From the company's inception in 1869 the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, better known as the White Star Line, owned and operated around one hundred vessels during its seven decades of commercial business. Alongside the famous transatlantic liners of the White Star Line fleet the company operated a number of smaller vessels. These were used at the White Star Line ports of call as tender vessels to carry passengers and their luggage from the dockside to the ship. The use of tenders saved time and was also useful where the berthing of vessels was difficult due to their size.

For the new White Star Line Olympic class vessels the company commissioned the Harland and Wolff shipyard to built two small tenders for use at Cherbourg. Cherbourg was an important port of call, where wealthy American passengers returning home from their travels in Europe could join the ship, without having to make the journey across the English Channel to Southampton. At Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland passengers were largely emigrants heading to America; here passengers were ferried to ships using local paddle steamers rather than custom-built tenders.

Harland and Wolff constructed two tenders for the White Star Line. The larger, the 1,273 gross ton Nomadic and the 675 gross ton Traffic. The Nomadic was 220 feet in length, 37 feet in breadth and 12 feet in depth while the smaller Traffic measured 175 feet in length, 35 feet in breadth and 12 feet in depth.

Both vessels were powered by steam compound engines and could achieve 12 knots. They were in service for the Olympic's maiden voyage in June 1911 and carried passengers to the Titanic on her first and only call at Cherbourg on the evening of 10 April 1912. There the Nomadic carried passengers including millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim and Margaret Brown to the Titanic at anchor.

The Nomadic had a varied and dramatic history, requisitioned in the Great War and Second World War to serve for the Allied forces. She was disposed of in 1927 and by 1934 was purchased by the Société Cherbourgeoise de Sauvetage et de Remorquage and renamed Ingenieur Minard. She continued to serve vessels at Cherbourg including the Cunard Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth until her retirement in 1968. She was sold, passing through multiple owners before ending up in Paris.

After many years as a floating restaurant on the River Seine in Paris, she was put up for sale. Purchased in 2006 by the Department of Social Development in Northern Ireland she underwent restoration in Belfast by the Harland and Wolff shipyard. After a £7 million restoration she reopened to the public on 1 June 2013. She serves as a visitor attraction, and hosts events, weddings and civil ceremonies.

More information

  • BBC, The (2013) Belfast: SS Nomadic opens to the public after seven years London: British Broadcasting Corporation
  • Titanic Belfast Limited (2013) Famous passengers Belfast: Titanic Belfast Limited,
  • Titanic Belfast Limited (2013) SS Nomadic Timeline Belfast: Titanic Belfast Limited,
  • Bullock, Shan F (1912) Thomas Andrews Shipbuilder Dublin/London: Maunsel & Company Ltd