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Steamship fleets based in HONG KONG Operating to Canton, Macao, Manila, Taiwan and Near-North Ports

Douglas Steamship Co. Ltd. 得忌利士輸舶公司 (1854) 

Hongkong & Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd (1863)

Hongkong, Canton & Macao Steamboat Co. Ltd (1865)

China & Manila S.S. Co. Ltd. (1870)

Other Hong Hong-Canton River steam ferries to 1889

Other Hong Kong-Canton River steam and motor ferries 1890 to 2001

Hong Kong-Near North (from 1899) & Post-1978 Hong Kong-Shanghai

Sverre Berg, Thoresen & Co. and the long-lived m.v. KURIMARAU

'TJI-' '芝-' Ships of the Java-China-Japan Line and Royal Interocean Lines


Historically, the first area for commercial steamship operations in China was Hong Kong and the Pearl River. The photograph below, taken at Canton in 1916, shows three steamships.  At centre is the HONAM, built in 1882, of the pioneering Hongkong, Canton & Macao Steamboat Co. Ltd. (HCMSC).  At right is the SUI-AN or the SUI-TAI, owned by the same company but originally built for a German-flag operator on the Yangtse.  At left is the KWONG SAI or KWONG TUNG, operated by a rival company.  These three ships and many others were owned almost entirely by Chinese shareholders in Canton or Hong Kong, but their owners chose to operate them under the British flag.  KWONG SAI and KWONG TUNG continued to operate into the 1950s.






Douglas Steamship Co. Ltd-Operating northwards from Hong Kong to Swatow, Amoy and Taiwan was the Douglas Steamship Co. Ltd. (DSSC).  The short history and fleet list were prepared by Howard and an early version was first published in 1973.  It has been updated by Howard and illustrations have been added by Stephen. Click on the first PDF at right for a short history (no illustrations) of the Douglas Steamship Co. Ltd.  The second PDF provides a chronological illustrated fleetlist of the Douglas Steamship Co. Ltd. vessels such as HAI CHING and SEISTAN. Illustrated below are an early Douglas steamer, thought to be the UNDINE of 1859 (Anthony J. Hardy colln) as well as a direct descendant, the  HAI-MUN of 1896 (James Adamson coll., University of Glasgow).



The Hongkong & Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd was founded in 1863 with Thomas Sutherland (local P&O agent) as Chairman and Douglas Lapraik as Secretary, to continue existing dockyards and undertake towage in the port.  By registration in 1866, James Whittall (taipan of Jardine, Matheson & Co.) was Chairman. The photograph shown below, from company sources, is of their tug KOWLOONDOCKS and other vessels salvaging the Dutch-flag TJIBANTJET in May 1958.



























Hongkong, Canton & Macao Steamboat Co. Ltd-A study of HCMSC was undertaken by Howard Dick and first published in H.W. Dick & S.A. Kentwell, Beancaker to Boxboat: Steamship Companies in Chinese Waters (Nautical Association of Australia, Inc., 1988).  It has been updated by Howard and illustrations have been added by Stephen.  Click on the first PDF for a short history (no illustrations of ships) of the Hongkong, Canton & Macao Steamboat Co. Ltd. The second PDF provides a chronological illustrated fleetlist of the company's vessels.


The two ships illustrated below are HCMSC steamers in the river at central Canton.  The first, taken by Sylvester Dutton and Vince Michaels in 1863, shows the New York-built wooden paddle steamer WHITE CLOUD which operated in the Pearl River delta until lost in a typhoon in 1874.  The second shows the refitted FATSHAN of 1887 making a winter morning arrival in the early 20th century. The vessel is still underway but sampans are already jostling for positions alongside (SK*).




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 by the Transpacific ships of Dollar Line and then American President Lines. The vessel shown below in a trials photograph from the James Adamson Collection, University of Glasgow is ESMERALDA, built for CMSSC in 1891.  A time line and illustrated fleet list are contained in the PDF file at right.

























