SS Taroona

SS Taroona was an Australian transport ship, built in Linthouse, a district of Glasgow, in 1934 by Alexander Stephen & Sons for the Tasmanian Steamers Pty Ltd. She was a steam turbine ship capable of 18 knots, but typically operated at 16 knots for better fuel economy. Taroona commenced service in Bass Strait in 1935 for Tasmanian Steamers Pty Ltd. She served the MelbourneBell Bay-Beauty Point – Melbourne – DevonportBurnie then back to Melbourne route.

Taroona, c. 1951
Name: Taroona
Namesake: Taroona, Tasmania
Owner: Tasmanian Steamers Pty Ltd
Builder: Alexander Stephen & Sons, Glasgow
Yard number: 543
Launched: 22 November 1934
Completed: January 1935
Out of service: 1959
Name: Hellas
Owner: Typaldos Line
Acquired: 1959
Identification: IMO number: 5147011
Fate: scrapped at Aliağa in 1989
General characteristics
Tonnage: 4325 grt
Length: 354 feet 7 inches (108.08 m)
Beam: 50 feet 1 inch (15.27 m)
Draught: 15 feet 1 inch (4.60 m)
Propulsion: 6 steam turbines single reduction geared to 2 screw shafts 6000shp. 3 water tube boilers fitted to burn oil
Speed: 16 knots, top speed 18 knots

Taroona was requisitioned for service as a troop ship in World War II by New Zealand. She carried troops from Auckland, New Zealand to Suva in January 1942, and in March 1942. On her return to the Bass Strait run she was almost immediately again requisitioned this time by Australia and taken over as a fast troop carrier. During her first trip to Port Moresby she carried 480 troops and supplies; on leaving Moresby she ran aground on a reef at the entrance where she remained for three days, helpless hard and fast aground. All attempts to refloat her using both engines and the assistance of navy vessels proved useless. The situation became serious when on several occasions Japanese bombers swept in to attack the Seven Mile Aerodrome outside Port Moresby. Why they failed to attack Taroona remains a mystery. Finally aided by three naval vessels, she shook herself free.

In her war time career she travelled 204,535 miles and carried 93,432 troops. Although frequently under fire during her ninety-four trips she remained unscathed.

Taroona arrived in Sydney 4 February 1946, ending her career as an Australian troop carrier. She was handed back to Tasmanian Steamers and joined the SS Nairana who had maintained a very busy schedule during Taroona’s absence including transporting troops from Tasmania to Melbourne.

In 1959, Taroona finished her dedication to Australia, being replaced by a ship more suitable for the times as motor cars were becoming very popular and Taroona could only take 30 which had to be winched aboard. Her replacement was the Princess of Tasmania, owned by Australian National Line and Tasmanian Steamers ceased to be.

Taroona was sold to Typaldos Lines, renamed Hellas and immediately taken over by her new crew and departed Australia for Greece. She was converted to a cruise ship and operated cruises around the Mediterranean until 1966 when she was laid up in Perama bay for the winter but never worked again after the SS Heraklion sank in big seas and the Typaldos Line was found guilty. Subsequently, all their ships were sold except SS Hellas and SS Athinai. Hellas remained laid-up at Elefsina bay until May 1989 when she was towed out of the bay to Aliağa in Turkey and scrapped.

(Taroona is a place in south east Tasmania, but the root of the name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning seashell.)


  • Plowman, Peter. Ferry to Tasmania, A Short History. ISBN 1-877058-27-0.
  • Hopkins, David. Bass Strait Crossings, The Shipping History of the. ISBN 0-646-18635-3.
  • Fitchett, Thomas. The Vanished Fleet. ISBN 0 7270 0210 4.
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