Did you know ... ? #16

Did you know that Cockerill built boats?


A bold and ambitious man, John Cockerill was looking to diversify his production from his first years as an industrialist. This is how he decided to launch a naval shipyard a few years after having inaugurated his mechanical workshops in Seraing.


As early as 1820 the press reports: ‘Messrs. Cockerill, of Liège, have just constructed a steamboat. This boat of 75 feet long and 19 wide in English measurements, was launched into the Meuse at a high speed. This new apparition drew a curious crowd’.


But it was in 1825 that the project to become a shipbuilder came to fruition, through association with the Dutch government. They wished to promote navigation by steam power within the country by creating a national body dedicated to naval construction. In order to ensure he obtained this fruitful contract and to create a monopoly, John Cockerill who, additionally, was in need of liquidity, proposes to William of Orange to take half of his company and form with him, a company under state control. This deal was concluded on May 6th 1825.


The first Cockerill naval shipyard was located at Antwerp, from which would emerge, for the Dutch government, the Moerdijk I, II and III in 1826, four warships in 1830 and also powerful marine engines developing up to 240 hp, such as that of the Atlas corvette in 1829. There followed many other prestigious vessels which would add to the prestige of Cockerill for a long time to come…