S.S. Montoro 1911 to 1948 - S.S. Haven 1948 to 1955

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With Reuben Goossens

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

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.

Photograph from the State Library of Victoria, with many thanks!


Photographs are from the Author’s private collection dating back to the 1960’s, except for those marked otherwise.

My collection came direct from ‘Burns, Philp & Company, Ltd.


The Burns, Philp House Flag

The S.S. Montoro Story:

The Montoro was built by Clyde Shipbuilding & Engineering Co, Glasgow specifically constructed for the Australian Burns, Philp & Company, Ltd (BP). She was especially built to replace the aging 1904 S.S. Guthrie, which was due to be sold in 1912.

She was a passenger-cargo liner at 4,088 GRT (Gross Registered Tons) offering excellent accommodations for 100 passengers in First Class and 40 Passengers in Second Class.

She departed Sydney for her maiden voyage on March 2, 1912, sailing via Darwin, Batavia to Singapore, and return. As she departed she has a good loading of passengers as well as her holds filled with cargoes. Her four holds also had considerable refrigerated and cooled spaces available for transport of frozen meats and other perishables.

Passengers and the Captain on the Bridge, saying farewell as the

S.S. Montoro departs Sydney for her maiden voyage on March 2

The Montoro featured spacious Public Venues; First Class had an elegant and spacious Lounge, with a grand piano and a dance floor, thus suitable for musical evenings, etc. There was also a Library and a Writing Room. As was customary in those days there was also a Smoking Room with Bar service being available to both main lounges and to outdoor deck spaces. The Dining Room received special attention for comfort and meals were always of a very high standard! Second Class, although located aft, did have a fine Lounge and a Smoking Room on two different levels and a pleasant Dining Room with excellent meals being served. The S.S. Montoro was blessed with spacious decks for relaxation; both covered as well as wide open spaces and this included the smaller 40 passenger Second Class section, which was well catered for!

Passengers seen relaxing out on the First Class covered Main Deck

The Montoro was also a regular visitor to Melbourne and Brisbane it was just that Sydney was her home-port, thus the regular mention that port.

The Montoro arrives at Melbourne

Photograph, with thanks to the State Library of Victoria

This ship continued on the Singapore service, and she even did so throughout World War One. The only odd thing that occurred in her career was that on October 11, 1923, just after midnight the Montoro somehow managed to place herself right upon “Young’s Reef”, some 140 miles south of Thursday Island. Two vessels towing and her own engines at full astern saw her finally freed from the reef, and she was able to make it back to port under her own power. Thankfully she had not sustained any significant damage, thus not requiring any great repairs.

The S.S. Montoro is seen here heading up the Brisbane River bound for the

Burns, Philp wharf, located next to Customs House and the Storey Bridge

New Services:

The newer 4,512 GRT M.S. Malabar' would replace the S.S. Montoro in 1925 on the Singapore service, and the Montoro was rescheduled on the very popular Australian East Coast, Darwin to Papua-New Guinea service, which had been, and remained a very popular and well established profitable operation for the company!

M.S. Malabar replaced the Montoro on the Singapore service, is she is seen here during her Deep Sea Trials

Photograph by Barclay, Curle & Co, Glasgow

In due course Papua New Guinea honoured the Burns, Philp ships by releasing a series of special stamps including the S.S. Montoro. However in 1925 Burns, Philp did make another decision, and this was that the S.S. Montoro would be disposed of in 1939.

Yet despite the warning of her due disposal, in 1936 she entered the “Morts Dry-Dock” in Sydney, where she was given a comprehensive overhaul as well as a major refit, which saw her second class accommodations removed, making her a First Class ship only and a much better overall passenger-cargo liner, thus it seemed that after all, she was bound to sail on for some time yet!

S.S. Montoro is being made ready for her transformation in the dry-dock

Source is unknown: Please see Photo notes at the bottom of this page.


Here we see Montoro having had a hull plate removed, that could be related to her earlier problems

Photograph by the late Mr. Samuel-J-Hood

Amazingly another incident arose in 1940, for whilst the Montoro was taking on coal in Sydney, somehow the ship commenced to sink, however they quickly refloated her and she was soon returned to service without too much trouble at all.

World War Two:

It sounds strange, but the outbreak of WW2 was really good for the S.S. Montoro, for it gave her a good extension of life for the old girl and she was able to continue on the Island and Darwin passenger and cargo trade.

Here we see the Montoro crew whilst she is in port having a break on deck

Source is unknown: Please see Photo notes at the bottom of this page.

As the Second World War commenced, she was taken off her regular service and was temporarily on short Island duties as well as voyages to Darwin.

Then in July 1941 she was officially requisitioned (chartered by the Australian Government) for war duties, and she was ordered to head for Brisbane, and from there undertake two voyages to New Guinea as well as Darwin filled with troops as well as much needed supplies. Upon departure she was joined by the Zeelandia, Convoy ZK3, escorted by the well armed Manoora. The Montoro first sailed to New Guinea and then to Darwin. There after she was able to return to her own regular duties, under the Burns, Philp management, until required next time.

Here is one of the best stern views of this fine ship!

Photograph, with thanks to the State Library of Victoria

It would be on February 9, 1942 that the S.S. Montoro departed Darwin with some 203 evacuees onboard, and she headed for Sydney were the disembarked. Thereafter she was mostly used as a troop-ship around the Islands.

