Netherlands Harbour Works, Ltd [c.1924-1957]

Submitted by David on Sun, 06/23/2019 - 17:20

This company performed several large dredging and reclamation projects around Asia. A list of their projects from 1912 - 1934 includes three projects in Hong Kong:

  • 1924-26: Reclamation off North Point
  • 1927-29: Dredging the harbour and reclamation at Kai Tak
  • 1932-34: ????

Based on that list, I've set 1924 as the year the company was created in Hong Kong. However it doesn't appear in the Jurors Lists until the list for 1926, which shows 19 employees of the company.

There must have been other projects after 1934, as the 1941 Jurors List still shows three employees of the company.

The only entry for the company in ICRIS shows them registering a non-Hong Kong Company on 13-Feb 1946. I assume this is when they set up business again after WW2. It also gives their Dutch name, NEDERLANDSCHE MAATSCHAPPIJ VOOR HAVENWERKEN N.V. In 1952 they add "Royal" to the front of their company name (and add KONINKLIJKE to the front of their Dutch name.)

They "cease Place of Business in Hong Kong" on 11th Dec 1957.

Date organisation created
(Day, Month, & Year are approximate.)
Date organisation closed
Photos of this organisation:
(see more)

Photos of this organisation:


According to the memoirs of John Pownall Reeves, the British consul in wartime Macau, the Netherlands Harbour Works Company was based in Macau during the war years, where it had HK$3,000,000 in construction equipment, including dredgers, lighters, hoppers, locomotives, and railcars.  A Mr. Van Woerkom or Woerkamp served as the manager.  The Japanese got one of the dredgers, but the rest of the gear apparently rode out the war in Macau.  (The Lone Flag: Memoir of the British Consul in Macao during World War II from HKU Press)

Thanks Steve, that's a good addition. Looking at the list mentioned above, the company had a major project in Macau in the years 1922-27. A map on that same page shows the outline of the reclamation - a large area of new land.

There were also members of the company in Hong Kong through the war years: of the three men listed in the 1941 Jurors List, I see Rudolf Van Rossum ended up interned at Stanley Camp.

I'm not sure if the company had maintained offices in both cities throughout the 1930s, or if the valuable equipment in Macau you described was transferred there from Hong Kong before war broke out - either by luck or good foresight.

In connection with the scheme for developing Kai Tak into a large civil aerodrome, the "Hankow", a sea-going hopper-suction-dredger has arrived in Hong Kong for dredging operations. 

The contract for this dredging has been let locally to the Netherlands Harbour Works owing to the great saving that can be effected. The Dutch Company have already in the Far East the biggest and most effective dredgers and the cost of bringing such from elsewhere would be considerable.

The dredger upon arrival from Belawan (Sumatra) and Macao was berthed at the Cosmopolitan Docks. 

China Mail 20 July 1927 refers. Further reading - HK Daily Press 31 May 1927.


The HK Daily Press article that Moddsey mentions is on page 6 of the issue, available to read online at MMIS. Some points of interest:

  • Plan was to perform a thorough dredging of the harbour, "and the silt will be dumped on the Reclamation at Kai Tack, which is to be transformed into a site for a big civil aerodrome. This will be a linking up station with the proposed England to Australia service via Singapore."
  • The contract with the Netherlands Harbour Works Co. would pay special attention to "the Penguin Shoals (Just off Quarry Bay), the Belcher Ridge and Rambler Shoal (opposite North Point) an area opposite Kowloon Point, and also in the Tsimsatsui area."
  • Project estimated to take 18 months.
  • "At present Kai Tack is being used as a landing and taking-off ground for the R.A.F. units now in the Colony, but the scheme is that Reclamation shall be completed to provide for a first-class civil aerodrome in connection with the Imperial Airways, thus linking Hong Kong and the Far East with the other lines of commercial communication by air now being instituted throughout the Empire." It was to connect Singapore with Shanghai, Japan, and "the Philippine Island".
  • "The immediate work is the completion of the reclamation and the sea wall at Kai Tack, and also the provision of a typhoon shelter and basin for seaplanes. The nullahs are to be covered in connection with this work."
  • "The proposed basin for seaplanes will be to the East, and it will have a sea wall running out and a slipway."
  • "It is understood that negotiations are in hand for the completion of the Kai Tack Reclamation Company, the Government having taken over the land."