van heutsz sulzer powered ships
Van Heutsz
1926 - 1959


A fine view of a work-stained Van Heutsz.

The Van Heutsz was laid down in April 1925, launched in March 1926 and completed in November 1926 at the N.V. Koninklijke Maatschappij "De Schelde", Vlissingen shipyard for the Amsterdam based Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM) shipping line (Royal Packet Navigation Co.).

This cargo & passenger ship was primarily used in local service about the Dutch East Indies to Singapore & China, commencing service on November 8th 1926. J B Van Huetsz was at one time the Governor-General of the Dutch Indies.

Passenger timetables of the period show the Van Heutsz and sister ship the Cremer on scheduled workings between Singapore and Hong Kong, three days allowed for the trip.

1927: January 12th at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang, then January 19th from Singapore to China ports.

1927: February 9th at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang, then February 16th from Singapore to China ports.

1927: March 9th at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang, then March 16th from Singapore to China ports.

1927: April 8th whilst at Singapore (from Belawan-Deli & Penang) a search of the cargo holds by the Preventative Service found concealed quantities of chanda. The Van Heutsz would sail for Chinese ports on April 13th.

1927: May 4th at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang, then May 11th from Singapore to China ports.

1927: June 1st at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang, then June 9th from Singapore to China ports.

1927: Summer - advertising material for the Sumatra - Straits - China service operated by the motorships Cremer & Van Heutsz offered fortnightly sailings between Penang - Belawan - Singapore - Hong Kong - Satow - Amoy. Fares offered were:
Singapore to Hong Kong: 1st Class $120, 2nd Class $80
Singapore to Swatow: 1st Class $150, 2nd Class $90
Singapore to Amoy: 1st Class $145, 2nd Class $87.

1927: June 29th at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang.

1927: July 8th a Chinese emigrant returning on the Van Heutsz from Penang was stabbed whlst the vessel was in Singapore harbour. Although taken to a local hospital the man was not expected to live.

1927: July 27th at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang, the China ports voyage was taken by the Van Overstraten.

1927: September 21st at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang, then September 29th from Singapore to China ports.

1927: October 19th at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang, then October 27th from Singapore to China ports.

1927: November 16th at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang, then November 24th from Singapore to China ports.

1927: December 14th at Singapore for Belawan-Deli & Penang.

1928: January 9th whilst en-route from China ports to Singapore and about six miles from the Horsburg Light the captain of the Van Heutsz, Johann Groothoff noticed a motor launch approaching. Previous experience suggested chandu was to be passed from the ship to the launch, which happened after signals were exchanged between the launch and the coolie deck. Attempts by the crew to prevent the dropping of packets into the ocean were partially successful. A wireless message was sent to the Preventive Service/Monopolies Department, who sent a launch to investigate, the Van Heutsz advising them of the direction taken by the smuggler's launch. The authorities eventually caught up with the launch, leading to the pressing of charges against the launch's master & mechanic.

1928: September 4th on arrival at Singapore were 1,933 deck passengers from China ports.

1930: September 26th on arrival at Hong Kong from Singapore the master of the Van Heutsz reported the birth of a Chinese girl on the voyage and the suicide of a Chinese male passenger by hanging.

1931: June 4th a Chinese passenger from the Van Heutsz arriving at Penang was fined $2,000 (or in default 13 months imprisonment) for being in possession of 60 tahils of non-Government chandu.

1931: October 15th at Singapore a search of the Van Heutsz found large barrels labelled 'Red Lion Graphite' but which contained 500 tahils of Red lion Chandu valued at about $3,000. They were addressed to a fictitious consignee.

1935: March 26th Singapore, the arrival of the Van Heutsz (Master D Helleman) with a case of smallpox saw all 2,233 Chinese immigrants transferred by lighter to St John's Island for five days quarantine, assuming no other cases occurred. The Van Heutsz was then thoroughly fumigated, the 50 cabin passengers and crew were vaccinated before docking at Singapore. The ship would then sail for Belawan-Deli & Penang. On the same voyage, whilst approaching Singapore a Chinese deck passenger was lost overboard, a search revealed no sign of the passenger.

1935: April 22nd travelling on the Van Heutsz from Hong Kong to Singapore was famous British playright Noel Coward. Because the Van Heutsz was carrying many Chinese deck passengers it was required to follow quarantine rules and anchor at St John's Island prior to docking at Singapore. Because Mr Coward was to attend a State dinner that night, special dispensation was given for a motor launch to take him from the ship to the immigration sheds at Tanjong Pagar.

