The history

of the

Stoomvaart Mij. Zeeland


Short summary of the history of the SMZ







1875: the service was started between Vlissingen and Sheerness in July 1875, the company was raised by the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij (K.N.S.M.) and H.R.H. Prince Hendrik of the Netherlands with a start-capital of

Fl. 2.000.000,00.

Two ships were bought in London which had been served in the American Civil War as blockade runners, a third ship was bought in Liverpool from the service Liverpool-Man.

The service was started with three ships, the "STAD MIDDELBURG", the "STAD VLISSINGEN" and the "STAD BREDA".

As partner on British side was chosen the London Chatham & Dover Railway Company


1876: on 15 May 1876 the service was transferred to Queensborough, and the first mail-contract was signed.


1878: two new ships entered service, namely "PRINSES MARIE" and "PRINSES ELISABETH", and almost 35.000 passengers were carried, the ships were named after two nieces of H.R.H. Prince Hendrik of the Netherlands.          

A new contract for the transport of mail was signed with the Dutch Government and a third ship was ordered by                 John Elder & Co. at Glasgow.


1880: a third new ship, the "PRINS HENDRIK" (1), made her maiden-trip and replaced the "STAD VLISSINGEN" who had to be demolished after running aground at Nieuwesluis.


1883: the “WILLEM, PRINS VAN ORANJE” came into the night-service.


1887: on request of the Deutsche Post also a day-service was started with the “DUITSCHLAND”, “ENGELAND” and the “NEDERLAND”.

1895: Due to big competition with the Great Eastern Railway route Harwich-Rotterdam and the route Oostende-Dover the S.M. Zeeland decided to order three new ships in England, the three modern, fast, reliable and comfortable ships: “KONINGIN REGENTES”, “KONINGIN WILHELMINA” (1) and “PRINS HENDRIK” (2) came in 1895 in service.

Two older ships, the “PRINSES MARIE” and “PRINSES ELISABETH” were sold.


1910: Because of better railway connections to Vlissingen, three new ships with double propellers and with a speed of 22,5 knots entered on route: the “PRINSES JULIANA” (1), ORANJE NASSAU” and the “MECKLENBURG” (2).

The three paddle-steamers build in 1895 where rebuild into ferries for the day-service, except the “DUITSCHLAND” the other two old day-service ships were sold.


1912: for the first time in 26 years 6% profit was paid to the share-holders, because of an increase of transport on the route.


1914: the service was maintained during the First World War as good as possible, the amount of passengers was big during the first months of the war, this was mainly caused by refugees. 

The transport of goods was stopped after a few months, but the mail-service was still carried out, the companies second name was namely Koninlijke Nederlandse Postvaart (Royal Dutch Mail by Sea).

From Vlissingen it was the only route between Central Europe and England, for safety reasons only by day the service was carried out, a record amount of 200.000 passengers were transported.


1916: this year was a disaster for the company, the amount of transported passengers dropped dramatically and three ships were lost in this year: on 1 February the “PRINSES JULIANA” (1) hit a sea-mine, on 27 February the “MECKLENBURG” (1) and on 31 July the “KONINGIN WILHELMINA” (1) sunk.


1917: just a few sailings took place only on request of the Dutch Government.


1918: from January till November several German and British POW’s were exchanged, a special route Rotterdam-Boston was created for the Red Cross for those exchange of Prisoners of War, the “KONINGIN REGENTES” and the ZEELAND” (1) of the S.M. Zeeland were used for this Red Cross service.                                                                                            Although marked with the Red Cross sign, on 6 June during one of those trips the “KONINGIN REGENTES” was attacked by a torpedo fired by the German U-boat “UB 107”, 7 employees of the company lost their lives.


1919: the night-service was re-opened on 31 January, two ships were ordered at the Royal Schelde Shipyard in Vlissingen,   by lack of enough own capital and completing of the needed amount of money by Wm. H. Müller & Co., this company was asked to join the management of the company.


1920: the first new ordered ship after the First World War, the “PRINSES JULIANA“ (2) entered service.


1922: also the second new-building, the “MECKLENBURG” (2) came into service, although the Dutch Railways wanted to move the service from Vlissingen to Hoek van Holland, this was not executed. 

