The Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (1602–1800) was a huge Dutch company primarily earning lots of revenue in the spice trade among other activities.

For this work they needed a lot of ships from lightly armed merchant ships to ships of the line to defend said merchants and their holdings in other countries.

Is there any detailed record about how many ships the VOC operated and owned at their peak?

On the Dutch Rijksmeuseum site I only get numbers of personnel

Following the establishment of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), two or three fleets would sail each year from the Dutch Republic to Asia. Bigger ships were built for the voyage, to carry more people and more produce. It generally took eight months to reach the East Indies. An average of seven knots (13 kilometres per hour) was considered a good speed. Along the route, the VOC set up trading posts where ships could take on provisions for the next stage. Between 1602 and 1610, 8,500 people sailed to the East. The numbers soon rose: in the 17th century an average of 4,000 people sailed to East Asia each year; and in the 18th century even more. Eastindiamen could carry hundreds of passengers.

It seems there was an explosion in the amount of people sailing for the VOC but I cannot find any sources on the amount of ships they had in their possession.

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    You may get a partial answer if you can find a copy of Pieter van Dam's Beschryvinge van de Oostindische Compagnie in a library, but I think you may find the group "ships of the VOC" a little difficult to pin down. Aug 2, 2019 at 20:55
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    @ sempaiscuba I am dutch so I hope I can pin it down in a library somewhere here. if there is a way to make this question clearer please edit it, I welcome edits.
    – Tom Sol
    Aug 2, 2019 at 20:58
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    A fairly recent (2012) doctoral thesis by Richard John Guy, titled First Spaces of Colonialism: the Architecture of Dutch East India Company Ships may also help you understand some of the difficulties involved in classifying the VOC fleet. Aug 2, 2019 at 21:00
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    Wiki says 'By the 1670s the size of the Dutch merchant fleet probably exceeded the combined fleets of England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Germany.' Not much help, but the peak was around 1670 according to 'The VOC, the Dutch East India Company, 1602-1799' by Gerard Koot. Maybe this will help someone (I tried but I don't have enough to answer).
    – bonzo-lz
    Aug 3, 2019 at 4:24
  • @bonzo-lz exact numbers seem hard to come by even for a company that kept record of everything. Either way thanks for your addition.
    – Tom Sol
    Aug 3, 2019 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


You'll essentially find a book-length answer to this question in Dutch Ships in Tropical Waters by Robert Parthesius (2010, Amsterdam University Press). Here's a key table (p. 90), showing that the VOC had 328 ships in use c. 1650-1660, and had steadily brought over 1000 into service since the end of the sixteenth century.

table showing VOC fleet in 10 year periods

  • 1
    Thank you, I ordered the book and can't wait to learn more
    – Tom Sol
    Aug 5, 2019 at 10:45

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