CMB – Compagnie Maritime Belge
"Always a step ahead": that is how we operate. We believe the strong traditions of the maritime industry can work hand in hand with innovation and a pioneering spirit. Our history and track record and the development of new technologies reinforce and complement each other.
This is us
Every day, about 150 seagoing vessels carry dry bulk (Bocimar), containers (Delphis), chemicals (Bochem) and offshore wind crew (Windcat) around the seven seas. These activities are supported ashore by our head office in Belgium and our offices in Japan, Namibia, Singapore, China, Germany, UK, and The Netherlands.
We believe the only future-proof strategy for the maritime industry is a sustainable and climate-neutral one. Our cleantech division CMB.TECH emanates that vision. To keep the innovation going, MCA was created to guide this maritime industry toward more cooperation and innovation.
CMB drives on shared values
The way we do business, our ethics and the interaction with our stakeholders are inspired by strong family values: honesty, hard work, openness, solidarity and long-term value creation.
We want these values to be reflected in our working environments, both onshore and on board our ships. We wish to offer all our colleagues a healthy, safe and positive place to work.
We wish to work as efficiently as possible in our day-to-day activities to maximise the value creation of everything we undertake.
We like to make quick decisions with a strong can-do attitude. When it is clear what needs to be done, we do it.
We adapt to changing environments by developing future-proof products and solutions.
We dare to invest in the future, even in the direst of times. We value entrepreneurship. This is what kept CMB going for so many years and what we admire in our staff. We do not take "no" for an answer and constantly try to find solutions for the challenges ahead.
Through these values, we show our commitment to our industry, our customers, our employees and the world we live in.
The history of CMB
The values we uphold at CMB are not a recent development. They have helped us set our course throughout 125 years of business. The timeline below includes the highlights and lowlights that have helped us to become the company we are today.
CMB announced the naming ceremony and launch of the first ammonia-ready container ships in the CMB fleet.
Antwerp Terminal Services (ATS) and CMB.TECH launch World’s First Hydrogen Dual Fuel Straddle Carrier
The Bochem Marengo (2017) joins the Bochem fleet of chemical tankers.
The Bochem Pegasos (2018) is delivered to the CMB Group.
WinGD, a Swiss marine power company, and CMB.TECH agree to co-develop large ammonia-fuelled two-stroke engines. The companies bring combined expertise to zero-carbon fuel technology in a groundbreaking collaboration for a fleet of ammonia fuelled bulk carriers.
The Bochem Bucephalas (2017) and the Bochem Walvis Bay (2016) join the chemical tanker fleet of the CMB Group.
The Bochem Bayard (2017) is delivered to the CMB Group.
The opening of the first CMB.TECH dual fuel workshop takes place. In this workshop, new ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) trucks are converted with CMB.TECH’s dual fuel hydrogen technology.
Windcat, Europe's market-leading offshore personnel transfer company, announced an order for the construction of a series of hydrogen-powered Commissioning Service Operation Vessels (CSOVs) with Damen Shipyards, a global provider of maritime solutions.
The Group orders 10 newcastlemaxes of 210.000 dwt from Qingdao Beihai Shipyard. The vessels will deliver in 2025 (7) and 2026 (3) and will all be ammonia ready. This brings the total number of vessels on order from Beihai to 20 units.
The Group orders 3 CSOVs to be built by Damen for delivery in April, July and October 2025.
Bochem acquires 5 modern chemical tankers; four units of 25.000 and one unit of 20.000 dwt. The vessels will deliver to the Group in the course of the first quarter of 2023 and will be named Bochem Bayard (2017), Bochem Buchephalas (2017), Bochem Marengo (2017), Bochem Pegasos (2018) and Bochem Walvis Bay (2016).
CMB.TECH and Windcat Workboats present the first hydrogen-powered crew transfer vessel: the Hydrocat 48. This ground-breaking development for both the marine and offshore wind industries is the first CTV that uses clean fuels to reduce up to 80% of its traditional fuel usage and associated emissions.
BeHydro launches 100% hydrogen engines for heavy-duty applications at the World Hydrogen Summit in Rotterdam. These innovative, zero emission engines are ready to be used and will allow the industry to further engage in 100% sustainable and environmentally friendly development.
The Group exercises its options to acquire an additional two 210.000 dwt newcastlemaxes with Qingdao Beihai Shipyard. This brings the total number of firm vessels ordered to 10.
The Group exercises its options to acquire an additional 2 25.000 dwt stainless steel chemical tankers from China Merchants Jinling Shipyard. This brings the total number of firm vessels ordered to 6.
CMB.TECH and Ohlthaver & List (O&L) Group, one of Namibia’s largest companies, create Cleanergy Solutions, a joint venture that aims to develop a hydrogen production and distribution plant in Namibia.
