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Company history

Our company history
Since 1982: International Freighter Voyages Pfeiffer

The idea of a rebirth

1980 Changes are called for in maritime shipping. Slowly, but increasingly clearly, the container is gaining ground. New full container ships are replacing the previous general cargo ships. Hapag-Lloyd and Hamburg-Sud, major traditional German shipping lines, are gradually parting ways with their conventional general cargo carriers alongside other shipping lines. On the last “white swan of the South Atlantic”, on the “Cap San Diego”, the German flag is lowered on 10.12.1981 in Rendsburg. Fortunately, this ship escaped the blast furnace and is now moored in Hamburg as a museum ship. (By the way, on the sister ship, the “Cap San Augustin”, we made the voyage of our lives to Brazil and Argentina).

No passenger facilities are available on the new container ships. The plane seems to have won the battle for the passengers.

But then in April 1980 a new idea was born on the small coaster “Hansa”. I am on my way back from Avairo/Portugal to Rotterdam. This is my third voyage as a passenger on a cargo ship.

In clear weather and sunshine the ship makes its way through the Biscay at 10 kn and I am the only passenger in the crew of seven. On this beautiful day at sea I keep thinking that there must still be people who would be as happy as me about this characteristic seafaring experience on a freighter.

Most ships have free chambers (e.g. owner’s or pilot’s cabins) which are not used for normal ship operation and are sailed empty across the seas.

1981 Good relations with the RMS (Rhein-Maas-See Shipping) are used for discussions with shipping companies. At first there are many sceptical questions: “Who would want to travel on a work ship without additional stewards, without great service”, “We have no staff on board that can take care of the chambers, the laundry or otherwise take care of the passengers”. These and similar concerns must be addressed in many discussions, always in the firm belief that there are enough interested passengers who are more interested in the maritime experience than in service.
1982 Our first “schedule” is printed. It contains only 6 voyages, mostly with smaller Rhine Sea vessels to the North and Baltic Sea, but also already voyages to Spain/Portugal and even to West Africa with the so-called Baco liners. An important issue needs to be resolved: How to reach this small potential target group? Many phone calls and conversations with representatives of the press and maritime journalists have to be made in order to read the first short notes or articles with headings such as

„They are back!

Voyages on cargo ships. A small agency from Wuppertal…”

1985 The number of voyages offered has increased to a “strong 10”. The attempt to also offer sailing yachts was soon dropped again. On a small “Coastal Motor Ship” from Duisburg to East England. During the night visit of the “Rainbow-Bar” in Grimbsy, an old, well known fishing port, luckily our helmsman (height 2,04 m, weight 115 kg) is present.
1988 After all, the number of voyages on offer has now increased to 24. For the first time voyages to all continents can be booked. Also the first voyage around the world has already taken place. While in the beginning the Coastal Motor Ships (smaller coasters loaded with general or bulk cargo) were the “main passenger carriers”, there are now more and more offers of voyages on container ships. Unfortunately, berthing times are becoming shorter and “the nights” less frequent with these types of ships, but to compensate, they often call at more ports. But there are still the exceptions: 7 loading days in London and 5 unloading days in Malta, as we experienced ourselves.
1989 The first multi-colored cover with black and white pictures is now being released with almost 30 voyages. Now we can also show the different types of ships such as general cargo, container and reefer ships in pictures and present the first crew photos. More and more information is needed, such as port plans, general information from A-Z, forms, etc. Deep into the Southern Norwegian fjords to Skien is this year’s freighter voyage.
1990 IT enters the scene (although we have not given up our index cards to date). The new technologies are helpful, but do not replace the important conversations with our customers in order to always find the right ship and the right destination. Of course, the many voyages that we go on ourselves on the different types of ships help us here.
1993 With 56 voyages offered, we can already present a schedule in which everyone can find something they like. Helsinki and Kotka in March with lots of ice. No way to go on without an icebreaker.
1995 This year, the first inland vessel with passengers operates on rivers and canals. Inland voyages are a long-cherished wish of our customers. To this day we still remember with pleasure Captain Emmer, who is the first to give passengers an insight into the working world of a riverboat on his “Frohsina”.
1996 Voyage to the Caribbean: St. Martin – Antigua – Trinidad & Tobago – Barbados – St. Lucia – Martinique and others. A dream voyage with Captain Axel, well-known to everyone in this sailing area.
1997 By tramp ship to Sweden and Denmark. 2,500 tons of wheat loading in the marina of Juelsminde, 150 m from the beach. Unimaginable!
1998 For the first time we can also show many colorful pictures of ships, chambers and crew to give our customers a better impression of life on board.
1999 On a brand new ship to Casablanca – Melilla – Cartagena – Cadiz and others Police raid in Melilla. I’ll tell you the rest only in person!
2001 The Internet age has begun. The first steps on the Internet were still accompanied by much uncertainty. Compared to today: Far too much text and a lot of technical obstacles. But this new way of communication also opens up new possibilities: search and click on what you are particularly interested in. You just have to learn to present the offers in a customer-oriented way. An apprenticeship year for us. A total of 76 voyages to 262 ports in 104 countries on all continents is a new record.
2002 Voyage to Piraeus and Istanbul in the Mediterranean Sea. 5 days on the chain because of a “little Greek misunderstanding”. 5 days of shore leave in Athens and Piraeus!
2004 With our new cover, besides the different types of ships, we show mainly three areas: working, experiencing and relaxing on board. Beautiful, realistic photos, often “shot” by crew members, show everyday life on work ships. A long awaited wish is fulfilled. Through the Panama Canal to Chile. Swimming pool on the bridge deck! By land across the Andes to Buenos Aires. Here we can provide many tips again.
2005 Our Internet presence is being “freshened up “, made clearer and more informative and easier to use. We receive much recognition and praise from our customers. Traveling with a 6,500 TEU East Asia service (length: 300 m, width: 40 m). From wind force 10 you feel some movement in the ship. On the Elbe we can look into the chimneys of the smaller ships.
2006 World Cup: Germany : Argentina in a pub in Dublin. All the Irish have celebrated with us. A voyage with our very nice and competent captain from Cuxhaven.
2007 This year our agency has been in existence for 25 years, by the way, not a single year in which we have not made a freighter voyage ourselves. A reason to look back, to review the past time again, as you have just read, but also to dare to look forward. But first of all, the anniversary year shall be the time to express our gratitude.

