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 travel or cruise agencies, etc! Although having been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, I am now retired but having completed features on well over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships, I trust these will continue to provide you the classic ship enthusiast the information you are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!

 

This was the very first photograph that was officially released of the Company’s

new Liner Sibajak and she is seen here as built during her Deep Sea Trials

 

Provided by www.timeanddate.com/clocks/free.html

 

Page One

Welcome, this Page is NEW & Completely updated!

The Motor Ship Sibajak’s History Page

By the Author of ssMaritime.com

 

Please Note: Photographs on the MS Sibajak pages are mostly from the author’s personal collection, unless otherwise stated!

However, I wish to thank maritimedigitaal.nl for their kind cooperation!

 

Here we see the MS Sibajak after her having been refitted and note

that Sports Deck (topside forward) has moved somewhat aft!

Introduction:

As I commence, I wish to state that this is quite an extensive and a comprehensive and a very large page with many photographs. The reason for this is that I desired to add as much detail and history as possible regarding the MS Sibajak, a ship that I personally greatly love and admire for it was this “Grand Old Dame of the Sea” that was responsible for my decision to enter working in the Passenger Shipping Industry in 1960 and eventually becoming a Maritime Historian as well as a Cruise’n’Ship Reviewer as many of you will well know! I certainly trust that you will enjoy this, and the pages to follow.

N.V. Rotterdam Lloyd Background:

I personally believe it is always good to look at the company’s background as well as the reason for them ordering of a particular new ship, etc?

The company started life in 1839 Named after it owner, “Willem Ruys” and commenced sailing ships trading mostly to the Dutch East Indies and the Far East. In addition there were some voyages to South America. In 1870 steamer service commenced to carry iron ore between Spain, the Mediterranean and the Netherlands, as well as a passenger and mail service to Batavia, today’s Jakarta, officially commenced in 1872. With the “Rotterdamsche Lloyd,” or “Rotterdam Lloyd” (RL) was officially formed in 1875.

Then, after the World War 2, “Rotterdam Lloyd” (RL) was granted the “Koninklijke” or the “Royal” honour to its name and thus it became “Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd” or in English, “Royal Rotterdam Lloyd” (RRL).

On June 1, 1923, the Kingdom of The Netherlands renewed its mail-contract with N.V. Rotterdam Lloyd (RL) and this contract would see to the ongoing connections between The Netherlands and from the port of Rotterdam and its vital Far Eastern colony, being the Dutch East Indies.

Cargoes, Mail and Passengers would be safely transported along the oceans of a good 9,200 nautical miles or 17.000 kilometres, along the ships regular schedules. The shipping company that was prepared to take on the responsibility for such a major task was ensured of an attractive financial contribution from the Dutch government as well as a guaranteed supply of civil servants and military personnel for the passage to and from the Dutch East Indies (known today as Indonesia).

In cooperation with the “Steamship Company Nederland” from Amsterdam, the Rotterdam Lloyd would take care of a weekly mail-service; One week there would be a departure from Rotterdam sailing via Marseilles, and then the other week there would be a sailing from Amsterdam sailing via Genoa and both would then head for Batavia and then return to the Netherlands (Holland).

In order to meet future demands of the mail-contract, RL at the end of 1924 drew up a long-range plan that included a trio of new large (for those days) passenger liners, which together with the two-funnelled 11,406 GRT (Gross Registered Ton) MS Slamat entered into service in April 1924. She was followed by the slightly smaller single funnel 10,772 GRT MS Indrapoera and she departed on her maiden voyage on February 10, 1926, and these two ships with the largest liner of the trio already on order would constitute a new and a modern RL fleet for the mail-service to and from the Dutch East Indies.

The Rotterdam Lloyd MS Slamat was the first of the trio, but the only one built with two funnels

The full trio of the Rotterdam Lloyd’s new liners would ultimately be complete with the completion of the M.S. Sibajak. However, she was followed by two much larger liners only several years later, the first being the 16,981 GRT MS Baloeran, which departed for her maiden voyage on April 15, 1930. The second of the pair was the 16,979 GRT MS Dempo that departed on her maiden voyage in March 1931.

Here we see the larger MS Dempo of 1931, identical sister of the Baloeran completed one year earlier

However it is important to note that it is the Sibajak that is covered in this special “M.S. Sibajak Feature” and although I am currently doing an extensive update on this feature, I am no longer writing on any further ships in the future, for I am so sorry, but for certain circumstances I was forced to retire!

Reuben Goossens.

Building the MS Sibajak:

On May 27, 1925 the Rotterdam Lloyd gave the Royal Company “De Schelde” (KMS) that they would require the Mail Ship “Sibajak” to be built, which was confirmed on the 29th, when the ship was officially commissioned. Then on November 18, the “Sibajak-contract” was finally signed by the two directors of KMS at Vlissingen and sent to RL Rotterdam completing the official acceptance of her building procedure.

Seven days later one of the Directors for Willem Ruys & Sons (RL) in Rotterdam, most likely Mr. B. E. Ruys ratified the Vlissingen contract.

However, there was an alteration as noted as shown in Article 1 of the “Sibajak contract” was: De Schelde undertakes, for Rotterdam Lloyd to build a “Steel-Double Screw Engine Passenger Liner,” in regard to the interiors and equipment she should be similar to the M.S. “Indrapoera,” according to her principal dimensions, description and conditions, but including the additional work to be carried out. She would be at an agreed cost of f6.8 million Dutch Gulden.

There had been a long tradition of cooperation between RL and KMS, in fact since 1882 and during 65 years they had produced a long series of beautiful ships for which their style showed certain outward resemblances.

Her Design Features:

When commissioning to build the Sibajak, RL being very wise due to many decades of operational experience, gave special orders in relation to the construction of the ship that she was to have all the characteristics of a mail-ship, but to be suitable for the tropics. This meant that she had to have ample open and airy decks, with surfaces large enough for the numerous deckchairs as well as for vast promenades; elegant lounges with high ceilings and large windows in order to allow as much light and fresh air as possible. In addition, all cabins had to be located on the outside of the ship and the interior decoration was to be both stately and comfortable in order to make the long voyage as enjoyable as possible, but there were no particular concerns in relation to the ships speed.

In July 1926, RL decided that the interior design of the Sibajak would be entrusted to the creative skills of the well-known Mr. H.P. Mutters who would work together with the “Royal Dutch Furniture Company.” The Hague company “Mutters & Son” the Rotterdam Lloyd (RL) already had a long-standing and constructive relationship as they had worked on their other ships. RL management not only had an eye for the accommodation and the artistic interiors, but also the installations of new technical equipment required not just their attention, but also great expertise. RL wanted the Sibajak to be a “state of the art” Liner! This also included the matter of the ship's eventual tendency to show yawing. Such a tendency was particularly relevant for certain parts of the sea can be anticipated, where there could well be heavy swells and storms, which would make the passengers’ on board quite uncomfortable if not miserable. Thus RL acquainted them selves with what was then a technical novelty: the stabilizing tank. This was a large tank construction to be built into the lower part of the ship which, because of the inertia of the fluid it contained (oil e.g.) produced a buffing counter-force to the ship's annoying yawing movements. As an experiment, the RL decided on April 7 1926 to have such a stabilizing tank built into their Sibajak. Another novelty (at least for RL vessels) was the installation of two electrical passenger lifts in the First Class section. Moreover, at a later stage, with the building of the Sibajak having already begun, RL management decided on August 19, 1926 to build in, as an experiment, an underwater-clock signal that was to be used for echo sounding.

