How Bank Line Missed the Container Revolution

Alistair Macnab
26th September 2009, 17:41
BANK LINE - The Big Picture
Part I

The story must start when Andrew Weir was at the height of his entrepreneurial skills and was busy transitioning from 'the largest fleet of sailing ships under the British flag' via steamships to a full motorship fleet that favoured British shipyards and British-built oil engines. There is no better place to examine this remarkable story than the years of the First World War, when the transitions were taking place.

The last of the sailing ships left the fleet between 1914 and 1917 when two iron barques, the "Trongate" and the "Mennock" dating from 1891 and 1893 respectively were hulked at Valparaiso and the "Thistlebank", "Isle of Arran" and "Philadelphia were sold out of the fleet.

The steamship era was to be late in starting but comparatively long-lived and ranged from 1896 to 1957, often with second-hand tonnage. The first steamer was the "Duneric" of 1896 and she was sold out of the fleet in 1916. Like most of the ships under Andrew Weir management, the "Duneric" was owned by a one-ship company until 1905 when the Bank Line Ltd. was registered after which nearly all ships were registered as owned and managed by that well-known name. Indeed, the sailing ships that had been built for Andrew Weir from 1885 had had the suffix '-bank' but as the sailing ships went and the steamships came into the fleet, the 'banks' had all disappeared even although the company was called Bank Line. The story surrounding the 'bank' suffix is perhaps lost to history but there is no doubt that Andrew Weir's first ship was already named "Willowbank" when bought in 1885 and perhaps he liked the concept.

There is also no definitive story about the suffix '-eric' for the steamships but it is said that a close deceased relative of Andrew Weir had been called Eric and the nomenclature chosen was in remembrance of this person.

From 1896, no fewer than 43 steamers joined the fleet up until the outbreak of WWI. In addition to the 22 '-erics' there was a wide range of names that came with the ship when bought. Many units of the fleet were disposed of or became war losses during the First World War. These were:

1914: "Tymeric" Captured by "Emden"; "Croydon" Wrecked; "Gifford" Interned Hamburg (First Doxford Built ship for Weir's);
1915: "Burnock" Sold; "Quito" Sold; "Orteric" Torpedoed; "Desabla" (tanker) Torpedoed;
1916: "Duneric" Sold (First Weir steamship ); "Elleric" Sold; "Comeric" Sold; "Foreric" Sold; "Katanga" Sold; "Luceric" Sold; "Miramichi" Fire Loss; "Mansuri" Disappeared; "Huntscape" Sold.
1917: "Oceano" Wrecked;
1918: "Aymeric" Torpedoed (First ship registered with Bank Line Ltd.).

Surviving WWI were:
"Inveric", "Jeseric"/"Rivafric", "Boveric", "Suveric", "Kumeric", "Mineric", "Roseric", "Salamis", Monadnock"/"Monafric", "Madawaska"/Capafric", "Naneric", Poleric", "Surat", "Gujarat", "Kathiawar", "Barneston"/"Oyleric" (tanker), "Ricardo A. Mestres"/Wyneric" (tanker), "Gymeric"(tanker), and "Caloric" (tanker).

Total: 19 steamships.
The ships noted above with two names when the second name ends in '-afric' ("Rivafric", "Monafric" and "Capafric" ) went to the Andrew Weir subsidiary Cie Venture Weir S.A. a French subsidiary in 1925, trading with West Africa and having interests in oil bunkering services.

But with the advent of steamships, Bank Line were taking an interest in liner services and sought to join the relevant ocean shipping Conferences. The Britain-Calcutta was the oldest and most established Conference (1875) and was jealously protected by its members. Bank Line were, however, eventually able to gain admittance but were awarded the non-home services to East Africa, South Africa, the River Plate and the West Coast of South America. The South American liner services from Calcutta were inaugurated in 1904.To be effective Conference members, more ships were required. In 1919, eight standard steamships were acquired. These were:
"Luceric" (ex-"War Agate) "Orteric" (ex-"War Coral") and "Comeric" (ex-"War Jasper") from Doxford, 'F' Class War Standard Ships, raised forecastle, extra derrick posts forward of mainmast serving three hatches aft of the accommodation. six hatches overall.
"Aymeric" (ex-"War Nemesia") from Thompson, 'F' Class War Standard.
"Tymeric" (ex-"War Mammoth") and "Haleric" (ex-"War Sparrow") from Hawthorn Leslie, 3-island hull form, counter stern.
"Yoseric" (ex-"War Parrot") from Laing, 3-island hull form, counter stern.
and
"Elveric" (ex-"War Capitol") from Northumberland, Raised forecastle hull form.

In addition to these coal-burning steamships, the twin-screw motorship ""Invercorie" was managed by Andrew Weir during 1920, coming from and returning to the British Mexican Petroleum Company with Andrew Weir still retained as managers. This was the Bank Line's first motorship.

We now come to the ship classes that survived into post WWII.

The "Gujarat " Class of motor cargo-passenger ship was built by Harland & Wolff at their Govan, Glasgow, shipyard with single-screw propulsion by a 6-cylinder 4 S.C.S.A. oil engine also constructed at Harland's Govan engine works. This class of three was designed for the Indian-African Line serving the Bay of Bengal ports of Calcutta, Rangoon and Madras then proceding via Colombo to Southern Africa in the Mocambique to Capetown range of ports. These ships had a five cargo hatch configuration with accommodation for 12 first, 20 second and 400 deck passengers, the latter consisting mainly of indentured Indian labourers recruited for the sugar cane fields of Natal and their repatriation at the end of their contract. The service had been upgraded to carry passengers in 1913 when three Bucknall cargo-passenger steamships had been purchased. They were originally, the "Johannesburg", Fort Salisbury" and "Buluwayo" and were renamed by Bank Line respectively "Surat", "Gujarat" and "Kathiawar". With the "Gujarat" and "Kathiawar" having been sold out of the fleet by 1923, the new "Gujarat" Class were able to use the same names with the exception of the "Surat" which was scrapped in 1926.
These were:
"Gujarat" (1923 - 1967), Sold;
"Kathiawar" (1924 - 1937), Wrecked;
"Luxmi" (1924 - 1961), Scrapped.

