COMPANY

GS Lines is the oldest Portuguese shipowner, established in 1907, under the name of Empresa de Navegação Madeirense, operating the maritime line between Portugal Mainland and the Autonomous Region of Madeira.
In 2018, it was joined the maritime freight line between Portugal Mainland and the Autonomous Region of Azores.
GS Lines operates 4 ships on these lines and transported 63,163 TEUs in 2018.
The services of GS Lines and PCI (Grupo Sousa’s shipowner) complement each other, either through direct calls of their 8 ships or via transshipment HUB’s, which gives them worldwide coverage.

HISTORY

It was the year 1907, the crazy beginning of the 20th century! In the middle of the monarchy, and with almost a decade to go until the First World War, a madeiran with a bold spirit thought that Madeira needed regular transport (at the time, it would be more or less regular) between the island and the capital of the Kingdom. This man’s name was João Martins da Silva and, on the 18th of May of that year, he registered the schooner “Esperança” (Hope) with the Captaincy of the Port of Funchal, which he had meanwhile acquired under the name “Senhora da Conceição”.

Painting of the schooner “Senhora da Conceição” (1907-1917), first ship to integrate the ENM’s fleet.
in Empresa de Navegação Madeirense 1907-2007, 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 9, image 09.

This can be considered to be the first vessel of Empresa de Navegação Madeirense, even though it was not registered in its name. The first registered ship was, in 1927, baptized “Funchalense I” (the former “Everhard”), being the first motorized ship to make the career Funchal – Lisbon.

FUNCHALENSE photographed sailing out of the south coast of Madeira Island. in Empresa de Navegação Madeirense 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 29, image 35.

From “Senhora da Conceição” to “Funchalense I”, it passed through the fleet of the Empresa de Navegação Madeirense, the schooner “Senhora do Monte” (ex “CE Lyon” – 1912) and the palabote “Ilha da Madeira” (ex “Palma” – 1926). Soon after, the “Madeirense I” (ex “Cimbria” and ex “Grinpen”) appears, registered by the Empresa de Transportes do Funchal, “sister” company of the Empresa de Navegação Madeirense. Curiously, this was the beginning of a tradition that continued throughout the autonomous existence of Empresa de Navegação Madeirense and Empresa de Transportes do Funchal: ships with the name “Madeirense” were registered in the name of Empresa de Transportes do Funchal and those baptized as “Funchalense” were registered by Empresa de Navegação Madeirense.

Port of Funchal in the early 1940s, with MADEIRENSE alongside Pontinha and GORGULHO of Parceria Geral de Pescarias next to her bow.
in Empresa de Navegação Madeirense 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 34, image 41.

 

The first “Funchalense” and “Madeirense” ensured the demands of the market during the thirties and forties of the last century, having even, during the Second World War, the “Madeirense” visited ports in the Mediterranean, North Africa and Brazil at the service of the International Red Cross.

After the War, Empresa de Navegação Madeirense ordered the “Funchalense II” to the shipyards of Viana do Castelo, which would replace its namesake of 1927. With 12 crew members and capacity for 8 passengers, it was the first ship purposely built for Empresa de Navegação Madeirense. This ship, together with the “Madeirense I”, ensured traffic until the 1960s.


Motor ship FUNCHALENSE (II) at the time of her delivery in 1953, showing her sleek elegant lines enhanced by the white hull
in Empresa de Navegação Madeirense 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 49, image 51.

In the 1960s, Empresa de Navegação Madeirense ordered two twins from the Shipyards of São Jacinto: “Madeirense II” and “Funchalense III”, which replaced the respective names in 1962 and 1966, respectively. They were two elegant “fruit carrier” ships, with a capacity for 12 passengers, specially designed for transporting bananas from Madeira to the Mainland, which, until the mid-1980s, connected the ports of Lisbon and Funchal on a weekly basis. At the end of the 1960s, Empresa de Navegação Madeirense had four units: “Madeirense”, “Funchalense”, “Ilha de Porto Santo” and “Ilha da Madeira”.

Launching of FUNCHALENSE (III) on 15 April 1968
in Empresa de Navegação Madeirense 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 90, image 95.


MADEIRENSE on the River Tagus on her way to Funchal on one of the final voyages with general cargo
in Empresa de Navegação Madeirense 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 103, image 112.

After 1974 there was a great development of the Autonomous Region of Madeira which, associated to the changes that altered the main characteristics of the international maritime transport – with the progressive abandonment of general cargo ships to specialized ships, accompanied by the exponential development of containerized transport – “forced” Empresa de Navegação Madeirense to adapt itself to market demands.

Between 1988 and 1990, Grupo Sousa acquired all of the shares of  Empresa de Navegação Madeirense from the various shareholders, until then existing.
 
From 1981 onwards, first through chartered ships and then with its own ships, Empresa de Navegação Madeirense guarantees regular connections of container ships between the ports of Lisbon, Leixões and Funchal.
Many ships passed through these lines, and the saga of the “picos” should be highlighted: “Pico Ruivo”, “Pico Grande I” and “Pico Grande II”, “Pico Castelo I” and “Pico Castelo II”.
 

