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Amsterdam opens new world-class nautical attraction

Collection of large historic ships on site of former wharf

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM - On a site once occupied by famed shipyard NDSM, a new nautical attraction is slated for an official opening this summer. Museum Harbour is located in the North district - ‘across the IJ River’ - and can also be reached by a dedicated ferry from the centre of the city.

The museum will have on display an initial fourteen larger, seaworthy ships. All have historical importance, among them the famed Pollux. The three-mast bark was built in 1939 and for decades served as the non-sailing training ship for the Dutch merchant marine. In the 1990s it was moved from its berth near the Central Station to the North Sea port of IJmuiden. Currently under renovation, the concrete-bottomed Pollux will be the the centre piece of the collection.

Other remarkable ships at the museum’s quays will be a Soviet-era submarine, a mine-sweeper and the Blommendal, an oceanographic research ship instrumental in the discovery of a number of important ship wrecks.

Among the vessels coveted by the museum is the Sirius, a former ship of the Dutch navy that in later years was owned and operated by environmental group Greenpeace. The museum aims to expand the collection by 2006 to forty well-kept and mostly seaworthy vessels.

The large NDSM site includes former production halls, two slips, periferal buildings and huge undeveloped lots. Some of the space already has been used for urban development. For the last decade, the indoor space was used for a number of purposes, including housing and workspace for artists and performing groups.

NDSM history

The shipyard was built in the late 19th century. The company evolved from the Royal Factory, set up in 1845 to build steel ships. By 1890, the factory went into restructuring continuing as Werkspoor, while the shipbuilding division flourished as DNS. It moved to the North quarter where it became the neighbour of the Dutch Dock Company. The two wharves eventually merged to form NDSM, the Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company. It did not escape the ship building industry realignment. As part of the Verolme group, NDSM was split up again in the 1970. By 1984, the Dutch Shipbuilding Company failed. A few years later, the struggling Amsterdam Dry Dock Company also shut down in bankruptcy.

Some of the finest ships were built at the Amsterdam wharf, including the Christiaan Huygens (1928), the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (1930) and the Marnix van St. Aldegonde (1930). Perhaps the most famous of the NDSM ships remains the Oranje (1939).