I was fortunate that when I returned from my first cruise on the Achille Lauro in January 1987, there was another ship in the harbour to visit before I headed off back to Johannesburg.
While the Achille Lauro is no spring chicken, this oldie made her look young, built in 1914 as the SS Medina, the MV Doulos was the oldest active ocean faring passenger ship in the world until she was retired in 2009.
She was under the ownership of GBA (Good Books for All), a German Christian based charity that operates floating bookshops. Calling in Durban, the Doulos was berthed at Maiden Wharf from 11 Dec – 6 Jan, and I was fortunate enough to go on board her. However, once again I was restricted by how much film I had, so images are scarce of this oldie. But, I think the pics I took on that occasion are probably the best.
There is no way that you could look at her and not see how old she was, inspite of the numerous alterations she endured over the years.
That beautiful old stern was a definite give away, it was the type of stern usually associated with sailing ships.
Doulos did not always look like this, she was originally built as a cargo ship in Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, and launched on 22 August 1914 and she survived both world wars! She first entered the passenger trade in 1948.
In 1952 she was acquired by Costa who re-engined and refurbished her, putting her back into service as the Franca C. Dolous is not a large vessel, and the Franca C soldiered on until disposed of in the 1970’s.
She was acquired by GBA and from then on she roamed the world, welcoming thousands of visitors wherever she went. She not only sold books though, but missionary teams went out into local communities to do their work and to bring a message of hope to the people that they encountered.
She was crewed by an all volunteer crew who paid to work on board her, and it was a very successful union between an old ship and an eager and dedicated workforce.
Once on board you could see her age, her lifeboat davits definitely being from a previous era. It was also said that in parts her plates were very thin and you could literally put your finger through them, but somehow I doubt it. American built ships were built very strongly, and she was very well maintained even though there was a limited budget available. I know I bought books on board her that day, and when I left I had a feeling that just maybe one day our paths would cross again.
My next encounter I cannot date positively, although I do recall the trip. My trusty ship book gives the date as 11 November 1993, but she was only in Durban from 24 November till 13 December, which means we probably saw her on 2 December when we were there for Marco Polo.
It was an important year for Doulos too as she was in Cape Town from 28 April to 15 November where she had major electrical work done, converting her from DC to AC as well as a much welcomed drydocking. The work was probably done by volunteers too, and she was often waived port duties by port authorities. In total she spent 9 months of the year in South African waters.
The images I have of her are not as good as those I took before, in fact the difference may be related to the weather.
It was hard to say whether anything changed on board. I do know that the South African courtesy flag that she was flying would soon be on its way out.
She came to South Africa three more times before she was withdrawn from service in 2009, and her statistics are very impressive for the time that she was in service with GBA. Sadly though she would be doomed by SOLAS 2010, and faced with a large repair bill it was decided that the venerable ex freighter had reached the end of the line.
Or had she?
On March 18, 2010, she became the property of BizNaz Resources International
Pte Ltd in Singapore who planned to preserve the ship under the name Doulos Phos, (Servant Light), In September 2013, she was towed from Singapore to Batam, Indonesia to be refurbished before being moving to the Island of Bintan to be part of a hotel resort. Whether these plans ever come to fruition, it is difficult to say, but somehow she may surprise us all, after all, she has been around over 100 years!
The Royal Viking Line is no more, but the legacy of their ships does live on. They were an upmarket cruise line and had very modern and pricey vessels. They also called in South Africa, usually on round Africa voyages. One of their new buildings was Royal Viking Queen, and we had an invite to see her.
My trusty ship visit book lists her as calling in Durban on 28 November 1992, and we were there when she arrived.
First impressions were of a small modern ship, and not really the sort of ship that would appeal to somebody like me who prefers something more traditional. She was built as one of 3 sisters, for Seabourn Cruises, (Seabourn Pride and Seabourn Pride), but she ended up being completed for Royal Viking instead as Royal Viking Queen.
She had not been in service very long either, so we would get a good look at her workmanship too. The visit had been arranged beforehand, and we were well prepared with a plaque to present to the Master on the occasion of the call, and I often wonder if it still exists somewhere.
Once on board our jaws dropped because she was stunning. Very modern, but done with good taste. We had been given a small press pack to aid us on our walking tour of her, but as usual we headed down below and worked our way upwards,
The one pervading memory I have of her was a lobby that was painted to resemble a four funnel liner, if you looked forward you would see 2 funnels, and if you looked aft the remaining 2 funnels. It was very well done and I really regret not having pics of it.