1935: June 18th on a voyage from China ports to Singapore with Captain Helleman a case of smallpox was discovered requiring quarantine for the 600 deck passengers at St John's Island and fumigation of the ship. Elsewhere on the ship a passenger was found dead with his throat cut, a blood stained razor was found alongside the body in the 'tween deck. After an investigation conducted by the ship's officers burial took place at sea.

1935: December 26th the K.P.M vessel Togian which had run aground at Pulau Tembulan, near Borneo, for a fortnight was towed into Singapore by the Van Heutsz.

1936: October 21st the death of a baby was reported following the arrival of the Van Heutsz, the infant was buried at sea.

1937: January 13th five cases of macaroni imported from China to Singapore were found to contain 190 tins of non-Government chandu valued at $1,520. The packing cases had been specially adapted to conceal the tins.

1937: September 1st/2nd a major typhoon, with wind speeds reaching 164 mph (recorded by two un-official recorders, the official measuring station devices were destroyed), a barometer reading of 28.298 and five inches of rain that night, struck Hong Kong, over 20 large vessels were driven ashore, including the Van Heutsz with 1,200 deck & 60 cabin passengers at Green Island, west of Hong Kong. The ship adrift in the fairway, struck several other vessels before colliding heavily with the Gertrude Maersk. Several ships tried to render assistance including the Kausing, the destroyer Thracian and two naval tugs but without success. The crew and passengers were rescued by several vessels and the tug Henry Keswick. The Van Heutsz was reported with two large holes in her hull. Many of the Van Heutsz passengers reached Singapore on September 11th using a specially chartered relief ship the Anking, but were quarantined on their arrival at St John's Island because of a mild cholera case on board. Three KPM officials travelled from Batavia by air and sea to lead the team in refloating the Van Heutsz. Salvage equipment was also forwarded by KPM to assist in the refloating.

1937: September 10th the Van Heutsz had been refloated and placed on a mudbank at Shamshuipo until a dock became available for repairs.

1937: December 29th on the sailing from China to Singapore one Chinese passenger fell overboard and was lost.

1939: October 7th (?) the assistant cook of the ship was arrested for carrying 40 tahils of chandu, valued at $320, hidden about his person. A sentence of one day's imprisonment was imposed with a fine of $1,000 (or ten months rigourous imprisonment).

During World War II the Van Heutsz was chartered by the Ministry of War Transport from June 25th 1942.

In late 1942 the Allies attacked the Buna–Gona–Sanananda area of Papua and relied on the KPM fleet for the movement of all the men & materials involved. The ships movements were in small convoys of one or two vessels and was collectively known as Operation Lilliput, the Van Heutsz was one of the ships used.

Convoy TN18 depart Townsville December 24th 1942 arrive Port Moresby December 27th 1942 seven ships including the Van Heutsz and the Cremer.

In January 1943 six Japanese aircraft attacked the Katoomba which was escorting the Van Heutsz. The escort sustained only superficial damage but the Van Heutsz took a direct hit which killed one man and seriously wounded three others.

Convoy TN72 depart Townsville April 13th 1943 arrive Port Moresby April 16th 1943 three ships including the Van Heutsz.

Convoy TN92 depart Townsville May 13th 1943 arrive Port Moresby May 15th 1943 four ships including the Van Heutsz.

Convoy TN105 depart Townsville June 14th 1943 arrive Fall River June 17th 1943 eight ships including the Van Heutsz.

Convoy TN116 depart Townsville July 12th 1943 arrive Milne Bay July 15th 1943 four ships including the Van Heutsz and the Cremer.

Convoy TN126 depart Townsville July 31st 1943 arrive Milne Bay August 4th 1943 nineteen ships including the Van Heutsz.

Convoy TN142 depart Townsville August 21st 1943 arrive Fall River August 25th 1943 seven ships including the Van Heutsz.

Convoy TN156 depart Townsville September 16th 1943 arrive Milne Bay September 19th 1943 ten ships including the Van Heutsz.

Convoy TN172 depart Townsville October 24th 1943 arrive Port Moresby October 27th 1943 twenty three ships including the Van Heutsz.

Convoy TN182 depart Townsville November 26th 1943 arrive Milne Bay November 30th 1943 seven ships including the Van Heutsz.

