The motorship Isipingo was built for Andrew Weir & Co, London, under the Bank Line banner, for Indian Ocean service between South Africa & India. She was one of three motor ships introduced carrying local South African names – Isipingo, Incomati and Inchanga, with all three built during 1934.
They became known as the 'White Ships', having received a white / green livery rather than the black / buff livery carried by earlier company ships. The ships routes reached from Cape Town to Portuguese Mozambique, British East Africa and onward to Calcutta. The accommodations provided on these ships were a great improvement over the earlier ex-Bucknall ships and the 'Gujarat' class that had previously worked the routes. In particular the twin-berth first-class cabins included a full en suite bathroom between each pair and were provided with fresh water baths and showers. Single berth cabins were also available. First class amenities also included dining & sitting room, glassed-in tea verandah, sports verandah, bar-lounge (with stone fireplace) with open verandah and a hair salon & shop. A portable large swimming pool was originally fitted but after World War II was replaced by a smaller pool. Second Class passengers were served by a combined dining room / social hall. Third Class passengers had available to them cooking and sanitary facilities. Twelve lifeboats were available in case of emergency.
Sailings July 1937 - April 1939
The start of World War II saw the Isipingo at Colombo on September 1st 1939, then working her way around the Bay of Bengal calling at Madras, Vizag, Calcutta and Rangoon, arriving September 18th 1939. Departure from Rangoon took place on September 22nd 1939, reversing course back to Columbo, arriving October 12th 1939, then heading across the Indian Ocean to Mombasa, Beira, Lourenco Marques, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth & Capetown, arriving November 6th 1939. After two days at Capetown the Isipingo retraced its steps to Rangoon, arriving on December 22nd 1939.
During 1940 the Isipingo made four similar roundtrips across the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal:
Depart Rangoon December 26th 1939, arrive Capetown February 5th 1940
During 1941 the Isipingo made four similar roundtrips across the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal:
Depart Rangoon November 30th 1940, arrive Capetown January 12th 1941
The routine of the previous two years continued into the first half of 1942:
Depart Durban January 6th 1942, arrive Calcutta February 7th 1942
Depart Freetown December 31st 1942, arrive Trinidad ?? Convoy FTT.6, then Hampton Roads January 18th 1943 and New York January 21st 1943. Then followed a trip across the North Atlantic, depart New York January 30th 1943 in Convoy HX.225, arrive Liverpool February 14th 1943. From Liverpool, depart March 6th 1943 in Convoy OS.44, arrive Freetown March 24th 1943. Depart Freetown March 28th 1943 in Convoy ST.60 arrive Takoradi April 2nd 1943. Between April 9th 1943 & July 15th 1943 the Isipingo worked trips between Lagos, Takoradi, Walvis Bay & Capetown.
Depart Capetown July 23rd 1943, (three weeks at Durban, one week at Mombasa), arrive Calcutta October 4th 1943.
Depart Capetown December 3rd 1943 (Takoradi, Lagos, Freetown), arrive Liverpool February 15th 1944
The Isipingo was back at Takoradi by February 23rd 1945, then Lagos February 28th 1945
As post war airline service increased, so the need for passenger accommodation between Africa & India decreased. Third class was the first to be removed, with first class & second accommodation reduced to 70. Eventually only 12 first class passengers would be accommodated. The number of lifeboats was consequently reduced.
The Isipingo was sold in 1964 for scrapping in Hong Kong.
Built: Workman Clark (1928), Belfast
Page added October 27th 2013