The VeKa Group has its origin in the Versluis family, which earned its bread in inland navigation. However, the father, Piet, did not remain an inland navigator, seeing more opportunities in the trade in inland navigation vessels. In 1988 he set up VeKa (Piet Versluis and Jan Kapel). After two years, partner Kapel decided to do something different and left the company. The name, however, remained and the company expanded to become the VeKa Group of today: a shipyard with a comprehensive order book plus seven allied companies and shipyards in Werkendam, Lemmer (Bijlsma shipyard) and Heusden (Teamco finishing company). VeKa Scheepsbouw specialises in the construction of various types of vessels. The hulls are primarily sourced from foreign shipyards and then completed in the Netherlands.

In 1995, when father and mother Versluis stepped down from the company, VeKa received a request to take on a new ship construction project, which a year later resulted in the delivery of the first ship. Successes followed in quick succession, not least because VeKa continually invested in quality and knowledge as well as in competent and motivated staff. The company also responded directly and efficiently to the needs and wishes of the market, which quickly resulted in the expansion of the construction and finishing sites in the Netherlands. What started with one ship in 1995 had expanded to 50 by 2009 and currently stands at more than 200.

VeKa has its head office in Werkendam, a village at the edge of the Biesbosch and the Merwede. Not only is the head office based here, one of the finishing yards is also situated at Biesboschhaven Noord. The logical consequence of a company such as VeKa within the municipal boundary is that a great many staff are also resident in the same municipality, which strengthens bonds further.

Thanks to VeKa's close relationship with the municipality of Werkendam, it seems fitting to provide a little more information on the municipality of Werkendam with regard to history and the reason for its familiarity.

The history of Werkendam

The name "Werkendam" originates from the damming of the small river De Werken. This damming took place in around 1230 as part of major hydraulic works in the Grote Waard or Zuid-Hollandse Waard. Some regard "Wirkenemunde", first mentioned in 1064, as the origin of Werkendam. The so-called "ambachtsheerlijkheid" (a Dutch administrative unit of the time) of Wirkenemunde did not fall under the authority of Altena, but under that of the bailiff of South Holland in Dordrecht.

The Saint Elizabeth's Flood of 1421 had a great influence on the history of Werkendam. Dikes in the Grote Waard or Zuid-Hollandse Waard failed due to a storm flood, putting large parts of the area under water. Due to disagreement between polder managers, the dikes were not immediately repaired and a large inland lake was thus created. First known by the name Bergsche Veld (after the town of Geertruidenberg), when rushes later grew on the deposits the name was changed to Biesbosch ('rushwoods'). And thus for almost six centuries the history of Werkendam has been inseparably connected with the Biesbosch. As Werkendam was a river village, Werkendammers in the Middle Ages lived off fishing and hunting birds. Later on, the trade of osier worker was established in Biesbosch due to its large market for brushwood and hooping wood. Werkendam thus acquired its world-wide reputation in the field of road and waterworks. Throughout the world, dikes and harbours are constructed by Werkendammers. Until the 20th century, the rich contractors, mockingly known as 'griendbaronnen' or osier barons, lived in the stately mansions on Hoogstraat. The 'Biesboschuilen' lived in the district of Zevenhuizen, also called Over de Haven ('over the harbour'). This is also how Werkendam got the name Vrouwenhemel. The many Biesbosch workers and dike workers were often away from home due to work. This could be for a week, or it could be for months. The women stayed behind in the village, giving rise to the name 'Vrouwenhemel' or 'women's heaven'.

One famous event was the village fire in 1641, which the Rev. Schevenhusius meticulously recorded in the church register. A total of 81 houses in both Werkendam and De Werken fell prey to the sea of flames. In addition to the many village fires, Werkendam also suffered from the plague and floods in the 17th century.
The presence and unpredictability of the river forced the population to gain better control of the water.
Werkendam was an independent municipality until 1950, when it was merged with De Werken. The municipality consisted of the village De Werken, situated adjacent to Werkendam, and the villages of Sleeuwijk and Kille. In 1973 the village of Nieuwendijk was added. In 1997 the municipality of Werkendam was merged with the municipality of Dussen.

Of course, an organisation such as VeKa has a great deal of contact with the municipality in connection with the development of the harbour and industrial area. Thanks to its growth over recent years, VeKa has completed a number of new construction projects on the quayside, which would not have succeeded without the cooperation of the municipality of Werkendam. For the future, too, good collaboration is necessary; growth continues and there is a constant need for more finishing opportunities.
At the celebration of our 20-year jubilee, Mayor Hellegers addressed the board of directors and the public during the public festivities on the quayside at Biesbosch harbour. In this address, Mayor Hellegers emphasized the importance of a company such as VeKa for the municipality of Werkendam.

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About VEKA

VEKA Group is a distinctive Dutch shipbuilder that has become an international player in the maritime industry in its 25 years of existence. Today we operate in diversified nautical markets and deliver a wide range of specialized vessels. At our shipyards in the Netherlands and abroad we have experience in building high quality vessels. Always cost efficient, with passion and using in-house knowhow.

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