Her upper decks were clean and shiney with chrome and glass and light woodwork, there was more of a feel of yacht to her as opposed to a ship, and I believe that was the original intention.
On her foredeck was a Jacuzzi that must have been quite nice although it was literally on the front porch of the bridge and the forward suites. She also had a platform that could be lowered from her stern for people to enjoy water sports in ports where she did not go alongside.
She was really a pretty ship inside, but I think she may have been somewhat stuffy for anybody that did not come from the right background. The master was impressed with our plaque and handed us each a Royal Viking keyring as a memento, but alas, a burglary in 1999 saw most of my collection of those mementos stolen. I also recall that he had injured his hand and was very apologetic about the many plasters that his hand was covered in.
And then it was time for us to leave, and we hung around to watch her sail. The sun was starting to go down by then so we got those low light shots so beloved of Durban in good weather.
She was quite a sight sailing from Durban, the sort of ship that you wish you could sail on, but know you will never be able to afford to.
I never saw her again after that, however in 2008 while in Hong Kong, I saw her sister: Seabourn Spririt.
She is still afloat somewhere, and as far as I am aware sailing under the name Seabourn Legend, having returned to the company that she was originally ordered for. She is due to enter service with Windstar in May 2015. Royal Viking Line ceased to exist in 1994. However, all of their ships are still in service.
I have 14 February 1994 down as being a good day for shipwatching in Durban because there were two interesting callers in the port. The first being Sagafjord, and the second: Kazakhstan II
Originally one of five sisters of the Belorussiya class (Belorussiya, Gruziya, Azerbaizhan, Kazakhstan, Kareliya) these ships were quite rare to see in South Africa, although there is a post card of one of them in Cape Town, (date unknown).
The Kazakhstan II was interesting because in October 1992 she had an accident while in dry dock and it was thought she would have been broken up, instead she was refitted and re-entered service as Kazakhstan II. Originally launched as Belorrusiya in 6 March 1974, the sisters were more cruise-ferries with car decks than dedicated cruise ships. At the time of her call she was being operated by the German operator Delphin Seereisen on a round Africa voyage.
We were fortunate to go out on the pilot boat to bring her in, and she was somewhat of a boxey ship with an unattractive funnel. In fact I was not sure what to make of a German operated, Finnish built, former Soviet flagged cruise-ferry!
Looking at pics of her now, she wasn’t an unattractive ship, but definitely in a different league to Sagafjord! Her stern door was still there from her days as a cruise-ferry, and maybe it is the lack of curves that did gave her an almost severe and business-like look.
Looking back at my pics, most of what I took were of her at sea from the pilot boat, but almost nothing of her coming alongside, which probably means I did not have too much film left to mess around with. In the old days it was expensive to take pics, and you were limited by how many rolls of film you had with you, I also used to shoot slides so it is also possible that I did not scan too many of the images of her.
It is also very possible that I had shot too many images of Sagafjord, or was saving my shots for Sagafjord. It was a long time ago.
Once on board we did the grand tour, and I seem to recall not being too impressed by her interiors. She looked almost bland compared to some ships I had seen, functional, but not fancy. I also remember that we were served drinks by a stewardess and we all remarked to each other that that she seemed very tired and somewhat underdressed. I also have a feeling there were restrictions on our photography on board. But I have an image of her aft deck to squish that theory.
And then we were leaving, and I know we never saw her sail, so I am afraid the story ends there. But my all pervading impression of bland still stands, but I am glad that I did get the opportunity to go on board, because even though she was one of 5 sisters, she was still a successful ship in her own right.
It is possible that she is still afloat somewhere, I know, the ships did not really seem to settle into regular service, and Kazakhstan was beached in Jan 2012 for breaking up. However, it could be that SOLAS 2010 did add a nail into their careers, but it is also possible that there are still out there.
Another interesting vessel that came to Durban was the small passenger ship/ferry Estrella Do Mar. She was usually up in Mozambique and Mombasa as far as I recall, and only headed South for repairs or dry docking. We managed a visit to her when she was still at the repair berths and she was a real surprise with her dormitory accommodation and forward lounge. The owner, Alex Costazos, was very friendly and he hinted that when the charter ended she may end up in South Africa doing short cruises.
We never saw her for a few years until we got to Durban one day and she was alongside. It was 1994, and we went on board and there was Alex once again, and his plan was almost ready to happen.
