ssMaritime.com & ssMaritime.net

With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian

Delta Steamship Lines, Inc

The Del-Triplets

SS Del Norte, Del Sud & Del Mar

 

SS Del Norte showing off her revolutionary forward circular superstructure design and massive dummy funnel

Please Note: All images (except those marked) are from the author’s private collection

The Mississippi Shipping Company, better known as the Delta Line, that had its home port at New Orleans, introduced a trio of what can only be called at the time as an advanced and innovative design trio of passenger/cargo ships for their already profitable service to South America.

There is no doubt that the design of these ships were far from the norm, yet considering that originally their hulls were to be based on the standard C-3 design cargo ship hulls one would wonder why these ships were so remarkable. However, with the full assistance of Admiral Vickery, the head of the construction division of the American Maritime Commission, Delta Line managed to arrange for three of these of these hulls be redesigned to suit their special needs to hasten the reestablishment of the company’s passenger cargo services to South America, this is how the “Del Triplets” were born. Their overall and final design was created by naval architect George G. Sharp of New York.

The ships were all built at the Ingalls Shipyard, Pascagoula, Mississippi at a cost of US$7,000,000, and they were fitted with D.R. geared turbines giving them a 17 knot service speed. The “Dels” had a number of innovations, besides their design, their smoke stacks, etc, they were also well known for one particular first, for the three “Dels” were the very first commercial ships of the world to be equipped with all new “post-war radar.” This had a scanning screen that had three ranges of visual presentation giving officers on the Bridge views at two, six and thirty nautical miles.

Officer on the Bridge checking the radar

These three luxuriously appointed American passenger cargo ships introduced a brand new fashion in having twin tall smoke uptakes placed just behind their huge squat style dummy funnel. Inside this dummy funnel were two decks of officer’s quarters, as well as the radio room and an emergency generator. The other distinguished feature of their design was the almost circular shape of their forward superstructure, thus many of the staterooms were wedge shaped. All the staterooms were outside and had private facilities and like the whole ship they were fully air-conditioned. In order to lighten their weight the superstructure was constructed almost entirely of aluminium.

In keeping with the company trade name, “Delta Line”, their three new ships were all given “Del” names. Thus the ships were named SS Del Norte, SS Del Sud and SS Del Mar, and they were without a doubt the most distinctive and revolutionary vessels in their time, although not liked by all traditionalists.

The “Del” ships were easily recognised with their rounded edges giving them a stubby look, yet a streamlined appearance. These ships, it was said by their passengers, had the feel of a private yacht and they were considered to be real “Resorts at Sea” as each was fully equipped with the very latest equipment of the day and the modern conveniences of the time, they offered the last word in ocean comfort and luxury. Such as the air-conditioning which was greatly appreciated on the South American service where it can get rather hot, but so was the swimming pool located aft. These ships were indeed the pride of the Delta fleet and the name “Dels” became known as being responsible for reviving the Delta Line’s service from the USA to South America after the Second World War.

A delightful colour photograph of the SS Del Norte

Photographer unknown - *Please see the photo notes at bottom of page

The Del Norte was the first of the trio to be completed and she departed on her maiden voyage to Buenos Aires on November 26, 1946. She was followed by the Del Sud on March 28, 1947 and the Del Mar was the last of the trio and she departed on June 13, 1947.

SS Del Sud was the second of the Trio to depart on her maiden voyage in March 1947

 

The last to be completed was the SS Del Mar, which departed on her maiden voyage in June 1947

 

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Specifications:

Built:                                          Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp at Pascagoula MS, USA

Yard Number & launched:             SS Del Norte: 327 – January 11, 1946

                                                  SS Del Sud: 438 – February 22, 1946

                                                  SS Del Mar: 439 – May 17, 1946

Tonnage:                                    10,073 GRT (Gross Registered Tons) - 9,627 DW (Dead Weight)

Length:                                       150.6m - 494ft

Width:                                        21.1m – 69.2ft

Engine:                                       Electric Steam Co, D.R. Geared steam turbines

