Towage and Salvage


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A year after August de Meijer started as a shipbroker in 1879, he became the agent of the Antwerp based Towing Cy J. B. Maas. A few years later that company started a close cooperation with the S.A. de Remorquage à Hélice (the Propeller Towage Cy), known as “Gerling” after the founder, the Danish captain Henri Gerling, who took over J.B. Maas in 1898.


The company started its activities in Terneuzen harbour and the lower Scheldt river with the tugboat "Klamper" or "Clamper". It had a steam engine of only 50 Hp and with this miniscule power it towed 3 to 4 sailing ships in a very slow pace up and down the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal and in the outer harbour. It basically replaced the manpower and horses used before by the so called "ketsers" active on the pier of the outer harbour of Terneuzen.




The relation between “Gerling” and Aug. de Meyer BV and the presence of the Antwerp towage company celebrated its centenary in 1980. The company started a joint venture in 1928 with the tugboat company "Sleepdienst Letzer" known as the "Unie van Redding en Sleepdienst” (Union de Remorquage et Sauvetage, URS). Gerling and Letzer finally merged in 1974 and is since almost a century the most important company assisting sea going vessels on the Canal Ghent-Terneuzen and  "salvage" company on the Scheldt river upto Zeebrugge. 




During those years quite a number of casualties happened both on the river and in the canal. A series of pictures can be seen in below picture gallery, but we have selected a few particular dramatic or rather unknown cases below.




HMS Valentine

HMS "Valentine", a destroyer of the Royal Navy was beached and abandoned on 15 May 1940 after being bombed by a German Ju-87 Stuka in position 51°20’N, 03°49’E (the Scheldt dyke near Dow Chemical). Photo by Rino Tofoli, engineer at la Compagnie Néerlandaise de l'Azôte in Sluiskil. His wife Ghislaine Tofoli-de Meijer is in the foreground.


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"Here rest the sailors of HMS Valentine, 15/5/1940"


Photo taken by Rino Tofoli during the first days of World War II. Ghislaine Tofoli-de Meijer is looking at the temporary grave of the Brittish sailors, who lost their lives in the defence of the southern part of the Netherlands.