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Navigation aidBelgian Independents from the 1950s

With one of Europe's main refining centres in Antwerp, Belgium has always had a lively independent petrol (gasoline) distribution sector. Most unusually for Europe, a couple of small companies issued their own branded maps in the 1950s.

ARA, Aide Routière Automobile

Brief History

Little is known about ARA except that it stood for Aide Routière Automobile (suggesting it may have been associated with breakdown services) and was based in Antwerp. Operating in the 50s and early 60s it had just over 40 filling stations selling ARALINE "The finest premium gasoline - super octane".

1950s ARA map of Belgium

This map is from the early 1950s, pasted into a stiff off-white paper cover. As well as a fairly basic de Rouck map of Belgium, which marks ARA filling stations with a solid green old-fashioned petrol pump, it gives the addresses of all the main ARA outlets. Stapled into the cover is a small four page booklet of city plans, again marking ARA stations but this time with the circular logo. As well as the English language slogan quoted above, the map cover had French and Dutch versions of "The fuel of the elite", "Vitamins for your motor", "Increases power" and "Suppresses knocking". ARA is French and Dutch for "macaw" - hence the parrot on the logo.


Brief History

Petro-Deriva is another tiny independent that had a depot adjacent to the Raffinerie Belge des Petroles, but is based in Roeselare. As late as 2001 it still supplied 5 branded petrol stations in the vicinity of its home town; by 2012 it is possible that only one location remains under its brand (although these days the hyphen has been dropped).

This map is probably from the late 1950s or early 1960s, and is similar to the earlier RBP map shown below. The rear cover gives the address of the Antwerp and Roeselare facilities and is in both French and Flemish, although the front cover is only in Flemish.

Front cover of ca1960 Petro Deriva map of Belgium

Rear cover of ca1960 Petro Deriva map of Belgium

RBP, Raffinerie Belge des Petroles

Brief History

Antwerp’s oldest still operational refinery was opened in 1933 by the British Lianosoff White Oil Co. After the war it became RBP (or BPR in Dutch - Belgische Petroleum Raffinaderij), and was later owned by Occidental Petroleum (OXY) of the USA until it closed around 1977. Subsequently it was acquired by Coastal Corp., then successively Bricout Belgium with Nynäs (from Sweden), Universal Refining (a Korean company), IPG of Kuwait, and from 1999 until its 2012 the Dutch company Petroplus. It is currently operated by the Swiss-based trader Gunvor. RBP is thought to have mainly supplied independent distributors often operating unbranded service stations (Witte Pomp), but the RBP name was also used on filling stations with candy-striped pumps, as shown below. RBP later became a branded distributor for VIP before the OXY takeover.


mid 50s RBP map of Belgium

The left map dates from the mid-1950s & has a similar rear cover, but with French text. It is drawn to a scale of 1:320,000, but no cartographer or printer is credited. The right map (front and rear) dates from 1958 and was by Mantnieks of Brussels. Belgium was covered at 1:500,000 with the whole of Benelux on the reverse at 1,000,000.

1958 RBP map (front)

1958 RBP map (rear)

Thanks to Michel Breugelmans for his help with these maps.

Text and layout © Ian Byrne, 1999-2012

All original copyrights in logos and map extracts and images are acknowledged and images are included on this site for identification purposes only.