THE TROUBLED LIFE OF OFFSHORE LIFTING PIONEER PIETER SCHELTE HEEREMA

June 02, 2019

In November 2014 the world’s largest construction vessel was launched and named Pieter Schielte after Pieter Schelte Heerema, the father of Allseas’ owner Edward Heerema. The name caused controversy due to Pieter Schelte Heerema’s service in the Waffen-SS during WWII. Its first contract being threatened with cancellation Allseas renamed the vessel Pioneering Spirit, keeping the initials of Peter Shielte.
Pieter Schelte Heerema was born in Amsterdam the 27 April 1908. Previously member of a Dutch fascist party he became one of a number of Dutch nationals who joined the notorious SS organisation, whose members were fanatically loyal to Adolf Hitler.
After the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, Pieter expressed his fervent support of Nazism, giving a speech in which he spoke of the ‘model’ German race. He joined the Waffen-SS in 1941, training in Bavaria before being stationed in Ukraine. He rose rapidly to become an Untersturmführer, the equivalent of a second lieutenant. He then returned to Holland where he worked as a technical director of the Nederlandsche Oost Compagnie, which dispatched Nazi-sympathising Dutch farmers to Ukraine to develop the area agriculturally.
When he married Erna Kühnen, the daughter of a carpet merchant, in December 1942, he wore his black SS uniform, and received a congratulatory telegram from Heinrich Himmler, the SS chief regarded as the main architect of the Holocaust. Guest of honour was Hanns Albin Rauter, the most senior SS officer in the Netherlands, who was responsible for sending 110,000 Dutch Jews to concentration camps. After the war, Rauter was executed by firing squad for crimes against humanity.
Heerema was arrested in Brussels, and imprisoned in Holland. He was put on trial at the Hague in 1946 and convicted of SS membership. At the trial, Pieter claimed he had quit the Waffen-SS and renounced the Nazi regime midway through the war and had helped a Dutch resistance unit. He was sentenced to two years’ prison but immediately walked free because of the time he had already spent in detention. However, some historians are convinced he got off lightly.
One expert on the German occupation of the Netherlands, called his trial a farce and said the resistance group Pieter assisted comprised about two people and served as cover for collaborating Dutchmen who had a sudden change of heart.
In 1947 Heerema moved to Venezuela to start a new life. As a marine engineer he created Heerema and Bomans, developing concrete structures for the lake Maracaibo.
In 1961, Peter returned to the Netherlands and founded Heerema Engineering Service, a pioneer in the development and expansion of the offshore industry in the Netherlands. In 1963 he converted the tanker Sunnaas into the first crane vessel capable of lifting 300 tons. He led the way in the development of giant semi-submersible derrick and lay barges which revolutionized offshore construction by allowing for the design and installation of much larger platforms. Pieter Heerema died in 1978.
Heerema, founded in 1948, is today is a world leading marine contractor in the international offshore oil and gas industry and a fabrication group specialized in large and complex marine structures. Heerema owns and operate the world’s biggest crane ship: the Heerema Thiaf capable of lifting 14,200 tons. The Sleipnir was recently launched in Singapore, its lifting capacity will be up 20,000 tons.