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With Reuben Goossens

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


Introduction Page

This ZIM feature covers all of their passenger liners, from their first ship in 1947 to the day ZIM ceased its passenger operations 1969. ZIM passenger liners were as follows: SS Kedmah, SS Negbah, SS Galilah and SS Artza, SS Jerusalem (1), SS Israel, Zion, Jerusalem (2), Theodor Herzl, SS Shalom & MS Moledet.

Some pre ZIM Lines history.

The famed SS Exodus was originally built in 1911 for Chesapeake Steamship Company, but she became best known as the luxurious night boat, the SS President Warfield for the “Baltimore Steam Packet Co’s (Old Bay Line) that operated an overnight service between Baltimore and Norfolk.

SS President Warfield

From the author’s private collection

In June 1942 she was acquired by the War Shipping Administration (WSA) and was refitted to become a transport vessel for the British Ministry of War Transport and she was fully manned by a British crew.

After the war, on November 9, 1946 the ship had well and truly come to the end of her days as she was well worn and WSA decided to sell the President Warfield to “Potomac Shipwrecking Co” of Washington, D.C. However, it turned out that they were acting as an agent on behalf of a Jewish organisation known as HaHagana, which was associated in assisting with its associated organisations in assisting in bringing European refugees back home to their ancient homeland of Israel, which the Romans had renamed Palestine some 2000 years back. The SS President Warfield was renamed SS Exodus in 1947, using the name from the departure of the great biblical Exodus from Egypt.

The famed refugee ship - SS Exodus

Please Note: The story associated in the movie of the same name and the actual event has little in common!

From the University of Jerusalem Library collection

She departed the port of Sete in France on July 11, 1947, and she arrived off the shore of Palestine on July 18 with some 4,515 refugees onboard. However, the British had been shadowing the Exodus and awaited its arrival and halted a well-laid plan. I suggest that t=you read the story further and I am sure that it is available online! The ship was eventually sold to be broken up

The ex President Warfield had been taken to Haifa and was laid up there and she was very much a derelict vessel until she finally burned right down to the waterline on August 26, 1952. It was not until 1963 until it was decided to have the hull section towed to Shemen Beach near Haifa, where they raised her hull and an Italian firm scrapped the remains of the now famed SS Exodus, and once luxurious SS President Warfield in 1963.

The Birth of ZIM

In 1947 a special holiday was declared throughout the then British-ruled Palestine. It was all because of a small 2,499 GRT steamship. As she approached Tel Aviv's tiny harbour, thousands of men and women, among them future leaders of Israel, began to cheer, for this ship arriving was the SS Kedmah, which commenced a whole new maritime era.

ZIM Lines was incorporated in 1945 by the Jewish Agency, the Labour Federation and the Israel Maritime League. The company was led by Dr. Naftali Vydra, a man of vision who together with his cohorts were not seamen.

ZIM faced the daunting challenge of bringing thousands of immigrants to the pre-State of Israel, despite the fact there were almost no passenger ships available. The company’s early fleet included vessels that were used for clandestine “legal” and “illegal” immigration. After the Holocaust, in 1948, the State of Israel was reborn, since the nation had been invaded by armies over the centuries, including the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, the Ottoman Empire and finally, England. On May 14, 1948, the Biblical State of Israel rose up from the ashes and soon ZIM was about to become the start of what is now a massive modern shipping company, officially named the “ZIM Israel navigation Company.”

After the establishment of the State of Israel ZIM’s primary concern was to meet the demands of the unforeseen pressure for immigration. In the days immediately following the Declaration of Independence, the vessels which had carried “illegal” immigrants, caught by the British during their Mandate in Palestine, were reactivated by the same men who were previously in charge of that “illegal immigration” and they continued transporting the now legal immigrants. These vessels came under a newly formed company simply named "Ships & Vessels." The first Minister of Transport, David Remez decided that it was necessary to build up one large National Shipping Line, and with his active assistance "Ships & Vessels" and ZIM officially merged on August 15, 1948. The ships of both companies were then operated by the "Shoham Maritime Services Ltd," a wholly owned ZIM subsidiary.


