The Götheborg II towers over other boats in harbor. | Image Source: Fredrik Nilsson/Courtesy Svenska Ostindiska Companiet

The replica 18th-century ship Götheborg II plans to move along their route from Sweden to China in April 2022. As planned, the ship is expected to reach Shanghai by October 2022. Wind and weather conditions are always a factor for sailing ships, the ship’s planned itinerary features stop in London, Lisbon, Palma de Mallorca, Athens, Alexandria, Djibouti, Muscat, Chennai, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

The original vessel was a commercial vessel, belonging to the Swedish East India Company. Her commercial route was between Sweden to Asian countries. The vessel capsized on 12 September 1745. Since it capsized while approaching the Götheborg harbor, all crew members fortunately survived.

The vessel Götheborg II (IMO No:8646678) is the sister vessel of Götheborg and of the same design and configuration. She is 47.5 meters long, 11 meters wide, has a vertical clearance of 47 meters. In ideal conditions, the vessel can reach a speed of 11 knots. It is made up of pine and oak wood.

Revival of Götheborg II

The idea of a replica of Götheborg was conceived when the wrecks of the capsized hull were discovered in 1984. The basic and construction design of the vessel is made by Joakim Severinsson. The design of the ship was appraised by the international classification society Det Norske Veritas, in November 1995. The keel was laid on 11 June 1995 at  Eriksbergs wharf by the Göta älv in Gothenburg. To celebrate the historical years, two silver coins, one from 1745, and one from 1995 were placed in the halved joints of the 33 m long keel. About 3,000 people attended the laying of the keel, including Sören Gyll, director of Volvo, and Professor Jorgen Weibull.  Götheborg is the world’s largest active wooden ship and a unique replica of an 18th century Swedish East India Company ship.

Götheborg II has 26 sails with a total area of 1,964 m². The regular set of sails is comprised of 18 sails with a total area of 1,550 m². The sails onboard were historically made out of hemp or flax. Götheborg has three different sails aboard, the most common being the square rigs. These sails are laced to yards with lace lines och are hauled down using haul and tacks to the desired trim. The biggest sail onboard is the main topsail with an area of almost 250 square meters. There is a total of nine square rigs on board that make up a total of 1300 square meters. Ten tons of hemp ropes were used for rigging the vessel. All this was produced using 18th-century techniques.

The vessel was launched on 6 June 2003, with great festivities and in the presence of representatives from the Swedish Royal Family. The vessel completed the sea trial on 18 April 2005.

Götheborg II | Image Source: facebook/ostindiefararengotheborg/

Götheborg II | Image Source: facebook/ostindiefararengotheborg/

After completion, the vessel sailed for China in October 2005, as the original vessel did, but it did not follow the same route. The vessel berthed at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town and then left for Hout Bay before continuing on its voyage. The voyage took some 18 months, and the crew of 80 were rotated during harbor stops. The vessel returned to Gothenburg on 9 June 2007, welcomed by the president of China, Hu Jintao, who visited Sweden mainly for this reason, and by the King and Queen of Sweden, Carl Gustaf and Silvia. The ship was also welcomed by thousands of private boats, and a hundred thousand spectators onshore.

Financing for such a non-commercial project is difficult; however, it got support from public funds, sponsors, and various organizations. The foundations from Volvo, SKF, Stena Line, and the Port of Gothenburg were the leading supporters to execute the projects. In August 2019, the Greencarrier Group announced they would be supporting and funding Götheborg’s future sailing ventures. The vessel is expected to sail around various parts of the world and become part of various sailing events.

Key differences between Götheborg and Götheborg II

Both the vessel is of the same design in form for hull configuration, shape, and size. It is also designed in such a way vessel also attains similar speed and maneuvering characteristics. Also, the vessel is built using old, traditional techniques, and it was made as close to the original as possible. The attempts were made to make it as similar as possible; however, the safety, comfort of the crew is ensured to align with current standards of the industry.