She was built as “Santa Maria de la Caridad” by Union Naval de Levante, Valencia, Spain, for Compañía Trasmediterránea. Delivered March 1967. Lpp 59.50 m, width 11 m, draught 5.18 m, 1199 BRT. She served Balearics and Canary Islands traffic until 1982 and was sold in 1984 to Pyrgi Chios Shipping Co., Greece, together with “Santa Maria de la Paz” and “Isla de Menorca”. After that her history becomes clouded until she turned up in Durban for a refit and mechanical work.
She did however, get a new lease of life and was sold to a Danish/Filipino company and rebuilt into a cruise ship for island hopping expeditions around the Philippine Archipelago. Called the Coco Explorer No 1, it was far from luxurious but lots of fun.
In 2005 she was replaced by a larger, more luxurious ship called the Coco Explorer No.2, another former Spanish ferry that is best known for its stint as the Greek Islands cruise ship Arcadia. The former Estrella do Mar was thus retired and sent to China for scrapping in 2005.
Additional info available at Simplon Postcards, further information on her career, and photographs courtesy of Jonathan Boonzaier.
The long laid up Royal Zulu was resident in Durban harbour for many years. Originally brought across to Durban she was destined to become THE party ship, operating short cruises and with a disco, gambling, partying and all manner of what were nefarious activities to the previous government.
Alas, she fell foul of the licensing authorities and ruffled quite a few feathers. She was promptly arrested after very little service and ended up alongside a disused quay at the far end of the container berth where she slowly decayed for many years. She was eventually joined by the dormant RA Leigh, and the pair of them rusted away in silence.
Built as Santa Maria de la Nieves, she was one of 3 sister ships (Santa Maria de la Candelaria, Santa Maria de la Nieves, Santa Maria del Pino ) built in 1967 by Union Naval de Levante, Valencia, for inter-island services in the Canary Islands and the Balearics for Trasmediterránea of Spain.
Eventually she was sold for breaking up (possibly in 1992) and one of her lifeboats eventually found its way to Johannesburg. In April 1987 we got on board her and it was a very strange feeling to be board this dead ship. Everything was as it was left, and I climbed the mast and poked around inside her, but we could not get below decks or onto the bridge, I always looked out for her I was in Durban, because realistically she was a part of Durban.
It was very rare that we got a visit to a Safmarine vessel, and when the invitation came to visit the Infanta in Durban we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately I do not have a date for the visit, but I suspect it may have been at the same time as our Thor 1 visit. (01/05/1988) as I have an image of Infanta taken from Thor 1.
The image above may have been taken in 1988 too. I do recall she had a very long gangway and one of the people visiting with us went backwards down the gangway. She was very well appointed inside and her crew facilities were excellent. The ship was built in 1983 as MS Taurus (OIPU, LR/IMO 8122830) for Finland Steamship Company Ltd and that could explain her accommodation. Initially I did not find out too much on the ship, but I was contacted by Hans Heesakkers in December 2016 who pointed me to where I could find more information and close the book on her.
The following information about the Infanta was kindly sent to me by Cameron Mackenzie:
O.N. (18360-Li) 17848-88/IMO 8122830 Call Sign: 3EHE6 Port of Registry: Panama.
Tonnage: 24 518g/11 709n/37 425 S.Dwt Dim: 182,5 x 29,5 x 16,00 m / Draught Maximum 11,53 m. 5 Hold (9 hatch, 1 x single/4 x twin) general purpose ice strengthened 1104 TEU vessel fitted with 1 x 35/4 x 25t cranes, strengthened for heavy cargoes. Grain Capacity 42 012m³ / Bale Capacity 40 276m³
Engines: two stoke single acting – 6 cylinder 660 x 1400 Sulzer 6RLB66 12 820bhp (9 430 kW) Four blade controllable pitch propeller – 15 knots – 35,5 tonne fuel/d. 114 mt (do) / 1802 mt (hvf) Engine built by Sumitomo Heavy Industry Ltd., Tamashima/Japan. Fitted with 1 x 1080 kW shaft generator/2 x 1000 kW diesel generators.
01/12/1982 Keel laid as “TAURUS” (Y.N. 84) by Nippon Kokan K.K., Tsu/Japan for Finska Angfartygs A/B (EFFOA) (Finland Steamship Company Ltd.) Helsinki/Finland.
01/07/1983 Completed by builders Nippon Kokan K.K. Tsu/Japan as “TAURUS” (FIN) (Y.N. 84) (Call Sign: OIPU) for Finska Angfartygs A/B (EFFOA) (Finland Steamship Co. Ltd.,) Helsinki/Finland. Under the management of Oy Finncarriers AB Helsingfors/Finland.
