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Steamship Fleets of the PHILIPPINES


SPANISH PHILIPPINES Interisland and Near Seas Steamers 1850-1898

Ynchausti y Cia/Ynchausti S.S. Co./Elizalde S.S. Co./Manila S.S. Co. Inc. (1865)

Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas (La Tabacalera, 1881)

China & Manila S.S. Co. Ltd. (1870) and precursors (1846+)*

De la Rama S.S. Co. (1891)

Compania Maritima (1895)

Madrigal (1913)

M.J. Ossorio (1914)

Villanueva Line (1945)

Northern Lines Inc. (1960)


Philippine FS-type Vessels

Non-FS, Non-RoRo 1945-70

Non-FS, Non-RoRo 1971-2000

The first list we present on this page is of interisland and nearseas steamers operating in Philippine waters 1850 to the end of the Spanish colonial period in 1898. The Philippines is one of the world’s great archipelagos and in recent decades has become one of the world’s leading merchant shipping flags, as well as being a source of officers and crew to many other fleets. In the Spanish colonial era, however, the Philippines lagged well behind other parts of Asia in the adoption of steam shipping. By the 1860s some larger steam vessels were operating under the Spanish flag and we have prepared, as listed above and detailed in the entries below, short histories and illustrated fleet lists of the major companies which subsequently emerged. The PDF file at right commences with a short overview written by Howard, and a listing of vessels not covered in the other lists, illustrated where possible. The photograph below sourced from the Biblioteca Nacional de Espana shows the Spanish-flag MACTAN, built in Britain in 1874, unloading cargo in the Pasig River in Manula,
























The Philippine Interisland shipping company known succesively as Ynchausti y Cia, Ynchausti S.S. Co., Elizalde S.S. Co. and Manila S.S. Co. Inc. was one of the leading shipping fleets in those waters from 1865 until in effect 1951.  Its ships operated under the Spanish, U.S. and later Philippine flags, reaching its zenith just before World War II under the leadership of Manuel Elizalde. The PDF file at right contains a short history followed by a detailed illustrated fleet list. Shown below in a U.S. Army aerial photograph, now held by the U.S. National Archives, is the company's prewar fast steam turbine passenger ship LANAO. 




















In 1881 Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas (La Tabacalera) was founded in Barcelona - the company's staple business would be the valuable trade in tobacco leaf from the Philippine islands. From the outset it invested in modern steam shipping but after divesting from deepsea operations, from 1890 Tabacalera cautiously invested in a small fleet of coasters for trading around the island of Luzon. After the American occupation of the Philippines in 1898/99, the ships were transferred to the American flag and in the 1900s they were given white hulls, which made them the prettiest and most distinctive vessels in the crowded Pasig River. MAUBAN, illustrated below from an aerial photograph taken in 1931 by the U.S. Army Air Forces, was delivered in 1900 from a U.K. yard and is depicted after her passenger capacity was built up for a joint service with Madrigal. The outbreak of war in December 1941 marked the final end of Tabacalera services. The short history and full illustrated fleet list in the PDF file at right contains an action photo of MAUBAN's demise after a 41-year career.  



China & Manila S.S. Co. Ltd. and its predecessors were established to provide a connection between Hong Kong and Manila.  The company was managed by a descendant of Russell & Co. of Shanghai Steam Nav. Co. fame, but its ships were sold in 1915.  The route was subsequently covered, amongst others, by the Transpacific ships of Dollar Line and then American President Lines. The vessel shown below in photograph from the US Naval Historical Society is the first ZAFIRO, built for the company in 1884 as shown subsequently as a U.S. Navy ship at Cavite on 8 October 1903.  A time line and illustrated fleet list are contained in the PDF file at right.
























well endowed Philippine domestic and international operator in the late-19th and 20th centuries was the De la Rama S.S. Co.  A short history and illustrated fleetlist is in the PDF file at right. The ship pictured below is De la Rama's American-flag fast cargo ship DONA AURORA of 1939.  The illustration was edited from a Riuniti Adriatico trials shot reproduced in by Dom.


The Compania Maritima, formed through merger in the Philippines in the late-1890s, became that country's best known steamship company. Its vessels were initially concentrated on domestic routes, but also visited Chinese ports.  We have prepared two documents accessed by the PDF files at right.  The first contains a short textual history and an illustrated fleet list of the company's vessels from 1895 until World War II.  The second continues the illustrated fleet list from 1945 until the company's demise about 1988. The vessel shown in the illustration below by the late Peter Nicolson, edited into Compania Maritima colours by Stephen, is MACTAN, a survivor from the prewar fleet into the post-World War II years.













Madrigal-A large Philippine steamship company with world-wide operations was run by the Madrigal family from 1913 until 2003.  A short history followed by an illustrated fleetlist in two parts - pre WWII and post-WWII - of that company's vessels is attached at right. The Madrigal steamer illustrated below from the Maurizio Eliseo collection is the SULA of 1919.

