The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Consolidation of the VOC

By 1877, the VOC climbed to the number one spot for shipping in the world. Its climb back to the top included absorbing two smaller shipping companies, and more importantly, their ships and contracts. The first was in 1870, followed by the second in 1883. By the time of its second acquisition all VOC ship were steam driven, with masts and sails only as auxiliary. Given a good wind, captains would still rather have a free push from the air than to burn through fuel. The Company approved of still using sails, but mostly for cost-effectiveness than from nostalgia of a by-gone age. Its return to the top in 1877, also made the VOC the first billion guilder company in the Dutch Commonwealth.

Another bit of technological progress that the VOC grabbed originated in America. The telegraph (and later telephone) were quick in supplanting written messages. The VOC formed VOC Communications to take advantage of this new form of communication. In 1861, the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable snaked its way from Dunkirk to Cayenne, in northern Brazil. More cables were lain by the VOC, on both the land and in the sea, linking states and colonies of the Dutch Commonwealth by the 1880s. The VOC was not the only communication company, but because of its diverse portfolio, quickly became the largest. The company purchased a copper mine in Brazil in 1874, to secure a steady supply of the metal for its cables.

By the end of the century, more than 30% of all Dutch commerce was being shipped by the VOC. Lower rates undercut the competition, and though bad for competition, low rates always go over well with the consumer. The VOC’s own private navy, though small by its predecessor’s standards, still offered the protection in dangerous waters that smaller companies just could not manage. Along with telegraphed messages, the VOC opened its own private post office as part of VOC Communications in 1892.

The VOC almost always caught on to new technologies quickly. However, in the case of oil, it was slower to take. Standard Oil of the United States already dominated the kerosine market in America before the VOC began to investigate it. Before, oil was processed from whales. It did not take a modern marine biologist to understand that whaling on an industrial level was not sustainable. Thus, the VOC paid little attention to oil. When oil began to be extracted from the ground in Pennsylvania, the Company saw it as a fluke. When oil fields were found all over the world, the Board began to pay attention. When a kerosine byproduct, gasoline, began to show promise, the VOC moved into action. In 1895, the VOC managed to purchase Royal Dutch Shell, and renamed it VOC Oil. It proved a wise move, though the VOC was unable to dominate the oil industry, it did secure for itself a fuel source, as well as a product for sell throughout the 20th Century.

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