In 1855 two young businessmen from Groningen, Johan Herman Wijnne (right) and Barend Cornelis Barends (left), decided to establish a shipping company. Not a bad idea if one lived in the northern parts of the Netherlands for in those days shipping had just become booming business due to the Crimean war. Small neutral Dutch vessels could make a big profit sailing via sea or inland waterways.

The company provided services like shipbroking and chartering for both ocean and inland shipping together with technical support, insurance, forwarding and agency. The starting entrepreneurs participated in several coastal ships like schooner, koff, brigantine, galleot and a steam-tug named “Time is Money”.

By the early 1860’s the shipping business had to endure the negative influence of the international trade crisis which started in 1857. The opening of the Eemskanaal from Groningen to Delfzijl in 1867 however gave new opportunities resulting in the establishment of a second office in Delfzijl.

Business was well underway again when on 2 June 1868 Johan Herman Wijnne sadly died in the first ever railway accident in the Netherlands. On the day he died his fifth and youngest child was just celebrating her first birthday. The family and company were deprived of a loved and respected pier.

In 1870 Barend Cornelis Barends could, by contract, change the name of the company. The fact that he declined to do so may to some extent tell us the respect he had for his lost partner.

The Delfzijl office soon became the company head-office where the Barends family lived upstairs in the same building. By 1879 all of the fleet had either been sold, stranded or sunk. Thus ending the participation in vessels for many years to come. The next time Wijnne Barends would participate in any vessel would be no sooner than 1952.

Samuel Barends
Samual Barends, son of Barend Cornelis, took over the Delfzijl office when he was just 21 years old. When his father died in 1891 he, at the age of 26, became director of the Groningen and Delfzijl office. Samual was a just man who was dedicated to the company and its people, under his firm guidance Wijnne Barends grew in size as well as in consequence.

In 1919 he changed the company name to Wijnne & Barends’ cargadoors- en agentuurkantoren and named his eldest son Barend Zacharias together with W.F. Oosterheert and G. Meijer director. The four men steered the business through the rough weather of the economical crises of the 1930’s. Samuels’ sudden demise in 1936 shook the company and family more than the world-wide crises ever could.

Barend Zacharias Barends
Barend Zacharias was left sole director in 1940; W.F Oosterheert stopped working in 1932 and G. Meijer died on the brink of the second world war. Barend Zacharias became the pillar on which the company had to stand during the war. A true son of his father, if more sociable, he withstood all worldly problems and kept the company going. Post war emigration resulted in the opening of a travel agency in Groningen.

It was Barend Zacharias who brought the company its second try for participation in vessels. The first vessel, a 500 ton coaster, was built in 1952 and named “Marie-Christine” in memory of his late mother. This motor vessel was the tangible result of his life’s work for he suddenly died in 1953, leaving the family and company without its Captain.

New office
The board of commissioners (all family members) named Niels Barends, third son of Barend Zacharias, and J. Sanders as co-directors. J. Sanders was already working for the company since he was 17 years old in 1919. He led the Groningen office from 1932 onwards as chef. The company expanded and the Wijnne Barends total fleet in management consisted of about 130 coastal vessels at its peak in 1955. To house all new staff members a new office was built in Delfzijl, again the Barends family took residence above the office.

Wijnne Barends wanted to stabilise the fleet in management so they invested in a total of 20 vessels during the 1960’s, these were sister vessel in several series to ensure maximum flexibility. In 1965 the orange coloured hull was introduced under the motto “safety at sea”.

Terminal Delfzijl
The ever-increasing size of coastal vessels led to the establishment of Terminal Delfzijl in 1970, the inland terminal provided interim storage facilities for timber packages from Scandinavia. The packages were forwarded either by truck (truck-owners under Terminal colours) or inland vessels; “door to door” service became a fact.

In the same year the second generation of the motor vessel “Marie Christine” was built, the first Wijnne & Barends vessel with a box shaped hold. Technical developments raced through the shipping world at breakneck speed. Niels Barends was keen on new technology and its development, he himself was a well known amateur photographer who used the latest equipment from 1950 to 1975 to document the growth of Delfzijl.

In 1972 Wijnne & Barends became a Private Limited Company with a register of shareholders, these were almost all descendants of the Barends family. The Groningen office was closed regarding the shipping activities, the travel agency remained. All shipping activities were concentrated in Delfzijl.

A year later saw the founding of Groundservice Groningen Airport. This subsidiary of Wijnne & Barends was primarily engaged in air travel and ground handling for charter flights and scheduled flight services at Eelde airport.

Marius Cornelis Nijhoff, cousin of Niels Barends, and Mr. Kuper became directors of the company after the early demise of Niels Barends in 1979. Marius Nijhoff would be the last descendant of the Barends family to become director. Investment in new vessels continued throughout the 1980’s despite bad economical weather world-wide. Wijnne Barends again based its survival on a stable but flexible fleet of multi-purpose vessels.

Head office
After the retirement of Mr. Kuper and Marius Cornelis Nijhoff in 1990, the directors’ chair was occupied by the former head of the technical department, Mr. Toonen. In 1994 his successor was Mr. Makkinje, again the former head of the technical department. The 1990’s were dictated again by technical innovation in the shipping industry. Wijnne Barends took the opportunity to invest in the fleet, again by building series of sister vessel to ensure flexibility. Groundservice Groningen Airport, being a non-shipping activity, was sold.

By the end of the decade the company grew too large to be housed in the existing office building. A new modern office in the harbour of Delfzijl greets every vessel entering via the Eems. Investments in Terminal Delfzijl resulted in large insulated storage facilities in the outer harbour of Delfzijl adjacent to the head office.

At the turn of the millennium Wijnne & Barends started a close co-operation with Spliethoff’s Bevrachtingkantoor B.V. (Spliethoff) in Amsterdam. Both company fleets in management were complimentary to each other. Where the Wijnne Barends fleet in management ended in size, the Spliethoff fleet in management started. In 2003 Spliethoff became main shareholder of Wijnne Barends.


How it all began