It was decided to sail only in day-service to Folkestone from 1 June on, the service was changing from a mail and packet service into a tourist ferry service, many British tourists visited the island of Walcheren or travelled further from Vlissingen by train to Germany.


1924 because of the increasing amount of tourists the well known Grand Hotel des Bains on the Boulevard in Vlissingen was bought by the S.M. Zeeland and was rebuild and exploit as Hotel Britannia.


1927: due to the devaluation of the Belgium Franc the amount of passengers decreased and also the lucrative export of meat to England was lost by an import-stop on meat by the British Government.

The company was in very bad weather an so an attractive offer of the British Government to move the service to Harwich was accepted.


1938: because of the devaluation of the Dutch Guilder and better economic conditions the results improved and the company ordered two fast motor-vessels at the Royal Schelde Shipyard in Vlissingen

Those two new ships of 4200 tons, 2 Sulzer diesel engines with 12.500 hp and a speed of 22 knots were a revolution for those days, their names: “KONINGIN EMMA” and “PRINSES BEATRIX” (1).


1940: World War II, after the occupation of Poland by the Germans the harbour of Harwich was closed for all shipment activities, because of problems to insure the ships the complete fleet was laid up.

For a small period it was tried to set up a service with the “ORANJE NASSAU” from Vlissingen to Tilbury, but this not a success.

In the week of 10 May 1940 the “KONINGIN EMMA”, “PRINSES BEATRIX” (1), “ORANJE NASSAU” and “MECKLENBURG” (2) succeed to escape to England.

The “PRINSES JULIANA” (1) was ordered by the Dutch government for troop-transport to IJmuiden and was bombed by German air-plains, beached and broke in two and sunk near Hook of Holland.

The four  S.M.Z. ships were chartered out to the British Ministry of War Transport, the two steamers were used as accommodation-ship for the Royal Dutch Navy.

The two brand new motor-vessels “KONINGIN EMMA“ and “PRINSES BEATRIX” (1) were converted as Landing Ship Infantry (LSI) and renamed into “QUEEN EMMA” and “PRINCESS BEATRIX”.

The ships had a mixed English-Dutch crew because the British Navy was not used to the Sulzer diesel engines.

Both ships were used to the end of the war for troop-transport and landing-operations in Dieppe, Sicily, Normandy an the

Far East.

The offices and workshop of the company in Vlissingen were completely destroyed by bomb-attacks.


1943: the steamer “MECKLENBURG” (2) was now in use as troop transport-ship and was also used in the landing-operation at Normandy in June 1944, after this her nickname was “FIGHTING MECK”.


1945: the “MECKLENBURG” (2) was used by the Dutch Government for special transports with children from Holland to England for recovery.


1946: the “QEEN EMMA” arrived in Vlissingen, where she and her sister-ship ”PRINCESS BEATRIX” were handed over to the Dutch Government who handed her over to her owners the S.M. Zeeland. 

Also the “ORANJE NASSAU” returned to the company  and was chartered to the L.N.E.R. which had only one ship available after the war.

Because of the damages caused by the bombing during the war it was not able to use the harbour of Vlissingen for ferry services, therefore it was decided to start-up the service from Hook of Holland to Harwich.


1947: the “MECKLENBURG” (2) was converted from a coal into an oil steamer, and was placed in the day-service from Hook of Holland to Harwich.


1948: Both the “KONINGIN EMMA” and “PRINSES BEATRIX” (1) returned to the service after their “war-dressing” was removed and they had been refurbished at the Royal Schelde in Vlissingen, both ships entered in the day-service from

Hook of Holland to Harwich.


1949-1952: a passenger-only tourist-service was maintained during the summer months twice a week by the “MECKLENBURG” (2) from Vlissingen to Folkestone, but unfortunately after four years this service was stopped on 8 September 1952 because of bad results, the “MECKLENBURG” (2)  was transferred to Hook of Holland as spare ship.

Also the freight-service started in 1946 from Vlissingen to Harwich was stopped after some time.


1953: now it was officially decided by the Dutch Government that Hook of Holland was chosen as the homeport for the passenger-service of the Stoomvaart Maatschappij Zeeland, only the maintenance of the ships remains in Vlissingen.