Construction:

But it was on Saturday March 13, 1926 De Schelde officially laid her keel of yard number 181. During the twelve months and three weeks that followed, the complicated building process took shape, resulting in the ship's hull with its intricate unity of frames, bulkheads, deck and the hull plates. Once the hull was closed, her deckhouses and other superstructures appeared up on the main deck.

Photograph’s during her Construction

 

As we look towards her aft, we can see that she is nearing completion

 

A fine view of her port side propeller

 

However here we see her stern and both her propellers as well as her rudder

Her Launching:

Then on Saturday April 2, 1927 with the hull construction having progressed enough the new RL Liner was ready to be launched. On that day with her hull, painted in the stylish RL house colours of what is known as “Dove Grey” and “White,” she looked simply splendid. Along the quays sides many invited guests had gathered to witness the ever-spectacular moment of the launching of such a large ship. For, in the eyes of the Dutch, a 530 feet long Liner was a giant indeed! At the inauguration ceremony she was officially christened by Mrs. T. Mees-Bouvin and named “Sibajak” after the mountain “Sibajak,” one of the most beautiful on the island of Sumatra, the name meaning “The Rich One.” Her launching was a huge success and once afloat she was towed to the De Schelde” fit-out berth for completion.

The Sibajak’s is about to enter the water and here we see Mrs. T. Mees-Bouvin who has just cut loose

the bottle of champagne, as she had been given the great honour to officially name and launch the Lloyd’s Flagship!

 

Here we see the massive crowds watch as the Sibajak gently slips into the water

 

The Sibajak is seen here at “De Schelde” shipyards and her fit-out berth

After her launch, they moored Sibajak alongside the North quay of the yard basin, next to the imposing engineering works. Within, good progress had been made on the construction and assembly of the various motor-parts for the new ship. The Sibajak was provided with a pair of 8-cylinder Schelde-Sulzer diesel engines with a total capacity of 10,000 shaft-horsepower. Those would enable the vessel to a service speed of 17 knots. In the machine factory the parts of these engines were assembled into hulks of roughly 49 feet long, 33 feet high and 12 feet deep. They also provided the ship with three auxiliary units, which were likewise Schelde-Sulzer diesels with 5 cylinders; these were to drive three huge generators, which provided for the ship's electricity. Whilst in the ships interiors frantic work was at hand by many carpenters, painters, furniture makers and upholsterers, as well as plumbers and electricians completing the enormous work of realizing the various interior designs as well as the galley’s.

The Sibajak heads off for her Deep-Sea Trials:

January 2, 1928 was nothing short of a horrid and a bleak day complete with a snowstorm, yet the Sibajak sailed from Flushing to commence her first technical deep-sea trial. At the helm was one Rotterdam Lloyd’s finest specialised Captains and with him one of the Maritime Inspectors who kept an eye on the ship during her deep-sea trials. There were several trials, and during these trials she reached an average speed of 16.59 knots, but a top speed of 17.65 knots, which was an excellent result. Her last sea trial was on January 12 on a better weather day and she had handled perfectly having had a small number of minor modifications made.

Here we see the Sibajak completing her deep-sea trials on January 12, 1928 note aft of the Bridge and officers cabins, as well as

the three windows for the covered first class promenade deck. This is relevant and will be covered in the deck-by-deck item!

On Saturday January 28, 1928 the MS Sibajak was officially transferred by the shipyard to the Rotterdam Lloyd but this was done by the means of special trial voyage with invited passengers.

The Sibajak is seen here on her Special trial Voyage on January 28, 1928

This voyage would test the working systems of the ships chef’s, galley staff and service in the Dining Room as well in the lounges and in the cabins, etc. The passengers list was obviously a who’s who of the travel and shipping industry, and the ship certainly received rave reviews after her short voyage.

The cover for the Passenger List for the special January 28 Trail mini-voyage

Now the completed MS Sibajak, the brand new flagship of the Rotterdam Lloyd headed for Rotterdam where she moored at the company’s berths where she was fully stocked, manned and prepared for her maiden voyage as a RL Passenger Liner.

MS Sibajak’s Maiden Voyage to Batavia:

On Sunday February 8, 1928 with the Sibajak being under the command of Captain W. J. Boon was ready for her big day. Passengers had slowly gathered and boarded whilst relatives and friends waited ashore to see the ship sail and wave them goodbye as the band played, for a ships departure was such an emotional affair!

The Sibajak departed Rotterdam and headed for the East Indies, sailing via Southampton, Lisbon, Tangier, Gibraltar, Marseilles, Port Said, Suez, Colombo, Sabang, Belawan, Singapore to Batavia (Jakarta).

However, towards Tangiers the Sibajak suffered a most severe storm that gave her huge testing, for she was tossed to and fro, even causing a few portholes to be smashed as well as a large ventilation shaft being knocked down.

A painting of the Sibajak during her maiden voyage and the storm she encountered

The artist is unknown - Please see Photo Notes at the bottom of the page!

Once the ship finally came out of the storm, it was reported that some “eleven tables and twenty-three chairs” were completely damaged.

When the Sibajak had reached Tangiers a good 480-invited visitors boarded the ship during a special reception, during which Captain Boon was appointed “Officer in the Sheriffian Order” of the “Quissam Alouette.” This was a huge honour, considering that he had been to this port many times and he was very highly regarded!

In Marseilles a party of new passengers embarked, for they had travelled over land and thus 'cut-off' part of the sea route to Dutch East Indies by taking a special boat train, named the Rotterdam Lloyd “Rapide.”

The MS Sibajak then sailed for Port Said and then through the Suez Canal to Suez after which she headed for the port of Colombo in Ceylon (today’s Sri Lanka). Here the passengers were allowed to go on shore leave and enjoy the warm weather. Next was the beautiful and natural Harbour of Sabang, where the passengers encountered genuine tropical conditions for the first time for it was very hot and humid. There was a band ashore and the Governor of Atjeh had come to the ship to make her especially welcome to the port. Sibajak then sailed via Belawan and Singapore to the port of Tandjong Priok, being the port of Batavia (Jakarta). Here the majority of passengers disembarked, but some continued their journey on board on the ship’s coastal voyage towards Soerabaja (Surabaya). However, having returned to Tandjong Priok on March 9, 1928 the Sibajak received the honour of a special visit by the Governor-General De Graaf.

On her return voyage to Rotterdam the Sibajak held a special reception whilst she was in Singapore in honour of the British Governor and there were 200 special invited guests. Finally on April 24, 1928 the MS Sibajak returned from her circle Maiden Voyage in Rotterdam and Captain Boon was extremely happy with his ship as she had little to no vibrations and her engines had performed perfectly in all conditions!

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The Ships Layout and Facilities:

Now we have read all about her round maiden voyage and her adventures with storms and special events welcoming her, etc, it is time we discover a little regarding her interiors. As built she had accommodations for just 427 passengers, with 212 in First Class, 174 Second Class and 68 in Third Class. In addition to these, there were another 25 berths reserved for Dutch Troops or Marines who would sail to and from the Dutch East Indies.