Convoy TN195 depart Townsville December 20th 1943 arrive Milne Bay December 23rd 1943 eleven ships including the Van Heutsz.

Convoy TN205 depart Townsville January 10th 1944 arrive Milne Bay January 13th 1944 five ships including the Van Heutsz.

Convoy TN219 depart Townsville February 18th 1944 arrive Milne Bay February 20th 1944 seven ships including the Van Heutsz.

The Van Heutsz was noted at Madang early in August 1944 providing support for Australian engineers working on local roads and the airstrip.

In September 1945 the ship was returned to KPM. From March to October 1946 it was chartered by the Nederlands-Indische Regering (LINES). At the end of 1947 it was transferred to the Koninklijke Java-China-Paketvaart Lijnen N.V (KJCPL) (Royal Interocean Line) and had the distinction of being seized and then released by Chinese pirates during December 1947.

On October 1st 1945 whilst being loaded at Dalgety's Wharf, Brisbane, a crew member was struck by a case in the hold of the vessel. He suffered a fractured skull and was transported to the hospital where he was listed as in serious condition. At the time the Van Heutsz had been declared 'black' by wharf labourers and was being loaded by Dutch Army personnel. Dutch & Australian military were present as the ship was loaded. The Van Heutsz left later that afternoon without the help of tugs, and bound for Batavia. Among those on board were members of the Dutch Army & Navy, Dutch civil and intelligence authorities and some British civilians. The cargo, because of the passengers carried included arms and ammunition as well as cases of phosphor brass used in the making of spindles for valves. Waterside workers did handle five other ships at Dalgety's Wharf that were not blacked, whilst six other Dutch ships remained stuck in port. The 'blacking' had been in place for about a week following a strike of Indonesian seamen employed on Dutch vessels. They were protesting the use of Dutch vessels to transport military supplies to the Dutch East Indies for use against the Indonesian republican uprising. About 90 Indonesian seamen had been on the Van Heutsz.

Related to the above event many Dutchmen and Indonesians aboard the van Heutsz, gave the sum of £151/10/6 to the Australian Red Cross Society. The donors who had loaded the van Heutsz had received a modest sum for purchase of comforts. However by spontaneous agreement a subscription fund was opened as a token of appreciation for hospitality and sympathy by well-wishing Australia.

1946: May 7th (?) the first batch of Penang Chinese would board the Van Heutsz to return them to China. 400 persons were expected in this first shipment, as a result armed guards travelled on the ship.

1947: January 11th the arrival of the Van Heutsz from Hong Kong at Singapore saw 1,319 Chinese deck passengers quarantined at St John's Island for eight days.

1947: May 1st the Van Heutsz arrived with a further 700 Chinese repatriates for Singapore and the Malayan Union.

1947: June, whilst lying at anchor in a Singapore quarantine anchorage and displaying the alien flag, a sampan drew near leading to a passenger jumping from the ship into the sampan. A chase ensued with Immigration Officers taking the sampan owner and eight others, including the alien man from the Van Heutsz into custody. Six of the men were aquitted, the sampan owner was fined $300 for communicating with the Van Heutsz without the permission of the Immigration Officer and $300 to aiding and abetting an alien in disembarking from the Van Heutsz prior to the alien flag being lowered. When a ship was flying the immigration flag other vessels were to remain at least a cable's length from the ship flying the flag.

1947: December 15th during late afternoon and into the night a band of 25 Chinese pirates described as armed, ruthless and well organised were reported to have seized £180,000 from the Van Heutsz, whilst the vessel was north of Hong Kong. The ship was under the command of Captain Klaas Vliek when armed coolies ordered the captain and wheelman/chief mate (G Altona) to stop the ship before being ordered to Honghai Bay. Another group of armed coolies herded the other ship's officers into the saloon. A third group rounded up the other crew and imprisoned them in a hold. Then began the systematic ransacking of the first class cabins. Six First Class Chinese passengers were taken for ransom, but three were later released without payment having been made. One of the ransomed was the son of Tan Kah Kee, a Singapore millionaire, whose philanthropic reputation may have led to the son's release without payment. At dawn a large fishing junk came alongside (having been commandeered?) and took the hostages and the loot. The Van Huetsz motorboat was lowered with the captain, first mate and six crewmen aboard, it being towed behind the junk, which made for Bias Bay about 50 miles north of Hong Kong. On landing the crew and those passengers not to be ransomed were released and made their way to Hong Kong. Frequently the pirates would board the targeted vessels as passengers or vendors and then be assisted by Chinese crew members working on the ship. After the incident the Van Heutsz returned to Hong Kong. It was reported this was the first trip the ship had made after dispensing with a Dutch military guard of twelve soldiers and one officer. The ship sailed from Hong Kong on December 16th for Swatow still with police aboard continuing their investigations.