1987 Transferred to Bahama registry, same name “TAURUS” (BHS).
20/01/1988 Acquired by South African Marine Corp. Ltd., Cape Town for $16 million from EFFOA and placed under the ownership of Argonaut Shipping Company Inc., Cayman Islands, renamed “INFANTA” (PAN) in Lisbon.
09/02/1988 Arrived in East London ex-Lisbon dry-dock to commence loading for the Safbank (S.A. – U.S.A) Service.
13/12/1994 Sold to mainland Chinese interests for $14,5m. Dry-docked 16-17/11/1994 in Bethship Beaumont, USA for inspection and handed over 16/12/1994 to Sinotrans (Wah Tung Shipping Agency Co. Ltd., Hong Kong), under ownership of Great Trans Shipping Inc., Panama, renamed “GREAT TRANS” (PAN).
1999 Time chartered to Egon Oldendorff/Lübeck/Germany, renamed “LEOPOLD OLDENDORFF” (HKG) , and transferred to Hong Kong registry, under ownership Great Trans Shipping Inc., Hong Kong.
04/2001 Renamed “GREAT TRANS” (HKG) by Great Trans Shipping Inc., Hong Kong.
24/07/2001 Sold to Navalmar (UK) Ltd. (,Navalmar (UK) Ltd., manager) London and renamed “TAURUS” (GBR).
04/2003 Transferred to Cayman Island registry, same named, “TAURUS (CYM).
06/2005 Transferred to Panamanian registry, under ownership of Kensington Shipping Corporation, same name “TAURUS” (PAN).
06/2005 Sold by Navalmar (UK) Ltd., Cayman Islands to Filscan Shipping Inc., Manila/Philippines (Roymar Ship Management Inc., TBS Ship Management Inc.,) and renamed “MAYA PRINCESS”(PHL) under Philippine registry.
13/03/2007 Transferred to Panamanian registry under ownership of Kensington Shipping Corporation, same name “MAYA PRINCESS” (PAN).
14/03/2007 Sold by Filscan Shipping Inc., Manila/Philippines to Dannebrog Rederi A/S, Rungstedt Kyst, (Dannebrog Rederi A/S, manager) Denmark) under ownership of Kensington Shipping Corp. Gibraltar (British), and renamed “AALBORG” (GIB).
20/10/2009 Management transferred to MACS Maritime Carrier Shipping, Hamburg/Germany.
10/01/2010 Management transferred to Vineta Bereederungs MBH, Hamburg/Germany.
13/04/2013 Arrived Alang/India having been sold for demolition. 15/04/2013 Beached and dismantling commenced.
I was not able to visit her sister Recife, although she was somewhat of a regular in and out of Durban.
Once again Cameron Mackenzie provided me with the following on Recife:
O.N. (18347-NY) 18244-89 / IMO 8122828 Call Sign: 3EGR6 Port of Registry: Panama
Tonnage: 1988 – 24 891g/11 816n/37 425 S.Dwt. 1996 – 25 005g/10 741n/37 425 D.Dwt. Dim: 182,5 x 29,5 x 16,00 m / Draught Maximum 11,53 m
Eng: two stoke single acting – 6 cylinder 660 x 1400 Sulzer 6RLB66 12 820bhp (9 430 kW) Four blade controllable pitch propeller – 15 knots – 35,5 tonne fuel/d. Fuel 114 mt(do) / 1802 mt(hvf). Engine built by Sumitomo Heavy Industry Ltd., Tamashima/Japan. Fitted with 1 x 1080 kW shaft generator/2 x 1000 kW generators. 1104 TEU vessel fitted with 1 x 35/4 x 25t cranes, strengthened for heavy cargoes. Grain Capacity 41 012m³ / Bale Capacity 40 276m³. 5 Hold (9 hatch, 1 x single/4 x twin) general purpose ice strengthened
27/04/1983 Keel laid as “TELLUS” (Y.N. 85) by Nippon Kokan K.K., Tsu/Japan for Finska Angfartygs A/B (EFFOA) (Finland Steamship Company Ltd.) Helsinki/Finland.
31/01/1984 Completed by builders Nippon Kokan K.K. Tsu/Japan as “TELLUS” (Fi) (Y.N. 85) (Call Sign: OIPV) for Finska Angfartygs A/B (EFFOA) (Finland Steamship Co. Ltd.,) Helsinki/Finland. Under the management of Oy Finncarriers AB Helsingfors/Finland.