The ZIM Ships and their background

Straits Steamship Co Liner, SS Kedah

From the author’s private collection

SS Kedah

ZIM's first passenger ship, the SS Kedmah, entered service in 1947. She transported passengers and immigrants to the State of Israel, from Genoa and Marseilles and continued in service for ZIM until 1952.

Here we see SS Kedah with her upper hull portal’s open during hot weather

Conditions, whilst she was sailing in the tropics!

These were later sealed when she was sold to ZIM Lines

From the author’s private collection

The SS Kedmah had her beginnings back in 1926, when the Straits Steamship Company, being an associate of the famed Blue Funnel Line, decided to build a ship designed especially for the express tropical service, sailing between Singapore and Penang. Until then the company had operated various smaller vessels which were their main, if not their only connection, between the many small ports in the region. The specifications put down by the company were quite a challenge to marine architects and only three firms offered tenders for her construction. The contract to build her was placed with Vickers shipyards, of Barrow. She was launched by Lady Maxwell on July, 16, 1927, and named Kedah after the Malaysian province in which she was meant to operate. Her specifications were 2,499 gross tons.

SS Kedah had two passenger decks, three holds and hatchways and 6 steam-driven cranes and a double bottom that extended the entire length of the ship. She was powered by two single turbine steam engines, and with her twin screws this gave her a respectable speed of 18 knots. The Kedah commenced service in 1927 and she quickly became a popular ship in the region and was nicknamed the “Little Queen of Malacca Straits,” and there a special anchorage was marked on charts of Singapore as “Kedah’s anchorage.” Painted all white, with just four mahogany coloured lifeboats, she was an impressive looking small ship. Amidships she accommodated 80 first-class passengers, as well as up to 960 deck passengers.

War Time Duties

SS Kedah, armed auxiliary vessel number FY035

Photograph courtesy of Mrs. Harman, and taken by Second officer Dick Harman

In December 1939, SS Kedah was requisitioned by the Royal Navy as an armed auxiliary vessel number FY035. The Navy made various changes, which included the top section of the funnel being removed; also new taller masts were erected, as well as being armed with two 4-inch guns and one 3 inch. Anti-aircraft gun. Depth charge launchers were placed on the after deck. She served in the north of Borneo and was used as an evacuation ship, prior the fall of Singapore. One her last sailing out of Singapore she was under constant attack from the air, but remained undamaged, thanks to the brilliant seamanship of captain, J.L. Sinclair. However, with bombs falling close to her hull, the massive vibrations damaged her engines and she could only manage a speed of 7 knots. In Batavia, although in urgent need of overhaul, she was ordered to sail to Tjilatjap Indonesia, to take onboard the staff of General Wavell, and some 400 refugees, and take them to Colombo Ceylon. But, she was once again attacked by air, after which her machinery failed completely. She was towed the rest of the way by H.M.S. Dragon. She arrived in Colombo on March 9, where she was fully refitted. Thereafter, she spent the next two years operating in the Bay of Bengal. But in 1945 she was chosen to be the headquarters for the General Staff during the invasion of Malaya. For this purpose she was suitably fitted out with an array of radio equipment. On September 5, 1945, "Kedah" was the first ships to re-enter Singapore, flying the flag of rear admiral J. A.V. Morse, and carrying the combined operations staff, senior officers of the British military and the chairman of the Singapore Harbour Board, all in all, a dramatic and historic moment.

On her way back to England, she remained in Malta for a while serving as an accommodation ship. In 1946 she returned to Barrow for a comprehensive repairs and a refit. The Straits Steamship Company had no further need for the old girl, having received a substantial compensation from the Navy.

SS Kedmah - Israel’s first official passenger liner

The newly rebuilt SS Kedmah, the pride of the Nation of Israel

From the author’s private collection

Whilst still under repair after the war, she was sold, for 75,000 UK pounds, to Harris and Dixon of London, who were representing Palestinian interests, which was later disclosed as being the ZIM Palestine Navigation Company. After taking possession of the ship, she was taken to Antwerp for further refitting. She was renamed Kedmah, and with the refit completed her accommodations had been greatly enlarged. She was now listed as being 3,504 GRT.


