V.N.S. - Holland Africa Line - The Fontein Ships - M.S. Randfontein - RIL Nieuw Holland

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With Reuben Goossens

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

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned, thus ssmaritime is NOT associated with any shipping company or any other organisation! Although the author has worked and been involved in the passenger shipping industry for well over 60 years, but due to his old age and poor health, he was forced to retire. Yet, he has completed well over 1,435 Classic Liners, Passenger-Cargo Liners as well as humble converted C3 converted Migrant Liners, which has transported countless thousands folk to the new world, as well on vacations’. I trust the features online will continue to provide Classic Liner and Ship enthusiasts both the information they are seeking, but more so provide a great deal of pleasure and relive many happy memories!



Also known in Dutch & English as the “Holland Afrika Lijn” & “Holland Africa Line



Page Three

M.S. Randfontein

To replace the M.S. Klipfontein, which had stuck an unchartered reef of possibly a WW2 sunken U-Boat an d she rapidly off Mozambique in 1953, VNS - Holland-Africa Line designed and ordered a larger and a greatly updated version of the Fontein trio of ships, and this page features this being the last ever V.N.S. Passenger-Cargo liner!

This new ship would join her two remaining of two V.N.S. Fontein Trio of ships, the 10,574-ton M.S. Jagersfontein and Oranjefontein operating on the Netherlands, UK, South Africa and Mozambique service.

A drawing of MS Randfontein by Mr, C. E. A. van Boeckel

Drawing by & © Mr. C.E.A van Boeckel

The new ship was built in a graving dock by Wilton-Fijenoord at Schiedam in the Netherlands, and the 13,694-ton passenger-cargo liner became the largest Holland-Afrika Lijn liner to be built. Below we see several photographs taken during her construction.


Above & below: The ship seen during construction in graving dock, Yard 760 in three stages



On June 28, 1958, she was floated out of her graving dock, and was officially named “Randfontein”. The launching was officiated over by Mrs. Geldenhuys, the wife of the Republic of South Africa’s Ambassador to Den Haag (The Hague) she was towed to the builder’s fit-out yards, where she would be completed and finally one of the last large items was then slowly placed on her via a large crane was her shapely funnel with topped her with pride and glory.

Her funnel has just been fitted and the M.S. Randfontein nearing completion and will soon be ready for her sea trials

Having successfully completed her speed trials reaching a good maximum speed of 19.8 knots, and having been completed, the spotless M.S. Randfontein was handed over to her owners in Amsterdam on November 24, 1958.

M.S. Randfontein is seen arriving in Amsterdam

Over the next two weeks she was fully crewed, stocked up and prepared for her voyage to Africa. Then on January 6, 1959 M.S. Randfontein looking simply superb and filled with happy passengers and her holds filled with cargo, departed Amsterdam for her maiden voyage to Africa,

On this V.N.S. postcard the M.S. Randfontein is seen in Durban, South Africa

Her regular schedule was as follows: Amsterdam, Southampton, Las Palmas, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Lourenco and the Marques, and then return, being a service she maintained for the next eleven years, with the occasional variation.

M.S. Randfontein is seen arriving in port

M.S. Randfontein was designed to accommodate a larger number of Tourist Class passengers, than the two older Fontein ships. The First Class cabins were all located on A Deck, being single berth or twin bedded cabins with all cabins having private facilities. Some cabins had upper Pullmans. Tourist accommodations offered two, four and several six berth cabins, all with shared facilities. However, both classes had an excellent number of lounges and bars, and each class had their own fully tiled swimming pool, which was virtually unknown in those days for ships of this kind. In addition there was a children’s Playroom and play deck!

Like her older sisters, the Randfontein had a large cargo capacity, including refrigerated spaces. Her six holds were distributed, four forward and two aft. She also had deep tanks to transport vegetable oils.

An exceptional photograph of the M.S. Randfontein seen off the coast of east Africa

Thank you Ineke de Wijs for sending me this fine photo!

With the Randfontein having a boutique typestyle of atmosphere, she rapidly became a popular ship with the Dutch, English, and European as well as South Africans, thus she enjoyed high passenger loadings at least until the late sixties.

M.S. Randfontein Specifications:

Built by:†††††††††††††††††† Wilton-Fijenoord at Schiedam.

Yard:†††††††††††††††††††††† 760.

Length:††††††††††††††††††† 178.3m - 584ft.

Beam:††††††††††††††††††††† 21.4m - 70ft.

