SOCIAL HISTORY and LINER HISTORY – THE ITALIAN LINE
ITALIAN LINE HISTORY
The Italian Line or Italia Line, also known as the Italia di Navigazione S.p.A., was a passenger shipping line that operated regular transatlantic service between Italy and the United States, as well as Italy and South America. During the late years ’60, the company was also heavily involved in cruising. It later, from 1981, concentrated her activity in worldwide freight and containers traffic service.
The Italia Genova was started on January 1, 1937, coming from Italia Flotte Riunite (United Fleets Italy), when the Italian government encouraged the merger of Genoa-based Navigazione Generale Italiana (NGI), Turin-based Lloyd Sabaudo, and Trieste-based Cosulich STN, which was previously an Austro-Hungaric company. SS Giulio Cesare, built in 1923, in Italian Line service 1932-1937
The new company acquired the Cosulich-owned MS Saturnia and MS Vulcania, the Lloyd Sabaudo-owned SS Conte Rosso, SS Conte Biancamano and SS Conte Grande and the NGI-owned SS Giulio Cesare, SS Duilio, SS Roma and MS Augustus. The same year two previously commissioned ocean liners were delivered to the company: SS Rex, who captured the Blue Riband in 1933, and SS Conte di Savoia.
During World War II, the company lost many of its ships, including the Rex and the Conte di Savoia. Other vessels were captured by the United States and converted into troopships; four of them survived the war: Conte Biancamano, Conte Grande, Saturnia, and Vulcania.
Commercial service was resumed only in 1947, under the company’s new name Società di navigazione Italia. In addition to the four vessels returned by United States, two new vessels, SS Andrea Doria and SS Cristoforo Colombo were commissioned in 1953 and 1954, respectively, to show the world that the country had recovered from the war and to re-establish the nation’s pride. However, in 1956, only three years after she was commissioned, the Andrea Doria was involved in a collision and sank. The company was swift to order a replacement for its sunken flagship, and the new SS Leonardo da Vinci was delivered in 1960. The ship was based on the same design as Andrea Doria, but was larger and featured many technical innovations.
In the late 1950s, the arrival of the jet aircraft had not yet had a notable effect on passenger numbers in the United States – Mediterranean traffic, and the Italian Line decided to order another pair of new ships for the trade. Plans for these were already being made in 1958, but the construction took longer than expected and the ships were not completed until 1965, as SS Michelangelo and SS Raffaello. Unfortunately the ships were built too late to be truly profitable on the North Atlantic route. Although planned from the start for alternative cruising, the ships had several design features that made their use as cruise ships very difficult.
The Italian Line kept operating the transatlantic service despite huge losses until 1976, when the Leonardo da Vinci was withdrawn from transatlantic service. The Michelangelo and Raffaello had already been withdrawn the previous year. The Leonardo da Vinci was used as a cruise ship in 1977-1978, but withdrawn due to high fuel costs. Between 1979 and 1980, the Italian Line operated two ex-Lloyd Triestino liners SS Galileo Galilei and SS Guglielmo Marconi as a cruise ships, but the venture proved unprofitable.
Discouraged by the lack of success, Italian Line decided to concentrate on freight traffic. Italian Line operated its principal container services between the Mediterranean, the west coast of North America, and Central and South America. It carried about 180,000 Twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in 2001.
Formerly owned by the Italian government, the Italian Line was privatized when sold to d’Amico in 1998. In August 2002, the Italian Line was acquired by CP Ships. In 2005, the Italian Line brand was replacecd by the CP Ships brand, following CP’s one-brand strategy. CP Ships itself was bought out in late 2005 by TUI AG, and merged with Hapag-Lloyd in mid-2006.
THE ANDREA DORIA
SS Andrea Doria was an ocean liner for the Italian Line (Società di navigazione Italia) home ported in Genoa, Italy, most famous for its sinking in 1956, when 46 people died. Named after the 16th-century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria, the ship had a gross register tonnage of 29,100 and a capacity of about 1,200 passengers and 500 crew. For a country attempting to rebuild its economy and reputation after World War II, Andrea Doria was an icon of Italian national pride. Of all Italy’s ships at the time, Andrea Doria was the largest, fastest and supposedly safest. Launched on 16 June 1951, the ship undertook its maiden voyage on 14 January 1953.
On 25 July 1956, approaching the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts, bound for New York City, Andrea Doria collided with the east-bound MS Stockholm of the Swedish American Line in what became one of history’s most infamous maritime disasters. Struck in the side, the top-heavy Andrea Doria immediately started to list severely to starboard, which left half of her lifeboats unusable. The consequent shortage of lifeboats might have resulted in significant loss of life, but improvements in communications and rapid responses by other ships averted a disaster similar in scale to the Titanic disaster of 1912. 1660 passengers and crew were rescued and survived, while 46 people died as a consequence of the collision. The evacuated luxury liner capsized and sank the following morning.
The incident and its aftermath were heavily covered by the news media. While the rescue efforts were both successful and commendable, the cause of the collision and the loss of Andrea Doria generated much interest in the media and many lawsuits. Largely because of an out-of-court settlement agreement between the two shipping companies during hearings immediately after the disaster, no determination of the cause(s) was ever formally published. Although greater blame appeared initially to fall on the Italian liner, more recent discoveries have indicated that a misreading of radar on the Swedish ship may have initiated the collision course, leading to some errors on both ships and resulting in disaster.
Andrea Doria was the last major transatlantic passenger vessel to sink before aircraft became the preferred method of travel.