Seapost -> Maritime marks of Indonesia

Maritime marks of Indonesia

By Geoff Ellerton

Indonesia declared its independence as a state in 1945, following a 3 year wartime occupation by Japan. It had formerly been a Dutch colony from the 17th century to 1942, known generally as the Netherlands Indies ("NI") or Dutch East Indies ("DEI"). A number of Indonesian ports have recorded Paquebot marks, though only those from the capital city, Jakarta (previously known as Batavia), and its principal port, Tandjong Priok, occur with any frequency. The paquebot marks of other Indonesian ports are uncommon.

Cover with boxed Paquebot (Hosking type 3400)
Fig 1 Cover from Soerabaja to USA with US stamp cancelled by cds "Soerabaja 31.3.33" and boxed Paquebot (Hosking type 3400) with ship's mark of MS Bengalen of the Rotterdamsche Lloyd fleet.

"Zeebrief" (Ship Letter) markings are found from the early 19th century, and from 1851 onwards a series of transit markings appear for mail to and from the East Indies: "Ned Indie via/over…" indicating routing via Marseille, Triest, Brindisi, Naples and Genoa. In order to ensure regular contact with its overseas colonies the Dutch government gave mail contracts to subsidise the main Dutch shipping companies' operations. In 1851 postal agencies to sort mail to and from the Dutch Indies were opened in Singapore and Penang and a range of cancels and markings of "NI Postagent Singapore" or "...Penang" are known until around 1920, when sorting of mail reverted fully to ship-based agents. Cancellations, from 1904 onwards, identify the route and direction: Batavia to/from Rotterdam (by Rotterdamsche Lloyd line) or Amsterdam (by NSM and KPM lines.) The "Postagent" could be either a postal employee or a ship's officer.

Promotional postcard cancelled by double circle 'Postagent Rotterdam - Batavia 4.3.35'
Fig 2 Promotional postcard of Rotterdamsche Lloyd to England cancelled by double circle "Postagent Rotterdam - Batavia 4.3.35"

NSM line operated passenger and cargo ships between Amsterdam and Batavia with Government mail contracts, and on board cancellations "Postagent Amsterdam - Batavia" and vice versa are recorded from 1904. After World War II Postagent cancellations included the ship's name but it is more common in this recent period to find a shore based cancellation and a simple ship's identifying mark.

Cover cancelled by boxed Jakarta Paquebot (Hosking type 3076)
Fig 3 Cover to USA with Netherlands stamp cancelled by boxed Jakarta "Paquebot" (Hosking type 3076) and postmark "Jakarta 12.10.53" with ship mark of NSM's MS Bintang.

KPM line began operations in the DEI in 1891, initially on an inter-island basis within the Indonesian archipelago, connecting at Singapore with lines to Europe. KPM subsequently expanded its routes to Australia, India, North Asia and Africa, with a large fleet of over 150 ships. Its mail contracts provided for on board posting and sorting, evidenced by cancellations using an oval stamp with the ship's name.

Cover cancelled by KPM ship's mark of SS Camphuijs
Fig 4 Cover from Manggar to Holland with NI stamps cancelled by KPM ship's mark of SS Camphuijs, with cds of "Tandjong Priok 9.1.23".


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