Draft:†††††††††††††††††††††† 9.117m - 30.1ft.

Tonnage:††††††††††††††††† 13,694 GRT, 11,765 DWT.

Engines:†††††††††††††††††† 2 M.A.N. Wilton Diesels (15,400 BHP).

Propellers:††††††††††††††† Two.

Speed:†††††††††††††††††††† 18 knots, 19.8 knots maximum.

Passenger Decks:†††††† 5.

Passengers:††††††††††††† 289 - 123 First & 166 Tourist - with some cabins interchangeable).

Later:†††††††††††††††††††††† 297 - 123 First & 174 Tourist - ††††††††††††††

.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Public venues & first Class Cabins air-conditioned.

Livery:†††††††††††††††††††† Black hull, red boot topping & white superstructure.††††† ††††††

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Black funnel with a broad orange band.

She sailed on and her loading’s remained reasonable until around 1968, but as with all passenger ships, the much loved M.S. Randfontein in due course also fell in troubled times as ocean going travel became less and less popular, and passenger loadings decreased rapidly as did cargo loadings, due to containerisation.

When she returned to Amsterdam on a day in May 1971, she would not depart again for the company and she was laid up, for it had already been decided with that V.N.S had to terminate the Randfontein’s services in May 1971, and dispose of her, which they did!


1. M.S. Nieuw Holland 1971 - 1974:

Randfontein was sold to “Royal Interocean Lines” (RIL) in July 1971 they renamed her and quickly dispatched her to Hong Kong where she was given an extensive refit and external makeover.

The Randfontein is seen leaving the Netherlands bound for Hong Kong and a new life

Notable external changes were the removal of a pair of forward derrick posts, being replaced by a large central crane, in addition her hull was painted white, with green boot topping, and her black funnel was given the traditional Royal Interocean Lines Dutch Red, white and blue flag, but in the centre the white section was in the form of a white triangle with a gold crown, as the company was under “Royal Warrant of Appointment”. Internally she was also completely refreshed and modernised and finally she became a fully air-conditioned ship. Upon completion, she now accommodated a total of 264 passengers with; 122 in First Class and 142 in Tourist Class. As soon as she was completed, she would depart Japan and head for Melbourne Australia, for it would be there her official duties would commence.

Royal Interocean Lines elegant looking M.S. Nieuw Holland, also note her new forward central located crane

She departed Hong Kong on her what could be called her delivery voyage to Australia on January 21, 1972 and she looked a spotlessly smart ship indeed. From Hong Kong she headed for Brisbane where she arrived on January 30 and the media came on board to tour the ship, etc. She departed the next day for Sydney, where she arrived on February 2. She remained in Sydney for three-nights for promotional purposes, as she did in Brisbane and she departed again on January 5 bound for her destination, Melbourne arriving on February 7, 1972 and she remained there for full week. On Monday February 14, M.S. Nieuw Holland departed on her maiden voyage to Japan filled with happy passengers, and most had booked the round voyage.

Her new schedule was as follows: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane (Northwards only), Yokkaichi, Yokohama, Kobe, Hong Kong and Return. This voyage could be taken sectional to set ports, one way to Yokohama, or it as a round voyage, a typical cruise.

A fine stern view of the RIL M.S. Nieuw Holland arriving in a port

With RIL now having three RIL major passengers ships in operation the M.S. Tjiwangi, Tjiluwah, both lovingly known as the “Elegant White Yachts”, but now the M.S. Nieuw Holland would replace the Tjiluwah, which was relocated to another service, thus M.S. Nieuw Holland was partnered by the M.S. Tjiwangi on the Japan service.

The M.S. Tjiwangi one of the “Elegant White Yachts”, but soon her sister, the Tjiluwah would be sold

R.I.L. decided to use the M.S. Nieuw Holland on a cruise to New Zealand, which would be her first and her last cruise ever. She departed in October 1973, with between *200 to 250 passengers aboard, and she visited Milford Sound, Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland returning to Australia. The company quickly abandoned the idea of using the New Holland as a cruise ship as they felt that she was just not suitable for the role, thus she returned to the Australia - Japan service.

The sad truth is that Royal Interocean Lines had miscalculated the time that shipping was heading in, and the sad fact is that the Nieuw Holland, which RIL spent a great deal of money on updating her arrived on the Australia - Japan scene at the wrong time!

