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ARGENTINA and URUGUAY - Historical

There was one towering figure in the history of steamship development in Argentina - an immigrant from Croatia, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire named Nicolas Mihanovich. He arrived in Argentina in his early twenties in 1867 and went into business with two other migrants from the eastern empire, developing shipping routes around the developing state in South America. In 1888 he bought out his partners and became sole owner of Nicolas Mihanovich y Compania as it embarked on a period of total domination of the sector in that part of the world. Economic chaos two years later allowed him to buy up some of his competitors at knockdown prices and the company's strength enabled it to continue to absorb the opposition, making the new SA Nicolas Mihanovich, incorporated in 1898 after the takeover of the Las Mensajerias company after the death of its owner Saturnino Ribes, the largest shipping company in South America. That was not all. The company was registered in London in 1909 as the Argentina Navigation Company - Nicolas Mihanovich Ltd and floated on the stock exchange and investors piled in. The success of the company was at risk as the developing railways competed successfully with his internal transport operations and his company had to diversify, but did so successfully, including property development. He sold his family's 70% controlling stake in 1918 to British politician and shipping magnate Lord Kylsant (later to own White Star Lines) and Argetinian Alberto Dodero, who looked after the South American operations. Nicolas Mihanovic outlived his sons and died himself in 1932.

Domingo Barthe was a French emigre who arrived in Argentina in 1867 and lived for a while in Paraguay and went into the tobacco farming business. In 1887 an existing shipping company (Alto Parana SA) was taken over and by 1893, new vessels were being ordered as the fleet grew, based at Posadas but sailing between Buenos Aires and Asuncion and Iguazu. Originally primarily concerned with cargo transport, two passenger-only paddle steamers, PS Formosa and PS Humaita were built in 1911 by the Dundee Shipbuilding Company in Scotland to develop the Asuncion service and provided a weekly service in each direction. It is believed that the Barthe company was absorbed into the Mihanovich empire around 1918.

As a result of problems with Lord Kylsant's businesses, Dodero was able to take sole ownership of the South American business and in 1930 established a new company albeit initially incorporating the Mihanovich name (Argentina Navigation Company Mihanovic Ltd) but incorporated in Buenos Aires, albeit with nuch British capital involved . Dodero went on to establish a conglomerate of shipping companies himself. This was nationalised in 1948 by the Peronista government. 

Platense Flotilla Company, Saturnino Ribes and the ruinous competition which led to Mihanovic's eventual domination

Originally incorporated in Le Havre, France, as La Platense Compagnie des Chargeurs in 1882, it was a French-Scottish arrangement with three French-built vessels (Leda, Castor and Pollux) and four  paddlers left on the hands of the Denny of Dumbarton shipyard in 1883 (Tridente, Diana, Apolo and Minerva) after their Argentine buyers cancelled their orders. The unusual walking-beam engined Saturno and Olimpo (built by Inglis) were put on the Buenos Aires to Montevideo run. The company was reincorporated in Glasgow in 1886 with Peter Denny of the William Denny & Bros shipyard as chairman. It eyed significant expansion and ordered  Aurora, Perseo, Venus and Eolo from the Denny shipyard. Eying domination of the inland river trade, they purchased the Argentine Lloyd company (owners of paddler San Martin)  and the Giuliani company (owners of paddlers Cosmos and Rivadavia) . 

This put them in direct competition with shipowner Saturnino Ribes, noriginally an immigrant from France who had come to dominate trade from Salta with his company Mensajerias Fluviales a Vapor, which took over from the failing Nueva Compania Saltena de Vapor, of which he had been a director in 1866. Hopes of an accommodation between the two organisations were dashed and by all accounts the pressure of business on an already sickly body led to the suicide of Platense director William Denny, Peter's son who had led enormous technhological developments at the Dumbarton shipyard and placed great faith in succeeding with his venture in Argentina, in Buenos Aires in March 1887.

