The first attempts to establish steam shipping lines from Java to Australia date from 1864. Negotiations were initiated by the Chamber of Commerce in Batavia. There was a trial voyage but Parliament voted against the operation as it didn’t see any trading value in such an operation.

In 1866 Ambrosius van Delden, a Dutch colonial resident of Java, undertook a journey from Java to Australia. He was on a mission to negotiate the grant of a subsidy for establishing a regular steamship line between Java and Australia with the governments of the Australian Colonies. During his six-month visit to four Australian Colonies he kept a diary which has survived. van Delden met with a broad spectrum of society and was invited into many people’s homes and official government residences. He recorded the smallest details of nature, social customs, trade and industry, and in passing commented on the turbulent political issues of the time.

In 1871 further discussions took place. There is an article on this in the Sydney Morning Herald from 9 August 1871

See also: Dutch Steamer Curaçao visits Australia in 1871

Melbourne Advocate 21 September 1872   


There is no mistaking the earnestness with which the mercantile community of Java have set their hearts upon establishing frequent communication between Netherlands India and Australia.

Repeated failure only, seems to increase their fixity of purpose. A recent number of the Batavia Handelsblad says:” We are able with great pleasure to state that the watchful director of the Netherlands India Steam /Navigation Company has applied to the Government for a concession to establish a steam service between Batavia, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney -in consideration of a subsidy of £13,000 a year.

A steamer will leave Batavia every seventy-five days. The principal object of this steam communication is trading operations; former plans for the carriage of mails having been given up, because the company, to effect postal communication more quickly than at present, would have to build a separate fleet of steamers.

The proposed steam service is highly desirable from a Commercial standpoint, and not less so to many officials and others, who have need of another climate and cannot afford a voyage to Europe.

The passage rates will be 700f. (florins of the value of Is. 8d.) for the first class, and 400f. for second-class passengers for both the voyage out and the voyage back, including food, – but without beer or wine, which will be obtainable on board on moderate terms. Information of the application has been given to the commercial associations and chambers of commerce in this quarter, and we have no doubt that they will give in their adhesion. May the Governor- General speedily take the initiative and lay Netherlands India under an obligation by granting it steam communication with Australia, held out to us six years ago.

Sydney Morning Herald 12 June 1908

Netherlands and Australia.

Mr. J. Clark, consul for the Netherlands, has received confirmatory advice of the intention of the Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (Royal Packet Shipping Company), to establish a regular service between Java and Australia, calling at Macassar, Banda, Thursday Island, Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. Its service will be carried out by two new steamers of 3,000 tons, each provided with a refrigerating plant. The Inaugural steamer will leave Batavia on 11th July, and Melbourne on the return journey on 13th August. The Paketvaart line of steamers are noted for their passenger comforts, so that a new avenue to the touring Australian will shortly be open—namely, a trip to the Netherlands India. The advance agent of the company is now on his way south, to establish the necessary agencies of the company.

Sydney Morning Herald 25 June 1920

NEW STEAMSHIP LINE Australia And Netherlands

MELBOURNE, Thursday. — Messrs. John Sanderson and Co. announce that they have been appointed agents for the new steamship line between Australia and the Netherlands, the United Netherlands Navigation Company. At least five prominent Dutch companies, owning 1,500,099 tons of shipping, are associated with the line.

The first vessel, the Soerakarta, 6926 tons, will leave Rotterdam in August, and call at Antwerp Lisbon, ana Genoa, discharging at Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

(Source articles: Trove, National Library of Australia)

The Soerakarta

Vereenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaart (VNS)

Dutch shipping optimism was high in 1920 and resulted in the formation of the United Netherlands Navigation Company (VNS) on 30th April 1920 with a capital of 200 million guilders by eight partners, the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company (KNSM), Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland, Royal Rotterdam Lloyd, Royal Packet Navigation Company (KPM), Java China Japan Line (JCJL), Holland America Line, S.M. ‘De Maas’ (Van Ommeren), and Van Nievelt, Goudriaan & Company.

The ‘Straat Banka’ from the Koninklijke Java-China-Paketvaart Lijnen NV in Sydney Harbour

See also:

Koninklijke Pakketvaart-Maatschappij- Australian operation launched in 1912

Dutch immigrant ships to Australia