First published October 23, 2006
The hospital ship, Gil Eannes, was designed and built at the Estaleiros Navais de Viana do Castelo (Viana Shipyard) in 1955.
That year the ship began her duties of medical assistance to the cod fishing fleets of Portuguese and other countries on the Newfoundland and Greenland seas. The ship not only served as a hospital but also delivered mail, was used as a towboat and as an icebreaker, and even ensured the supply of provisions, nets, fishing gear, fuel, freshwater and bait for the cod fishing fleets.
From 1963 the ship’s duties changed and she began serving as a commercial vessel, as refrigerated transport, and even as a carrier of passengers between fishing sorties. She made her final trip to Newfoundland in 1973. That year she also made a goodwill mission as a “Portuguese Ambassador” to Brazil.
After that, Gil Eannes had no further use and was shifted from dock to dock in Lisbon harbour until she was finally sold for scrap in 1997.
Stirred by the inglorious fate of such an emblematic hospital ship, the community of Viana do Castelo decided to bring her back to her birthplace, rescuing her from the scrapyard, and, after major repairs at Viana Yard, she was permanently berthed in the old docks of Viana as a reminder of the maritime past of the city.
She is now the property of the Gil Eannes Foundation, composed of several organizations in Viana do Castelo, including Viana Pilots which provided free pilotage services since the arrival for repairs, drydocking, several shifting and finally the last berthing.
She is open to the public for guided visits, she has a restaurant, a museum, a youth hotel and several other facilities.
LOA: 98.45 m
Breadth: 13.7 m
DWT: 2600 t