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This website is developed from the site originally conceived developed & maintained by Marcus Castell and associates. Opinions are those of the various authors of the articles, and are not those of the NZ National Maritime Museum unless specifically noted. Information in this site has been updated to 2002 and will be progressively updated as resources allow. More information on historic ships (etc) is contained in the MARITIME INDEX website
The Turbo Elecric Vessel   MAORI   III     1952 - 1974

At 8,303 Gross Registered Tons, the third Maori was designed by William Waters, (1922 - 99), the Union Steam Ship Co's last in-house naval architect, and commissioned to replace the much admired Rangatira of 1931.  She made approximately 6,000 crossings of the Cook Strait and steamed 1,082,134 nautical miles in the transport of 1,239,772 passengers.

Ship's Log

1951     March    Tenders called for the new vessel.

1952     November 27    Launched by H.R.H. Princess Margaret at Vickers Armstrong Ltd., Newcastle-on-Tyne.  Below left: The launching mechanism is explained to the Princess by Major-General C. C. L. Dunphie, managing director of Vickers Armstrong.

    A 1,688 Kb Windows Media Player video sequence of the launching, which runs for 2 minutes, 14 seconds is downloadable in .zip format by clicking on the video button.


1953     Her first trials were below design speed, this was corrected by a change in propeller pitch.

1953     October 11    Departed Newcastle for Wellington via Curcao, Panama and Tahiti.

1953     October 25     Wellington's The Dominion newspaper reported: "The interior fittings of the Maori enhance the illusion of a luxury yacht.  Her saloons, staterooms and officers' quarters are veneered in a variety of woods.  For the passengers' interest they are all labelled; French Walnut, Sapelle, figured Sycamore, Maple, Oak, Indian Rosewood and Mahogany.

But with the needs of wartime still fresh in people's minds the newspaper also reported: "The Maori is fitted for conversion into an armed merchant cruiser in case of war.  Sections of her deck can be lifted to provide gun emplacements.  Her hull is lined with wires setting up a de-magnetising field to protect her from mines."

1953     November 15    Arrived at Wellington and opened for public inspection.

From The Evening Post, Wellington, 16 November 1953

The Union Steam Ship Company's new Maori entered a sun-brightened Wellington harbour yesterday afternoon watched by considerable numbers of persons lining the shore and greeted in the stream by a number of yachts, dwarfed by her green hull.  She was fully dressed in bunting and looked as though she deserved the chorus of tooting car horns from Oriental Parade as she moved smoothly to her temporary berth at Queen's Wharf.  Several hundred people were waiting for her there, more than has welcomed any passenger ship for a long time.  The verdict on her appearance seemed to be that she had something of the Rangatira in her, and something of the Hinemoa, but was better looking than both.  She certainly looked bigger than the others - bigger, that is, to a greater degree than she actually is.

de Luxe cabin

Her measurements are 425 ft. by 63 ft. making her 25 ft. longer than the Hinemoa and 5 ft. wider. Not a great deal of difference there but the Maori has an extra passenger deck to the Hinemoa and a corresponding advantage in accommodation.  She has two de-luxe cabins holding four passengers, six two-berth cabins with showers and lavatories attached, three one-berth cabins with showers and lavatories attached, 39 ordinary one-berth cabins, 235 two-berth and 31 three-berth cabins, 75 four-berth and four 12-berth cabins.

Single cabin on B Deck

Her total of 395 cabins accommodating 969 passengers compares with the Hinemoa's 347 cabins holding 914 and the Hinemoa has no cabins with the attached showers and lavatories.  Other improvements are the larger number of chairs and tables in the lounge and cafe and more up-to-date appointments such as the electric shaving plug socket in every cabin and bathroom.  "A lovely ship and a lovely voyage home", said Captain D.N. McLeish, a veteran sailor who can compare his new charge with numerous other ships he has commanded including the sailing barque Pamir.  "We never wet the forecastle head", commented Captain V.G. Webb, Chief Marine Superintendent of the Union Company, who was one of the crew members.

