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ARGENTINA - Historical

Nicolas Mihanovic : Shipping Magnate in Argentina

There was one towering figure in the history of steamship development in Argentina - an immigrant from 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 comapny's strength enabled it to continue to absorb the opposition, making the new SA Nicolas Mihanovich 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

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 and went on to establish a conglomerate of shipping companies himself. This was nationalised in 1948 by the Peronista government.

Developing Argentina's interior along the River Plate and tributaries such as the Uruguay and Parana rivers and crossing to the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo necessitated the purchase of paddle steamers as part of the enormous Mihanovic fleet - and some of the finest paddlers ever built were ordered by his company. 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.

The Mihanovich companies came to the Clyde for some of their paddle steamers and purchased from Denny of Dumbarton and A & J Inglis of Pointhouse, Glasgow, two yards which were prominent in the supply of steamers to the Clyde in the twentieth century. However, it was the Platense Flotilla Company, which was registered in Glasgow, with Peter Denny as a partner which was to give some of the first Clyde-built paddlers to the Mihanovich empire when the Platense company was taken over - and of course, the ships had been built at Denny's Dumbarton yard. The takeover resulted in A&J Inglis becoming their Scottish-based paddle steamer supplier.


The oldest Clyde-built paddler entering the fleet was PS Tridente (1880 by Wm Denny & Bros, yard no ) which was 185 x 27 feet in dimension and was rated at 719 Gross registered Tonnes (GRT). She sailed for the Platense Flotilla and briefly (1896-9) for D Giuliani out of Concordia. She was converted to a lighter in 1907.

In 1899, Mihanovich took over 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 transferred to the Uruguay company in 1920 and survived, it it believed, into the 1960s

San Martin.jpg

In 1896 they acquired through the Platense Flotilla takeover PS San Martin (1884 by D Rowan & Co, Glasgow, yard no 29) which was  240 x 34 feet and 1212 GRT. 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  


PS Saturno :  1884 by A&J Inglis (yard no  184). 286 x 37 feet, 1649 GRT. Came into the Mihanovich fleet from the Platense Flotilla Company in 1898, but had previously been owned by a Glasgow company, S Henderson and before that the Las Mensajerias company of Argentine shipping entrepreneur Saturnino Ribes (which later became part of the Mihanovich empire). The ship had what was unusual for European construction, a walking beam engine and survived until being hulked in 1913.

PS Olimpo : 1884 by A&J Inglis (yard no 185) 286 x 34 feet, 1649 GRT. Became a Mihanovic steamer in 1907 having sailed for S Ribes & Co (our of Salto, Uruguay), the Platense Flotilla and the Mensajerias company of S Ribes. Appears to have been converted toa screw steamer for cargo only services by Mihanovic, but survived until 1963 when hulked and converted to a static barge.


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

Another Platense Flotilla vessel which survived until being sunk in a collision in the River Parana near Vizcaina Island in 1928

Venus Argentina.jpg

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

This sister ship to Eolo worked with Mihanovich after the Platense takeover but from 1920 was registed 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

Another 1886-built ship, PS Aurora (Wm Denny & Bros, yard no 317, 175 x 27 feet and 490 GRT) came from the Platense Flotilla and stayed with the Mihanovich companies until transferring to the Governemnt of Paraguay as a hospital ship in 1935

The 1889-built PS Salto (by Ailsa Shipbuilding Co, Troon, yard no 18) was a much smaller paddler at 259 GRT. She came to Mihanovich from the Mensajerias fleet in 1900 and remained until sold to Paraguayan interests in 1915


PS Paris : 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 in 1911 and survived into the Dodero era before entering a remarkable era, owned by the Buenos Aires provincial governement from 1949 and given the name "Justicia Social" as it served the political campaigns of state president Juan Peron. She joined the Argentina navy from 1955 and back undedr the name "Paris" was used as a prison ship. She lay unused at Santiago from 1958 until being scrapped in 1969

Viena in Argentina.jpg

PS Viena : 1906 by A&J Inglis (yard no 281). 330 feet. 2700 GRT. She appears to be very much a slightly extended version of Paris and was delivered directly to the Mihanovich company. In 1919 she was renamed "Washington", presumably as a result of post-world war I politics. She lasted until 1967 before being scrapped


PS Triton

Also in 1906 they took delivery of PS Corumba (Wm Denny & Bros, yard no 772). At 200 x 30 feet at 738 GRT, she was considerably smaller than Viena. She became "Pingo" in 1928 and was sold to the Paraguayan navy in 1937 but appears to have had no more than four years in its service.

Alongside this vessel came PS Asuncion (Wm Denny & Bros, yard no 768) with similar dimensions and capacity which remained with the fleet until being scrapped in 1940

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) 


PS Helios was a lso a member of the Mihanovich fleet .....


PS Guarani, left, (1908, by A&J Inglis, yard no 287) was 240 x 34 feet and 1200 GRT and remained in service until scrapped in the 1960s


Guarani's sister ship PS Lambare (Inglis, yard no 286) also joined the Dodero fleet in 1942 but survived only until 1948
Postcard from collection of Edgardo J Rocca



PS Bruselas (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 (Inglis, yard number 296) was hulked in 1964 and even outlived her sister, surviving until 1986

General Alvear.jpg

Inglis' yard no 305 was PS Cabo Corrientes 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.

General Artigas.jpg

PS Cabo Santa Maria was the sister of Cabo Corrientes and became "General Artigas" when in the Mihanovich fleet.


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.


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


PS Humaita : 165 x 26 feet, 475 GRT. Triple expansion machiney 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.



PS Jupiter

Rio Uruguay.jpg

PS Rio Uruguay

Rio de la Plata.jpg

PS Rio de la Plata

Note : was this ship a heavily rebuilt PS Adder - built by Fairfield of Glasgow for G & J Burns' Greenock to Belfast service in 1890?  Adder was sold for use in Argentina in 1906 and later wrecked in 1918.


PS Diana, built in 1880 by Denny's (yard 240) and owned by Denny, then Argentine Lloyd, the Platense Flotilla Company (1887-97) and latterly Ros y Tabal at Buenos     Aires until 1907
PS Minerva built in 1883 by Denny's (yard 268) : 255x30 feet, 1255 GRT. Scrapped in 1896
PS Apolo built in 1883 by Denny's (yard 267) : 255 x 30 ft, 1255 GRT. Converted to a lighter in 1896

Other Clydebuilt paddle steamers on the Clydebuilt database

PS Elmersajero, built in 1880 by John Elder & Co for the East Argentine Railway Company
PS Posadas, built in 1883 by Napier, Shanks & Bell, for Argentine Lloyds

PS Rio de la Plata : built in 1890 by Fairfield, this 280x33 feet 771 GRT paddler sailed for G&J Burns as PS Adder until 1906 when sold to Mr S Lambruachini of Buenos Aires and renamed . The ship was lost in 1918 sailing from Buenos Aires to Santos 


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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Historical database