The Bridge of the Kedmah

From the author’s private collection

On July 28, 1947, SS Kedmah arrived at Tel Aviv, with Captain Eliezer Aczel in command, as there were intense national emotions, considering there were enthusiastic anticipation for Israel’s first very own passenger liner’s arrival. All the newspapers headlines, as well as the speeches given by the leaders of the Jewish Community, testify to the great symbolic value attached to the SS Kedmah. She was called “the first Hebrew ship.” And though there were vessels owned by Palestinian Jews before her, there was no other ship owned by a national company with a national livery and National colours on her funnel that included stars of David on it, being an integral part of the Jewish struggle for the restoration of their independent state. In May 1948, the ZIM Palestine Navigation Company was renamed ZIM Israel Navigation Company.

 SS Kedmah see berthed during her early days as a ZIM liner

Photograph provided by Yael G. Spier Jnr and was taken by a family member

Countless thousands of Jewish settlers and general passengers sailed from Marseilles and Genoa to Haifa. Jews were keen to go and settle in “Eretz Yisroel” – the “Land of Israel,” and she would return to the east with tourists. Other passengers would be students and pilgrims to the “Holy Land” heading off for pilgrimage tours, which were very popular! At times she also operated cruises.

Here we see a Mother and child topside of the Kedmah bound for Israel

Photograph was sent in by a supporter – Photographer is unknown, please see photo notes at the bottom of the page!

SS Kedmah was a very popular ship both with the public as with the heads of state. Israel's first president, Mr. Chaim Weizman, began a tradition of vacation cruises on board the flagship of then Israeli Merchant Marine. Her First Class accommodations were exceptionally pleasant and there were fine lounges and dinning room, with spacious decks! The Tourist Class also was well looked after, but there was a section that had larger accommodations suitable for families! Yet there was a lounge, smoking room and dinning room and all Kosher of course, as per the Jewish custom!

Captain Eliezer L. Aczel.

I received an email recently from a Mr. Amir D. Aczel who provided me with some information regarding his late Father who was a well-known ZIM Lines Captain. I felt that his story was worthwhile including on these pages and thus his details are below. These have been sourced in part from his email and from what I have gained from Mr. Aczel’s personal webpage and I have combined as much of the story as possible.

“My Father was Captain Eliezer Ladislas Aczel and he was a captain throughout ZIM’s entire period of operation serving on their passenger fleet. He served as the first captain on the company’s first official passenger ship that commenced in service with ZIM in July 1947, being the 3,504 ton (GRT), SS Kedmah and later he served on both the 9,855 GRT SS Israel built in 1955, as well as the 1957 built 9,914 GRT SS Theodor Herzl. He was also the captain of the delightful 7,811 GRT, 1961 built, MS Moledet for some time.

Captain Aczel and famous French-Italian songstress ‘Dalida’ on board his ship

Photograph provided by Amir D. Aczel

During WW 2, Captain Aczel had done many heroic acts whilst he had been working with the Allies, for which he had won a good number of medals! But one of the worst things he had to do was he once successfully delivered a baby on board his ship, something he said he would never wish to do again! During his lifetime my Father was known simply as ‘Captain Aczel’ and his ships ploughed throughout the Mediterranean during the 1950s and 1960s many of these were by then mostly popular cruises, departing Haifa and sailing to Piraeus, Naples, Marseille and Barcelona. On some years Venice would be included in the itinerary. Then at other times the ships would sail to Rhodes, Monte Carlo as well as the Balearic Islands and other jewels around the Mediterranean!”

Thus it seems to be quite clear that there is no doubt that Captain Eliezer L. Aczel must have made Israeli maritime history in a good many ways, as well during the war years, but he loved being a Captain during peacetime and commanding a good number of fine ZIM Lines passenger ships!

She is seen just berthing during her latter years

SS Kedah / Kedmah Specifications:

Built at: Vickers Shipbuilding Ltd, Barrow-in-Furness, UK in 1927 as the SS Kedah.

Launched: July, 16, 1927 by Lady Maxwell.

Tonnage: 2,499 GRT (Gross Registered Tons).

