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With Reuben Goossens

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

50-Years in the Passenger Shipping Industry


Companhia Colonial De Navegacao, Lisbon

TS Santa Maria - TS Vera Cruz

This is one of two superb original postcards issued by the company of their two new ships. This is the TN Vera Cruz


Photographs are either from the author’s private collection or those that have been provided to the author by ssMaritime supporters, although the owners are not known. Please read the photo notes at the bottom of this page.

This Portuguese shipping Company already had three fine passenger-cargo liners in service, being the 1947 built 13,196 GRT, TN Patria and 1948 built 13,186 GRT, TN Imperio operating on the Portugal West and East Africa service. Their third ship was the 1954 built 10,001 GRT, MS UIge operating the Portugal, West Africa service. However CCN now decided they now required two larger purpose built passenger liners. These new ships were going to be much larger than any of the ships before them and their design would be quite revolutionary considering they would have what was considered for their day as massive superstructures, with everything above boat deck being constructed of light alloys. This saved a great deal of weight and in due course these ships would prove to be exceptionally steady at sea!

They would be built in Hoboken Belgium by J. Cockerill Ship-building Ltd. The first to be commenced was number 748, the Vera Cruz, and she was launched on June 2, 1951. She was and delivered in February 1952. She commenced on the emigrant service from Lisbon to Santos, but in 1953 she commenced the Lisbon to Buenos Aires service.

The very Cruz is seen here in construction at the J. Cockerill Ship-building Ltd, Hoboken near Antwerp, Belgium

The second of the pair to be built was number 749, the Santa Maria, and she was launched on September 20, 1952, and completed and delivered in September 1953. She together with her sister she operated on the Central America migrant service; But soon she was transferred to the Lisbon to Central America with an additional call at Port Everglades.

This is one of two superb original postcards issued by the company of their two new ships. This is the TN Santa Maria

These two sisters did vary slightly, although not many ship lovers and observers are aware of this fact, however one needs to look closely at the forward superstructure where there is a dramatic difference between the two ships. Vera Cruz has four sets of lounge windows along the side and then it wraps around to the front, whereas the Santa Maria has three sets of windows and is broken by an open deck along the side of the lounge section, making her looking by far the sleeker and more modern looking ship of the two!

Their first class accommodations were particularly luxurious, having a fine range of lounges and excellent staterooms. A Deck (directly under Boat deck) was devoted to public rooms, five First Class venues forward and further Cabin Class aft. First and Cabin Class accommodations were located on the next two decks. First Class offered four magnificent deluxe suites, as well as single bedded cabins, twins and three berth cabins, all having private facilities. Cabin Class offered Twin and four berth Cabins, some with private facilities, but most having shared facilities. Some of the cabins between First and Cabin Class were interchangeable. Each class had their own swimming pool. In addition to the aforementioned accommodations; these ships also has a Tourist Class section aft of the ship offering budget accommodations for migrants as well as dormitories for troops or special student voyages.

Here we see the Santa Maria (left) and Vera Cruz (right) at Tenerife in 1956



TN Santa Maria Photo Gallery

THANK YOU! Second Mate, Carlos Russo Belo who served on the Santa Maria, as well as the Vera Cruz and the delightful Funchal between the years of 1970 and 1973. I am very grateful to Carlos for these interior and fine exterior images! For those who are able to read Portuguese I suggest that you visit his excellent site on the Portuguese fleet of ships at

Carlos took the first four interior images from a brochure, which is followed by one photograph taken at a fancy dress party and an undated “Programme of Events.” Then there are two fine black and white studies, which were taken by Carlos from high up on the radar mast atop of the ships Bridge, whilst standing in the Crows Nest. These two photographs overlook the ship both forward and aft. Thank you Carlos for your excellent efforts and your wonderful site that keeps Portuguese ships alive!

