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Innovative freight ship linked Hanseatic cities on Europe’s coast

Replica Kampen Kogge to revisit historic Baltic trade route

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

KAMPEN, the Netherlands - Volunteers of the Foundation Kampen Kogge will man the 1990s replica of a 1336 merchant ship on a nine-week journey along a medieval trade route to Baltic Sea ports, the so-called Ommelandvaart. In the 14th century, traders from the Hanse town had gained concessions from the Danish king for their sea route around Denmark.

Last year, a volunteer group convinced the foundation of the desirability of the new vaart and raised funds to cover the budget of 230.000 euro. A motor boat will provide logistical support and accompany the Kampen Kogge on its entire journey which in-volves four countries. The ship which has elevated wooden ‘ramparts’ on its rear deck, will set sail in early June.

To Lubeck

The list of fifteen ports where the Kampen Kogge will make stopovers, starts with the Frisian island of Terschelling, a destination which itself has significant roots in Dutch maritime history. The island had close ties with Kampen during the Hanseatic League days. The second stopover, after navigating the eastern North Sea, is at Skagen, the most northern Danish port, followed by stops on the Danish islands of Laeso and Anholt. Both are located in the Kattegat, the straight which separates Denmark and Sweden. Next are the Swedish ports Halsingborg and Malmo on the channel which leads to the Baltic Sea. Both still have traces of early Dutch influences.

The next four stopovers will be in German ports Stralsund, Rostock, Wismar and Lubeck, all important trading partners long ago. The ship will return home via the Danish island ports Svendborg, Aerokobing and through the Kiel Canal (built in the late 1800s to connect the Baltic Sea with the North Sea). The final stopover is at Bremerhaven where a reconstructed, original Bremen Kogge can be seen.

Link to early maritime history

The discovery in 1983, of a Kampen Kogge wreck during excavation in a mainland polder, reclaimed from the Zuiderzee, rejuvenated interest in Kampen’s Hanseatic history and in the ship which was unique to the city on the IJssel river mouth at the inland sea, now called IJsselmeer. The wreck allowed the Dutch Institute for Ship and Underwater Archeology to build a small scale replica (on a 1:10 scale) of what had been a largely undocumented type of vessel. Following a fundraising campaign, the foundation launched the construction of a full-sized replica in 1994, to be made by artisans.

A shipyard at the reconstructed Oude Buitenhaven in the city became the home where the city’s new identity symbol would be built. It placed Kampen along with Lelystad and Rotterdam-Delfshaven on the short list of Dutch cities, where through hand-built, seaworthy replica’s, the interest in the country’s maritime history is rekindled.


Dutch people generally think of the trade with the Dutch East Indies when reminded of their country’s maritime past. The Hanseatic history however is fundamental to understanding how this Far East involvement came about, and how the Dutch became a global trade and maritime power.

In the glory days, more that 150 cities belonged to the League. Some were on waterways in the German hinterland but most were coastal ports in an area stretching from the Baltic Sea to Portugal. The Dutch played a significant role moving merchandise from port to port (a role now assumed prominently by Dutch trucking firms and inland river barge operators).

The Hanseatic League regulated trade issues, tolls and taxes and acted as a reality check to power-hungry feudal lords. The trade consisted especially of salt, fish, grain, lumber, beer, wine, cloth, bees wax and furs. The evolution of the kogge as a freighter boosted volume shipments in a world which largely relied on waterways. Hanseatic towns such as Kampen and the other IJssel river towns were the leading economic and cultural motors of the Netherlands of that era.