Elders & Fyffes Ltd Passenger-Banana Liners - T.S.S. Golfito (1949) & T.S.S. Camito (1956)
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With Reuben Goossens
Maritime Historian, CruisenShip Reviewer, Author & Lecturer
Please Note: All ssmaritime and my other related ssmaritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any cruise or shipping companies or travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960 and is now semi-retired, but continues to write article on classic liners and cruise ships in order to better to inform cruise and ship enthusiasts for their pleasure!
Please Note: Postcards, photographs & other images are from the Authors private collection, unless otherwise stated.
Although this famous banana company only
commenced as a shipping line early the 1900s, but today it is
known just Fyffes and they continue to operate to
this very day and their bananas are well known throughout the
With the formation of Elders & Fyffes Ltd
in 1901 and it was necessary to for them obtain suitable ships to
transport bananas from the West Indies to the
Here we see the SS Oracabessa in 1902
In 1904, three purpose built banana boats were
ordered, each being 3.760 GRT, when completed and placed into
service, these three ships proved a perfect replacement for the
original four ships, which were all sold to the United Fruit
Company. The new thing was that these three new ships did
accommodate a small number of passengers and did so in relative
comfort, as it was said; Especially when compared to the
Royal Mail steamers of that period. The truth is that these
ships were acknowledged as playing a significant part in bringing
the first tourists to
Thus, by the commencement of World War One, the Fyffes fleet had grown to 18 ships, but due to the war most ships had been requisitioned by the Ministry of War to transport troops and other duties. During the war years, ten of the Fyffes ships were sunk by either having been torpedoed or having struck a mine.
Elders & Fyffes Ltd recovered speedily and
in less than five years they had once again become a company with
a fine fleet of ships. But then suddenly a major problem arose,
for in 1923 a dock strike had a huge impact on the company and
thus huge losses were incurred, and then there was the Great
Depression throughout the
However in 1928 and 1929 two sisters entered service, the 5.392 GRT SS Tilapa (I), and 5.389 GRT the SS Mopan respectively and both accommodated around 20 passengers. The Mopan was captured and sunk in 1940 by the German battleship Admiral Scheer, and Tilapa (I) came through WW2, and was scrapped in 1959.
The 1929 built SS Mopan a photo of the Tilapa is just a little further below
As time went by and the year 1938 came around the Fyffes fleet was down to just 21 ships, but back in 1932 they had a fleet of 36 ships, that is a loss of 11 ships due to the hard times they had suffered.
And of course then came World War Two and once again their ships were commissioned into war duties and during the six years of their ships serving in the war, tragically 14 of their ships were lost at sea, thus Fyffes had to rebuild once again.
There were some Fyffe ships that remained in
commercial operation during the war, and continued to sail to
Jamaica but amazingly another problem arose, for in November 1940
the British Government imposed a complete ban on the importation
of bananas, and had been decided that the only fruit that could
be imported into the United Kingdom for the duration of the war
was oranges. This ban continued until December 30, 1945 when the
6.738 GRT SS Tilapa arrived in the
The 1928 built SS Tilapa, which also accommodated some 20 passengers
Fyffes regularly carried distinguished
passengers on its ships including Princess Alice, Countess of
Athlete, who, as Chancellor of the University of the West Indies,
made frequent visits to Jamaica and the West Indies Cricket Team
who came to play Test Matches in England (the team always ended
their visit by playing a private game against Elders & Fyffes
own cricket team at the companys sports ground in New
Malden, Surrey). To this end, it built two final ships the TSS
Golfito and TSS Camito, which provided a fortnightly service
The Elders and Fyffes passenger-banana ship the TSS Golfito
This feature is all about two amazing passenger-banana liners being part of a fleet of ships owned and operated by the British banana importer Elders and Fyffes Limited.
There will be many who will recall the days
when a voyage on one of the wonderful Elders & Fyffes banana
ships that invoked so many romantic, seagoing memories, of a
long and a memorable voyage featuring tropical nights and many
wonderful ports of call, visiting some amazing Caribbean
destinations. The much-loved TSS Golfito and her slightly newer
sister the TSS Camito were very similar in every respect,
and they operated on what was a popular passenger
Both ships were built by Alexander Stephen and Sons of Glasgow, Scotland, whilst the 8.687 GRT - TSS Golfito was built in yard 618, and was launched on October 6, 1948 and was completed on December 3, 1949. The Golfito was 448ft - 137m long and a beam of 62ft - 19.20m, and a draught of 26,1ft - 7.95m, having a top speed of 17.7 knots. The Golfito as built accommodated 94 First Class passengers.
The 8.502 GRT - TSS Camito was built in yard 649, and was launched on March 27, 1956, and she was completed in December 1956. Like her earlier sister she was also 448ft - 137m long and a beam of 63ft - 19.20m, and a draught of 26,1ft - 7.95m, but she had a top speed of 18 knots. The Camito as built accommodated 96 First Class passengers.
