ship MV Isipingo
MV Isipingo
1934 - 1964

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
Vessels: Incomati, Isipingo & Inchanga
Ports of call (eastbound): Cape Town, Durban, Zanzibar, Mombasa, Colombo, Madras, Calcutta, Rangoon.
Ports of call (westbound): Rangoon, Calcutta, Madras, Colombo, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Beira, Lourenço Marques, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay, Cape Town.
Other ports: Lourenço Marques, Moçambique, Port Amelia, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanga, Coconada and Vizagapatam.

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
Depart Capetown February 6th 1940, arrive Calcutta March 9th 1940
Depart Calcutta April 5th 1940, arrive Durban April 29th 1940
Depart Durban May 7th 1940, arrive Calcutta June 1st 1940
Depart Calcutta June 14th 1940, arrive Port Elizabeth July 16th 1940
Depart Port Elizabeth July 18th 1940, arrive Rangoon August 22nd 1940
Depart Rangoon August 28th 1940, arrive Capetown October 9th 1940
Depart Capetown October 11th 1940, arrive Rangoon November 27th 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
Depart Capetown January 12th 1941, arrive Rangoon March 8th 1941
Depart Rangoon March 12th 1941, arrive Capetown April 15th 1941
Depart Capetown April 16th 1941, arrive Calcutta May 21st 1941
Depart Calcutta June 7th 1941, arrive Durban July 2nd 1941
Depart Durban July 18th 1941, arrive Columbo August 6th 1941
Depart Columbo September 12th 1941, arrive Durban October 1st 1941
Depart Durban October 14th 1941, arrive Calcutta November 12th 1941
Depart Calcutta November 27th 1941, arrive Durban December 25th 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 Calcutta February 23rd 1942, arrive Durban March 28th 1942
Depart Durban April 6th 1942, arrive Cochin May 2nd 1942
May 2nd 1942 - June 6th 1942 unclear: maybe a Cochin - Mombasa roundtrip?
Depart Columbo June 6th 1942, arrive Durban June 28th 1942
Depart Durban July 24th 1942, arrive Bombay August 18th 1942; the next departure would take the Isipingo away from its familiar routes
Depart Bombay September 25th 1942, arrive Capetown October 26th 1942
Depart Capetown November 4th 1942, Takoradi November 13th - 25th 1942, Lagos November 27th 1942, Takoradi December 12th/13th 1942 & Freetown December 18th 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 Calcutta October 19th 1943, arrive Capetown November 29th 1943.

Depart Capetown December 3rd 1943 (Takoradi, Lagos, Freetown), arrive Liverpool February 15th 1944
Depart Liverpool March 3rd 1944, arrive Freetown March 25 1944, then locally to Takoradi, Lagos & return to Freetown, arriving April 29th 1944
Depart Freetown May 1st 1944, arrive Liverpool May 22, 1944
Depart Liverpool June 11 1944, arrive Takoradi July 9th 1944, then a round trip to Lagos
Depart Takoradi July 28, 1944, arrive Capetown August 6th 1944 Depart Capetown August 10th 1944 via Mauritius, arrive Calcutta September 17th 1944
Depart Calcutta October 8th 1944 via Capetown & Gibralter (December 11th - 23rd), arrive Southend February 5th 1945.

The Isipingo was back at Takoradi by February 23rd 1945, then Lagos February 28th 1945
Depart Lagos March 9th 1945, arrive Hull April 6th 1945.
Depart Hull April 23rd, (Southend April 25th - May 6th 1945), arrive Lagos May 26th 1945
Depart Lagos June 7th 1945, arrive Hull June 26th 1945
Depart Hull July 12th 1945, arrive Capetown Aug 25th 1945
Depart Capetown August 31st 1945, via Durban, Dar-es-salaam, Mombasa, Seychelles, Colombo, Galle, arrive Calcutta October 28th 1945.
The Isipingo was docked at Durban from December 4th - 19th 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
Launched: February 1934
Tons: 7,000 gross
Length: 435ft 0in
Breadth: 57ft 0in
Draught: 37ft 0in
Propulsion: 2 x 6-cylinder SD60 Workman Clark diesel engines 4,800bhp at 135rpm.
Screws: 2
Speed: 15 knots
Passengers: 1st class 50; 2nd class 20; other class 500
Crew: ??

Sulzer: List of Motorships
National Library of Australia : Trove website of archived Australian Newspapers (

Page added October 27th 2013

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