sibajak, sulzer powered ships
Sibajak
Rotterdam Lloyd Line
1926 - 1959

The Sibajak was ordered in 1925, its keel was laid down at the yard of De Schelde, Flushing on March 13th 1926 and launched at the beginning of April 1927. This ship was similar to the Indrapoera, though is larger with more powerful engines. Christened 'Sibajak' (The Rich One) it was named after a mountain on Sumatra, the sea trials began early in January 1928. Her maiden voyage commenced on February 28th 1928 on the Rotterdam - Batavia (Djakarta) route. Ports visited en-route included Tangier, Port Said, Columbo, Sabang, Belawan, Singpore & Surabaya.

The passenger and crew spaces within the ship were not air-conditioned and with the ship destined to operate in tropical regions for much of its time, the design took this into account. All paasenger cabins were on the outside of the ship, the passenger decks were wide and airy with shelter from direct sunlight with much outdoor seating. H P Mutters & Son of the Hague were responsible for the interior design and furnishing.

An innovation included in the design of the ship was the fitting of a stabilizing tank. This tank, filled with a fluid and situated in the lower part of the ship would produce a counter-force to the yawing movement of the ship. This would hopefully minimise discomfort to the passengers & crew. Other innovations included the fitting of two electric elevators in first class passenger accommodation and the fitting of an echo-sounder.

As mentioned briefly above the maiden voyage commenced on February 8th 1928 under the command of Captain W J Boon. The weather would not be kind to the new flagship of the company. Whilst enroute to Tangiers bad weather smashed-in several portholes, knocked the head off a large ventilating shaft and damaged many tables & chairs. The ship's arrival was celebrated at many ports enroute.

The return trip saw the Sibajak encounter a stiff monsoon and whilst passing through the Suez Canal bumped into the bank with no serious consequences. The Sibjak was back at her home port by April 24th. This was one of the ships supporting the mail runs made between Holland and the Dutch East Indies. The continuation of the mail contract was important to Rotterdam Lloyd, bringing with it financial support from the government, in addition to many civil service & military personnel travelling between Holland and the Dutch East Indies. Also carried was a variety of cargo over the lengthy 9,200 nautical mile route.

On her nineteenth voyage (date?) the Sibajak dropped off two passengers at Port Sudan (not a normal stop). Whilst in the harbour area the ship hit a rock, damaging several hull plates and a propellor. Temporary repairs were made to the ship whilst at Port Sudan, more permanent repairs were effected at Surabaya.

During 1935 changes to the accommodation saw fourth class removed, allowing for 525 passengers in three classes.

1937 October 29th: departed Marseilles, arrived Singapore November 16th.

In between the long distance assignments the Sibajak made short cruises to Norway, Great Britain, the Canary Islands and certain Mediterranean ports. The ship continued to sail on through the years of the Great Depression, the improving years of the mid 1930's and on into the clouds of war gathering in Europe. During the Spanish Civil War the ship received a Dutch escort through the Straits of Gibraltar, as unrest grew against the Jews in Europe many travelled on the ship to settle in Australia. The worsening situation also required the routing of many ships to sail east of the Balearic Islands. Many Jews travelled on the outbound voyage that commenced during March 1939. The sailing commencing June 1939 would be the last 'normal' one for some consiberable time.

1939 - 1945 World War II

1939

It was on the Sibajak's 47th voyage, under Captain Schoehuizen, that World War Two broke out, having departed Marseilles on September 1st heading east, the passenger list imcluded another group of Jews fleeing Europe. Ports stopped at in the Mediterranean included Port Said (Sept 5th) and Suez (Sept 6th). On arrival at Colombo on September 15th the Jewish passengers bound for Australia were transferred to the Oronsay. Additionally the British authorities seized the mail, removed it from the ship for review, after which clearance was given and the mail returned to the ship. The Captain did not protest against this breech of sovereignty and violation of neutrality by the British authorities. Sabang was reached on September 18th, Singapore (Sep 20th) and Batavia (Sep 22nd). Three weeks were spent at Batavia before departing on October 12th, westbound, sailing the Sibajak sailed via Cape Town (Oct 25th), Cape Verde Islands (Nov 4th), Lisbon (Nov 9th) and Rotterdam (Nov 15th). Whilst making passage through the English Channel the lifeboats were swung-out whilst the paravanes (to counter floating mines) were placed in operation. The ship was stopped by the British navy, with the mail again being scrutinised.

