Ship construction was an important branch of in dustry in the Low Countriesand the Netherlands, where transport by water was relatively easy. As early as the Middle Ages, coasters and canal boats were the main form of transportation for commerce be tween the cities that were part of the Hansa League. New shipbuild ing techniques and navigation methods facilitated transatlantic voy ages. In the Republic, larger merchant ships and men-of-war were built on the dockyards of the Dutch East India Company at Ams terdam. Shipbuilding flourished elsewhere as well, for example, along the River Zaan (particularly ships for whaling), where the tim ber industry was also founded with many characteristic windmills. During the 19th and 20th centuries, famous shipyards included those of Wiltonin Rotterdamand Verolme in IJsselmonde. However, over recent decades, the industry has declined because of competition from shipyards in East and Southeast Asian countries. In 1983, the Rijn-Schelde Verolme group failed, despite government support of billions of guilders, which even led to a parliamentary inquiry. Pre sent shipyards often build just hulls that are finished in countries with low wages. Those in the Sliedrecht area in Southern Holland, spe cialized in suction dredgers, and in the province of Groningen are still profitable. The Netherlands and Belgium possess the biggest dredging industry of the world. Royal Boskalis Westminster (in Sliedrecht, founded in 1910) and Van Oord Dredging and Marine Contractors (in Rotterdam, founded in 1868) employ thousands of people.

Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. . 2012.

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