Other Hong Kong-Canton River steam ferries to 1889-The third PDF is a detailed, illustrated list of other 19th century Canton River steam vessels to 1889, such as RIVER BIRD, a U.S. flag-vessel that operated in 1855-56 (FEER) and SHAMROCK, a British-flag ship which operated in the Pearl River in 1858-59, though is depicted earlier in Australia (NLA).





























Other Hong Kong-Canton River steam and motor ferries 1890 to 2001-The next PDF is an illustrated list with details, as far as known, essentially covering the 20th century period from 1890 until the final sailings by the LO SHAN in 1992, the two 1136 gt vessels of Hong Kong Hi-Speed Ferries in 1996, and the two larger Hong Kong-Guangzhou overnight ferries in about 2001.  Illustrated first below is the TAKSHING, built in 1924, which lasted until 1974 (SK*).  The second photo shows the large ferry MACAU departing Hong Kong for the gambling city of Macao, as it is spelt in English (Noel Brown/Rex Cox).  The photo was taken in April 1966.  The third photo shows the Hi-Speed Ferry JU KONG which operated from 1985 until 1996 (Donald Anderson).



























Hong Kong-Near North is a list of the companies and ships apart from Douglas which operated from Hong Kong to Taiwan, Swatow, Amoy and Foochow. In the final part of this list, we add the colorful passenger ships which operated between Hong Kong and Shanghai in the period 1979 to about 2005. Below are three appetisers for photos included in the PDF file. The first, from a 1933 painting by Vera Southby, shows Swire's SHENGKING at Weihaiwei. Late in 1949 the ship was displaced from the Shanghai-Tientsin route and operated Hong Kong-Swatow, and then Hong Kong-Keelung until 1955. The second shows the small Honduras-flag LILY which in 1951 unsuccessfully tried to run the Nationalist blockade but was taken to Taiwan as shown, never to return. Third is HAI XING which sailed on a regular schedule between Hong Kong and Shanghai from 1981 until 1996 (Donald Anderson photo).










Sverre Berg, Thoresen & Co. and the long-lived m.v. Kurimarau-In the PDF file at right is the story of the shiping activities of Norwegian Sverre Oddmund Berg who arrived in Hong Kong in 1916. Berg became General Manager of the Hong Kong Branch of Thorsen & Co in 1920, In 1926 he became part-owner of the small passenger liner LAMA, which was completing refit at Hongkong & Whampoa Dock after conversion from turbine steamer to motor vessel. In 1928 Berg registered Berg & Co. Ltd in Hong Kong (#793) and nine months later resigned from Thoresen & Co. Shortly afterwards, the ship, now named SVALE, was transferred to Skibs A/S Nidareid under his sole management and placed on charter to inaugurate a new line between Macao and Portuguese Timor. After World War II Berg moved to Australia and, amongst other activities operated the long-lived Hong Kong-built 297-grt motorship KURIMARAU. Below, taken from the internet, is a photograph of SVALE taken at Macao.



'TJI-' '芝-' ships of the Java-China-Japan Line (JCJL) and its successor Royal Interocean Lines (RIL)

In response to a request on the site's blog, we are including below a few mostly unpublished photos of TJI- ships of the JCJL and its successor, RIL, both of which served Hong Kong and other ports in China and the region during the 20th century. 'Tji' is a word for 'river' in Javanese. TJILUWAH was in its finest hour when it delivered the new Governor, Sir David Trench, to Hong Kong on 14 April 1964, and relevant photographs are included.

One of the first TJI- ships was JCJL's TJILATJAP of 1903, shown below.  The ship, registered at Batavia, and of course, flying the flag of the Netherlands, was built by Sir Raylton Dixon & Co. at Middlesbrough and was equipped with a triple expansion steam engine able to propel the ship at 10 knots.  This photo was taken in Japanese waters by A.J. Kentwell (b.1901) on about 6 July 1920 from the faster passenger ship ST. ALBANS.  Both vessels were sailing towards the port of Kobe.  The white diamond in the centre of the funnel and houseflag bear the letters 'JCJL'. 