First Class Main Lounge


First Class Dining Room


Tourist Class Lounge and Ballroom


The ships Chapel


Fancy Dress in the First Class Lounge


A fine photograph taken over the bow

Photograph taken by and © Copyright - Carlos Russo Belo


Looking back over the ship and her stylish funnel

Photograph taken by and © Copyright - Carlos Russo Belo







Above are two Issues of a 1958 Schedule for the Santa Maria & Vera Cruz

As well as a 1968 Fare & Sailing Schedule, but only for the Santa Maria

Schedules are with thanks to:


This is a menu from the Santa Maria from a voyage in 1962





Builder:                       J. Cockerill Ship-building Ltd, Hoboken, Belgium.

Built for:                      Companhia Colonial De Navegacao.

Launched:                    Vera Cruz: June 2, 1951.

                                  Santa Maria: September 20, 1952;

Completed:                  Vera Cruz: February 1952.

                                  Santa Maria: September 1953.

Tonnage:                     Vera Cruz: 21,765 GRT (gross registered tons).

                                  Santa Maria: 20,906 GRT.

Length:                        185.9 m / 610 ft.

Width:                         23.1 m / 75.8 ft.

Draught:                      26.4 ft.

Propulsion:                   Parsons Steam Turbines from the builders.

Screws:                       Twin.

Service speed:              20 knots.

Passengers:                  1,296 passengers – as built.

                                  First Class: 150 - Second Class: 250 – Third Class – 232.

                                  Tourist class: 664 passengers.

Crew:                          319.

Port of registry:            Lisbon.

Livery:                         Grey hull, white superstructure, yellow, green and white bands on funnels.

                                  Green boot topping.

Holds:                         4.

This is the way we like to remember these two remarkable luxury Portuguese liners - Vera Cruz looking simply superb!

T.N. Santa Maria.

As many of my readers will well know that it was the TN Santa Maria what made this pair of Portuguese passenger liners famous, for it was the Santa Maria that was hijacked just off the coast of Curacao. At the time the Santa Maria under the command of Captain Mario Simoes Maia, and her primary use was for the colonial trade to Angola and Mozambique, Portugal’s colonies in Africa, and migrant trade to Brazil. Her ports of call were as follows: Lisbon via Madeira, Tenerife, to La Guairá. Then via Curacao to Havana (later it would be to San Juan), and finally Port Everglades and back to Lisbon. The average trade for this gray-hulled liner was mostly migrants to Venezuela as well as general passenger traffic, especially the luxury First and Cabin Class trade.

Santa Maria arrives in Lisbon

But it would be on Monday, January 22, 1961, at 01.30 in the morning when the biggest ever shipboard hijack occurred as the Santa Maria was taken hostage by a 66 year old “Captain Henrique Galvao”, who was a passenger on board and an ex Portuguese military (Navy) officer and political foe of Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar and the head of the “Estado Novo” regime. He had a team of 24 Portuguese and Spanish rebels who were operating from a base in Venezuela. As soon as the ship was in the control of the hijackers, it was announced that the ship had officially been taken over by the rebels and as the hijack continued, it became more and more apparent by all onboard that the ship there was a new captain on board who was in control, but it was certainly not the ships Captain Mario Simoes!

Later it became obvious that most of captain Galvao’s conspirators had come aboard in La Guairá Venezuela, bringing aboard their suitcases all of which had secret compartments that hid their weapons. The last of the team came aboard in Curacao either as passengers with their special luggage, or in order to save money by pretending to be friends and family members of the captain, being there just to visit and to wave good bye. But when the Santa Maria departed they had hidden themselves aboard with his assistance, all part of many months planning. In addition captain Galvao had arranged for a young lady to work as a telephone operator on board the ship for this specific job. During her voyages on the Santa Maria she had memorized all the ships communications details and systems and noted the stations taken by the crew during their night watches. She when he and his party had joined the ship in La Guairá she reported back all her findings to the captain and his men. But the Galvao and his rebels waited until the Santa Maria departed Curacao for the attack and seizure of the ship which was quite violent as the ships officers resisted fiercely!

