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Compagnie Maritime Belge (Shipping company, Belgium)

Last modified: 2005-07-23 by ivan sache
Keywords: compagnie maritime belge | lozenge (white) | cross (red) | crown: belgium | compagnie belge maritime du congo |
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[House flag of CMB]by James Dignan

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Presentation of Compagnie Maritime Belge

The origin of Compagnie Maritime Belge (Belgische Scheepvaartmaatschappij), in short CMB, initially called Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo (CBMC), dates back to 1895. At the instance of King of the Belgians Leopold II, British interests established CBMC in order to provide a regular shipping service to Congo. On 6 February 1895 the passenger liner Léopoldville (I) was the first ship to leave Antwerp under Belgian flag. Belgian shareholders headed by Banque d'Outremer, later absorbed by Société Générale de Belgique, took control in 1911. Until 1930, activities were limited to a shipping service to Congo, carrying passengers, cargo and mail.

In 1930 CBMC absorbed the Belgian shipowner Lloyd Royal Belge. The company name was changed into CMB (LR) and the first additional lines to North and South America and the Far East were started. In the Second World War CMB lost three quarters of its fleet in acts of war.

The after-war colonial boom boosted CMB's activities, enabling the company to diversify its business by means of investments in shipping related areas. In 1960 CMB took over the Belgian shipowner Armement Deppe, specialised in the route to Central and South America. The Congo shipping service became less dominant but CMB was still exclusively a liner shipowner.

In 1982, the CMB took over Bocimar. In 1985, it purchased Hessenatie, a cargo shipping company. The company was formerly known as the Belgian Line and is currently operating as the CMB group.

Source: CMB website

Phil Nelson, Dov Gutterman & Jan Mertens, 20 November 2003

House flag of Compagnie Maritime Belge

The house flag of Compagnie Maritime Belge is swallow-tailed, blue with a red cross charged with a white diamond and crown.

There were various undertakings in Congo, which summarize as follows. Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo was founded on 24 January 1895 as a branch of the African Steam Ship Co. (Elder Dempster, Liverpool). Ships flew the Belgian flag and presumably the Elder Dempster house flag.) In 1910, the Independent State of the Congo having become a Belgian colony, there was a patriotic move towards nationalization of this line which had been Belgian in name only. The British co-owner did not object and was, in fact, to play a role in sustaining operations during th first World War. After having absorbed the Lloyd Royal Belge line in February 1930, the company was renamed Compagnie Maritime Belge (Lloyd Royal).

The CMB flag is clearly related to the CBMC flag, with the diamond and crown from Lloyd Royal thrown in. But the Elder Dempster house flag seems to have been the model for the CBMC, and ultimately for the CMB, houseflags.

Jarig Bakker & Jan Mertens, 6 December 2003

Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo

[House flag of CBMC]by Jarig Bakker

According to Scott's Caltex book of Flags and Funnels (1959), the house flag of Compagnie Maritime Congolaise is blue, swallow-tailed, with a red cross throughout with a small black, white-bordered disk on the cross center, a yellow lion rampant therein; in the upper left corner, a yellow five-pointed star.

Jarig Bakker, 2 January 2005

Larousse Commercial (1930) shows the same flag for Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo, but with a yellow-bordered disk.
However, 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. (1911), also available online thanks to the Mystic Seaport Foundation, shows the house flag of Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo with a white-bordered disk.

Jan Mertens, 4 January 2005

[House flag of CBMC]by Jarig Bakker

Brockhaus' Konversations-Lexikon (14th edition, c. 1907) gives a different house flag for Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo, white swallowtail with a red St. George's Cross, and a yellow crown in the centre.

Jarig Bakker & Jan Mertens, 6 December 2003