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Compagnie Française de l'Afrique Occidentale (Shipping company, France)

Last modified: 2013-07-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: compagnie francaise de l'afrique occidentale | letters: cfao (black) |
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[Flag of CFAO]

House flag of CFAO - Image by Ivan Sache, 10 February 2004

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History of CFAO

In 1863, Charles-Auguste Verminck (1827-1913) and Antoine Rouvier purchased from Bazin SS Charles-Martel and opened a line Marseilles-New York. The ship was lost in October 1863. The shipowners then attempted to open a line to Central America, but were unsuccessful. They redirected their activity to the African coast, where they opened trade posts. Rouvier withdrew from business and Verminck opened in 1877 a scheduled line Marseilles-Senegal-Guinea-Sierra Leone with SS Foulah, a new cargo ship bought in England. The company was renamed Compagnie du Sénégal and new ships were bought, SS Mandingue (1880), SS Falabah (1883) and SS Yorouba (1883).

In 1887, the company was renamed Compagnie Française de l'Afrique Occidentale. In order to replace the obsolete MS Foulah, the company bought in 1902 the cargo-passenger ship MS Bambara. On 29 March 1903, MS Bambara went down with all hands 60 miles off the islet of Planier, near Marseilles. The sinking was probably caused by the explosion of a powder cargo. The CFAO then chartered ships from Greece and its big rival Paquet.

After the First World War, the CFAO operated a fleet of station ships in Saint-Louis (Senegal), Conakry (Guinea), Pointe-Noire (Congo) etc. and managed its trade posts.

Source: Paul Bois. Armements marseillais - Compagnies de navigation et navires à vapeur (1831-1988), published by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Marseille-Provence [boi03].

Charles-Auguste Verminck was of Belgian origin. Aged 16, he left Marseilles for Senegal. He set up his own business and went into partnership with Antoine Rouvier.
Both associates chartered sailing ships, imported oleaginous fruits (mostly groundnuts) and founded the first French establishments in Senegal, Gambia and Sierra Leone.

In 1862, Verminck opened an oil factory in Marseilles; in 1873, he owned the biggest sailing ship fleet in Marseilles. His company, the Compagnie du Sénégal et de la Côte Occidentale d'Afrique was founded in 1881, operating two steamships and four sailing ships in Marseilles and 20 coastal ships in Africa. The company was renamed CFAO in 1887, and presided by Verminck's son-in-law Frédéric Bohn.

In 1879, Verminck funded the Zweifel and Moustier's expedition aimed to discover the sources of the river Niger. He was awarded a golden medal by the Société de Géographie de Marseille in 1880.

Source: Pierre Guiral & Félix Reynaud (Eds.). Les Marseillais dans l'histoire, Privat (Toulouse, 1988)

Ivan Sache, 25 January 2005

House flag of CFAO

P. Bois [boi03] shows the house flag of CFAO as white with the black letters CFAO.

Ivan Sache, 10 February 2004