A Look at George & Peter Lines

George & Peter Lines started in 1964 practically as an offspring and derivative of William Lines Inc. The company came into being because the offsprings of William Chiongbian, founder of William Lines was coming into age and soon will be taking over the company helms that was once occupied by the siblings of William. To make the exit soft, another shipping line was created and that became the George & Peter Lines. It was named after two siblings of William Chiongbian.

The company started with ferries that were ex-”FS” and ex-”F” ships. Nothing terrible and shameful in that as most regional companies had those types as the backbones of their fleets. And to think most regionals were even using wooden motor boats or lancha in the Visayan term. Some others were of US minesweeper or PT boat origin.

George & Peter Lines "Clover" ad

In due time, from the late 1970’s, George & Peter Lines dominated the route going southwest of Cebu. That was the route going to Siquijor, Dumaguete, Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte (like Liloy), Zamboanga City, Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte. That was the time when cruisers were still dominant and ROROs were just beginning to come. George & Peter Lines had some great cruiser ships like the Geopeter, Jhufel and the still-existing Georich. Aside from those three they had former “FS” and former “F” ships which were vintage World War II ships then in the twilight of their careers. Among those were Don Joaquin, Dona Rosario and the Don Victoriano I.

The peak of George & Peter Lines probably occurred during the 1980’s. They were even active in advertising and in promoting their ships and routes. During this time the seas where she was sailing, the conjunction of Zamboanga, Negros, Siquijor and Lanao was already being vacated by the ships from Manila because their once-ubiquitous and many ex-”FS” and lengthened ex-”FS” ships were already beginning to die. Also, the old paradigm of small liners from Manila calling on many ports before heading back was also on the wane because since the 1970’s fast cruisers calling in less ports was already the new paradigm. Passengers want to arrive to their destination in one day or just a little more, not the two or three days of the past even though they are fed well. So liners calling on Masbate or Calbayog or Catbalogan before heading to Cebu and northern Mindanao were beginning to fall out of favor with the passengers. And so sometimes it is the likes of George & Peter Lines which acted as feeder lines to the fast cruisers.

George & Peter Lines schedules

But then that decade also saw the rise of a new paradigm, the new RORO (Roll On, Roll Off) ships. George & Peter Lines was not really late in adopting the new shipping paradigm. They were just not as fast to it as Trans Asia Shipping Lines, Sweet Lines and K&T Shipping Lines but they were just at the same time to it with the likes of Cokaliong Shipping Lines, E.B. Aznar Shipping and Danilo Shipping Lines. They were even ahead to it compared to Roble Shipping, Palacio Lines, Island Shipping , Roly Shipping and VG Shipping. Some never even reached the RORO stage like the Rose Shipping/V.Atilano, Gabisan Shipping Lines and Lapu-lapu Shipping. I purposely left out in the comparison the shipping companies which were founded later or which were too small to be in the comparison.

And that is the reason I was wondering why in an interview with the Liner Shipping Route Study (LSRS) done by Nathan & Associates in 1993-1994 aS commissioned by the USAID they expressed apprehension and disapproval of the liberalization program on shipping being pushed by then President Fidel V. Ramos which resulted in the opening of the shipping routes. The one that entered their primary route, the Dumaguete and Dapitan route in 1993 was just a small ship, the Filipinas Dumaguete . Cokaliong Shipping Lines, its owner and operator was no bigger than them and were not really ahead of them in conversion to ROROs. In fact, Filipinas Dumaguete was just the first RORO ship of Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc. and G & P’s Dumaguete Ferry which was acquired in 1990 was even ahead of that though a little smaller. Was it the fear that Mr. Chester Cokaliong was close to President Ramos? But they still had a big brother then in William Lines. Or was it the accidents that befell Geopeter and Jhufel that resulted in hull losses and which shrank their fleet along with the retirement of the war-surplus vessels that later forcing them to withdraw Georich from the Cebu-Maasin-Surigao route that were haunting them?

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In 1993, George & Peter Lines acquired the relatively big Zamboanga Ferry and this practically became their flagship and meant to hold the Zamboanga route. However, I would say this was not enough to offset the loss of Geopeter to fire and Jhufel to foundering and the subsequent loss too of Dumaguete Ferry to fire too and Pulauan Ferry to sinking. These consecutive losses of ferries to accidents was a great blow to a medium-sized ferry company especially since about that time they also began losing the very old ex-”FS” and ex-”F” ships to old age. They even sold their aging Dona Magna, a small locally-built ferry to Island Shipping Corp.

With the loss of Pulauan Ferry to sinking just south of Mactan island, the George & Peter Lines fleet shrunk to only 2 ferries, the Zamboanga Ferry and the elderly Georich plus a cargo ship, the GP Tramper. To stem the retreat, they acquired the Sta. Maria, a former liner of Negros Navigation that was just being used in the Bacolod-Iloilo route and being overwhelmed by the Bacolod-Dumangas ferries. In their fleet this became the GP Ferry and the biggest ever of George & Peter Lines. But after just two years of service, they also sold this also. Maybe the 4,800 horsepower of the ship was too big for their route, cargo and patronage.

