SS Principessa Giovanna 1923, renamed San Giorgio in 1947

Please Note: Firefox and some other search engines are not suitable – Use “Internet Explorer” for this page to load perfectly!

Click the logo above to reach the ssMaritime FrontPage for News Updates & “Ship of the Month”


With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Maritime Lecturer

Please Note: All ssMaritime and my other related ssMaritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any cruise or shipping companies or travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960 and is now semi-retired, but continues and I hope that the well over 675 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers ships I have written on will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts and continue a great deal of information and pleasure!

Lloyd Sabaudo / Italia Line & Lloyd Triestino

SS Principessa Giovanna & San Giorgio

Also the … SS Principessa Maria


SS Principessa Giovanna seen as built departing Taranto Italy

The Principessa Giovanna was built by “Cantieri Navale Franco Tosi” at Taranto and she was launched on April 24, 1923 and completed in 1923. She was owned by the Lloyd Sabaudo of Genoa.

The ships is seen being launched on April 24, 1923

The Ship:

SS Principessa Giovanna looked like a typical passenger-cargo liner, a ship that has a low white superstructure placed amidships, although her bridge remained in the traditional dark timbers, she had a black hull with a vertical bow. Amidships there was that single straight, tall black funnel having two narrow blue/green bands and one wider white band between them. She also had her two tall majestic masts as well as kingposts with their derricks servicing her holds.

She and her sister, the SS Principessa Maria built at the same time were a typical cargo liners, but were designed for the South American service and accommodate 400 migrants in the ‘tween deck being known as “Third Class.” The ships five holds were capable of being able to carry a good 5,100 tonnes of cargo, which included refrigerated goods.

Her engines consisted of two groups of minimal backlash a double gear ratio built by the ship builders giving her a top speed up to 15 knots. This allowed her to reach Sydney Australia, having departed Genoa sailing via the Suez Canal, having to refuel just once at Aden.

This Ships History:

SS Principessa Giovanna departed Genoa in August 1923 packed with migrants and cargo bound for the Australian ports of Fremantle, (Perth - Western Australia), Melbourne (Victoria) and Sydney (New South Wales). Once all passengers had left the ship in Sydney, she took on cargo at the various ports and returned home as a cargo ship only!

The Principessa Giovanna is seen just having been completed and on her way to Australia

The SS Principessa Maria followed her sister soon after and this is recorded by and announcement in the “The West Australian” (Perth) Newspaper Shipping Movements Report when on January 17, 1924 it made the following announcement; “Principessa Maria, Lloyd Sabaudo Line; arrived at Fremantle yesterday afternoon on her maiden voyage to Australia from Italy. The Principessa Maria, a sister ship to the Principessa Giovanna set ashore a small parcel of general cargo at Fremantle and was scheduled to have cleared for the Eastern states at midnight.” Thus she had arrived on January 16, and departed at midnight, the 17th.

Both the Principessa Giovanna and Maria continued on the Australian service until 1925 when they were both transferred to the South American service.

Italia Flotte Riunite:

With changes happening within Italian shipping, in 1932 Lloyd Sabaudo merged that would see their ships merge with other Italian companies into “Italia Flotte Riunite” or “Italy’s joined fleet,” but they were operated under the heading of the “Italia Line.” All ships from both fleets were transferred to this one company!

This is an early photograph of the Principessa Giovanna after her refit

No sooner had the transfer taken place and the Princess Giovanna and Maria were given not just a rebuild, but also a good interior refit, that included their accommodations being enlarged to 700 migrants in Third Class, as well as much-needed upgrades to their public rooms, etc.

As far was the exteriors was concerned, the shelter deck was stretched both forward and far aft as well as the forward superstructure received some work. Additional double stacked lifeboats were added to handle the additional passengers. The ships were painted all white, however the biggest external change was that they now had two yellow two funnels with two blue and one white band’s. However, the aft funnel was a dummy as it only contained some ventilation systems and storage.

SS Principessa Maria seen soon after her rebuild

Having been completed both the Principessa Giovanna and Maria returned to their regular services between Italy and South America. Then in 1935 during the Abyssinian Campaign the Principessa Giovanna was temporally used as a troopship with having made any modifications to her whatsoever.

A superb view of the ship as she departs with family and friend ashore and passengers on board waving

SS Principessa Giovanna & World War II:

This was a time that affected all nations of the world as ships would be drafted into various navies to serve as supply, troop, or hospital ships and all required considerable rebuilding in various ways depending on their required duties as interior refits.

In November 1940 the Principessa Giovanna was commissioned by the Italian Government for the “conveyance of strategic material,” and later as a troopship in North Africa.

