The Australian National Line

Big Kezza
15th February 2008, 00:27
The ANL came into inception in 1956 with the Australian Shipping board becoming the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and bought about a change of funnel and house flag from Black Funnel with two gold bands to Sky Blue with two white bands red band in the middle and black top the house flag was Blue St George cross against a white background with red ACSC in each quarter in the late sixtys this was changed to a red ANL in the top left hand corner to the mast. A funny aside to this was all the paint etc was delivered and put aboard the ships but unknown to the crews the powers to be failed to send out painting instructions( this being par for the course in those early days of the ANL) the crews all being men with their own intuition they used their own initiative and believe me when i say there were some wierd and wonderful combinations of colours to be seen. In the late 70's this was changed to more patriotic colours of green and gold with the house flag gold St Georges cross on a green background with a gold ANL to the mast in the top left quarter. Ships trading overseas wore a gold ANL on the green funnel and a gold ANL on the ships side.
The ships that they had at the time were taken back from their managing companiesand placed under their own company for the first time. In its hayday at its peak there was 64 ships in the company fleet at the one time.
They ranged from small coasters the "E"boats , Bulk Carriers The "Lakes" and "I's", Grain Carriers the "Esks",General cargo ships which Included the "Rivers" "B's" "D's"and "N's",RoRo's "Traders"and "Lysaghts",Passenger car ferries The "POT" and Empress of Australia and Australian Trader which later went to the RAN as Jervis Bay a very famous name in MN circles and overseas container ships all proudly carrying the prefix "Australian" to their names. Please forgive me if i dont mention all the ships by name as it would take to much time.
They were all named after Australian Rivers, Lakes , Mountains, Ranges, Districts ,Towns And some wore Aboriginal names like Allunga,Bulwarra,Binburra, Bilkurra, Baralga and Boonooroo words that rolled of the tongue. The Allunga wore on either side of the bridge accomodation a specially commisioned painting of an aboriganal myth and legend depicting the Rainbow Serpent coiled around her eggs protecting them symbolising the ship protecting her cargo. After the painting was finished she was given a welcome by aboriginal elders into the fleet.
During its time the line suffered its share of groundings collisions etc but none more disasterous than than the loss of the Lake Illawarra when it hit the Tasman Bridge in Hobart Tasmania with seven crew going down with her and the Noongah which sank off of South West Rocks on the Northern NSW coast when its cargo of steel from Newcastle to Townsville shifted during a raging storm only three were saved every one else perished along with the ship i dont think they ever recovered from that.I was on the Mount Kembla at the tim off Montagu Island heading to Kembla when we recieved the news we all felt that,we lost some great shipmates the radio operater was a hero he was still at his post sending the distress call when she went under and went down with her.In both disasters we lost shipmates.
Sadly these ships are no longer with us as the Liberal government saw fit to sell of the line to the CGA-CMA french outfit all the line does still trade as the ANL but with foreign manned crews their ships now wear the Prefix ANL and named for who knows what and where.
I hope you all enjoy this information
Big Kezza(Thumb)

15th February 2008, 06:48
Big Kezza,
thanks for your email re where have they gone, would love to get those big trucks off the road for everyones benefit, it must be a hard slog driving those distances and hours.
Re your today's post above on NAL the accident when the "Lake Illawarra" hit the Tasman Bridge reminds me of the Vehicular ferries bought from NZ in 1960 to supplement the old overloaded bridge before the Tasman was built. Again disaster struck and I refer you to my rather long winded post on 19/12/07 called "The Devonport ferries and the long Haul".
I often wondered if the ferry that did arrive was used after theTasman/Illawarra accident.

David K
15th April 2008, 01:33
..I was an Apprentice on a fair number of ANL ships in the early 60s . River Murrumbidgee,River Burnett,Lake Illawarra, Lake Torrens,Mount Kembla, Bilkurra, Boonaroo, and The Princess of Tasmania. Third Mate on the Dubbo. My personal favorites were the "Rivers" ... triple expansion steam, steam winches and union purchase derricks. Good food, great characters and a steep learning curve! ..... David K.

17th May 2008, 17:41
I worked for Macdonald, Hamilton & Co in Melbourne, up to February 1962. The company was set up as a partnership in 1917 by the then First Lord Inchcape to manage the affairs of the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company (AUSN) which at one time was the biggest company, in number of ships, in operation around the Australian coasts. An in depth history of the company was written by N.L. McKellar in his book "From Derby Round to Burketown". Sir John Williams, who headed ANL, was originally an AUSN Captain.

