The port of Cochin on the Malabar Coast of India had always been a centre of shipbuilding. After the Dutch conquest in the port in 1663, the Dutch East India Company (VOC), too, established a shipyard there. At this yard, the VOC experimented with building ocean-going ships until the management of the company decreed that these were to be built solely in the Dutch Republic itself. During the first half of the eighteenth century, the yard focused on the repair of passing Indiamen and the construction of smaller vessels for use in and between the VOC commands in Malabar, Coromandel, Bengal and Sri Lanka. For most of the vessels built during the 1720s and 1730s, detailed accounts exist, allowing for a reconstruction of the costs of the various shipbuilding materials in Malabar, as well as the relative cost of labour. From the 1750s onwards, operations at the yard again become more difficult to discern. Likely, the relative decline of the VOC’s presence in Malabar caused a reduction in operations at the yard, but the shipyard was still in existence when Cochin was captured by British forces in 1795. However, this did not mean the end of Cochin as a shipbuilding centre, as a number or Royal Navy frigates were built at Cochin during the early nineteenth century.

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International Journal of Maritime History
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Odegard, E. (2019). Construction at Cochin: Building ships at the VOC-yard in Cochin. International Journal of Maritime History, 31(3), 481–494. doi:10.1177/0843871419860696