On the Sibajak's next sailing to the Dutch East Indies from Rotterdam on November 28th, the large tug Zwarte Zee preceded the Sibajak in order to sweep a mine-free passage through the English Channel. The ship was detained by an English destroyer near Gibraltar. The Sibajak sailed via the Mediterranean and Suez (Dec 11th), sailing direct Sabang (Dec 22nd), Singapore (Dec 25th) and arriving Batavia on December 27th. The short roundtrip coastal voyage was then made to Sourabaya. After returning to Batavia the Sibajak remained docked for three months.

1940

The Sibajak departed Batavia on March 7th, Singapore (Mar 8th), Sabang (Mar 10th), Colombo (Mar 13th), Aden (Mar 19th), Suez (Mar 22nd), Port Said (Mar 23rd) and terminated at Genoa on March 27th, all passengers were disembarked and crew shore leave was very restricted.


After three weeks berthed at Genoa the Sibajak departed on April 10th, travelling via Suez and reaching Singapore on April 29th and Batavia on May 1st. The short coastal trip was made to Surabaya, whilst docked there German forces invaded and overran the Netherland. The ship was not immediately used for the direct war effort, returned to Batavia and remained there for two months. On May 17th the ship sailed for Surabaya, spending a week there before departing on July 22nd for Batavia (Jul 25th/29th), Singapore (Jul 31st/Aug2nd) then eastwards across the Pacific to Balboa (Aug 31st), Cristobal (Sep 2nd) and arriving New York on September 7th. After two weeks here the Sibajak departed New York on September 21st, sailing via the Panama Canal to arrive at Surabaya on November 26th. Approximately two weeks were spent at Surabaya before departing on December 2nd for New York via the Panama Canal.

1941

New York was reached on January 26th 1941. A short roundtrip was made to Baltimore, before departing from New York on February 19th, via the Panama Canal to Thursday Island (Mar 25th), Surabaya (Mar 31/Apr 7th), Batavia (Apr 10th/12th) and arrived Singapore on April 14th.

From May 1941 the ship was hired to the British Ministry of War Transport, receiving repairs in Singapore and now configured as a troopship and equipped with some light armaments. Departing Singapore on June 13th the Sibajak sailed to Durban, arriving June 18th, departing July 4th under escort for Singapore, arriving July 19th. Two roundtrips were then completed between Singapore & Australian ports. Having arrived at Singapore on October 5th, the Sibajak then sailed on October 20th for Durban (Nov 4th), remaining here until sailing on December 27th for Cape Town (Dec 29th/Jan 1st).

1942

Departing Cape Town on January 1st 1942 the Sibajak sailed unescorted to Liverpool, arriving January 24th.

On February 17th the Sibajak sailed as part of convoy WS 16 from the United Kingdom. Freetown was reached on March 1st and departed March 6th. The Sibajak was amongst those ships calling at Cape Town for refuelling, leaving there on March 22nd. On April 1st the convoy split, one portion for Aden & Suez and the second portion for Bombay as convoy WS 16B, this latter group included tht Sibajak. Bombay was reached on April 8th, remaining here for ten days then departing for Cape Town, arriving May 2nd.

The Sibajak departed Cape Town on May 27th, then Freetown (Jun 9th/17th) and reaching the Clyde on June 30th. On July 1st the ship was requisitioned by the Kingdom of the Netherlands with the ship scheduled for further conversion and additional training for her crew. Six weeks were spent on the Clyde, then a short roundtrip to Liverpool before departing on August 19th for Gibraltar (Aug 26th/27th), Freetown (Sep 3rd/13th), Durban (Sep 29th/Oct 2nd), Port Elizabeth (Oct 3rd) and arrived Bombay on October 17th. By November 17th the Sibajak was at Port Elizabeth, reaching Liverpool by December 16th.

1943

On January 23rd 1943 the Sibajak sailed from the United Kingdom as part of the joint convoy WS 26 & KMF 8, the ships in the latter designation would detach on January 29th for the Mediterranean. WS 26 reached Freetown (Feb 6th/9th), Cape Town (Feb 22nd/25th), then the Sibajak returned north to Lagos arriving March 5th. A week later on March 14th the Sibajak and two other ships from Lagos joined convoy WS 27 (sailed from the United Kingdom on February 27th 1943), in the convoy already was the Sulzer powered Christiaan Huygens. Cape Town was reached on March 23rd, the Sibajak being in the group that refuelled here, the Christiaan Huygens reached Durban on March 26th for refuelling. The convoy reformed off Durban on March 29th with all the ships headed for Aden (Apr 9th/14th), then on to Suez (Apr 19th/21st).