Although I sailed after she had a number of refits and by then a One Class Liner, but as I recall even as a boy how luxuriant the ex First Class Lounges the social Hall and Smoking Room were, as there were the abundant luxuriant timbers and the huge bowed windows offering fine views out to the Promenade deck as well as allowing light to stream in.

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Here we see two images of the grandiose Social Hall with its huge glass dome 

The Forward Dining Room was also amazing and a sight to behold and certainly not something that I as a boy could have expected. It could be reached by a grand staircase, but also by two fully attended electric lifts that featured the most beautifully Art Nouveau designed glass and sculptured iron artwork lift doors that I have ever seen on any lift to this date! But when you were in dining the room, which was simply beautiful, but when you looked up it really hit you, for the venue reached up another two full decks with the balustrades having been especially made from finely worked decorative metal and it looked spectacular! The decks above were cabin decks and the cabins located along the balustrades were the best of the first class cabins and obviously had an amazing view as they stepped out of their rooms!

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Here we see the Lift Doors and the forward (First Class) Dining Room

However, the Second Class Public Rooms were also amazingly beautifully appointed, such as the Smoking Room that had beautifully balanced lines as well featuring the finest of timbers and it had a luxurious feel and an excellent atmosphere. The furnishings were of a high standard and on both sides there were large square windows overlooking the Promenade Deck! Just aft on the portside the was a smaller lounge, called the “Dames Salon,” or the “Ladies Lounge” yet it had writing desks, and a piano as well as comfortable furnishings and I believe that it was used as a general venue. Their Dining Room was well fitted out and always looked beautiful.

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Left we see part of the Second Class Smoke Room which is on A Deck

There is a smaller Lounge on the portside, which has piano, comfy lounges,

A good number of tables and chairs as well as writing desks

Far aft was the Third Class Promenade Deck with its very spacious Sun Deck above but set in the middle of the deck was the Smoking Lounge that had this Class’ main stairwell right in it’s center of the Lounge. The Smoking Room had benches along the sidewalls and tables and chairs where space allowed.

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Here is an overview of the 3rd.class Promenade Deck and the Smoking Room located in the centre, and we also see the interior

Please note that full sizes on the six images shown above will be shown on the Interior Page for these images do the venues no justice!

Please Note: A full description of the Sibajak’s “Deck by Deck” layout, combined with an extensive description of public venues and passenger facilities will be provided on a special page that will also contain many wonderful vintage photographs, which will do her far greater justice than what I have shown above in these cropped images!

Back to her History and Voyages:

The Sibajak departed Rotterdam for her second voyage to Batavia, but during this voyage the Captain did record in his log that during a “stiff monsoon the ship did not deflect more than 8 degrees.” However during her return voyage, whilst she was transiting the Suez Canal for some reason the Sibajak sheered out of line and she bumped into the bank. However, the Captain was able to free her rapidly and she could continue as no damage was done. Apparently this kind of incident did happen occasionally with other ships as it was said in those days that it would “with these large ships crossing the relatively narrow channel.” Of course today, she would be considered as being a rather small passenger ship and navigation and practices are far further advanced!

A fine painting of the MS Sibajak seen as built

By & Dutch artist Mr. G. J. Frans Naerebout

The third voyage of the Sibajak was all plain sailing, although whilst heading for Batavia she encountered one of the two sections of the then “worlds largest dry-dock” that was on its way from England to Singapore. The dock was under-tow by a Dutch tug owned by the famed tug company of “L. Smit & Co., International Towing Services.” The truth is that British towing companies were not able to perform this massive undertaking, but the Smit Deep Sea tugs have become world famous and undertake countless massive towing jobs and they continue to this day!

Sickness at Sea:

On Sibajak’s Voyage number six, during her return voyage a newspaper in the Dutch East Indies published an article that a “Case of Smallpox discovered aboard the MS Sibajak.” The truth is that on board of mail ships such as the Sibajak, the staff are always meticulously on alert in case of any sickness on board especially in the tropics, as there are contagious diseases always around.

Obviously influenza, measles and chicken pox were some of the most fearsome enemies. Ship's personnel were always very attentive to a cough or a red blotch. As soon as any suspicion of an infectious illness arose, the patient would be immediately placed into isolation, which would be a forced stay in their cabin or in the ship’s isolation sickbay. In this particular instance, it turned out that it was a case of crewmember smallpox had manifested itself towards the end of the outward journey and the ship's doctor placed him in isolation. Thus the ships medical staff would do everything in their power to control the situation that would arise and the ship would advise the next Port Authority prior to arrival if certain sicknesses were found on board! Thus it was not long after the illness had manifested, the crewmember was taken off the ship and hospitalised in the Dutch Indies before the ship commenced her return voyage for Rotterdam. The first job the crew undertook would be to thoroughly clean and disinfect the sick crewmembers quarters and as this crewmember had not been in contact with passengers at any stage whatsoever, the passengers were never in any of the danger and the newspaper did make this clear.

Of course the other thing in those days was the occasional stowaways that were found on the ship. Thus after the departure, especially from Asian ports, the crew staff would always keep a close eye on whether someone had slipped and hidden somewhere aboard. On the return leg Voyage number eight to Rotterdam they did discover a stowaway, who was put ashore in Singapore, but he was looked well after whilst he was on board for the next few days.

The Sibajak is seen berthed in one of the Dutch East Indies ports

Entertainment Today & Yesterday:

These days when we sail on a ship, it will be a cruise, or even a line voyage from Australia to the UK, or a Trans-Atlantic voyage, and whilst on board there is a host of entertainment with a good number of bands, entertainers almost by the dozen, movies out on deck or in a huge Cinema, a multi-level 600 to 1,000 seat Theatre’s where there is on offer frequent high quality Production Shows. Ships today offer every possible luxury, but back in the late 1920’s it was nothing like that! There was one small band aboard and that was it, the pianist from the band would play the piano at various times, as would the violinist, the bass player was forced to play with the band. If lucky one of them could sing. There were some organised games, but not a great deal originally, that was until her Voyage ten! Thus finally RL came to realise that they did needed to improve passenger amusements and thus they decided to appoint a Games or Entertainment Director for the Sibajak, as they had already done for their other ships. Thus, finally there would be some organised sports programmes as well as more indoors entertainment programmes.

Captain Changes:

Captain G.H. Ruhaak was in command for a number of voyages, but was replaced on Voyage fifteen by Captain K.J. ter Marsch. It was during this voyage the Netherlands Minister of Defence Mr. L.N. Deckers joined the ship in Rotterdam and he sailed all the way to the Dutch East Indies, as he was heading there in order to inspect the Royal Dutch Navy and Army there. Then in the second half of 1933 Captain Lap was given command of the Sibajak.

But then came Sibajak’s Voyage nineteen and this voyage would be a most unfortunate one for the ship. On her way to the East Indies the Captain was given the order to drop two passengers at Port Sudan. While manoeuvring in the harbour, suddenly the Sibajak hit a rock and it turned and it damaged the ship, as she was now taking some water in her aft section. With divers checking the damage, the investigations proved that one of the ship’s propellers were badly damaged, in addition there were several hull plates that had been pushed in slightly, with a number of rivets being lost or loose. The following day some necessary, but very temporary repairs were made and late in the evening she was able to depart. She arrived at Surabaya where the best facilities were available to handle her damage. However, it should be noted that her temporary repairs made in Port Said did hold out really well, although the ship did sail at a reduced speed, but having arrived she was able to go into dry-dock where her damages were fully and professionally repaired.

