When I was the manager of a travel agency in the 1970s I often had the opportunity to inspect the cruise ships operating out of Sydney, and one of the more interesting vessels I had a look over was named Enna G. Operated by Nauru Pacific Line, Enna G was not really suitable for the cruise trade at all, but had an extremely interesting and most unusual career.
Enna G was originally named Prinses Margriet, the second completed of a pair of sisters built in The Netherlands for a Dutch shipping company, Oranje Lijn. Prinses Margriet had also operated for two other Dutch companies without being renamed before being bought by Nauru Pacific Line.
Oranje Lijn had been founded on 16th July 1937 as NV Maatschappij Zeetransport by Anthony Veder, who purchased two cargo vessels to transport fruit and nuts from southern Europe and North Africa to the Netherlands. In June 1938, Veder expanded his operation include a service to the Great Lakes in the summer months, but everything came to a halt in 1940 when the German Army invaded The Netherlands.
After the Second World War Veder began rebuilding his company, and adopted the trading name Oranje Lijn as his ships were all named after members of the Dutch Royal Family. In 1953 the Prins Willem van Oranje was built with accommodation for 60 passengers. Cabins on the Upper Deck had three berths while those on Passenger Deck were twin bedded, and all had private facilities. There was a large lounge overlooking the bow, and a spacious Dining Saloon on the port side.
In 1955, Oranje Lijn signed a co-operation agreement with a Norwegian company, Fjell Line, which was also operating a service from Europe to the Great Lakes, and vessels from both lines on the Great Lakes had the name Fjell-Oranje Lines painted on their hulls.
In 1958 Oranje Line was purchased by another Dutch shipping company, N V Koninklijke Paketvaart-Maatschappij, which translates as the Royal Packet Navigation Company. Once the largest Dutch shipping company, when operating services from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies, around those islands, and to Australia and Asian ports, KPM had fallen on hard times after the Dutch East Indies became Indonesia in 1947, KPM hoped to improve its financial position by acquiring Oranje Lijn, which continued to operate as a separate entity.
The size of ships operating beyond Montreal to the Great Lakes was governed by the size of the locks then in place on the St. Lawrence River, but in 1954 work had begun on a new waterway, which would open in April 1959 as the St. Lawrence Seaway, and enable larger vessels to reach the Great Lakes. In preparation for this, Oranje Lijn had placed an order for their largest vessel to date with the “De Merwede” Shipyard at Hardinxveld, yard number 546. It was named after the second daughter of Queen Juliana, Prinses Irene, who launched the vessel on 12th July 1958.
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