Soon afterwards, Ribes agreed to sell his interests to Platense and the latter dominated the Montevideo trade and competed on runs to Asuncion, Salta and Concordia, 

However, Ribes returned to the business based in Uruguay with the Mesnajerias Fluvial del Plata company. Ribes introduced new tonnage, including passenger paddlers Helios, Triton and Paris in quick succession. The ensuing competition ruined the Platense company, which went into liquidation in 1891. Mihanovic bought up the assets and began his competitive assault on the much-weakened Ribes company.

Penetrating deep into the continent, the river traffic was ideally suited to paddle steamers, particularly for the fast passenger runs

Developing Argentina and Uruguay's interior along major rivers such as the Uruguay and Parana necessitated the purchase of paddle steamers and some fine vessels were built. The obvious place to source them was Scotland and the Clyde yards in particular.  The Denny company's involvement with the Platense flotilla gave them a natural market, but other Scottish builders sent tonnage to the area. The Glasgow-based A&J Inglis became Mihanovic's preferred builder 

The long distances took a long time - around four days from Buenos Aires to the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion, for example. In 1920 there were two weekly departures in each direction, with four ships employed on this run. Smaller steamers were employed upstream of Asuncion, as far as Corumba A separate fleet of ships handled cargo although smaller packets sailed with the passenger steamers.

PINGO, Inglis, 1866

YERBA, Inglis, 1867
PS Yerba was built in 1867 by A&J Inglis, yard no 44 for H Hardy of Salto
82 x 15.1 ft
IRIS, Inglis, 1867

PS Iris was built in 1867 by A&J Inglis, yard no 45 for H Hardy of Salto
126.2 x 16.2 ft

Possibly sold in 1879

SATURNO, Inglis, 1868

PS Saturno was built in 1868 by A&J Inglis, yard no 61 for H Hardy of Salta in association with S. Ribes. 
240.5 x 27.0 ft - 607 GRT.
She had builders' engine no 162, a two cylinder engine 38 and 65 in x 72 in (200 HP).
Wrecked near Buenos Aires in 1881.



PS Jupiter : Ribes - Platense - Mihanovic

COSMOS : Inglis, 1879

PS Cosmos (Built in 1879 by A&J Inglis, yard no 153) was 249.6 ft x 29.1 ft 

Compound diagonal engines 44 and 77 in x 72 in

Originally operated by Thomas Elsee of Glasgow for servce on the River Plate. Taken over by Ribes in 1887 and the P Henderson of Glasgow (associated with Platense) in 1889. Owned by Giuliani from 1896-1899 and then by Mihanovic

TRIDENTE, Denny, 1880


PS Tridente (1880 by Wm Denny & Bros, yard no 234) was 185 x 27 feet in dimension and was rated at 719 Gross registered Tonnes (GRT).

She was built for Argentine Lloyd but tleft in the hands of builders Denny. Sold to the Platense Flotilla in 1883, and sailed briefly (1896-9) for D Giuliani out of Concordia before joining the Mihanovic fleet in 1899.  She was converted to a lighter in 1907.

DIANA : Denny, 1880

PS Diana, built in 1880 by Denny's (yard 240) for Argentine Lloyd but left in the hands of builders Denny. and then the Platense Flotilla Company (registered at Le Havre, then at Glasgow) in 1883. Latterly with Ros y Tabal at Buenos Aires until 1907 when hulked. 160.3 ft x 26 ft, two-cylinder diagonal engines 31 1/2 in and 55 in x 40 in stroke 

MINERVA :  Denny, 1883

PS Minerva built in 1883 by Denny's (yard 268)   259.2 x 29.6 ft, 1255 GRT. Oscillating engines. 
Originally ordered by the Buenos Aires Campana Railroad but when the order was cancelled, Peter Denny sold the ship to Platense (Le Havre).
Scrapped in 1896

