The Bintang was built for Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland Line, Amsterdam, being launched in 1916. Originally with steam propulsion, it was converted 1925 along with the Wieringen for use on their long haul route from Europe to the Dutch East Indies. The conversion to diesel propulsion was estimated to save £13,500 per year in fuel costs. The cost of conversion was about £70,000. Trials were completed during May 1925 with a speed of 14 knots attained. At the time the Bintang was the highest-powered single-screw motor vessel afloat. The original 3,600ihp triple expansion engine running at 85rpm gave a speed of 12 knots. The daily fuel consumption as a steamer was about 58 tons, as a motorship it was estimated to be 14.7 tons. Bunker capacity for the fuel order was 2,000 tons. At the time of conversion the steering was converted to electrical operation, using equipment supplied by Messrs Laurence Scott & Company.
After twenty three years of peacetime service the arrival of World War Two found the Bitang supporting the Allies in the movement of supplies from many parts of the world to the United Kingdom.
Convoys that included the Bitang were:
On September 23rd 1942 the Bintang set out from Calcutta bound for Table Bay, Saldanha Bay, Trinidad, Canada & the United Kingdom under Master J T Rigter. On the afternoon of November 20th 1942 the ship was travelling unescorted some 700 miles east of Trinidad when it came under surveillance from the U-160. At about 9.26am on the 21st the U-160 hit the port side of the ship with two torpedoes, two other fired earlier had missed. Of the 73 crew, 22 were killed in the attack and sinking, whilst the 51 survivors were left only with life rafts after the four lifeboats were either destroyed in the attack or went down with the ship. The Bintang sank at position 10.30N, 51.00W.
The five rafts containing the survivors drifted apart with each having a story to tell. The rescue of the first raft was made by the Spanish merchant ship Monte Altube after seven days adrift, the survivors were taken to Rio Grande. Ten days later two rafts were found, one by a US Navy patrol boat and one with 12 survivors by the British merchant ship Rodsley, the latter being landed at Port of Spain. After 22 days the Black Point found the fourth raft and took the survivors to Georgetown. Eight days later the fifth raft came ashore at Trinidad.
Builder: Mij. Fijenoord, Rotterdam
Page added October 14th 2009.