Building the Ship, and to China and Back 1998-2007

Last rib erected november 1986

The 12 November 1998 the 66th and last rib was raised. Photo: Jan-Erik Nilsson, 1998.

Last rib erected


The 12th of November 1998 the 66th and last rib is raised. The ship's main inner structure is now finally complete. From now on the the organization changes focus onto the ship building only. The project initiators find themselves not needed or actually not wanted any more.

Since we were never hired or paid by anyone to do this, there are also no traditional ways of 'managing' us who in realty were running the entire project. We find that we have created a level of management higher then ourself, who now finally want to take over - SOIC AB and the Gotheborg III Foundation and thus as it turns out, in effect also given away the ship.

Since almost all sponsors are there to support the larger purpose of the project as originally visualized by us, the original initiators meaning basically Me, Anders and Berit Wästfelt and the larger Group of the Friends organization, the project now gets delayed for a several years since the project don't have any commercial financing or share holder capital to rely on, except us, the volunteers and the sponsors.

1998 - The Project turns official

Eventually the official Sweden warmed up to the idea, and eventually started to promote our project, as their own.

Maybe this was inevitable and maybe that was what we ultimately had wanted however, we were not ok with the ham handed way it was presented, or pushed through. We can even set a date on, when we got this 'offer we couldn't refuse'. However the project wasn't ours to give away just like that, so we of course refused, and of course that didn't change a thing.


On the 1st of January 1999, Jörgen Gabrielson was appointed Managing Director of the Swedish East India Company, SOIC AB. With the ship the work inside the hull is started. Making and fitting of deck's beams are completed.


Adding planking to the hull is started. Work with making parts to the rig is started.


Work with sculpted wood decorations and the figurehead is started. Actual making of the sails is started.


Ship's hull in the main shipyard hall at Terra Nova, Gothenburg. Larboard (port) side of the ship, from Galleon and fore, looking aft. 8th of August, 2002.

May 7th, 2002. The two TAMD 165 A 386KW (525HK) Volvo engines promised to the project in 1995, was delivered. Entire hull's planking is complete. November 2002, two propellers especially made for the ship, arrives.


The 6th of June 2003 The Gotheborg III is launched from our Terra Nova shipyard.
Swept in the white smoke of gunpowder the salute is booming across the Gota Älv River again.
Photo © Jan-Erik Nilsson, 2003

Ship launched in 2003

The 6th of June 2003 The Gotheborg III is launched from our Terra Nova shipyard. Swept in the white smoke of gunpowder the salute is booming across the Göta River again. Photo © Jan-Erik Nilsson, 2003

June 6, 2003 The East Indiaman Gotheborg III is launched in the presence of the Swedish Royal Family and the media attention is intense. One week later at June 13th the first mast was fitted, which were the 23 meter long foremast. Work continues at quay side.

The East Indiaman Götheborg on stamps 4 November 2003

At the celebration of the Day of the Postal Stamps on 4 November 2003, a set of stamps showing The East Indiaman Götheborg was published.


September 3, 2004. Her Majesty the Queen Silvia performed the naming ceremony of the Swedish East Indiaman Götheborg at the Opera House at Lilla Bommen.

Ticket to the naming ceremony of the Gotheborg III ship.


February 2005, Volvo enters the project as an official partner.

The new shipyard of 'Terra Nova' was built on the former location of the Eriksberg launch bed #6
and grew over a period of years between 1993 to 2005 to a popular tourist attraction.
Photo: Jan-Erik Nilsson, May 29th 2005.

April 18, 2005, The first trial voyage ever with the new built ship.

May, Saturday 21 - Sunday 22, 2005, First trial voyage ever under sail. At most eight sails were up giving the ship a top speed of 6 knots.

2005 - Departure

The 2nd of October 2005 The Gotheborg III departs from the inner harbor pier in Gothenbourg followed by the cheers of tens of thousands of spectators. The white smoke of gunpowder and the thunder claps of the salute is booming across the Göta Älv River once again.
Photo: Jan-Erik Nilsson, October 2, 2005

The 2nd of October 2005 our rebuilt replica of the East Indiaman Gotheborg is leaving Gothenburg for her voyage to China.
In a few moments she will safely pass the exact location where the original hit on a reef and sank on homecoming in 1745.

Departure in 2005

Finally, departure for China. Thousands of large and small boats follows our East Indiaman while leaving the Gothenburg Harbor.
In a few minutes she will be passing pretty much over the spot where her predecessor sank 260 years ago, in 1745. Elfsborgs castle and excavation head quarter to the right of the huge passenger ferry. Photo © Jan-Erik Nilsson, 2005.

