Constructed, christened and deconstructed in Papenburg, shipped to Dar es Salaam and reassembled in Kigoma. Scuttled, dumped down again and raised finally. For more than 100 years now, a ship is running along the coasts of Lake Tanganyika: The famous M.V. Liemba previously GOETZEN. For the people living on the banks of the lake, life is no longer imaginable without the swimming legend. Following you will find a fact sheet on this incredible ship.
By the way: Travelling the Liemba was a great experience, the photographer Rolf G. Wackenberg took a number of brilliant photographs. As a result, Rolf and me wrote the book ‘Von GOETZEN bis LIEMBA’, a story about our journey with the Liemba incl. decent information on the history of the ship and the many people associated with it. Not just an historic textbook but also both an entertaining and exciting book. Published in 2013, it can be bought all over the place. Read more here (in German).
Sarah Paulus (January 2015)
Baptism and Launch
On command of the German Emperor Wilhelm II and by order of the Reichskolonialamt (other sources say: by order of the East-African Railway Company) the shipyard Joseph L. Meyer in the Lower Saxon Papenburg undertakes in 1913 to construct a steamboat that can be deconstructed and reassembled elsewhere. The ship is meant for operations on the Lake Tanganyika as a vehicle for transportation and freight, thus substantiating German strength and superiority in the colony.
At that time, German representatives at Kigoma obviously discuss if Emperor Wilhelm II would be inclined to travel Lake Tanganyika on board of a ship on occasion of the 30th anniversary of German colonies. Even the “Emperor’s Court” located on a hill overlooking the nearby countryside, today residence of the local administration, is said to have been built as starting point for imperial expeditions.
On 22th November 1913 the ship is finished and named after Gustav Adolf Graf von Götzen, who discovered Lake Kiwu and was Governor in German East Africa from 1901-1906. At the time of the baptism the ship was just screwed together not riveted. Following a mail of the Meyer Werft’s press department: “… during the initial construction phase and before the test assembly in Papenburg the ship is named GRAF VON GÖTZEN, changed into GOETZEN on 7th November 1913 by order of the Reichskolonialamt. Also, the GOETZEN is said to have not been an SMS. Further details:
- Order as per 13.12.1912
- Equipment: Two vessels for steam generation. Six 1st and ten 2nd class cabins including a board restaurant in each class
- Weight: 560t (lightweight)
- Gross register tons: 1,200 BRT (1BRT = 2.83sqm)
- Assembly: 160,000 rivets
- Cost: 750,000 Mark thereof pure construction cost 414,000 Mark and 336,000 Mark for insurance, transportation and reassembly (exchange rate to EUR approx. factor 4.9. Reference consumer price index as per 10/2011. Source: press department Meyer Werft and Deutsche Bundesbank)
As to the original colour of the ship, Michael Berg, chairman of the initiative “Run Liemba” writes: “There is a picture, on which the ship is seen before its launch in Kigoma with a snow-white painting above waterline. This however, does not mean anything because it could have been a so-called photo-painting (also used with locomotives) where only water colours are used. The white colour allowed for a better contrasting of the outline at a time when only black-and-white films were available. All the other black-and-white pictures that I have show the body in a darker tone, which however seems to be too light for being black. Maybe, it is a grey or something like this. The first colour picture, that I have stems from the 60s on which the body, the entire outer surface and the superstructure are white, while its internal part is beige, just as today. Also, there are pictures from the first half of the 70s where the ship is painted with an orange-red-beige colour.”
