Ships of the Hadj

With Thanks to Julian Nicholas

This 'essay' is concerned with the carriage of Muslim pilgrims between south east Asia and the Indian sub-continent to Jeddah by vessels that were dedicated to that trade. By dedicated, I mean vessels that were either built, converted, chartered or purchased specifically for that trade, notwithstanding that this trade is a relatively short seasonal one and that these ships could have been, and generally were, put to other uses during the 'off' season. Ships which were used on this run as a 'one-off', or were normally on a scheduled run in this area and carried pilgrims as part of their normal service, are presently excluded from detailed description in this 'essay' but may be included later as more information becomes available.

Mecca is the birthplace, circa AD570, of the Prophet Muhammad, and is the holiest city of Islam. The pilgrimage to Mecca, called the 'Hadj', is a religious obligation to be fulfilled at least once in the life of every Muslim (although religious law does grant exclusions on grounds of hardship). Those who have completed the Hadj are entitled to add the prefix or title 'Haji' (pilgrim) to their name. The pilgrimage takes place around the time of the Muslim Holy month of fasting, Ramadan, which is variable. The farewell pilgrimage of the Prophet in AD632 was said to have been attended by 200,000 Muslims, and remained at about this level for 13 centuries.

Pilgrim access to Mecca was restricted to travel by ship to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, some 55 miles from Mecca, or overland. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 immediately created regular steamer traffic from Europe to Asia through the Red Sea this route significantly reducing the passage time over the previous route round the Cape of Good Hope. With this steamer traffic, it became commercially viable for a shipping company on the Europe to Asia route to operate the Hadj.

Blue Funnel, with frequent and regular sailings on this route, quickly became involved, commencing pilgrim runs around 1875 on the Straits - Jeddah route. British India also started a service at around this time with their "Mecca" sailing from Indonesia, but this was soon discontinued. With the exception of their "Surada", which was taken off her normal service for the Hadj when needed, Blue Funnel remained the sole operator until the early post World War 2 years. In 1948, Blue Funnel launched "Clytoneus", the first of the Mark II 'A' class ships. These ships were built with accommodation in the 'tween decks and wood laid well decks for the carriage of Pilgrims, the lifeboats being double tiered when on this run. To my knowledge, these were the first ships built with extra facilities specifically for the pilgrim run. The Mark II 'A' class ships were not used on the Pilgrim run all together ( some of these ships may not have been used for Hadj service at all ). An available ship would have been used to complement the "Tyndareus" as required. The "Tyndareus" was converted from commercial service for use on the pilgrim service in 1949.

Following is a quotation from Capt. John Bax, Blue Funnel :- "……the pilgrim trade was a difficult one as we could be loading and told to discharge all we had loaded and take off and pick up pilgrims, one never knew".

When the "Gunung Djati" replaced the "Tyndareus" that also saw the end of the Mark II 'A' class ships service on the pilgrim run.

"Laertes" with 14 lifeboats, some double banked

Early in the 1950's, due to an increase in the Straits pilgrim trade, Blue Funnel's partner, China Navigation Co, entered the service with the "Anking" and "Anshun" sailing alongside the "Tyndareus", and from 1960 the "Kuala Lumpur" sailing alongside the "Gunung Djati" of Blue Funnel. Blue funnel withdrew from this trade in 1962, with the sale of the "Gunung Djati" to Indonesia where she continued in this role for another few years.

The Hadj of course was not only confined to the Straits, but involved also Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, east Africa, Suez and other areas where there was a Muslim presence. This is shown by the 1958 charter of the "Empire Orwell" and BI's "Sirdhana" by the Pakistan Government before the acquisition of the "Safina - E - Hujjah" by the Pan - Islamic Shipping Co of Karachi in 1960 for the Pakistan - Jeddah run.

At the end of the 1960,s the numbers travelling on the Hadj by sea started to fall due to the competitiveness of air travel, with low cost flights, and new facilities such as the airport at Jeddah ( KAIA) with a purpose built Hadj terminal. China Navigation Co withdrew from the Hadj in 1970, selling the "Kuala Lumpur" for breaking up.

Great Malaysia Lines belatedly entered the pilgrim service in 1970 with the "Malaysia Kita", followed in 1971 by the "Malaysia Raya". This operation, however, seemed to have been ill-fated, as both ships burnt out and were broken up within a relatively short period of time, the "Malaysia Kita" in 1974 and the "Malaysia Raya" in 1976.

