Museum ships MS Bleichen

A unique artifact of maritime history was saved from being scrapped and now lies at the Hafenmuseum’s 50er Schuppen.

MS BLEICHEN vessel in Hamburg, Germany

MS Bleichen

A fully-operable museum ship

The MS Bleichen represents a whole generation of freighters that dominated the Hamburg port before the advent of container ships. Hence, the Stiftung Hamburg Maritim foundation has decided to maintain the historic general cargo vessel. 

The Freunde des Stückgutfrachters MS Bleichen e.V. conservation society gathered the finances,  technical know-how, and manpower needed for the undertaking. Thanks to them, the freighter has been fully-operable again since 24 Oct, 2017.

In order to make the ship compliant with present-day safety regulations, modern equipment was added to the MS Bleichen’s bridge. The old steering wheel, the self-steering equipment and the telegraph remained in place, however. In the lounge, quarters and engine room even more original parts make the modern ship a treat to visit today. 

Restoration measures

In order to keep the original parts intact, the ship has been subject to renovations from time to time. In 2016, the museum ship underwent a five-month reconstruction period in the drydocks. Major restorative work, such as the replacement of corroded steel plates and beams, was conducted. Seams were made waterproof by hand, exercising an outdated riveting method in order to keep up the characteristic appearance of the hull. New wiring and a fire-alarm systems completed the remodeling.

At this time, the interior furnishings were also restored. Wooden panels, tables, doors, beds and chairs were removed and reassembled so the different quarters represent different phases of the ship’s long history. 

60 years strong and counting 

The MS Bleichen was commissioned by the H.M. Gehrckens shipping company, which needed a sturdy freighter suitable for the heavy weather conditions of the North and Baltic Seas. the ship was finished in 1958 at the Nobiskrug dockyard in the Northern German city of Rendsburg. 

The 93 metre-long MS Bleichen was used for trade between Hamburg and ports in Sweden and Finland. In order to make the passage in winter, the Bleichen was constructed extra heavily, giving her the ability to cut through winter pack ice. 

Eventually, the ship was sold to Italian (1970), Turkish (1979), and Comorean (1993) owners. In the process, the Bleichen was renamed Canal Grande, Arcipel and Old Lady. 

Despite living up to the final name, the ship was still in good condition. Shortly before being scrapped, the Stiftung Hamburg Maritim decided the MS Bleichen was perfect for serving as a museum ship. 

The old lady returns 

After returning to its former stomping grounds, the Old Lady was given back her maiden name in a christening ceremony on 27 April, 2007. Since then, she has not only been serving as a museum but also as an event location for readings, concerts and parties. 


Australiastraße Schuppen 51a

20457 Hamburg

Getting there:

Bus line 256, exit Australiastraße (Hafenmuseum)