Henrique Galvao and his terrorists seized the ship in the early morning, and ensured that they ceased all communications. During the fight they killed one officer, being the 3rd Mate, Mr. Nascimento Costa and wounded several others in the process of taking complete command over this luxury liner. The rebels forced crew members, along with Captain Mario Simoes Maia to take the ship on a new course.

After the seizure of the Santa Maria, that just took just 10 minutes, Henrique Galvao summoned the passengers and some of the crew to the First Class lounge where the situation was explained to them in Portuguese and Spanish, with a few details added in English. Henrique Galvao concluded this meeting by playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture on ships public address system as a sign of celebration! Although all this seems rather tame, yet one of the passengers stated that all passengers at one time were held at gunpoint in the dining room.

At the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia, those who had been injured during the battle during the seizure of the ship were place into a lifeboat, which was manned by six sailors and a nurse. The Santa Maria simply steamed away leaving the lifeboat and headed into the Atlantic.

Soon enough Henrique Galvao commenced to send his radio messages being his “official communiqués” against the Salazar, and Franco Governments in Portugal and Spain and he did this all in a rather flowery and beautiful Portuguese language as he was known to be a “poet” and he addressed it to the: “Democratic newspapers and radio stations of the free World.” In the meantime the whereabouts of the ship was unknown, but a massive sea and air search commenced.

Portugal quickly demanded action against Captain Henrique Galvao, but for some reason Britain and America hesitated to act. Internationally the matter was a difficult situation (WHY?) for Governments to deal with, but, can a hijack of a passenger liner ever be condoned, no matter the reason? I believe that both Britain and the USA should be ashamed and condemned for they should have acted immediately!

A British frigate did see the Santa Maria somewhere in the Atlantic and kept her in view, but for some reason they did not report here whereabouts, and then they “lost sight of her.” U.S. destroyers combed the area completely but they could find “nothing.” Both of these could be considered as a crime in maritime law, as they did not want to get involved and considering that already a life had been lost and people injured, they had a duty to protect innocent passengers on this ship!! The Santa Maria remained lost somewhere on the Atlantic and the evil Henrique Galvao continued to broadcast from the Santa Maria his so-called official “communiqués to the free press.”

Then, 10 days later it would be an old Danish steamer (thank God for the Danes!) that was slowly sailing along a normal shipping lane, reported that they had just met the Portuguese Liner, Santa Maria and had “exchanged greetings with her and Captain Galvao.” Finally the liner had been found again. Apparently she was off the coast Recife, Brazil and soon enough a Rear Admiral on board the USS Gearing would be negotiating with Henrique Galvao out at sea.

As this was a major world news story, news personnel from around the world had very quickly converged on Recife. They and their interpreters soon converged upon the USS Gearing that was still tied up dockside and she was about to set to sail to meet up with the Santa Maria not far from port now and negotiate with Henrique Galvao.

Upon arrival USS Gearing stopped a few miles off shore and some 500 yards starboard from the Santa Maria. Sailors, marines, the media together with their Brazilian interpreters at their side continued to watch, wait to see what was going to happen.

Here we see a newspaper clipping of the USS Gearing moving around the Santa Maria during negotiations

However, another interesting event took place that day, it goes like this: “A fool from the French magazine “Paris Match,” rented the equivalent of a Piper Cub after missing the Gearing's departure, and parachuted into the shark infested waters between both ships with the even more foolish intent of trying to land on the liner's forecastle.” Well, his idiotic effort was presumed to scoop the mob of reporters who were already on scene, but instead he made himself the biggest fool of all! He was retrieved from the water safely while Marines were assigned to control the exuberant, pushing and rubber-necking concerned-citizens-of-the-world reporters who were getting a little too close to the Gearing's life-lines.

USS Gearings motor launch approached the Santa Maria to speak with Captain Galvao

In order to solve the situation the Brazilian government who for a long time had opposed Antonio Salazar in Portugal, announced that should Henrique Galvao wish to enter Brazilian waters, he and his men would be granted political asylum, which is what then happened. Passengers and crew were landed at Recife, Brazil and the liner was given back to her owners in Portugal. Captain Henrique Galvao decided to surrender the ship without any further mayhem.