Thus the seaborne pilgrimage runs effectively ended.


Other ships known to have been taken off their scheduled service for the Hadj, either regularly or as 'one-off's':

British India "Surada"



Built by Scotts Shipbuilding & Eng Co Ltd.
507' length, 11,347 GRT. 14, 000 DWT
Twin Screw, Triple Expansion, 622 NHP, 12 Knots.


Laid down 1914, completed 1916. One of a class of four. Damaged by mine in 1917 while sailing as a troopship off South Africa. After the First World war, she re-entered commercial service in 1920 and was requisitioned again during the Second World war as a troop ship.

In 1949 she was converted for use as a Pilgrim Ship on the South East Asia - Jeddah route known as the Hadj service. For this she was fitted with extra lifeboats, shown double banked in the picture. She was fitted with deck and dormitory accommodation for 2,000 pilgrims, hospital facilities, a cinema and public address system. She made two or three voyages a year, being laid up at Singapore out of season. Despite her advancing years she was always turned out in immaculate condition and it was only when it was feared she wouldn't pass her 1961 survey that she was replaced by Gunung Djati in 1960. She arrived in Hong Kong for breaking on the 9th of September 1960.

The Mark II 'A' Class ships

"Clytoneus", "Cyclops", "Autolycus", "Antilochus", "Automedon", "Laertes"

"Autolycus" - note the 'tween deck accommodation ports
© John Marshall.


7632GRT, length 463ft, beam 62ft 4in, service speed 15.5 knots. Extra 'tween deck accommodation, lifeboats, heads and galley space, wood clad well decks, for the carriage of pilgrims.


Launched in 1948 the first of the Mark II 'A' class of six ships built with 'tween deck accommodation giving them the capability of carrying pilgrims to Jeddah. When the ships were on this service the lifeboats were doubled up one atop the other. 1972 transferred to Elder Dempster, June 1972 sold for breaking at Kaohsiung.



Built in 1948 by Scotts' Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd at Greenock

She made her maiden voyage December 1948. In July 1975 renamed Automedon to release the Cyclops name. Transferred to Elder Dempster in December 1975. January to March 1977 chartered to Nigerian National Line, August 1977 broken by W.H. Arnott Young & Co of Dalmuir.


Built in 1947 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast. 1975 transferred to Elder Dempster Lines, 1977 sold to Gulf Shipowners Ltd, renamed Gulf Orient. 1978 sold to Al Noor Steel Ltd for breaking at Gadani Beach, Pakistan.


br> Built in 1949 by Vickers Armstrong Ltd. November 1974 transferred to Elder Dempster Lines, June 1975 laid up at Bromborough Dock, Birkenhead. Later in the same year chartered to Nigerian National Line, sold to Gulf Shipowners Ltd. In 1976 and renamed Gulf Trader. Chartered to the Nigerian National Shipping Line with their funnel colours. Broken up in Taiwan June 1978.


"Automedon" - again, note the 'tween deck accommodation ports

Built in 1949 at Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd., Newcastle-upon - Tyne. On 17th December 1972 collided with the Greek SAN GEORGE in the River Schelde. Beyond economic repair, AUTOMEDON was laid up briefly, then sold to shipbreakers at Kaohsiung and made seaworthy for the delivery voyage. Demolition was completed on 25th April 1973.


©William Schell

Built in 1950 at Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd., Newcastle-upon - Tyne. Final vessel of the Mark II 'A' operated by N.S.M.O., Amersterdam. Transferred to Blue Funnel 1972 renamed Idomeneus. 1975 operated by Elder Depster Lines, same name. 1976 sold to Gulf Shipping Lines renamed Gulf Voyager. Arrived Gadani Beach, Karachi, for breaking 8th May 1978.



Built at Blohm & Voss, Hamburg, hull no 506.
175.76m length, 22.10m beam, 8.07m 8.07m draught, fuel oil consumption 4.5t / hour at 18 knots service speed, range 11,700nm.
Twin screw, Blohm & Voss turbines, 14,200 hp, 2 oil fired, high pressure, Benson boilers.

Greenway Collection.