After the WWI 'Standard' ships had mostly been taken up by shipowners who had suffered war losses, Lord Inverforth (Andrew Weir had been enobled in 1919) correctly predicted that British shipyards would be desparate for newbuilding orders. This brought about the ordering of no fewer than 18 twin-screw motorships from Harland & Wolff, but from their Glasgow shipyard rather than from Belfast which was still moderately busy with passenger liner construction for the White Star/Royal Mail Group. Inverforth had become a close friend of Lord Pirrie the Chief at Harland's, and had entered a pact with the shipyard and other shipowners to buy ships at a discount. In any case, Harland's engine works were also in Glasgow and since 36 units of the 6-cylinder 4 S.C.S.A. oil engines would be required, it made sense to build in Glasgow.

The "Inverbank" Class, as it was named after the first ship delivered, was a flush-decked cargo ship of six hatches, with two hatches forward of the bridge house, one hatch between the bridge house and the fidley and three hatches on the after deck served by cargo booms hung from the mainmast and a pair of derrick post right aft. The derricks were of open lattice construction rather than tubular as was already common. The crew were housed forward at tween deck level and there were shipside utility structures abreast of the foremast housing crew galleys and wash spaces.

For the record, the ships were:
1924: Inver/Glen/Birch/Cedar/Comlie
1925: Clyde/Alyn/Elm/Forres/Nairn/Weir/Larch/Levern/Myrtle
1926: Olive/Oak/Spey/Spring

Out of the 18 units, only one was lost to misfortune and that was the "Forresbank" by fire and stranding in 1958.
War losses, however, were somewhat extensive:
1940: "Cedarbank", "Clydebank"
1941: "Alynbank" (as an Anti-Aircraft warship conversion), "Springbank" (as a Catapult warship conversion), "Levernbank"
1942: "Weirbank", "Oakbank"
1943: "Birchbank", "Larchbank"
Astonishingly, two units were sold for further trading after 28 years of Bank Line operation, the "Nairnbank" in 1953 and the "Olivebank" in 1954, a fine testament to the builders and the crews that had maintained their ships over the years!
But, sadly the end came for six units at the breakers yards:
1958: "Inverbank" and "Levernbank"
1959: "Glenbank", "Comliebank" and "Clydebank",
and finally
1960: "Myrtlebank" at no less than 35 years old! But even she did not hold the record for longevity, that going to the "Luxmi" which was 37 years' old when she eventually went to the breakers yard.

Bank Lines incursion into the tanker business commenced with the "Desabla" in 1913 but was shortlived with her being torpedoed in 1915. Between the wars, however, Bank Line entered tanker operations in a big way, taking over the management of the fleet of the British-Mexican Petroleum Company with 12 steam tankers and 11 barges for harbour service. All had "Inver-" prefixed names like the twin-screw motorship tanker "Invercorie" in 1925 which went over to the sister company Lago Shipping Co., Ltd.

Of the British-Mexican fleet, eight ships were laid down as "N" class wartime standard steamers but after lay-up for a number of years, cylindrical tanks were built into the cargo holds and the ships operated as tankers with engines amidships. These were:
"Inverarder" (1920 - 1930) ex-"War Hagara"
"Inverleith" (1921 - 1930)
"Inverurie" (1921 - 1930)
"Invergoil" (1922 - 1930)
"Inveravon" (1923 - 1930)
"Invergordon" (1923 - 1930)
"Invergarry" (1924 - 1930)
"Inverglass" (1924 - 1930)
Management of the British - Mexican Petroleum Company was transferred to other operators in 1930 and eventually to Anglo-American Oil Company, Ltd. (Standard Oil/Esso/Exxon) A sistership, the "War Pathan" had been managed by Weirs from 1919 to 1929 but was not part of the British - Mexican fleet.

The Lago Shipping Company, yet another Weir subsidiary, was formed in 1925 to operate shallow-draft twin-screw tankers out of Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, to a new refinery in Aruba in the Dutch West Indies which was also one of the Weir interests. Altogether, 21 steam tankers were built by Harland & Wolff, but this time in Belfast. These were built between 1925 and 1931 and were named:
"Invercaibo" (1925 - 1936), "Inverlago" (1925 - 1936), "Inverosa" (1925 - 1936), "Inveruba" (1925 - 1936), "San Nicolas" ((1926 - 1936),
"Ambrosio" (1926 - 1936), "Icotea" (1927 - 1936), "Lagunilla" (1927 - 1936), "La Salina" (1927 - 1936), "San Carlos" (1927 - 1936)
"Sabaneta" (1927 -1936), "Oranjestad" (1927 - 1936), "Punta Benitez" (1928 - 1936), "Tia Juana" (1928 - 1936), "Hooiberg" (1928 - 1936)
"Punta Gorda" (1928 - 1936), "Yamanota" (1928 - 1936), "Tamare" (1929 - 1936), "Ule" (1929 - 1935), "Surinam" (1929 - 1933)
"Maracay" (1931 - 1936)
In 1936, the Lago Shipping Company management was also sold on to the Standard Oil Company which, is, of course, today's Exxon.