Captain Henrique Galvao may have been a colourful and in some ways an interesting person. In addition he had been a brave Navy man, a politician, poet, playwright, pamphleteer and a writer with a considerable amount of work published mainly on African themes. For 20 years Galvao had served as an Inspector General in the Portuguese colony of Angola, in West Africa. In this official capacity Galvao had chronicled abuses committed against the Africans by the Portuguese Government, under the leadership of Premier Antonio Salazar. Galva’s writings irritated Salazar and finally Galvao was arrested for treason and jailed.

In jail, Henrique Galvao continued to write and smuggle pamphlets out. This caused his jail sentence to be added an extra 12 years. However, by feigning illness in jail, he was admitted to a Lisbon hospital. Disguised as a medical doctor, Henrique Galvao managed to walk away from this hospital and disappear from Portugal. Later he turned up in South America, first in Argentina, later in Venezuela joining other exiles in the Portuguese Liberation Movement. But, in my book he was simply evil, for there is no justification in terrorism and murder, no matter what, thus he will always remain a terrorist and responsible of murder and the wounding of a peaceful passenger liner’s crew!

Santa Maria returns to Companhia Colonial De Navegacao:

The ship was returned to her owners in Recife and she returned to Lisbon just with her crew. Having returned to Lisbon, she had her lifeboat restored and the Santa Maria soon returned to her regular services and continued a rather uneventful life at sea!

Santa Maria seen in Vigo in 1966

Santa Maria’s Final Years:

The Santa Maria later resumed her Florida-Caribbean sailings, but inevitably she grew older and, like her sister and most passenger liners of her time became less and less profitable, mostly due to the increased competition with the arrival of the Jumbo Jet, the 747!

Santa Maria arrived at Lisbon in April 1973 suffering engine troubles. The company decided that major repairs would have been impractical. With temporary repairs, she departed a month later on a cargo only voyage to Luanda and Lourenco Marques. She carried general cargo as well as a few dozen cars, many of which were stowed on deck. Once she had arrived at Lourenco Marques, she was given another duty to as she was to tow two small company freighters to a scrap yard in Mauritius.

Thereafter, she herself sailed empty, with a token crew to Taiwan, where she arrived in Kaohsiung on July 19, 1973, was scrapped. It was the end for Portugal’s beautiful TN Santa Maria, the ship I though the prettiest of the two!

T.N. Vera Cruz.

The Vera Cruz story is far less remarkable mostly due to the fact that she was not hijacked, and thus the Santa Maria sort of stole the show from her. But it should not be forgotten that she served her country well for a good number of years.

In 1960 the Vera Cruz was placed on the Lisbon to Angola service, but after the disturbances there the next year she was used mostly as a troop transport ship. She continued to sail and operate both as a passenger ship and a troop ship.

Vera Cruz is seen here at anchor

As it will be noted from the two schedules above that “Companhia Colonial De Navegacao” tended to place the TN Santa Maria before of the TN Vera Cruz. This was mostly due to her being considered the newer ship of the two but also as the better looking ship with her superior forward superstructure and pleasant interiors, etc. In addition, with the Portuguese being very much a Roman Catholic nation, how could you possibly place the name Santa Maria (Holy Mary) below Vera Cruz, the name of a Mexican city?

The Vera Cruz is seen here on one of her last voyages

However this superb Portuguese liner, the Vera Cruz continued sailing until times became uneconomical and she was finally sold to the breakers in early 1973. She headed for Taiwan and arrived in Kaohsiung on April 19, 1973 to be broken up.

Here we see both the Vera Cruz and the Santa Maria (both on the right) at the Kaohsiung breakers in 1973


Let us always remember sheer Maritime Beauty and this was Portuguese shipping at its very best!


This is a fine colour photograph of the Vera Cruz berthed in Lisbon – What a wonderful way to remember these ships!


Also read: TS Infante Dom Henrique & SS Funchal


View a wonderful presentation on YouTube on these two fine ships


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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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