After leaving Suez the Sibajak reached Cape Town by May 8th. The Sibajak joined convoy WS 30 at Freetown June 3rd. Cape Town was passed on June 16th and Durban reached on June 19th for refuelling. Departure from here was on June 25th with the Sibajak and one other ship destined for Aden (Jul 6th) and Suez (Jul 12th). From Suez the Sibajak reached Durban by August 6th. At Durban a serious fire broke out in No.4 hold. The fire-fighters were unable to immediately attack the fire because the ship had just been fumigated and was not yet released. After about 90 minutes the seat of the fire was reached and containment could begin. Eighteen hatches in the spar deck suffered damage. After repairs were completed the ship departed Durban on September 14th for the Mediterranean via Aden & Suez, reaching Port Said on October 3rd, Alexandria (Oct 4th/Oct 6th), Taranto (Oct 9th), Augusta (Oct 10th/Oct23rd) and Algiers, the ship reached the Clyde on November 4th. One month later the Sibajak sailed for a relatively short trip to the Mediterranean, departing the Clyde on December 16th, arriving Port Said December 30th and returning to the Clyde by February 7th 1944.

1944

On February 11th the Sibajak departed Liverpool for Lagos, arriving March 14th. Several local trips were completed before departing Freetown on March 26th. At Gibraltar (Apr 3rd) the Sibajak entered the Mediterranean for ports to Bombay arriving April 25th. The ship returned via Suez to Liverpool, arriving on May 29th. Then followed a two month sailing to western African ports, departing Liverpool on July 12th, returning September 14th. On December 16th the Sibajak departed the Clyde, via Suez to Bombay arriving January 11th 1945.

1945

After ten days in Bombay the ship departed on January 20th for Basra (Jan 24th/29th), Aden (Feb 4th), Suez (Feb 9th), Port Said (Feb 10th), Augusta (Feb 13th/14th), Marseilles (with escort) (Feb 17th/19th) and Naples February 21st for dry-docking. After release from Naples on March 3rd the ship shuttled between Oran, Marseilles, Naples, Malta and Algiers, passing Gibraltar on March 25th and arrived Liverpool on March 30th disembarking troops. The Sibajak departed Liverpool on May 23rd, reaching Lagos on June 7th, Freetown on June 13th and returning to Gibraltar by June 20th. The Sibajak sailed from Gibraltar on July 12th via Suez for Bombay arriving August 2nd, departing on August 8th and sailing via Suez to Southampton, arriving August 29th. From Southampton the Sibajak sailed to its home port of Rotterdam on September 2nd spending five weeks here for dry-docking. Her wartime service had seen 75,000 troops transported, travelling over 410,000 nautical miles.

The end of World War II saw huge changes in what had been the status quo for many years, the British Empire was undergoing a massive upheaval as were the Dutch overseas possessions. The Dutch East Indies became a powderkeg of trouble whilst at home in the war ravaged Netherlands many Dutch people looked to emigration as a means for a new beginning. For the Sibajak and her sister ships the order of the 1930s was gone. Thoughts of restarting the mail service were replaced with the need to transport huge flows of people to/from the Dutch East Indies and the emigration of the European Dutch to many countries, made possible by the Dutch Government establishing migration agreements with various countries.

On October 11th 1945 the Sibajak departed Rotterdam for Southampton (Oct 22nd/23rd), Port Said (Oct 31st), Suez (Nov 1st), Bombay (Nov 9th/15th) and arriving Singapore on November 23rd. Prior to sailing from Southampton the Javanese crewmembers refused to perform their duties, concerned that if the ship were to be used in taking Dutch troops to Batavia, then those troops would assist in subduing the growing independence movement of the Javaness peoples. Then followed a Singpore - Bombay sailing, the Christmas season was spent enroute from Singapore with evacuees (departed Dec 24th) to Padang (Dec 28th/30th) and Batavia on January 1st 1946.

1946 - 1959

1946 September 9th: whilst docked at Fremantle, in the course of unloading cargo a dockside worker was killed instantly when a chain broke and a derrick supported by it fell onto the worker. A link in the steel chain which anchored the pole to the deck failed, causing the pole to fall. The workers were trying to move a steel beam, which had not been moved in years and may have become rusted in position. Elsewhere on the ship the same day a crew member lost two fingers when his had was caught in a back spring. On the voyage from Fremantle to Melbourne across the Australian Bight the ship encountered fierce westerly gales, at one point developing a list of 40 degrees. The grand piano had slid around the lounge, the iron safe in the purser's office had been knocked from side to side, breaking chairs and tables, whilst numerous port holes had been smashed. The repairs at Melbourne took longer than expected, delaying its departure to Sydney. Because of this bad weather the return sailing was routed via Cape York, the Torres Strait and the Arafura Sea before regaining the Indian Ocean.