Disassembled and packed into 5,000 wooden boxes, the GOETZEN starts her journey, accompanied by Anton Rüter, the craftsman Hermann Wendt and the riveter Rudolf Tellmann. By train to Hamburg and to Dar es Salaam on board of four ships: Admiral, Feldmarshall, Windhoek and Adolf Woermann via the Mediterranean Sean and the Suez Canal. While the first two ships left Hamburg on 19.12.1913, the last two left on 12.01.1914 and on 27.01.1914. From Dar they travelled finally to Kigoma using the at that time nearly finished 1,250 km central line built by Philipp Holzmann & Co. Information on the degree of completion of the central line at that time differ. Here is one version:
- 15th October 1906 Dar es Salaam – Pugu
- 09th October 1907 Pugu – Morogoro
- 01th August 1911 Morogoro – Kilossa – Mangoni
- 01th July 1912 Mangoni – Tabora
- 21th February 1913 Tabora – Malagarasi
- 01th February 1914 Malagarasi – Kigoma
Some sources claim that locals had to carry the 5,000 boxes over a distance of 300km because of the missing railway track. The author Alex Capus however writes in his book that only some 10km railway were uncompleted at the arrival of Rüter, Wendt and Tellmann so that the crew had to stay in Dar es Salaam for some three weeks. Waldemar von Gruchalla from the Meyer Werft’s press department adds: “The transportation of the ship parts on the back of the locals can certainly be discounted as a fairytale.” Back to more details:
- Arrival Kigoma: Ende of January 1914
- Reassembly time: 13 months
- Number of workers: 200
- Launch: 05th February 1915
- Additional equipment: 3 cannons
- Initial trip: 09th June 1915 to Bismarckburg (today Kasanga)
With regard to the arrival in Kigoma, Mr. von Gruchalla explains: „If at all, the freight of the first of totaling four ships could have reached Kigoma by end of January while the last of the four ships with the remaining parts of the GOETZEN was still in Hamburg harbor at that time. Also, some sources suggest that the launch date is supposed to have been postponed several times while actually taking place only on 09th June 1915.
Operation and Importance
- Reinforcement of military presence at the lake
- Acceleration of transportation of armed forces between Kigoma and Bismarckburg.
- Military rearmament for missions as cannon boat. An additional 10.5cm cannon is added from the former cruiser SMS Königsberg destroyed at the mouth of the river Rufiji south of Dar es Salaam.
- Later, the GOETZEN is bombed by Belgian troops but not seriously damaged. Removal of two cannons for missions elsewhere, replaced by dummies.
People and Vessels
Lake Tanganyika is the longest and second deepest lake worldwide, measuring a length of some 700km, an average breadth of 50km and a depth of 1,470m at its deepest point. John H. Speeke and Sir Richard F. Burton are said to have discovered the lake on their search for the sources of the Nile. During World War I, the confronting military forces positioned at the lake employ passenger steamer or transportation vessels rather than real warships. The Hedwig von Wissmann for instance used to be a post ship and the Kingani a customs inspection steamer. Germany employed the following vessels
- Kingani: Captured by the two Royal Navy boats HMS Mimi and HMS Toutou on 26th December 1915 near Lukuga and abducted to Albertville (today Kalemie). Sent into mission against German troops as Fifi after recovery and restoration.
- Hedwig von Wissmann: Dumped by Mimi and Fifi on 09th February 1916 near Cape Kungwe
- GOETZEN: Scuttled on 26th July 1916
- Wami: Scuttled on 28th July 1916
- Adjudant: Under construction, burnt by German crew on 26th July 1916
Kingani and Wami, by the way, were also built by the Papenburg based Joseph L. Meyer shipyard.
Belgian vessels: Alexandre Delcommune, seriously damaged by the Wissman under command of first marine lieutenant Moritz Horn on 23th August 1914 near Mpala and blown up by marine lieutenant Commander Gustav von Zimmer near the beach of Albertville on 08th/09th October 1914. Further vessels: Netta, Dix Tonnes, Vedette und Baron Dhanis. British vessels: Good News and Cecil Rhodes. Both blown up and dumped by German troops between 17th and 20th November 1914 near Kasakalawe. Some sources suggest that the GOETZEN might have dumped Cecil Rhodes while others claim that she has never dumped any ship. Mimi and Toutou: Both damaged after battles and storm. No further records after the war.
Heinrich Albert Schnee (1871-1949): Politician, author and colonial officer. Lives in Dar es Salaam with his wife Ada from 1912-1916 were he acts as last governor of German East Africa. Various responsibilities in associations after the war: President of the Alliance of Germans Living Abroad and president of the German Colonial Society. Continues to engage himself politically as representative of Deutsche Volkspartei (which he resigns from in 1932) and of NSDAP in which he participates between 1933 and 1945.