Next: Part II

Alistair Macnab
26th September 2009, 17:56
BANK LINE - The Big Picture.....
Part II

Between 1926 and 1934 a varied group of second-hand tonnage was bought in, in addition to the newbuilding programme unfolding at Workman Clark in Belfast. Mainly for liner services, they could be viewed as Bank Line's 'captive' ships to given service. These were:

ss."Foreric" (1926 - 1927) ex-"War Lemur" for Cree Investments;
mv.s "Dunafric", "Forafric" and "Solafric" (acquired 1927) ex-EAC for Venture Weir;
ss."Surat" and "Tinhow" (acquired 1927) ex-James Nourse;
ss."Cabarita" (acquired 1930) from Howard Smith;
ss."Glenardle" (acquired 1932);
tsmv."Congella" (acquired 1933)
tsmv "Kelvinbank" (acquired 1934

As mentioned above, the three diesel '-africs" were bought from Danish East Asiatic interests to replace the three steamship '-africs' in service with Cie Venture Weir S.A. that had originated the service with French West Africa in 1925. The Venture Weir company had had its beginnings in 1921 with the steam tanker "Francunion" (1921 - 1925) and the oil depot ship "Francunion II" (1924 - 1927) that preceded the first three steam-driven cargo ships. The steamers were replaced by the motorships in 1927 and the service seems to have been active until 1937.

The James Nourse ships had been operated by that company in the Calcutta - West Indies trade. They were designed to accommodate a number of emigrant-class passengers carrying indentured Indian labour to the West Indies sugar plantations and Bank Line had a need for this special capability.

The "Surat" (1927 - 1935) was placed on the Indian - African Line as an extra ship to the three "Gujarat" Class ships, whilst the "Tinhow" was allocated to the Oriental African Line to replace an older unit of the same name that was sold in 1913. The Oriental African Line was a successful two-way service originally between the Union of South Africa and South East Asia. It would later be extended to include Portuguese and British East Africa and Mauritius at the African end and China, Japan and the Philippines in the Far East. Passenger services were offered on a sporadic basis based on Chinese labourer requirements in the plantations of Africa with a few cabin-class passenger berths. The new "Tinhow" was dedicated to the service and from time-to-time an Indian-African Line cargo-passenger ship was allocated to cover the berth.

"Cabarita" and "Congella" were allocated to the Indian African Line or the Oriental African Line as required and "Glenardle" and "Kelvinbank" were bought as good deals. The two ships were available at a good price with the added benefit that the "Kelvinbank" had an interesting twin-screw British experimental oil engine and Inverforth wanted to rate its capabilities and economics.

The shipbuilding industry in Belfast had been going through a great deal of turmoil after the surge of newbuildings to replace WWI war losses had been revealed as unprofitable This occurred partly because the Royal Mail Group had become the owners of Harland and Wolff and had defaulted to their banks but also because Harland's had for many years made discounts to certain shipowners without regard for the bottom line. The Bank Line had benefited from this lax accounting with their Glasgow-built order for 21 ships and also for the Belfast-built order of 21 shallow draft tankers but now there were moves by creditors to tighten up everything at Harland's head office.

Also included in the general turmoil was the Belfast yard of Workman Clark which went out of business and was resurrected as Workman Clark (1928) Ltd. Known as the "Wee Yard" Workman Clark as opposed to the "Big Yard" Harland & Wolff, it was seen as important that they also survived as much of Belfast's (therefore Northern Ireland's) economy depended upon shipbuilding and the many services that were involved.

Accordingly, Bank Line, one of Workman's saviours, entered into orders for 12 ships to be built between 1929 and 1934. These were:

Single screw oil-fired Cargo Steamships:
"Deebank" (1928 - 1955); "Trentbank" (1929 - 1942); "Forthbank" (1929 - 1953) and "Lindenbank" (1930 - 1939)

Twin-screw Cargo Motorships:
"Irisbank" (1930 - 1961); "Lossiebank" (1930 - 1962); "Taybank" (1930 - 1961) and "Tweedbank" (1930 - 1960)

Single-screw Motor Tanker:
"Corabank" (1932 - 1937)

Twin-screw Passenger-Cargo Motorships:
"Isipingo" (1934 - 1964)
"Inchanga" (1934 - 1964)
"Incomati" (1934 - 1943)

The three Passenger-Cargo ships were meant for the Indian African Line which had recently been augmented by the purchase of Bullard King's Natal Line to India so a twice monthly service was envisaged by Bank Line with a monthly passenger and cargo service alternating with a cargo-only string. The second string was known as the India-Natal Line with its own houseflag and separate agents.

The Isipingo" Class were known as the "White Ships" because their livery was updated from the customary black hull and buff upperworks of previous ships on the service to white hull, green boottopping and a gold sheerline around the ships at the upper edge of the sheer strake along with buff ventilators with blue cowls and buff masts and derrick posts. Small vents were white with blue insides and the small funnel was the then customary "Belfast Motorship" type of heavily raked shape and a horizontal top edge. The rake of the funnel was matched by the rake of the two masts and the overall appearance was pleasing and something like a gigantic private yacht and a typical British "Intercolonial" service passenger ship connecting up the far-flung British Empire and Colonies. Portugal Mozambique and British East Africa were added to the itinerary with Capetown at one end and Calcutta at the other acting as terminal ports.

Passenger numbers were originally 50 first-class, 20 second-class and 500 deck passengers as the 12 lifeboats indicated. The standard of accommodation was a great improvement over the original ex-Bucknall ships and the "Luxmi" Class that had served the route in the past but had been instrumental in building up the service.

The twin-berth first-class cabins were paired with a full bathroom between each pair. What was unusual was the provision of fresh water baths when other ships of this type usually had salt water baths. There were also a number of single berth cabins for single passengers or personal servants.
First class amenities included a Dining Room, Sitting Room, Glassed-in Tea Verandah, Glassed-in Sports Verandah, Bar-Lounge with open verandah, Hair Salon and Shop as well as the customary Purser's Bureau. The interior style was generally Edwardian with Art Deco touches except the Bar-Lounge which was Jacobean. A portable large swimming pool was originally fitted over No.4 Hatch overlooked by the Bar Verandah but in post WWII days this had been reduced to a smaller pool just forward of the bridge abreast of No.2 Hatch. Second Class were served by a combination Dining Room and Social Hall with their accommodation aft in 2 and 4 berth cabins. Third Class passengers were located in No.2 and No.4 tweendecks with staircases to the main deck through the masthouses where there were cooking and sanitary facilities.
Cargo deadweight was 7,000 dwt.

