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G. M. V.   Maui Pomare   1927 - 1968

Below: at Auckland circa 1956



Displacement     754 net and 1,203 tons gross.

Length overall     219 feet

Waterline length     210.8 feet

Beam     35.1 feet

Draught     14 feet

Propulsion     Originally Petters diesels, but by 1950 she had been re-engined with Fairbanks Morse diesels made in 1941.

Service Speed     10 knots

Port of registry     Wellington

Accommodation:     30 passengers in two deluxe 2 berth staterooms, eight 2 berth cabins and two six berth cabins.

Looking forward

Looking Aft from the main mast and flying bridge

Looking forward from the funnel area across a clutter of deck cargo


A passenger carrying twin-screw motorship with engines aft was a radical approach to maritime architecture in 1927.  The unusual design of the Maui Pomare would not be repeated until a generation later by the much larger and aesthetically more pleasing Southern Cross.  Today this type of configuration has become the standard for passenger vessels, but it all began with an ugly duckling that took the name of the Hon. Sir Maui Pomare (1876-1930), the first Maori medical doctor.  He graduated from the Adventist Medical College of Chicago in 1899, later becoming Minister of the Cook Islands and then Ambassador to the United States.

Dining Saloon (looking aft) and Smoking Room (looking for'ard).


1927     September 29     Yard number 123 was launched by the Dublin Dockyard Company Limited at Pembroke on the River Dodder at Dublin.  Equipped with three fine floating and graving docks, the yard was the forerunner of the Liffey Dockyard Company.

1928     February     Handed over to her owners; the Department of Island Territories of the New Zealand government, who commissioned her to carry passengers, mail and fresh fruit from the Pacific islands.  The original Berthing Plan (accommodation) is dated 1928 and to a scale of 1:90.  The front cover states Samoa, Nuie and Norfolk islands as the ports of call and it is stamped by Kinsey & Co. Ltd. as agents for the New Zealand Government.

1928     First used in the Banana trade from Western Samoa to New Zealand, her 4,122 mile line voyages commenced at Wellington, from where she would proceed to Apia and then Nuie, returning via Lyttelton.

Departing from Lyttelton about 1936

1936     In the command of Captain L. C. Boulton (photographed above, later in his career).

Probably at Apia in the 1940's

1942     Managed until 1960 by the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand for the Department of Island Territories. She was used in the Cook Islands and Niue trade carrying fruit and general cargo.

1946     January     Arrived at Rarotonga where she was met by a waterfront strike. The stevedores responsible for the exceedingly precarious work of unloading her had been paid four shillings and sixpence a day for the last forty-five years. They sought a shilling (ten cents) an hour, but the Union Steam Ship Company, acting as agents for the New Zealand government offered only six shillings a day. After much protracted negotiation the workers won their claim.

1947     December 2     At Rarotonga where industrial action delayed her unloading.

1948     January     A scheduled voyage to the Cook Islands was cancelled as a consequence of her annual survey being advanced. A subsequent report states that the actual reason was to allow the islanders to cool down after the recent industrial unrest.

1950     Six penny stamp depicting the vessel issued by the Niue Postal Service.

1950     July 18     At Niue.

1951     August 8     At Rarotonga loading a cargo of bananas. She was flying the Blue Peter signifying that she would leave shortly. It was a difficult anchorage there being only room for one large ship. The coral reef stretched out for about four cables (2,400 feet) from the shore and then there was a sudden drop into very deep water. "After the Maui Pomare was clear the old man maneuvered our ship while I took compass bearings of Donald's Store (the most prominent building on the shore) and the Government jetty in order to place the ship in exactly the right position before we dropped the Port anchor in 20 fathoms of water. The anchorage was an exposed one and the ship continued to roll to a low swell."

1952     June 23     At Rarotonga.

About once a month the ship would arrive at Rarotonga from New Zealand, anchoring out beyond the reef. Passengers would disembark onto a small vessel called a 'lighter' which were drawn ashore by a launch. Cargo also had to be towed ashore. On a calm sea the lighters could easily take on freight, but the Pacific swell often made loading a dangerous business requiring great skill.

Boat day was a major event, with family and friends returning home and new people arriving on the island. Crowds would gather at the wharf to greet the passengers, placing leis of beautiful scented flowers around their necks. Often there would be a big feast awaiting the travellers.

The ship would also bring mail and people would gather at the Post Office, across the road from the wharf. There were no letter boxes, and only a few people had post office boxes, so once the mail was sorted, family names would be called out and letters and parcels tossed to the excited waiting recipients.

At Rarotonga in July, 1956.

"In those days ship's transmitters wandered badly off frequency. The old Maui Pomare had a shortwave transmitter whose signal was distinctive but unstable. When working a coast station I would write down her telegrams with one hand while the other hand was on the dial of the receiver, tracking the ship across the spectrum. When she stopped sending I had to spin back to the starting place to follow her up again."

At Auckland late in her career

1961     Sold to the Austral Pacific Steam Navigation Company and then resold to Kimberley Shipping Company of Port Kimberley in Western Australia and registered at Panama in the same year.

1968     Sold by the Kimberley Shipping Company to the Ming Hing Company of Hong Kong for breaking up.

1968     March     Demolition under way.


Nightingale, Tony
The Pacific Forum Line     A commitment to regional shipping
Christchurch, Clerestory Press. 1998. 1st Ed. XVIII, 142 pp, with 3 maps, 5 ship's profiles and 64 B&W illustrations, plus 4 pages with 8 colour photos. ISBN: 0958370648

Thomson, Peter
Fiji in the Forties and Fifties
Auckland: Thomson Pacific, 1994. 192 pp. Illustrated.

Marine News
London: May, 1968. Page 135.


Thanks to Rosemary Deane (New Zealand National Maritime Museum) for locating many of the images, George Robinson for searching Lloyd's Registers, Steven McLachlan (specialist in Maritime Covers) for early photographs and Marcus Castell for bringing it all together.

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