Shell's Missing Twenty

trotterdotpom
9th July 2005, 18:08
I never sailed with Shell but I kissed a bloke who did! Couldn't resist that.

A Chief Engineer I sailed with who had been with Shell for quite a few years told me this story, which was supposed to be a Shell legend.

The Shell "Mosquito" fleet, small tankers which ran up the Fly River in New Guinea and other unwholesome places in the '50s and early '60s, did their crew changes in Singapore. The incoming and outgoing crews were transported by passenger ships and a great time was had by all. Needless to say, with transport costs and wages, this was hugely expensive. The company decided to try a new method and sent a crew of 20 overland by train and whatnot to Singapore. This adventure was doomed to failure, not one of the 20 showed up. They definitely weren't eaten by a tiger in Raffles, nobody knows what happened to them.....!

Ever since hearing the story I've wondered if it was true or just a yarn. Anyone else heard this?

John T.

allenr.
18th January 2006, 05:55
I was second mate on one of those mossy boats although I never heard them
called that, we were mostly around the Indonesian coast in the late 50's and
without doupt they were good fun, and yes we did travel back to Singapore,but in my case it was on a Norwegian frieghter, and then back home on the old P.O. Canton. even more fun. wish I was young and back there now. all the best. allenr

Ron Stringer
18th January 2006, 08:50
The Shell "Mosquito" fleet, small tankers which ran up the Fly River in New Guinea and other unwholesome places in the '50s and early '60s, ...

John T.

When I was with Shell in the early 1960s, when people spoke of 'Mosquito Boats' they were generally referring to the fleet of small tankers that used to run between various tiny terminals in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela and the Shell refinery in Curacao. Maybe that was because we were only trading in Europe and the Western Ocean (including Maracaibo and Curacao), not the Far East. I had the impression that most of the references and stories were related to pre-war experiences and that the use of such vessels had been much reduced after the war.

Some of the older guys on board were much excited when we got orders for Bajo Grande, Lake Maracaibo as they claimed that this was one of the places visited by the 'Mosquito Boats'. We youngsters would realise what a run to Maracaibo was really like. In the event, it was an anticlimax. Yes it was unusual to be sailing in the lake beyond Puerta Miranda and the town of Maracaibo itself, passing between a forest of oil derricks to tie up at a non-descript jetty surrounded by water. However, that was the end of it, we loaded (very slowly) a full cargo of Boscan crude, made our way back through all the derricks and after stopping for bunkers at Punta Cardon, set off for Sweden.

Ron

trotterdotpom
18th January 2006, 11:04
Thanks for the interesting replies Allen and Ron. Maybe it was all a myth - fortunately for the 'missing 20'. A good story though, maybe I'll write it one day.

By coincidence, I've been trying to track down the Chief who told me the tale. I bumped into him in Brisbane about 20 years ago. He'd moved back to his home town after a marriage break up in the UK. We kept in occasional contact for a few years then lost touch. I tried to locate him without success and it suddenly dawned on me that he'd be seriously old by now. I began to wonder if maybe he'd 'crossed the bar'. I rang up the B.D.M Registrar in Brisbane to ask and was told "We can't give out information about peoples' deaths out because of the Privacy Act."

As far as I'm concerned, when I pop off my death is "an open book". It would be nice to think that someone was interested. In the meantime, the search continues.

John T.

collin
8th March 2006, 12:49
Johnt
Both Ron and allen are quite correct ...athough they were better known as the Mosquito Fleet in the 1930s when they ran between Aruba for Esso and Curacao for Shell..The latest ones were built in Middlesborough UK in 1946 for the Dutch Shell in Curacao..then transferred to Venezuela Shell in 1955 and then in the late 50s and early 60s transferred again to Shell Singapore for use around Indonesia and Thailand etc about six of them the G class Gouldia Gena etc made the long journey across the Pacific however they kept breaking down so it was about 2 months before they reached HK for repairs etc they carried about 8000 tons of product and were twin screw and flatbottomed and atrociously bad to steer in narrow waters !!!British Officers and Chinese crewand like Allen I spent 14 months as a second mate before being repatriated home on a Norwegian tanker to Rotterdam........Collin
PS ......Never heard about the missing 20 ..but 20 of us lads left Southampton on the Dutch passenger Ship the Willem Ruys for S,pore and as we were having such a good time !!!!!we didnt really want to leave

trotterdotpom
8th March 2006, 13:43
Thanks Colin. sounds like happy memories. Maybe that's why the "Missing 20" are missing - they were having too good a time! Lets hope so. Still haven't located my old friend either, so hope he's with them somewhere.

