The island of Donsö
When you step ashore on the island of Donsö, the first impression is of a genuine fishing village. The houses crowd up against each other, and in the harbour the many boat houses are decorated with name boards from fishing vessels. Here also a much appreciated smokehouse is still in use.
But today, the island is no longer dominated by the fishing industry. These days, cargo shipping, and in particular tanker shipping, has taken over. There are about ten shipping companies on Donsö active in tanker shipping in the product and chemicals sectors. Today, not all the ships have the name Donsö painted on their stern. The politicians in Sweden have made it difficult for the shipping companies to keep flying the Swedish flag, but their offices are still here and so is the know-how. Many ships, about 50, are controlled from the island although most of them cannot call at Donsö as they are too large. In the old days, new ships were moored in the harbour on display.
Today, this takes place in Gothenburg. And there have been a lot of new ships. Ever since the Ekenäs was delivered in 1955, Donsö shipowners have ordered new tankers. Very few have been bought second-hand. This has enabled them to set their mark on the ships and develop them both practically and functionally. At the same time, the shipowners have become even more skilled.
Donsö is quite a small island with about 1,500 permanent inhabitants. There are not very many summer cottages and there is a lot going on all the year round. There are no cars here, people drive flatbed mopeds and electric golf carts. Generations of Donsö inhabitants have worked together and helped each other through thick and thin.
This has resulted in the unique Donsö spirit that is instilled in all the inhabitants. For example, when someone has taken delivery of a new ship, everybody is happy about it. Even competitors.
Someone once said that the people of Donsö work in either fishing or cargo shipping, whichever is the most profitable. As everybody knows, the fishing industry has been going through a crisis for a long time and as a result, cargo shipping dominates these days and fishing has more or less come to a halt on the island.
It was not always like this. A hundred years ago, fishing vessels dominated. In those days, the fishing vessels had no engines, but when engines were introduced in about 1910, a whole lot of engine manufacturers began doing business and shipyards were established to build boats that were strong enough to have these engines installed. And the engines needed fuel. The merchants on Donsö were quick to satisfy this need by fetching oil from Gothenburg in barrels and delivering it to the fishing vessels. After some time, they realized that it would be better to install a tank in the ships and the bunker tanker was born.
The shipyard Donsö Varv was established in order to be able to service all the ships in the archipelago. The shipyard also began to build fishing vessels, mainly for fishermen from Donsö. Over time, and as a result of larger coastal tonnage and fewer orders, the shipyard finally closed down.
In time, oil was delivered to an increasingly large area. After World War II, an old ship that had sailed on the Dalsland Canal was purchased and converted into a tanker. It was named Kajo - the initials of the owners Kristen, Albert, John and Olle. A good example of Donsö collaboration. They now began to ship oil on Dalsland Canal, Lake Vänern and Göta Canal. The ships grew larger and larger and the people on Donsö had good contacts with the big oil companies. Since they trusted each other, they were able to continuously develop the ships, thus benefiting both parties.
Today, the tankers sail mostly in European traffic, although some ships are sailing in Africa on time charters. A few years ago, a company was formed to provide services to the wind power industry. This shipping company already has many units in operation and is expanding rapidly. This is yet another example on how the entrepreneurs of Donsö adapt to the world around them.