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Adria Royal Hungarian Sea Nav. Co. Ltd., 1881-1920

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    First major developments of Hungarian sea navigation started with the establishment of the Adria Company. The reorganisation of the British-Hungarian joint venture founded in 1879 could take place when the company entered into a subvention contract with the Hungarian State. With this contract regulation were imposed on Adria eg. how many ships it had to provide how often on which lines. In return the company received so called line subsidy. However, this type of subvention did not make developments possible, so the company faced many problems. It was enough to loose just one ship in an accident and then Adria was not able to fulfill its contractual obligations because it was unable to buy a new one. Its ships which had been previously running under British flag were transferred to Hungarian flag and got listed in the Hungarian register in 1882. First of them was the FIUME which arrived under the Red Ensign in december 1881 and sailed off under Hungarian flag as SZAPÁRY in 10th January, 1882. She was followed by others: STEFANIE, BÁRÓ KEMÉNY, ADRIA, TISZA and the JÓKAI.

    1891 brought great changes. According to the conception of the "ironminister" Gábor Baross, subvention of Hungarian sea shipping was laid on new grounds. The theoritically mutual Austro-Hungarian Lloyd was deprived of Hungarian subsidies and money was given for subsidizing the Hungarian Adria Co. and for uniting other Fiume based smaller companies involved in coastal shipping. In the following years the fleet of the approprietly supported company grew larger, it purchased 15 new ships. Even this spectacular development was not enough to fulfill transport demands.

    As more and more steamships sailed under Hungarian flag, some of them unavoidably got involved in shipwrecks and accidents, too. At Christmas 1882, the first SZAPÁRY of the Adria Co. sank off the Irish coasts and just about the same time the DEÁK dissapeared with her crew. Before Christmas 1888, the BÁRÓ KEMÉNY got damaged in a collision on the Schelde and remained withdrawn from service because of this. Finally, she went under at Brest 10 years later. In 1891 the new SZAPÁRY burned out because her cargo of wet coal exploded. In November 1892, the STEFANIE sank in the Adriatic Sea as she was overrun by a ship belonging to a concurent line. There were six victims. Three crewmembers were lost when the JÓKAI collided in 1897. In 1900, the BÁTORY struck a reef in fog but she was refloated and towed off in a couple of days. She got finally sunk by the Brits near Vigo in 1914. The company's SZENT ISTVÁN also struck a rock in the North Adriatic in 1900 but she was freed, too. She went down in 1908. The BUDA sank in 1902 by a hit from a Dutch ship. 1903 was the year of great tragedies of Hungarian shipping. This was when the Adria steamer the s/s PETŐFI disappeared after sailing from Marseille. Time after time it was very difficult to replace lost ships with new ones but this was neccessary for companies subsidised by the state because obligations set out in the contracts were to be met.

    There were captains with Hungarian nationality on Adria ships even when the company was established. Later on, owing to state help, even more Hungarian officer attended the Maritime Academy and sailed with companies offering bursaries to them. Those who remained with these companies became captains after 5-6 years. However, local officers the so called "fiumanos" were in majority on board the Adria vessels until the end of war. The company's board of directors consisted mainly of Fiume citizens from the very beginning, too.

    In the middle of August, 1914 - when the war began - the three biggest Hungarian company, the Adria, the Atlantica and the Levante had 53 ships representing 155.542 BRT. Of these ships 19 fell in enemy hands. Of the ships of Adria Co. s/s BÁTORY was sank by the British in the first days of the hostilities. The ARAD was captured by the Dutch and then transferred to the British at Amsterdam. The steamer SZÉLL KÁLMÁN was seized in Pernambuco, The DEÁK, the DUNA, the MATLEKOVITS were seized by the Italians, so was the SZÉCHENYI by the Portugese, the BUDA by the Brasils, the TIBOR by the French and the BÁRÓ FEJÉRVÁRY by the Russians. Those Adria ships that escaped to neutral ports could not enjoy hospitality too long either. When Italy and the United States entered the war all of them fell in enemy hands as war prize. Most ships of the Hungarian fleet found shelter in the Adriatic during the war years. Many of these were requisited mostly for the K.u.K. Kriegsmarine but some became the Army's supply ships. They transported troops, supply, injured soldiers and prisoners of war. These were very hard times, most of the officers were enlisted fulfilling their war service duties on their former ships. After Italy had became a warfaring nation, the ships sailed entirely darkened and the usual coastal lights did not help masters in navigation either. The ANDRÁSSY blew off when she struck her own mine at Durazzo in the spring of 1916. In July, 1916, s/s CAROLA sank because the steamer MÁTYÁS KIRÁLY ran into her in the dark. The KASSA was hit by a bomb and burned out in August, 1918.

    During the ceasefire 19 Adria Co. vessels stationed in the Adriatic Sea plus one ship the VEGA which had been captured from the Brits. Victors changed the merchant shipping flag of the collapsed empire - the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy - to white-blue-white flag of the allied forces on all ships. Companies with Croatian feelings raised the Croatian, companies commited to Italy - so as the Adria Co. - raised the Italian flag on the masts of their vessels. In the financial year of 1917-18 the value of the Adria Co. ships were 32 million, the value of the directorate building in Fiume was 1.5 million krons. The company was continously subsidised by the Hungarian State since 1882. Multinational citizens of Fiume who in the given situation hoped that their town would receive a free town status, which would have been favourable not only for the Budapest based companies but also for local companies, became soon dissapointed. Between rivals, the newly formed Slovenian-Croatian-Serbian Kingdom and the Italian Kingdom, bloody struggle broke out for the possesion of the city. Hungarians at Fiume saw heavy heartedly the deterriorating public situation. They had to realize that their work and money invested throughout many decades had lost for them and the country. Susak at the eastern side of the Fiumara river with the Baross dock became part of the new south-slavian state, whereas the western side of the river belonged to the Italian Kingdom. This situation was recognized by the so called Trianon Truce dictated by Great Powers which not only deprived Hungary of her sea coast but took away all of her sea-going ships, too.

    In December of 1920 Adria Royal Hungarian Sea Navigation Company handed over its entire fleet and its shipping venture to the Cossulich Brothers of Trieste then wound up its operation. 25 of its returning vessels keeping their original Hungarian names still gave job for many Hungarian sailors under Italian flag until the spring of 1921.

    József Horváth: What happens to you Hungarian sea navigation? Aqua Magazin, vol. 17.-18., 2001.