Kwai Chung naming ceremony for P&O giant honours 16th century Dutch navigator

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2001, 12:00am

Total commitment to every shipment, says the P&O Nedlloyd slogan. The commitment went as far as Captain Frank Schippers having to cut short one of the proudest moments of his life to get his ship to sea yesterday.

His ship - the company's newest - was named Houtman in a rain-drenched ceremony at Kwai Chung yesterday morning. Captain Schippers, who was promoted to master last year, left in the middle of a celebration lunch to supervise the Houtman's 3pm departure for Singapore, on its way to Europe.

The 6,000 teu (20 ft equivalent units) vessel was named after Dutch trader Cornelis de Houtman by Josje Speld, wife of Remi Speld, P&O Nedlloyd's recently retired director of the Asia region. She described Houtman as a 16th century equivalent of James Bond - an explorer, trader and adventurer.

The brothers Cornelis and Frederick Houtman navigated and led the first Dutch trading expedition to the East Indies. They were sent to Lisbon in 1592 as commercial representatives of nine Dutch merchants. The brothers were imprisoned by the Portuguese for attempting to obtain secret charts of East India.

Several years later they established trade relations with the rulers of Java, Sumatra and Bali.

The Houtman, two-thirds of whose crew of 30 is of Indonesian origin, is the third of four new Whale-class vessels entering P&O Nedlloyd's Europe-Asia service this year. Built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea, she is 300 metres long and 43 metres wide, and has a service speed of 24.5 knots. She will fly the Dutch flag.

Her predecessors are Stuyvesant and Shackleton. The new ship is the fifth to bear the name. The first was built in 1901 and the fourth went out of service last year.