Van Rietschoten & Houwens was a true ‘leader of the pack’ when it came to innovation. Steam, electricity, and electronics, in every industrial revolution, Van Rietschoten & Houwens could be found in the front ranks, not only for the research and development, but also in the implementation of innovations.
Van Rietschoten & Houwens developed the first public lighting system for Rotterdam, the first electric railway in the Netherlands, the first semiconductors used in safety systems on-board ships and the first computers used in Dutch education.
In 1860, sea captain Jan Jacob van Rietschoten bid farewell to his seafaring career and set up shop in Rotterdam as an independent ships’ rigging and equipment supplier. He provided ships, at the time mostly sailing vessels, with vital equipment such as rope, steel wire, lamp wick, petroleum and lubricants.
Van Rietschoten met the 19-years younger engineer Willem Houwens and in 1872 they set up Van Rietschoten & Houwens. Around 1875 Van Rietschoten & Houwens started hiring out steam-powered machines and, because new and unfamiliar techniques were involved, they also offered their services as mechanics and operators.
In 1885 Van Rietschoten’s son joined the company. ‘Junior’ had completed part of his training in England where he had learnt a lot about electrical engineering from various companies including Siemens Brothers, supplier of electric machines and equipment.
He very quickly expanded the company by adding an electrical engineering department. This was a new field of technology in which, like steam power, R&H specialized right from the beginning. And with success: In 1888 Van Rietschoten & Houwens installed one of the first lighting systems in the Netherlands in 'De Passage' in Rotterdam.
Van Rietschoten & Houwens received an order for the electrical engineering on-board naval vessels: the first of many from the Royal Netherlands Navy. Van Rietschoten & Houwens was also brought in as partner for all the electrical engineering solutions on-board the Holland America Line’s SS Amsterdam.
While carrying out an order to supply the electrical systems for three submarines for the Royal Netherlands Navy, it emerged that the cables actually weighed twice as much as had been calculated by a third party. To reduce the system’s overall weight, R&H used steel plate for the switch, junction and distribution boxes instead of bronze. From that moment on this would be the industry standard for years. Nobody in the sector ever used bronze again.
All the R&H businesses made a rapid recovery during the post-World-War 2 reconstruction period. The research department kept an eye on the latest developments in the field of automation, electronics and computers. When three American scientists invented the transistor, a semi-conductor to strengthen or switch electronic signals, it sparked a new global industrial revolution.
Van Rietschoten & Houwens was the first in the Netherlands to use semi-conductors in on-board safety systems for ships. The workforce grew from 350 in 1945 to more than 1000 in 1950. To make room for the new employees, equipment, parts and research activities, in 1953 the foundation stone of a new building on the Sluisjesdijk in Rotterdam was laid.
Economic developments in Europe called for larger and more powerful conglomerates and, at the end of 1967, Van Rietschoten & Houwens was taken over by the trading company active in the former Dutch East Indies: Internatio.
In 1970, Internatio N.V. merged with Wm. H. Muller & Co., which had ample liquid funds and was looking to extend its range of activities. Internatio, with its wealth of experience in the field, turned out to be the ideal partner. Internatio-Muller N.V. was born.
Around 1990 Internatio-Muller was a conglomerate of businesses, approximately 35 of which specialised in mono-disciplinary electrical engineering or mechanical engineering.
In 1998 Internatio-Muller continued under the name Imtech, a new and ambitious stock exchange fund quoted on the Euronext stock exchange in Amsterdam.
For years Imtech was a favorite on the Damrak stock exchange but on the 12th of August 2015 Pon Holdings and Parcom Capital reached an agreement on the takeover of Imtech Marine and all its subsidiaries.
Pon Holdings has built a great deal of international expertise in the maritime and offshore sectors. Parcom Capital has been an active investor in the maritime sector. In addition to the necessary investments, both will also use their knowledge and expertise to further strengthen the market position of the newly formed company. Both shareholders have made a long-term commitment to the newly formed company.
Early in the process it became clear that the name Imtech was no longer fertile. It was time to rebrand the company. The newbuild pillar or former ‘Imtech Marine & Offshore’ was relaunched under the name RH Marine.
RH Marine is a leading system integrator and innovator of electrical and automation systems in the maritime industry, and delivers tailored solutions for complex Defence, Safety & Security ships, Yachts and Special Vessels.
The foundation of technological innovation and technology integration laid by Van Rietschoten & Houwens still lives within RH Marine today. We are proud to have such a rich and passionate history were we have stood at the cradle of many innovations still used in the maritime industry today.
We have been one of the technological pioneers in the industry since 1860 and will continue to be a frontrunner today and in the years to come. We will explore the potential of green and intelligent, unmanned ships by continuously innovating electrical and automation solutions in co-creation with our key customers.