We highlight the “Pico Castelo II” (ex Nivi Ittuk – 1973) which was, in this century, the largest ship of Empresa de Navegação Madeirense with its 135.10 meters in length and 7,500 tons in size. This had been a ship to support the scientific communities of the Arctic, so it had excellent lodgings that enabled, in the late 1990s, the return to transport of passengers by sea between the mainland and Madeira. Empresa de Navegação Madeirense transformed some of its large refrigerated chambers into garages that, together with a side ramp, enabled the loading of light vehicles in the RORO system. Unfortunately, a serious breakdown of the main engine during a trip under terrible weather conditions, between Funchal and Lisbon, in March 1998, led to the withdrawal of this ship from operation.


The weekly Funchal – Lisbon container service was operated by PICO RUIVO from 1983 to 1987
in Empresa de Navegação Madeirense 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 108, image 120.

In 1987 PICO GRANDE was introduced on the Funchal – Lisbon service. She was kept by Madeirense until 2000
in Empresa de Navegação Madeirense 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 108, image 121.

To replace “Pico Castelo II” the ship “Caroline Schulte” (1997) was chartered which, due to the good evidence given, was acquired in December 1998, changing its name to “Funchalense IV”.

Geared container ship FUNCHALENSE purchased in 1998 for the Funchal – Leixões line
in Enterprise of Madeiran Navigation 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 115, image 132.

Another change originated by the advancement of technology, as well as a greater demand with the entry of Portugal to the European Community, was the obligation to transport bananas at a temperature of 12 º Celsius. These provisions forced the company to use a refrigerated ship, first during the summer months and then throughout the year. From 1984 to 1990 the chartered ship “Walili” was used.

Reefer WALILI leaving Funchal for Lisbon with bananas
in 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 110, image 123.

Starting in 1991, Funchal Frio, an associate company of Empresa de Navegação Madeirense, acquired two refrigerated ships: the “Pico Frio” (ex Tama Rex) and the “Atlas Frio” (ex Luso Frio), which operated in the market until the transport of banana also moved to refrigerated containers.
 
With the growth of the market, other shipowners appeared in this traffic, which made it necessary to rationalize means to safeguard the companies’ profitability. Without ever abandoning the Lisbon market, Empresa de Navegação Madeirense has always wanted to ensure, and privilege, cargo originating in or destined for the north of the country, through the port of Leixões, assuming it as its privileged market. In order to rationalize the means, the ships of Empresa de Navegação Madeirense started to call at the port of Leixões, loading the cargo of Lisbon in slot spaces in other shipowners.

This increase in the market meant that the “Funchalense III” became small for the Leixões-Madeira traffic, so that, since 2005, there was already a search for a ship that would serve the line for the needs of the time, as well as in a perspective of future evolution. There were no vessels available on the market, either to buy or to charter, so it was only in January 2006 that the purchase of a vessel, “CMA CGM Caracas”, was guaranteed, but it would only be free to operate in December 2006, taking on the name of “Madeirense 3” at that time.

The steady growth of the Leixões line led to the replacement of FUNCHALENSE in 2006 by a larger container ship, named MADEIRENSE 3
in Enterprise of Madeirense Navigation 1907-2007, Luís Miguel Correia, page 118, image 137 to 138.

With the entry into service of “Madeirense 3”, the difficulties that had been felt, in the port of Leixões, in the operation of the “Funchalense” by Empresa de Navegação Madeirense, which could no longer meet the entire request for cargo for shipment, causing the diversion of containers to be shipped by the port of Lisbon, were overcome. This fact had negative consequences, not only for Empresa de Navegação Madeirense, but also for its customers.
 
In 2010, Empresa de Navegação Madeirense acquired “Funchalense 5”, a modern ship, which has its initial port of call, in Portugal, on the 17th of August 2010. With its 443 effective TEUS and more than 5,500 tons of cargo capacity, it guaranteed the transport of all foreseeable cargo for the near future. Also the speed of “Funchalense 5”, which can reach 18.5 knots, ensures strict compliance with the established routes, which was already happening with “Madeirense 3”, but with a much greater safety margin.

These two variables (capacity and speed) combine to provide a sense of high quality to the Autonomous Region of Madeira, perceived by our customers, who will in fact be the main beneficiaries of this important investment. Note the evolution of a company (and the world): In 83 years (since our first motorboat) we went from “Funchalense I”, which transported around 300 tons of cargo and made the trip Lisbon – Madeira in about 4 days, to “Funchalense 5” which can carry more than five thousand tons of cargo and can make the same trip in about 28 hours.

In 2010, Grupo Sousa acquires the shipowner Boxlines, responsible for the maritime connection between Portugal Mainland and the Autonomous Regions of Azores and Madeira. This contribution of experience was essential for Grupo Sousa’s growth in the coverage of maritime lines in the national market. 
 
In 2015, the Group acquired PCI, which currently operates international lines between Portugal, Algeciras, Las Palmas, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau with its own ship (M/V Raquel S – the largest and most modern container ship owned by national shipowners), and 3 charterers.
 
In 2019, the goods transport service between Portugal Mainland and the Autonomous Regions of Azores and Madeira is now provided by GS Lines, which operates four ships, two of which are its own ships (Funchalense 5 and Laura S) and two are chartered-in.