Steam navigation for passenger transport on the River Elbe can look back on a history of 175 years. It was on 8 July 1836, that twelve Dresden citizens received a royal privilege for steam navigation within the borders of Saxony. Shortly afterwards, the “Elbdampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft” was founded.

The company’s name has changed several times over the course of many decades. In 1910, the fleet moved to its present moorings on the Dresden Terrassenufer quayside below the famous Brühlsche Terrasse, and in 1911 the company already owned 33 steamers. After 1945, sadly, their number were reduced to eight. During the GDR years, the fleet operated under the name “Weisse Flotte Dresden”. German unification, however, heralded a new period of uncertainty.

In 1993 and 1994, the new owner of the fleet, Sachsische Dampfschiffahrts GmbH & Co. Conti Elbschiffahrts KG, initiated the restoration of the eight remaining paddle steamers, devoting careful attention to original historical details. The Dresden fleet was thus preserved as the oldest and largest paddle steamer fleet in the world.

In December 1999, the Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt repurchased the passenger steamer “Krippen”, which was subsequently reconstructed at the Laubegast shipyard in the summer of 2000, prior to joining the fleet once more as the ninth historical paddle steamer.

1836-1898: From founding of the company to building of a new shipyard

8. July 1836

Founding of the Elbdampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft

30. July 1837

Maiden voyage of the Dresden passenger steamer “Königin Maria” from Dresden to Meissen

6. August 1837

First steamer trip to Rathen

In 1857

Building of the Blasewitz shipyard

In 1863

Purchases of riverside land as moorings

26. March 1867

The company changed its name to Sächsisch-Böhmische Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft (SBDG

In 1879

The paddle steamer “Dresden III” entered service. It is the oldest paddle steamer of the fleet, today operating under the name “Stadt Wehlen”. The fleet now comprised 20 paddle steamers.


Fleet: 28 steamers

In 1898

Building of the traditional Laubegast shipyard

1901-1936: New moorings and centenary celebrations


With a fleet of now 36 steamers, the company carried a total of 3,460,151 passengers.

In 1910

All paddle steamers moved to their present moorings on the Dresden Terrassenufer quayside.

In 1911

The Sächsisch-Böhmische Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft owned 33 paddle steamers and employed 535 people.

29. January 1917

The River Elbe was frozen over completely between Posta and Litomerice. Sales of 10 steamers.


14 vessels were renamed and now bear the names of towns rather than monarchs.

21. March 1923

Founding of the Sächsisch-Böhmische Dampfschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft (SBDA).

In 1928

Replacing the traditional green-and-white colour scheme, the national colours of Saxony, all ships were painted completely white, giving the fleet the name “Weisse Flotte”.

8. July 1936

The company celebrated its 100th anniversary with a grand parade of its paddle steamers.

In 1940

Almost 3 million passengers carried.

In 1942

The steamers received camouflage painting (Second World War).

After 1945

Due to severe war damage and the reparations to be paid to the Czech Republic and the Soviet Union, the fleet was reduced to 8 intact paddle steamers.

1948-2005: From nationalisation to the Elbe flood catastrophe

1. July 1948

The Sächsisch-Böhmische Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft was nationalised under the name “VEB Elbeschiffahrt Sachsen”.

In 1950

Establishing of the DSU, a central German navigation and transhipment organisation, with offices in Potsdam.

In 1956

Dissolution of the DSU, whose operations were continued in several separate enterprises, among them “VEB Fahrgastschiffahrt und Reparaturwerft Dresden”

1. January 1957

Latest figures: 16 ships and 3,137,000 passengers


Four modern, diesel-electric side-wheelers from the Rosslau shipyard joined the fleet.


First travel agency trips to Czechoslovakia.

In 1967

The enterprise was renamed “VEB Fahrgastschiffahrt Dresden”. Management of the shipyard in Laubegast was transferred to “VEB Schiffsreparaturenwerfte” in Berlin.


Motor tenders “NEWA” and “MOSKWA” taken into operation to provide express services between Dresden and Bad Schandau.

From 1980

19 ships in operation. The paddle steamer “Diesbar”, which is powered by the oldest steam engine still in service anywhere in the world, was placed under a preservation order.


The engine of the paddle steamer “Diesbar” was placed under a preservation order as a technical monument. This status was granted to the whole ship in 1985.

1837 to 1982

The Elbe shipping companies in Dresden possessed a total of 82 passenger vessels over this period.

End of 1992

The company was sold to shipping operator Conti, and was subsequently renamed “Sächsische Dampfschiffahrts GmbH & Co. Conti Elbschiffahrts KG”.


With eight historical paddle steamers (meticulously restored at a cost of approx. DM 1.5 million each), the two newly built salon ships “Gräfin Cosel” and “August der Starke”, and two smaller motor cruisers, the company boasts the oldest and largest paddle steamer fleet in the world.

24. August 1996

The company celebrated its 160th anniversary with a grand festival and guests from all over Europe.

March 1998

“die flotte Schiffsgastronomie GmbH“ a subsidiary company of Hilton International, took over the catering for all 12 ships.

October 1998

Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt welcomed the 3,333,333rd passenger carried since services were resumed under the new flag in 1993.

December 1999

Repurchasing of the paddle steamer “Krippen”. Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt now owned 9 historical paddle steamers.

End 1999

The company generated an annual profit for the first time since its refounding in 1993.

10-31 August 2002

All services had to be suspended due to the Elbe flood catastrophe in Saxony. Highest water level in Dresden: 9.40 metres on 17 August 2002.


All services had to be suspended due to the Elbe flood catastrophe in Saxony. Highest water level in Dresden: 9.40 metres on 17 August 2002.


Several weeks of extremely low water, with levels falling to below 80 centimetres in Dresden. As a result, serious disruption to regular services, special cruises and charter business.


New record year for Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt: Approx. 760,000 passengers, a turnover of approx. € 9.3 million, and a profit of  € 1.5 million.


752,000 passengers, a turnover of approx. € 9.5 million, and a profit of € 1.6 million


650.000 passengers, a turnover of approx. € 8,5 million and a profit of € 140.000


651.701 passengers, a turnover of approx. € 8,77 million

Facts and figures

The fleet

9 historical paddle steamers, 2 modern salon ships and 1 small motor cruiser

Passengers carried

Approx. 700,000 per year

River length served

Approx. 80 km between Diesbar-Seusslitz and Bad Schandau

Distance travelled

Approx. 200,000 km per season (whole fleet)

Ports of Call

14 Ports of Call in Saxony

Average speeds

paddle steamers cruise at max. 12 km/h when running upstream or max. 24 km/h downstream


95 cm fully loaded, 80 cm empty


85 employees

Auszeichnungen & Zertifikate