Rotterdam Lloyd MS Sibajak 1928 to 1959

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Author, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer and Maritime Lecturer

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed well over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure! 


Image above from the Author’s Private Collection


Please Note: All Images below were provided by Peter Nieborak, unless stated otherwise.


The Nieborak Family Sail for Sydney

Introduction by the Author of ssMaritime:

Some time ago I received an email from Mr. Peter Nieborak who told me that he and his family, just like myself, sailed on the MS Sibajak in her final years of operation prior to her being broken up 1959. As I was heading off on a cruise, and retuning home not all that well, together with being forgetful these days, I only have just found his wonderful story and images that Peter sent late in 2014. Thus here is his and his Peter’s Families story together with the wonderful scans he provided!

This story of the Nieborak family’s voyage from Rotterdam to Australia was told to me by Peter Nieborak who was born in Poland, in April 1958. Thus Peter was just barely eight months old and he remembers little to nothing, pat one event, which would be difficult to forget, almost at any age! He has sent me the details and although all the fact are correct and as told, but it has been rewritten especially for readability sake. In addition, his older brother Christopher or Chris will also provide some of his memories.

Reuben Goossens August 5, 2015.

The Peter & Chris Nieborak Family Story:

“The Nieborak family, being my Mother (Bogumila) and Father (Antoni), together with my brother (Christopher) and Sister Regina Anna left Poland in late 1958 went to Germany and we remained there for a very short time. Whilst there they collected their documents, labels as well as a colour brochure of the ship.


Above & below: The exterior and interior of the 4-fold brochure

This is the restored version, for the scans of the brochure I received, showed that

it had suffered considerable wear and tears from the many years of its existence


Having received our travel documents, it was time to leave Germany and board a train and head for Rotterdam, Holland where we would be embarking the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd liner MS Sibajak and sailing half way around globe to Australia were we had an uncle who had organised our travel arrangements from his side.

Unknown to us, suddenly there would turn up an unexpected and a scary problem for all of us, for as soon as we arrived in the Netherlands we ended up spending the night before our departure not in a hotel, as we had expected, but in a Dutch prison. This was because the Dutch Border Authorities thought that we had entered the country illegally. To say the least, this was a very bad start to our huge journey to a new land and a new life! However, in the morning, once the paperwork was sorted out, the police drove us to the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd docks and the Sibajak awaited us, and we thankfully received priority boarding which was really great and my parents were very pleased how it all turned out, “for from out of a bad thing can come something good, and it did!

Obviously baby Peter remembers little to nothing of this day for being so young and sleepy he was put in his specially provided cot in their four-berth cabin number 234, and whilst he was in dreamland, the family went off exploring the ships lounges and vast decks.

A typical four-berth cabin on the Sibajak

Image from the Author’s Private Collection

As time approached for departure, they remained at the rails on Promenade Deck and listened to the Bands play rousing music and a stirring piece as the ship set sail, with hundreds ashore holding on to the thousands of streamers for their loved ones were leaving and sailing so far away, and would they ever see them again? But the Nieborak family had no family there and they could just look on at this emotional experience and would have felt the experience, for what they were undertaking it was a big thing to do, to take your children so far away not really knowing what lay ahead?

Here we see Mum and Dad, little sister Regina Anna (left) and big brother Christopher (right)

Baby Peter was in his cot in the cabin fast asleep at this time!



Above & below: Two sides of the Family label, Cabin 234, being a four-berth cabin.



The MS Sibajak has set sail and here she is seen crossing the Atlantic bound for Willemstad, Curacao

Postcard from the Author’s Private Collection

The Itinerary:

The Sibajak sailed to Sydney and Melbourne via Southampton then crossed the Atlantic for a day in Willemstad, Curacao, then a passage through the fascinating Panama Canal with a short late afternoon, evening call at Panama City. She then entered the warm and beautiful Pacific Ocean with its famed flying fish and its next port tropical and beautiful Papeete in Tahiti from there it was a longish voyage to Wellington New Zealand, which is one of the most beautiful harbours to arrive in of all so far!

Ans as it turned out Wellington did live up to its famed reputation for being “Windy, Wet Wellington.” Then the Sibajak headed north of New Zealand and turned west to cross the Tasman Sea and sailed for Sydney, which was her main destination where the vast majority of passengers disembarked!

The Sibajak is seen departing Wellington at the beginning of 1959 and bound for Sydney

Image from the Author’s Private Collection

Our On Board Experiences:

Obviously there are many memories and our voyage was spoken of by my parents over the years and they obviously enjoyed it very much, but with three children did make it somewhat more difficult, especially that two of us were very little holding Mum back a lot.

My brother Christopher remembers eating a banana at one of the ports and it was the first banana he had ever eaten in his life, and he claims that he has never tasted a banana like that one eve again! I suppose, how can you better that very first experience, and also often bananas in the tropics, let’s say if it was in Curacao or Tahiti are often so much better and they also tend to be “Lady Fingers.”

Although there was one major event that even I as a babe in arms somehow recall to a degree, for we had a fire in our cabin and we lost most of our clothes and of course my nappies etc. The passengers assisted us wonderfully, for they rallied around and provided us with what we needed. There was such a wonderful community spirit on board and the Dutch passengers were amazing. The crew were outstanding for they had it extinguished very quickly, for can you imagine a fire on a ship could have been very serious.

The Sibajak arrives in Sydney in 1959

Image from the Author’s Private Collection

PS: I have been told that Peter Nieborak or a family member will contact me and that there will be more to be added to the story in due course. Although nothing has been heard from the Nieborak family for some time!

MS Sibajak INDEX:


Page One: MS Sibajak had long career from 1927 to 1959 - This is her complete story!


Page Two: Brochures, Deck Plans, Photographs Menus and Memorabilia.


Page Two-b: The Ships Interiors, Deck by Deck.


Page Three: The Author’s voyage on the Sibajak from Rotterdam on May 17, 1958.


Page Four: Ships Chef H B Hulspas story, a floor show programme and a farewell menu dated 1955.


Page Five: Family van der Net and their voyage to Australia in 1956.


Page Six: Family van der Biezen sailed on her second last voyage in 1959.


Page Seven: The Nieborak Family’s voyage to Australia in 1959.



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Photographs on pages are either by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images and photographs that have been provided by Shipping Companies or private ssmaritime and associate photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors, however, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer or owner concerned. Therefore, I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me; my email address can be only be found at in order that due credit may be given.

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