With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian


Holland-Africa Line

VNSM - Vereenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaart Maatschappij




Featuring MS Klipfontein, Jagersfontein, Oranjefontein & Randfontein


Including Royal Interocean Lines MS Nieuw Holland



Klipfontein, Jagersfontein & Oranjefontein


Klipfontein - The first of the four Fontein combination-passenger liners

The Fontein sisters exuded an understated luxury which endeared them to the Dutch, English and South African travelling public. In those days, many preferred to sail on smaller liners for a good number of reasons. These ships offered comfortable accommodations, and delightfully intimate lounges and bars. Holland-Africa Line and the Fontein ships famed for their superb personalised Dutch service and fine cuisine. The Fontein interiors were likened to the larger passenger liners, but missing the crowd.

This trio of ships had four passenger decks, accommodating 100 First Class and 60 Tourist (Klipfontein 104 First – 42 Tourist). First Class was located amidships, and Tourist aft. All First Class lounges as well as the swimming pool were located on Promenade deck, with Tourist facilities on lower decks aft. Cabins ranged from singles and twin bedded cabins in First Class, some having upper Pullmans. Just over half of the first class cabins had private facilities. Tourist Class had some two berth cabins, but most were four or six berth cabins, all with shared facilities. Cargo space was considerable, each ship having four holds, two forward and two aft.

As will be read below, the first three Fontein ships featured had interesting beginnings, This being due to World War II.


Klipfontein – 1939 - 1953

 MS Klipfontein

MS Klipfontein was the first of a trio of ships to be built between 1939 and 1940. These were to be a new class of combination passenger liners, offering new standards of comfort.



March 4, 1939, Klipfontein is launched

Klipfontein career between from the Netherlands and South Africa prior to the war was short-lived, as in 1942 she was taken over by the US War Shipping Administration to be used as a trooper.


Soldiers seen departing on the Klipfontein on September 3, 1946

She survived the war and after her duties were completed she was returned to VNSM / Holland-Africa Line on February 1, 1946. After a comprehensive refit, she re-commenced her Netherlands, UK, South Africa and Mozambique service, which continued until a dramatic day in 1953.

January 8, 1953, was a calm day at sea, but, it was the day the Klipfontein would strike some submerged rocks off Mozambique, just five nautical miles off Cape Barra. The captain realising the ship was badly damaged and doomed, immediately called for the ship to be abandoned. Passengers and crew remained calm and went about the evacuation with great efficiency, which was aided by the calm seas, and the knowledge they were close to the shore. Klipfontein sank within a hour after the accident.


MS Klipfontein goes down

Thankfully, the Union-Castle liner, RMS Bloemfontein Castle was close at hand and she rescued all 234 passengers and crew. Captain of the Bloemfontein Castle, Captain J. A. Fergurson and his Senior Officers later received commemorative gifts from Holland-Afrika Line in thanks for an efficient rescue of all Klipfontein’s passengers and crew. Bloemfontein Castle was later sold to become the Chandris Lines Patris, a ship that transported thousands of European and British emigrants to Australia and New Zealand.



Union Castle’s RMS Bloemfontein Castle


Jagersfontein – 1940 - 1967

MS Jagersfontein 

Jagersfontein, was Laid-down as the Rietfontein, but renamed Elandsfontein before her launching on 30 March, 1940. Within weeks the Germans invaded the Netherlands. After the invasion, although unfinished, she was seized by the German Navy, but was laid up, with her decks cluttered with unassembled machinery parts. Still idle and unfinished, on March 14, 1945, she was damaged by artillery fire near Gotehafen, and partially sank at the mouth of the Vistula. She was raised on March 20, 1947. By August, she was sufficiently patched up, and towed to the De Schelde Shipyards in Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where she was fully repaired and completed. During her completion in 1948, she was renamed once again and became Jagersfontein. On March 11, 1950, she was officially returned to Holland-Africa Line and Jagersfontein commenced a successful career.

