MV Doulos (1977-2010) - MS Franca C (1952-1977) - SS Roma (1948-1952) - SS Medina (1914-1948)

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A superbly built American built ship that sailed into History and she remains with us to this very day!

With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author

Commenced in the Passenger Shipping Industry in 1960


A superbly built American built ship that sailed into History and she remains with us to this very day!

Please Note: All ssMaritime and my other related ssMaritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any cruise or shipping companies or travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960 and is now semi-retired, but continues and I hope that the well over 675 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers ships I have written on will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts and continue a great deal of information and pleasure!


SS Medina (1914-1948) was sold and renamed: SS Roma (1948-1952)

MS Franca C (1952-1977) - MV Doulos (1977-2010)

Doulos Phos (2010 - ) A land-locked Hotel at Bintan, Indonesia


 Having been in Cape Town for two weeks, the Doulos arrives at the repair wharf on May 10

Photograph by & © Susanna Burton

MV Doulos

“A Ship Like no Other”

By Reuben Goossens 

Chapter Six

--MV Doulos--

The 1993 Electrical Project

Special thanks: This page would have not been possible without the assistance of Stephen Moore who worked on the Doulos as a volunteer on during the “Electrical Project.” Photographs on this page were taken by 1. Stephen Moore, and please note they are © Copyright. 2. By the ships photographer, © Copyright - Susanna Burton. We are most grateful to both Stephen and Susanna for the use these fine photographs!

At the ripe age of 79 (at the time), it was realised that the Doulos needed significant modifications and urgent repairs. Her owners at first considered scrapping the Doulos and purchasing a suitable second-hand vessel or even building a new ship. It was soon realised that the costs were too great and opted for giving the Doulos a massive refit.

The refit would cost between 1 and 1.5 million US dollars, which is a great deal of money for a non-profit organisation. However, with the provision of a massive volunteer task-force from around the world, and the help of various generous industries, the Doulos was saved once again from being scrapped and given a major "Heart Transplant." OM received the good news that the local harbour authority of Cape Town (Portnet) had offered the use of their facilities free of charge and would waive all port fees.

On April 23 1993 Doulos arrived in Cape Town South Africa for her public visit and book fair. Two weeks later, she was ready to head for the repair wharf, where the much-needed electrical work was to commence. Over 170 men, including Stephen Moore from Australia, flew in from four continents to volunteer their services and help with the enormous task at hand.

It would be only through the wonderful generosity of many suppliers and the volunteer workers, like electricians, carpenters, plumbers and engineers that this massive project was able to be kept at such a low cost.

The Doulos is welcomed to Cape Town – obviously there was a big welcome to South Africa!

Photograph by & © Susanna Burton


Doulos seen at the repair wharf

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore

Work commenced with the "Electrical Project," removing some 70 kilometres of old wiring and a hundred plus old DC motors and DC generators. Then, new economical diesel alternator sets were installed, along with a main electrical switchboard, which was designed by the Swiss electrical team. Together with new AC motors, a new efficient and superior air-conditioning plant was installed to replace the tired old one, which had been circulating warm air for some time. Another major task was the removal of the ancient and inefficient oil-fired boiler, which is used to generate hot water on board. Its replacement was a waste heat boiler, which receives its heat from the exhaust gasses emanating from the generators. This system provides a superior supply of hot water whilst re-using energy, which under the old system went straight up and out of the funnel.

Stephen Moore worked mainly in the engine room, but spent his lunchtimes wandering around the ship taking the photographs seen on this page, which provides us with a good idea of what was going on. He also took a series of pictures of the ship whilst in dry dock, which are seen at the bottom of the page.


With additional notes by Stephen Moore


The main lounge

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore

The Main Lounge was completely rebuilt during the refit with the floor removed, new steel welded in, concrete poured over that and then new flooring added. The walls and ceiling were also completely renewed. In addition, the Lounge received steel ceiling supports during the refit.

The Main Lounge image above shows many cable drums as the wiring was being spliced together there, as the room provided the space to do this. We would then haul the cables through to whatever the part of the ship they were to be installed in. There were also cable drums on the Port side of Promenade Deck, making the deck a little tricky to traverse. During my time I didn't do much with the cabling, but did work on a generator overhaul with an Australian engineer, and generally helped out with muscle where needed and worked with a group of local out-of-work Africans and scrapped clean the propeller shaft tunnel, as well as polished clean the propeller shaft.

Photograph by & © ships photographer, Susanna Burton

Hauling cables through the ship was hard work and here we see Captain Graeme Bird, on the right, and Dale Richards, on the left, pulling a cable in the Engine Room. Cable movements became for a time one of the most common jobs on the ship, and at times it was a difficult one as it came all the way from the Main Lounge. Below the Captain is seen not working quite as hard, but as always, still smiling!

