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Compagnie Maritime Belge (Shipping company, Belgium)

Last modified: 2023-07-03 by
Keywords: compagnie maritime belge | lozenge (white) | cross (red) | crown: belgium | compagnie belge maritime du congo |
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[Houseflag of CMB]by James Dignan

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Presentation of the 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 the Belgian King Leopold II, British interests established CBMC in order to provide a regular shipping service to Congo. On February 6, 1895 the passenger liner Léopoldville (I) was the first ship to leave Antwerp under Belgian flag. Belgian shareholders headed by the Banque d'Outremer, later absorbed by the 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

Description of the flag of the Compagnie Maritime Belge

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

Jan Mertens, 20 November 2003

Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo

According to Larousse Commercial (1930), the houseflag of the Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo was blue, swallow-tailed, with a red cross throughout with a small black, yellow-bordered disk on the cross center, a yellow lion rampant therein; in the upper left corner, a yellow five-pointed star.

Jan Mertens, 20 November 2003

[Houseflag of CBMC]by Jarig Bakker

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

There were various undertakings in Congo, which summarize as follows. The 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 the Compagnie Maritime Belge (Lloyd Royal).

The CMB flag is clearly related to the CBMC flag, with the diamond and crown from the 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

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