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (1870-1964): Participation in the defeat of the boxer rebellion in China. Serves in German-Southwest and participates in the suppression of the Herero and the Hottentotten upheaval from 1904-06. Later: Commander and major general of the German colonial force in German East Africa where he is reputed as a genius guerilla leader. After the war: Leads a rightwing Corps of volunteers against the take-over of Hamburg by leftwing Spartacists and is suspended from military service after participation in Kapp Coup d’Etat. He works as a representative of the rightwing conservative DNVP in the Reichstag and is reputed as a conservative critic of party and state though.
Karl Ernst Göring (1885-1932): Elder brother of Hermann Göring. Lieutenant and commander of the 4th field company under Lettow-Vorbeck. First get together with Rüter, Wendt und Tellmann on occasion of the Emperor’s birthday in Dar es Salaam on 27th January 1914.
Gustav von Zimmer: Stems from impoverished aristocrat family. He serves voluntarily in the German colonial forces in German East Africa and is originally lieutenant commander at the cruiser Möwe. First get together with Rüter, Wendt und Tellmann on occasion of the Emperor’s birthday in Dar es Salaam on 27th January 1914. Transfer to Kigoma as of mid-1914 where he supervises the local troops and the reassembly of the Liemba. At the beginning of 1916 he decides that the GOETZEN is better off staying in Kigoma harbor – given the unclear destiny of Wissmann and Kingani while at the same time having knowledge of the existence of two British boats (Mimi and Toutou). What he did not know: Mimi and Toutou were heavily damaged. Upon 1918 Zimmer is forwarding reports to the Marine Archive in Freiburg im Breisgau summarizing the events from that time.
Geoffrey Basil Spicer Simson (1876-1947): Royal Navy commander and officer. He serves in Asia and Gambia and returns to London in 1914 inorder to assume administrative responsibilities. In April 1915 the Admiralty learns of the existence of the GOETZEN and decides to send two motor boats to Lake Tanganyika. Spicer-Simson is appointed head of the expedition. He christens the boats Mimi (puss-puss) and Toutou (bow-wow) after his first proposal, cat and dog, had been rejected by the Admiralty. On board of the „Llanstephen Castle“, the boats and the crew reach Cape Town on 16th July 1915. They continue per overland route and reach the at that time Belgian shores of the Lake Tanganyika three months later. Captures the German Kingani and re-christens the boat Fifi (peep-peep). Later, Fifi and Mimi will put the Wissmann out of action. In February 1916 he is observing the GOETZEN on the search for Wissmann and Kingani and decides not to follow her. Also, he refuses to get involved in any subsequent military action on the lake. What he did not know: The GOETZEN’s mighty cannon was a dummy.
Decline and Renaissance
By mid-1916, German troops can no longer hold Kigoma. Lieutenant commander Zimmer orders to scuttle the GOETZEN: Machine parts are encased in grease, motors disassembled and hidden, the ship’s body is loaded with concrete. On 26th July 1916 the GOETZEN disappears near the mouth of the river Malagarasi. After the war, the GOETZEN is transferred to Kigoma which is then under Belgian administration. As a result of a mistake, the ship sinks again. Further events:
- 1921: Kigoma gets under British administration
- After two years of recovery work the GOETZEN reappears on 16th March 1924 – in astonishingly good shape. The German steam boilers run until the 70s.
- 16.05.1927: Renamed MV Liemba and construction of a passenger deck with sleeping cabins
- 1961: Independence of Tanganyika
- 1964: Foundation of the United Republic of Tansania
- 1979: Modernization with two Caterpillar Diesel engines
- 1993: General refurbishment through Danish aid company DANIDA (Danish International Development Agency) at the cost of 26mln DKK
- 1995: Replacement of the Caterpillar engines by MAN Diesel aggregates
Out of Africa
In 1951, the US American John Houston produces the film “African Queen” following Cecil Scott Forester’s novel with the same title. The film plays in Africa. Main actors are Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart who receives his only Oscar for the role. At the end of the film, the two heroes destroy a canon boat named Louisa which is supposed to be a German boat – the Liemba. However, the main scenes of the film are said to have been produced at Lake Albert and Lake Victoria, where the Liemba has never been. Alternatively, they might have used a studio-bluebox.
