The tourist shipping service represents a crucial link between the island and the mainland. It was set up in 1829, 3 years after Heligoland became a seaside resort. The ships mostly bring holiday visitors to the island, but supplying the islanders is another important task.
After the UK returned Heligoland to Germany in the wake of the Second World War, the ferry service started up again. In 1951, a young ship owner called Cassen Eils purchased the elderly steamer Rudolf for 30,000 marks. On its early trips from Cuxhaven, the MS Rudolf mainly ferried the large numbers of reconstruction workers to the island. They were later joined by the first tourists. Five years later, the old steamer came to the end of its useful life. Even Cassen Eils was later astonished that it had lasted that long, because the ship didn’t meet current safety standards in any way whatsoever.
Today, the shipping companies Cassen Eils, FRS and Adler Eils bring several hundred thousand tourists to the island every year – from Cuxhaven, Hamburg and Büsum respectively. There’s also the air traffic to Düne. During peak periods in the 1970s and ‘80s, up to ten ships a day were bringing visitors to the island. Known as “butter trips”, these excursions were especially popular with day-trippers because of the duty and tax-free shopping on the island.
Things quieten down in winter. But the Cassen Eils shipping company operates all year round and also handles the mail for the islanders.
At Cassen Eils, the boss himself used to enjoy taking the helm. He retired after 55 years in the business, but Cassi, as he’s fondly known locally, felt a close connection with Heligoland until his dying day in 2010.
All depictions: © Nordseemuseum Museum Helgoland