Miguel Jose Ossorio of Filipino-Spanish descent, born 1889, appears to have commenced shipowning in 1914 and subsequently invested heavily in the Philippines sugar industry becoming owner of North Negros Sugar Co. Inc. (NONSUCO) and Victorias Milling Co. Inc.  He continued to own ships to carry sugar on domestic and international routes, and after retiring to the United States in the 1950s operated 'Liberty' and similar ships through Liberty Navigation & Trading Co. Inc., of Delaware. All his ships are listed in the well-illustrated PDF file at right, which also contains a brief entrepreneurial history. Three years after his death in 1965 his family divested the shipping interests but maintained its holding in Victorias Milling. Illustrated below with the Ossorio funnel marking is one of his ships, SAN VINCENTE at New York in 1940. The photograph was taken by Roger Scozzafava and was made available to us by Bill Schell in whose collection it resides.



According to Lloyd's Register, an affiliate of De la Rama was the minor Villanueva Line, also originating from Negros. A short history and illustrated fleetlist is in the PDF file at right. Illustrated below is Villanueva's DOÑA LOURDES, formerly the MASULA of British India S.N., being refloated at Hong Kong in September 1954 following grounding in a typhoon (Taikoo D.Y., Jan. 1955).






















Northern Lines Inc., detailed in the PDF file at right, was formed in Manila in early 1960 by Roberto Benedicto who studied Law at the University of the Philippines where he became classmate and fraternity brother of future President Ferdinand Marcos Snr. The formation of the company followed upon Marcos’ election to the Senate and it may be assumed that ‘Northern’ was in recognition of the Marcos family’s fiefdom in the province of Ilocos Norte, Northwest Luzon.  Although the company was initially engaged in the interisland trade with smaller ships acquired from Japan, in August 1966 Northern Lines made a leap into international bulk shipping with delivery of a large bulk carrier. Benedicto was developing a business empire which eventually consisted of 85 corporations, 106 sugar farms, 14 haciendas, other agricultural lands, 17 radio stations, 16 television stations, 2 telecommunications networks, 7 buildings, 10 vessels and 5 aircraft. By 1973 notionally Northern Lines’ largest bulk carriers could carry around half of the annual Philippine shipment of sugar to the U.S. (1.45 million tons in 1973). After Marcos fled to Hawaii in February 1986, efforts were made by the Presidential Commission on Good Government to uncover the wealth of him and that of his cronies. Eleven Northern Lines ships were sequestered, though it transpired that only seven remained in the fleet, and were then sold off one by one, some for further trading, some for scrap. Northern Lines' funnel markings varied, sometimes with a letter and color designating a particular ship. Marc Piche provided a colour slide bearing the image below of the Greenock-built DONA MAGDALENA flying the Philippine flag at Camden, New Jersey on 19 July 1978.

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In this section we are listing the main passenger ships introduced to Philippine inter-island passenger service from 1945 until 2000, generally excluding vessels under 500 grt as well as the bow- and stern-loading roll on-roll off ferries which have predominated on major routes since the 1980s and 1990s. We have also excluded passenger ships already listed above in the studies of selected companies such as Compania Maritima, De la Rama and Madrigal. 

The first main group of ships over 500 grt introduced after 1945 was the former U.S. Army "Freight & Supply" (FS) type which held a dominant place on interisland routes until the 1960s. In the PDF file at right we have a listing of those vessels introduced to service in the Philippines including with the navy and coast guard.  We have attempted to be as comprehensive and accurate as possible, and included all known illustrations of these vessels from a wide variety of sources. The FS type was originally not built to carry passengers, but owing to the needs in the Philippines, shipowners ingeniously added passenger accommodation as can be seen in the example in the photograph below taken by Bill Schell at Cebu in June 1970, DAVAO CITY of William Lines.



Our next illustrated list in the PDF file at right covers non-FS, non-RoRo type acquisitions in the period 1945-70 when financial constraints severely limited the options for Philippine shipowners, who acquired older ships cheaply and undertook low-cost conversions. A few new ships were built, often based on the successful FS type layout and financed under aid programs.  One example is shown below, the AGUSTINA II, built in Germany with development assistance financing, for operation by the venerable company Hijos de F. Escaño Inc., of Cebu. The image is taken from the ship's launch brochure issue by the builders, Rickmers Werft of Bremenhaven.  The influence of the FS type layout can be seen.






















The third list in the PDF file at right covers non-FS, non-RoRo type acquisitions in the period 1971-2000 when increasing passenger and freight loadings resulted in the introduction of larger ships. At first the vessels were often conversions of north European cargo ships, but later secondhand passenger ships were acquired from Europe and especially from Japan.  The list is well illustrated. Depicted below is the PHILIPPINE PRINCESS acquired from Japan by the large operator Sulpicio Lines. This photograph was taken by Howard off Bohol in June 1996.

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