The "Gunung Djati" was built as the liner "Pretoria" for the Deutsche Ostafrika - Linie of Hamburg, running between Germany and Africa. One of two sisterships, the other being the "Windhuk", she was launched in July of 1936 and delivered in December of the same year. Her maiden voyage was on 19 December to Capetown, South Africa. After the outbreak of the Second World War, she was in November 1939 commissioned into the Kreigsmarine (German Navy). She spent most of the war in the service of the 'U-boot Dienst'; after commissioning into the Kreigsmarine she was accommodation ship for the U-boot training school in Kiel. In January 1940 she became the accommodation ship for the 21st U-boot Flotilla in Neustadt then in December 1940 for the 1st U-boot Division in Pillau. In early 1945, the "Pretoria" was transferred to Medical Area East ('Sanitatsamt-Ost') for service as a hospital ship ( lazarettschiffe ). For this, she had a capacity of over 2500 patients with a crew of 260. Up to April 1945, she took part as one of many refugee ships in the evacuation of refugees from the eastern German Baltic regions of Prussia and Poland. After the end of the war, she was taken over by the British occupation authorities in May 1945 as a war prize and was re-named "Empire Doon". In 1947, she was converted at Thornycroft's, Southampton, into a troopship. The original high pressure Benson boilers were replaced by conventional Foster-Wheeler boilers of 500 psi. Re-entered service under the management of the Orient Line. In 1949, she was re-named "Empire Orwell". 1958 saw her on charter to the Pan-Islamic Shipping Co of Karachi, Pakistan. In November of that year, she was sold to the Blue Funnel Line for service as a pilgrim ship. She was re-named "Gunung Djati" and underwent a re-fit when her GRT increased to 17, 891. During this re-fit, she was fitted with a permanent mosque, as well as indicator arrows to show the direction in which Mecca lay at all times for daily prayers. She had a capacity for 106 1st class, and 2000 other class, pilgrims. She entered service in 1960 on the Indonesia to Jeddah pilgrim service, replacing the "Tyndareus" on this run. In 1962, she was sold to Indonesian interests for similar duties. Between April and October of 1973 she underwent a re-fit. In 1979 she was sold to the Indonesian Navy for use as a troopship, being renamed KRI "Tanjung Pandan" (KRI being Kapal Republik Indonesia - Republic of Indonesia Ship). Towards the end of her time in the Indonesian navy I believe she was used in a stationary role as an accommodation ship before finally being sold to China in 1991 for demolition. The "Gunung Djati" had the distinction of being the only two funneled Blue Funnel ship.

Gunung Djati as Pretoria

Two long serving ships, the "Tyndareus" for 44 years, the "Pretoria" for 55 years.

For interest, the "Pretoria"s sistership, "Windhuk" was interned at Santos, Brazil, in 1942 after the entry of the USA into the Second World War. She was transferred to the USA for service in the USN, and was scrapped, in the USA, in 1966.




Built by Swan Hunter, Tyneside, 459' length BP, 62.8' beam, 26' draught, 8,608 GRT.
Twin screw, 4 cyl Doxford each 5,900 BHP, 15 knots trials.
Passengers 21 1st, 70 2nd class and 2,355 deck passengers.


Launched 8/1/1947 and delivered 9/12/1947. Second of three sisters, the others being "Sangola" and "Santhia", both built by Barclay, Curle & Co Ltd. Commenced on the India - Japan service, but later served on the Straits, Gulf and east Africa routes.

In 1958 was chartered by the Pakistan Government for the Hadj and made some pilgrim voyages from both East and West Pakistan ports to Jeddah.

The "Sirdhana" was sold to Taiwanese breakers and arrived at Kaohsiung for breaking, which commenced in August 1972.


As the "Empire Fowey"


Built 1936 by Blohm & Voss, Hamburg
19047 GRT


The "Safina-E-Hujjat was built as the "Potsdam" for the far east service of North German Lloyd. During the Second World War, she was used as a troop and accommodation ship. She was seized by the British occupying forces in May 1945 at Flensburg. Re-named the "Empire Fowey", she was re-fitted by Harland & Wolff, Belfast and used as a troopship under P & O management. In 1960, she was sold to the Pan-Islamic Shipping Co of Karachi, Pakistan, for use on the pilgrim service to Jeddah and was renamed "Safina-E-Hujjat". She was broken up at Gadani Beach in 1976.


