ONE of Australia’s regular maritime visitors, Jack Oostrum, far east director of Spliethoff Transport, died of cancer on 26 December in the Netherlands.

Spliethoff’s success in Australia since their vessels first made regular appearances in Australian waters was mainly due to the efforts and persistence of Mr Oostrum.

In the mid 1980s, the company’s main trade from Australia was shipping pulses into India. Its vessels were regular traders to the Far East from Scandinavia and Europe carrying newsprint and paper products.

Spliethoff’s multipurpose ships looked for southbound breakbulk cargoes from Asia for the return trip to Australia. They started carrying steel products and construction machinery – an ideal cargo combination with steel in the lower holds and machines in the tween decks. The trade soon grew into a regular breakbulk liner service between Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China into all main ports of Australia by the early 1990s. The service grew to a point by the mid 90s where there were three vessels a month servicing these trades.

Jack Oostrum

By that time the pulse trade had mostly gone over to containers and the focus turned to sourcing cargoes out of Australia and New Zealand to reposition the ships back to Asia and Europe. These consisted of mostly bulk commodities such as grain, minerals sands, concentrates and the occasional project cargoes.

It was an extremely busy time with Spliethoff having at least five or six ships on the Australian coast at any one time. Much of this activity was thanks to the drive and hard work of Mr Oostrum and his team in the Far East Department.

Mr Oostrum’s vision was to build ships that would best suit Australian trades and convinced the Spliethoff Board to include Australia-suitable vessels in any newbuilding program. Each new series was slightly larger but specifically had much heavier cranes to meet the increasing demand for project cargo movements for new oil and gas and ore and mineral installations.

Mr Oostrum regularly visited Australia, most often twice yearly, and kept close contact with his Australian clients. There were some notable client functions during those times, one particularly memorable one was held in the tweendeck of a new E type vessel on her maiden voyage because the vessel’s accommodation was too small to house all the guests.

Gifted with a keen sense of humour and fun, Mr Oostrum fitted into the Australian way of life and psyche very well. He was also an adventurer and turned any spare time he had during his visits here into tacking something new, whether it be scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef to flying in a Russian MIG fighter in Australia.

Mr Oostrum will be sadly missed by his family, his colleagues and all his friends he made in Australia, and there were many of them. He leaves behind a legacy of having played a large part in the development of breakbulk shipping in this country and the fact he had a hand in many of the industries that operate here today.

He was 63 at the time of his death and leaves behind a wife and three children.