Length: 100.6m - 330ft.

Breadth: 15.24m - 50ft.

Draught: 4.7m - 15.5ft.

Propulsion: Parsons single-reduction steam turbines. 6,200 S.H.P.

Screws: Twin.

Speed: 18 knots.

Passengers: Kedah had 80 First class passengers & up to 960 deck Passengers.

A Kedmah

Owners: Straits Steamship Company 1927 - 1947.

Kedem Israel Line Ltd (ZIM) - Harris and Dixon - 1947 - 1952.

Harris and Dixon – 1952 - 1956.

Port of Registry: London 1927 to 1948, Haifa in 1948 to 1952 and London 1952 to 1957.

SS Kedmah’s Final days:

In 1952, ZIM and Harris & Dickson decided to terminate their partnership and Harris & Dickson purchased the part of ZIM and on November 2, 1952 the ship SS Kedmah was once again transferred to the British flag once more. She was renamed Golden Isles and she operated on Mediterranean cruises.

Then in 1954 ZIM Israel chartered her for a number of voyages between Marseille and Haifa. During the first voyage, whilst sailing from Haifa to Marseille, she took part in the rescue operation of the French liner the SS Champollion that had ran aground and foundered close to Beirut. The crew of the ship saved 186 passengers. In 1955 the ship was laid up in Genoa, but the very next year in 1956 she was sold and scrapped in 1957 in England.

The SS Kedah, Kedmah, Golden Isles sailed operated for a good 30 years. During these years, her silhouette and photo appeared on two postal stamps. First in 1980 on the 1$ stamp of Singapore, which had been issued within a set of ships stamps, and second time in 1995 on a 4.40 shekel Israeli stamp issued on the occasion of 50th anniversary of ZIM Lines. In Haifa two models of her exist, one is located in the National Nautical Museum and the other in a small museum of ZIM’s company's premises.

Reuben Goossens.



SS Negbah


SS Negbah seen in her final livery, looking good with her white hull

The SS Negbah was originally built by the Royal de Schelde yards in Vlissingen the Netherlands in 1915 as the SS Ecuador for the Royal West Indian Mail Service, Amsterdam and they took delivery of her in October that year.

The short lived Dutch liner, SS Ecuador seen in 1915

However she was placed on the market and sold and in January 1916 the Pacific Mail Steamship Company of New York obtained her and placed her in service without having to make any changes, being a brand new ship and they retained her original name.

She is seen here as the SS Santa Olivia

1931 she was transferred to Grace Line to become the SS Santa Olivia, but in 1936 sold to Libby, McNeill & Libby & Co who renamed her SS David W. Branch and used her on the Alaskan canneries service.

With the United States having finally joined the rest of the world and joined World War II, the SS David W. Branch was refitted in 1941 to become a troopship and she was commissioned upon completion by the U.S. Army. She served well in her new role as well as survived various dangerous situations during the war. When she was no longer required as a troopship she was restored to being a passenger ship and was returned to her owners who immediately sold her in 1947 to Cia Victoria de Vapores of Panama, who renamed her SS Luxor.

But the now new and growing Israeli ZIM Lines was looking to obtain good ships for their fleet and in 1948 they obtained her and had her completely refitted in the Netherlands at the same shipyards that originally built her to turn her into a handsome three class migrant/tourist liner. Her tonnage was 5,544 GRT, with a length of 380ft and a beam of 48ft. With her steam engines and single-screw she originally operated at 14 knots, but after her refit she would operate at an average of 11.5 knots. She was able to accommodate up to 1,350 passengers and some 1,000 tons of general cargo. She was officially named SS Negbah and received the Israeli flag on board on October 26, 1948. Negbah operated on a multi class system, Cabin, Tourist, Third and a Dormitory class. Later they also added First class with three rooms on C Deck, two deluxe suites and a deluxe cabin all with private facilities.

The Negbah is seen in her early days with ZIM still having a black hull


 Negbah ready for departure

SS Negbah operated generally the same schedule as SS Kedmah however, being 14 years older than the Kedmah, the Negbah proved to be the far superior and more reliable ship at all times. Some said that it was the precision of Dutch engineering! During her time with ZIM she had two extensive refits of her public facilities and her passenger accommodations were always fresh and bright!