APOLO : Denny, 1883

PS Apolo built in 1883 by Denny's (yard 267) : 255.6 x 30.1 ft, 1255 GRT. Oscillating engines.
Originally ordered by the Buenos Aires Campana Railroad but when the order was cancelled, Peter Denny sold the ship to Platense (Le Havre) . Converted to a lighter in 1896

RIVADAVIA, Connell, 1883

PS Rivadavia (1883 by Connell & Co of Scotstoun, Glasgow, yard no 134) from Diego Giuliano. She was 283 x 30 feet and 1106 GRT. She was taken over by Mihanovic in 1899 and later transferred to the Uruguay company in 1920 and survived, it it believed, into the 1960s
POSADAS : Napier, Shanks & Bell, 1884

PS Posadas, built in 1884 by Napier, Shanks & Bell, for Argentine Lloyds. 140 ft x 20 ft. Engined by D Rowan

SAN MARTIN : Napier, Shanks & Bell, 1884

San Martin.jpg

PS San Martin (1884 by Napier, Shanks & Bell yard no 29) which was  240 x 34 feet and 1212 GRT.  Engined by D Rowan 36 and 70 in x 66 in

She appears to have been converted to a screw-propelled cargo only vessel in 1921 and to a barge (without engines) in the 1960s
Postcard from collection of Edgardo J Rocca  

SATURNO, Inglis, 1884


PS Saturno :  Built in 1884 by A&J Inglis (yard no  184). 286 x 37 feet, 1649 GRT for the Platense Flotilla. The ship had what was unusual for European construction, a walking beam engine and survived until being hulked in 1913.

OLIMPO : Inglis, 1884

PS Olimpo (built in 1884 by A&J Inglis yard no 185) 286.1 x 34.2 feet, 1649 GRT for the Platense Flotilla.  Appears to have been converted to a screw steamer for cargo only services by Mihanovic, but survived until 1963 when hulked and converted to a static barge.
MISIONES : Blackwood & Gordon, 1884

PS Misiones : Built 1884 by Blackwood & Gordon, yard no 199. 184 GRT.  Built for Argintine Lloyds
EOLO and VENUS : Denny, 1886


PS Eolo : Built in 1886 by Wm Denny & Bros (yard no 313). 299 x 35 feet, 1749 GRT

Survived until being sunk in a collision in the River Parana near Vizcaina Island in 1928

Venus Argentina.jpg

PS Venus : Built in 1886 by Wm Denny & Bros (yard no 312). 299 x 35 feet, 1749 GRT

From 1920 was registered with the Uruguayan Shipping Company and based at Montevideo. She was bought by a Buenos Aires hotel company in 1933 but scrapped two years later

AURORA : Denny, 1886

PS Aurora (built in 1886 by Wm Denny & Bros, yard no 317, 175 x 27 feet and 490 GRT). Stayed with the Mihanovich company until transferring to the Government of Paraguay as a hospital ship in 1935

PERSEO : Denny, 1886

PS Perseo was built in 1886 by Denny, yard no 332. 162.9 ft x 22.1 ft for the Platense flotilla.  Compound diagonal engines 21 and 37 in x 42 in.
Taken over by Ribes in 1893 and Mihanovic in 1902. Sold on to Vierci Hermanos of Asuncion in 1907 and back to Mihanovic from 1919-1925. Scrapped in 1927
Renamed : Fortuna (in 1902), G B Vierci (in 1913) and Villa Rosario (in 1919)

SALTO : Ailsa, 1889

PS Salto (built in 1889 by Ailsa Shipbuilding Co, Troon, yard no 18 with engines by D Rowan) was a much smaller paddler at 259 GRT. She was built foir the Campania Saltena de Navigacion a Vapor, based in Salto, Uruguay. She then joined Ribes' Compania Mensajerias in 1895 and Mihanovic in 1900.  She was sold to Paraguayan interests in 1915
HELIOS : Scotswood Shipbuilding, 1892


PS Helios  built 1892 by Scotswood Shipbuilding, Scotswood, Newcastle, England, yard no 3 and launched on 27/4/1892. for Ribes' Mesajarias Fluvial.

