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The Fleets

Panama, New Zealand & Australia Royal Mail Co. 1866-1868

The Panama, New Zealand & Australia Royal Mail Co. was formed June 15 1866 to operate monthly sailings in each direction between Sydney, Wellington and Panama with four ships. These connected to the Panama Railroad. These ships required 30 tons of coal per day to run, and an intermediate coaling port at the French island of Rapa was established which was replenished by sailing ships. The Kaikora, 1,591 ton screw steamer built in 1865 made the initial sailing. Her mates were the Rakaia, (Rakaia was launched on January 31 from Messrs Randolph Elder and Co.'s building yard at Fairfield.) Ruahine and the Mataura, steamships of similar size. The service never proved to be profitable and the company was in financial difficulties by the end of 1868 and withdrew from the route. The four ships had been mortgaged to the Royal Mail S.P. Co. and were eventually transferred to that company. The Kaikora, Rakaia and Ruahine were renamed Tiber, Ebro and Liffey. These were all placed on the Brazil / River Plate service.

The fourth steamship Mataura was a clipper bowed, 1,786 gross tons, iron hulled vessel with a speed of 10 knots, built 1866 by Millwall Ship & Graving Co. She had accommodation for some 100-1st and 60-2nd class passengers. She left London on her delivery voyage, which was plagued by many breakdowns, for Sydney via the Cape on 9th July1866 and arrived in time to take the September sailing to Wellington and Panama.

Many thanks to Henk Jungerius and Ted Finch for their assistance in collecting this data. The following list was extracted from various sources. This is not an all inclusive list but should only be used as a guide. If you would like to know more about a vessel, visit the Ship Descriptions (onsite) or Immigrant Ship web site.

Vessel Built Years in Service Tons
Kaikora 1865 built by Millwall Ship & Graving Co., Millwall | 1868 laid up, 1871 to Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. renamed Tiber, 1882 wrecked San Domingo. 1,591
Mataura 1866 built by Millwall Ship & Graving Co., Millwall | 1868 laid up. 1,786
Rakaia 1866 built by Randolph, Elder & Co., Glasgow | 1868 laid up, 1871 to Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. renamed Ebro, 1881 sold to Cia Trasatlantica, Barcelona, renamed Baldomero Iglesias, 1898 scrapped. 1,509
Ruahine 1866 built by Millwall Ship & Graving Co., Millwall | 1868 laid up, 1871 to Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. renamed Liffey, 11th August 1874 wrecked San Ignacio, Uruguay. 1,504

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