While on a research visit to Melbourne in May and June 2006, researching Macdonald, Hamilton & Co in relation to its demise and that of the Australian Coastal Shipping Trades as part of my thesis for a Masters Degree in Maritime History at Exeter, the last Accountant of MH & Co, and a long time friend during a personal conversation, re-iterated a comment he had made in February 2006:

"Itís interesting to reflect how 40 years after the AUSN demise none
of the [Coastal shipping] companies survive. Howard Smith (by 1980ís effectively a hardware store) and MHís hardware business are now absorbed in
Bunnings a chain of Hardware Mega Stores. Adsteam who purchased the MH Tug fleets is a joint venturer with P&O having effectively acquired the P&O agency business. The other ASO companies and ANL have disappeared and Patricks, a thorn to AUSN, remain P&O Ports major competitor in Australia. Itís also interesting that MH was 25% owner of a car carrying business which effectively deprived AUSNís Coramba of a profitable activity, and Sir John Williams with greater financial resources from government, effectively took over the trade until ANL also was privatised and acquired by the French
company. The unions and the ASO chartering system certainly helped
kill it [ the coastal trade] off but itís interesting that McKellar also
identified MHís increasing dependence on P&O and that their
interests often conflicted with AUSN, and the E&A investment which,
whilst eventually giving a significant capital gain to AUSN, had been
a drag when AUSN should have been investing in its own fleet."

It's rather ironic that in the period 1930-1960 most of the shipping to Australia were 'foreign' owned...i.e. British, Italian and Greek, and the coastal companies had most of their finances held in London, except ANL. There was a lot of criticism of 'foreign' owned vessels operating there and paying effectively UK wages, which were about twice that of Australian. However it was those high wages, together with the general bloodymindedness of the unions and waterside workers that effectively, and finally,strangled the coastal industry, which could not compete for passengers against the local airlines ( TAA, Ansetts), interstate railways and the express coaches (e.g. Ansett Pioneer Greyhound type). Freight was able to be taken by rail interstate at a loss and again the ships could not compete, except in very heavy or bulk cargo. So having got rid of the foreign owners, when the coastal companies ceased trading, with ANL taking over... this company also ultimately found that it could not make a sustainable profit and so the Government - for a second time - sold off an Australian Shipping concern, to yet another foreign company, this time French instead of British - and to the company who now own the"Messageries Maritimes" name, for which Macdonald, Hamilton were the original shipping agents in Australia.

The wheel has indeed turned fullcircle.


20th May 2008, 22:01
In my penultimate paragraph, I should have said that UK wages were HALF that of the Australians, apologies.


21st May 2008, 12:07
That UK/Australia pay differential was certainly true in 1980, Dulcibella. When I opened my first Bank Account at the National Australia Bank, the clerk asked me what my income was, I said $19,000 and it nearly blew his long socks off. "Sh*t," he cried. "Hmm," I thought, "Australian bank clerks are very casual." On investigation, he would probably have been on about $10,000 at the time.

Needless to say, it couldn't last, but I had a good run and still find it hard to grieve for the whinging farmers who, among others, scuppered us. The good life was only meant for them, it seems.

Thanks for the info that Messageries Maritimes have acquired ANL. I've seen a couple of ANL ships around, but I think they were registered in Mickey Mouse land. I doubt there'll be company supplied reds on the dinner table, as in the MM days of yore.

Well done on getting your degree - inspring!

John T.

21st May 2008, 13:30
Comments noted, John... and thanks for your congrats... does keep the old grey matter working - or at least that's my excuse!

The MM name is actually owned by the French "Companie General Maritime" but I don't know whether it is being used.

I gather you are in OZ somewhere, if you are in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane andcan get into the State Library you might like to have a look at a copy of my dissertation, as I sent a copy of one to each place to thank them for their assistance when I did my research there two years ago. The title is : "The Rise and Fall of an Australian Shipping Agency - The Partnership of Macdonald, Hamilton & Co", (The Life and Times of one of thecompanies of the First Lord Inchcape).

Dulcibella (Ian)

7th August 2008, 10:38
I sailed as Elect. Engr.,
wth Triaster, Triadic, of the British Phophate Commission, from 1955/59, and our pay was well ahead of uk ships, we also got paid for overtime, which they didn't.

Reference ANL, A great friend of mine, Colin Burke was their Engineer Superintendent at a later date. Terence Williams.R538301.

9th August 2008, 21:50
it has beeninteresting reading all your comments i have a wss book on the history of ANL 1956 -1981.

i think its about time someone wrote an updated issue