For her next Voyage number twenty, Captain Slof was placed in command of the ship. He had also been her Master when the Sibajak undertook her very first cruise to Norway. RL mail ships were regularly assigned to operate cruises, taking the holidaymakers on a more leisurely voyage to interesting ports of call for cruises from 7 days up to 14 days. Places visited would be; Scandinavia, England, Scotland, Madeira and Italy. Also, as part of the regular voyages to and from the Dutch East Indies, tourists would embark and undertake short “Coastal Voyages”, such as towards Marseilles, to be followed by a separate trip along the French Riviera.

When the Sibajak left Rotterdam for her 24th journey, the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet R.Nl. Navy, rear admiral M.H. van Dulm had embarked. In Dutch East Indies the Dutch Eastern Fleet received him in grand fashion, which of course treated the passengers to a magnificent spectacle. 

Sibajak receives an Upgrade and new Accommodations:

In 1935 RL decided that during her annual maintenance that the Sibajak’s accommodation would be modernised with upgraded facilities as well as some major alterations to be made to her Bridge and Sports Decks. Just aft of the Captains cabin and lounge and other officer’s accommodations, the old First Class Promenade Deck would be used for a new raised deckhouse that was built and was extended as far aft towards the funnel as possible. This allowed for twelve new First Class cabins, six twin bedded as well as six single bedded cabins, but none of these cabins had private facilities, this remained reserved to the two luxury cabins forward on A Deck with their private decks. Upon completion her new tonnage was 12,226 GRT.

The Sibajak is seen here directly after her refit her lifeboat configuration

remains the same, but her forward upper decks has seen a in the Dutch change

New Passenger Relations Introduced:

Considering that the rather sad depressing thirties had faded away and times on board the ship was gaining a much brighter feel and atmosphere. Passenger numbers increased once more as did the transportation of car numbers and sometimes, in fact at times there were so many, that RL was even forced having to park some cars on Promenade Deck.

However there were changes made whilst passengers were enjoying their long ocean voyages, and RL pampered them as much as possible. Rotterdam Lloyd certainly worked with new ideas of customer relations, and thus passengers were presented with some wonderful small gifts, the like off “Silver covered refillable lead pencils,” as well as fold away “Pocketknives” and “Imprinted Pocket Calendars.” Birthdays were really upgraded and besides a beautiful and delicheos cake, the passenger also received special attention from the Captain who would present the Birthday person with a very special gift. 

Further Voyages and Events:

In 1936 Captain Slof performed a rescue at sea by embarking the crew of an overturned “Pirogue” being a large wooden boat off Colombo harbour.

Considering there was the Spanish Civil War going on the Sibajak did have to be very careful when sailing close to its waters. Of course this war was in many ways the early signs of the horrors that was coming World War 2. In fact as a special precautionary measure all Dutch ships were escorted through the Strait of Gibraltar by Dutch war ships to ensure their safety! 

However, the dangers of war continued to increase rapidly and by 1937, war was very much expected. Dutch and foreign ships altered their services and headed further east of the “Balearic Islands” for safety sake! The Sibajak also had the privilege of Captain Schoehuizen in this year. 

Jewish Refugees:

The MS Sibajak headed to the Dutch East Indies, towards to the conclusion of 1938, but this voyage had rather large numbers of Jewish emigrants on board. Obviously this was because of the ever-increasing racism in Nazi Germany and these people could clearly see what was going to happen, but so many Jews could not believe that they were in danger, for they would say, “But I was a decorated Officer in the last war, and fought for Germany!” Or I am an eminent scientist, or doctor, etc.” But later of course none of these things mattered, for all would be sent to the gas chambers! But these who could see what was happening sailed on this ship as they decided to commence a new life in a new country, like Australia

Again on the voyage departing Rotterdam in March 1939 there were many Jewish people aboard, all bound for Australia and all passengers enjoyed their time onboard, but did not realise that their time in Australia would be difficult if they were German citizens. But that is another story!

The 47th.voyage commenced in June 1939 and this became what you might call her normal “passenger Liner Voyage” before “World War 2” commenced. During this passage the War erupted between England/France and Nazi Germany.

Last Passenger Voyages as War is Declared:

The Dutch Merchant fleet had been prepared for the outbreak of war. Thus as the Polish invasion occurred on September 1, 1939, all ships received cables in code with secret instructions on how to act. At that moment the Sibajak had just departed Marseilles bound for Dutch East Indies. Just two days later on September 3, War was officially declared, although the Netherlands was of course a Neutral Country.

When the Sibajak arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka all the Jewish passengers were transferred to the P&O Liner RMS Oronsay, which was in port and thankfully she was bound for Australia. However, shamefully the British authorities there confiscated all the mail that the ship was carrying and took the mailbags ashore for inspection. Once the censor had studied the mail, it was given clearance and the bags were returned to the Sibajak. Captain Schoehuizen although fuming, but he was experienced as he had gone through World War 1, decided not to protest against these disgraceful insolent British authorities, who had violated the sovereignty and the Neutrality of the Royal Dutch State! But it was recorded in his logbook and the British later had to apologise, for this ship would be used by those who had violated it! Sibajak then continued to the Dutch East Indies and disembarked her passengers and others boarded as usual, but for obvious reason there were many less desiring to head to Europe. Due to the outbreak of the war RL decided to change her registration to Willemstad, Curacao.

The Sibajak is seen during 1939 in the East Indies bound for Rotterdam, but sailing via Africa

Due to the war in Europe, it was decided for the Sibajak to sail via Cape Town. Then as she reached the English Channel the lifeboats were swung-out in precaution, as well as “Paravanes” were in operation (a torpedo-shaped protective device) to counter floating mines. Amazingly, the British Navy detained the Sibajak to submit her to a thorough investigation. And once again her mailbags ere removed ashore to be inspected. Once released with the mail returned, the Sibajak arrived in Rotterdam on November 15, 1939.

Sibajak is seen arriving in Rotterdam on November 15, 1939, the last time until after World War 2

At the end of November This Dutch Liner from a Neutral Country departed Rotterdam bound for the Dutch East Indies. It had been decided that the large tug Zwarte Zee would sail ahead of her, ensuring t a mine-free passage. But again as the Sibajak reached close to Gibraltar she was detained by an English destroyer, who again had her checked out. In due course she was released and she sailed for Naples where the majority of her passengers boarded for the voyage to the Dutch East Indies.

At the end of February 1940 MS Sibajak departed Soerabaja bound for Rotterdam, however due to circumstances with the war getting worse and worse, it had been decided for her to conclude her voyage at Genoa, Italy, where all passengers disembarked. However, new restrictions meant that the crew were now only permitted very occasional shore leave, but worse still was that wives and family members were no longer permitted to come on board and visit the crew.

Neutral Netherlands Bombed and Invaded:

On April 10, 1940 the Nazis invaded the eastern part of the Netherlands, but the Dutch fought back bravely, but it was also the day that MS Sibajak departed Genoa and headed for the East Indies and unbelievably she was packed with passengers and her cargo holds were the same full.

What did this mean for her Crew?

This departure would mean a great deal for the ships crew, although they did not know it as yet. Due to the war having commenced in Holland, for the crew it meant a long five years of service and not being able to see their family or friends, but worse still sadly there would be some who would never return home.