In 1967 she was sold to Embajada Cia Naviera SA Piraeus Greece, who in turn sold her for scrap. Renamed Devon, she arrived at Kaohsiung on December, 23.


Oranjefontein – 1940 - 1967

 MS Oranjefontein

The Oranjefontein was built by P. Smit Jr, Rotterdam, and was launched on March 21, 1940 and was completed on December 20. On March 17, 1941, she was seized by the German navy. Just five months later she was damaged by bombs that fell nearby. Oranjefontein was transferred to the renamed German-Africa Lines Hamburg, but strangely enough, she at one time was used for target practise by the Luftwaffe and U-Boats, happily she survived.

In 1945, whilst briefly named Pioneer, she was used to transport refugees from the eastern German territories.

On July 12, 1945, Oranjefontein was returned to VNSN - Holland-Africa Line, and was taken to Newcastle in the UK for a comprehensive refit. She departed on September 12, 1945, heading for the Dutch West Indies to repatriate Dutch citizens. Upon her return she commenced the Netherlands, UK, South Africa and Mozambique service.

Like Jagersfontein, she was also sold in 1967, but unlike the Jagersfontein, VNSM sold her to a Spanish breaker. Renamed Fontein she arrived at the Bilbao breakers yard on August 11, 1967.

Klip/Jaegers/Oranjefontein Specifications

Length: 528ft

Beam: 63ft

Draft: 30.3ft

GRT: 10,574 t

Engines: (Klipfontein) Burmeister & Wain Diesels 11,800 BHP

(Jaegers) 2 Sulzer Type Diesels 1,800 BHP

(Oranje) B&W type Diesels 1,800 BHP

Propellers: Two

Service Speed: 17 knots

Passenger Decks: 4

Passengers: Jaegers/Oranjefontein: 100 First – 60 Tourist

Klipfontein: 104 First – 42 Tourist

Crew: Klipfontein 120 – Jaegers/Oranjefontein 110

Livery: Black hull, white superstructure. Black funnel with orange band & red boot-topping


MS Randfontein – 1958 - 1971


MS Randfontein sets sail for South Africa 

To replace the Klipfontein, which has sunk off Mozambique in 1953, VNSM - Holland-Africa Line ordered a larger updated version of the Fontein ships. She would join her two older sisters, the 10,574-ton Jagersfontein and Oranjefontein on the Netherlands, UK, South Africa and Mozambique service.

Built in a graving dock by Wilton-Fijenoord, Schiedam in the Netherlands, the 13,694-ton liner became the largest Holland-Africa Line liner to be built. On June 28, 1958, she was floated out of her graving dock, and was officially named Randfontein. The launching was officiated over by Mrs. Geldenhuys, the wife of the Republic of South Africa’s Ambassador to The Hague. When completed, she was handed over on November 24.

Randfontein departed Amsterdam for her maiden voyage to Africa in January 1959, calling at Southampton, Las Palmas, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and return, a service she maintained for the next eleven years.

Randfontein was designed to accommodate a larger number of Tourist Class passengers, than the two older Fontein’s. All First Class cabins were located on A Deck, all having private facilities. Most were twin bedded cabins with a number of singles. In addition some cabins also had upper Pullmans. Tourist Class offered two, four or six berth cabins, all with shared facilities. Both classes had a good number of lounges and bars, in addition both classes had their own fully tiled swimming pool, which was virtually unknown those days for ships of this kind.

Like her older sisters Randfontein had a large cargo capacity, including refrigerated ones. Her six holds were distributed, four forward, two aft. She also had deep tanks to transport vegetable oils.


MS Randfontein arrives in port

Having a boutique type atmosphere, Randfontein became a popular ship with the Dutch, English and South Africans, thus she enjoyed excellent passenger loadings, until the late sixties. Then, as air travel became more popular, passenger loadings dropped rapidly and it was decided to terminate her service mid 1971.