The Negbah is seen here in port offloading luggage

A Deck (Boat Deck) this was topside and the best location for quiet sun baking and sport activities.

B Deck was fully occupied by Cabins Class - Forward: there were 17 cabins they had from two, three or four berths, but all cabins on board had a window or a porthole, none on this deck had private facilities. Public bathrooms were available nearby. Aft on this deck, located in one huge space, but somewhat divided, was the First/Cabin Class Bar, Lounge and Smoking Room that was surrounded by large windows on three sides of the room providing a superb view out over the sea and the stern of the ship. Outside there was a full walk around covered Promenade Deck.

Cabin Class two berth cabin on B Deck

C Deck had two classes occupy it, First Class and Tourist Class, but both classes shared the same public venues and dinning room and deck space, the only differences was their accommodations. On the starboard side there were two deluxe suites complete with spacious full bathrooms, with a tub, shower, etc. Alongside these two suites there was also one deluxe two berth cabin with private facilities. All other 12 cabins on this deck were Tourist Class and were from two berths to four berth cabins none with facilities. Forward was the main lobby and stairwell and the Pursers Office which led into the First, Cabin and Tourist Class Dining Room featuring windows on her three walls overlooking the ocean at the side and her bow.

The First, Cabin and Tourist Class Dining Room


Buffet in the C Deck Dining Room


There was just one Deluxe two berth cabin with facilities on C Deck as well as two twin bedded suites

D Deck has 19 Third Class cabins located on the port side, varying from two, four to six berth cabins. In addition located inside aft there is one of the smaller dormitories with 20 bunks, Far forward was the Third Class and Dormitory Dinning Room, whist further forward again was the only bathing facilities for the seven dormitories on board. Thus it would have been a long walk for two dormitories located aft on this and down E Deck, but at least the bathroom was located directly above two large dormitories that was located forward on E Deck.

The Third Class and Dormitory Dining Room

E Deck as already indicated had the four dormitories aft, with the engine room amidships and two huge dormitories located forward. They all shared the Third Class Dining Room, but according the ships plan I have, I cannot locate any additional Lounges on board. Thus the only public venues are the ones up on B Deck, and they were shared by Cabin and Tourist, it is possible that Third Class may have also shared this facility. But I doubt if migrants in the dormitories would be permitted up there and they would have spent their time in the dinning room or out on deck for their entertainment.

A 1954 SS Negbah brochure containing fares and a sailing schedule as seen below

In due course with the ZIM’s massive rebuilding programme of an excellent fleet of fine modern ships the SS Negbah became obsolete, but she had served the company and filled the gap well, but finally towards the end of 1956 the Negbah was sold to Italian breakers and she arrived at Savona on December 13, 1956 and was broken up early in 1957.

This superb Dutch built liner had sailed a reliable 42 years pre and post War, as well as having transported countless thousands of troops during World War II! SS Negbah was one of ZIM’s pace setters after ships such as the little Kedmah.


SS Galilah


The twin funnelled SS Galilah


ZIM’s first four ships

SS Galilah was originally built in 1913 as the 3,539 GRT - SS Manhattan by the by Harlan and Hollingsworth (Bethlehem Steel) ship yards at Wilmington, DE, USA, especially for the American Railroad Company to operate along the Hudson River. She was acquired by the Navy 11 January 1918. She was officially commissioned USS Manhattan (ID 2195), January 28, 1918 and renamed USS Nopatin a few months later. She was decommissioned on August 15, 1919 and ordered to be sold.

SS Manhattan seen as built


Here we see the stern of the Portland registered USS Nopatin berthed in New York

In July 1920 the Hudson River Day Line purchased her and renamed her SS DeWitt Clinton and she once again commenced serving as a passenger vessel along the Hudson River. Although she was laid up in 1932, she was returned back to service some seven years later, from June to September in 1939. But she did little work thereafter, but thankfully her owners did keep her well maintained.

SS DeWitt Clinton

In 1942 she was taken up and refitted to become troop transport ship and given the name of SS Col. Frederic C. Johnson and she served her country well and survived the onslaught. In 1947 she was laid up and placed on the market.

