SS Independence

The American ocean liner SS Independence - and her sister SS Constitution - entered service in 1951 with the New York-based company American Export Lines, effectuating routes to the Mediterranean. Between 1974 and 1982 the SS Independence operated with the name Oceanic Independence for Atlantic Far East Lines and American Hawaii Cruises, before reverting to her original name. She operated with American Global Line between 1982 and 1996 and again with American Hawaii Cruises until being laid up in San Francisco in 2001. On the other hand, the SS Constitution had resulted sunk in 1997 when she was being towed to the scrapyard.

In February 2003 the SS Independence was purchased by Norwegian Cruise Line, which also acquired SS United States. In 2006 the ship was renamed Oceanic and the following year NCL sold her. In February 2008 the ship left San Francisco towards Singapore, but while in route the destination was changed to Dubai. Global Marketing Systems, last owner of Oceanic, had been sued for sending the ship to an overseas scrapyard without prior removal of certain toxic materials. In 2009 the ship, illegally renamed as Platinum II to evade the regulations, was towed towards Alang (India). There she was eventually recognized as the former Oceanic, but despite the controversy caused by the discovery the ship had to be finally scrapped there.

The SS Independence had a total length of 208 meters, a beam of 27.2 meters, a draught of 9.2 meters and a register tonnage of 27319 gross and 7250 deadweight. The propulsion plant was based on two steam turbines Bethlehem Steel Corporation with a combined power of 54230 horsepower, allowing a maximum speed of 22 knots. The capacity for passengers varied with the successive reforms, but it was around 1000.

SS Independence ocean liner

Nitta Maru

There were once three beautiful and similar ocean liners in Japan called Kasuga Maru, Nitta Maru and Yawata Maru, but they came to existence in the worst moment possible, between 1938 and 1940. The Japanese Navy requisitioned the three ships and turned them into the graceless aircraft carriers which formed the Taiyo class: Taiyo, Chuyo and Unyo, respectively. These ships were built by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Nagasaki for Nippon Yusen Kaisha (Japan Mail Shipping Line). The three ocean liners were intended to upgrade NYK's passenger service to Europe and it was reported that Nitta Maru was the first ship to be fully air conditioned in the passenger quarters.

The outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 restricted the commercial service to the Pacific, so these liners served on the San Francisco route until the Japanese Government forbid all the voyages to the United States in August 1941. Nitta Maru was requisitioned to be used as military transport in February 1941. She made a few voyages, including one transferring about 1200 American prisoners of war from Wake Island to Japan in January 1942. During one of these travels the historial of the ship would register a brutal event: the commander of the guard contingent picked five prisoners at random and ordered to behead them. Then the bodies were used for bayonet practice to be finally thrown overboard.

Nitta Maru, lead ship of her class, had a total length of 180.3 meters, a beam of 22.3 meters, a draught of 7.8 meters and a register tonnage of 17163 gross, 9397 net and 11800 deadweight. The propulsion plant comprised four boilers and four steam turbines actuating on two shafts, with a total output of 25200 shaft horsepower and a maximum speed of 22.2 knots. These ships had accommodation for 285 passengers (127 in first class, 88 in second class and 70 in third class).

Nitta Maru ocean liner

Aircraft carrier Chuyo, ex ocean liner Nitta Maru

MS Noordam

The MS Noordam was the leader of four similar "combi-liners" built for Holland America Line during the late 1930s. The new ships (MS Noordam, MS Westerdam, MS Zaandam and MS Zuiderdam) had to have far superior and more luxurious passenger facilities. The MS Noordam was completed and delivered to HAL on September 1938. She had a total length of 152.9 meters, a beam of 19.6 meters, a draught of 9.3 meters and a register tonnage of 10704 gross tonnes. The propulsion plant was based on two Diesel engines Burmeister and Wain actuating on twin propellers, for a maximum speed of 17.5 knots. The passengers that the ship could transport were 125 and the crew was 123.

MS Noordam ocean liner

In Rotterdam she was made ready for her passenger-cargo service, immediately departing on her nine-day maiden voyage to New York. Arriving to New York Harbor the 7th October, she slowly left behind Manhattan and all the main shipping terminals to reach for her berth at Hoboken. Ships like the MS Noordam and her sister MS Westerdam appealed to the wealthy passenger, who generally was older and enjoyed a quieter way of life, but demanded a luxurious environment with comfortable accommodations. All cabins - except one - had one or two windows and all of them had a private bathroom with a single or twin washbasin, water closet, bathtub or shower. Cabins could be single or twin bedded and have in addition a Pullman berth.

The strong external appearance of merchant ship could be deceiving for sure, hiding luxurious if not sumptuous public venues, such as the main lounge on the promenade deck, which offered sheer elegance, style, luxurious comfort and the intimate atmosphere so hard to find on the larger and faster passenger liners. Aft on the promenade deck was the sumptuous but of modern style smoking room, which also had a splendid verandah overlooking the aft deck.

The ship had a spacious cocktail bar that ran along the side of the promenade deck and, like all the public venues, it featured fine timbers along the walls and the bar and ample leather finishes. There was no doubt that these ships offered excellent accommodations, rendering them "a new concept for their time". The MS Noordam and her sister certainly gave HAL passengers the very best experience while crossing the ocean between Europe and the United States in the days immediately prior to the Second World War.

MS Noordam - Main lounge
MS Noordam - Cocktail bar
MS Noordam - Smoke room
The MS Noordam continued on her Trans-Atlantic service until the outbreak of the war, but HAL decided to take her out of harms way, so from 1940 she was transferred to operate on the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) service. She departed on her first voyage from New York to Java on March 1940, continuing this until April 1942. From this moment the MS Noordam would be subject to war duties, transporting 70000 servicemen and other individuals to their respective destinations. Converted into a troop transport by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in San Francisco, the ship was made suitable to transport up to 2400 soldiers.

The MS Noordam as troop transport
Fortunately the MS Noordam remained unscathed during wartime, unlike her two sisters MS Zaandam and MS Zuiderdam, sunk by a German submarine the first one and never completed the second one, all due to the war. Having returned to Rotterdam in 1946, the MS Noordam was returned to her original builders to receive a complete restoration. The work that was done on her was so exhaustive that she came out of the refit looking very much like her original condition, even with improvements (from this moment the ship could transport 148 passengers, all in first class). In July 1946 she was ready to return to her regular HAL Trans-Atlantic service from Rotterdam to New York.

The MS Noordam transported many passengers for other seventeen years until she was withdrawn from duties in the early 1963, being sold to Cirlomar of Panama, subsidiary of Costa Line. She had been acquired just to charter her to the French shipping company Messageries Maritimes. She was given a refit as that company required a two-class liner accommodating 106 first-class and 96 tourist-class passengers, and was renamed MV Oceanien. Externally the only differences were the removal of the famed HAL gold ribbon around the hull and a new color scheme: white for the masts and kingposts and black for the funnel. Besides her gross register tonnage would be registered as being 10276 tonnes.

The MV Oceanien departed from Marseilles on her maiden voyage on August 1963, navigating via the Panama Canal towards Tahiti, New Hebrides and New Caledonia. On her second departure from Marseilles she effectuated the same itinerary, but including Sydney (Australia) on the schedule. The MS Noordam remained on the Marseilles-Pacific-Australia service until her final departure from Marseilles on March 1966, after which she was returned to her owner, Cirlomar. This one sought for other companies to charter her, but nobody wanted to take charge of the ship, for she would require too costly remodelations for the new roles required. Thus it was decided to sell her to a Yugoslavian scrapyard in December 1966, being finally scrapped the following year.

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