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A few years after that selling they made an advanced arrangement in 2010 with Aboitiz Transport System (ATS) regarding the coming retirement of the ferry Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, a Cebu-Iligan ferry of the ATS subsidiary Cebu Ferries Corporation. Upon retirement, the ferry went direct to George & Peter Lines with nary a modification and the ship became the GP Ferry 2 thereby bringing the George & Peter Lines fleet to 3. It is this 3 that still shouldering on for GP for its diminished route system. They have already left many port in their old route system and all they have now are the ports of Dumaguete, Dapitan and Zamboanga with their main route the Cebu-Dumaguete-Dapitan route. But even here they are pressured by the newer ships of Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc. which might have even toned down the pressure by reassigning an older ship , the Filipinas Iloilo to the main route of George & Peter Lines.

How long does it last? George & Peter Lines won’t easily quit their last two remaining routes. But their ferries are in advancing ages now. If they don’t acquire ferries anymore, time will come when they will simply have to give up and fade away.

An album on George & Peter Lines:

Georich

Press to open the album.

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The MV Georich

The MV Georich of George & Peter Lines which was built in 1961 is the oldest sailing cruiser ferry of Cebu. In the Philippines she is only beaten by the MV Bounty Cruiser of Evenesser Shipping of Zamboanga in “seniority” as that ship was built in 1956. MV Georich is also one of the ships in the Philippines which the most number of consecutive sailing years here at 41 years total because this ship arrived here way back in 1975 when it was still the era of cruisers.

With that span of service, MV Georich has already sailed the a big portion of the routes served by George & Peter Lines now and before and that includes Maasin, Surigao, Zamboanga, Dumaguete and Dapitan but maybe not Iligan, Tubod, Plaridel, Oroquieta or Lazi as far as I know. As of now, she is serving as one of the Dumaguete and Dapitan ships of George & Peter Lines whose route network has already compacted.

MV Georich was one of the three ships acquired by George & Peter Lines from the shipping company Sado Kisen KK of Japan. All of those three were cruiser ships and MV Georich was the first to come followed by MV Jhufel in 1977 and then MV Geopeter in 1978, all in the time when cruisers were still the ships arriving in the Philippines from Japan. Incidentally. MV Jhufel is a true sister ship of MV Georich.

MV Georich was born as the MV Namiji Maru. She was built by the Niigata Engineering Company, Ltd. in the Niigata shipyard and she was completed in April of 1961. Her permanent ID was IMO 5246269.

The ships’s external measurements were 57.0 meters length over-all by 9.3 meters extreme breadth with a depth of 4.1 meters. She measured 806 tons in gross registered tonnage with 770 tons in deadweight tonnage. She was equipped with a single Niigata marine diesel engine producing 2,000 horsepower which gave her a sustained top speed when new of 16 knots and 17 knots in bursts. 

She has a boom ahead of the bridge which also served as the front mast and there is an amidship mast. The ship had two passenger decks in Japan but the scantling of the upper deck was not full. Above that is the accommodations for the crew and on another deck above that is the bridge. This steel-hulled ship had a high prow and she has a raked stem and a cruiser stern. The low center funnel is located right behind the bridge.

After 14 years of sailing in Japan she was sold to the Philippines. In the local refitting, full scantlings were made on her second and third decks and hence she became a three-passenger deck ship here. The observable forecastle here was actually a Japan original and a stylish sloping superstructure was made as if connecting the third passenger deck to the bridge. The derrick, the masts and the funnel remained unchanged.

Originally the ship was a three-class ship with Cabins, two Tourist sections and the ubiquitous open-air Economy class. These Economy sections are located where the additional scantlings were built. The third or uppermost passenger deck that did not exist before is an all-Economy deck. Aside from the original entrance at the middle of the first deck there are now two side passenger ramps on each side of the ship so the Economy section will have direct access.

Locally, her declared gross tonnage is 694 nominal tons which is lower than her gross register tonnage. The net tonnage is 187 nominal tons but that seems to be too low (there is an International Maritime Organization or IMO rule that the declared net tonnage should at least be 1/3 of the gross tonnage). Her local passenger capacity is 565 persons.

Right now, those Cabins are already gone and instead a new Tourist section was built in its place. The old Tourist is still around but it is no longer advertised as Tourist and Economy passengers can occupy it. I had a guided tour of the ship and was able to visit the engine room. It is still clean (and to think my tour was spontaneous and not arranged) and I looked around it with some awe. Seldom is one present with machinery that is over 50 years old and as a sentimental ship guy I can only thank George & Peter Lines is not that kind of owner which will easily send ships to the breakers. 

I was also able to visit the bridge of the ship. Bridge visits help one imagine what the navigators see and that even includes the cargo which is ahead of the bridge and how cargo is handled. The equipment looks a little dated, of course but I trust all were still in good working condition. The bridge was still tidy and uncluttered.

MV Georich is still a clean ship but obviously her better days were already past and more and more she has difficulty in matching the newer ships of the competition. However, she still has her own set of regular set of passengers and shippers. Her main problems now are lack of speed and reliability although it is not that often that she has engine troubles. Her lack of speed though is mitigated by the fact that ships for Dumaguete and Dapitan spend the night anyway in Dumaguete after arriving at midnight and all leave at the morning. And George & Peter Lines pioneered the direct Dapitan ship so how can they be called “slow”?

However, MV Georich is on her last chapter now especially since she is a cruiser ship. As it is she is even disadvantaged in the volume capacity. But as a sentimental guy, I can only wish that she continues to sail on and be a living example of the bygone cruiser era.