Royal Interocean Lines; MS Tjiwangi and MS Tjiluwah later known as the “The Elegant White Yachts”

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With Reuben Goossens

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

Please Note: All ssmaritime as well as my other related maritime & cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960, but although retired and unwell, I occasionally attempt to write an article now and then, in order to bring enjoyment and pleasure to ship enthusiasts past passengers and crew.



Page One

History of the two Ships

With RIL from 1950 to 1974


MS Tjiwangi was the first of the pair to enter service


Please Note: All images are from the author’s private collection, unless stated otherwise

These two compact liners were considered the most beautifully proportioned passenger cargo liners seen in Australian waters, becoming the most popular ships to sail between Australia and Asia.

The long established Dutch shipping company “Java-China Line” and the “Koninklijke Java-China Paketvaart Lijnen” - (KJCPL), which from the late 1950’s merged to become the “Royal Interocean Lines” - (RIL) but they always had their headquarters in Hong Kong.

Company background: After the turn of the century the Koninklijke Java-China Paketvaart Lijnen (KJCPL) was founded in Amsterdam in 1902 and worked closely with the other Dutch Asian based shipping company “Java-China Line”. KJCPL retained their operational head quarters in Hong Kong being the heart of its trading area. In the 1950’s they merged to become the “Royal Interocean Lines” (RIL) and the company had a considerable fleet of ships operating within the region.

In 1948 KJCPL decided to build two intimate 9,000 GRT passenger cargo liners, and these ships were built by Van der Giessen at Krimpen. Their keels were laid as follows: MS Tjiwangi in 1949 and MS Tjiluwah in 1950, and they were launched April 29, 1950 & April 28, 1951 respectively.

Mini Photo Album of MS Tjiwangi’s launching and Sea Trials



Above & below: MS Tjiwangi is seen during her launching on April 29, 1950



Here we see a superb photograph of the Tjiwangi at her Fit-Out berth fully lit at night


The Tjiwangi is seen here heading off on her Sea Trials which were successful!

With the MS Tjiwangi having undertaken her sea trails she was delivered on December 24, 1950 and soon she departed Rotterdam for the long voyage to Hong Kong, Her sister was delivered on November 9, 1951 and she also headed from Rotterdam for her delivery voyage arriving in Hong Kong on December 21, 1951. Both ships operated under the Royal Interocean Lines banner, as did the following the ships from now on.

Already in service was a considerable fleet of ships, including the three popular larger liners, such as the MS Boissevain, Ruys and the Tegelberg, being approximately 14,280-tons each with 435 passengers in two classes. These delightful tree identical ships built in 1937/38, sailed between Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore via South Africa and South America & return.


Built for KJCPL, but now operating for RIL, one of their larger passenger liners the 14,285-ton MS Ruys

For the next ten years, Tjiwangi and Tjiluwah operated on the Dutch East Indies to Hong Kong service, until 1960 a decision was made to change their service and place them on the Australia, Hong Kong and Japan service commencing in July under full “Royal Interocean Lines” management.

MS Tjiluwah a beautifully proportioned small passenger liner – a KJCPL postcard from 1956

In July 1960 with Tjiwangi having arrived in Australia, she departed Melbourne for her first voyage to Japan, with the Tjiluwah following a month later. This service became the ultimate cruise for countless Australians over the years and these ships proved to be extremely successful! It was during this time I spent the first of my most memorable times on these two amazing small ships, first being when these ships had their original black hulls and again later after 1973 when they were refurbished and were painted all white, and became known as the “Elegant White Yachts.”

A KJCPL postcard of the MS Tjiwangi - 1958

Ports of call: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Yokkaichi, Nagoya, Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kobe, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne.

RIL Postcard of the Tjiwangi after 1960

Accommodations on the Tjiwangi and Tjiluwah as built: All cabins were outside with one or two portholes.

First Class cabins were located on B Deck, which had 2 single cabins with private facilities. 17 Twin bedded cabins all with private facilities, and 20 Twin bedded cabins that offered a sofa that converted into a third bed if required, as well as 1 two-berth cabin, but the 20 Twins with the sofas and the two berth cabin had share facilities. First Class was fully air-conditioned throughout.

Tourist Class cabins were located on C Deck and comprised of 40 four berth cabins all having shared facilities. Tourist Class had Gyro fan-forced air-cooling.


First Class Public Facilities were rather opulent, with the Main Lounge located forward on Promenade (A) Deck being surrounded by the wonderful and greatly loved Wintergarden. The Lounge was sumptuously furnished and just aft on the portside was a delightful Bar, whilst on the starboard side the Library and Writing Room. Directly aft was the exterior Verandah on the deck, which was popular at night as an entertainment venue and dancing, although the main lounge also had a more intimate dance floor! One deck up on Boat Deck was the First Class Swimming Pool!

In addition, these ships had that traditional ocean liner style Promenade Deck, lined with comfortable deck chairs with stewards constantly at your call. Then there was on further very special and an unusual feature for ships of this intimate size as each ship featured a magnificent Restaurant that was two stories high with a fine balustrade on the upper deck looking down on the Restaurant below, with a grand sweeping staircase down into the restaurant like the great ocean liners of yesterday!

The Tourist Class public rooms were equally decorative but having a more modest restaurant. Both classes offered ample deck spaces for relaxing, sun baking and sports activities, and each class had their own swimming pool.