The Group orders 4 additional container vessels with a capacity of 5900 TEU from Yangfan Qingdao Shipyard. This order brings the total number of 5900 TEU container vessels on order to 12 vessels.
The Group orders 2 additional container vessels with a capacity of 5900 TEU from Yangfan Qingdao Shipyard.
The Group orders 2 additional chemical carriers of 25.000 dwt to be built at China Merchants Jinling Shipyard (Yanghzou).
The Group orders an additional 2 newcastlemaxes to be built at Qingdao Beihai Shipbuilding Heavy Industries for delivery during 2023 and 2024.
The Group orders 2 newcastlemaxes to be built at Qingdao Beihai Shipbuilding Heavy Industries for delivery during the second quarter of 2023.
CMB Group orders 2 chemical carriers of 25.000 dwt from China Merchants Jinling Shipyard (Yanghzou).
CMB.TECH opens the world’s first multimodal hydrogen refuelling station and presents a dual-fuel hydrogen-diesel truck. Green hydrogen is produced on the same location through green electricity, water and electrolysis.
CMB and Tsuneishi Shipbuilding present the Hydrobingo, the world’s first hydrogen-powered ferry. The Hydrobingo was realised through the joint venture between the two companies: JPNH₂YDRO.
CMB Group acquires the Bochem Ghent (2010), a 33.600 dwt chemical carrier it previously had on time charter.
CMB acquires Windcat Workboats from Seacor Marine. Windcat Workboats is the world’s leading offshore wind supply company operating a fleet of more than 40 crew transfer vessels.
BeHydro – a joint venture between CMB.TECH and ABC Engines – launches the first hydrogen powered dual-fuel engine.
CMB and Tsuneishi Shipbuilding, a Japanese shipbuilder, join forces to build a hydrogen powered ferry. This partnership is a combination between Tsuneishi’s state-of-the-art shipbuilding capabilities and CMB’s extensive know-how in marine hydrogen systems.
CMB wins the Port of Antwerp Sustainability Award with the Hydroville. With this award, the Port of Antwerp highlights sustainable initiatives undertaken by port users and stimulates sustainable economic practices.
CMB Technologies becomes CMB.TECH.
MV Hydroville was christened in Antwerp. this is the first certified passenger shuttle that uses hydrogen to power a diesel engine. Hydrogen has the advantage that no CO₂, particulate matter or sulphur oxides are released.
CMB establishes Hunter Maritime Acquisition Corp. listed on NASDAQ.
Britain votes in favour of leaving the European Union.
The Saverys family take CMB private and delist CMB after 104 years on the Brussels stock exchange.
CMB acquires Delphis. The regional specialist controls a fleet of 14 container ships at this point, but acquires a further 13 Panamax container ships in a joint-venture.
CMB Technologies was added to the group. The division focuses on the innovation and development of new technologies and has the goal to implement cost saving technologies, to improve the operational performance, to reduce the emissions and to assure that our new building vessels are future proof.
ASL purchases Farnair, expanding its geographical scope to Central Europe and Asia.
OPEC and Saudi ARabia increase oil production, reducing the price of oil and seriously undermining the renewable energy industry.
Massive debt in Greece reduces worldwide consumer confidence in the European market.
Political turbulence results in regime change in countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
Bocimar orders 10 handysize bulk carriers.
The bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers financial services firm ushers in the Great Recession.
ACL also acquire the private equity partner Europe Airpost, expanding the fleet of aircraft. The ACL holding company is renamed ASL Aviation Group to represent the three core activities it pursues: Airlines, Support and Leasing.
Safair opts out of ACL. CMB retains its controlling interest.
With the long-term charter of three chemical tankers, CMB founds the subsidiary Bochem and enters the chemical tanker market.
A further partial demerger sees Euronav established as a separate entity.
CMB arranged for its shares to be available for purchase on Euronext Brussels.
The partial demerger of CMB is approved. Exmar shares are listed and traded on Euronext Brussels. Bocimar dry bulk and Euronav crude oil shipping interests remain within CMB.
CMB sells its insurance division NAVIGA. It also sells its interests in Hessenatie-Noord Natie. These sales allow CMB to focus squarely upon shipping through its own divisions: Bocimar, Euronav and Exmar.
Dotcom bubble bursts.
China joins the World Trade Organization. A decade of rapid trade growth follows. Within 15 years, China is the world's biggest importer of commodities and one of the biggest exporters of consumer goods.
Hessenatie merges with Noord Natie to become the undisputed market leader in cargo handling in Antwerp.
The last CMB interests in the liner services sector are also sold. However, Euronav comes under CMB control. All CMB operational activities ae now run by independent subsidiaries, with CMB playing the role of a holding company.