On the Boat Deck with the lifeboats turned half-way out, there was a wide expanse of wooden deck for deck golf and quoits with horse racing nights on top of No.3 Hatch which was just forward of the funnel. At this boat deck level were the five de luxe cabins that could be converted to suites in various configurations. In pre-war years these accommodations were used by the vice-regal party from Calcutta on their annual tour of Rangoon and Burma.

Post war, the crew numbered 105 persons and the passenger numbers were progressively lowered as the third-class of migrant disappeared. Lifeboats were also reduced. The first to go were the two boats on the Bridge wings and other lifeboats were removed until latterly, only the four boats on the Boat Deck remained. Passenger numbers came down to 70 in two classes then eventually to 12 as the first class passenger was now able to fly between Africa and India.

Out of the 12 Workman Clark ships, two, the "Trentbank" and the "Incomati" were war losses. The "Lindenbank" was wrecked in 1939, the "Corabank", "Deebank" and "Forthbank" were sold on for further trading and the remaining six ships - "Irisbank", "Lossiebank", "Taybank", "Tweedbank", Isipingo" and "Inchanga" went to the ship breakers post-WWII, having served the company well.

Two interesting 'flyers' were bought from Harland and Wolff in 1930. These were the "Foylebank" and "Laganbank" with twin 8-cylinder 4 S.C.S.A. oil engines giving a good 14 knots.
The reason for the increased speed over near sisterships is not known but it is speculated that the Bombay American Line and the American & Oriental Line which were operated in conjunction with other ocean carriers as part of the "Round the World" service had all upgraded to faster speeds and Bank Line had to do the same. The partners at that time were Wilhelmsen and Fernley and Egar of Oslo and Chambers and Silver Line of the U.K. "Foylebank" was ceded to the Admiralty and converted into an anti-aircraft ship, being sunk in 1940 whilst the "Laganbank" was wrecked in 1938.

Between 1934 and 1940: 13 cargo ships were delivered from three shipyards. Harland & Wolf delivered 3 motorships, Doxford delivered 4 motorships that were close sisters of the famous Doxford 'Economy' ship except with a 4 cylinder oil engine instead of the 'economy' 3-cylinder, and the Readhead Yard in South Shields delivered 6 steamships. These were:

Harland Motorships:
"Ernebank" (1937 - 1963); "Araybank" (1940 - 1941); "Shirrabank" (1940 -1963). "Araybank" was a war loss and "Ernebank" and "Shirrabank" were sold for breaking up.

Doxford Motorships:
"Eskbank" (1937 - 1961); "Teesbank" (1937 - 1942); "Ettrickbank" (1937 - 1962) and "Willowbank" (1939 - 1940). "Teesbank" and "Willowbank" were war losses, whilst "Eskbank" was sold for further trading and "Ettrickbank" was scrapped. It is interesting to note that the
"Eskbank", "Teesbank" and "Ettrickbank" were delivered to Inver Transport and Trading Company and not to Bank Line. This separate company was a legal entity unto itself but was completely integrated into Bank Line's operations. It only ever had one more ship, the "Laganbank" of 1955.

The six steamships from Readhead's:
Tynebank" (1934 - 1955); "Tielbank" (1937 - 1941); "Testbank" (1937 - 1943); "Teviotbank" (1938 - 1955); "Thornliebank" (1939 - 1941) and "Thursobank" (1940 - 1942).
These ships were a pre-war version of what was to become the "Empire" Standard ship. This was the one and only time that a class of Bank Boat was identified by a common initial. They were somewhat low-powered and only good for 11 knots. The "Tielbank", "Testbank" Thornliebank" and "Thursobank" were war losses. The "Tynebank" and the "Teviotbank" survived the war and were part of the post war Bank Line fleet that saw the end of steamships and the beginning of an all motorship fleet.

Bank Line had started out as tramp operators and had become recognized in all the customary bulk trades that were operated by British interests. This included Chilean nitrate, Australian coal, Argentine wheat and Pacific Islands copra but with the introduction of steamships at the turn of the 20th Century, Andrew Weir saw the possibility of entering the liner or conference controlled services. Calcutta was the place to do this and by aggressive placing of Bank Line ships against Conference ships, it became important to the Conference to have Bank Line inside the cartel rather than outside. As we have previously noted, Bank Line were awarded the cross-trades, and not the home runs to the UK but that suited Andrew Weir as his strategy became end to end one way services connected by tramp cargoes to construct a trading pattern that was difficult to copy. Ships would go one-way around the world on alternate liner and tramp legs, never touching the United Kingdom.

As a final note, it should be recorded that there was activity in the United States and North America in pre-WWII years. At first the activity was centered around oil trading as Andrew Weir, now Lord Inverforth sought to control Union Oil Company of California (UNOCAL) Generally speaking, he was up against the Rockefeller combine and has been already seen, even his Mexican and Venezuelan oil interests eventually came under control of the American interests. But before that happened, there was a scheme to build a refinery in Dublin and operate a string of motor tankers to bring crude oil from the refinery in Aruba (which was party owned by the Weir Group) to refine aviation spirit for the coming war effort as a shortage of this product was predicted and U.S. interests could not be seen as sending aviation spirit to British interests thus breaking their neutrality.
These seven ships, all built in Germany with frozen Weir money accumulated in that country through trading ventures and not permitted to be repatriated, were apparently ordered for the Irish company Crusader Petroleum Industries Ltd. but the ships were delivered to Liffey Transport and Trading Co. during 1938. This company eventually became Inver Tankers Ltd. and were managed by Andrew Weir & Co. These ships were:
"Inverlee" (lost 1941); "Invershannon (lost 1940); "Inverliffey" (lost 1939); "Inverdargle" (lost 1940); "Inverlane" (lost 1939); "Inversuir" (lost 1941) and "Inverilen" (lost 1943)

Other activities in the USA were the development of separate liner services from the U.S. Gulf to South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.The South African service was in conjunction with Nordeutcher Lloyd whereas the Australia and New Zealand services were conducted within the framework of the British Lines that controlled these trade lanes. Here again, the other British Lines preferred to keep the U.S. East Coast and Montreal cargoes to themselves, and offer the lower paying cargoes from the U.S. Gulf to Bank Line. This proved, yet again, to be something that Bank Line could work with whilst others could not and the makings of what was eventually to become the Bank Line's big revenue earner was inaugurated.