1946 September 16th: (Melbourne) When the Sibajak arrived at Melbourne, the tug Tooronga manned by members of the Seamen's Union would not provide assistance in the docking of the vessel, however it was berthed successfully with the assistance of the pilot Captain P Stein. However the dockside workers, also members of the Seamen's Union imposed no restrictions on the dockside handling of the vessel. Seventy evacuees were on board from Perth, a further 160 would board at Melbourne. The Dutch refugees had been recuperating here from prison camp life, now practically all had returned to their homeland. The Sibajak, which arrived from Batavia via Perth, would be the last vessel to return Dutch refugees to Holland en masse. It left Station Pier, Port Melbourne, on the afternoon of September 18th. Further repatriated Dutch would load at Sydney (670 evacuees) & Brisbane (100 evacuees), to bring the total passenger count to about 1,000. These passengers from Australia included about twenty Australian brides married to Dutch men returning home, Dutch girls, who have been working in the Netherlands refugee welfare office and one Dutch boy wore his Melbourne Grammar school uniform. He said he would continue to wear it in Holland. On arrival at Sydney on September 20th two tugs were waiting at Sydney Heads to assist the ship in docking. It was advised that the Sibajak would not call at any ports in the former Dutch East Indies, but the first call would be Singapore or Colombo to take on fresh water and fuel.

The 1950's were a time of Dutch emigration, to the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia & New Zealand, many sailings were completed by the Sibajak, carrying 25,000 emigrants in this role. During this time the Sibajak and many Dutch vessels were under charter by the Dutch Government. The ship was now configured to carry 956 passengers (migrants) in one class. The refit included the addition of extra lifeboats.

1950 April 15th: (Rotterdam) The Sibajak is leaving for Australia today with 932 migrants - 540 women and children to join Dutchmen already in Australia. At Port Said on April 26th.

1950 May 15th: Sibajak arrived Fremantle from Holland. A Customs search of the ship found 4lb of opium. Among the 121 migrants disembarking at Fremantle were three former Royal Netherland Navy sailors who between 1942 & 1944 served at Fremantle on the Dutch destroyers Van Galen & Tjerk Hiddes. Arrived at Melbourne on May 20th.

1950 July 20th: the Sibajak departed Rotterdam with approximately 1,400 Dutch migrants headed for Australia. To this point in time about 5,000 Dutch had emigrated to Australia during 1950, with another 5,000 expected by the end of the year. Arrived Fremantle on August 17th where 57 migrants disembarked, including one family of seventeen. Their baggage included two trucks, two fishing smacks and two tents (35ft by 18ft) - to be used as temporary shelter until they built their own home. On arrival at Sydney on August 23rd bottled oxygen was immediately rushed to the ship to assist a five month old child diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia. The child had been placed in an oxygen tent for almost a day, but the ship's onboard supply of oxygen was almost exhausted. The child was later transferred to a local hospital.

1950 October 26th: departed Rotterdam with about 1,000 Dutch migrants, including 441 children for Australian ports. Three complete bungalows were part of the cargo. Arrived Melbourne November 28th where 118 migrants disembarked, then departed for Sydney.

1951 February 1st: departed Rotterdam with 951 Dutch migrants for Australian ports. A passenger developed acute appendicitis one day out of Aden, the Sibajak returned to Aden where the patient and his family disembarked to receive surgery. They would take the next Dutch ship sailing eastwards. The Sibajak was at Fremantle by March 3rd & Melbourne by March 9th.

1951 March 12th: departed Sydney for Surabaya, Jakarta, Port Said and Rotterdam.

1951 May 11th: departed Rotterdam with 950 migrants and 23 prefabricated houses for Australian ports, arrived Fremantle June 7th. Forty eight of the migrants landing at Melbourne were destined for settlement in Tasmania.

1951 December 28th: departed Rotterdam via Panama for New Zealand with 900 migrants, the first time the Sibajak had used this route on the migrant sailings. The cargo included 25 houses and motor vehicles.

1952 July 4th: departed Balboa (Panama) from Rotterdam for Wellington with 925 Dutch migrants.

1953 January 7th: departed Rotterdam for Australia with 950 Dutch migrants.

1953 May 3rd: departed Rotterdam with 995 Dutch migrants including 258 children for Australian ports via the Panama Canal.

1953 June 11th: the Sibajak arrived at Sydney with a total of 717 Dutch migrants, with 417 destined for Melbourne, Adelaide & Fremantle, arrived June 19th to disembark 142 Dutch migrants. Some of the migrants on this sailing had left Holland following the destruction of their homes by severe floods after dykes had failed.