1947: December 25th (Hong Kong) a search of a cabin occupied by Chinese passengers resulted in the discovery of $100,000 (US) worth of illegally imported gold bars & coins. The cabin occupants were arrested.

1948: January 12th on her trip from Singapore to Hong Kong, Amoy & Swatow armed Ambonese pirate guards, dressed in Dutch Army uniforms were be present. Weapons carried on the ship included Bren guns, Sten guns, rifles, hand grenades and tear gas bombs.

1948: April 7th Revenue Officers at Singapore seized a total of $200,000 worth of opium from the luggage of deck passengers arriving on the Van Heutsz. This was the largest haul of opium taken from deck passengers at Singapore since the end of the war. The opium was concealed in condensed milk tins, small cannisters glued in rice-cakes, the false bottoms of buckets and wicker baskets, the lining of suitcases, false walls of cooking tins, teapots, the stuffing in pillows and packets of dried fish. The total weight recovered was about 280 pounds, with raw opium selling to Singapore addicts at $700 a pound.

1948: April 19th three of the kidnapped passengers taken by pirates on December 15th 1947 were released. Tan Kit Cheang, son of Singapore businessman Tan Kah Kee was one of those released following paymemt of HK300,000.

1948: April 24th the captain and officers of the Van Heutsz identified four of the six suspects as ring-leaders of an armed pirate gang which captured the ship north of Hong Kong on December 15th 1947 and escaped with booty worth £A180,000. The suspects were arrested in a series of raids on four premises simultaneously in the Hong Kong and Kowloon area. Banknotes and jewellery valued at over £A5,000 were found on the premises. The suspects have been charged with piracy on the high seas. The last of the hostages escaped from their captors on September 1st 1948 near Canton and then made their way to Hong Kong. During their confinement they were handled by three different bandit gangs and were held in 26 different locations.

1948: November the Van Heutsz was laid up in Hong Kong pending an overhaul. By the end of January 1949 the ship had entered the dockyard and amongst other things was having a complete engine overhaul. The ship returned to service on March 9th 1949, improvements included a hospital with wards for men & women and a dispensary.

1952: September noted en-route between Singapore and Japan with 3,000 tons of scrap metal in her holds.

1952: September an act of terrorism in Singapore saw Hong Kong police thoroughly search the Van Heutsz when it arrived in Hong Kong on Septembr 18th. The prime suspect in the grenade throwing incident that injured two police officers was reported as being on the ship but could not be located upon its arrival. The Van Heutsz was the only ship to leave Singapore for Hong Kong since the incident.

1953: June 23rd on departure from Singapore for Chinese ports the Van Heutsz carried 12 deportees from Belawan Deli to China and 400 students from Indonesia & Singapore for China, the largest number of students reported by the ship's purser in six years, accompanying the students were an equal number of new bicycles and tires. Also present on the ship was a stowaway who was detected by the chief purser a few hours after leaving Belawan-Deli. The stowaway was placed in the brig but managed to escape six times. He was eventually placed in the cold room, being checked on every two hours. At Singapore the stowaway was handed over to immigration authorities.

The Van Heutsz remained in this service until 1957 when the ship returned to KPM and was renamed the Barentsz.

During February 1959 the ship was sold for scrap to the Chiap Hua Manufacturing Co. Ltd.in Hong Kong.

Builder: N.V. Koninklijke Maatschappij "De Schelde", Vlissingen, number 180.
Launched: 1926
Deadweight: 3,734 tons
Displacement: 4,552 tons
Length: 404 feet, 123.44 meters
Beam: moulded 52feet, 15.90 meters
Draught: moulded 24 feet 6in, 8.23 meters
Engines: Two Schelde-Sulzer six cylinder engines totalling 3,400hp (or 4,000hp?)
Screws: 2
Service Speed: 13.5 knots
Passenger Capacity: 16 first, 30 second, 25 third; 2,137 deck passengers.

Page added September 19th 2007
Last updated October 20th 2014

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