When she was built in 1930, she was the largest ship yet built by the Nederlandse Scheepsbouw Maatschappij. She had berths for 770 passengers: 366 in first class, 280 in second, 64 in third and 60 in fourth class. She had berths for 360 crew. She had four decks and could carry 9,000 tons of cargo.

The maiden voyage was to have taken place on May 6th, 1930, but whilst navigating the North Sea canal, sailing towards Ijmuiden the ship collided with the Reggestroom, a 3,854 ton freighter. The minor damage to the starboard side was quickly repaired, quick enough to allow the ship to sail shortly afterwards.

It’s regular route was between Amsterdam and the Dutch East Indies.

During WWII she served as an Allied troop and cargo ship between Batavia and New York City.

She began her first voyage to Australia on 2 September 1950. From 1950 to 1963 she carried many Dutch and European immigrants to Australia’s shores, docking in Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. The total journey time was forty one days.

Dutch immigrant children celebrating the St. Nicholas Day on December 5, 1961, aboard the MV Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. Keith Paulusse is sitting almost underneath the lectern with glasses, and his sister Liz is the girl in the centre with the striped jumper.
Dutch Australian Weekly 31/1/1953

The collision of the Willem Ruys and the Oranje in the Red Sea during January 1953 saw the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt hired to substitute for the Willem Ruys for one Europe – Djakarta round trip.

The 100,000th Dutch immigrant arrived on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt in 1958

She left on her last round-the-world voyage for the Netherland Line on 30 June 1962. The ship arrived in Sydney, Australia on 3 February 1963. She was decommissioned by the Netherland Line that day, ending a 33-year career for that shipping line. The same day she left Sydney for Genoa via the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal.

In 1963 she became the Greek Line cruise ship TSMS Lakonia. On 22 December 1963 she caught fire at sea and on 29 December she sank. 128 people were killed in the disaster.

In 1996, a book about this ship was published, titled “Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. A Ship with Six Lives.

Photo and Document Gallery

With thanks to the archives of the Dutch Australian Cultural Centre and Information received from Ruud van der Sluis director of the foundation: Stichting NDSM-Herleeft (Foundation NDSM (dockyards) Lives On).

Emigratie naar Australia – Bekrompenheid in ruil voor avontuur

The following is an article written by Wim Grund, one of the foremost experts on the history of the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt


The Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt steams into Sydney Harbour on its last voyage to Australia as a migrant ship, 1958.

Stories from passengers

There was a discussion on Dutch Australian Community Facebook site on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (JVO) with the above picture of its last visit to Australia, This created a lot of reactions.

Christel Shumate

My parents were on the JVO trip that arrived in Melbourne in February 1952!

Dik Visscher

When my family left Amsterdam, we were on that boat in 1956 for 6 wonderful weeks got off at Sydney caught a steam train to Brisbane. when there were bushfires everywhere along the trip

Gonnie Van den Broek-Aspinall

We were on the last trip that ship made arriving in Sydney, And from there arrived at the migrant camp in Scheyville….

Alice Vanderheg

We arrived in 1959, with the JVO, and it was sold to the Greeks, then it sank!

Trish Baart Buckley

My family emigrated on this ship.

Mary Ahling

When we came on the JVO it was part migrant part cruise ship in 1959.We were in contact with English people who had been on holidays to England and went back to Australia. We also had the big storm that took the life of the pianist at Freemantle.

Hanny Malone

My family arrived in Australia on board this ship in February 1954, I was 10 years old and remember the voyage well.

Anna Douglas

My parents arrived in 1954 on the jvo.

Monica Linthorne

This is the ship Oma and Opa arrived in Australia on in 1952.

Naomi Flynn

My Oma and Opa (and Dad) in Feb 1952

Liesbeth van Emmerik

We arrived with this wonderful boat on 8 November in Melbourne. Many special memories.

Susy Wilson

My family and I arrived in Melbourne on the last journey to go to Bonegilla Camp before the ship left for Sydney. It was a long journey for a person suffering from sea sickness 

Arrived on 8 November 1955 then spent 5 and half weeks in Daylesford Dutch hostel under the guidance of the Teggelove family whose offspring are now principals in Bendigo!!