Then suddenly without any warning whatsoever four days later on May 14, 1940 at 12 noon and for two and a half hours non-stop, German bomber planes flew over Rotterdam and they literally bombed the City Center flat with just the odd structure still standing, but they also destroyed a number of ships in the harbour and badly damaging ships in construction.

The great Harbour City of Rotterdam seen after the tragic bombing by the evil Nazis!

Today it is a great ultra modern city and an amazing city - home of “Hotel SS Rotterdam V”

But worse still, the bombing destroyed an incredible; 2,320 shops and department stores, 775 warehouses, 62 schools and 24 churches were destroyed, as well as 24,978 homes making well over 85,000 people completely homeless! But that was the material losses, but the human loss was far greater. Sadly they were never able to obtain a total of actual number of lives lost, but it is estimated to be between 890 to around 950 Dutch innocent citizens dead and thousands having been wounded or seriously wounded to the point of having become disabled. But regardless of the number lost, each one is very precious, and the Dutch Government is well aware that there were many people that had come to the Netherlands from the East in order to escape the Nazis most being Jewish and some of these refugees who would have been in hiding would not been listed in the local paperwork. Thus the numbers lost could sadly have been greater

However, during this dramatic time the Sibajak being one of five Rotterdam Lloyd (RL) Passenger Liners found herself located in Batavia. The MS Slamat and the Indrapoera after the outbreak of the war were rapidly chartered and commissioned by the British Ministry of War and fell under the management of P&O. However, the Sibajak at the beginning of the war remained under the control of RL.

With the Sibajak having arrived at Batavia on May 16, 1940 she was laid-up for two months until July 14. Then she departed from Batavia on July 14, 1940 for what was now her first “wartime” voyage but official number 51 and she would be calling at the following ports to the United States of America and back: Surabaya on July 16 to 22, Semarang July 23, Batavia July 24 to 29, Singapore July 31 to August 2, Balboa August 31 to September 1, Cristobal September 1, New York September 7 to 21, Baltimore September 22 to 28, New York September 29 to October 9, Cristobal October 15 to16), Balboa October 16, Batavia November 15 to 23, Cheribon (Indonesia) November 24, Semarang November 25, Surabaya November 26 to 27, Balikpapan November 28 to 30) and returning to Surabaya on December 2, 1940. It is important to note that she carried no passengers Batavia on July 29 to New York September 7 1940

She made one further voyage to New York and departed on December 12, for Voyage 52, designated as a freighter bound for New York where she arrived on January 26, 1941. She returned to Surabaya on March 31, 1941 being the conclusion of voyage 52.

Then in May 1941 she was chartered by the British Ministry of War Transport and she departed Surabaya and headed for Singapore where she was converted into a troopship. Besides space for soldiers and officers as well as some passengers, being mostly officials or high-ranking officer families, she was also provided with arms. On her aft-deck a gun was placed as well as machine-gun turrets were located atop the master’s (starboard) and first officer’s (portside) cabins and these were the ships main, although minor armaments. When completed, the HMT Sibajak had a capacity to transport 2,300 troops and she was ready to head off to war!

On June 12, 1941 the HMT Sibajak sailed under the builders instructions to the Naval Base. Whilst she was in Singapore Strait and Selat Sinki her canon and machine guns were given all given a good check over and actually the cannon shot a shell into a safe area near by and the machineguns did a practice round, thus the gunners made sure that all they were well equipped with their guns. Also, that their shifts would know their positions as well as the guns they would be handling during the many and long voyages in very dangerous waters! When she arrived at Singapore’s Keppel Harbour she took on board troops and a number of passengers.

HMT Sibajak is seen on a convoy from Sydney to Singapore arriving there on August 15, 1941

her aft gun can be seen located atop her aft deck

The Sibajak commenced on a six months operation of a trio of voyages from Singapore to Australia and return, transporting troops known as “Convoy US11B”.

It was during HMT Sibajak’s first departure, with Australian troops having boarded in Sydney she departed together with the following Dutch troopships, the HMT Marnix van St. Aldegonde, HMT Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt and the Australian liner HMT Katoomba, with the escort cruiser the H.M.A.S. Sydney between Sydney to Fremantle and the H.M.A.S. Canberra between Melbourne and Singapore arriving there on 15/8/1941. However it was during this very first voyage that the convoy was caught in a severe storm, which caused heavy damage to the cruiser H.M.A.S. Sydney.

Her next departure from Sydney again in convoy of course, was on September 17, and she again sailed via Melbourne and arrived at Fremantle on September 25 and departed again on September 28 with further troops on board. She arrived in Singapore on October 5, 1941.

She soon departed for her third voyage to Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle and the latter two went very smoothly, unlike the first with the massive storm in the Indian Ocean.

Then at the end of October 1941 the Sibajak sailed for the first time to Liverpool, England sailing via South Africa transporting the maximum number of troops she was able to accommodate.

Dramatic Changes in the Dutch East Indies:

Of course, by now the United States had also entered the theatre of war as they had been attacked when the Japanese sent a mass of aircraft towards Pearl Harbour and bombed it severely destroying many naval ships and killing so many back on December 7, 1941.

Sadly, the situation in the Dutch East Indies dramatically changed for the worse for the Japanese came and attached the country in January 1942 during what is now known as the “Battle of Manado.”

This great battle was a battle during World War II which occurred at Manado on the Minahasa peninsula on the northern part of the island of Celebes, known (today as Sulawesi, and it was a short but a hard fought fight from 11 to 13 January 1942. The idea was to open a passage in order to set up a suitable base from where to attack Australia through the eastern part of Dutch East Indies. Thus the Japanese forces landed on the east coast of Manado on January 11, 1942 and defeated the small Dutch Garrison in the two days of hard fighting in which half of the Dutch defenders were killed. However, the Dutch did manage to successfully sabotage the oilfields before they were forced to surrender. Other places captured either during these three days or within several weeks were Tarakan, Menado, Bali and Timor, placing the Japanese very close to Northern Australia!

Convoy WS.16 / WS.16B:

In February 1942 the Sibajak was made ready for a major Convoy protected by a large fleet of H.M. warships, among which were cruisers as well as an aircraft carrier. This convoy was the “WS” or as some called it the “Winston Churchill Special” to Bombay.

Besides the HMT Sibajak in Liverpool, there were another twenty ships registered in this convoy, not counting the escorts protecting the convoy! However, although the majority were located in Liverpool, others were at Clyde, Newport and Swansea.

Then Convoy WS.16 departed Liverpool, Clyde & Newport on February 16, 1942 but a few on the 17th. They arrived at Freetown at 6.30AM on March 1 and departed on March 6. The next port was Durban where the fleet arrived on March 20.

However, ships that continued to Bombay via Aden received a slightly changed Convoy number from here, as it was now officially; Convoy WS.16B.

This new convoy departed Durban on March 25, “dispersed” off Aden on April 6 and WS.16B arrived safely at Bombay on April 8, 1942.

“Convoy WS.16” & the Fleet sailing from the U.K.:

From Liverpool:

………Awatea (NZ) - Troops.

………City of Lincoln - Stores - Feb 18 returned due to shifting cargo, hull damaged by a tank.

………Cuba - Troops.

………Delftdijk (NL) - Stores.

………Denbighshire - Stores.

………Duchess of Richmond - Troops

………Monarch of Bermuda - Troops.

………Mooltan - Troops.

………Sibajak (NL) – Troops.