The Pacific Islands - Homewards service also started in pre-WWII years, initially as charter business for Lever Brothers carrying copra and coconut oil from Lever plantations to Lever's facilities in the UK, Holland and Germany. This modest beginning was also to develop into one of the more successful liner operations.

Next: Part III

Alistair Macnab
26th September 2009, 18:08
BANK LINE - The Big Picture, Part 1II...

In 1945, at the end of WWII, only 26 pre-war ships remained in the fleet after war losses of 25 units (see separate section) These were: "Gujarat", "Luxmi", "Isipingo" and "Inchanga" of the passenger-carrying fleet, nine of the 24 original "Inverbank" Class, a couple of Workman Clark steamers and all four of the same yard's motorships of the "Irisbank" Class, and a few steamers and motorships from the NE of England.

The last pre-war order of ships to be built for Bank Line were the motorships "Araybank" and "Shirrabank" from Harland & Wolff with only the latter being a war survivor. Another interesting survivor was the "Cabarita" a second-hand cargo ship employed on the Indian African Line.


If we add the four motorships from Doxford's delivered in 1944 and the one 'Empire' standard ship from Readhead's in 1945, the fleet standing at the end of hostilities was 31 units.

These were:
Inverbank" Class: Inver/Glen/Comlie/Clyde/Forres/Nairn/Levern/Myrtle/Olive;
Workman Clark's: Deebank" and "Forthbank" (steamers) and Iris/Lossie/Tay/Tweed (motorships);
"Ernebank" and "Shirrabank", Harland's motorships;
"Eskbank and "Ettrickbank" Doxford motorships;
"Tynebank" and "Teviotbank", Readhead Steamships;
"Isipingo", "Inchanga", "Gujarat", Luxmi" and "Cabarita";
The wartime Doxford-built motorships: Roy/Wey/Meadow/Moray
and the 'standard Empire' "Hazelbank".

Quite a mixed bag: Six steamships (Dee/Forth/Tyne/Teviot/Hazel/Cabarita) and 25 motorships.

In 1946, two ships were added: the steamers "Birchbank" and "Hollybank", but in 1947, the fleet was strengthed by no fewer than 13 ships incorporating the 12 "Sam" Boats or "Liberty" Ships: Cora/Eden/Eric/Ivy/Kelvin/Maple/Mara/Rowan/Spring/Tiel/Titan/Willow and the first of the newbuildings "Eastbank" from Doxford's.

1948 saw the continuation of the Doxford newbuildings: "Southbank" and "Westbank" entering the fleet but even that was considered to be insufficient strength in view of the large number of ships over 20 years old. For this reason three further standard steamships were added from NE yards, "Etivebank", "Lochybank" and "Shielbank" obtained at favourable prices as many shipowners were now requiring 'liner' type motorships or turbine-driven steamers. The fleet strength was now at 51 units at the end of 1948.

Lord Inverforth was quoted as saying that the price of purpose-built newbuildings was bound to decline once all the 'standard' ships had found buyers and shipyards would be looking for work as had happened after WWI.
This did not happen as British shipyards were kept busy building cargo liners for British and overseas owners.

Between 1952 and 1955, ten ships were disposed of: Nairn/Olive/Dee/Forth/Cabarita/Tyne/Etive/Lochy/Birch/Holly with one lost to shipwreck, the "Kelvinbank" at Ocean Island. These were mostly steamships with the exceptions of t.s.m.v's "Nairnbank" and "Olivebank" (built 1925 and 1926 respectively).

Fleet strength was now 40 units when the first of the six "Beaverbank" Class came out from Harland and Wolff, Belfast in 1953. These were Beaver/Ness/Fleet in 1953 and Cedar/Foyle/Lagan in 1955. But this addition of six newbuildings was cancelled out in 1956/1957 with the disposal of the same number from the existing fleet: Teviot/Hazel/Gujarat/Maple/Willow/Shiel, all steamships with the exception of m.v."Gujarat".

Thus, before the onset of the the major newbuilding programme starting in 1957, the Bank Line fleet stood as follows:
m.v."Luxmi" (1924);
t.s.m.v. "Inver", "Glen", "Comlie", Clyde", "Forres", "Levern", "Myrtle" (1924 - 1925);
t.s.m.v. "Iris", "Lossie", "Tay", "Tweed" (1930);
t.s.m.v. "Isipingo", "Inchanga" (1934);
m.v. "Erne", "Shirra" (1937-1940);
m.v. "Esk", "Ettrick" (1937);
m.v. "Roy", "Wey", "Meadow", "Moray" (1944 - 1945);
s.s. "Cora", "Eden", "Eric", "Ivy", "Mara", "Rowan", "Spring", "Tiel", "Titan" (acq. 1947);
m.v. "East", "South, "West" (1947 - 1948);
m.v. "Beaver", "Ness", "Fleet", "Cedar", "Foyle", "Lagan" (1953 - 1955).
All were motorships with the exception of the nine Liberties of the "Corabank" Class for a total of 40 units.

The big expansion programme was about to take place from 1957 onwards. The ships would be larger and faster and would eventually comprise 21 units from Doxford's, 17 units from Harland & Wolff and 2 units from Swan Hunter's. These 12000 dwt ships would be added to the other post-war newbuildings of 3 from Doxford's (Eastbank Class)and 6 from Harland & Wolff (Beaverbank Class) of 9000 dwt. for a total of 49 motorships.