CMB enters the aviation business, acquiring a stake in Air Contractors Limited, soon to be known as ACL. Their partner in this venture is Safmarine subsidiary Safair.
Start of the Asian financial crisis.
The remainder of CMB Transport is sold to Safmarine. Safmarine relocate to Antwerp.
Euronav is established as a joint venture involving oil tankers.
CMB's turnover now comes from clearly defined sources: liner services (29%), port activities (24%), gas (22%), bulk and crude oil (19%) and insurance (4%).
To ensure it keeps its Belgian image, just under 50% of CMB Transport is sold to South African shipping company Safmarine. It focuses on servicing the least competitive routes.
Société Générale de Belgique sells its 49.5% stake in CMB. It is purchased by Almabo, a company run by Marc Saverys, nephew of Jacques Saverys. Marc Saverys also takes over from Jacques Saverys as Managing Director of CMB.
CMB purchases Hessenatie, a cargo-handling company.
CMB Bocimar invests in an extra 11 bulk carriers.
CMB expands further. The CMB cargo handling division is now one of the largest in Europe.
CMB pursues ambitious expansion plans, taking over a number of competitors and transferring its liner trade to a separate division: CMB Transport.
350 new bulk carriers enter the waters around the world, although sea traffic has dropped 25% over a five-year period.
Aware of issues caused by fast-changing technology, CMB sells several ships. Ship trading proves profitable and the company is soon retaining ownership of vessels for just a few months.
Jacques Saverys is appointed General Manager of CMB. The tramping market booms. CMB encourages Bocimar to expand.
Jacques Saverys is appointed General Manager of CMB. The tramping market booms. CMB encourages Bocimar to expand.
CMB effectively steps out of its role operating Dart services.
Giant containerships carrying 3,500 to 4,500 twenty-foot containers, a price war and a flooded market revolutionise container shipping around the United States.
Under Jacques Saverys, CMB Bocimar invests in the construction of four new bulk carriers. Saverys is appointed as a manager of CMB while continuing in his role as General Manager of Bocimar.
CMB purchases tramping company Bocimar, allowing it to continue under the management of Jacques Saverys. With quick growth, it is soon a major presence in the CMB portfolio.
With 17,000 containers and semi-trailers to their name, CMB continues to order more bulk carrying vessels. CMB also operates Dart Europe, a second-generation container ship with a deadweight capacity of 60,000 tons.
Dart comes into full operation with the delivery of three Dart ships - the largest in the world.
Container shipping takes over liner services around the world. There is an increased presence of shipping companies operating under the flags of Liberia, Panama, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Cyprus, meaning crews can be paid significantly lower wages.
In response to the increase in container shipping, CMB forms the Dart consortium with external partners. They continue to invest in container shipping, cranes, trailers and other related infrastructure.
Boeing launches the 747 aircraft, capable of transporting enormous amounts of freight.
The release of ISO standards for container shipping results in more consistent loading, transporting and unloading of goods throughout the world, as well as better use of space. Conventional freighters are soon unable to compete.
CMB moves into dry bulk shipping with the transport of coal and iron ore. Five bulk carriers are built between 1963 and 1970.
A significant drop in shipping rates results in a minor crisis in the industry.
Congo is made fully independent of Belgium. Belgians are quickly repatriated from the arena in an emergency air lift, carrying almost 35,000 people in just 18 days.
The independence of the Congo is a blow for CMB. Increases in air freight results in further losses. CMB investigates alternative opportunities, purchasing Armement Deppe, the second-largest Belgian shipowner, specialised in shipping lines to Central and South America.
The purchase of Ulfimar allows CMB to pursue interests in towage and radiotelegraphic technology, instruments and training.
The costs of investments in ships and port infrastructure rise by 50% across the decade. Wages rise by 100%.
The first truly successful shipping container is released. Using inter-modular designed, the containers can be stacked and moved from road and rail to ships. They halve shipping times and begin replacing bales and pallets.
Air freight continues to develop, now responsible for transporting 800,000 tonnes of cargo worldwide.
A wage increase raises labour costs by 13.8%.
CMB has a fleet of 27 vessels for a total deadweight capacity of 267,232 tons.
Korean War hostilities conclude.
With passenger vessels already operating near capacity, CMB invests in new vessels to raise the annual passenger capacity to more than 10,000.
Price wars result in more than 40,000 people flying between Belgium and the Congo. Journeys now last less than 20 hours.
CMB becomes involved in various other interests including fruit transportation, inland navigation, ship repair and marine insurance.
Although the CMB fleet includes 5 passenger and 24 freight vessels, they struggle to meet demand. Another 21 cargo ships are requisitioned. Refrigerated and larger cargo holds are incorporated to allow shipping of fruit and increased freight capacity.
Korean War begins.
The Belgian economy recovers quickly. Activity in the Congo, including tourism, reaches unprecedented levels.
