The MV Mama Mia

I was wondering if in boarding this ship one would be welcomed by the 1970’s ABBA hit song by that title. Well, not really. But I truly wonder how she got that name. Actually, the Mama Mia is the latest ferry built by the Varadero de Recodo, the premier shipyard of Zamboanga City and Western Mindanao although she has been built some time ago already in 2011. Varadero de Recodo does not build too many ferries although they are perfectly capable. This has more to do with demand as shipping companies have a marked preference for surplus Japan ferries and cargo ships, among others. And the truth is I have not noticed Varadero de Recodo make ROROs which is the preferred ferry type now. But Varadero de Recodo has a mastery of the Zamboanga type of cruiser passenger-cargo ships.

The Mama Mia is actually an evolutionary type of Zamboanga cruiser. Where before, Zamboanga cruiser ferries of medium size will have two passenger decks and a cargo deck with cargo holds below that at the engine level and loose cargo will be slid through shiny wooden ramps to be thrown to porters waiting inside the cargo holds, Mama Mia features wide doors on both sides of the ship. This makes loading easier and forklifts can even be used. Still, as a cruiser ship her cargo handling still takes time. However, with a full day before the nightly voyage, there is ample time to unload and load the ship.

Another advantage of the side doors is with those open it is more airy in the cargo deck which aids the porters working there many hours during the day. This cargo deck still has enough clearance over the water and so the side door are not really in danger of being swamped by water in rough seas. With this design of the cargo deck, Mama Mia looks taller than the common Zamboanga cruiser ferry (she is in reality).

The Mama Mia has a V-shaped hull. I want to emphasize that because not all local shipyards can build that type kind of hull and instead make ships with flat or modified flat hulls like the LCTs. Now this type is not very good in handling rough seas and even the speed is affected. However, Mama Mia does not have a bulbous stem which is very common now among ships that were built in Japan. What she has instead is the old raked stem. The stern of the Mama Mia is cruiser.

This ship has a muscular and angular look at the bridge, a recent design of Varadero de Zamboanga with bridge wings too. The bridge, however, has very simple instrumentation, very basic in fact like what can be found in other local-builds. The instruments are mainly of surplus origins just like the mounted engine. Just behind the bridge are the simple rooms (to call those as cabins is too much) of the Captain, the Chief Engineer, the Radio Operator and the radio room.

The Mama Mia has a single mast and a single center funnel that is big and angular. She is not a RORO but a cruiser ship and her PSSS Classification is “overnight ferry-cruiser” which means she is a cruiser and assigned an overnight route and hence equipped with bunks and not benches. The ship has no IMO Number, the long trend now for local-builds because the maritime regulatory agency MARINA says they are “IMO-compliant”. [Pardon that they do not know proper English because having IMO Numbers is the first step to being truly IMO-compliant.] Mama Mia has two prominent side ramps that is folded flush on the sides when the ship is sailing. The side ramps make access to the passenger decks easier.


This local-built ferry is owned and operated by the Sing Shipping of Zamboanga City and is the third ferry of the company after the KC Beatrice and Jocelyn which are also both Zamboanga-built. This shipping company does the Zamboanga-Jolo route nightly (and no other route) and Mama Mia alternates with the KC Beatrice while Jocelyn is laid up in Varadero de Recodo as of last notice and has not been sailing for some years now.

The Mama Mia dimensions are 53.8 meters in length over-all (LOA), 49.1 meters in length between perpendiculars (LPP), a beam of 7.4 meters and a depth of 4.0 meters. Her gross tonnage (GT) is 383 and her net tonnage (NT) is 193. She accommodates about 500 passengers in two passenger decks. The main passenger decks have bunks and mattresses although without beddings (linen and pillow) like in the normal Economy class anywhere. The Mama Mia is a single class ship which means there is no airconditioned Tourist section.

Whether from Zamboanga or Jolo, 8 o’clock PM is the departure time of the ship for its 94-nautical mile route. That means the passengers have already taken their dinner. Expected arrival should be daybreak. That means the ships should ideally be capable of sailing at 11 knots and 10 knots at the minimum. However, the first engine of Mama Mia, a surplus Hanshin diesel of 850 horsepower failed in this. She was arriving between 7am and 8am to the hoots of the passengers who are beginning to get hungry. Realizing she is underpowered, Sing Shipping brought Mama Mia back to Varadero de Recodo, cut the sides of the hull and swapped a bigger engine, a 1,150 horsepower Daihatsu marine engine. With the engine upgrade she was already capable of 12 knots which was good enough for the ideal 5am arrival.


This ship is a reliable ship and already well-established in her route. She sails the route three round trips a week with a day in lay-over and rest for the crew. With an 8pm departure, pretty soon much of the passengers are already asleep soon after departure and so the lack of facilities and amenities are hardly noticed. Basically that amenity is only a TV. She is basically a floating and sailing dormitory (to call her a floating hotel is too much). Anyway much of the ferries in the Zamboanga-Jolo route are just like her. If the amenities are not much the cheap fares compensate for that.

Zamboanga ships serve a very long time really and generally. Varadero de Recodo and the related Varadero de Cawit, the primary shipyards of Zamboanga City are very good in prolonging the life of ships. Practically that is their specialty and not ship building. Ships here will live as long as the owner wishes it and has some money to spend for it.

With that, I expect to see her in her route for many, many more years to come.

Photo Credits: Britz Salih, Mike Baylon, PSSS

Mama Mia Album:

Mama Mia



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