The Swedish exhibition of Chinese Porcelain at the Palace Museum
China and Sweden: Treasured Memories Forbidden City, Beijing, 2005

In Beijing, The Swedish exhibition of Chinese Porcelain at the Palace Museum, China and Sweden: Treasured Memories. It will be open September 26 to December 26, 2005 The exhibition is Jointly presented by The City Museum of Gothenburg, The Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg, The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm and The Röhss Museum of Design and Applied Art, Gothenburg with the support from Swedish Embassy in China, Volvo Group & Volvo Trucks Greater China, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Radisson SAS Hotel Beijing.

The first section is about The legacy of the merchant ship Götheborg 1743-1745. The catalogue includes and essay by Jan-Erik Nilsson: The Kingdom of Sweden and the East Indiaman Götheborg III Friendship Project

The Opening Ceremony begins. HRH the Swedish Crown Princess Victoria in the middle has to her left the Swedish Minister for Industry and Trade Mr. Thomas Östros and the Swedish Ambassador in China Mr. Börje Ljunggren. To her right, Chinese Deputy Minister of Culture, Director of Palace Museum, Mr. Zheng Xinmiao and Deputy Director of Palace Museum, Mr. Li Ji.

Jan-Erik Nilsson and Professor Geng Baoshang.
Meeting with Professor Geng Baoshang well known for his profound writings and scholarship on Chinese Imperial porcelain was one of the high points of the opening ceremony, however outside of the official program.

The stone stairway leading up to the Exhibition Hall itself, the Swedish flag colours flanking the stairs. The architecuture of the place is something quite amazing.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro and exhibition commissary Jarl Vansvik.
The entrance to the Exhibition Hall with the flags of the two countries and a trading route map of the East Indiaman Gotheborg III, tracking the ship's voyage to come.

An inside view of the Exhibition Hall.
Comparing the inside with the outside architecture we find that what appears to be two floors is actually a high ceiling with only a balcony running inside the windows of the second upper facade tier. To the immediate left the Ru yao dish from The Röhss Museum was displayed in a showcase of its own. At the press preview a reporter had tried to open that showcase to get a better picture with the cabinet glass away, causing quite a stir among the security staff.


2006 - Arrival in Canton

There were no real words to describe the feeling of seeing this ship arriving on Pearl River
with the old 'Bocca Tigris' just a few miles up the river, in clear view from where I stood.
Photo: Jan-Erik Nilsson, 18 July 2006

Utterly happy initiators of the project Anders Wästfelt, Jan-Erik Nilsson and Berit Wästfelt. - It is very rarely you can see such a complex dream come true in such a spectacular manner like this. Lets say you think it would be fantastic to see an actual sailing East Indiaman from the mid 18th century coming in on the Pearl River with blasting canons, and then make it come true. It does say something about the power of the mind, good friends and willpower.
Photo: Jan-Erik Nilsson, 18 July 2006

The 18 July 2006 the Gotheborg III arrives to Bocca Tigris in the Pearl River delta after twenty days of sailing from the former Batavia, nowadays Jakarta more or less exactly 200 years after the last Swedish East Indiaman having left China. The reception was amazingly generous to the Swedish East Indiaman. After having lowered the masts to be able to continue the trip upwards the Pearl River under low hanging cables and bridges, the Gotheborg III continued up the river to its historical goal of the journey the city of Guangzhou (Canton). The first of its kind ever, to reach the actual city.

Back home in Gothenburg, 9 June 2007

Chinese President Hu Jintao welcomes her back home to Gothenburg, Sweden

Hu Jintao

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Swedish King Carl Gustaf VI disembarking the East Indiaman Gotheborg after homecoming to Gothenburg the 8 June 2007.

On 8-10 June 2007 the Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Gothenburg and participate in welcoming the Gotheborg III back home after the voyage to China. This is the first official visit to Sweden ever from China, and includes an audience with the King and meetings with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and other cabinet ministers as well as representatives from the Swedish business community.

Sailing Ship and Beyond

Eventually the ship got built and between 2005-2007 made the spectacular voyage to China and back that we had planned for.

Today I don't think anybody feel anything but pride about this project, and that our ship actually got built and did make it to China and back. I also think we did accomplished much of what we wanted, even if all of the purposes and objectives we had in mind did not materialized.

What we knew for sure when we started this in 1992 was that it would become a very beneficial project for a lot of people. I am also full of admiration for the people who built this beautiful ship and created its rigging and for those who now are actually sailing her.

Personally, what I wanted was to get as close as possibly to the time and the people who did this for real in the 18th century. I wanted to experience being part of a real world East India Company, to build your own ship and plan for the voyage. I was curious about how it felt for those in the 18th century who undertook a journey to China and back, at a time when a sailing ship was the fastest mode of travel there was. How they got to witness the wonders of the world while hopefully, bringing back some new ideas and a broader perspective on tings. I also wanted to know what it felt like to walk around inside a real East Indiaman, and one day to see her return home after a successful voyage to China and back. And just maybe, we could make the world a little better place in the process

Jan-Erik Nilsson
Scripsit, Wargö Håla, Winter of 2023
Waiting for good wind, as always
Original co-founder
Gotheborg III Management group 1992-1998