CMB embarks on a quest to improve the quality of its personnel and equipment; they collaborate with the Ministry of Transport on training courses and fit ships with extra decking for training exercises. The construction of the Leopold Dock Sea Terminal enables CMB ships to dock at a single quay with access to specialised warehouses and reception areas. It is the most advanced terminal in the world at the time.
Vessels are refitted to offer a single class of passenger berth more comfortable than that offered by increasingly competitive airlines.
CMB prioritises services to the Congo and the United States. Stockpiled goods are transported from the Congo to Belgium via weekly services.
Airlines are now running four flights per week to the Congo. They fly 20,000 passengers in 1947.
World War II concludes.
At the end of the war, 294 CMB seamen have lost their lives in the war and the CMB HQ has been ruined. 22 of 31 vessels are destroyed with tonnage dropping by 63.56%.
Only one CMB vessel is able to provide a passenger service during the war while freight from the Congo virtually stops as markets are under German control. However, by providing a link between the United States and the Congo, losses are partially off-set. CMB also makes efforts to keep qualified workers employed for as long as possible, with their wages rising considerably.
Vessels that escaped Belgium prior to the German invasion are added to Allied fleets. Many that remain are used by the Germans for different purposes, with one recaptured and returned to Belgium by Allied forces.
World War II begins.
Government assistance allows CMB to overcome financial issues. They order new ships and re-open lines. The increase wages by 15%.
The first flights between Belgium and the Congo are completed. Outward journeys last six days and return journeys five days, with six refuelling stops. Although air traffic is not yet a competitive concern for shipping companies, it is developing quickly.
Financial issues force CMB to dispose of 11 of its older vessels and reduce the frequency of services. Lines to East Africa and the Far East are closed.
There is a decrease in worldwide tonnage. The Belgian fleet is reduced by 20%, while more than 40% is left lying idle in the docks.
CBMC acquires the Belgian shipowner Lloyd Royal Belge. With their fleet, CBMC is now the largest Belgian shipowner with services to and from the Far East, North America and South America. The company name is changed to Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB). Although services to the Congo are still the lifeblood of the company, the specific Congo image is abandoned.
World's Fairs take place in Antwerp and Liège.
The Great Depression results in enormous financial strain around the world.
CBMC have a stand at the World's Fairs. The interest enables them to resist the economic depression for a little longer.
After a decade of discussions, CBMC begins services to other ports throughout Africa.
CBMC posts losses every year. However, large sums are being written off in this period. Passenger ships continue to be profitable.
The shipping industry collapses, with shipping rates dropping dramatically.
CBMC places an order for the construction of passenger ships Elisabethville (2) and Thysville. They are completed in 1921. CBMC decides to diversify and invests further in cargo transport. It also acquires controlling interests in various servicing companies.
World War I concludes. A little over half of the ships making up the Belgian merchant fleet have been destroyed. The remaining capacity is just 130,000 tons.
At the end of the hostilities, CBMC begins looking for extra tonnage. There is a backlog of 40,000 tons of goods to be moved from the Congo, more than is usually shipped in an entire year.
The CBMC ship, Elizabethville, is torpedoed by a German U-Boat. The lives of 16 crew members are lost; 200 passengers survive.
World War I begins.
When Belgium is invaded, CBMC transports Belgian troops and provides regular supplies and equipment from overseas. CBMC ship Albertville serves as a Red Cross hospital ship for the wounded.
The Titanic sinks on its maiden voyage. This results in public shock and outcry, as well as major overhaul of safety requirements for passenger ships and radio use.
Belgian shareholders are able to take a majority share in the ownership, and therefore control, of CBMC.
The Elisabethville is built specially for CBMC. Decorative work includes designs from Belgian artists. Elisabethville comes into service under the Belgian flag and is celebrated for being recognisably Belgian.
The Congo Free State/Independent Congo State is handed over to Belgium. This increases the desire for a genuinely Belgian shipowner to operate on the Congo route.
Initial success results in the service frequency being increased to every three weeks. A policy of modernisation also demands faster, newer vessels. This is not possible for SMC, who discontinue their services.
The Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo (CBMC) is established by the British Elder Dempster Group. A month later, the German Woermann Linie establishes the Société Maritime du Congo (SMC). Using two liner vessels, the companies agree to provide monthly services to the Congo from Antwerp, carrying passengers, cargo and mail under the Belgian flag. The company is still not Belgian owned.
King Leopold II of Belgium establishes the Congo Free State/Independent Congo State. At this point, there are no direct shipping lines between Antwerp and the Congo area although King Leopold II pursues different possibilities.
As part of the first World’s Fair, large-scale expansion work is performed to straighten the right bank of the River Scheldt in Antwerp, enabling larger seafaring vessels to berth.