………Strathaird - Troops.

From Clyde:

………Bergensfjord (NOR) – Troops - Feb 28 Man buried at sea having passed away.

………City of Edinburgh - Stores - Feb 18 she had to return due to shifting cargoes.

………Duchess of York - Troops.

………Empire Pride - Troops.

………Nea Hellas - Troops.

………Ormonde - Troops.

………Stratheden - Troops.

………Volendam (NL) - Troops.

From Newport:

………Brisbane Star - Stores.

………Potaro - Stores - 44-ton Motor Launch shifted and proceeded to Freetown alone.

From Swansea:

………Port Jackson - Stores.

 

--

After Convoy WS.16B the MS Sibajak has headed for and she was berthed at Freetown (Sierra Leone) on May 1, 1942 and the raids on the Dutch East Indies remained heavy on the hearts of the Dutch crew, and obviously all knew that very hard times would be ahead for all Europeans living in Dutch East Indies.

The Sibajak departed Freetown and headed once again for Liverpool. In Liverpool the ship was requisitioned on July 1, 1942 by the Kingdom of the Netherlands for Holland now had its government in exile in London. She receives some further conversion, whilst her crew were sent to DEMS gun-courses or courses for “Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships.”

Thereafter she sailed with Convoy WS.22 from Liverpool to Cape Town, besides other ships there were also four Dutch liners, the Ruys, the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the Nieuw Holland and the Boissevain. The California was the Commodore-ship and the convoy was escorted by the cruiser H.M.S. Aurora, the auxiliary cruiser H.M.S. Alcantara and twelve destroyers escorted the convoy. Towards the end of December 1942 the Sibajak returned once again to Liverpool where the crew were allowed to enjoy a well-deserved term of leave. Next she sailed around the Cape to Suez with 2,500 troops on board.

HMT Sibajak seen around 1943, flying the flag of Curacao since 1940

Then in August 1943, whilst in Durban harbour serious fire broke out on the ship in hold five. There was a problem, as she had only just been fumigated and the fumes had not as yet been released, this posed a problem for the fire fighters. It was a good hour and a half before the firemen could reach the seat of the fire and were able to extinguish it. There was considerable damage and hatches on the spar deck were burnt. But as soon as the damage had been repaired the Sibajak departed and she sailed finally again through the Suez Canal towards the Mediterranean. After having called at Taranto, Augusta and Algiers the Sibajak was at Glasgow in mid-November 1943. But just a month later she sailed for a short voyage to the Mediterranean region. 

In February 1944 whilst in Liverpool she once again made ready for another voyage to Bombay, after which she returned to Liverpool around the end of May and the Sibajak was finally installed with the latest Radar equipment. She then departed for a three-month voyage to West Africa. And with her duties completed there, it was in November that the Sibajak departed, with Captain Hamersma in Command. She sailed via the Suez Canal to Bombay, embarking and disembarking troops in several ports on the way there. Whilst the Sibajak was in Basra there was a very special occasion two American officers got married on board. Sibajak then headed for Marseilles, where around 2,000 troops left the ship and the Sibajak sailed for Naples where she would enter into dry-dock for her major maintenance and overhaul.

With Sibajak’s dry-docking completed, she sailed for Birkenhead laden with troops and she arrived on March 30, 1945 and the troops disembarked. Then finally came that great and wonderful day and all of the ships crew celebrated VE-day with great exuberance, as they were in Liverpool. But sadly, this did not mean that their work had ended and that the crew could finally return home within a few days being so close by! Far sadly from before all that, they had to operate another return voyage to East Africa and this voyage concluded on November 1, 1945 in Southampton.

MS Sibajak Continues Repatriation Voyages:

As the situation in the Dutch East Indies was chaotic, for not only during the occupation the hatred towards the white people had strengthened, thanks to the Japanese. The leader of the “Indonesian “Liberation Movement,” its leader Soekarno, proclaimed a new “Republic of Indonesia on August 15, 1945, with himself as its President. The news of the Japanese surrender trickled only slowly to all those who were still in the Japanese POW camps. The main problem being that outside the camp-gates it was also very unsafe and now their old enemy, the war-guards became their protectors. Tens of thousands of men and women who had been for three years locked up under the most terrible conditions now preferred to stay. Although most held onto the hope of being repatriated to Holland as soon as possible in order that they could recuperate to their normal self once again. But the repatriation began very slowly and obviously priority was given to the seriously ill and to the invalid.

During 1946 along an amazing 70,000 repatriates were able to board the Sibajak and other RL liners and head home to the Netherlands. In order to manage the massive task of the repatriation and also to make it happen in an orderly fashion, the RL director Mr. Th. A. W. Ruys headed for Indonesia to organise an orderly departure for them.

Whilst in the Netherlands a great amount of work had to be done for Rotterdam harbour installations were destroyed during the original bombing, and waterways had been blocked, in addition half of the Rotterdam Lloyd fleet had sadly been lost during the war. MS Sibajak, that continued to sail in allied service, was being prepared for another voyage to the Middle East. Whilst she was berthed in Southampton all of the Javanese crewmembers refused to perform their duties. There was no doubt that during the entire war they had devotedly served on board the ship, but suddenly they became insubordinate, that had much to do with the proclamation of Indonesian independence and they were in fear that if the ship would transport troops to Indonesia in order to fight there they would be the ones in big trouble! The Javanese personnel were replaced and both the troops themselves as well as the ship’s own Dutch crew carried the luggage on board.

Sibajak then sailed for Bombay where the military disembarked and a new assignment brought the Sibajak with troops to Singapore. It was on June 6, 1946 the British charter had officially concluded and the Sibajak was officially returned to the Dutch Government and she was finally repainted in her RL Livery! Looking very much like her old self again, she departed for another voyage to Australia calling at Fremantle (Perth) and Melbourne on September 16, 1946 and again she returned via Indonesia.

MS Sibajak is seen here at anchor in Melbourne on September 16, 1946,

her rushed hull paintwork has suffered considerably during bad weather

RL Directors had already made provisional plans regarding the possibility that should she survive the war, that obviously the Sibajak would have to return into service as a Passenger Liner again. This would mean that she would need a comprehensive reconversion from being a basic troopship into a glamorous liner. But sadly she had to wait for a while as there was more work for her to do post war, for she would continue to transport repatriated persons and soldiers right through until 1950. For example as I was advised; “The (Dutch) 3-7th.Regiment Infantries was relieved and moved via Semarang to Batavia to prepare for its repatriation on the MS Sibajak on November 29, 1949 arriving in Rotterdam on December 28, 1949.”

Between 1945 to 1950 the Netherlands Government required the Sibajak as well as other Dutch Liners in order to evacuate their citizens and other people from their ex threatened colony and also to transport troops to the various theatres of war on the other side of the globe.

In the decade following the Second World War, many Dutch people attempted to obtain a booking on a passenger liner that was able to take them to a new home and a new future in a new land far away. Each week people from all over the country and from all sections of the population, hundreds of new applicants presented themselves, with most desiring to go to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The main reason for the citizens of Holland as well as so many other European countries desiring to look for a new life far afield was mostly because there were so many unemployed people due to the war as well as an extreme housing shortage. An over-crowded Europe, led millions of people into the search for a new future in other continents where there was still plenty of space but more so “opportunity.” The Netherlands Government signed “migration agreements” with the relevant immigration-countries and entrusted the renowned shipping companies such as the company which now had the Royal seal, thus it was Royal Rotterdam Lloyd (RRL), Steamship Company Netherlands (SMN) and “Holland-America Line (HAL) who combined had a remarkable fleet of ships.