Captain Graeme Bird on the Bridge having a joke with the author of ssMaritime on July 8, 1999

Photograph by & © Reuben Goossens 


Photograph by & © Susanna Burton

Here we see “Cable Mountain” a massive pile of the old cables stacked up in the bookstore area. These were eventually sold off for the copper value.

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore

As the bridge was fully rewired, it had all its panels removed, and later put back over the new wiring. Note that the formwork holding up the ceiling panels is wooden, just like the ceiling structures throughout the ship at the time.

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore

Above and below: The welding shop on board was much like on land, cluttered, and a very active area vital to the repair work going on aboard the ship. The welding shop was located on Promenade Deck port and starboard aft.

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore


Photograph by & © Stephen Moore

Here we see welding being done at the top of the Engine Room, where a new waste heat boiler was being installed, sending a shower of sparks down to the area I was standing in. Whenever welding happened a fire guard stood close by with a fire extinguisher should anything happen. Safety during the refit was of the very highest of order, as you can well imagine, with so much hot work happening!

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore

Still in the engine Room, we see Generator 2, which I (Stephen) helped to overhaul with Peter, an Australian Marine Engineer from Perth. I was very much the apprentice, and Peter the expert. I believe it was a Bergen diesel, and Peter knew every part of it by heart from his experience at sea.

 An old DC generator is being removed from the ship early in the refit stage

Photograph by & © ships photographer, Susanna Burton


Photograph by & © Stephen Moore

Deck images; The image above shows steelwork being renewed up on Boat Deck. There is also some work being done, which may be the radio room receiving new lower bulkheads. Wooden decking on Boat Deck was in a bad state in certain places and when removed it was found there were older rotted layers beneath it. Apparently, her previous owners, the Italian Linea C (Costa Lines) took the easy road and laid good wood over the bad, rather than ripping old wood up to lay new wood down. At the time, there was a debate whether OM could afford new decking or whether the deck would simply become painted steel. I believe sense prevailed and new teak planking was laid on Boat Deck.

Lunch time out on deck

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore 

The shot above shows volunteers out at lunch. Lunch was eaten out on the open decks, or in the bookshop area if it was raining, which was very seldom. More often than not Stephen ate on one of the bridge wings as he enjoyed the view! 

We did manage to obtain one photo of Stephen, seen here taking a short break

He tells me it is the only photo he has of him whilst he was on board

Photograph © Stephen Moore


 Photograph © Stephen Moore

Above you see one of the fleet of buses that took the volunteers to and from the ship each day from the Waterfront at Victoria Basin where we stayed, which is about a 10 minute trip through the docks.

Photograph © Stephen Moore

This image above shows the kind of corrosion there was under floors in various places, such as cabin bathrooms. Here, we see corrosion holes going right through the deck. The cabins effected had to be completely stripped, the corroded steel needle gunned (the tool in the foreground.) to clear all corroded metal, and then new steel plating welded into place. The cabin could then be rebuilt, sometimes without its former bathroom, thus, it was then back to the future with facilities down the corridor for the rebuilt cabins. The work here was incredibly noisy, as these needle guns were not very quiet to use! 

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore

The Captain’s cabin, as seen above, is representative of the many cabins on board that were pulled apart during the refit. Walls had their old cladding removed and replaced with non-combustible materials.

Fibreglass work being carried out in the Dining Room on parts of the lifeboats, the room usually smelled strongly of polyester resin

Photograph by & © ships photographer, Susanna Burton


Photograph by & © Stephen Moore 

Here is a photograph of a thanksgiving lunch, held in the bookshop area, just before we went into dry-dock. It marked the conclusion of most of the rewiring work as well as the majority of the onboard steel renewal work, although a great deal of work remained to be done before the Doulos was ready for the sea again!

 Photograph by & © Stephen Moore

Here is a reminder of her Franca C - Linea Costa – days. We used this banner we found to cover the area being used to store parts for the welding shop on Promenade Deck.

Cleaning the Main Lounge after the steel floor had been replaced. The English Gent in the middle was my roommate during my stay

Photograph by & © Susanna Burton


Doulos still at the repair wharf

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore

I also remember working on a clean out of the forward hold area, which was good fun. The area was on or below the waterline and there was water constantly entering through small corrosion holes in the hull plating and each morning the area needed to be pumped dry. I believe the worn plating was replaced when we went into dry-dock. However, I returned home to Sydney the day after she went into dry-dock, and thus did not see the completed Doulos until she came to Australia again in 1999, when she looked just superb!

This rather weary looking Maltese flag at her stern would soon be replaced!