From Canons to Passengers
Today, the Liemba operates as a passenger and freight transportation ship between Kigoma (Tanzania) and Mpulungu (Zambia). Earlier routes to the Kongo and Burundi have been stopped as a result of civil war and upheavals in those countries. For some time now, the Liemba cooperates with UNHCR by transporting refugees from a camp near Kigoma back to their homelands
- Largest and oldest ship of all African lakes
- One of the oldest passenger and cargo ships in the world
- Port of registry: Kigoma
- Owner and operator: Marine Services Company Ltd.
- Captain: Titus Benjamin Mnyanyi, born 11th September 1964
- Water displacement 1,300t, draught 3m
- Length: 67m, breadth: 10m
- Speed: 11 knots
- Load: 600 passengers and 200t freight
- Board restaurant and bar on the upper deck (waiter Ronaldo is great!)
- Two VIP cabins with bath/WC on the upper de
- Ten 1st class (double) cabins with wash basins on the upper deck
- Eight 2nd class (four) and two family cabins with toilet and wash basins in the tween deck
- 3rd class without cabins in the lower deck
Number and equipment of the cabins differ, especially for the 2nd class. Some sources claim that there are 29 cabins in the 2nd class. Locals report that the cooperation with UNHCR has led to irregularities in the itinerary and thus to a decline of passenger numbers. Schedule of the Liemba: It runs only every second week for the time being:
- Departure Kigoma Wednesday, 4pm with arrival in Mpulungu Friday 8am
- Departure Mpulungu Friday, 4pm with arrival in Kigoma Sunday 8am as at October 2011. The fortnightly itinerary takes place in calender weeks 32, 34, 36 etc for the time being
- Following the map of the Reise Know-how Verlag, the Liemba stops in the following places: Kigoma-Kirando-Sigunda-Halembe-Mugambo-Kibwesa-Kalya-Ikola-Karema-Kabwe-Kiranda-Kipili-Ninde-Msamba-Wampembe-Kala-Kasanga-Mpulungu. Information on the number of stops varies between 15 and 19. Maybe the route is in fact flexible.
- Stops at 500-1,000m distance from lake shore. On and off-boarding through wooden boats, called Dhaus. Harbors exist only in Mpulungu, Kasanga and Kigoma.
On occasion of the Liemba’s upcoming 100th anniversary, discussion and dispute come up as to the further employment of the ship which urgently needs a profound refurbishment. The Tanzanian government has submitted an official request for support to the German administration since it is unable to raise the money on its own. Since 2010, the Meyer Werft, the State of Lower Saxony and the President’s Office are reported to be committed to support the refurbishment of the Liemba. In fact, thiso activity is said to go back to the initiative “Partnership with Africa” originated by the former President Horst Köhler, who encouraged to think about cooperation projects with Africa.
As a result two official German delegations went to Tansania:
On 02.03.2010 in Kigoma lead by Dr. Lothar Hagebölling, head of the Lower-Saxon State Chancellery, including among others representatives of its development aid department and Jochen Zerrahn, former production manager of the Meyer-Werft.
On 28.02.2011 in Dar es Salaam and on 01.03.2011 in Kigoma with participation among others of Heinz Davidson, Head of the Department for Europe and International Affairs at the Lower-Saxon State Chancellery, his assistant Mrs Ewert-Mey, Jochen Zerrahn, Guido Herz (former German Ambassador in Tansania) as well as top representatives of the MSCL and from the Tanzanian government.
In the meantime the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Development are getting involved. The latter has instructed Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau to come up with an expert opinion. Major results of the opinion are: The Liemba seems to be a „candidate for a ship museum“. In case of a renovation, security standards have to be applied as they are valid for new ships on high seas. Also, renovating the Liemba does not comply with cooperation criteria between the German Ministry of Development and Tanzania, which cover water treatment projects and good governance but not infrastructure.
Going forward, the State Chancellery of Lower Saxony involves the Ministry of Traffic who are in charge of inland navigation. „There is no compulsory need for ships on Lake Tanganyika to comply with the same security standards as ships on high seas. It does not make sense to require the same security standards for a 100 years old ship as for new ships. This does not happen in Germany either“, summarises Heinz Davidson, Head of the International Department in the State Chancellery, the findings of the Ministry of Traffic. In order to comply with development criteria, he suggests to apply German Budget Aid. This means, money is given directly to the Tanzanian Budget where it can be spent more or less without specific purpose.