Dimensions : 260 x 32 ft

Engines (by A&J Inglis of Glasgow) : 30, 49 and 75 in x 84 in

With Mihanovic from 1901

Lost on 12 August 1923 when recked on rocks near Colonia

TRITON : Scotswood Shipbuilding, 1894


PS Triton : Built in 1894 by Scotswood Shibuilding at Scotswood, Newcastle, England (yard no 4) . Launched 21/3/1894. Completed elsewhere after a fire at the Scotswood yard
Dimensions : 292 ft x 36 ft (29.5 ft hull).
Engines : 30, 49 and 75 in x 84 in

For Mesajerias Fluviales. Came into Mihanovic company in 1901

Decommissioned in 1943 and converted into a barge

PARIS : Inglis, 1896


PS Paris : Built in 1896 by A & J Inglis (yard no 243). 301 x 36 feet, 2311 GRT. came into the Mihanovic fleet from Ribes' Mensajarias Fluviales del Plata company and survived into the Dodero era before entering a remarkable new chapter of her life. Owned by the Buenos Aires provincial governement from 1949 and given the name Justicia Social, she served the political campaigns of state president Juan Peron. She joined the Argentina navy from 1955 and back under the name "Paris" was used as a prison ship. She lay unused at Santiago from 1958 until being scrapped in 1969

VIENA : Inglis, 1906

Viena in Argentina.jpg

PS Viena : Built in 1906 by A&J Inglis (yard no 281). 330 feet. 2700 GRT.  In 1915 (or 1919 ?) she was renamed Washington. She survived until 1960 before being scrapped

Asuncion : Denny, 1906

PS Asuncion (Built in 1906 by Wm Denny & Bros, 1906, yard no 768) was 200 ft long by 30.1 ft broad . She was renamed Corumba in 1931 and survived until 1940.Engines : 16.25, 26.5 and 43 in x 54 in 

I am indebted to Stuart Cameron  for the following text 

The vessel in this illustration is the side-wheel paddle steamer Asuncion, Denny's Yard No 768, launched at the Leven Shipyard on 25th January 1906. Her triple expansion, diagonal reciprocating engine was Denny & Co's Machinery No 608. Its cylinder diameters were 16.25 inches, 26.5 inches and 43 inches and the piston stroke was 54 inches. Stated power was 93.8 nhp. Steam was supplied by one single-ended Scotch boiler operating at 180 psi. The contract required the vessel to be capable of carrying 180 tons deadweight on a 5.5 feet draught and have a service speed of 11.5 knots. Denny's quoted price for the vessel was 23, 250, this sum to be payed in five instalments. The machinery cost 6,235 and it is recorded that the shipbuilders made a profit of 2,911 which seems to be quite a good gross margin on a job of this type. 

The contract had been confirmed on 7th July 1905, the launch taking place just six and a half months later. Unfortunately, no date is stated for her trials on the Measured Mile but they must have taken place in late February because the new paddler departed from Dumbarton on 7th March 1906, just 8 months to the day after she had been ordered, for the long delivery voyage to Buenos Aires, where, remarkably, she arrived less than three weeks later on 24th March 1906. Therefore, the time from order placement in Scotland to delivery in South America was less than 40 weeks. Incidentally, she had achieved 12.15 knots on trials. 

In this view (above) she is seen departing from a still wintry Clydeside, with snow-capped hills in the background. (Photo courtesy of the Denny company history 1909) 

Lambare and Guarany : Inglis, 1908


PS Lambare (Built in 1908 by A&J Inglis, yard no 286)  was 240 x 34 ft.
Lambare and Guarany were built for the Buenios Aires to Asuncion route. 
Lambare survived until 1949.
Her engines were 21, 35 and 54 in x 66 in.
Postcard from collection of E J Rocca


PS Guarany (Built in 1908, by A&J Inglis, yard no 287) was 240 x 34 feet and 1200 GRT and remained in service until 1962.

