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History

History

Rederij T. Muller BV, Sleepdienst "En Avant" was founded in 1918. It was the only surviving shipping company of the Muller family in Dordrecht, that had started its activities in the shipping industry around the year 1750.

Dredging in 1937

Dredging in 1937, there were good times and there were bad times and everyone had to cope with them. In the dredging business of the war and the post-war era, not all that glitters is gold. Dredgers were towed for only Fl 125,00 per week. In such weeks a dredger would work more than 100 hours.  For a short period of time, the En Avant XIV was claimed by the German Kriegsmarine (war fleet) and sailed in the service of the Military Police, being assigned to the inspection of the Dutch fishery.

The "Delta works"

Closing the dam at Oostvoorne In the initial phases of what would later become known as the "Delta works", a dam was raised by Zanen Verstoep on both sides of the Brielsche Maas near Oostvoorne. A caisson would be used to close the remaining gap between both ends of the dam that, by now, were standing only 60 meters apart. Seven of Muller’s tugboats picked up the colossal construct (that measured 62 meters in length, 13 meters in width en 15 meters in height) in Sluiskil and towed it to Oostvoorne. To be able to handle the colossus, the crew had to wait for slack tide at approximately 13:00 hours.

Centimetre by centimetre the caisson moved in between the extremities of the dam

Just before, the last water made its way through the narrow gully toward the sea at speeds of no less than 32 kilometres per hour! A few minutes past 13:00 hours, the winches of the cranes and the dredging mill started to pull, assisted by eight tugboats that prevented the pontoon from drifting off.  It was a spectacular sight to see how elegantly and scrupulously the vessels worked together while manoeuvring. Centimetre by centimetre the caisson moved in between the extremities of the dam, hinging around the southern end, precisely according to calculation. At 13:45 hours, the caisson was locked into position and promptly a roaring storm burst, as if it were a salute.

The flood of 1953

The flood of 1953 brought the company a salvage operation. Near Westerschouwen, the Finnish cargo-ship Bore IV had gone aground. The high sea and the fierce winds had thrown the vessel onto the beach and against the dunes. A request to dig a gully - at that time a common method of salvaging - was denied by Rijkswaterstaat (the Dutch authorities) on grounds that this would have an undermining effect on the state of the foothills. The solution could only have come from a shipyard: the cargo-ship would be launched a second time! Firstly, Muller’s tugboats towed the vessel toward the sea by its stern. Then, the ship was turned 90 degrees using fixed anchors positioned in the sea. Next, crew from the shipyard started building a slope of some sort. The incline had to become approximately 170 meters in length.

Muller’s tugboats towed the vessel toward the sea by its stern.

In addition, holes had to be shovelled to be able to put the wooden support in place. The steam winches aboard the Bore IV proved very helpful as they were used to pull heavy material uphill. Also, the salvage anchors could be pulled with the winches. It would take all summer to complete building the slope on the beach. And although many were pessimistic, ultimately, on December 3rd 1953, the salvagers managed to partly pull the ship afloat. Finally, on December 19th, the Bore IV reached the water assisted by the En Avant XIV. A salvage operation by a shipyard crew had been accomplished! The Bore IV is pulled afloat by the En Avant IX and the En Avant XIV. Pay attention to the anchor attached to the fence. It was used as a salvage anchor during the rotation of the ship.

Closing the breaches

Closing the breaches at Schouwen Duiveland and Stevensweert. The first task after the disaster of 1953 was the closing of the breach near the port of Hellevoetsluis. To that effect, the shipping company had asked the Royal Company "De Schelde" based in Vlissingen to weld two launches together.  Closing the breaches at Schouwen Duiveland. Closing the breaches at Stevensweert. On the side, large plates were attached so that the construction could serve as an embankment. Once the barges were placed in the opening, they were simply filled with water thus closing the breach permanently.