Following Jochen Zerrahn, who had been working at Meyer Werft for more than 50 years until his retirement, at the end as member of the board, in charge of production, logistics and HR, the Liemba can be renovated. As per a study, the Meyer Werft calculates 6-8 Mio. EUR for the renovation of machines and security installations, for the modernisation of cabins and resaurant. Now, the government of Tanzania and the operator of the ship, MSCL, have to take decisions. On their wishes and requirments of the renovation and on the German Budget Aid.
Other than Jochen Zerrahn, Peter Hackmann from the Meyer Werft’s press department, seems to suggest a more passive role. In a telcon at the beginning of January 2012 he says: “We have just built the ship and of course we can give technical support”, and adds: “Our core business is building large cruising ships. We are a builder of new ships not a fixing yard.” Also, they would not like to be used as an instrument for the implementation of other intitiatives’ targets. All the more, since there would be a public tender for the refurbishment and the Meyer-Werft would not automatically be winning the deal. And the marketing effect of the entire story is deemded to be more pushed by the media than by reality. In this reality, the Meyer-Werft does not have much more than five customers who don’t really care if there is somewhere a hundred year old ship.
Apart from Meyer Werft, another German company wants to support the Liemba: „HeidelbergCement is committed to invest between 500.000 and 2.5 mln EUR into a private fund designated for the modernisation of the Liemba“, is written in a letter of the company to Hartwig Fischer, President of the German Africa Foundation. HeidelbergCement is the largest cement producer in Tanzania via its subsidiary Tanzania Portland Cement Company Ltd.
On 09.02.2012, a Parliamtary Evening took place in the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus in Berlin on invitation of the German Africa Foundation. Recent developments and information have been summarised above. Further political discussions will follow, originally scheduled for President Wulff’s journey to Sambia, Burkina Faso and Tanzania. After the resignation of Mr Wulff, the trip is going to be postponed.
Telecon with Heinz Davidson 22.03.2012
Political negotiations on the renovation of the Liemba are currently held in the framework of the regular consultations between the German Ministry of Development and the Tanzanian Government. The most recent consultation took place in January 2012. As a result, the Ministry of Development is said to have drawn the following conclusion: Tanzania is not interested. Neither have they expressed their views on the details of the Liemba renovation nor have they commented the potential application of the German general budget support. Also, the Ministry is said to conclude that the Tanzanian Government obviously does not support the idea of the German general budget support. Obviously, they want money on top. Next consultations are scheduled for April 2012. Apart from those regular meetings, the Ministry of Development is not in the driver seat. As such, decisions cannot be expected. Only the Foreign Ministry would be in a position to assume something like a leading role, which however they are not doing so far.
Concerning the potential commitment of DANIDA, Heinz Davidson reads from a letter of the German Ambassador H.E. Klaus-Peter Brandes in Dar es Salaam:
The recently newly appointed Danish Ambassador in Dar es Salaam H. E. Johnny Flentø informed me (ie Mr Brandes) and the Tanzanian Minister of Transport on 13.02.2012 that Denmark via DANIDA is currently investigating the issuance of a soft loan for this purpose (the renovation of the Liemba) as well as for other inland navigation projects. DANIDA intends to contact KfW because of existing technical knowhow.
For the time being the Liemba runs on an operational allowance that is extended year over year.
Apart from the political arena, there are private initiatives, engaged in the preservation and the further usage of the Liemba. A group of people in Papenburg (Förderverein Graf Götzen Rückholung e.V.“) led by Hermann Josef Averdung (1. Chairman), Walter Pusken (Treasurer) und Karl Meyer (Secretary) wants to bring the Liemba home to the place of their baptism with the help of the Beluga Shipyard. Transportation alone is supposed to cost 3.5mln EUR. Now that the Beluga Shipyard is insolvent, a new partner has to be found.