JCJL's largest vessel by tonnage was the TJITJALENGKA 芝渣連加, a passenger ship of 10,972 gross tons, completed by the Nederlands Dock & Shipbuilding Co. at Amsterdam in 1939, and powered by a Stork diesel delivering 15 knots.  The vessel was initially registered at Batavia, and later at Amsterdam. After serving as a hospital ship during World War II, she became part of the Far East-Africa-South America service of RIL in 1947, after the merger with the NV Koninklijke Paketvaart-Maatschappij (KPM).  The photograph below, taken at Yokohama on 12 December 1967 by Toshio Shigekawa, shows the ship a few months before it was withdrawn and the passenger service terminated.  The marking at the centre of the funnel and the houseflag now bears a crown, reflecting the 'Royal' title bestowed on the owners by Queen Wilhelmina. 




A vessel replacing TJITJALENGKA on a former KPM/Javalijn route was the new TJILUWAH 芝利華 of 1951.  Built by Van der Giessen at Krimpen near Rotterdam, she was powered by two Werkspoor diesels delivering a service speed of 15 knots. From 1960 she and her almost identical sister TJIWANGI 芝萬宜 ceased calls in Indonesia and Singapore and now called at Australian east coast ports, as well as occasionally ports in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea.  The photograph below was taken at Sydney by David Kirby on 28 April 1961, and it has been provided to us by Russell Priest.  The photo was previously published in, and shows the ship at perhaps her most attractive angle.












One of Hong Kong's most illustrious Governors, Sir David Clive Crosbie Trench GCMG MC DL (Chinese  ) chose to travel in the now white-hulled TJILUWAH for his first arrival at Hong Kong on 14 April 1964. The vessel entered the harbour through Ly-ee-moon passage and was escorted by no less than five Royal Navy vessels.  At head was 'Ton' Class minesweeper HMS DUFTON, on the forward port quarter was HMS DARTINGTON and on the starboard quarter was HMS LANTON of the same class. On the port side and starboard side respectively were 'Ham' Class inshore minesweepers HMS CARDINHAM and HMS ETCHINGHAM, crewed by the RN Reserve. The next photograph below shows DARTINGTON slowly escorting TJILUWAH. Beneath, CARDINHAM and her crew can be seen next to the press boat. The photo on the right shows the crew on the departing USS SEMINOLE also paying close attention to TJILUWAH. Two fireboats sprouted water, a helicopter was flying overhead, a live broadcast on Hong Kong radio described the progress into the harbour of TJILUWAH and a 17-gun salute was fired from the foreshore.















TJILUWAH approached buoy A1 where the waiting party included RIL harbour craft TJILEKAS and TJI, the latter towing a small pontoon for mooring on the starboard side.  These ships are a little difficult to see, so posted beneath are closeup photos of TJILEKAS and TJI, found on the Internet. Although both ships were based in Hong Kong, they were flying the ensign of the Netherlands.

After TJILUWAH was moored to the buoy through the bow centre hawserhole, the pontoon was affixed alongside, and the Governor's yacht THE LADY MAURINE approached and was moored alongside the pontoon.

HaiXing (2)_edited.jpg

Sir David took his first steps to disembark from TJILUWAH, waving to passengers and saluting the senior officer aboard THE LADY MAURINE, which then unfurled the Union Jack and departed for the shore.






















The last 'TJI-' Passenger Ship

We jump to ten years later in 1974 when containers were replacing regular cargo-handling and travel by air had become cheaper than travel by sea.  TJILUWAH and TJIWANGI had been popular passenger ships, but they were now being withdrawn from RIL service.  The last 'TJI-' passenger ship was TJIWANGI, and she was photographed sailing from Yokohama on 8 January 1974 for Kobe, Keelung and Hong Kong where she would be handed to new owners.  (The final photo below was taken by Ritsuo Ozawa.) It was a cold and gloomy day, but the sun was trying very hard to shine though the clouds.  The last voyage by her final running mate NIEUW HOLLAND a few months later would arguably end a long history of Dutch-flag passenger shipping (as distinct from cruise shipping) in Asia. The last 'TJI-' cargo ship was the little TJITARUM which was sold the following year.


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