Screw:                                        Single

Speed:                                        17 knots (max 18 knots)

Passengers:                                 120 First Class only

Crew:                                          367

 

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The above are two Delta Line advertising posters

 

 

Above and below: The “Del Triplets” Deck Plan – The dinning room was located

Below Main deck forward below the Great dome shown as an interior grey area

 

They maintained a regular schedule of two departures per month from US Gulf ports to the Caribbean and South America. The “Del Triplets” became well known as being dependable and punctual. Ports of call: All ships - New Orleans, St. Thomas, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires and return. SS Del Sud visited Curacao instead of St. Thomason her return voyage.

 

Above and below: A 1950 schedule

 

 

A 32 page brochure re the Trio’s cruise

The author has been in contact with a past passenger of the Del Sud and he stated that life on board her was a leisurely affair and she offered him the best cruise in memory and he has sailed around the globe on world cruises as well as the Queen Mary, etc! These ships somehow resembled something much closer to the modern cruise ships of today, than the traditional liners of the past, yet retaining all the qualities of the classic days of sailing. This trio ships offered a relaxed approach to cruising, but with a modern twist.

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The “Del Triplets” Photo Album

 

The Grand Lounge (Blue) – looking forward on board the SS Del Sud

 

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Above left is the Grand Lounge (Red) on the SS Del Norte and right the Grand Lounge (Green) on the SS Del Mar

 

This is a view from the forward “Deck Café” looking aft through the “Bar” to the aft “Grand Lounge”

 

The Library

 

The restaurant had high ceilings and a dome amidships

 

All cabins were extremely spacious

 

There was always space to entertain

 

The triplets had massive deck spaces for such a small number of passengers

 

The ever popular Swimming Pool

 

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The grey hulled "Del Trio" sailed for twenty years and they certainly had a strong and a regular following of past passengers, including many rich and famous people. But, after twenty years slowly things started to change as economic problems were arising on the horizon with the ever increasing fuel costs and with the airlines taking more and more passengers from shipping companies as their fares were getting ower and lower, thus loadings with all shipping lines around the world were suffering!

 This photograph says that they were resorts, but also clearly shows their massive cargo capacity!

Delta Line had to make a hard line decision, for had obviously come to a point that the massive operating costs had by now far exceeded any of the profits that passenger loadings could provide and thus in 1967 the company decided to convert the Trio over to “express cargo ships.” Meaning the end of the passenger trade!

1967 = The End of the Line!

It had been hoped by many that they would return to passenger service, or at least one of these ships, but it was considered that they were no longer viable and that they were now out of date as new and modern ships were being build, by far superior to the now old ”Dels”. I am not speaking I passenger terms, but cargo for Delta knew that was where the money was to be made and a new kind of ship was being built being container ship, which by far was superior in cargo handling and port turn around.

The three ships were chartered for a single voyage to Indonesia early in 1975 aged twenty five years, but this voyage took them soon to Taiwan where they were broken up.

The story is told as follows: “When it came time for the Del Norte, being the first of her class to be completed, to make her final departure from New Orleans, she seemed to be reluctant to leave. It was not once but twice that she swung back snug alongside the wharf before the combined efforts of the river tugs, the pilot and the captain finally eased her out into the river for the final voyage to the breakers via Indonesia.”

 SS Del Norte was a ship that refused to leave her home port

 

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Who is the Author of ssMaritime?

Commenced in the passenger Shipping Industry in May 1960  

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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address may be found on www.ssmaritime.com only), in order that due credit may be given. I know what it is like, I have seen a multitude of my own photographs on other sites, yet these individuals either refuse to provide credit or remove them when asked, knowing full well that there is no legal comeback when it comes to the net. However, let us show these charlatans up and do the right thing at all times and give credit where credit is due!

This notice covers all pages, although, and I have done my best to ensure that all photographs are duly credited and that this notice is displaced on each page, that is, when a page is updated!

 

 

 

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