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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author


Original Port Line badge

Author’s private collection


MS Port Sydney

Later names: Akrotiri Express, Daphne, Switzerland, Ocean Monarch

Currently cruising as the MV Princess Daphne


The John Whitehead Story


The graceful lines of Ms Port Sydney seen at Dunkirk in 1960

A Note by the author of ssMaritime: I am most grateful to ex senior 3rddEngineer of the Port Sydney from October 1959 to March 1960, who also sailed on various other ships during his career, for this excellent three webpage feature containing an excellent insight to this remarkable ship and its daily workings. I am sure that we will all be enlightened as we delve into her engine room as well as other facets of the ship and her daily life. If you have sailed on her late in 1959 or the early 60’s we would love to hear from you, especially if you were a shipmate of John Whitehead.

All images, except for those marked otherwise, were taken and provided by John Whitehead and they are © Copyright. Images may not be copied for any purpose, be it for personal use or for publication. Should you wish to use any of the images shown on this site for a specific reason see the photo notes at the bottom of the page.

Reuben Goossens.

Page One

Life as an Engineer on MS Port Sydney

By John Whitehead


John Whitehead seen in 1960

I joined MS Port Sydney as Senior 3rd engineer in London Tilbury docks in October 1959 in order to gain enough sea time for my chief diesel endorsement ticket having sailed most of my sea time on steam driven ships with Ellerman Lines, and curiously I also sailed on the SS City of Sydney as senior 3rd engineer when this ship was involved on April 1, 1958, in the dramatic rescue of almost 1,300 people from the burning Scandinavian migrant ship MS Skaubryn, which of course is another story!

However, getting back to the MV Port Sydney, I always had an interest in Port Line having served my five year engineering apprenticeship with R&W Hawthorn Leslie and Co Ltd. St. Peters works, on Tyneside, who also built and repaired many of the Port Line ships.

The shapely bow of the Port Sydney – taken whilst in Australia

Yet Port Sydney, a twin screw ship, was built in 1954 by the famed Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson shipyards on the Tyne, which belonged to the group that also comprised the “Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company Ltd,” where the engines were made under license from “Doxford” of Sunderland and these were known as the “Wallsend-Doxford Opposed Piston Oil Engines.”

The Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson’s shipyard at Wallsend on Tyne where Port Sydney was built

The Port Sydney engine room was extremely well managed, and when in port most of the engineers were on day work servicing and inspecting the main engines and the auxiliary plant. Usually at least one main engine cylinder would be opened up, the pistons would be withdrawn and its wear would be measured and bearing clearances checked (using thin lead wire strips which after being flattened after being squeezed between the bearing halves indicated the existing clearance) and crankshaft deflections would also be measured.

Photographs – Engine Room


View across control the platform showing starting air cylinder


The starboard engine control platforms


Above: A good view of one of the four Allen diesel driven generators on board. Usually three of these were running whilst carrying refrigerated cargo at any one time. The fourth generator was normally dismantled and inspected during each voyage

That’s me lifting a generator engine piston whilst on the voyage


An upper platform view located between the main engines. In the middle is a spare piston


My four shipmates & Engineers having a tea break and a laugh in the engine room

Andrew McGregor Snr / Richard A Dow Dall (? engineer) / Peter Nicholson / Ian Walker (? Engineer)


John (on the right), as well as the 5thaand 4thhengineers taking a tea break


The variety of pumps and valves in the engine room


The Fuel Oil pumps operate at 6,000 lbs per sq inch


Main engine lubricators and fuel injectors

The work was heavy, but it was quite straight forward; our boiler suits needed frequent cleaning as oil seemed to get everywhere, especially after working inside the main engine casings.

There was also quite a contrast between the engine room environment and then later in the day, we were expected to be in the dinning room for our evening meal in our uniforms with clean white shirts together with the passengers, unless of course if you managed to be excused and used the engineers mess in which case it was possible to sit at a small white plastic top table for your meal in your boiler suit!

The engineers mess was a crowded small room especially when in port and all the day workers would converge for their tea break, some sitting on the deck as can be seen in the “tea break” photographs.

Tea is served


Char time means serious concentration


Our 5thhengineer celebrates his 21sttBirthday at sea

Our Chief Engineer as I recall was Mr. Linklater who tended to keep very much to himself, and he was rarely seen away from his office, where he spent no doubt most of his time checking the fuel and water consumption figures-etc, thus we did not really get to know him as much as our fellow engineers. At meal times Mr. Linklater tended to be seated at the table with Captain Lawrey, along with some of the passengers.

Chief Engineer Mr Linklater socialises with some passengers in the lounge

Sports deck was wide and spacious as shown in one or two of my photographs, and this encouraged the game of deck quoits with the passengers most afternoons and was frequently led by our Captain. The only problem was (if you can call it a problem) that I was one of the watch keepers in the engine room, at what you might call “odd hours” and my rest period would be at the very time they were playing, thus sleep would be frequently broken by the loud noise of the missed wooden hammer blow on the deck right above my cabin, but this was not the quoits itself! Thus, a lot of sleep would be lost.

Captain Lawrey and passengers enjoying some deck quoits – sports deck starboard


The Captain became such an expert at deck quoits and he challenged the passengers on every voyage


Two crew members are enjoying a game of deck quoits on the aft deck


The Captain’s presentation of prizes won for sport events, etc., always took place in the bar during each voyage


Sports deckport side


 Overlooking her forward decks and holds


A stern view of Port Sydney 


Port Sydney seen arriving in Auckland New Zealand in 1960

Postcard from the ssMaritime collection


Go to the John Whitehead Story - Page Two – Also see the Port Sydney INDEX below for other pages!



Port Sydney lives on as the …

Classic International Cruises

MV Princess Daphne


The classic ship that has become the elegant MV Princess Daphne

From the collection

Port Sydney - INDEX

Part One:                  Read about the history of the Port Sydney

Part Two:                  John Whitehead Story - Page One - Story & photographs by John Whitehead 3rd Engineer 1959/60

                                          John Whitehead Story - Page Two – The story continues

                                          John Whitehead Story - Page Three – Online in the near future

                                  Dave James Story        Page Four Dave an engineer sails home to Australia

Part Three:               Discover her as a modern, but classic cruise ship – (on my cruise site -

Part Four:                 Princess Daphne DECK PLAN - (on my cruise site -

“Classic Ocean Voyages”

Why not Cruise on this Ship, or one of the superb Classic Ships still sailing today

Believe me it is worth it!



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Who is the Author of ssMaritime?

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Where the ships of the past make history & the 1914 built MV Doulos Story


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Save The Classic Liners Campaign & Classic Ocean Voyages pages

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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 on only), in order that due credit may be given. I know what it is like, I have seen a multitude of my own photographs on other sites, yet these individuals either refuse to provide credit or remove them when asked, knowing full well that there is no legal comeback when it comes to the net. However, let us show these charlatans up and do the right thing at all times and give credit where credit is due!

This notice covers all pages, although, and I have done my best to ensure that all photographs are duly credited and that this notice is displaced on each page, that is, when a page is updated!




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