Company roots (1928 - 1940)
The towage company that Ben Iskes acquired in 1968 started out already in 1928 by towing inland barges with coal through the locks to the 'Hoogovens en Staalbedrijf' steel plant (now Tata Steel). At that time the coal came from the coal mines in Limburg, a Southern province of Holland. Inland tugs towed the coal barges via the river Rhine to IJmuiden but were not suitable to withstand the conditions outside of the IJmuiden locks and therefore more sturdy tugs had to take over the barge-handling in the IJmuiden port area.
The owner and founder of the towage company was Mr. Jacob Visser. At first he had a business ferrying people across the North sea canal, but he moved into towage when he started using his ferry boat also for tug services. He acquired his first tug (& ferry) boat in 1928: the ALBERDINA with 40 bhp and 14.50 meters length. Later in 1930 he acquired a second tug, the NEELTJE. This 100 bhp tug he also used to move up and down to Limburg to fetch coal barges.
After World War II
The business came to a standstill during World War II, but after the war the towage of coal lighters was again picked up. But then also the increased fishing industry in IJmuiden resulted in a lot of vessel shifting operations. As a result of the increase in towage requirements in 1949 a new tug was acquired: the TRITON with 150 bhp. Later in 1956 followed by the THETIS, also with 150 bhp. Then in the early sixties the IJmuiden based fishing fleet saw a tremendous boom time. Sometimes 60 fishing vessels were moored in the port, which necessitated the acquisition of a 3rd tug, the ARGUS with 290 bhp.
1968: Sleepdienst B. Iskes & Zn
Ben Iskes (1944) acquired the company in 1968. He was born in a 'maritime' family. His father sailed on tugs of the renowned Dutch towage companies Wijsmuller and Smit and he finished his career as master of a large dredger of Van Oort & Van Ommeren. His son Ben started his career as a deckhand on board a Wijsmuller tug, but later on Ben also sailed world-wide on the deep-sea tugs POOLZEE and SCHELDE of the towage company L. Smit & Co. Internationale Sleepdienst (later called in short 'Smit').
Back home in 1967 Ben also worked on and off on the IJmuiden harbour tugs of Jaap Visser's towage company, but Ben wanted to start a business of his own. The plan at first was to buy a tug to assist his father in the dredging industry, but when Jaap Visser heard of these plans, he approached Ben to take over his IJmuiden towage company. This then happened in 1968.
Since then the business and the tug fleet has grown gradually until what it is today.
Ben's son Jim started working in the company at first as a tug master but now he has taken over the daily management from his father and he is actively expanding into other business area's.