Henk Vrolijks

I sealed on her in 1958 and she was not black but white also we had a bad accident and one of my mates drowned in the swimming pool

Anne Lo-Grasso

We arrived in February 1958. Beautiful ship.

John Evert Eykman

We arrived in Melbourne in 1958 great time

Frank Van-Look

Our Cousins the first lot of Van Looks travelled to Australia on that Ship1951. We the second Lot on the Fairsea 1952.

Jennifer Mary Seaton

Frank Van-Look Yes you were with my parents and oldest brother….the van den Elsen’s, 70 years ago!

Patricia Risse

 We arrived on that ship. A very long time ago. Got to love these memories

Ali Horvath

I arrived with my family Melbourne 1957.Left Nederland Feb 12 arrived 21March. 23 Adelaide

Miranda van der Keyl

My family and I arrived on this ship in November 1958, disembarking in Melbourne and then taken to Bonagilla Migrant Camp

John Evert Eykman

Miranda van der Keyl I was 5yo when I arrived with the family in Melbourne and also went too Bonagilla

Marie Mawson – Vos

Onboard December 1958 as a baby. May have been November 1958 as mum not sure of the date

Marion Last

 Yes… left the Netherlands in November 1950 and arrived in Melbourne January 1951. I think Mum (19) was on ‘D’ deck and Dad (22) on ‘F’ deck. They married on Nov 8th, 1950, so this was their honeymoon. Mum said that they had to ‘book’ the Lifeboats to ‘get together’

Marieanne Visser Van Dyk

The boat Dad arrived in 1952

Sonja Martin

We arrived in October 1955 on this ship.

Bill Adams

What a majestic ship that was. It brought my little family of three from Amsterdam to Fremantle in September 1952. Little did I know of the culture shock awaiting me.

Diny Lee-Schipper

My Uncle came home (Holland) from Indonesia on Johan she was a Troop Ship then. We came to Australia on her but disembarked in Melbourne to continue on the Taroona to Tasmania. 1958

Geera Marshall

I came to Australia with my family on this boat 1953

Arend de Weger

My family (including me as a 4-year-old) migrated to Australia in 1952 on this ship.

Toni Kirkpatrick

We came over on this ship, arrived in March 1957.

Ingrid Rapp

Our family sailed on the JVO twice, once in January 1954 and again in July 1956. A majestic ship with beautiful Indonesian carvings. Our mother kept a day-to-day diary of our journey which we still have in our possession.

Helen Haneveld Jenkins

My parents & I arrived at Fremantle in November 1953 on JVO.

Nancy Lockley

Mum, Dad, my brother & sister came on the JVO in 1952, disembarked in Melbourne, stayed at the Bonegilla migrant hostel & then moved to the Riverland. I was born a year later. (Anja).

Frankie Lindstrom

My parents arrived on this ship in 1956

Joy Pohl

My late fathers family came to Australia on the Oldenbarnevelt in 1954 and disembarked in Melbourne Victoria.

Hans van der Donk

We came to Australia on that ship in 1956

Olga Walters

My good friend and her family were on board! My family travelled on the sister ship de Zuiderkruis.

Corrie Cras

I came to Australia on this boat. I was 5 in 1953

Sue Esra

Bought us to Australia in 1953.

Yvonne Nicholas

My family were on the last voyage !!!!

Marie Mawson – Vos

I came out on this ship at the young age of 10 months with my brother and parents

John Stegehuis

November 1958 my family arrived in Melbourne

Anna Byers

We arrived in Melbourne on that ship in April 1955

Bill Adams

What a beautiful sight. That brings me back to my arrival September 1952.

Toni Swannell

My parents and us 3 kids 1952

Anne Slager

We arrived on that ship on its last voyage 

Rene Rem

 My parents and I arrived on JVO in 1956.

Barbara van der Horst

My brother-in-law arrived on that ship in that year in Melbourne

Marion Nowell

My father arrived in her at Melbourne in 1949.

John van der Pol

In 1959 van Indonesia naar Holland, want er waren stakingen in Australia om het communisme regering van Indonesië te ondersteunen, ik kwam op dit schip als laatste keer tussen NL en Indonesië, ze was toen al bestemt voor de Holland Amerika lijn.