Even then, a series of 15000+ dwt motorships would follow from 1963 onwards, comprising no fewer than 36 units from Belfast, Sunderland and South Shields that would signify the peak and the decline of British shipbuilding and multipurpose ships because the divergence of tramp and liner ships was finally taking place with shippers of tramp cargoes now preferring bulk carriers of at least 25,000dwt.

Nevertheless, a 15,000 dwt multipurpose tweendecker was seen as a useful compromise and the Bank Line boast that they could get an empty Bank Boat to a charterer at any port in the world within two weeks or sooner was still a distinct marketing advantage. After all, not all bulk cargoes were served by fully-equipped bulk-handling terminals and not all bulk cargo shipments were for full shiploads; the concept of 'bulk parcels' on liner ships was still viable

Next: Part IV

Alistair Macnab
26th September 2009, 18:27
Bank Line- The Big Picture, Part IV

But, back to the 12,000 dwt phase. In 1957, the first newbuilding phase began. Two shipyards were used exclusively, Harland and Wolff in Belfast and Wm,. Doxford in Sunderland. First to be delivered was the "Firbank" from Doxford's followed by the "Cloverbank" from Harland's. Both ships were to carry the class name of their respective sisters that followed. Both shipyard installed the latest versions of their 2 SCSA oil engines, the Belfast-built unit having 6 cylinders and the Sunderland unit having 4 cylinders. These engines and their subsequent improvements and redesigns became the 'standard' Bank Line main engines throughout the building programme. Speed was around 14 knots.

Ships were about 6400 gross tons with a deadweight of 10,500 in the open shelterdeck configuration but as time went on, all became 'tonnage mark' ships with a deadweight of around 12,000.

1957 was rounded out with the deliveries of "Riverbank" and "Northbank" from Doxford's and "Crestbank" and "Carronbank" from Harland's.

Unlike in 1924 when the 18-ship Inverbank Class was delivered from Harland's Govan Shipyard on the Clyde and the 36 main engines were built at Harland's engine works, also in Govan, the 1957 building programme was not seen as a survival lifeline to British shipbuilders as it was in 1924 because by 1957, British shipyards were continuing to be very busy as global demand for all types of merchant ships was at an all-time high. Nevertheless, Belfast and Sunderland were happy to see Andrew Weir's back in the ship building business and there were still undoubtedly advantages to be gained by ordering new ships in large numbers from only a couple of yards. The original orders for this phase were that Doxford's would deliver eight units and Harland's ten ships.

The layout of both classes was substantially the same:a raised forecastle hull form with three cargo hatches forward and three hatches abaft the accommodation block which was more or less amidships. There the similarities ended for whereas the Doxford design produced a more rounded shape of the deck house the Belfast ships were more traditional with vertical stanchions and a raised poop. Funnels too, were design features: Doxfords were streamlined whilst Harland's could only be described and up and down with a raked top. Both designs, however, were most acceptable to modernists and traditionalists alike and came to be readily recognisable the world-over, the ships always looking best in the loaded condition, deep in the water.

A word about the third Doxford ship, the "Northbank". Readers who have wondered what happened to that "Northbank" name after the Compass Point Class came out in 1947-48 with the arrival of the "Eastbank", "Southbank" and "Westbank" were now satisfied when "Northbank" came out in 1957 some ten years after the other Compass Point ships. This "Northbank", however, was not a sister of the 1947 Class but a near-sister of the "Firbank" Class except that she had a 6-cylinder engine, a raised poop and an extra pair of sampson posts right aft. In this hull configuration of raised forecastle and raised poop she was closer to the Belfast ships which had the same hull layout with the additional set of sampson posts serving a small seventh hatch located on the poop and to the original Compass Point ships with similar hull form.

European Officers, Chinese Carpenter and South Asian Catering Staff were accommodated amidships whilst the Asian Crews for deck and engine room were housed aft at tween deck level or in the case of ships with a raised poop, at that level surrounding the trunked No.7 hatchway. Ships had a total compliment of 60 as originally conceived.

In 1958, three ships were again delivered from Sunderland and three from Belfast. They were: "Birchbank", "Streambank" and "Teakbank" from Doxford and "Dartbank", "Garrybank" and "Minchbank" from Harland's. It is worth noting that the "Birchbank" and "Streambank" had Macgregor-type steel hatch covers on the weather deck with cargo winches raised on masthouses. This was by way of being an 'experiment' for up until now, weather deck hatch covers had either been hand-carried wooden hatch boards over portable hatch beams or wooden hatch slabs that were handled by the cargo gear then covered by two or three tarpaulins and secured with steel batten bars and wooden wedges. "Birchbank" and "Streambank" had rolling steel hatch covers but these would be alone until 1963 when the "Taybank" came out.

The "Teakbank" could be distinguished by her two cut-out 'window' openings on the main deck fashion plate at the forward end on the main deck alleyway.
This feature was only repeated on the following sisterships "Wavebank" and "Yewbank" in 1959 which were Doxford's output that year whereas Harland's again produced three vessels: "Ashbank", "Rosebank" and "Pinebank".

Doxford had now completed the first phase of the their newbuilding programme and Harland & Wolff, completed their's with the delivery of the "Elmbank" in 1960.

Beyond 1960, however, the Belfast output had been extended from 10 to 17 ships but at Doxford's,an important variant was to be produced. This was to be a successor of the "Copra Boat" (The Compass Point ships of 1947 and the Beaverbank Class of 1953) and would have that type of ship's deeptank arrangement of four deeptanks forward, and two deeptanks aft of the engine room. These ships were the "Willowbank" (1960), "Larchbank", "Lindenbank" and "Weirbank" (all 1961) with a shorter, more built-up midships deckhouse with the lifeboats suspended off the accommodation rather than sitting under davits standing on the boat deck as had been the norm. At this same time in 1961, Belfast delivered "Avonbank" and "Levernbank".