This was a sad day for the people of the company and of the inhabitants of Vlissingen that the company which name comes from the Province of Zeeland had to leave Vlissingen.


1954: the “ORANJE NASSAU” was sold to be scrapped after almost 45 years of service, the amount of passengers and cargo was increasing, for example in 1952 more than 100.000 passengers were transported.

The “MECKLENBURG” (2) from 1922 was the only steamer in the fleet of the S.M. Zeeland


1960: The “KONINGIN WILHELMINA” (2) entered service, she was ordered in 1956 at the Merwede Shipyard at Hardinxveld-Giessendam and was baptised on 20 May 1959 by H.R.H. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.

The “KONINGIN WILHELMINA” (2) had more space for cars then the ships before her, she could carry 60 cars and also 14 containers for mail and cargo service.

In 1960 almost 200.000 passengers and 100.000 mailbags were transported, a record.

The last steamer “MECKLENBURG” (2) was taken out of service in 1959 and was sold to Van Heyghen Freres in Gent to be scrapped.


1965: British Rail and the S.M. Zeeland agreed to exploit both the Hook-Harwich day- and night-service together with new ships which could make one round-trip in 24 hours.

New so called Ro-Ro vessels  should be ordered, and both the berths in hook of Holland and Harwich had to be adapted to the new type of transport.


1966: two new ships were ordered by the S.M. Zeeland at Cammel Laird & Co. and by British Rail at Swan Hunter & Tyne Shipbuilders Ltd.


1968: The “KONINGIN JULIANA” was put into service on 14 October on the route by H.R.H. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.

The “ST. GEORGE” of British Rail which entered service in June could only be used with limited speed of 17 knots in the night-service due to big vibrations of the ship at a speed of more than 20 knots.

Both the “PRINSES BEATRIX” (1) and “KONINGIN EMMA” from 1939 were redrawn from the service and laid up, in December they were sold to Jos de Smedt in Antwerpen to be scrapped.

From 1968 untill 1972 the S.M. Zeeland in cooperation with British Rail carried out a container-service from Rotterdam to Harwich with the “DOMBURGH” (1949, 1117 brt) of WmH Muller & Co.

The vessel had a capacity of 77 20” containers, the service was stopped in 1972 and the ship was sold to the Caribbean Sea.


1974: Due to the success of the two new ships the route Hook-Harwich developed as the bridge over the North Sea, both the transport of passengers and cars was growing steadily that a third Ro-Ro ferry was needed.

The “ST. EDMUND” was delivered by Cammel Laird & Co. to the Zeeland partner British Rail, the ferry had a capacity of 1400 passengers and 296 cars.

A new name was introduced for the ferry-service namely, Sealink.


1975: the 100-year anniversary of the S.M. Zeeland was celebrated with some trips with the “KONINGIN JULIANA” with several members of the Dutch Royal family.

Also the Zeeland had plans to order a new ship with the same capacity as the “ST. EDMUND” which should replace the “KONINGIN WILHELMINA” (2).

The “KONINGIN WILHELMINA” (2) was only used during the summer-season for some extra passenger-capacity and was laid up in the winter in Vlissingen.


1976: 950.000 passengers and 100.000 cars were transported this year, a record for the ook-Harwich service, the S.M. Zeeland ordered the new ship at Verolme Shipyard in Heusden.


1978: the “PRINSES BEATRIX”(2) was baptised on 14 January by H.R.H. Prinses Beatrix of the Netherlands and entered service on 14 June, she had a capacity of 1500  passengers and 320 cars.


1979-1980: a small profit was made in 1979 due to the sell of the “KONINGIN WILHELMINA” (2) to Ventouris Lines, from 28 June 1978 on she had been laid up in Vlissingen.

She was renamed into “Captain Constantinos” and towed by the tugboat “Temi IV” of  Towage Company Dijkhuizen from Vlissingen to Pireaus where she was prepaired for the service Pireaus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos of C. Ventouris & Sons.

In 1980 also the workshop of the S.M. Zeeland in Vlissingen was closed and the last people of the company in Vlissingen were retired.


1982: both the S.M. Zeeland and British Rail presented a so called three phase-plan which included:

- one so called jumbo-ferry which should replace two existing ferries

- this meant reduction of costs of employees, harbour-costs and fuel for the ferries.

