SS Cap Polonio

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Alfred Jensen - Die Cap Polonio auf hoher See.jpg
A painting by Alfred Jensen of Cap Polonio at sea

Cap Polonio

SMS Vineta (1915)

Cabo Polonio

Vineta (1915)
Operator: Hamburg Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft
Port of registry: Hamburg
Route: Hamburg – Buenos Aires
Ordered: 1912
Builder: Blohm+Voss, Hamburg
Yard number: 221
Laid down: 1913
Launched: 25 March 1914
Commissioned: 1915
In service: 1915
Out of service: 1931
Homeport: Hamburg
Fate: Scrapped 1935
General characteristics
Class and type:

ocean liner,

auxiliary cruiser
  • 20,517 GRT
  • tonnage under deck 13,886
  • 9,607 NRT
Displacement: 24,500 tons[1]
Length: 194.4 m (637.8 ft) p/p
Beam: 22.1 m (72.4 ft)
Draught: 8.4 m (28 ft)
Depth: 10.5 m (34.4 ft)
Decks: 6
Speed: 17 knots (31 km/h)
Range: 7,000 nautical miles at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Endurance: 19 days
Boats & landing
craft carried:
20 in 1914, increased to 28 in 1915
  • 1,555 passengers:
  • 1st class 355
  • 2nd class 250
  • 3rd class 950
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • (as auxiliary cruiser)
  • 4 × 150 mm (5.9 in) guns
  • 4 × 88 mm (3.5 in) quick-firing guns

SS Cap Polonio was a German 20,576 GRT ocean liner that was launched in 1914 and scrapped in 1935. She worked the Hamburg Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrtsgesellschaft ("Hamburg South America Steamship Company") route between Hamburg in Germany and Buenos Aires in Argentina. She was named after Cabo Polonio in Uruguay.

In the First World War Cap Polonio was briefly commissioned as the auxiliary cruiser SMS Vineta. As such she was unsuccessful, did not see active service and was soon returned to her owners.


Blohm+Voss in Hamburg built Cap Polonio, laying her keel in 1913 and launching her on 25 March 1914. She had three screws. Her port and starboard screws were each driven by a four-cylinder triple-expansion steam engine. Her middle propeller was driven by a single steam turbine.[2]

When the First World War broke out at the end of July 1914 Cap Polonio was not yet complete. With the prior agreement of the owners, the Imperial German Navy requisitioned her for conversion to an auxiliary cruiser. She was completed and armed with four 150-millimetre (5.9 in) and four 88-millimetre (3.5 in) quick-firing guns. She was designed with three funnels but the third one aft was a dummy, and for war service the Imperial Navy had it removed.[3]

In February 1915 this work was completed and on 6 February 1915 she was commissioned as SMS Vineta,[4] named after a mythical city of that name on the south coast of the Baltic Sea.

First World War[edit]

The ship's sea trials were unsatisfactory. She was designed for a top speed of 17 knots (31 km/h) but failed to achieve it. Also by this time the first phase of the war on commerce was over. The fast passenger liners that the Imperial Navy had requisitioned had proved impractical because of their prodigious coal consumption. Vineta's coal consumption of 250 tons per day gave her a maximum endurance at sea of less than three weeks,[5] and even her forecast speed was less than many enemy Royal Navy warships. Given her shortcomings the Imperial Navy decommissioned Vineta and returned her to her owners.

Restored to her civilian name of Cap Polonio, the ship remained at Hamburg, trapped by the Allied blockade of Germany.

Failure with British operators[edit]

After the 1918 Armistice the United States seized her as war reparations. But she was then transferred to the UK Shipping Controller in London, who placed her under Union-Castle Line management. She sailed to England, was painted in Union-Castle colours and embarked passengers and homeward-bound South African soldiers for a voyage to Cape Town and Durban.[3]

Cap Polonio sailed from Plymouth in Devon on 21 June 1919. Despite being bunkered with good British steam coal she made only 12 knots (22 km/h). Worse, she suffered a series of mechanical failures. She did not reach Cape town until 18 July and the Durban leg of her voyage was cancelled. On return to Plymouth the ship remained for a time in Devonport Dockyard.[3]

Next the ship came under P&O management, who sailed her to Bombay in India. On this voyage she achieved only 10 knots (19 km/h) and again suffered significant mechanical problems. P&O too gave up on her, and she spent a time out of service in Liverpool.[3]

Success with Hamburg Süd[edit]

A Hamburg Süd poster featuring Cap Polonio

Finally in 1921 Cap Polonio's original owners, Hamburg Süd, bought her back for $150,000. In February 1922 she finally began the Hamburg – Buenos Aires service for which she had been built eight years earlier. And she at last achieved the 18-to-19-knot (33 to 35 km/h) speeds for which she was designed.[3]

In 1927 Blohm+Voss completed a new flagship for the Hamburg Süd fleet. At 27,561 GRT and with a 20-knot (37 km/h) top speed, the new Cap Arcona was significantly larger and slightly quicker than Cap Polonio. The older ship remained in regular service until 1931, when Hamburg Süd laid her up.[3]

In June 1935 Cap Polonio sailed to Bremerhaven, where she was scrapped. However, parts of the ship's luxurious interior were salvaged and taken to Pinneberg in Holstein, where they were used to create the Hotel Cap Polonio. The hotel survived the Second Wolrd War and is still in business today.[3]


  1. ^ Schmalenbach 1977, p. 48.
  2. ^ Lloyd's Register, Steamers & Motorships (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1930. Retrieved 22 May 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Cap Polonio (1914–1935)". Hamburg-Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrtsgesellschaft (H.S.D.G.) (in German). Retrieved 22 May 2017. 
  4. ^ Schmalenbach 1977, p. 71.
  5. ^ Schmalenbach 1977, p. 47.


  • Hawkins, Nigel (2002). The Starvation Blockades. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books. ISBN 0-85052-908-5. 
  • Schmalenbach, Paul (1980) [1977]. German Raiders: The Story of the German Navy's Auxiliary Cruisers, 1895-1945. Cambridge: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 0-85059-351-4. 

External links[edit]