After World War II the largest passenger fleet under the French flag was operated by Messageries Maritimes, sailing from the great Mediterranean port of Marseille. The company built nine combination passenger and cargo ocean liners in the early 1950s including four trading to Mauritius via East African ports and two sailing to French territories in the Caribbean and South Pacific via the Panama Canal and onward to Australia.
Three fast white ships were completed for the Indo-China and Far East service, the Cambodge, Laos and Viet-Nam. Their month long voyages called at Port Said, Aden (or Djibouti), Bombay, Colombo, Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong, Kobe (eastbound) and Yokohama.
First class accommodations were quite sumptuous, with a lovely drawing room, smoking room, bar, card room, writing room, swimming pool and dining room. Even ahead of the times, 34 First class staterooms featured a private veranda. Tourist class had a small lounge and dining room. Third class were accommodated mainly in simple dormitories forward, while a cafeteria served as the lounge between meals.
They carried French manufactured goods in their cargo holds on the outward journey, and returned with the mass production of Japan and Hong Kong.
With the Suez Canal closed and war in Southeast Asia, Viet-Nam was renamed Pacifique and switched to the South Pacific service in 1967. Competition from the airlines, and as well from the new generation of container ships, eventually led to the withdrawal of all three ocean liners.
Built: 1953 by Ateliers et Chantiers, Dunkirk, France
Built: 1954 by Chantiers Nav de la Ciotat, France
Built: 1952 by Chantiers Nav de la Ciotat, France