Her engines were 21, 35 and 54 in x 66 in

Bruselas and Berna : Inglis, 1911



PS Bruselas (Built in 1911 by A&J Inglis, yard no 297) was 274 x 31 feet and 2311 GRT. She was particularly long-lived, being scrapped only in 1972

Sister ship PS Berna (Built in 1911 by A&J Inglis, yard number 296) was hulked in 1964 and even outlived her sister, surviving until 1986

FORMOSA and HUMAITA, Dundee Shipbuilding Co, 1911 (for Domingo Barthe)


PS Formosa (Built in 1911 at Dundee : ex- PS Porvenir, renamed in 1918) : 215 x 32 feet, 1057 GRT. Wrecked in a storm near Salto (Uruguay) in 1932


PS Humaita : Built 1911 at Dundee : 165 x 26 feet, 475 GRT. Triple expansion machinery by Bow, McLachlan of Paisley. She suffered the ultimate fate when she sank at Asuncion, Paraguay in 1921 but it is believed that this was a result of sabotage by her own crew.

Cabo Corrientes and Cabo Santa Maria : Inglis, 1913

General Alvear.jpg

PS Cabo Corrientes (Built in 1913 by A&J Inglis, yard no 305) was a 320 x 40 feet, 2627 GRT paddler built in 1913 but for the Hamburg-Sud Amerika Steamship Company, joining the Mihanovich group in 1922, by which time it had been renamed "General Alvear". This, the most modern of the Clyde-built paddlers to sail for Mihanovic was also the most unfortunate - sinking en route from Buenos Aires to Montevideo in 1953. Her triple expansion engines were of 31, 52 and 78 inch diameter with a stroke of 84 inches.

General Artigas.jpg

PS Cabo Santa Maria was the sister of Cabo Corrientes and became "General Artigas" when in the Mihanovich fleet. She continued in service until 1966.


Rio Uruguay.jpg

PS Rio Uruguay

Ribes - Platense - Mihanovic

Notes : The only record of a paddler built as Rio Uruguay on the Clydebuilt database is one built in 1867 by Caird & Co for service in Brazil. 
238.4 x 25.4 ft : 458 GRT

It would appear that this is not the Rio Uruguay in the photo

Rio de la Plata.jpg

PS Rio de la Plata

Possible history (subject to confirmation) :

Built in 1890 by Fairfield, this 280x33 feet 771 GRT paddler
Engines : 51.5 and 93 in x 72 in

Sailed for G&J Burns on its Scotland to Ireland  as PS Adder until 1906. Substantially altered and with deckhouses fore and aft and an observation deck above, she was sold to Mr S Lambruschini of Buenos Aires and renamed . The ship was lost in 1918 sailing from Buenos Aires to Santos

Other Clydebuilt paddle steamers on the Clydebuilt database

PS Elmersajero, built in 1880 by John Elder & Co for the East Argentine Railway Company

Note : Motor paddler Iguazu of 1927, built by Inglis was delivered to the Argentina Navigation Company (Mihanovic) and remained in the Dodero fleet until 1949. She operated for other owners until 1967. She was 131.8 ft long x 38 ft broad and was fitted with engines by L Gardner & Sons of Manchester



It is believed that all the photos used are, due to their age, out of copyright and in the public domain. If anyone is the copyright holder and they are not in the public domain (yet) please let me know and they will be removed.
Thanks for research sources go to the Clydesite (Clydebuilt database) and the various contributing researchers, particularly Stuart Cameron and to the Argentine website Histamar -
Histarmar page regarding Mihanovich :
Other sources : Wikipedia

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