Merchant Marine of Switzerland

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Swiss Ocean-worthy ferry Villars
Basel docks
Rhine ship passing through Basel

Somewhat unusual for a landlocked country, Switzerland has a long tradition of civilian navigation, both on its lakes and rivers, and on the high seas.[1] The Swiss merchant navy is the largest merchant navy of a landlocked country.[1]


The Swiss merchant navy was founded in 1941, with the purpose of supplying Switzerland with basic goods during the Second World War.[1] As of 2016, its mission is essentially the same.[1]

Swiss inland navigation[edit]

The Rhine port of Basel connects Switzerland to the Port of Rotterdam and thus to the sea trade network. Swiss industry and commerce rely on this connection, exploited for centuries by Swiss Rhine barges, for a substantial part of their imports and exports.

Swiss lakes, most notably Lake Constance, Lake Maggiore and Lake Geneva, are among the most intensively navigated lakes in the world, mostly for recreational and tourist purposes.

Swiss high seas fleet[edit]

Switzerland has a civilian high seas fleet of merchant vessels, whose home port is Basel, in Switzerland.

The first ships were purchased and operated by the government in order to ensure the supply of critical resources during World War II. After the war, a privately owned merchant fleet emerged, spurred in part by government subsidies that paid for the fleet's operation up until 1953, among them on behalf of the Migros Genossenschaftsbund the cargo ship Adele which was christened by Adele Duttweiler, the wife of Gottlieb Duttweiler, in Hamburg on 15 July 1952; her sister ship Sunamelia was commissioned some months later.[2]

MS Adele in 1952

In 2010, a fleet of 37 ships flew the Swiss flag, which was made up of bulk carriers, container ships, multi-purpose freighters and tankers, totalling one million tonnes and operated by six shipping companies.[3]

Shipping companies[edit]

The flag of Switzerland at sea.
  • ABC Maritime AG
  • Enzian Shipping AG
  • Massoel Gestion SA
  • Reederei Zürich AG
  • Suisse-Atlantique Société de Navigation Maritime SA

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Jaberg, Samuel (June 3, 2016). "Swiss Merchant Navy Celebrates 75th Anniversary". Swissinfo. Retrieved June 3, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Euses Schiff" (PDF) (in German). Brückenbauer. 1952-07-25. Retrieved 2015-10-10. 
  3. ^ Commercial ships on the Swiss Maritime Navigation Office website

External links[edit]