  • The headroom of the vessel is increased by 10 cm with keeping in mind that today’s seamen are taller than their ancestors.
  • Interiors of design is ensured soothing and pleasant to the crew members and apt for human occupation.
  • The vessel is also provided with modern machinery like diesel-powered engines to take care of the power requirements of the vessel.
  • Modern navigation equipment satellite navigation, communications equipment, modern facilities for the crew (kitchen, lavatories, washing machines, desalination equipment, ventilation, refrigerators) are fitted as well.
  • The vessel also complies with the latest safety regulations and has safety features related to watertight bulkheads and fire protection (fire sprinkler systems, fire hydrants, etc.)
  • Despite the ship’s smaller dimensions, it is fitted with the same types of systems as large, modern merchant ships. There are diesel engines onboard (Two Volvo Penta 404 kW + Two 180 kW, Volvo Penta 103); two main motors which together produce 1100 HP at full speed. Two engines drive generators to cope with the ship’s normal electricity consumption and one which drives an auxiliary generator.
  • The vessel is also equipped with propellers powered by diesel engines which are intended to be used during an emergency and inclement weather. These can be used during unfavorable wind in order to keep the timetable for the journey to China.

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History of Götheborg (Predecessor of Götheborg II)

The predecessor Götheborg was built at the Terra Nova shipyard in Stockholm and launched in 1738. She was the largest vessel of her time. According to writer Björn Ahlander, it only took about one and a half years to build a ship of this size in the 1700s. It was built in the Swedish capital and named Götheborg because the Swedish East India Company resided in Gothenburg, and all expeditions began and ended at this port.  On its first voyage in 1739, the ship carried 30 cannons and an initial crew of 144.

The ship made three journeys to China and in 1745, it sank on its way into Gothenburg harbour. After 30 months at sea, and with only 900 m to go before the vessel reached its berth, it crashed into the Knipla Börö, a well-known rock. Although it remains a mystery how this could happen theories abound. The ship remained stranded on the rock while much of the cargo, consisting of tea, porcelain, spices, and silk was salvaged. The ship was clearly visible above the surface of the water for many years, but in time the remains sank to the bottom.

It is still unclear what caused the ship to run aground due to the scarcity of contemporary written sources. Excerpt from a contemporary transcript of Captain Eric Moréen’s

…the impact was so hard that the front of the ship, which had struck the rock, was lifted 4.5 ft (1.4 m) out of the water, and as the side had been holed, the ship soon began to take in a lot of water; it could be seen from the pump’s water-level gauge that the water was 20, 30 and within a few minutes 60 in (1.5 m) deep inside the ship. The danger was announced with cannon shots and normal signals…

Some of the write-up indicates that the vessel was grounded because of the adverse impact of the confluence of seawater and freshwater which affects the draft of the vessel. Another probable reason is pointed toward the lack of rudder function which worsened the problem for the vessel.

The vessel was owned and operated by the Swedish East India Company (SOIC) which was active in shipping and trading between 1731 and 1813 in the East Indies, i.e. China and other places east of the Cape of Good Hope. SOIC can be considered one of Sweden’s most successful trademarks throughout the ages. The average profit is considered to have been around 40 percent of the invested capital. The company sell timber tar and iron goods to Spain which were needed for the expanding merchant fleet. Also, the company brought silk, porcelain, tea, mother of pearl, spices, and other luxury goods from China that were become widely sought after in Europe. Most of the exchanges were happening in the silver coins.

In 1993, the Swedish East India Company was re-established but with a different mission. The focus no longer was on trade—the new mission of the company was now to extend its support to the Sweden shipbuilding industry.

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What the messge of Götheborg II?

Götheborg is the world’s largest active wooden ship and a unique replica of an 18th century Swedish East India Company ship that sank outside of Gothenburg in 1745. It promotes the message of trade, sustainability, and innovation for a better future. It also aims to promote relations between China and Sweden.


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