Ingrid Bower

My Mama and Papa, brother and sister were on the ship, they got off in Melbourne one year before I was born, very nostalgic 

Monsoonas Marianne

Teri Pleydell Oma and Opa vanderhorst Corry Haverkort and her three brothers were on this ship I think it was 1955

Dianna Berkholst

My parents boarded JvO 1 April 1954 bound for Sydney but caught the train to Brisbane. My parents never threw anything away and I still have all their paperwork from their trip and one of their trunks.

Desi Lu

Not the last voyage as I came on that ship in 1959.

Garry Lemair

My family came to Melbourne in 1956

Soren-Dane Homme

1954 Oma,Opa und mum arrived on that vessel. De Familie Mensch

Evelyn Guy

My mum was pregnant with me when my parents and siblings came on the JVO in 1950.

John Smolders

Many happy memories on board in 57

Giselle Bakker
Yes travelled on that ship as a child

Ian Cramer

My father also travelled with his family on this vessel, disembarking in Melbourne November 1953.

George Giesberts

My family arrived in August 1952 in Melbourne went from Bonegilla to Hunter Valley to Brisbane in 1954. I had my 13th birthday on board and was allowed to eat with the grown ups, made my day.

Alberta Loch
I had a great time on that ship not so good for my new husband who was badly sea sick all the time.

Johanna Mulholland

My late dad Joop Mul and my oma and opa made the trip in 1956

Mary de Ridder

We left on Friday 13 July 1956 on the “Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and arrived in Melbourne 16 August,left that same night on the most uncomfortable train with wooden seats to Adelaide. Still we survived it and have had a good life here in South Australia.

Memories of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt from Gerry Rüsing-Molenaar

Gerry shared photographs and her memories of migrating to Australia on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt with the DACC.

I remember the ship Johan van Oldenbarnevelt very well. I came from Holland to Australia in 1957, I was 7 years old at the time. Had a great time on this ship and also remember the stops in Aden and Port Said.

There is one thing I will never forget.

We had a stop in Melbourne and the crew had a football match, can’t remember against who. My parents and a few other passengers came along in the bus, to cheer them on. After the match the children were taken back to the ship first, because they had to be back in time for their evening meal. Children always had their meals before the grown-ups. After a while, when the ship had already left the harbour of Melbourne, I started looking for my parents but couldn’t find them. When I told one of the crew members, they started to realise that a few other crew members were also missing. When they went to inquire, they found out that the bus driver forgot to go back to pick up the crew and the passengers that came along. So, the bus driver hurried back to pick them up, but as the ship could not go back to the harbour they were brought back by boats and had to climb up a rope ladder to get back on board.

Gerry also shared the following photographs and memories:

Dinner on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. Above, top: Captain’s dinner. Above left: Children having dinner. Above right: Adult passengers having dinner. Below left: Brochure about the kinderfeest or children’s party onboard the ship. Below right: Poem or song about the children’s party dinner. Supplied: Gerry Rüsing-Molenaar.

Small boats come alongside the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt in Port Said, Egypt. Supplied: Gerry Rüsing-Molenaar.

Gerry remembers: In Port Said traders came along the side of the boat to try and sell their goods. When you purchased something, they would tow it up in a basket with a rope. But you had to be careful and make sure you had your purchased article first and then pay and put the money in the basket, because if you pay first, you would never get your article, so money gone. There were also crew members on the look-out if any outsiders would sneak on the boat, because they would break in cabins and steal your things.

A schedule showing the ship’s route and expected arrival dates in each port. Supplied: Gerry Rüsing-Molenaar.

Gerry remembers: In case family and friends wanted to write you a letter during the trip, they got this schedule, so that they would know how to address and when to post the letter.

See also:

Dutch immigrant ships to Australia

Hennik Family on the Zuiderkruis

Dutch immigrant ship Willem Ruys

Dutch immigration to Australia, stats and other resources

Other resources:

Post World War II Migrant Ship History: Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, 1950-1963

Passengers list SS JV Oldenbarnevelt 28 October 1953

Passengers list SS JV Oldenbarnevelt 17 March 1957

Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt / Lakonia Nederland Line / Goulandris Greek Line 1928 – 1963

Video: M.S. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt – departure Amsterdam 1930’s

Video of pictures of the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt

“Memories of the JVO” MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt