1950 PROVENCE launched !
 Provence 1951
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20.01.1948 Order placed with Swan Hunter
27.05.1949 Laid down in Newcastle
15.08.1950 Launched
25.02.1951 Delivery to SGTM
The SGTM had been hit badly by World War II: Of the 4 liners, which sailed the route before, the two smaller ones had been lost, the others could resume service only with delay, due to repairs and late release from troop service. However, SGTM decided to replace these remaining ships soon. The first ship, PROVENCE was ordered at Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson in Newcastle on 20 January 1948 , where it was laid on keel in the Neptune yard at the river Tyne as yard no. 1874 on 27 May 1949 . On this day the more than 50-years-long history of this far-traveled ship began!

The selection of an English yard for a French ship is explained to some extent by the fact that French shipyards were occupied with reconstructing the French merchant fleet after World War II. But Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson has had a longstanding business relation with the SGTM before the war, and SGTM had ordered 9 ships form Swan Hunter’s Neptune yard so far. The sister ship BRETAGNE was built by the French shipyard Chantiers & Ateliers de St. Nazaire, although built on the basis of almost identical blueprints.

The PROVENCE was launched on 15 August 1950 and Madame Martel, the wife of the President of SGTM, christened her. Six month later, after installation of the interior equipment and after trials run on 23 February 1951, she was delivered to the shipping company on 25 February 1951. The technical data were stated as follows:

Size: 15,719 GRT (7885 metric tons), length: 176.7 m, beam: 22.3 m, Propulsion: 2 geared steam turbines manufactured by Parson Marine Steam Turbine Co. (Newcastle) with a performance of 15,000 HP together (measured at the shaft), 2 screws, service speed of 18 kn., max. 20 kn. Passenger capacity: 157 in I. Class, 167 in Tourist class, and 978 in III. Class, 470 of these accommodated in dormitories, therefore the expression „IV Class“ suites better (Eliseo indicates 436 III. Class and 736 IV. Class). Crew : 260

The construction costs in those days amounted to exactly: 2.255.291 English Pound, 3 Shilling and 6 Pence (according to Swan Hunter building contract). Due to the fact that the ship was a replacement for the loss of the MENDOZA  in WW II, the French government took the costs. While the Third Class was designed by the builder, the public areas of First and Second Class were designed by the French architect André Arbus (who decorated the reception hall of the Elysée-palace). The First Class passengers enjoyed therefore a significant luxury: separate air-conditioned restaurant, featuring a ceiling made of 4000 pieces of iridescent Venetian glass and mirrored columns. The walls of the First Class-lounge were decorated by columns in classical scheme, and were fitted with 4 statures of bronze by Poisson (who already worked for the decoration of the steamer ILE DE FRANCE), one bust of a woman by Arbus himself and paintings by Cassandre and Chapelin Midy. The vast majority of the passengers in the lower classes had not even private facilities at their disposal on the cabin, but had to use public baths. The whole superstructure of the ship was reserved for the First Class (their cabins, lounge, bar, kindergarten, writing room, reading room, open-air pool). The Second Class had a bar and a lounge at their disposal at the ship’s stern. The numerous Third Class had to share a bar and a lounge of the same size as the Second Class. These were situated at the bow, near to the most part of the Third Class cabins. Open deck space was neatly allotted to the classes: promenades and the Sun Deck to First Class, stern area to Second Class and foredeck to Third Class. The dining rooms of the Second Class (air-conditioned) and Third Class were on a lower deck.  This has its advantages, since rough seas are less noticeable, the deeper down in the ship you are. The Third Class dining room had long tables in rows for up to 14 passengers and a capacity of 586. The high proportion of lower classes is however also caused by the fact, that the PROVENCE should be used for the most part as an emigrant ship to South America. Besides, so shortly after the war probably only a few customers could afford the more expensive cabins. The route to Argentina was popular with the Southern Europeans in particular at that time. Around the turn of the century, up to 2 million Italians had settled in Argentina, the Spaniards not far behind in terms of numbers. At the same time these two ethnic groups had immigrated to Brazil too, but the numbers where only half as high as those of Argentina. At the end of the 1940´s each year approximately 100.000 Italian emigrants went to the Southern American countries.
These connections pulled further emigrants to South America, in particular in the post-war period. Beyond that SGTM counted on a high number of commuters between the South American emigrant centers and their home country. Besides, the PROVENCE and her identically constructed sister ship BRETAGNE had significant cargo holds, which was inevitable for the emigrant service and brought additional revenue not depending on the passenger business.
The cargo holds were situated on lower decks in the bow and stern of the ships, where nowadays uncommon derricks and masts (12 à 5 tons capacity) on the foredeck and aft were installed to handle the freight via the 4 cargo-hatches. The cargo holds had a capacity of

Right under the foredeck was a hold for automobiles. The PROVENCE and her sistership BRETAGNE were the largest French liners in the South American trade and were the sixth and seventh in size on the table of all French passenger ships of the 50s. PROVENCE was the largest ship built on Swan Hunter´s Neptune yard so far.
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