Interestingly, she was never required to alter her livery and she always looked like the typical Burns, Philp ship throughout the war.

The Final Days as the Montoro:

After she had been decommissioned and officially returned to Burns, Philp in 1946, the S.S. Montoro received a refit returning her to her old self, except she was given a white hull which I believe did not last long, for it was soon repainted black again thereafter.

S.S. Montoro is seen with a white livery

She resumed the New Guinea service for almost the next two years. It was decided it was time to sell the old girl and it appeared that there was a market or her as an offer was on the table.


It was in August 1948, and the 37 year old girl was sold to the Asian “Wah Sing Shang Steamship Company.”, who had an office based in Singapore. They renamed her “Haven,” but they registered her at Shanghai, China.

The S.S. HAVEN story continues below the Specifications & Details.

S.S. Montoro Specifications & Details:

Official N: 131499.

Built by: Clyde Shipbuilding & Engineering Co, Glasgow.

Yard: 296.

Build for: Burns, Philp & Company, Ltd (BP).

Vessel Type: Passenger / Cargo Refrigerated.

Launched: October 24, 1911.

Completed: December 1911.

Tonnage: 4,057 GRT / 2,521 NRT (Net Registered Tons). Later 4,088 GRT.

Engine Detail: Triple expansion, 3 cylinder Steam Engines 661 nhp, by the builder.

Propeller: Single.

Speed: 12 Knots, 14.5 knots maximum.

Length: 360.6 ft - 109.9 m.

Width: 47.2 ft - 14.4 m.

Draught: 23.8 ft - 7.25 m.

Passengers: 100 First Class, 40 Second Class. Later First Class only.

Registration & Flag:

1911-1922: (BP) - Sydney - Australia.

1922-1927: (BP) - London UK.

1938-1948: (BP) - Singapore.

1948-1955: (Wah Sang) - Shanghai.



The S.S. HAVEN Story:

The technically Singaporean owned ship S.S. HAVEN would commence to operate in Asian waters, but in 1949 she would be transporting Refugees. Already Shanghai was under siege by Communist forces, and the Nationalist Forces were being pushed back. Whilst the S.S. HAVEN was in Shanghai the IRO requested a rapid rescue, and thus the HAVEN took on board 400 white Russian refugees both Christian, but also many of tem being Jewish, she then headed for Manila where all disembarked, giving them time to decide their future.

She soon returned to Shanghai, but the Nationalists attempted to take over the ship to transport their own men. The S.S. HAVEN was held in Shanghai for six days, but with the many problems going on in Shanghai, she managed to escape with thankfully another 400 white Russian refugees on board. What became so special about her departure was tat she was the very last free ship to depart Shanghai, for it fell in the hands of the Communists immediately thereafter! The HAVEN once more took her guests to Manila where they disembarked.

A fine side-on starboard view of the S.S. Montoro

Sadly no known photographs are available of her as the S.S. HAVEN.

S.S. HAVEN Bound for Australia:

Late in May of 1949 there were 341 white Russians who had sailed on the first voyage out of Shanghai, re-boarded the S.S. HAVEN, and the ship departed Manila bound for Sydney, Australia, where she arrived on June 12, where they finally arrived at their new and safe haven. For these refugees sailing on this small, but very special ship was like being in, and going to Heaven, having just left the Hell of the great evil of Communist Russia and again in China!

That brings me to the ships Name; for her duties in 1949 made her name very significant to the 800 Refugees she rescued from Shanghai, and then transported the 341 to Australia, all having sailed on this remarkable ship!

It was not long after she was obtained by “Wah Sing Shang Steamship Co”, they used her wisely having been requested by the IRO, or the “International Refugee Organisation” to enter into a dangerous mission. Having rescued these 800 souls, which would have lost their lives under Communist rule, this ship had indeed become their HAVEN having saved them from imprisonment and death, and that is the reason I have used capital letters for her name, as I consider the name S.S. HAVEN rather special! Just for interest, in Dutch there is also a word “haven” (pronounced Ha-Venn) and it means a “harbour”, thus if the later was intended by possibly a Dutch person in the Singapore shipping company, it still comes to much the same meaning, for the ship brought them to a safe harbour being a safe HAVEN!

Whilst in Sydney the S.S. HAVEN having remained in port to take on cargo finally departed on June 21, 1949 and she first headed for Newcastle where she bunkered, and then the long voyage north to Hong Kong.

Her Final Duties & Her End:

For the next six years the S.S. Haven continued to operate as a commercial passenger-cargo ship, but her main income came from cargos, and she operated around South East & South-West Asia.

However the time came in late 1954, the now aging ship being almost 44 years old, was being troubled with mechanical, plumbing and countless other problems, as well her high operating costs, thus it was decided rather then spend a great deal in repairs, it was better to sell her.

A Japanese ship-breaker purchased her and she soon headed to Sakai in Japan where was broken up at Sakaguchi Kosan, Sakai in January 1955.

Remembering a Remarkable Small Australian Ship!

The 1911 built S.S. Montoro is seen entering Port Philip Bay and heading for Melbourne

Photograph, with thanks to the State Library of Victoria


Also visit the TSMV Bulolo Feature



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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 www.ssmaritime.com only), in order that due credit may be given.

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