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Compagnie Nantaise de Navigation à Vapeur (Shipping company, France)

La Nantaise

Last modified: 2013-12-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: compagnie nantaise de navigation a vapeur | nantaise | lorient |
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House flag of the "Nantaise" - Image by Ivan Sache, 10 March 2008

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Presentation of the "Nantaise"

The Compagnie Nantaise de Navigation à Vapeur", locally known as "la Nantaise", was founded on 28 January 1882 in Nantes by Rémy Bernard. In October 1917, the company was incorporated into the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique et des Chargeurs de l'Ouest, but still sailed under its house flag. In 1937, the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique withdrew and the "Nantaise" was incorporated into the Société Anonyme des Chargeurs de l'Ouest, which was renamed Compagnie Nantaise des Chargeurs de l'Ouest.

One of the first French shipping companies to operate steam ships, while its competitors were more reluctant to adopt the new technology and prefered to operate "mixed" sailing ships (with an auxiliary steam engine), the "Nantaise" signed several contracts with the French Ministry of the Marine and of the Colonies.
In 1884, the Ville de Saint-Nazaire was commissioned to repatriate to the French Indies emigrants from the Antilles, Guyane and Venezuela.

However, the most famous passengers of the "Nantaise" were the "recidivists", that is the convicts. In 1886, the Ville de Saint- Nazaire made its first trip to New Caledonia via Natal (South Africa) with 12 officers, 10 NCOs and 50 soldiers escorting 332 convicts (300 men and 32 women); the trip lasted 65 days, vs 80 days with the sailing ships used beforehand by the French Navy for the transportation. For its second trip, the Ville de Saint-Nazaire picked up convicts in Algiers and sailed through the newly made Suez Canal. Deemed too small, the Ville de Saint-Nazaire was reallocated to the service of the newly established penal colonies of Guyane, while the English ship Sirdar was revamped in Saint-Nazaire, renamed Calédonie, and allocated to the service of New Caledonia.
When returning from Guyane or New Caledonia, the ships were used for trade; the Ville de Saint-Nazaire transported sugar from the Antilles and coal from the USA, while the Calédonie transported rice from Indochina, sugar from Java and peanuts from India. In November 1893, the Calédonie transported 130 Annamite convicts from Poulo Condor to Obock (Djibouti).
In 1902, the Ministry found the Calédonie too small and asked the company to purchase a bigger ship, the Loire. After the suppression of deportation to New Caledonia in 1903, the Loire was commissioned for two trips to Guyane per year; in 1903, the ship also transported soldiers from Marseilles to China, during the Boxers' War.
Requisitioned in June 1915, the Loire sailed to Madagascar, the White Sea, Indochina, China and was eventually torpedoed in September 1917 off Port-Said (Egypt).

Transport of convicts to Guyana resumed in 1932 only. The "Nantaise" was granted a former German ship by the French government, renamed Martinière; the ship could sail upstream river Moroni until the penal colony of Saint-Laurent. The ship could transport 650 convicts; in the beginning, there were six transports per year, subsequently reduced to two per year, sometimes with a call in Algeria.
Deportation ended in spring 1939; sold to the French Navy, the Martinière was moored in the arsenal of Lorient, used as a repairing workshops for submarines, and destroyed by the German Air Force during the Second World War.

Source: Bernard-Hesnard family website, by Martine Bernard

Ivan Sache, 10 March 2008

House flag of the "Nantaise"

The house flag of Compagnie Nantaise de Navigation à Vapeur is shown in Lloyd's book of house flags and funnels of the principal steamship lines of the world and the house flags of various lines of sailing vessels, published at Lloyd's Royal Exchange. London. E.C. (1912, online copy) [LLo12], #1487, p. 107, as white with a horizontally divided blue-red pennant in upper hoist and the blue letters "CIE N". The blue-red pennant is the registration flag once used in Nantes, as part of the arrondissement of Lorient.

Ivan Sache, 10 March 2008