In contrast, the initiative „Run Liemba“, led by Franz Hiss (Chairman), living in Aachen and by Michael Berg (Deputy) living in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland wants to retain the Liemba in the country as a “brand of the region” and a “major element of the infrastructure on the lake” for local people and tourists alike. Berg is a historian with focus on traffic and technics. The couple Hiss used to be engaged as aid workers in Tanzania for many years. Since the broadcasting of an NDR reportage, Berg is fascinated by the Liemba. He investigates in archives for months and collects information. In October 2008, he goes to Tansania, by central line to Kigoma and on board of the Liemba, where he immediately recognizes the importance of the ship as a local means of transportation but also as a technical-historical asset. 2009 he invites Captain Titus Benjamin and three additional representatives of the Marine Services Company to Germany where the travelling plan involves the following regions and topics:
- Bodensee and inland navigation
- Berlin and Deutsche Afrikastiftung
- Papenburg and Meyer-Werft where they are being hosted as normal visitors rather than through an official reception
During this trip, Berg gets in touch with the couple Hiss. Today their initiative is in contact to all major institutions dealing with the Liemba. The foundation of a “registered association” is supposed to be implemented in due course, as well as the launch of a website.
Email Kontakt Michael Berg 22.03.2012
There is actually a questionmark if the Liemba Project is going to be a German development project or a project that will be handled through the Danish Government given the recent LOI of DANIDA which is already engaged in the modernization of the remaining MSCL fleet.
In the private economy, there is still the LOI of Heidelberg Cement which, in the meantime, has been joined by other German companies with a total “commitment” of some 6 mln EUR.
Update: Political activities, private initiatives and media
Sources: Mail Michael Berg dd 27.06.2012 and meeting at Meyer Werft with Mr Jochen Zerrahn and Günther Kolbe
Following Michael Berg „there seems to be some much more money available from German companies. As such, the renovation of the Liemba would no longer be a Public-Private-Partnership-Project…“
Jochen Zerrahn reports from a meeting in Berlin on 29.06.2012 with a group of Tanzanian members of Parliament who continue to be very „bullish“ on the renovation of the Liemba. He also reports of the somewhat changed attitude of the Tanzanian Government, who expressed during recent bilateral meetings that they could also manage the renovation of the Liemba alone which was completely new to the Parliament members.
In September, the french TV journalist Sandrine Leonardelli and team will travel the Liemba for a TV reportage for France 3.
Update on Verein Graf Götzen Rückholung e.V.
After the return of the Liemba to Papenburg was not possible to realize, a half-size copy of the ship is now supposed to be built. A potential location might be Papenburgs Main Channel, close to the old MEYER WERFT where the Goetzen once was built. If however, the channel is big enough to accommodate a ship of this size, remains to be investigated. Another open question is money. Some 2.5mln EUR are needed. Herman Josef Averdung, chairman of the association, claims to have collected roughly 1mln EUR already. Donations however, were originally meant for the return of the Liemba and not for a copy of it. So, Averdung needs to talk to his investors but he is optimistic. If everything goes according to plan, Goetzen II might become a tourist attraction in Papenburg. Finally. Perhaps already in 2014.
Update: Telecon with Michael Berg, CEO Run Liemba e.V., Juli 2013
On invitation of the Tanzanian Ministry of Transport, a delegation with representatives of the State Chancellery Lower Saxony, Germanischer Lloyd and MEYER Werft GmbH was supposed to go to Kigoma to investigate once more the situation of the Liemba. Originally, the trip was planned for April, postponed to June and finally cancelled – last but not least for disagreement on sharing travel expenses.
In the meantime, rumours indicate that DANIDA is advancing negotiations with the Tanzanian government according to which a new ship might be constructed while the Liemba being refurbished for touristic purposes only.
Not many models of the ship exist. Also, compliance with the original is not always the case, not in every detail. Most of them are free-style imitations. Some of them are up for sale. As a result of my research the most well-known Liemba models can be found here:
- Meyer Werft, Visitor Center, Papenburg/Deutschland
- Hotel „Alte Werft“, Restaurant Graf Goetzen, Papenburg/Deutschland
- IMMH International Maritime Museum Hamburg, Peter Tamm sen. Stiftung, Hamburg/Deutschland
- Schifffahrts-Museum, Nordhorn
- Nairobi Railway Museum, Nairobi/Kenya
- Kisumu Museum / Museum of Culture Kisumu/Kenya
For a full list of references and information resources please click here (article „Tansania (Teil 2): Daten zur MV Liemba, früher Graf GOETZEN“)