USS Col. Frederic C. Johnson


ZIM’s new SS Derector, soon to be renamed SS Galilah

At the good age of 35 years she was sold to ZIM in 1948 and renamed SS Derector and she proceeded to a shipyard where she was completely refitted making her suitable to become a migrant ship transporting Jewish migrants from around Europe to Israel. She arrived in Israel at the end of 1948, commanded by Capitan Eliezer Hodorov and was manned entirely by a Jewish/Israeli crew. She renamed SS Galilah and registered at being 3,899 GRT.

SS Galilah’s Specifications: She had a Length of 320.2ft, with a beam of 48.1ft. Her Draught was 16ft. Her propulsion consisted of: Six Scotch boilers, two 400hp Bethlehem Steel quadruple expansion steam engines (23”, 37”, 42”, 42” x 36” stroke), two screws operating at a good 23 knots.

SS Galilah seen in her very early days

In January 1949 she was first ship to bring exiles from the notorious British Cyprus camps. During her first three and a half months in ZIM’s service, she transported a good 11,000 new immigrants on some 8 voyages, 5,000 of these were on 3 voyages alone from Cyprus.

She is seen here with so many immigrants all ready for a new life in “Eretz Yisroel” (The Land of Israel)!


Another fine photo of this ship that was once a river ferry

With the end of the first massive wave of immigration, she became more of a regular passenger liner on the Haifa, Marseille and Genoa service. However, late 1952 all her sailings were terminated and she was sold to an Italian company who renamed SS Galatin but she remained laid up until she finally departed Haifa on April 8, 1953 and sailed to Italy where she was soon broken up, having given a good 40 years of service.


SS Artsa


SS Artza also was a popular cruise ships

In 1949 ZIM purchased their new ship, being the Passenger/Cargo liner SS Artsa. She was built in Vegesack Germany in 1930, as a German cargo ship named “Panther” for “Laeisz Lines.” Some years later she was converted into the U-boat tender and renamed “Lech.”

Many years later having had a rebuilding programme for her to become a Passenger/Cargo ship named “Mare Ligure.” She was operated mostly in the Mediterranean, but then the Italians commenced a service for the Italians sailing between Italian ports and Haifa, which proved to be very successful.

ZIM decided that she was the right ship for them and bought her, although she had a relatively slow speed of 11 knots and accommodations for almost 400 passengers. She became officially an Israeli registered liner on December 4, 1949, and after a further refit she continued sailing on the Israel and Italy service for the rest of her days.

For her day her Lounges were comfortable and well presented and her cabins although far from luxurious but were quite comfortable and adequate as can be seen below.


Above and below: Two views of the main lounge 



The main Dining Room 


A Typical four berth cabin

However as ZIM commenced to build a series of larger and newer, and by far a superior fleet of ships for the company, by 1963 it had been decided to conclude SS Artsa’s career and she was broken her up in Haifa Israel that same year.

A fine colour image of the Artsa

Photographer unknown


For interest: An unusual point regarding her name that has been mentioned by many is as follows. Her name is rendered as “Artsa” on her bow, but on the ZIM website she is named - “Artza.” To understand this you need to realise that this is a differential between the anglicised and the Hebrew.



Introduction: ZIM Lines early history & their early smaller passenger ships, such as …

SS Kedmah, SS Negbah, SS Galilah & SS ArtsaThis Page.

Page One: SS Jerusalem I, ZIM’s very first Trans Atlantic passenger liner.

Page Two: SS Israel, SS Zion, SS Jerusalem (II), SS Theodor Herzl & MS Moledet.

Page Three: SS Shalom, Hanseatic, Doric, Royal Odyssey, Regal Sun, SunIsrael’s Grandest Liner!

Page Four: SS Shalom, Mr. Edmond Wilhelm Brillant the ships naval architect and new photo’s.

Page Five: SS Shalom, Deck Plan from the official archives of Estate of Edmond Wilhelm Brillant, Naval Architect.


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Commenced in the passenger Shipping Industry in May 1960


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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 in order that due credit may be given.

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