To start with, the VOC converted a number of freighters into simple and rudimentary passenger ships. The first ship designed specifically for a trans-Atlantic trip was launched in 1843, and served to take passengers from Rotterdam to Recife. These passenger liners were marginally profitable, for though they left Rotterdam fully loaded, the left Recife with only a few on board. The flood of refugees in 1848, sparked off a rush across the ocean. In order to meet the demand, the VOC opened new shipyards in Amsterdam, not far from their 18th Century yards.
In order to speed the voyage, and return for another load faster, the first steamer was launched from the VOC’s shipyards in 1851. The Pride of Amsterdam was the largest ship of its day, capable of cramming several hundred refugees within its 120-room hull. The ship was not designed for luxury or even comfort, but people who road upon it reached the New World alive and ready to set forth on their new lives. The ship could cross to Recife in just under ten days, or reach New Amsterdam or Philadelphia in less than a week. Most of the VOC Cruise department’s ships made runs to Brazil, and between 1840 and 1890, VOC ships carried some two million immigrants to the Empire of Brazil.