Her final Days:

Just as it had been with passenger-cargo ships for some time there had been a problem with ever declining loadings, and therefore the smaller M.S. Tjiwangi was withdrawn from service in 1974, and at the same time hoping to use the M.S. Nieuw Holland, where she might do better, she was placed on a new service departing from Adelaide on February 12, 1974. Her new service was sailing from Adelaide to Risdon Tasmania, Sydney, Port Moresby, Bali, Surabaya, Jakarta, Singapore arriving on March 10, two days later she continued to Penang, Belawan and Singapore returning to Adelaide, via Brisbane instead of Risdon. But this service proved to be a total failure as she made only four round voyages.

Not only were bookings drying up but also cargoes were decliningł the truth of the matter was that time had run out for the larger passenger-cargo ships around the world, including those sailing out of Australia to Asia, we all know this was largely due to cheap charter air fares and cargo containerisation, as cargo operations had radically changed, and the older style of handling was slowly becoming out of date.

At the same time, P&O’s S.S. Chitral and Cathay also operated a similar Japan service as RIL, and P&O, just like the Nieuw Holland were also suffering poor passenger loadings, and thus both the delightful Chitral and Cathay were also taken off the market and both were sold. Sadly, thus the age of these beautiful and luxurious combination-passenger liners has finally come to an end.

M.S. Nieuw Holland’s days with R.I.L. were sadly coming to an end

With Royal Interocean Lines (RIL) having been operating on the Australia to Asia market for a great deal longer than most company’s the time had come, that RIL was forced to finally decide, that they would have to withdraw from this once profitable Australian market and sell their last ship.

The M.S. Nieuw Holland’s final voyage from Australia saw her depart Sydney on October 22, 1974 being her final Australian port, and all this happened without any fanfare whatsoever; for no-one knew she was leaving forever.

 M.S. Nieuw Holland departs for Japan

This voyage was a direct service to Singapore and it was there where her last ever Royal Interocean Lines passengers disembarked. RIL sent the Nieuw Holland to Hong Kong without any passengers and upon arrival she was laid up, and placed on the market and within just several months she was sold.



M.S. Yu Hua - Hai Xing 1974 - 1996:

The Nieuw Holland was sold to the Peoples Republic of China, who renamed her M.S. “Yu Hua.” Accommodating 297 passengers and she was registered at 12,191 GRT, and she was placed on the China-Africa service, but she was later transferred to the Shanghai - Hong Kong service. In 1981, M.S. Yu Hua was transferred to the Shanghai-Hai Xing Shipping Company, who renamed her “Hai Xing” but she continued on the Shanghai to Hong Kong service for the next ten years.

Hai Xing seen here looking very smart in a very rare photograph taken in 1990

During her ten year China-Hong Kong service, I would receive occasional information that she had been seen in either Shanghai or Hong Kong and at that she looked a well maintained ship, which was very pleasing to hear

The M.S. Hai Xing is seen in Hong Kong Harbour

In 1991, the Hai Xing was finally taken out of service and she was laid up at Hong Kong, where she lingered for five years and whilst at anchor, in due course she sadly deteriorated badly.

 M.S. Hai Xing is seen here laid up at Hong Kong in the early days in 1991

She was finally sold to Indian breakers in 1996. For her final voyage to India, she was registered in St Vincent and renamed “Herbert.” By now, looking very much the worse for wear, the Herbert, ex Hai Xing, Yu Hua, Nieuw Holland, and Randfontein departed Hong Kong undertow by the tug “Redwijs” on May 28, 1996, and she arrived at Alang, India on June 13, and was decommissioned. She was beached four days later and was rapidly demolished.

The M.S. Randfontein - Nieuw Holland as a ship that enjoyed thirty-three years of actual service and five years in her final days in lay-up, before being broken up. She was sadly the last of a magnificent series of V.N.S. – Holland Africa Line Fontein Liners.


V.N.S. & Fontein Ships Index:

Page One:†††††††††† The Fontein Trio of Ships history of the M.S. Klipfontein trio of ships

Page Two:†††††††††† Visser Family Voyage to South Africa on the Jagersfontein in 1965.

Page Three:†††††††† M.S. Randfontein (2) of 1958 page.

Page Four:†††††††††† Fontein ships Photo Page memorabilia and brochures, etc.

Also Read †††††††† V.N.S. Freighters from 4 to 12 passengers.

.††††††††††††††††††††††††† SS Abbekerk a delightful V.N.S. 8,336-ton passenger-cargo ships.


“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”




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