Randfontein Specifications

Length: 178.3m – 584ft

Beam: 21.4 m – 70ft

Draft: 30.1ft

GRT: 13,694 t

Engines: 2 M.A.N. Wilton Diesels (15,400 BHP)

Propellers: Two

Service Speed: 18 knots

Passenger Decks: 5

Passengers: 289 - 123 First – 166 Tourist

Air-Conditioning: All cabins and both Dinning Rooms

Livery: Black hull, white superstructure

Black funnel with orange band & red boot-topping



MS Nieuw Holland 1971 - 1975


Royal Interocean Lines  MS Nieuw Holland


Randfontein was sold to RIL - Royal Interocean Lines in 1971who renamed her Nieuw Holland. She was dispatched to Hong Kong and given an extensive refit. Notable changes were the removal of a pair of derrick posts forward, which was replaced by a large crane. All cabins and public rooms were extensively upgraded to become a one class ship, accommodating 390 passengers. Although Nieuw Holland was still registered in the Netherlands, her home port was now Hong Kong.

Nieuw Holland replaced the smaller RIL Tjiluwah (known as the “elegant white yacht”) on the Japan Australia service. She departed Hong Kong for Her maiden voyage to Australia on January 21, 1972, arriving in Brisbane on January 30, Sydney February 2, and Melbourne February 7. Together with the Tjiwangi (Tjiluwah’s identical twin) Nieuw Holland continued on the Australia Japan Hong Kong Australia service. With bookings to Asia dropping off, RIL thought to use the Nieuw Holland as a cruise ship. In 1973, she undertook her first, and what turned out to be her last cruise to New Zealand. She sailed with just over 200 passengers, and the idea of using her as a cruise ship was abandoned.

With the rapidly dwindling bookings, the smaller Tjiwangi was withdrawn from service in 1974 at the same time Nieuw Holland commenced a new service departing from Adelaide, sailing to Risdon Tasmania, Sydney, Port Moresby, Bali, Surabaya, Jakarta, Singapore, Penang Belawan, Singapore, and return to Adelaide. However, this service proved to be unpopular and was cancelled after just four round voyages.

At the time, P&O’s Chitral and Cathay, operated a similar service as RIL, but they, like the Nieuw Holland were suffering poor passenger loadings, and both Chitral and Cathay were of the market and eventually sold. Sadly, the age of combination-passenger liners was rapidly coming to an end. The time had come, that RIL decided they would pull out of the Australian market, and Nieuw Holland’s last voyage from Australia saw her depart Sydney, the last Australian port, without any fanfare on October 22, 1974. This would be her last official sailing to Singapore where all passengers disembarked. RIL sent Nieuw Holland to Hong Kong without any passengers. She was laid up and placed on the market.

 MS Nieuw Holland departs for Japan


MS Yu Hua – Hai Xing 1974 - 1996

Within several months she was sold to the Peoples Republic of China, Canton who renamed her Yu Hua. Accommodating 297 passengers and now registered at 12,191 GR, she was paced on the China-Africa service and later transferred on the China-Hong Kong service. In 1981, Yu Hua was transferred to the Shanghai Hai Xing Shipping Company, who renamed her Hai Xing and she continued the Shanghai to Hong Kong route.

Hai Xing seen here looking very smart in a rare photograph

She remained in service on the China-Hong Kong service for ten years and every now and then, I received information that she was seen either in Shanghai or Hong Kong looking relatively smart.


 MS Hai Xing is seen here laid up at Hong Kong

In 1991, Hai Xing she was laid up at Hong Kong, where she lingered and sadly deteriorated for five years. She was finally sold to Indian breakers in 1996. She was registered in St Vincent and renamed Herbert. By now, looking very much the worse for wear, MS Herbert, ex Hai Xing, Yu Hua, Nieuw Holland, Randfontein departed Hong Kong under tow on May 28 1996, and arrived at Alang, India on June 13, and was beached four days later and was demolished.

The Randfontein enjoyed thirty eight years of service and she was the very last of the Fontein liners.

Enter our Fontein Photo Page

Read the Visser Family Story (voyage to South Africa on MS Jagersfontein in 1965)


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