A full colour stern view of the TSS Camito
TSS Golfito and the TSS Camito were without a
doubt most comfortable ships to sail on, as each ship offered
accommodations for just under 100 First Class passengers. Each
ship offered four passenger decks; Sport (Sun) Deck, Promenade
Deck, Bridge Deck, and Saloon (later Upper) Deck having
cabins, public venues, and ample open-air deck spaces. The
Lounges were all located aft on Promenade Deck, being, commencing
starboard forward venue, aft of cabins. The Library / Writing
Room, on the portside was the Smoking Room and Bar. Directly aft
was the spacious Lounge with dance floor and bandstand, whilst
outside aft was the Swimming Pool. This deck featured a full
walk-around promenade, with the forward section of Promenade Deck
having floor to ceiling glass window, making a verandah. These
ships had two main stairwells, one forward, and one amidships.
TSS Golfito and the TSS Camito were without a doubt most comfortable ships to sail on, as each ship offered accommodations for just under 100 First Class passengers. Each ship offered four passenger decks; Sport (Sun) Deck, Promenade Deck, Bridge Deck, and Saloon (later Upper) Deck having cabins, public venues, and ample open-air deck spaces. The Lounges were all located aft on Promenade Deck, being, commencing starboard forward venue, aft of cabins. The Library / Writing Room, on the portside was the Smoking Room and Bar. Directly aft was the spacious Lounge with dance floor and bandstand, whilst outside aft was the Swimming Pool. This deck featured a full walk-around promenade, with the forward section of Promenade Deck having floor to ceiling glass window, making a verandah. These ships had two main stairwells, one forward, and one amidships.
The Lounge, there was a Grand Piano and space for a small band, as there was a dance floor
by Stan Evans
The Pursers Office and the shop were based at the main Entrance Hall located on Bridge Deck by the forward stairwell, whilst the Dining Room was one deck down in front of the same stairwell on Saloon (Upper) Deck.
The Dinning Room
by Stan Evans
Three of her decks are shown in detail. Although she was not air conditioned when built, Golfito (and her sister Camito) sported a fine swimming pool aft of Promenade Deck along with the Lounge, Smoking Room & Cocktail Bar, the Library, and Writing Room, as well as nine businessman cabins. Bridge Deck was the location the best cabins onboard, as the two magnificent owner's suites were located forward and had views to the side of the ship as well as overlooking the bow. Located at the forward Main Entrance Hall, there was a Barber Shop (just aft) and Gift Shop. One deck lower was Saloon Deck that contained the Dining Saloon forward, as well as along the port side a row of double and single cabins all without private facilities all other accommodations above had private bathrooms.
Accommodations: All cabins and suites
were located on the outside having spacious windows or two
portholes on Saloon Deck. Aboard the, at the front of Promenade
Deck there were a total of nine businessman cabins, three of
these were more spacious. On the port side there were three
single bedded cabins all with a full bathroom and on the
starboard side there was one twin and two single bed cabins, all
cabins having full bathrooms. On Bridge Deck far forward were two
spacious deluxe Suites that had a separate lounge, bedroom, as
well as an upgraded spacious bathroom. Whilst directly aft on the
portside there were twelve twin bedded cabins all with bath, and
one single bed cabin with private facilities that had a shower.
This arrangement was identical on the starboard side twelve twins
and one single, etc. On the portside of Saloon Deck there were
ten twin bedded cabins and four singles as well as one four-berth
cabin aft. Some had private facilities, others were share
facilities based. There were some cabins on Saloon Deck that has
I regret that to date I have been unavailable to obtain any photographs of her public venues, cabins or deck spaces. Should any ever come to hand, I will of course publish these, all being well!
A postcard of the TSS Camito sold onboard the ship
An Elders & Fyffes souvenir Silver Bell as sold in their ship shop
Both ships had four large cargo holds, two
being located forward, and two holds aft. They could handle
140,000 stems, or 1,750 tons of bananas. During their voyage to
The TSS Golfito and Camito provided a
regular fortnightly service sailing from the Southampton
Empress Dock, which was located directly across from
the Ocean Terminal, where the far superior Cunard Queens berthed,
and these passenger banana ships would sail to and from the
Southampton Empress Dock, or Avonmouth (Bristol) England to Barbados and Trinidad and also the following five ports in Jamaica being; Kingston, Port Antonio, Montego Bay, Oracabessa, and Bowden where bananas would be loaded during in the cool of the night, and then ships returned to the U.K.
Over the years passengers on these two fine ships proved to be very loyal and they would return again and again, for they loved these smaller and intimate ships and tended to take round voyages, thus a month long cruise.