Further Doxford output reverted to a standard tweendecker arrangement for "Testbank" (1961) and "Inverbank" (1962) except that "Testbank" had the distinction of being the first Bank Line ship to do away with topmasts (other than for war-time austerity measures) having been fitted with a tall signal mast located above the bridge on the monkey island.

Harland and Wolff on the other hand elected to recognise modernity with the "Springbank" and "Olivebank" (both 1962) with a slightly conical new funnel shape with curved top. This was followed by a radically new shape of the midships house with the second deck accommodation taken out to the ship's side at the forward end and the topmasts removed on the "Lossiebank" in 1963. This metamorphosis was completed also in 1963 when the midships house was further extended with a fully enclosed second deck on "Roybank" followed by an identical layout on "Weybank" in 1964 to complete the Belfast order. In these two ships, the signal mast was merged with the leading edge of the funnel.

Over in Sunderland, the "Forresbank" and "Trentbank", two additional "Copra Boats" but with poops were delivered in 1962 and to round out the Doxford deliveries, the "Oakbank", "Rowanbank" and "Laurelbank" (all 1963), standard tweendeckers in all respects similar to the "Testbank" and without poops. The Doxford output of the 12000dwt ships concluded in 1964 when the "Hollybank" and the "Sprucebank" came out. These were radically different from all other 12000 tonners in that they were very streamlined, with a combined signal mast and an elongated funnel similar to the 15000 tonners with which they would be regularly confused.

But to complete the 12000 dwt story, it should be mentioned that in 1962, the "Speybank" was delivered from Swan Hunter's at Wallsend followed by the "Marabank" in 1963. These two ships were Swan Hunter's version of a standard general-purpose tweendecker. They had been built on speculation but with Bank Line in mind as the principal British operator of such ships. They were taken up by Weir's with the builder's hope that they would lead to more orders for the class which, however, were not forthcoming. Nevertheless, these two ships contributed some new ideas to Bank Line. They were the first ships to have air-conditioned accommodation, a long forecastle incorporating No.1 hatch and bipod masts.

Henceforth, newbuildings would continue with a series of 15000+ deadweight ships from Belfast and Sunderland, but at this juncture is valuable to sumarise the production of 12000 dwt ships:

1957: Fir/River (open shelterdeckers subsequently closed) Doxford
"Northbank" (full scantling with poop and 6-cyl engine) Doxford
Clover/Crest Carron (open shelterdeckers subsequently closed), Harland.

1958: Birch/Stream (first steel weather deck hatch covers), Doxford
"Teakbank", Doxford
Dart/Garry/Minch, Harland

1959: Wave/Yew, Doxford
Ash/Rose/Pine, Harland

1960: "Willowbank" (Copra Boat), Doxford
"Elmbank", Harland

1961: Larch/Linden/Weir (Copra Boats), Doxford
"Testbank" (Topmasts eliminated), Doxford
Avon/Levern, Harland

1962: "Inverbank", Doxford
Forres/Trent (Copra Boats, raised poop), Doxford
Spring/Olive (Conical funnel), Harland
"Speybank", Swan Hunter.

1963: Oak/Rowan/Laurel, Doxford
"Lossiebank" (Topmasts eliminated), Harland
"Roybank" (enclosed accommodation block), Harland
"Marabank", Swan Hunter

1964: Holly/Spruce (elongated funnel), Doxford
"Weybank", Harland

During this phase, Doxford delivered 21 ships, Harland & Wolff delivered 17 units and Swan Hunter's delivered two vessels. Remaining from earlier deliveries still sailing in the fleet were:

"Eastbank" (1947) and "Westbank" (1948)
["Southbank" wrecked 1964 on Washington Island in the Pacific Ocean.]
"Beaverbank", "Nessbank", Fleetbank" (1953)
"Cedarbank", "Foylebank" and "Laganbank" (1955)

Total fleet in 1964: 48 ships, all of 12000 dwt, 14 knots.

Next: Part V

Alistair Macnab
26th September 2009, 18:41
BANK LINE - THE BIG PICTURE, Part V

At the end of WW2 the first Lord Inverforth (the original Andrew Weir) was in his 80s and his son, Morton Weir, was active in day-to-day business although his father still came to the office in Bury Street and his two sons, Roy and Vincent were also in the family business. Many of the pre-war activities had been curtailed or eliminated and as far as Bank Line was concerned, Calcutta still remained as the most important centre for employment of the fleet. The U.S. Gulf-centered trade to Australia and New Zealand was growing in significance and, of course, the long established Pacific Islands -Europe service was again getting back on its feet after the Pacific war.

The partition of Bengal into India and East Pakistan entailed separate marketing of the company's services to East and South Africa, the River Plate and the West Coast of South America. Manufactured jute products mainly came from the Indian side through Calcutta whilst raw jute was the principal export from the East Pakistan ports of Chittagong and the new port for Khulna, called Chalna which was essentially a mid-river anchorage served by barges.

Durban was also an important centre for Bank Line as the Oriental African Line resumed service with Japan becoming increasingly important as it recovered from the effects of the war and China less so as the political circumstances in that country interfered with commerce. Politics, too, entered into the India - South African trade when India officially withdrew from trading with South Africa over the issue of apartheid and a similar situation was to develop over India-Rhodesias trade with Ian Smith's Unilateral Declaration of Independence and general trade embargo with his regime. Nevertheless, there were always commercial ways of overcoming such impediments to trade and the Bank Line's Indian-African Line, Indian-Natal Line, Pakistan-African Line and Pakistan-Natal Line operated successfully within the existing political restraints.

