The MV Liemba has an amazing history over the past 100 years. She was build as a steamboat in 1913 at the German Meyer yard (see related blog post here) to facilitate the transportation between the Deutsch-Ostafrica (Germany) and Congo (Belgium) colonies. The ship was designed for 600 passengers, 200 tons of cargo and a crew of 60 people.
After the sign-off by the ships owner, the Liemba was dismantled again and packed in 5,000 wooden boxes to be transported by train and ship to Africa. 270 local workers assembled the vessel again, supervised by 3 yard employees from Germany. After a trial run in mid 1915 – 18 months after the sign-off in Germany – the ship was put into service. Then tragedy struck. During WWI, the ship was sunk on purpose by the German army.
The salvage started in 1918. Over the course of this endeavor the vessel sank a 2nd time and it took until 1924 for another attempt to lift the ship from the ground of the lake. Since than, the ship was modified and refurbished several times: an additional deck, exchange of the steam engine for an oil and later a Caterpillar diesel engine, and many more changes over the decades.
Today the ship is still traveling on a scheduled two week journey over 280 miles (450 kilometers) with 17 stops on her route. As most villages on the itinerary don’t have a dock, the ship is tendering and small local boats are in charge of the transportation between ship and shore – a procedure very familiar to modern cruise guests. Two VIP, 10 first class and 29 second class cabins are on board. But most passengers are traveling third class on the lower decks.
In the 1951 movie African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, the MV Liemba is featured as the Louisa – in a totally fictious movie. Additionally, many documentary movies have been made over the course of the years. To get an impression of the conditions on board of the ship and how it operates, watch this short video.
Want to see where she is today? Enter “Kigoma” in Google Maps and move a little bit to the left and up and you’ll find the MV Liemba docked in her homeport at the time the satellite picture was taken. For more information, go to Wikipedia.
So lift your glass in honor of this centenarian!