One story that is true is that London & Overseas Freighters relieved a tanker in the Gulf by flying the new officers out in a small charter plane. It ran out of fuel and landed somewhere and they all had a whip round to buy more. The pilot got lost and followed a pipeline across Saudi Arabia to Ras Tanurah or wherever the ship was. Indiana Jones eat your heart out. They didn't get lost though because I met one of them.

John T.

Knut
12th March 2006, 22:52
In 1963 Shell sold a whole fleet, ten or so, of small tankers and one dry cargo ship to the Norwegian company Karlander A/S. They were all renamed Slamet and a number in Indonesian like Slamet Dua. The exeptions were Slang and Sling. I think it had to do with the Indonesian "confrontation" with Malaysia and Shell found it convenient to change the flag as I believe the ships were registered in S`pore. I never was a tanker man so I signed on the dry cargo ship Slyne as 3rd. Off. In Singapore, however I was assigned to the Slang X Lang a 200 t.dw.tanker. Taking on bunkers before proceeding to Pladju her sister came alongside and delivered 4 tons of fuel! This meant instant promotion to 2nd.Off. but it turned out it was not worth it. We were 4 Norwegians onboard and 18 Chinese. The Captain was nearly blind and sniffing a white powder which made his nose run. The Chief Off. was a drunkard and seldom knew whether we were coming or leaving. The C.E. was not allowed in the engine room by the Engine Drivers and spent most of his day in his cabin sucking on a bottle of something.
We made 45 trips between Pladju and Djambi and one trip to Cheribon before I came down with Kidney stone and were paid off. That probably saved me as we had a mutiny onboard and it was only a question of time before the chinese got me one dark night.
Will try to post one pic. of Slang X Lang and would appreciate some info about her before and after my time in 63/64

Tom Logan
18th October 2006, 22:04
In 1963 Shell sold a whole fleet, ten or so, of small tankers and one dry cargo ship to the Norwegian company Karlander A/S. They were all renamed Slamet and a number in Indonesian like Slamet Dua. The exeptions were Slang and Sling. I think it had to do with the Indonesian "confrontation" with Malaysia and Shell found it convenient to change the flag as I believe the ships were registered in S`pore. I never was a tanker man so I signed on the dry cargo ship Slyne as 3rd. Off. In Singapore, however I was assigned to the Slang X Lang a 200 t.dw.tanker. Taking on bunkers before proceeding to Pladju her sister came alongside and delivered 4 tons of fuel! This meant instant promotion to 2nd.Off. but it turned out it was not worth it. We were 4 Norwegians onboard and 18 Chinese. The Captain was nearly blind and sniffing a white powder which made his nose run. The Chief Off. was a drunkard and seldom knew whether we were coming or leaving. The C.E. was not allowed in the engine room by the Engine Drivers and spent most of his day in his cabin sucking on a bottle of something.
We made 45 trips between Pladju and Djambi and one trip to Cheribon before I came down with Kidney stone and were paid off. That probably saved me as we had a mutiny onboard and it was only a question of time before the chinese got me one dark night.
Will try to post one pic. of Slang X Lang and would appreciate some info about her before and after my time in 63/64

I was Mate on Lang in 1962. Her history after Shell is as follows:
1963, Sameiet Coasting, Flag Norwegian, name Slang.
1966, Compania de Navegacion Ohtan SA, flag Panama, name Tanjong Rhu Satu. ( how they found room for that on the bow I don't know)
1984, PT Pelayaran Siantan Co, flag Indonesia, name Pulau Tiga,
She remained as Pulau Tiga until removed from Lloyds Register in August 1992 when her continued existance was in doubt.
As she was built in 1953 by Philip & Son Ltd in Dartmouth for the Shell Co. of Singapore, so when she was removed from the Register she was 39 years old.
If you have any photos, I'd love to see them.

duquesa
18th October 2006, 22:35
Spent some time in Lake Maracaibo in the 60's and, yes, the last remnants of the "Mosquito Fleet" were still there. They were sold off, as previously reported above, a little later. Strange place to put in sea time I have to admit and there are no long lingering memories! Our "base" at Punta Cardon was a real non event. Still, an interlude in my seagoing life I wouldn't have missed.

