Practical knowledge of seamanship and relationships within the shipping industry were crucial to succeed in salvage. By allying himself with people with good practical education and talent for organisation, Em. Z. Svitzer founded a strong company, whose skills quickly earned recognition from shipowners. The fi rst vessels in the SVITZER fl eet were a broad fl at-bottomed cutter, GAMMELHOLM, bought from the Danish navy, a sprit-sail rigged boat and a large gig. They were all based at Kastrup, a small village by the Sound close to Emil Zeuthen Svitzer 1805-1886 Wooden model of SVITZER’s fi rst salvage vessel GAMMELHOLM. 12 S V I T Z E R – S A F E T Y A N D S U P P O R T AT S E A


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