- improvement on both the terminals in Hook of Holland and Harwich.

The “ST. EDMUND” of British Rail was sold to the Ministry of Defence and went after the Falkland War into the service Ascencion-Falkland Islands


1983: as replacement for the “ST. EDMUND” British Rail chartered the jumbo-ferry “PRINSESSAN BIRGITTA” from Stena Line for a period of two years, she was renamed into “ST. NICHOLAS”.

Before she could enter on the service she had to be adapted which was carried out in Goteborg, during this conversion temporarily the “PRINZ OBERON” was chartered for a few months, the “ST. GEORGE” was laid up and sold.

With the introduction of the “ST. NICHOLAS”, which had a capacity of 2100 passengers and 480 cars, British Rail hoped to increase her market-share with approx. 10%.


1984: the S.M. Zeeland ordered a jumbo-ferry at Van der Giessen-de Noord in Krimpen a/d IJssel, also the “PETER WESSEL” of the Larvik-Frederikshavnferjen was chartered for two years and renamed into “ZEELAND” (2).

This Norwegian ferry had a capacity of 1500 passengers and 270 cars, the “KONINGIN JULIANA” was redrawn from the service and laid up.

At first she was sold to Holland Trade Ship in Amsterdam, but after bankruptcy of this owner she sold in 1985 to Navarma Spa. (Moby Lines) Italy as “MOBY PRINCE”.

Although the transport was increased to 1.100.000 passengers and 33.000 trailers in 1983, the financial year 1983 was closed with some profit, but 1984 was closed with a negative result.

S.M. Zeeland partner British Rail was privatised and the ships were painted in a new livery, also in the management of the S.M. Zeeland were some changes, shareholder Internatio Muller was redrawn from the management and other shipping interests.


1985: one year before the introduction of the S.M. Zeeland’s jumbo-ferry the “PRINSES BEATRIX” (2) was sold to

Brittany Ferries, but was chartered back from the French company until the delivery of the new ferry.

For the first time in the 110-year old history of the company, the S.M. Zeeland had not one own ship sailing on the route. 

On 9 November 1985 the “KONINGIN BEATRIX” was baptised by H.R.H. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.


1986: in March 1986 the chartered “ZEELAND” (2) was delivered back to her owners and temporarily until the delivery of the “KONINGIN BEATRIX” for two months the “ARMORIQUE” was chartered from Brittany Ferries.

On 22 April 1986  the “KONINGIN BEATRIX” made her maiden-trip on the route Hook-Harwich, and both the “PRINSES BEATRIX” (2) and “ARMORIQUE” were delivered back to Brittany Ferries. 

Especially for the transport of trailers the freight-ferry “STENA SAILER” was chartered for the increasing freight figures.        


1989: both the company S.M. Zeeland, ships & route were acquired by Stena Line


Fleetlist Stoomvaartmij. Zeeland 1875-1989:

S/s “Stad Breda” 1875-1888

S/s “Stad Vlissingen” 1875-1879

S/s “Stad Middelburg” 1875-1889

S/s Prinses Elisabeth” 1878-1898

S/s Prinses Marie” 1877-1898

S/s “Prins Hendrik” (1) 1880-1902

S/s “Willem Prins Van Oranje” 1883-1909

S/s Duitschland 1886-1922

S/s England 1887-1910

S/s “Nederland” 1887-1910

S/s “Prins Hendrik” (2) 1895-1922

S/s “Koningin Regentes” 1895-1918

S/s “Koningin Wilhelmina” (1) 1896-1916

S/s Prinses Juliana” (1) 1909-1916

S/s “Mecklenburg” (1) 1909-1916

S/s Oranje Nassau” 1909-1952

S/s Prinses Juliana” (2) 1920-1940

S/s "Mecklenburg" (2) 1922-1960

M/v "Prinses Beatrix"  (1) 1939-1968

M/v "Koningin Emma" 1939-1968

M/v "Koningin Wilhelmina" (2) 1960-1979

M/v "Koningin Juliana" 1968-1984

M/v "Prinz Oberon" 1983-1983

M/v "Zeeland" (2) 1984-1986 

M/v Armorique” 1986

M/v "Pinses Beatrix"  (2) 1978-1985

M/v "Koningin Beatrix" 1986-1989



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