However, in January 1943, she was converted to become a hospital ship. But on May 6, 1943, whilst sailing near the Island of Zembra, close of Cape Bon (Tunisia), she was heavily bombed suffering 54 dead and 52 missing; in addition the ship suffered significant damage. However, the ship managed to limp back to Naples and Trieste where she entered a shipyard where repairs were undertaken. Upon completion, she headed back out to sea.

In all the Principessa Giovanna made thirteen voyages caring for and transporting thousands of wounded soldiers back home from the various fronts.

On September 8, 1943 she was at Ancona, Italy when the Italian surrender was announced, thus the Principessa Giovanna departed at once bound for British held Malta.

In 1944 SS Principessa Giovanna was officially seized by the Royal British Navy and she returned to duties as a British hospital ship and later as a troopship, reregistered in the UK and flying the British flag!

The British Hospital Ship HMHS Principessa Giovanna

SS San Giorgio:

With the war having long ended, in 1946 the British finally returned the hospital ship Principessa Giovanna to her owners, the Italia Line in Italy. Upon arrival she headed for the shipyards in Genoa where restoration could begin to restore her again to a passenger-cargo liner!  The work was completed in 1947, and on January 20, 1947 she was renamed San Giorgio.

Here we see the just completed SS San Giorgio arrive at Naples

SS San Giorgio departed on her first voyage from Genoa to South America full of migrants In Italia Line livery.

SS Principessa Maria:

You may have wondered, what has happened to the SS Principessa Maria, for she has not been mentioned since the start of WW2, well there is a very hood reason for this, and the details below will provide you will all the details!

SS Principessa Maria operated together with her sister ship the Principessa Giovanna to Australia as well as to South America. Likewise in 1932 she was also transferred to the new management and Italia Line and received the same refit and the two funnels. However, at the outbreak of the WW2 in 1940 she happened to be at Buenos Aires and it was decided to keep her there for safety and lay her up. However, the next year, in 1941 it was decided to sell her to the Argentinean Government who required a ship and they renamed her “Rio de la Plata.” Her hull was painted to look like the blue, white, blue Argentinean flag, and there where four huge panels along each side of her hull that had large lettering that said: “Rio de la Plata - Buenos Aires,” which was to protect her just in case German U-Boats or warships being in the region foe Argentina was an ally of Germany! She was placed on the Buenos Aires to Los Angeles service, which remained a popular route!

The ex SS Principessa Maria seen as the wartime, clearly marked - SS Rio de la Plata

However, sadly just three years later on August 18, 1944 SS Rio de la Plata caught fire whilst at anchor in Acapulco Bay, Mexico and she was completely gutted and deemed to total loss and she had partially sunk and was deemed a wreck. Apparently all passengers and crew were recued, although there is no actual information available.

Australian Services Return:

In 1952, it was decided that there was a need for more ships sailing to Australia, as the migrant trade was huge, thus the Principessa Giovanna was transferred to Lloyd Triestino who already had other ships operating on the Australian service.

SS San Giorgio three voyages to Australia in 1952, as follows; she departed Trieste on February 17, bound for Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney, where she arrived on April 6.

The Lloyd Triestino liner SS San Giorgio seen arriving in Sydney

Her next departure was June 18, and this was followed, what turned out to be the ships very last passenger voyage ever as she departed Trieste on October 10, sailing via Naples, Port Said, Colombo, Fremantle, Melbourne, arriving Sydney on December 28. She departed Sydney on November 1 and arrived in Melbourne on December 3 and finally departing Fremantle Australia for the very last time ever on December 11, 1952 and she returned to Trieste.

Here we see the San Giorgio being towed to her berth in Melbourne

Although, technically she had been scheduled to operate one more voyage in 1953, but this never eventuated, for upon her return from Australia she was laid up at Trieste and she remained there for most of 1953, until December when she was sold to an Italian ship breaker. Soon she left Trieste under her own steam and she arrived at the breakers Savona Yards on December 30, 1953 and she was broken up in 1954.


Tonnage:……………….8585 GRT -  8.955 GRT from 1932.

Length:………………….140.1m - 469ft.

Width:……………………18.7m - 59ft.

Draft:…………………….9.89m - 29.6ft.

Propulsion:……………2 X Double minimal backlash Geared Turbines by the builder.

Power:…………………..6,600 BHP.


Speed:…………………..14 knots.

Passengers:…………..400 - 700 passengers from 1926.



The original SS Principessa Giovanna is seen departing Taranto



Visit our ssMaritime Main INDEX

Where you will discover more than 675 Classic Passenger & Cargo-Passenger Liners! &

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


Also visit my

Save The Classic Liners Campaign


Please Note: ssmaritime and associated sites are 100% non-commercial and the author seeks no funding or favours of any shape or form, never have and never will!

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.

ssMaritime is owned & Copyright by Reuben Goossens - All Rights Reserved