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MS Selandia was the most advanced ocean-going diesel motor ship in her time.
Selandia and sister ship Fionia were results of negotiations between the Danish East Asiatic Company's president, Etatsraad Andersen, and Burmeister and Wain shipyards, Copenhagen, Denmark which had been introduced to the concept of marine diesel engines by engineer Ivar Knudsen who led the ship's development.
She was built at Burmeister and Wain in Copenhagen, and launched on 4th November 1911 before embarking on her maiden journey from Copenhagen to Bangkok on 22 February 1912. Selandia did not have a funnel; instead exhaust from her engines escaped through exhaust ports in the aft mast.
Built for cargo and passenger carriage, Selandia had "very ample and rather luxurious" cabins for 20 first class passengers, single-berth cabins of "exceptional size, with toilet and bath for every two cabins, and an extra feature is the servants' rooms, arranged in connection with private cabins."
She is frequently referred to as "the world's first large ocean-going diesel-powered ship", an "experiment," as previous powered vessels were driven by steam. The new motorships were described as "smokeless" and caused some to describe them as "phantom ships" with an incident during the trials for "Selandia" in which a captain of another ship ignored warnings and ran across her bows because he "saw no smoke." The ship attracted curious crowds from London to San Francisco that were often skeptical of a deep ocean ship not powered by the commonly used triple expansion steam engine; yet within ten years there were over 2,000,000 deadweight capacity tons in commerce powered by diesel engines and British experts calculated the motorship had a 40% advantage in fuel costs, with fewer crew and steadier sea speeds.