On April 15, 1950 the Sibajak departed Rotterdam, on what RL called the ships first official post war voyage, and she headed for Melbourne Australia, from where she returned via Indonesia arriving on May 22, where she collected further repatriates and returned to Rotterdam. On her next voyage she departed in July and visited Fremantle (Perth - Western Australia), then to Melbourne arriving on August 24, and continued to Sydney arriving there on August 26, 1950. She again returned via Indonesia, which became sort of a routine for her until she returned to Rotterdam in August 1951.

The all-New 1952 MS Sibajak:

Finally RRL sent the Sibajak to the Rotterdam Dry Cock Company in August 1951 for one of the most extensive refits in her history as she would now become a One-Class Liner. Her old third class facilities were completely stripped and all the First and Second Class Lounges and Dining Rooms were completely refurbished and updated, and a new lounge was constructed under the old second class Sun Deck with a bar, a place I spent a great deal of time with my new found friends during my voyage in 1958! But sadly I have no photographs of this venue on an exterior one. The previous third class Smoking Room far aft on Promenade deck became the new Children’s Playroom. In addition all cabins received upgrades with superior bedding, soft furnishings and other modifications. Upon completion she accommodated a total of 956 passengers in the following accommodations; 598 passengers in 1, 2, 4 and several 6-berth cabins. 358 passengers in 5 medium to large dormitories each having the following; 18, 34, 40, 128 to 138 berths. She was completed on April 24, 1952 and she departed on her fist voyage as a One Class liner four days later! MS Sibajak now had an official Registered Gross Tonnage of 12,342 GRT.

Having been completed, the all-new MS Sibajak was chartered to the Dutch Government, but she remained under RRL management and she was to enter the United States and Canada service. She departed Rotterdam of her first voyage on April 28, 1952 as she sailed for Quebec Canada. In due course she also visited also Halifax and New York.

Having been to Australia again the Sibajak headed for Indonesia as in the past and on June 24, 1954 she departed from Tandjong Priok with a total 878 passengers and repatriates on board and she headed to Rotterdam where she arrived on August 19, 1954. After this voyage she would make another eleven migrant voyages in all!

MS Sibajak is seen transiting the Suez Canal in 1954 having been to Australia and returning via Indonesia

The author boarded the Sibajak on a beautiful sunny day in Rotterdam on Saturday May 17, 1958 however; my story is located on another page: Please see the INDEX below.

Changes in the Making: 

Considering that the Government charter for the ship would end in March 1957, Royal Rotterdam Lloyd commenced to make new plans for the Sibajak as well as their newer and larger liner the MS Willem Ruys in August 1956. Following the sharp decrease of the total volume of emigration from Holland to the various immigration-countries, the Dutch Government decided to end the charter of the Sibajak.

After much consideration Royal Rotterdam Lloyd and the Netherland Line (SMN) decided to enter their ships, including the Sibajak into profitable service to destinations as Australia and New Zealand. To this end the company worked with agents both locally as well in Australia and New Zealand as they had developed new sailing ideas and schemes, with special fares. MS Sibajak was now placed on the “Round-the-World-Service” (RWS) as of October 1957. She departed Rotterdam and then called on Southampton to embark British passengers for the journey to New Zealand and Australia, or to return them having been in the UK on a vacation, for Dutch ships had a fine reputation!

Round the World Service: Rotterdam, Holland; Southampton, UK; Willemstad, Curacao; Balboa, Panama; Cristobal, Panama; Papeete, Tahiti; Wellington, New Zealand; Sydney, Melbourne & Fremantle, Australia; Singapore (occasionally Indonesia); Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka); Suez, Port Said, Egypt; Southampton, UK; Rotterdam, Holland.

The Sibajak is seen berthed at Station Pier Melbourne in 1958

with the blue Pieter flying, meaning she will depart that day!

Her Concluding Year:

Director Mr. Ruys of Royal Rotterdam Lloyd in October 1957 realised with Sibajak’s old age, and her accommodation being so out of date compared to standards in the passenger shipping industry in general, that a decision had to be made soon. This came before the end of 1958 when RRL made an official decision that the Sibajak simply could no longer compete with their other liner on the same service, the glamorous and luxurious MS Willem Ruys. Thus a decision was made that the Sibajak would be removed from the fleet in the very near future.

 

Above: The MS Willem Ruys completed in 1947 and the Sibajak sister operated on the Round the World Service

Below: In 1965 this ship was sold to Italians and she became the streamlined but ill-fated MV Achille Lauro

 

In addition The Netherland Line (SMN) had the equally glamorous MS Oranje in operation on the same service, she and the Willem Ruys were two class liners, but Tourist Class was of an extremely high standard with beautifully appointed lounges, spacious decks, both classes having swimming pools and so much more, as well superior entertainments, that on the Sibajak!

 

Above & below: The Netherland Line delightful MS Oranje, later Flotta Lauro’s MV Angelina Lauro

 

However Royal Rotterdam Lloyd retained the Sibajak until an honourable and a profitable sale to another company was possible, but nothing eventuated therefore RRL decided that another option needed to be sought. The obvious option was to dispose her to a Ship Breaker and an announcement was officially made through the appropriate channels of “Lambert Brothers Ltd,” and in this manner RRL was able to make known her availability to as many potential buyers as possible. However, whilst awaiting any outcome, the Sibajak continued her scheduled services. Although various offers came in, but all of these were rejected as the offers were simply not sufficient.

Then finally in March 1959 an offer came in for 180,000 (English Pounds) from “Chung Hing Enterprise Company” of Hong Kong and considering this was the best offer received to date, after consideration, RRL decided to accept it in April with the agreement that the sale would be on the basis that she would be delivered and handed over late August 1959 in Hong Kong.

A special piece of music written for the Ship; “On the Sibajak”

Obviously, Sibajak’s final Voyage was carefully planned for the company was well aware that there would be a good number of full fare paying passengers who would wish to sail on her either on all or part of the way and thus being able to keep the memory of this ship alive! There had been individuals who had come by ship to Europe and had either travelled around or visited family and they would take Sibajak’s last voyage as soon as it was announced! Amazingly there was a small group who just took the short ride from Rotterdam to Southampton, just to experience their experience on this ship, for there was room as there were passengers’ embarking there. All other passengers would conclude either in New Zealand or Australia. For the ship the end of the line was of course in Hong Kong and for this difficult voyage RRL appointed the well-known Captain J. C. Flach. Amazingly it would be his very last voyage as he was due to retire and even the ship’s longstanding butcher Pieter van Kessel was in the very same situation, his last voyage and he was looking forward to his retirement, but both felt sad to leave their much loved ship in Hong Kong!

On June 19, 1959 the RRL management sent a memo to Captain Flach that Sibajak would sail on June 23 and that;

“You sail via Southampton, Willemstad, the Panama Canal and Papeete to Wellington, Sydney and Melbourne. From Melbourne you sail via Surabaya and Singapore - for the disembarkation of (part of) the crew and for handing in stores (or de-storing), to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong you will officially hand over the Sibajak to the buyers, assisted by our agents Royal Interocean Lines" (RIL).

