1950-1960 To Buenos Aires !

 
30.03.1951
Maiden voyage in Marseille-Buenos Aires service
14.02.1952 Sistership BRETAGNE in service
17.09.1954 Collision with tanker SAXONSEA the River Plate
26.03.1955 First voyage after collision
fall of 1957 Refit: 38 additional berths
 
SGTM-calendar with Provence/Bretagne in the background
 
 
Considering the above remarks, it does not surprise that the route Marseille - Buenos Aires first touched Genoa to collect the many Italian emigrants, from there leading to Dakar (a French colony, due to the fact that this was a French ship), then to Rio, Santos, Montevideo, which lies opposite to Buenos Aires at the River Plate. On this service, that covers a distance of over 6000 nautical miles, to this largest South American city (at that time), whose name translates as "good air", the PROVENCE started her maiden voyage on 30 March 1951 . Each of the three main passenger nations had their own doctor: a French, an Italian and a Spanish doctor. On 14 February 1952 the sister ship BRETAGNE joined her on the same service. While one of the ships sailed to Buenos Aires, at the same time the other one was homeward bound, in order to offer to the public as large a selection of departure dates as possible. However with two ships only one departure every 3 weeks could be offered, because the journey took about 19 days for one direction; before the war SGTM must have been able to offer a departure about every 2 weeks with four units sailing this route. The passenger capacity of SGTM had remained approximately the same however, since the new ships were somewhat faster and could carry more passengers per journey. The last two old ships on this service for SGTM, built in the 20's, were sold in 1951 to the shipping company Chargeurs Reunis.

The South America route did not lack competition: In France there was still the Chargeurs Reunis (later taken over by Messageries Maritimes), who sailed from the Atlantic coast of France (Le Havre and Bordeaux). From the French Mediterranean coast only SGTM offered the South America connection. More important was the competition of Italian shipping companies. First of all the state-run Italia S.A.N. It resumed service on this route after the war in 1949 with two larger and faster units of the CONTE GRANDE class, built in the 20's. At the time, when the PROVENCE was launched, these were joined by two even faster units of the GIULIO CESARE class, which can be spoken of as real giants by the standards of the day. In addition, Argentina did not want to leave the business in the hands of European lines alone. The national Argentine F.A.N.U. - shipping company operated two ships on the Buenos Aires line. Besides, the private shipping company Costa had already appeared on the scene, which aimed particularly at emigrants with the small vessels ANNA C. and ANDREA C. But there was another menace to the River Plate service: The economic depression in post-war South America. But fortunately, the emigrant trade was confided according fix quotas to the lines of those nations, who financed the Comité Intergouvernemental pour les Migrations Europeénnes.

In the following years the emigrant ship PROVENCE contributed to the fact, that Argentina was futher considered the country most resembling Europe among the South America countries, until a severe accident on 17 September 1954 . The Liberian tanker SAXONSEA rammed the PROVENCE in the River Plate, on her northbound voyage from Buenos Aires. The PROVENCE´s bow was damaged very heavily, but fortunately the collision did not claim human lives. PROVENCE was brought to Buenos Aires, and due to its solid construction SGTM decided to provisionally repair the ship to allow her to return to Marseille for the final repair. The extent of the damage can be estimated, when you bear in mind that, despite being repaired in Buenos Aires only superficially, she arrived at Marseille as late as new year’s day 1955. The now beginning repairs again took almost three months, so that the ship could not end its involuntary inactivity until 26 March 1955, when she set out for the first journey after the accident.

During this long time the sister ship BRETAGNE held up the flag of the SGTM on the South America service. By the way, the funnel color of the SGTM was black with a broad red ribbon in the middle. On the red ribbon the ensign of the shipping company was painted in the colors blue, white and red (probably an allusion to the French national colors) with an anchor in the center. While in the fall of 1956 other French ships were seized by the French navy to serve in the invasion of Suez, the PROVENCE seems to have carried on with her usual occupation. In 1957 additional 38 beds in the tourist class became available on the PROVENCE. In the following time however the state of business for SGTM on the South America route worsened. The Spanish Ybarra line put 2 new liners into service on the route Genoa –Buenos Aires, which were about as large as the SGTM liners. Beyond that the Genoese Costa shipping company had expanded its fleet on the route to 3 ships and now, with the FEDERICO C, put a clearly larger ship into service, which set new standards. The mentioned competitors could accommodate all passengers in their own cabins and were faster than the SGTM liners, too. Besides, the prospects for business traveler-customers worsened due to the arrival of jet-propelled airplanes, which by that time were in the process of taking over the customers from the liners on the North Atlantic. Already in 1946 the Spanish Iberia airline had opened the first regular connection to Buenos Aires. Last but not least, Italian emigration to some extend became diverted to Northern Europe countries (e.g. Germany).
 

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