mv japara
1939 - 1969

The Japara was built by Mach. Fabr. & Scheepswerf P. Smit Jr., Rotterdam for the Rotterdamsche Lloyd NV Line, being commissioned on May 13th 1939.

The invasion of the Low Countries commencing May 10th 1940 found the Japara in the Indonesian port of Soerabaja, then currently working the Java - New York route. During October 1940 it was chartered for a trip by the Silver & Java-Pacific Line, which served ports between India/Far East/Phillipines and four west coast ports in Canada/USA and points inbetween.

The United States Ship Requisition Act signed on June 6, 1941 allowed the Coast Guard to seize a total of 84 large foreign vessels, which were in US ports at that time. The Japara was one of the ships seized and would be operated by the War Shipping Administration, but utilising the crew on the ship at the time of seizure and with the cooperation of the Dutch Government.

September 12th 1942 6am escort Arunta & transports Van Heemskerk and Japara due Milne Bay.

September 15th 1942 departed Milne Bay after discharging for Townsville with the Van Heemskerk escorted by Arunta & Stuart.

On December 2nd 1942 the Japara transported sections of the USMC Squadron VMD-154 from San Diego to Espiritu Santo Island, New Hebrides, arriving December 23rd 1942.

On December 25th/26th the Japara is reported transporting B Squadron, 2/6 Australian Armoured Regiment with eleven Stuart Tanks from Milne Bay to Oro Bay (the Allies were stalled at Buna), under Captain W. G. van Zeggeren, escorted by the corvette HMAS Lithgow.

During 1943 the Japara was converted into a troopship with a capacity of 1,600 men.

Whilst berthed at San Francisco on January 30th 1944 the Japara was visited by Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands.

The end of World War Two brought an end to six years of global war, but in some areas the colonial lands ruled from the now weakened and very challenged European rulers became the scenes of further conflict as many colonies began the fight for independence. In the Netherlands East Indies during the war the Japanese had instituted a puppet government, shortly after the declaration of peace this was superceded by a newly elected Indonesian people's Republican Government, which sought to oust the colonial Dutch rule. In Australia the Waterside Workers Federation supported the declaration of the World Federation of Trades Unions and the United Nations that they would not be a party to assist in the conflict against the new Indonesian government. This action led to the wharfside workers refusing to load ships, particular Dutch registered ships that were taking relief aid (medical supplies, food & clothing) to the Netherlands East Indies. On September 22nd 1945 the Japara had been scheduled to depart Sydney for Java with relief supplies. However with about 3,000 dockside workers on strike since about September 18th, the Japara and 24 other ships could not be worked, whilst a further 23 were shorthanded. Local Indonesians had asked the dockside workers to boycott the ships, believing they were taking materials to be used in the suppression of the newly elected Government. The Japara, as with many other ships still retained her defensive armament, which was of concern to the Indonesians, fearing it might be used against their countrymen. Permission to remove the defensive armament was required from the Australian Naval authorities.

By September 25th the unrest in New South Wales had spread to 3,000 coal miners at twelve colleries and 15,000 workers in the meat, dockside, commercial printing and steel industries. About halt the wharf laborers in Sydney did resume work, but no labor was called for the Dutch vessels Vanspoll, Japara, Generaal Verspijck and Patras, involved in the Indonesian dispute.

On September 25th the Seamen's Union unanimously declared support for Indonesian seamen who had refused to carry material to the Netherlands East Indies which could be used against the Indonesia Republican Government. In addition painters, dockers, boilermakers and ironworkers employed on repair work on the Dutch ship Swatanock held a stop-work meeting and declared the vessel 'black' in sympathy with the Indonesians. Javanese members of the crew of the Dutch ship Generaal Verspijck at Sydney had already walked off the vessel in sympathy with the republican movement in Java. The Generaal Verspijck, loaded ten days earlier with a relief cargo for Batavia had been unable to leave pending the arrival of a Lascar engine-room crew (Lascar or lashkar - a sailor or militiaman, primarily from the Indian subcontinent serving on European ships). Australian naval ratings assisted in the loading of the Maetsuycker, a hospital ship under charter to the British Ministry of War Transport. The other Dutch merchant ships at Sydney, the Japara, Patras, El Libertador and Van Swoll were unable to obtain wharf labour because of the strike by men at the overseas pick-up centre.

With the Trades Unions effectively creating an ad-hoc policy of sorts with regard to the new government in the Netherlands East Indies the Australian Minister for Shipping (Senator Ashley) said no further trouble was expected in having Dutch ships loaded provided they were mercy ships and carried no arms or ammunition. In Canberra a conference between Dutch authorities and Government officials was described as satisfactory and all hoped a settlement would soon be reached. But for the Dutch ships stuck at Sydney there remained no improvement in their situation.

On October 3rd Sydney water side workers accepted engagements on the only two Dutch ships that called for labour, but when they reached the vessels they refused to work. Gangs of 22 and 12 men, respectively, were engaged for the Dutch ships Liberatador and Japara. Before it was discovered that they would not work, the allocation of labour had been completed and all available men had been engaged for other ships. Those who accepted the assignments but then refused to work were automatically suspended under Stevedoring Industry Commission orders. A similar tactic occurred on October 5th when 12 men accepted engagement for the Japara but did not work. The Waterside Workers' Federation state president advised that members would not work on any Dutch vessel still equipped with defensive guns originally fitted as part of the World War Two conversions. Additionally the waterside workers refused to load on to the Japara 10,000,000 worth of silver guilders and copper cents which recently reached Sydney on a Swedish ship and was intended for shipment to the Netherlands East Indies. Until this currency reached its destination, Japanese paper money continued in use.

A new twist to the dispute occurred about October 8th when crews were called for the Japara & El Liberatador, when the wharf labour accepted the work the Road Transport Union, which would move the cargo from warehouse to dockside, declared the cargo 'black', causing the wharf labourers to be dismissed. During the weekend Dutch shipping authorities tried to arrange road transport but failed. Two weeks later the Lascar crews left the Japara & Generaal Verspijck, leaving the Dutch authorities with little recourse apart from abandoning the use of these ships in their mercy ship role.

At the end of 1946 the ship was returned to Rotterdamsche Lloyd NV, and underwent a refit to return it to its peacetime configuration.

August 23rd 1954: arrived Fremantle (Perth) from Indonesia, to load flour.

August 26th 1954: departed Fremantle for Indonesia and Malaya.

July 21st 1956: Japara arrives Melbourne from Sydney

July 28th 1956: from Melbourne for Durban

1958 sold to Wheelock & Marden & Co., Panama renamed Davric
1963 sold renamed Phoenix
1966 sold renamed East Head
1967 sold renamed Arrow Head
1968 sold renamed Moji Trader
1969 sold renamed Victory, 1969 scrapped at Hong Kong.

Sister ship: Bantam (1939), Brastagi (1937), both ships were also equipped with Sulzer engines.

Builder: P. Smit Jr, Rotterdam
Length: 515ft 4in
Beam: 62ft 9in
Draught: 30ft 10in
Gross tons: 9,312
Deadweight tons 12,166
Speed: 16 knots
Propulsion: two De Schelde Sulzer diesel engines of 4,000hp each
Auxiliaries: ??
Passengers: 12
Ship no. 517019

National Library of Australia : Trove website of archived Australian Newspapers (

Page added September 5th 2012

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