1953 October 28th: The Sibajak sailed from Rotterdam for Australia on October 28th with a record number of passengers 1,005 migrants including 347 children under 12. The ship arrived at Fremantle on the evening of November 26th, 227 migrants disembarked here. Arrival at Melbourne was December 2nd where 90 migrants disembarked. After unloading the remaining migrants at Sydney the ship was scheduled to return to Rotterdam in ballast. Did the ship return via Panama? A report notes the ship carrying 700 Jamaicans from New York to Southampton.

1954 February 2nd: departed Rotterdam with 1,017 Dutch settlers including 363 children for Fremantle (Mar 3rd), Melbourne (Mar 8th) and Sydney (Mar 11th). Whilst crossing the Indian Ocean problems with the oil gauge readings required the engines to be stopped whilst the alarming problem was investigated. In taking the investigation from the engineroom to the superstructure it was found a tap on an oil line had been closed, the culprit an adventurous six year old boy who had ventured to places within the ship normally offlimits, and was still at the scene of the 'crime'. The interruption was placed in the ship's log, to which Captain de Jonge could smile about later.

1954 June 1st: departed Rotterdam for Australian ports. Arrived Fremantle June 29th, Melbourne July 6th & Sydney July 8th. Reportedly this sailing included the 50,000th emigrant from Holland to Australia since the end of World War II. At the same time Canada had recently accepted its 100,000th Dutch emigrant.

1954 November 2nd: departed Rotterdam with 1,026 Dutch emigrants, including 472 children for Australia. Arrived Fremantle Novemner 30th, Melbourne December 5th & Sydney December 8th.

1955 March 3rd: at Melbourne for Sydney.

1955 June 19th: at Sydney.

1956 April 16th: Sibajak at Melbourne, having sailed from Rotterdam with 972 migrants.

1956 January 15th: arrived Melbourne from Fremantle, then sail for Sydney.

1956 July 16th: arrived Melbourne from Rotterdam.

1956 September 11th: departed Rotterdam, via Cape Town for Australia, with over 1,000 Dutch migrants, including some visiting the Olympic Games being held in Melbourne.

1956 October 18th: arrived Melbourne from Rotterdam.

By 1957 the emigrant flow had dwindled, the Government charter ended in March 1957. Now returned to its former owners the Sibajak commenced a new round-the-world service starting October 1957. This demanding service, in addition to the general age and condition of the ship had caused the Rotterdam Lloyd company to re-evaluate the keeping of the ship within the fleet. The ship was put out to tender but remained in world service.

1957 December 6th Sibajak due at Sydney & at Melbourne on December 9th from Rotterdam.

1958 June 27th: arrived Sydney from Rotterdam with 264 Dutch migrants.

1958 October 1st: (Sydney) Commonwealth Health Department doctors boarded the typhoid ship Sibajak when the vessel docked tonight to examine the 600 passengers and crew. Seven positive cases of typhoid were taken off the ship at Wellington, New Zealand, last Sunday (Sept 26th). Port regulations were waived when doctors boarded the ship immediately she entered the heads. Usually ships are not medically examined during the hours of darkness. No person will be allowed to leave the ship until doctors have made a thorough examination of all on board. A passenger and a steward were removed from the ship, being suspected of having typhoid.

1959 March: An offer of GBP180,000 was accepted for the ship from the Chung Hing Enterprise Company, Hongkong.

On June 23rd 1959 the Sibajak started its last voyage, under the command of Captain J C Flach, sailing from Southampton via Willemstad, the Panama Canal, Papeete to Wellington, Sidney and Melbourne. From Melbourne the ship sailed via Surabaya and Singapore, where many of the crew disembarked and the ships stores were unloaded. The Sibajak arrived at Hong Kong on August 25th 1959 and was handed over to her buyers at noon on August 29th 1959.

Sister ships: Baloeran and Dempo.

Builder: Koninklijke Maatschappij de Schelde, Flushing, yard No. 181
Length: 530 feet (161m 54cm)
Length between perpendiculars: 506 feet (154m 23cm)
Beam: 62.6 feet (19m 5cm)
Depth to upper deck (moulded): 38 feet (11m 58cm)
Weight: 12,040 tons gross, 7,087 tons net.
Displacement: 20,000 tons
Engines: 2 eight cylinder Schelde-Sulzer 8S76 engines of 5,000 shp each at 92rpm.
Auxiliary Engines: 3 x five cylinder 5SS38 engines totalling 2,000hp.
Screws: Two
Maximum speed: 17 knots
Passengers: 497 1st class, 24 troop accomodation.
Crew: 254


A postcard view of the Sibajak, believed to be on her last sailing with fare paying passengers.

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Page added February 12th 2005
Last updated February 22nd 2016

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