Stockholm: a ship of today and tomorrow
s e r v i c e .. c a r e e r
As the effects of the world-wide depression began to diminish in the late 1930s, the Swedish American Line turned their attention to building a new flagship that would be purpose built for cruising. The line had made a name for itself in the cruising world, and had become famous for its “White Viking Fleet.” The new ship under consideration would be second ship in the fleet to bear the name Stockholm—the first Stockholm that had served company from 1915 to 1929 had previously been the Holland America Line’s Potsdam. The ship was to weigh in at 29,000 tons, but a series of unfortunate events would prevent a ship with the name Stockholm from re-entering the lines service for some time. Indeed, the two ships so intended to be named were destroyed just before and during the second World War. The first Stockholm ordered was destroyed by fire in 1938 before it was launched, and the second to bear the name was bombed by the allies at Trieste during the war, never seeing service under the Swedish flag. Only after the war ended would a Stockholm enter service for the Swedish American Line.
Plans for the ‘new’ Stockholm were started before the end of the War, with an order placed with the Gotaverken shipyard at Gothenburg in October 1944. The dimensions of the new ship had changed dramatically since the pre-war plans, however. The new ship would be much smaller at 11,700 tons, but still she was the largest ship ever built in Sweden. When construction started on the liner in 1946, new construction techniques that varied from the pre-war days were employeed. Much of the hull and superstructure were welded, rather than riveted, and the new technique gave Stockholm a sleek and modern appearance. When she was launched on September 9, 1946, Swedish American officials were keen to point out the yacht-like appearance of the ship, and went so far as to proclaim her the “ship of today and tomorrow.” Never before has a promotional cliché been more prophetic.
MV Stockholm
By February 1948 Stockholm was ready for her maiden voyage. She made the eight day crossing from Gothenburg to New York with a variety of dignitaries and company officials onboard, arriving in New York March 1. Stockholm soon settled into a routine of regular crossings in what seemed to be an idyllic career. In 1952 she underwent a refit in which her Promenade Deck was extended fore and aft, and the Sun Deck was lengthened. After construction was finished, tonnage was increased to 12,644 tons and passenger capacity nearly doubled to 670—from an earlier capacity of 395. The refit also had the effect of drastically reducing first class accommodations to 23—prior to the refit she had accommodated 113 in first class. Reentering service, it seemed that Stockholm would only be remembered as a small Tourist Class vessel. However, events on the night of July 25, 1956 would radically alter the history of Stockholm, ensuring that she would be forever remembered in maritime history.
In the late evening hours in an intense fog 60 miles off Nantucket Island, Stockholm’s reinforced bow slammed into starboard side of the Italian liner Andrea Doria. Immediately upon impact Andrea Doria began to list heavily, and would eventually succumb to the fatal gash. Though the bow of the Stockholm was badly mangled, watertight integrity of the bulkheads would be maintained, and the ship would limp back into New York harbor with survivors from Andrea Doria onboard. In all fifty one lives had been lost in the collision, with five of the fatalaties from Stockholm. The lengthy proceedings held in the aftermath of the collision failed to assign blame to either ship. In the end, the Italian Line absorbed the cost of the $30 million Andrea Doria, and Swedish America Line the $1 million cost of the Stockholm’s new bow. The question of guilt continues to be debated today, with factions loyal to each side citing ‘new’ evidence that seems to be an inditement of the other parties guilt, but as of yet the official judgement has never been reversed.
After reaching New York, repairs to Stockholm’s bow were carried out at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyards in Brooklyn, New York. Her career with the Swedish American Line would be short-lived thereafter, however, as the line had invested in new and larger tonnage with the Kungsholm in 1953 and the Gripsholm in 1957. In 1959 Stockholm was sold to the East German company Deutsche Seereederi and renamed Völkerfreundschaft and served as a trade-union cruiseship, calling at ports in the Baltic, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean and West Africa. For a time while under East German ownership, she returned to her home waters under charter to Sweden’s Stena Line and cruised to the Caribbean.
Her career under East German flag was a long one, and in 1986 the aging Swedish vessel was replaced and sold. Renamed Volker and under Panamanian flag, her fate was somewhat uncertain in those times. For a time the former Stockholm served as a barracks ship in Oslo, Norway, but Incredibly in the early 1990s, she was purchased by Italian interests and towed to Genoa for reconstruction. Italian papers greeted the liner with headlines that screamed “È ARRIVATA LA NAVE DELLA MORTE”—the ship of death has arrived—but her Italian owners would create an almost entirely new liner of her.
Under the ownership of Nina Cruises, she was renamed Italia Prima and was completely rebuilt from the hull up, emerging with a radically altered profile. Italia Prima entered cruise service, with Cuba as her primary destination, and in late 1999 was chartered by Club Valtur and renamed Valtur Prima. In October 2001, world events led Club Valtur to cancel its itineraries and Valtur Prima was laid up. Currently she remains laid up and is at Havana, Cuba. Inspite of her current inactivity, it can be said that Stockholm—with over fifty years of near continuous service—has gone far beyond her original owners promotional cliché and truly become the “ship of today and tomorrow.”
v i t a l .. s t a t i s t i c s
Gross Tonnage: 11,700 tons (initial)
Length: 525 feet
Width: 69 feet
Machinery: Diesels geared to twin screws
Speed: 19 knots
Capacity: 113 First, 282 Tourist (initial)
interior spaces | introduction
HTML design and layout by Bryan R. Guinn. All images from Swedish American Line brochures and are from the private collection of Bryan R. Guinn. Bibliography on text and vital statistics available here. No unauthorized reproduction.