We would like to thank our many customers, some of whom have remained loyal to us for more than 20 years.

We are always very happy to receive calls like: “Hello, this is… We were again very excited about the last voyage. Where could we go next? What ship or destination would you recommend this time?”

These or similar conversations are always the driving force for us to constantly look for new ships and routes and to offer them as interesting voyages.

2008 A year of booming: many customer trips, many enthusiastic travel reports. But: the shadow of the global economic crisis is on the horizon. (A voyage of our own to Norway.)
2009 Not only the world of business is experiencing the crisis. The demand for freighter voyages continues to be high. But… we’re running out of vessels. Some 600 ships are laid up, i.e. without work. But we find a ship for almost every customer: “Your booked ship is no longer going to Finland, but to Ireland. “It doesn’t matter, as long as you found me a ship.” We often hear these and similar sentences.
2010 With Nina Pfeiffer, the next generation takes over “ship management”. (See More about the team…) In mid-November our voyage to Brazil and Argentina (IFR 340) begins. The crossing to Buenos Aires takes 19 days.
2011 In mid-February we leave the ship again after 3 months. Behind us are about 13,000 nautical miles and about 12,000 km by car, rental car and bus in Argentina.

On the return journey all officers are German citizens. A great voyage. We are also happy to give tips for exploring the country.

Further personal cargo ship experience in 2011: Short trip from Rotterdam to the Baltic Sea. We will gladly pass on tips for embarkation, shore leave etc.!

2012 For many years we have donated to the Society for the Rescue of Castaways. Finally we are able to take a rescue cruiser ourselves, fortunately not in distress, but as the winner of a raffle among the donors. On the VORMANN STEFFENS we sail from Hooksiel to the Jade-Weser-Port, an unforgettable experience.
2013 Although we have been offering inland voyages since 1995, we have usually only visited our skippers in port. One exception: an inland waterway journey Strasbourg – Linz – Vienna, took place some years ago. It’s different this year. In fine weather we sail from Heilbronn on the Neckar, Rhine and Amsterdam – Rijn canal to the canal city. A wonderful journey (IFR 057).
2014 A lot of work is necessary to create the new homepage, which will be available from the beginning of the year. We are very happy about the many praising calls and mails. They motivate us to always look for further improvements.
2015 This year we are traveling with a small ship. With the chartered DELFIN, we sail from the Saar via Moselle, Rhine-Marne Canal – Marne – Seine to Paris and back Oise – Aisne – Ardennes Canal – Meuse and back to the Saar. 1,400 km with 289 locks. This voyage also serves as an information cruise to get to know even better the potential area of operation of our new inland voyage IFR 069.
2016 Never before have we received so many photos and reports from our passengers. From voyages on ships with 18,000 containers to the small inland vessels on the French canals. Of course, these travel reports are particularly interesting for customers who want to undertake one or the other voyage themselves.
2017 A small anniversary is not celebrated in a big way: 35 years of International Freighter Voyages Pfeiffer GmbH. The boom in cruises is giving us new customers. A small percentage also want to get to know real seafaring.
And an internal anniversary of which we are proud: Mrs Falkenberg and Mrs Weber have been on board for 10 years now!
2018 Smell the sea air in the next generation. Grandchild (13) and grandfather on tour, short trip England: IFR 102.
2019 For 10 years now, Nina Pfeiffer has been at the helm as managing director and, together with Mrs. Falkenberg and Mrs. Weber, has developed the agency into one of the leading providers of freighter voyages.
2020 2020 At the beginning of the year, a record number of travel bookings had already been received. Then came the Corona pandemic- Almost all trips had to be canceled or postponed. Short-time work, but also financial support from the state and federal government helped further. One thing was always clear to us: we’re going to hold out.