The Malmo Class ships were handsome, single funnelled vessels with two masts, a compact superstructure and their hulls were strengthened for ice. In order to expedite their design and completion they were somewhat old fashioned in propulsion, construction and appearance. They were virtually obsolete shortly after entering service, but served the Company well until the mid 1960s, their demise hastened by the advent of containerisation. In 1966, Volo and Truro were fitted with forklift trucks and modified to take both pallets and a limited number of 20-feet containers. However these modifications only meant that they were retained for up to three years following implementation of these “stop gap” measures. They were the last of the class to leave the fleet.

Although there were minor differences between the eight ships they were all powered by a T.3-cylinder (19.5, 32 & 54 x 36 inches) steam engine with a Bauer-Wach Exhaust Turbine and double reduction gearing and hydraulic coupling to a single shaft. A 4 bladed solid bronze propeller 13ft. 3in. diameter made by Manganese Bronze was fitted and the ships had a service speed of about 13.5 knots.

In addition to general cargo the ships carried twelve passengers in First Class accommodation. They were employed mainly on the Scandinavian routes, and built up a regular following, the berths being booked well advance, often for the round trip.

Two of the class, Volo and Leo, following subsequent sales, were two of the first ships owned by Sea Malta. Volo had been sold to Malta Maritime Services Ltd. in 1969 and was renamed Avolos. She was rebuilt with an extended bridge and a streamlined funnel. She was converted to diesel propulsion.

In 1974 she joined Sea Malta as Mdina and Leo became Marsa after serving Maltese National Lines Ltd. as Malcolm Pace and Oleos. She also had been rebuilt in the same manner as Avolos. A third vessel to be initially owned by the company, was the German built Gudja. Mdina was rebuilt with an extended bridge and a streamlined funnel. She was converted to diesel propulsion.

Sea Malta was established on the 10th November 197 3during the tenure of the Labour Government led by Dominic Mintoff, which had the majority of the shares in the new company. The aim was to able to provide maritime services to deal with the needs of the Island. The first three ships were taken over from Maltese National Lines, Marsa, Mdina and Gudja. All three were laid up in 1976.

(C Reynolds)


Gudja (above) had been built by Bremer Vulcan in Germany in 1950 as Argo, for Argo Reederei, Richard Adler & Sohn, Bremen. She was 1,594 grt with deadweight of 2,994 tons. She had a length of 90.7 metres and a beam of 12.9 metres. Double compound steam engines gave her a speed of 12 knots. In 1964 she was sold to Arnold de Champs A/B, Stockholm and renamed Monita. In 1972 she was bought by Malta Marine Services Ltd., Panama and renamed Munita. In 1974 the vessel was transferred to Sea Malta. Like her two running mates she was laid up in 1976 before being broken up in September 1980 at Augusta, in Sicily.

The government had embarked on the privatisation of Sea Malta in 2005 but the talks with the Italian company Grimaldi, which was interested in the bid, faltered after sea-based employees objected to the conditions on offer.

Sailors continued objecting to the conditions offered by Grimaldi even after the government had signed a preliminary agreement with the Italian company.

At that stage the process was abandoned and the government declared Sea Malta bankrupt.

At the time the national sea company had accumulated losses that amounted to €10.9 million.

Eventually, the routes operated by Sea Malta, deemed to be a public service obligation, were offered to the subsidiary company set up by Grimaldi, Malta Motorways of the Sea.



(John B Hill Collection)


Subscribe today to read the full article!

Simply click below to subscribe and not only read the full article instantly, but gain unparalleled access to the specialist magazine for shipping enthusiasts.

Subscribe nowLog In


Sorry, comments are closed for this item

Up next

Related articles