1987 Transferred to Bahama registry, same name “TELLUS” (BHS).
08/01/1988 Acquired by South African Marine Corporation. Ltd., Cape Town for $16 million from EFFOA and placed under the ownership of Argonaut Shipping Company Inc., Cayman Islands, renamed “RECIFE” (PAN) in New York.
31/01/1988 Arrived in Cape Town from New York on the Safbank (SA – U.S.A.) Service.
01/02/1988 Naming ceremony in Table Bay Harbour by sponsor Mrs Gillian Van As.
10/09/1991 Safbank Line announced that a fire on board the “RECIFE”(PAN) on 07/09/1991 is believed to have started in a sealed container. Spreading, causing damage to both ship and cargo. Fire sustained by ship’s personnel without injury, vessel proceeding to the scheduled port of Wilmington(USA), where ship and cargo will be surveyed. In the interest of cargo, the vessel’s owners have declared General Average.
12/1995 Transferred to Safbulk and commenced conversion into a tar carrier, installation of two 3000 mt cargo tanks for liquid pitch with heating coils fitted for carriage at 220ºc with a pump rate of 300mt/h.
09/02/1996 Renamed “NTABENI” (PAN) by Mrs. Judy Barbour, wife of Alusaf M.G. Rob Barbour, general cargo ship / tar carrier with 4 holds / 2 holds with wing tanks fitted with heating coils, 2 holds.
07/04/1999 Acquisition of South African Marine Corporation Ltd., Cape Town (SAFMAN)(Non-Liner Division) by Enterprises Shipping & Trading S.A. Piraeus/Greece, sale back dated to 01/01/1999, “NTABENI” (PAN) sold. 11/2000 Transferred to Niagara Marine S.A. (Enterprises Shipping & Trading S.A. Piraeus/Greece) Panama, same name “NTABENI” (PAN).
11/2001 Transferred to Wexford Maritime S.A. (Enterprises Shipping & Trading S.A. Piraeus/Greece) Panama, same name “NTABENI” (PAN).
27/03/2013 Arrived Alang/India for demolition. 28/03/2013 Beached Alang and dismantling commenced.
We had a visit organised to Thor 1 on 01 May 1988, and I was very impressed by the ship, she was a beauty inside, with very comfortable accommodation and crew facilities. I do recall her master was Scandinavian, and very grave and dour, but friendly enough. He was proud of his vessel but deplored how dirty her paint was becoming.
In 1986, I was in Durban for a holiday and spent a day on the tug Coenie De Villiers, and one of the jobs we did was removing her sister: Thorscape, from the drydock. It was a really thrilling event for me, because I never expected to get to see that level of action on a tugboat.
Both vessels were built by Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co, Ltd. Tamano, Japan, and were of 14,794 GRT. Thor 1 was built in 1977 and Thorscape 1978. They were multipurpose cargo ships and had a reefer capacity of 2,000 tonnes of fruit, as well as 400 TEU’s. They were disposed of in the late 1990’s. CCAL was bought out by CP Ships in 2000.
Returning from a cruise in 1988, we had some time to kill and came across Sea Trader alongside. She was on her last voyage, and was in a very poor condition on board. We were shown around, and one of her cranes was being used to remove another crane. Rust had taken hold, and there was a feeling of despair coming from the mate who was showing us around.
She was built as Parakoola as one of 3 sisters ordered by Swedish Transatlantic for the Australasian trade. She was renamed Sestriere for a spell before being transferred to her owners South African service in ’73 and renamed Temnaren. Sold in 1980 she was renamed Venus Del Mar and resold to her last owners in 1988, renamed Venus Trader and later Sea Trader.
We visited the Giovanna S (IMO: 6610065) in 1987, and she is an interesting ship. Built in 1966 as the bulk carrier Citadel in Sweden, she was also able to carry vehicles which were loaded through doors in her sides. After a number of changes of ownership she was acquired by MSC in 1984 and converted to carry containers. She was broken up in Alang in 1992. This weekend was a real disaster as Durban experienced the worst floods in years, our visit to the ship was very brief but I do recall we went on board one of the deck gantry cranes and the one party member got to drive it briefly.
MSC Samia (IMO: 7310143) Built 1973 for K Line as Verrazano Bridge from Kawasaki’s own shipyard at Kobe, Japan. Visited 21/03/1997. She was broken up in at Chittagong in 2007. At the time she was owned by Latremia Corporation Panama, operated by MSC.