Thus when the Sibajak would return to Rotterdam, she would make just one further passenger voyage to New Zealand and Australia as she had been doing for some time.

MS Sibajak’s Final Voyage:

MS Sibajak’s Voyage 155 was boarding 739 passengers in Rotterdam, with more to join in Southampton some were bound for New Zealand, but the majority for Australia. As I already stated above, the ship was under the command of Captain J. C. Flach and he took her out and she departed Rotterdam at 3.05 PM for the very last time ever on June 23, 1959.

Here we see the sad MS Sibajak during her final departure from Rotterdam on June 23, 1959

Serving aboard were 112 Dutch officers and 144 wonderful Indonesian Stewards and Clerical as well as other Staff and those hard working 7 Chinese Laundrymen, who did an amazing job!

Her first port of call was Southampton she then sailed via her usual ports of Willemstad Curacao, Balboa Atlantic side of Panama Canal. She would then transit the Panama Canal and make a call to Christobal on the Pacific side of the Canal. She then sailed via the wonderful Pacific to tropical Papeete in Tahiti and then to Wellington New Zealand where her first passengers would disembark. She would then cross the Tasman Sea to Sydney Australia.

 

Above & below: Sibajak arrives in Sydney for the final time on August, 1959 with the media in tow

 

An article in the “Daily Telegraph” on August 5, 1959

Sibajak departed on August 6, and then she headed for Melbourne arriving on August 8, being her final Australian port of call, but also where her very last passengers ever departed the ship! Once all passengers had left the ship, she departed from Melbourne looking a lonely and deserted ship as she headed for Surabaya (Jakarta) where most of the Indonesian, all the Chinese crews signed off. She then headed via Singapore where some of her Dutch crew officially signed off and the ship was completely de-stored as per the requirements by RRL. Then the ship with a complement of just 60 personnel headed for Sibajak’s final destination - Hong Kong.

Here we see Captain J. C. Flach on the Bridge wing of his beloved ship-

the MS Sibajak during her very last voyage to Australia and Hong Kong-

Handover to the Breakers in Hong Kong:

It was early in the morning of August 25, 1959 when the Sibajak slowly arrived in Hong Kong, and the ship was rapidly boarded by four security guards as well as three police officers for supervisory and inspection purposes. They remained on board until the official handover four days later, being Saturday the 29th. Most of her furnishings, fittings and stores had of course been removed whilst she was in Singapore, thus there was very little to remove from the ship in Hong Kong before the ship was officially “Ready for Delivery.”

Early in the morning of August 29 the Sibajak’s Captain Flach received the authority for the delivery of the Sibajak from the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd Directors and she was made ready for official delivery to take place at noon on that same day. The representatives (Royal Interocean Lines) of the purchaser and the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd, together with Sibajak’s Captain J. C. Flach signed her delivery certificate, which read;

“It is hereby agreed between Messrs. Chung Hing Enterprise Co. of Hong Kong, Purchasers, on the one part, and the Royal Interocean Lines, Hong Kong, Agents for Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd N.V., Rotterdam, Sellers, on the other part, that the Twin Screw motor passenger vessel “SIBAJAK,” gross 12,342 tons, net 6,935 tons, has been delivered by Seller's Agents and accepted by Purchasers at 1200 hours on 29th August, 1959, at Hong Kong Harbour, in accordance with the relevant Memorandum of Agreement, dated 6th April, 1959.”

And with the above, Captain Flach and his staff disembarked, but the directors of Chung Hing Enterprises had invited the Captain and several of his senior officers as well as several managers of RRL agents in Hong Kong, RIL and they went to one of the finest Chinese restaurants for a farewell meal.

Captain J. C. Flach and first Helmsman, Mr. C. Muilwijk with members of RRL and the breakers

As we well know, Asians are very efficient and within less than a week the breaking of the greatly loved Sibajak had began and she rapidly was broken up, in fact from what I have been told that her breaking up was very much completed in just four months, thus by the end on 1959.

Here we see the MS Sibajak laid up at the breakers in Hong Kong on August 31, 1959

Photograph by & Mr. D Eijgendaal

 

Sibajak seen partially broken up in Hong Kong late in 1959

Photograph by & Mr. G. Boot

 

Here we see what is left of her forepeak section with her name painted on the side

Photograph by & Mr. G. Boot

 

****************************

There is no doubt at all that the M.S. Sibajak will always be the …

“Grand Old Lady" of the “Royal Rotterdam Lloyd.”

 

Remembering the Glory Days of the MS Sibajak

A delightful pencil drawing by Dutch artist Henk Kuipers

Remembering the M.S. Sibajak’s Glory Days!

It should be remembered that the M.S. Sibajak contributed greatly to the fame and the massive success of the “Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd NV” also known as the “Royal Rotterdam Lloyd.” In her 31 years of service the Sibajak transported around a quarter of a million passengers taking them half way around the world.

One of my personal favourite aerial photographs of the M.S. Sibajak

And we should not forget during the Second World War she sailed an amazing 410,000 nautical miles (that is like her circling the Globe 19 times) and serving her country well, although under the British, but with a Dutch crew, she transported a total number of 75,000 troops to and from the many theatres of war! In addition, after the War having received her major refit, she was responsible for bringing well over 25,000 Dutch emigrants to New Zealand and Australia, not to forget the many from Southampton as well!

And of course as I stated earlier on this feature, I myself sailed on the MS Sibajak from Rotterdam on May 17, 1958 and we headed for Wellington New Zealand. There is no doubt at all that I will never forget this delightful ship that was entirely responsible for my love of the sea and ships, and that is why I decided that I would commence to work in the Passenger Shipping Industry when I was young. Thus I commenced as an Office Boy and worked hard in the industry I loved and I ended up as a CEO of a major passenger Shipping Company, then I became a well-known maritime historian, author and lecturer. Thank you Sibajak, for you changed my life as a young boy and shaped it into a most wonderful Life!

Sibajak’s Specifications:

Built at:..................De Schelde, Vlissingen.

Yard:……………………….181.

Call Sign:…………………PSBQ - 1940; PHMB.

Tonnage:…………………12,040 GRT - 1935; 12,226 GRT - 1952; 12,342 GRT.

……………………………..7,087 NW (Net Weight) 8,289 DW (Dead Weight).

Length:……………………161.54m - 529.11ft.

Breadth:………………….19.16m - 62.10ft.

Draught:………………….7.82m - 25.7ft.

Engines by:.............De Schelde (Vlissingen) Netherlands Sulzer Diesel Engines.

Engine Type:…………..Motor Oil, 2-stroke single acting.

Cylinders:………………. 8.

Power:…………………….10,000 BHP.

Screws:……………………Twin.

Service speed:………..Maximum 17 knots.

Passengers:…………….1928: 454; 212 First, 174 Second and 68 in Third Class,

………………………………..Also 24 berths for Dutch troops.

………………………………..1935: 525; 200 First, 250 Second and 75 in Third Class.

………………………………..1950: 956; One Class.

Crew:……………………….254 - In 1950; 489.

 

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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 - See Page 3b.

Page Three-b:………………The Family Salden-Van Mulken sail to Australia 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.

 

Also visit the Three other Dutch Liners on the New Zealand - Australian Service

 

Visit: MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt - MS Oranje & MS Willem Ruys

 

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“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”

 

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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 only on www.ssmaritime.com), in order that due credit may be given.

 

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