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore 


Doulos has now moved into the Dry-Dock - soon it will be pumped dry

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore


 Doulos’ hull is ready for cleaning and repainting

Photograph by & © Stephen Moore


It is quite obvious that her hull and propeller needs a good cleaning as it is covered in growth!


I took this photograph just after we climbed out of the dry-dock and they used the high pressure water hoses to start removing the marine growth off her hull. It certainly made a big difference. Of course, then there would be the anti-fouling and corrosion work done and the ship repainted. She would end up looking like new!


With her hull cleaned and opened up where required further maintenance work commenced

Photograph by & © Susanna Burton


Photograph by & © Susanna Burton

Above: These are the men that should take a big bow for a magnificent job done on the Doulos. Rex Churchill the Chief Electrician & Johannes Thomsen the Project Manager! All the volunteers worked hard because they believed in the cause, and also the inspiration and hard work of these men and the wonderful faith that was experienced onboard! That is what OM - Operation Mobilization is all about!

Starting a Fresh and an Invigorated Life at Sea for another 17 years with OM

With all structural and mechanical work completed MV Doulos finally departed Cape Town on November 16, 1993 in great shape and well able to continue her voyages around the world for many years to come. She arrived in Port Elizabeth the next day and continued her usual duties. Then almost a year later, Doulos celebrated her 80th birthday. Many of the staff and crew that worked and sailed on the Doulos over the years visited the ship whilst she was berthed in Toulon France for a special reunion and joyful celebration and they have continued to do so for her ninetieth in 2004.

Many further improvements took place in 1995, when a new project commenced to equip the Doulos with a new sprinkler system. Some 900 nozzles and more than 5 kilometre of piping has been installed. Smoke detectors had already been fitted to the Doulos at an earlier date. Additional wall panels were replaced with non-combustible materials, which sadly saw the loss of several valuable Costa Line murals, such as the blue mural in the aft stair well up on boat deck. Again, later in Bahrain, satellite navigation and internet and phone facilities were fitted to the Doulos, bringing her right up to date. Today, she has the latest electronic navigational systems and charts at her disposal and is in A1 condition! In 2006 whilst in Manama, Bahrain, a new satellite system was installed and fitted just aft of the funnel, bringing this veteran of the sea into the future, providing it with the very latest communications and navigation systems, etc.

Comments from the Chief Engineer in 2008:

During my week on board the Doulos, including sailing from Brisbane to Sydney, in August 2008, I spoke with her Chief Engineer Dominic Bothello who said, “Frankly, the Doulos can continue sailing for another twenty years without any trouble, for she is in a fine shape. Yes, she needs maintenance and possibly a little more than a modern ship, but she has a lot more to give, if only she could go on.” Dominic fully understands that SOLAS 2010 is very important and that that the measures are required for the future, it is just sad that this historic liner cannot sail on until her 100th birthday in 2014, something the ship’s owners have tried everything in their power to arrange, but without success! NEWS Update – She will sail on after all!

The MV Doulos has continued to sail the globe and serve its original calling to serve and help people in all the countries where they call, and they do so physically and spiritually. OM, and that is what they stand for, having given countless thousands of free books to where they are needed, to schools, etc. In addition, the ship offers the opportunity for people to come aboard and visit the world’s largest floating bookstore aft on Boat Deck, which contains books dealing with a wide variety of subjects, religious and non religious. The ship carries some half a million books at any one time! There is also a café for a snack, or there is that opportunity to join a tour of the ship, for a small fee, and learn all about the history of this 94 year old “Grand Old Dame” of the sea and visit the Bridge and even see her Engine room, etc!

PS: On August 22, 2008, I was onboard in the Main Lounge and celebrated the ships 94th birthday by being one of a group who cut her official Birthday cake together with “Doulos’ Partner Ministries” Manager, Mr. Sven Benseler who was my Host onboard. She was launched at Newport News USA as the freighter SS Medina on August 22, 1914, just two years after the ill-fated Titanic, yet the Doulos sails on!

MV Doulos departing Cape Town for Port Elizabeth on November 16

Photograph by Bob Binnell


Go to Chapter 7 - SOLAS – “Safety Of Life At Sea” new regulations to commence Oct 2010

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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are: 1. By the author. 2. From the author’s private collection. 3. As provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are photographs provided to me without details provided regarding the photographer concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me, that due credit may be given.

Copyright: “MV Doulos - A Ship Like No Other” is owned, protected under the International © copyright laws and is the property of Reuben Goossens of No part of this work including any of the images shown may be copied or reproduced by any means or reproduced by any format whatsoever, be it for private or commercial usage, without prior written permission from the author. is owned and © Copyright by Reuben Goossens - All Rights Reserved.