Another on board, Mr A. L. Gatland, retired Chief supervising engineer of the company, had nothing but praise for an engine whose power, quietness and freedom from vibration all reflect the continued technical improvements which are going into the construction of ships' engines.  There were 76 in the initial crew, 42 fewer than there will be when she starts on the Wellington-Lyttelton service on November 27.  Among those who brought her here were New Zealanders returning from England and seamen recruited in England for the New Zealand coastal trade.  The Maori came by way of Curacao, Panama and Tahiti and the only difficulty was to hold her back to her 15 knot schedule.  She was like a dog on a leash, always getting a bit ahead of where she should be.  But it was typical of an inter-island ferry boat that she should arrive in the harbour right on the minute she was due.

By 7 p.m. a sizeable portion of the Wellington public had been aboard to look her over.  Only people with passes; officials, relatives and friends of crew, company guests etc. were at first allowed on but later the restriction was relaxed.  Hundreds were crowding her from D deck to the bridge deck and right on to the bridge, into the lounge to see Princess Margaret's signed photograph and into the attractive cafe.  It was easily the most notable day so far in her short history since Princess Margaret christened her at the Newcastle-on-Tyne shipyards on November 27, 1952 - almost a year ago.

Engine room controls

1953     November 27    Maiden Voyage to Lyttelton, she would make a further 14 voyages to the port that year.

1954     November     Above: backing into the berth at Lyttelton.

1962     Feb 27     Berthing stern first at Lyttelton she hit and damaged the scow Motu.

1965     April     Withdrawn from service and converted to a roll-on, roll-off vessel at the Taikoo Dockyard, Hong Kong.  At the time this was the largest conversion yet attempted.  The greater part of the main deck (Deck D) and the aft end of of the lower deck (Deck E) became a two-level garage capable of holding 100 vehicles, each roped to lashing points.  To allow head room the after end of the upper deck (Deck C) was also stripped of cabins, so that although staff quarters were added on the bridge deck, passenger accommodation was reduced by 160. A stern door was manufactured in Japan and a lateral thrust unit was fitted near the bow to assist berthing.

On her return voyage, she called at Singapore to load about one hundred cars being brought home by New Zealand servicemen from Malyasia.

Before and after conversion.

1965     December 5     Arrived at Wellington, where thousands of people turned out to welcome her.

1965     December 16     Resumed the inter-island ferry service.

1966     During the year she made 153 visits to Lyttelton with 459,000 tons of cargo.

1968     April     Above: with the loss of the Wahine, the Maori was forced to carry out the work of two ships; a task that frequently involved travelling from Wellington to Lyttelton and back on the same day.

1971     November 1     Sailed for Lyttelton in the evening, but only to position her crew in their home port before they embarked on a 72 hour strike.

1972     March 27     Her last sailing on the inter-island service. Placed in reserve subsequent to the delivery of the new Rangatira.

1972     September     Replaced the Rangatira when the ship suffered turbine problems.

1972     October 16     Laid up again after having made 6,023 Cook Strait crossings with 1,239,772 passengers.

Laid up at Queen's Wharf, Wellington in 1973.

1974     January     After nearly two years full of ideas, such as using her as a floating hotel at the Christchurch Commonwealth Games, turning her into a trade-fair venue and even a power-generation plant, she was sold to Wiltopps (Asia) Ltd, a Hong Kong shipping company for a projected Hong Kong-Taiwan service.

At one stage the evangelical group, Youth with a Mission, put a deposit on her, but they could not raise the buying price.  The New Zealand director of the group said later, Maori (which they planned to rename Agape, the Greek word for love) was the only ship they felt led towards, adding,  "We will continue to pray about the whole situation".

1974     January 19     Above: departed from Wellington for Hong Kong under tow of the Luzon Stevedoring Corp's tug Mariner.

1974     February     Sold to the Yung Tai Steel & Iron Company of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

1974     March 6     Arrived at Kaohsiung to be broken up.

Above and Below: Dining Saloon

Above and Below: Smoking Room and Bar

Main Foyer

Promenade deck


Thanks to Peter Armstrong, Matthew Smith and Marcus Castell

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