A TSS Golfito Luncheon Menu from February 27, 1961
by Hugh Maccallum -
A berth in one of the two luxury two roomed Owners suites in 1969 would cost 549 English pounds, 19 shillings, and 6 pence, for those days that was a great deal of money, but then these two suites were the very best accommodations aboard, amazingly until the late fifties these suites were not even air-conditioned, that only occurred in 1961. The Golfito and Camito, as well as other Fyffes ships would often carry many consular staff to and from the West Indies, along with all their belongings, as they would be living there for extended periods, Besides consular staff, these two fine ships would also frequently carry businessmen, colonial administrators, and even royalty to and from the Caribbean. The Camito varied slightly and she had two four-berth cabins and just two or three less of either twin or single bed cabins. Sadly the information is just not available for me to be precise.
Both the TSS Golfito and Camito received a refit in 1960s, which saw a slightly increased passenger numbers, with the Golfito increasing to 101 passengers as well as childrens berths, and the Camito 103 passengers and 10 childrens berths. Both ships also saw their tonnage increase somewhat. Please see the Ship Specifications section below for full details.
A delightful light-hearted artists impression of the TSS Golfito and children at play on the dock
Sent in by Hugh Maccallum - Edinburgh but artist is unknown
A brochure promoting the TSS Golfito and Camito from the late 1960s
by Hugh Maccallum -
delightful Camito is seen arriving in
Photograph by & © Captain Stephen J. Card
In 1962 the very first and much loved James Bond movie DR. No with Sean Connery as 007, and actress Ursula Andress, there is a scene where the Golfito can be seen in the background at the point when James Bond meets Quarrel as well as in several other scenes.
This is the original Dr. No poster
However, as the 1960.s went on, it became very obvious that these fine and once exceedingly popular Passenger-Banana Ships were losing much of their earlier clientele, and it is sad to say, they were now utilising those new fast jet planes, which saw them at their destination fast and they could have a holiday on a tropical Island instead of an long ocean voyage.
The TSS Camito is seen in her final days with her new Fyffes Group Ltd funnel livery
Photographer is unknown, please read the Photo Notes at the bottom of the page.
In addition both ships were slowly growing older and due to reduced passenger loadings they had become less and less profitable. It is for this reason that the Fyffes Group Ltd to completely end the days of their big Passenger-Banana ships, and conclude all passenger operations. For this reason, Fyffes decided to sell both their ships, with the Golfito being the first to go, later followed by the Camito as shown below.
TSS Golfito was obtained by Shipbreaking
Industries Ltd in December 1971, and she arrived at
Ships with a prefix such as T.S.S. is an abbreviation for these ships being Twin Screw Ships, however, it can also mean Turbine Steam Ship as with some other ships. But T.S.S. - Twin Screw Ships, was the Golfito and Camitos official designation by her owners, Elders and Fyffes, which later became the Fyffes Group Ltd.
Then there is also the prefix S.S. which stands for Steam Ship, and there were a good number of ships prefixed M.S. meaning Motor Ship. These days with a world filled by cruise ships, these ships of all sizes are mostly prefixed with M.V. standing for Motor Vessel.
Specifications (1) TSS Campana of 1959 - (2) TSS Camito of 1956.
Alexander Stephen and Sons of
Yard: (1) 618.
Yard: . . (2) 649.
Owner: . ..Elders & Fyffes Ltd,.
Operator: . Elders & Fyffes Ltd,.
Official Nr: .. . . . (1) 182119.
Official Nr: ... . . (2) 185049.
Launched: ..(1) October 6, 1948.
Launched: ..(2) March 27, 1956.
Completed: . . . (1) December 3, 1949.
Completed: . . (2) December 1956.
Tonnage: . . .(1) 8.687 GRT, 4.474 NET / 5.800 DWT - in 1961, 8.740 GRT.
Tonnage: . . .(2) 8.502 GRT, 4.131 NET / 5.995 DWT - in 1961 8.736 GRT.
Length: . 448ft - 137m.
Width: . ,, 63ft - 19.20m.
Draught: . 26,1ft 7.9.m.
Engines: . . .Steam D.R. Geared Turbines.
Propellers: . Twin screw.
Speed: ..17.7 knots, 18.5 knots maximum.
Passengers: ..(1) 94 as built & 111 First Class in 1960s.
Passengers: ..(2) 96 as built & 113 First Class in 1960s.
Crew: . .80.
Remembering Two Fine Elders & Fyffes
Remembering Two Fine Elders & Fyffes Banana Ships
A Postcard with an excellent aerial view of the TSS Golfito
I hereby wish to thank:
Mr. Hugh Maccallum from Edinburgh, Scotland for his kind assistance, photographs, and images; also Capt. Stephen J. Card for a superb photo!
Blue Water Liners sailing to the
I watched them come, I watched them go, and I watched them die.
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