Robinj
19th October 2006, 00:07
Joined one of these small tankers (Frenulina) in 1961 but was flown out to Singapore. Transferred to her in Pladju from on of the 'H' boats (can't remember which one). We were all flown home after laying her up in Singapore. Must say I miss those days.(Cloud)

davehowden
10th April 2007, 13:37
Knut, was the SLYNE previously the MERATUS?

ruud
10th April 2007, 15:58
Ahoy Dave,
Yep she was,built in 1953 at Gusto yard as MERATUS and renamed SLYNE 1953.
GT:691
LOA:194'4" x 30'4" x 10'1¼"
Eng.:4SA 8Cy. 270x500mm 465bhp
Spd.:8½ knots
Call/Flag Sign:LAJP

Portred
16th April 2008, 10:48
I have an 82 year old uncle living in New Zealand who was a Chief Engineer on the 'Mosquito Fleet', on Lake Maracaibo in the 1940's & early 50's.
They were 3 cylinder steam recips, well, the lot that he sailed on, anyway.
I must ask him if he has any photos from those days and the name of the ships he sailed on.
I never thought about it until I saw this posting.
I expect there arn't too many of these 'old salts', about anymore!

Cheers!

stan mayes
15th September 2009, 01:12
I had an eleven month trip in San Roberto 1948/49. We took many cargoes from Curacao to various ports in the West Indies.
Also made a few trips on the mosquito run Lake Maracaibo to Curacao but only half loaded due to the bar.Other large tankers were in that trade also.
The fleet of regular ships had the names of girls -Carlota - Ramona -Adela -Rosa -Conchita - Berta - Juliana - Juanita -Felipa -Martina and many more.
Stan

Old Janner
15th September 2009, 16:22
Hi Stan I think I met some of those girls in Happy Valley

R58484956
15th September 2009, 17:04
Re thread 2. On the Canton we nearly always took out a Shell crew, and the first week they spent their money in the usual way,entertaining the local lasses. After the first week they were then broke. When their money ran out the local engineering staff took over. This happened trip after trip. I think they softened the ladies up for us

sidsal
15th September 2009, 18:02
A second mate I sailed with in Anglo American Oil Co had joined a newly built tanker at Duluth in the Great Lakes and they sailed it down to Chicago where they entered a canal sytem which eventually got them to the Mississipi and down the to Gulf of Mexico. I have done quite a bit of research on this route with limited success. Submarines were similarly built on Lake Michigan and taken down to the Gulf.
I was on the run - Amuay Bay to Aruba (54 miles) in the Esso Stockholm - then one of the biggest tankers (36K tons !!). When we were ready to throw in the towel they would send us on a trip to the States and resume the short run. They laid up the mosquito fleet. When Harol Wilson was PM the poound was devalued and the blokes on the mosquito fleet were paid in dollars soe they had a big rise. The pay was the envy of all.

stan mayes
15th September 2009, 18:50
Hi Janner,
I quite believe it..
And there certainly were some beauties there.

kewl dude
17th September 2009, 07:06
Sidsal said: “they sailed it down to Chicago where they entered a canal system”

Attached two circa 1960’s pictures of this canal and river system in reverse. Pictured left a newspaper clipping shows the 637 LOA C4 conversion MCKEE SONS in the Chicago River. These ships were converted at East Coast shipyards then towed up to the Great Lakes. The ship on the right began life as the 8,500 HP NOTRE DAME Victory but Cliffs renamed it Cliffs Victory.

Greg Hayden

kewl dude
17th September 2009, 07:08
Oooooops. 1950's, before the St. Lawrence Seaway Opened in 1959.

Greg Hayden