MS Empress of Australia

Empress of Australia was a ferry operated by the Australian National Line. Ordered in 1962 by the Australian National Line and launched by Cockatoo Island Dockyard on 18 January 1964, Empress of Australia was the largest passenger ferry built in the world.[3]

Name: Empress of Australia
Operator: Australian National Line
Builder: Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney
Cost: $2.6 million
Yard number: 220
Laid down: 11 September 1962
Launched: 18 January 1964
Acquired: 8 January 1965
Identification: IMO number: 6405434[1]
  • Sold, 1985
  • Sank after collision, 23 August 1992
General characteristics (as built)[2]
Type: Ro-Ro passenger ferry
Tonnage: 12,037 GRT
Length: 443 ft (135 m)
Beam: 40 ft (12 m)
Draught: 20 ft (240 in)
Propulsion: MAN diesel engines, 2 shafts, bow thruster
Speed: 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph)
  • 250 passengers
  • 91 cars

From the time of her 16 January 1965 maiden voyage, the ship could carry up to 250 passengers in cabins, 91 cars, 16 trucks, and 160 intermodal containers.[3] The ferry made three runs from Sydney to Tasmania every fortnight until 1972; one each to Hobart, Bell Bay and Burnie.[3]

In 1972, the ship was transferred to the Melbourne to Tasmania route, replacing MS Princess of Tasmania.[3] She was modified at the State Dockyard: the installation of 190 reclining seats in the original lounge increased her passenger capacity to 440, and a deck was added at the aft end.[3] Empress of Australia began sailing between Melbourne and Devonport on 28 June 1972, and continued making Bass Strait crossings until 1986.[3]

Empress of Australia was replaced in 1986 by Abel Tasman, also a car ferry.[3] The ship was sold to Cypriot owners and heavily refitted and converted into a cruise ship, she was renamed Royal Pacific. On 23 August 1992, she was rammed by the Taiwanese fishing vessel Terfu 51 in the Straits of Malacca, and sank, sending thirty people to their deaths.[4] The deaths are most likely attributed to the crew's choice to abandon ship first.


  1. "Empress of Australia". 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  2. Goossens, Reuben (2011). "TSMV Empress of Australia". Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  3. Gillett, Ross (1989). Australian Ships. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Child & Associates. pp. 126–7. ISBN 0-86777-107-0.
  4. Plowman, Peter (2004). Ferry to Tasmania: A Short History. Chiwick Publications.

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