THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — After protests by Jewish groups, a Dutch-Swiss maritime engineering company said Friday it will change the name of a giant ship that had been christened after a convicted Nazi.
The Pieter Schelte's name honored the Dutch father of Edward Heerema, founder and president of the ship's operator Allseas Group SA. Pieter Schelte Heerema is considered a pioneer in maritime engineering who helped open oil exploration in the North Sea.
But Jewish groups in the Netherlands and Britain had called for change, saying the name was a grim reminder of Pieter Schelte Heerema's World War II role as an officer in the Nazi's Waffen SS and his subsequent war crimes conviction.
Allseas Group said that due to the "widespread reactions" Edward Heerema has announced that the name of the vessel will be changed.
"It has never been the intention to offend anyone," the company said in a statement.
Earlier Friday, the company said it had no plans to change the name. The new name was not immediately announced.
"Wonderful, wonderful news. You've made my day," Esther Voet of Dutch Jewish group CIDI said when she was told of the name change.
The 382-meter (1,253-foot) ship is to be used in the dismantling of Royal Dutch Shell's Brent Delta platform. The top of the platform will be removed from the North Sea and hauled to shore.
The ship's name had been known for years but had drawn increased protests since the ship arrived in Rotterdam last month.
Shell, which had lobbied for the name to be changed, said in a statement it was "pleased they have decided to change the name of the vessel" and looked forward to working with Allseas.
Schelte Heerema fought with the Waffen SS and later become a director of a company in the Netherlands that rounded up laborers — some volunteers, others conscripted — for the Nazi war effort, said David Barnouw, a retired researcher at the respected Dutch National Institute for War Documentation. He served one year and two months in prison for war crimes, he said.
Kirka reported from London.