RMS Transvaal Castle

From SpottingWorld, the Hub for the SpottingWorld network...
Name: 1961—1966: RMS Transvaal Castle
1966—1969: RMS S.A. Vaal
1969—1977: SS S.A. Vaal
1977-1996: SS Festivale
1996—2000: SS IslandBreeze
2000—2003: SS Big Red Boat III
2003: SS The Big Red Boat
Owner: 1961—1966: Union-Castle Line
1966—1977: Safmarine
1977—1996: Carnival Cruise Lines
1996—1998: Dolphin Cruise Line
1998—2000: Premier Cruise Line
2000—2003: Unknown[1]
Operator: 1961—1966: Union-Castle Line
1966—1977: Safmarine
1978—1996: Carnival Cruise Lines
1996—199?: Dolphin Cruise Line
199?—199? Thomson Cruises
1998—2000: Premier Cruise Line[1][2]
Port of registry: 1961—1969: London,  United Kingdom
1969—1977: Cape Town, 22x20px South Africa
1977—1991: Panama City, 22x20px Panama
1991—2003: Nassau,  Bahamas[1]
Builder: John Brown & Co., Clydebank, Scotland, United Kingdom[1]
Yard number: 720[1]
Launched: 17 January 1961[1]
Acquired: 16 December 1961[1]
Maiden voyage: 18 January 1962[1]
Out of service: September 2000[1]
Fate: Scrapped in Alang, India, 2003.[1]
General characteristics as built, 1961[1]
Type: ocean liner
Tonnage: 32,697 GRT
Displacement: 16,604 metric tons deadweight (DWT)
Length: 231.71. m (760 ft 2 in)
Beam: 27.44 m (90 ft 0 in)
Draught: 8.90 m (29 ft 2 in)
Installed power: 2 × Pametrada-Brown steam turbines
combined 44,000 bhp
Propulsion: 2 propellers[3]
Speed: 22.5 knots (41.67 km/h; 25.89 mph) (service speed)[3]
Capacity: 726 passengers
General characteristics as rebuilt, 1978
Type: cruise ship
Tonnage: 38,175 GRT[2]
Capacity: 1,432 passengers[1]
Notes: Otherwise the same as built

RMS Transvaal Castle was an ocean liner built in 1961 by John Brown & Company in Scotland for the United Kingdom-based Union-Castle Line for their service between Southampton and Durban. In 1966 she was sold to the South Africa-based Safmarine and renamed S.A. Vaal for further service on the same route. Following cessation of the service between the UK and South Africa in 1977 the ship was sold to Carnival Cruise Lines and rebuilt in Japan as the cruise ship SS Festivale, re-entering service in 1978.[4] In 1996 she was sold to Dolphin Cruise Line and renamed IslandBreeze. The vessel spent some of her time under Dolphin Cruise Line ownership on charter to Thomson Cruises. In 1998 the ship was sold to Premier Cruise Line and renamed SS Big Red Boat III. Following the bankruptcy of Premier Cruise Line 2000, Big Red Boat III was laid up until 2003 when she was sold to the scrappers in Alang, India.[1][2] The ship became The Big Red Boat for her final voyage to the scrapyard.[1]

Concept and construction

RMS Transvaal Castle was the last in a series of three similar but not identical ships planned by the Union-Castle Line in the 1950s as replacements for the company's oldest ships RMS Arundel Castle, RMS Carnarvon Castle and RMS Winchester Castle. The Transvaal Castle was preceded by the RMS Pendennis Castle (delivered in 1958) and RMS Windsor Castle (delivered in 1960). Unlike her earlier near-sisters the Transvaal Castle was planned as a one-class liner. At 32,697 GRT, she was to be the company's second-largest ship, surpassed only by the Windsor Castle.[4]

The contract for the construction of the Transvaal Castle was awarded to the John Brown & Company shipyard at Clydebank, Scotland. The vessel was launched from drydock on 17 January 1961, and delivered to Union-Castle on 16 December 1961.[1]

Service history

1961—1977: United Kingdom—South Africa liner service

The new Transvaal Castle set on her maiden voyage from Southampton in the United Kingdom to Durban in South Africa on 18 January 1962. With the new ships the travel time between the UK and South Africa was cut from 13½ days to 11½ days, with departures from both Southampton and Durban at 4 PM on Thursday, every week. In 1965 the departure time was altered to 1 PM every Friday.[4]

In order to better cater to the increasing number of South African passengers and the demands of the South African government, the Transvaal Castle and her fleetmate RMS Pretoria Castle were transferred to the South African Safmarine in 1966.[4] The Transvaal Castle was taken over by Safmarine on 12 January 1966 and renamed S.A. Vaal. The ship's hull was repainted white and her funnel changed to Safmarine's mid-grey, with three thin lines of the then South African national colours: orange white and blue. RMS S.A. Vaal remained registered in London[1] and continued to operate on the same service as before. Thus the UK—South Africa service became a joint operation between Union-Castle and Safmarine.[4] In February 1969 the S.A. Vaal was re-registered to Cape Town.[1]

The Union-Castle/Safmarine joint mailship service declined heavily during the 1970s. This was due to a combination of adverse economic factors including the loss of earnings from high value cargoes, which were increasingly being carried in the more efficient, revolutionary new container ships. After Pendennis Castle was withdrawn in June 1976 just two mailships remained on the route - Union-Castle's Windsor Castle and Safmarine's S.A. Vaal - in addition to Union-Castle's last cargo/passenger vessels RMMV Good Hope Castle and RMMV Southampton Castle (carrying just 12 passengers each) and other chartered cargo-only tonnage. The jointly owned passenger liner service ceased completely in October 1977, with the S.A. Vaal being the last to arrive in Southampton on 10 October 1977.[4] (Safmarine attempted to restart the serviced in 1984 with the second-hand cruise ship MS Astor, but this was not successful).[5]

1978—2003: Cruise ship service

Following the withdrawal from service the S.A. Vaal was sold to Carnival Cruise Lines and renamed SS Festivale. Carnival converted her into a cruise ship in Japan at the cost of $30 million, removing former cargo holds and doubling the vessel's passenger capacity, installing further lounges also dedicated discothèques and casinos. The vessel became one of Carnival's "First Generation" cruise ships.

With Carnival later creating substantially larger cruise liners, the Festivale eventually became redundant. There was still a market for passengers who preferred "traditional" looking ships, and after a brief charter with Thomson Cruises, Premier Cruise Line purchased the vessel in 1998. They named her Big Red Boat III, as she was their third liner, and like all of their ships, had her hull painted a bright and somewhat garish red.

Premier Cruises went bankrupt in 2000, and their ships were seized in various ports in the Caribbean, North America, and Europe. By now ageing, outmoded and in need of repairs, the Big Red Boat III could find no work and was sold to the shipbreakers in Alang, India in the summer of 2003. She was scrapped in 2003-2004.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Asklander, Micke. "T/S Transvaal Castle (1961)" (in Swedish). Fakta om Fartyg. http://www.faktaomfartyg.se/transvaal_castle_1961.htm. Retrieved 21 December 2008. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Boyle, Ian. "Transvaal Castle". Simplon Postcards. http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/TransvaalCastlePCs.html. Retrieved 21 December 2008. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Miller, William H (1995). Pictorial Encyclopedia of Ocean Liners, 1860-1994. Mineola: Dover. pp. 128. ISBN 0-486-28137-X. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Miller, William H (1986). The Last Blue Water Liners. London: Conway. pp. 55–58. ISBN 0 85177 400 8. 
  5. Miller (1986). pp. 198-199

fr:Big Red Boat III