ANSHUN in Hadj colours


Built by Scotts Shipbuilding & Eng Co Ltd
401'-6" length, 56'-8" beam, 21' draught, 6127 GRT.
1 x Vickers - Armstrong diesel engine


These two sisters, "Anking" and "Anshun", were built in 1950 for the emigrant trade between southern China to Singapore and Penang. This trade disappeared in the early 1950's, and both ships were transferred to the pilgrim (Hadj) service between Malaysia and Jeddah. Blue Funnel had been involved with this trade for some 75 years and were so well known on this run that the "Anking" and "Anshun" were both painted with Blue Funnel colours for their first runs in order to maintain continuity. In 1960, they were replaced on the pilgrim run by the "Kuala Lumpur", and transferred to other services. The "Anking" went on to the Hong Kong - Keelung service where she remained until she was sold with the "Anshun" in 1970. The "Anking" was sold to the Straits Steamship Co. where she was re-named "Klias". She was broken up in 1977.

ANSHUN at Singapore

ANKING at Singapore

ANKING as KLIAS of Straits Steamship



Built by Barclay, Curle and Co. Ltd, Glasgow
517' length, 65' beam, 44' draught, 12555 GRT
Twin-screw, Doxford opposed piston, 5600 BHP each, service speed 14 knots.


The "Kuala Lumpur" was launched on 17th October 1935, and delivered on 16th January 1936, as the troopship "Dilwara" under British India management. She is the first purpose built troopship of the Twentieth Century, all previous ships having been converted after charter by the Government. In 1937 she took part in the King George V Coronation Review. When not trooping she becomes one of the first ships to do educational cruises to Scandinavia.

She served throughout the Second World War in the role she was built for, trooping. In the early years of the war, up to 1941, she was trooping between South Africa and the Middle East. In 1941 she was at Kalmat for the evacuation of Greece and in 1942 as a LSI equipped with landing craft she takes part in the landings on Madagascar against the French forces. 1943 found her in the Burma landings, where she was damaged by mines. After repair she continues her trooping duties until in 1949 she undergoes a re-fit back at her builders, during which the well deck is built in. 1956 sees her in action again at Suez, and in November 1960 she is sold to the China Navigation Co. for use on the Malaysia - Jeddah pilgrim run. She undergoes a comprehensive re-fit at Taikoo Dockyard in Hong Kong, which also sees the installation of a mosque, and emerges under the name "Kuala Lumpur" with a capacity for over 2,000 pilgrims.

Out of season, "Kuala Lumpur" is employed cruising between Australia / New Zealand - the south Pacific - Japan.

The China Navigation Co. withdrew from the pilgrim service in 1970, and the "Kuala Lumpur" was scrapped at Kaohsiung in 1971.

DILWARA as troopship managed by B.I.

KUALA LUMPUR at Singapore


Picture showing "Malaysia Kita" as "Vietnam"


163.6m length, 12,200 GRT, 15,240 t displacement
Twin screw, steam turbine


Launched on 14 October 1951, the "Vietnam" was the lead ship of a series of three sisterships the others being "Cambodia" and "Laos". They were built for Messageries Maritimes Indo-China - Pacific service.

In September 1967 the "Vietnam" was re-named "Pacific" for the Australia - Tahiti service. She was sold in 1970 to Great Malaysia Lines for use as a pilgrim ship on the Malaysia - Jeddah run and re-named "Malaysia Kita". She caught fire on 12 May 1974 while in the anchorage off Katong, Singapore, and capsized. She was subsequently demolished.


Picture showing "Malaysia Raya" as "Laos"


163.6m length, 12,200 GRT, 15,240 t displacement
Twin screw, steam turbine


Launched on 21 December 1952, the "Laos" was the final ship of a series of three sisterships the others being "Cambodia" and "Laos". They were built for Messageries Maritimes Indo-China - Pacific service.

In 1971 the "Laos" was sold to Great Malaysia Lines for use as a pilgrim ship on the Malaysia - Jeddah run and re-named "Malaysia Raya". She caught fire on 23 August 1976 while at Port Kelang, Malaysia, and burnt out. She was subsequently demolished.

Both of these ships had short careers in their new role as pilgrim ships. Both met the same unfortunate fate almost together, as the "Safina-E-Hujjah" was going to the breakers, and as the "Gunung Djati" was withdrawing from this service.