Rotterdam Lloyd shipping brochure

Art Deco shipping brochure for the Rotterdam Lloyd (1930-1935). Graphic design by Johann von Stein.

This beautifully designed shipping brochure was published in the 1930s by the Rotterdam Lloyd, which handled the postal traffic between the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies. The shipping company had four fast twin-screw ships with diesel propulsion for this purpose, which also transported passengers. The M.S. Baloeran, M.S. Dempo, M.S. Indrapoera and M.S. Sibajak – named after Indonesian volcanoes – were the showpieces of the fleet and featured on modern Art Deco posters, designed by graphic designers such as Johann von Stein, who also created this brochure.

Luxurious interiors
Traveling with the mail ships was the fastest and most luxurious way to visit the Dutch East Indies. The ships were known for their spacious accommodations and luxurious furnishings, which were more reminiscent of chic hotels than of ship interiors. The dining rooms and bars, for example, were decorated with beautiful art works, stained-glass windows and tropical hardwood paneling.

There is no comfort which one enjoys on shore that is not found on board Rotterdam Lloyd Liners, is stated in the brochure. Spacious public rooms, tastefully furnished, where the congenial atmosphere always found on all Rotterdam Lloyd ships prevails, children’s rooms and decks, photographic dark rooms with expert photographers in attendance and spacious expanses of promenade- and sport decks are provided; not to mention such conveniences as a first class laundry, hairdressing saloon and a fully-equipped surgery, with the services of a fully-qualified medical staff.

The general arrangements of the passenger accommodation are the results of many years of experience of tropical climatic conditions. All public rooms are large and airy. Excellent music is provided and there is ample deck space for dancing and sports. The “Baloeran” and the “Dempo” are equipped with permanent open-air swimming pools, whilst similar facilities are offered on the other ships of the Rotterdam Lloyd fleet.

Great care has been taken to ensure that every cabin is naturally lighted and ventilated. All cabins on board are outside rooms, and there are, in addition, electric fans for the warm weather, and special heating arrangements for the northern latitudes as well as an efficient installation of electric lighting.

‘Served by Javanese boys’
The brochure text also highlights the ‘excellent cuisine and service’ on the ships. The food, excellent in both quality and mode of preparation, faultlessly served by Javanese boys, under the supervision of English speaking European stewards, will satisfy even the most critical epicurean. These luxurious pleasures were, of course, primarily reserved for affluent passengers traveling first class.


Troop transport ships
In 1940, the Second World War brought an end to postal traffic between the Netherlands and its colony. When the German troops invaded the Netherlands, the Dempo and Sibajak were in the Dutch East Indies. The Indrapoera was able to leave the port of Marseille in time. The three ships were requisitioned by the Allies and converted into troop transport ships.

The Baloeran fell into the hands of the Germans, who converted it into a hospital ship for their Kriegsmarine. In 1943 the ship hit a mine off the coast of IJmuiden, after which the English torpedo boats and aircrafts destroyed the once beautiful ship. Seven people were killed in the attack.

The Dempo did not make it to the end of the war either. The ship sank off the coast of Algeria in 1944 after being hit by a German torpedo. Fortunately the ship was ballasted and had no troops on board. The entire crew, 333 persons, came safely ashore.

Only the Indrapoera and Sibajak survived the war. Both ships were returned in 1945 to the Rotterdam Lloyd and used in the aftermath of the war to bring the Dutch evacuees back home from the former Dutch East Indies and later also to transport the Dutch soldiers en repatriates.

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