Cargo/passenger service between Singapore and Hong Kong in early eighties

Submitted by Michael G. on Thu, 04/01/2021 - 23:07

Hi there,

I read that there was once a cargo/passenger boat service between Hong Kong and Singapore and I'd like to know if you could tell me more about it, especially for the year 1980.

Could you for instance tell me or direct me to a site where I could find the timetables of such a service, the name(s) of the ship(s), the cost, the duration and so on?

Once again, I'd be very glad to hear from you,

Lovely Easter to you all,


In 1980 Pacific International Lines (PIL) Singapore, were still operating a cargo passenger service between Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong and Whampoa using the M.V. KOTA PANJANG (ex. CHANGSHA China Navigation Co.) which was purchased in 1969 and placed on the route in 1972.


The service catered mainly for Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese who were visiting relatives in Southern China with more luggage than was practical by air.


In 1980 I planned to sail on the KOTA PANJANG to Singapore and then travel across to Indonesia. The PIL agents in Hong Kong were very helpful though I was advised that the food on board would be Chinese – not a problem! However, the KOTA PANJANG’s schedule was delayed and I had to alter my travel plans.


PIL shipping schedules were advertised in the SCMP shipping supplement. A freighter I travelled on in 1981 took just over 3 days to reach Singapore from Hong Kong.

The KOTA PANJANG was sold to breakers in Pakistan in 1981 and replaced with the M.V. KOTA SINGAPURA (ex. CUIDAD DE PAMPLONA Trasmediterránea) The passenger service ceased in 1983 and the KOTA SINGAPURA was scrapped in China in 1986.

M.V. KOTA PANJANG    Hong Kong  01/11/1988

Passenger cargo motor vessel built 1949 by Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Greenock Scotland as CHANGSHA for China Navigation Company (Swire). Sold to Pacific International Lines Singapore 1969.


Hi Degahk,


Thanks for your answer. Very thorough.

Would you remember by any chance how much this would have cost you? What about that freighter you traveled on? Did you work on it to pay your passage or did you pay something? And how much?

By the way, I've heard about the Golden Line (and the ships might have been the Kim Ann), does it ring a bell to you?



Guan Guan Shipping (Pte) Ltd is a Singaporean based company, which in the 1970s and 80s operated a fleet of second hand traditional cargo ships on tramping trades. The Golden Line (Pte) Ltd. is listed as an associate of Guan Guan. Some ships in the fleet were registered to Golden Line (Pte) Ltd. (Guan Guan Shipping (Pte) Ltd, Managers) Panama. Others were registered to Guan Guan Shipping (Pte) Ltd. Singapore.



A former Portuguese owned passenger cargo vessel purchased by Guan Guan Shipping of Singapore in 1974. Registered under the Singapore flag.


With her passenger accommodation it is likely that Guan Guan intended to use the KIM ANN for further passenger work. One Internet source reports that the ABC Shipping Guide at the end of the 1970s listed the Golden Line operating a ”Penang - Singapore - Hong Kong - Hoikow – Swatow” service with the KIM ANN. To find out if this service was still running in 1980 you could also consult Lloyd’s Shipping Indexes for the year and search the Singaporean press for sailing notices. If you can direct your enquiries to Singapore and Penang social platforms people with first hand experiences may come forward. I doubt if many Hong Kong people used this service as they could travel into China by train or take one of the Chinese passenger ferries from HK to the ports of Shantou and Xiamen.


I can’t recall the cost of the KOTA PANJANG passage – it can’t have been expensive otherwise I would have remembered!

My freighter trip down to Singapore was arranged through a good contact and was gratis. An uneventful but interesting voyage with calm seas all the way down to Singapore.

For an excellent account of individual sea travel in the 1980s I recommend reading “Slow Boats to China” and “Slow Boats Home” by Gavin Young both published by Penguin.

Kim Ann 09 80 d copy.jpg
Kim Ann 09 80 d copy.jpg, by degahkg





Hi Degahk,

Thanks once again for all the info you provide.

A very interesting link about the Kota Panjang & other PIL boats:

" A passenger trade was also operated by PIL between Whampoa in China, Hong Kong and Singapore with larger cargo-liners purchased with accommodation for up to 310 passengers in the Swire sisters Changsha and Taiyuan, renamed Kota Panjang and Kota Sahabut. (...) They were sent for scrapping in 1980/81 and replaced in 1981 by the Spanish passenger and cargo ship Ciudad de Pamplona renamed as Kota Singapura (...). She was of 7,567 grt and had been built in 1964 at Valencia by the Union Navale yard for Trasmediterranea with accommodation for 136 passengers. However, the passenger trade from Whampoa, Shanghai and Hong Kong to Singapore ceased after she was laid up at Singapore Roads on 24th January 1984.(...) ".

By the way, I remember that in another thread you had sent me a link about the Centaur. She did also travel from Singapore to Hong Kong, coming from Fremantle.

Good read,