The Loftsman
Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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Home Ships Built in Leith 1946 to 1984 MOMBASA - Yard No 379 - Passenger/Cargo Vessel - British India S.N. Co - Built 1950

Leith Shipyards

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MOMBASA - Yard No 379 - Passenger/Cargo Vessel - British India S.N. Co - Built 1950




The motor vessel MOMBASA was a passenger/cargo ship ordered from the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb by BI Lines.

 The M.V.MOMBASA Ship No 379 at anchor.

(Photo kindly supplied by P&O Heritage Collection) 

Owners    British India Steam Navigation Company, Ltd
Registered    London Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Cargo/Passenger Launched    21/10/1949
      Handed Over    29/01/1950
Ship Details          
Length Overall     Launch Details    
Length B.P.    250' 0" Weather    
Beam    43' 0" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     19' 0"      
Draught    14' 5"      
G.R.T.    2213      
DWT    1364 tons      
Engines   2 x 5 Cylinder 2 SCSA Polar Diesels, producing 1,600 bhp
Built by British Polar Engines Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland
Props    2      
Speed   13.5 knots (Trials) Service speed  12 knots      
Other known names   1961-Kareem    
Current Status   Broken up 1968    
Content on the MV MOMBASA will be added as and when available. 
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(Photo from BI Sunday)


Ships History

Once a ship had been built and launched she then had to be out-fitted, and then complete sea trials
before being handed over to her new owners, who would look to have that ship at sea, as long as possible to pay for her build costs and of course to make the company good profits.

To this end one company may have had no requirement for a particular ship after a time and would then sell her on just like any other disposable commodity.
Hence a ship may have had a few owners and would go through many changes and names during what was hoped for a long and successful working life.

The twin screw motor vessel MOMBASA was one of two built by the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb for the Mombasa - Mtwara service via Zanzibar - Dar es Salaam - Kilwa and Lindi her sister ship was the MTWARA Ship No 393. The round trip took ten days and she carried Sir Edward Twining Governor of Tangyanika on her inaugural voyage to Mtwara the first commercial ship to visit the recently completed deep-water wharf arriving on the 15th of September 1953. She carried 8 first class passengers, 16 second class passengers and 250 deck passengers, and she also had a refrigerated capacity of 2,000 sq ft.

She worked up and down the coast of east Africa for the british India Steam Navigation Co, Ltd. BI Lines as it was known was in fact a subsidairy company of P & O who had taken over the company in the 1920s, and the famous company continued with its original name operating as a seperate company.After ten years with BI, in which she had carried over 200,000 passengers and more than a quarter million tons of cargo, she was withdrawn from service and laid up at Port Reitz, Mombasa before finally being sold to Crescent Shipping Lines of Karachi, becoming Kareem on the 18th of October 1961. She was broken up in Karachi in 1968 with the ship's bell being presented to her last British India Captain.

We try here to give as full an account of her history as time and research permits, if you know of missing info or you have any photographs of her, then please get in touch and we shall update her story as we go along.


MOMBASA seen here at anchor in 1950

(Photo kindly supplied by P&O Heritage Collection)

Tales from the Ship

Here you will find the stories from the men and women who sailed on the ships, what was it really like to be working on a ship in a raging sea and in the pitch dark of night, the real stories some funny some sad, some good and some bad.

Dedicated to all the brave men and women who sailed the vessels from the Leith Shipyards.

Should you know of anyone who may have sailed on her, then please feel free to get in touch so that we can add the story here.

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0 #2 unknown 2015-10-30 17:12
We have a request for help here from Judith.
Message : I am enquiringly about my late fiancé John Robert Lowther. He sailed on the Mobassa for several years in the late 1950's early 1960's. His date of birth was 24 March 1936 and sadly died on the 29december 1963. I have tried so many times to find out if anybody remembers him but no success. I am hoping that this enquiry will bear fruit. Thank you very much
+1 #1 John C. Robertson 2014-02-13 21:36
I sailed as 5E/O on the MOMBASA from July 1951 until July 1952. The ship was well known on the East African coast and was my first working ship in my career with the BI. Mitchell-Hedges the well known explorer and multi-millionai res made a trip with us from Mombasa to Kilwa to explore the area and establish that civilization as we know it was began there, His exploits went on to become a series of adventure films - namely, the Indiana Jones series. The MOMBASA was one of the happiest ships that I ever sailed on.

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