In Philippine liner history, if there is ever one ship that never had a permanent route then that ship would probably be the “Manila Princess” of Sulpicio Lines (although in earlier times there might be such ships in General Shipping Company as that defunct shipping company can’t make a ship stick to one name). When I first heard the name of the ship, I thought she was a grand liner much like the “Philippine Princess” or the “Filipina Princess” (that was still the time there were still no online databases). When I saw her, I was a little disappointed but not by much as she was not a bad ship and I would say she was about “average”.
Studying her lines and superstructure, I noticed her similarity to “Filipina Princess” although she was a much smaller ship. I saw that same cargo boom in the stern combined with a stern ramp. “Cotabato Princess” also had a cargo boom at the stern but it was of a different design and had two posts. I chuckled and it played in my mind that the William Lines ROROs of the period also had stern ramps and cargo booms but their booms were at the bow or the front. Asking around, I slowly became aware that the similarities and differences of the designs were partly due to the sources of the ships in Japan.
As said at the start, “Manila Princess” never had a permanent route. The main reason for this was her unreliable engines that were her problem from the start. Her role became that of a permanent reliever when a ship of the Sulpicio Lines fleet was drydocked. Of course, she won’t be assigned the route of a fast liner of Sulpicio Lines and so some reshuffle would be done. I would notice that sometimes she is assigned the route of “Dipolog Princess”, sometimes the route of “Surigao Princess”, sometimes the route of “Cotabato Princess”, sometimes the route of “Princess of the Pacific”, etc.
In Sulpicio Lines, it seemed she earned the monicker of “Puli-puli Princess”. “Puli” is a Cebu word which means “to change” or “to relieve”. For a time, I thought that Sulpicio Lines’ strategy was good as it never leaves a route of them vacant (except when more than one ship was out of service). Once, however, I also saw her do an independent route once, the Manila-Zamboanga-Davao-Dadiangas-Zamboanga-Manila route. I think that was done to match her with the slow “Maynilad” of WG&A as the “SuperFerry 6” was matched by WG&A to the Mindanao eastern seaboard of the “Filipina Princess” of Sulpicio Lines.
“Manila Princess” started life as the “Ferry Orange” of Shikoku Kaihatsu Ferry of Japan with the ID IMO 7522485. She was built by Imabari Zosen in Imabari yard and was completed in March of 1976. Her Length Over-all (LOA) was 123.0 meters and her Beam or Breadth was 19.6 meters with a Depth of 6.5 meters. She has a declared Gross Register Tonnage (GRT) of 3,422 and a Deadweight Tonnage (DWT) of 699. “Ferry Orange” had a total of 11,200 horsepower from her Hanshin engines that were channeled to two screws that propelled her to a service speed of 20 knots and a maximum speed of 21 knots.
Originally, “Ferry Orange” had a passenger capacity of 470 persons, a cargo capacity of 60 trailers and 60 cars. Her bale capacity was 13,800 cubic feet and her grain capacity was 15,000 cubic feet.
In October of 1991, “Ferry Orange” was sold to Sulpicio Lines where she became the “Manila Princess”. Additional passenger accommodations were built and she became a three-deck passenger ship with a passenger capacity of 1,744 persons. She is one ship where there were outside passageways at every level. Her accommodation classes were Suite with T&B, Cabin for 4 with T&B, Cabin for 2/4/6 w/o T&B, Tourist. Economy Deluxe and Economy.
Under the new measurements, she was 4,194 Gross Tons (GT) and 1,097 Net Tons (NT). Her new Deadweight Tonnage (DWT) was 1,558. Sailing here, her usual speed was 16.5 knots which was about the same as liners of her size like “SuperFerry 3”, “Our Lady of Medjugorje”, “Our Lady of Sacred Heart”, “San Paolo” and “Zamboanga City”. Her Philippine Call Sign was “DUHB8”.
In 2004, together with the unreliable liners with problematic engines “Princess of New Unity” and “Surigao Princess”, the “Manila Princess” was packaged to China breakers to raise funds for the grandest liner that ever came the Philippine seas, the “Princess of the Stars”. It was simply a master stroke of Sulpicio Lines – a new giant liner for three old liners that were already beyond redemption. Anyway, Sulpicio Lines is not known for selling ships to breakers that are still serviceable.
In July of 2004, “Manila Princess” was broken up in a China shipyard.