Photo Gallery


The delightful Tjiluwah is seen arriving in Sydney in the early 1960s


First Class



Above & Below: The elegant Main Lounge of both ships, as the were different



The Wintergarden surrounded the Main Lounge - starboard looking aft


The Bar was located on the Portside just aft of the lobby

(At the same location starboard was the library/card/games room)



The First Class Restaurant was for a small ship, quite extravagant

Note the differences between the décor above and below


The staircases differed on the two ships as one was placed forward & the other aft of the Dinning Room


 Twin bedded cabin with a sofa that converted to a third bed


And here is the wonderful MS Tjiwangi in the early 1960s


Tourist Class


The delightful Main Lounge and Bar was located within the hull of the ship


Later a comfortable and more casual Tourist Class Verandah

Lounge was installed on the starboard side of Promenade Deck


The Library


The swimming pool


Outside Twin Tourist Class Cabin


Cover of a Cabin Plan

See the official Deck Plan link at the bottom of the page



Tonnage:                            .

Tjiwangi:                            8,679 GRT - Number 751.

Tjiluwah:                            8,675 GRT - Number 752.

Length:                               479 ft – 146m.

Beam:                                63 ft – 19.2m.

Draught:                             23.7 ft – 7m.

Engines:………………………………..Werkspoor Diesels.

Screws:                              Two.

Service speed:                     16 knots.

Passenger Decks:                 Four.

Passengers:                         .   

1950/1963:                         98-First Class – 160-Tourist Class.

1963:                                 104-First Class – 118-Tourist Class.

.                                        First Class only was fully Air-Conditioned.

1963:                                 Ships refitted & now fully air-conditioned.

Crew:                                 200.

Livery 1950/1963:                Black hull / white superstructure with red boot topping.

.                                        black funnel Dutch flag with white triangle & gold crown.

Livery 1963/1972/74:           White hull & superstructure.


MS Tjiluwah seen in 1963 after her refit – Such a graceful and intimate liner

In 1962/63, both ships received a refit, and had their hulls painted white, after which they became known as the “Elegant White Yachts.” The after end of the starboard Promenade Deck was glass enclosed creating the delightful Tourist Class Verandah Lounge.

Even though Tjiwangi and Tjiluwah had considerable competition from the well established Dominion Lines George Anson and Francis Drake, later the Chitral, Aramac and other vessels, however, the two Dutch flagged RIL ships were the more favoured, for they were renowned for their refined atmosphere and superb service.

Tjiluwah, seen here in Brisbane in 1971 just prior her last few voyages

Today these wharves have now been rebuilt as upmarket apartments, boutiques, cafes and restaurants

whilst the famed historic wool stores have been converted into luxury apartments

Photograph by & ©

The Australian to Asia service lasted thirteen years. Due to the air war and rising costs, RIL sadly decided to place one of their remarkable little liners on the market in 1971 and the Tjiluwah was sold to a Singaporean Company. In January 1972 the Tjiluwah was sold to Pacific International Lines (PIL) and renamed Kota Singapura. To replace the Tjiluwah, RIL had obtained another Dutch ship the 13,568 GRT MS Randfontein, having renamed her Nieuw Holland. After an extensive refit she departed Hong Kong for her first voyage to Melbourne on January 21, 1972.

MS Tjiwangi seen in Yokkaichi Japan on June 3, 1972

Photograph by & © Graham-Emery

In November 1973 RIL finally decided to sell the Tjiwangi, which was sold by Singaporean PIL, and she was handed over at the end of January 1974 and was duly renamed Kota Bali and she joined her sister Kota Singapura.

With the sale of the two popular “Elegant White Yachts” as ship lovers called the Tjiluwah and Tjiwangi, Nieuw Holland’s days were rather short. For: 1. Cargo loading where changing to containers, and 2. Many tourists were choosing vacations by air, thus the Nieuw Holland was sold just three years later due to declining loadings.

MS Nieuw Holland, ex Randfontein operated for just over three years

In Conclusion:

MS Tjiluwah and Tjiwangi offered the very best in traditional cruising with an emphasis on comfort, service, and excellent food. Entertainment was minimal to today’s standards, but both ships had a small band and a pianist. The emphasis was very much a voyage of quiet relaxation, enjoying the ships excellent facilities, comfortable lounges, two pools and the spacious decks. It was a time where we enjoyed a drink on the promenade, reading a book in the Wintergarden or enjoying a drink in the bar and the main lounge engaging in interesting conversations with those who had cruised the world, or on their very first ocean voyage. Tjiluwah and Tjiwangi offered the very best in traditional cruising. I certainly will never forget my days aboard these elegant small liners!

Many of today’s vacationers would not enjoy this style of elegant cruising as the preference these days is to be entertained all day and night, private balconies, towering atriums, rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, etc, etc, and sailing with a herd of 2,000 to 6,500 passengers on a floating hotel/resort which can hardly be described as ships.

Two fine photographs of Tjiwangi in Newcastle © by Mr. Stan Evans


A superb looking MS Tjiwangi seen on one of her rare visit’s to Newcastle - NSW


A stern view of the pristine MS Tjiwangi in Newcastle

If you have enjoyed this article on these two remarkable small and elegant ships, and if you have sailed on them feel and may have something of interest to add, be it a story, photographs, I would love to hear from you. Please email me.


MS Tjiwangi and Tjiluwah will always be remembered as the “Elegant White Yachts”

Page One:      Tjiluwah – Tjiwangi History Page.

.                    Tjiluwah – Tjiwangi - RIL - Deck Plan.

Page Two:      Kota Singapura, ex Tjiluwah - Kota Bali, ex Tjiwangi.

Page Three:    RIL Memorabilia – A host of RIL memorabilia items.


“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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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.

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