Over in the U.S. Gulf, Bank Line's service to Australia and New Zealand grew steadily. Bank Line were members of the USA-Australasia Conference but were limited by the other members to the Gulf ports as they confined their operation to the U.S. East Coast. This was somewhat similar to Bank Line's membership in the Calcutta Conference where the other members took all the "home" cargoes but allowed Bank Line to operate exclusively on the lesser and "cross trades" services to East and South Africa, the River Plate and to the West Coast of South America. These were examples of the hold British shipping companies had on world commerce even after WW2 with the Calcutta Lines including latterly, Clan, Hall, Harrison, Brocklebank and BI inheriting and operating the world's oldest ocean shipping cartel.

But Bank Line were also interested in tramping and it could be argued that at any one time, the split between liner services and tramp operations was about half-and-half. Tramping operations were very much conducted with a group of world-wide cargo interests with which Lord Inverforth had built up a close relationship. These included the British Phosphate Commissioners (Nauru, Ocean Island and Makatea), Bunge y Baun (Argentina grain cargoes) and Chilean Nitrate Interests. Not for nothing was Weir's office next door to the Baltic Exchange in London where cargo and ship trading were closely watched and monitored by Bank Line through their brokers, Chadwick Weir & Co.

But a fleet of 48 generally similar ships had to be operated profitably and the Bank Line boast was still that they could place an empty, recently-built Bank Boat for any charterer at 14-day's notice in full readiness to load. The belief that a multipurpose-type ship could still trade profitably still predominated in the head office in London even after Andrew Weir (the first Lord Inverforth) died in 1955. Chartering out to other liner operators which were not renewing their conventional fleet was also good business.

The liner services too, benefited from a uniformity of ship layout, equipment and performance. Some of the liner trades would diminish over these post-war years whilst others would grow and it was vitally important that the chartering and ship operations departments in London could maintain flexibility with the ready ability to switch any individual ship unit from liner to tramp operations and from a Calcutta base to a New Orleans base with the minimum of notice.

One notable development was the establishment in 1961 of an outwards from the UK/Continent monthly liner service to Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the western Pacific French dependancies. This was the Bank Line's first incursion into a "home-based" outwards liner service after half a century of operations!
This was the genesis of the eventual SoPac Service and the Round-the World Westbound service albeit in the opposite direction.

But the so-called handy-size ship was changing. a deadweight of 12,000 tonnes was no longer the preferred size. With the development of gearless dry bulk ships, a growing preference for general-purpose ships to be 15,000 dwt had become the norm, so Bank Line embarked on a series of newbuildings with this capacity to eventually replace the smaller ships or at least to supplement the chartering department's ability to deliver what charterers wanted: 25% greater cargo deadweight at the going charter price.

Accordingly, in 1963 at Doxford's and 1964 at Harland's, series of 15,000 dts tween deckers were commenced. These would be the "Taybank" Class from Doxford's and the "Hazelbank" Class from Harland's. These geared ships would operate in the smaller bulk cargo tramp market with the ability to service the secondary bulk loading and discharging ports where water depths and cargo-handling-facilities had still not been adapted for the very large dry bulkers beginning to dominate the tramp markets. They would also do very well for the liner trades, Bank Line's and those of other liner operators looking for additional ships to maintain advertised schedules which were becomming necessary to match the demands of cargo shippers.

The building program was:
1963: "Taybank" (Doxford)
1964: "Tweedbank" (Doxford); "Hazelbank" and "Irisbank" (Harland's)
1965: "Beechbank" and "Ernebank" (Doxford)
1966: "Shirrabank" (Doxford); "Nairnbank" (Harland's)
1967: "Teviotbank" (Doxford); "Maplebank" (Harland's)
1968: "Gowanbank" (Harland's)

This represented six ships from Sunderland and five from Belfast. The physical differences between the two classes were that the Doxford ships were much more 'streamlined' when compared with the more traditional Belfast shape.
Topmasts had gone to be replaced by a signal mast immediately forward of or mounted on the leading side of the funnel. Doxford ships had an elongated funnel often accommodating the radio room whilst the Harland & Wolff ships were content with a smaller sized funnel. All ships were of the raised forecastle hull type with three hatches forward of and two hatches abaft the amidships accommodation block with deck and engine room crew located aft at tween deck level. All ships had their builders' latest 4-cyl (Doxford) or 6-cyl (Harland's) 2 S.C.S.A. oil engines giving 15 knots except in the case of the Doxford ""Shirrabank" and "Teviotbank" which were given 6-cyl versions of the builder's engine which made these two ships capable of maintaining a service speed of 16.5 knots.

Apart from the loss of the "Trentbank" by collision in the East Mediterranean in 1964, and the sales of the "Eastbank" and "Westbank" in 1965 for further trading, the fleet had now increased to 57 units because the "Beaverbank" Class (1953 - 1955) of Copra Boat still continued to operate and would do so until 1970 - 1973 when they would also be disposed of for further trading.

It would be 1973 before the next building splurge would take place and this would prove to be extraordinary in Bank Line terms as it would include the design and building of trade-specific ships, the shifting of accommodation blocks to the three-quarters aft position and even a cellular container ship.

Next: Part VI

Alistair Macnab
26th September 2009, 19:10
BANK LINE -the big picture, Part VI

The four years between 1968 and 1972 were momentous for British Shipbuilding. Nationalisation had been seen as a way to organise the nation's shipbuilding and several concepts of this had been tried from outright government takeover to public investment (subsidies). Doxford's were not to be exempt from these changes. Interestingly, the last "Doxford" ship was "Ernebank" in 1965 and the first "Doxford & Sunderland" ship was the "Baltic Vanguard" in 1966 for the sister company, United Baltic Corporation.

The new Bank Line orders known as the "Fleetbank" Class were, in fact, closely similar to what the shipyard had advertised as a generic new standard class of multipurpose cargo ship. These new designs came in A, B and C versions, respectively 16500, 18000 and 20,000 dwt. with the Fleetbank" Class equating approximately to the "A" version. {The "Fish" Class of 1979 and the ""Crestbank" Class of 1978 would be similar to the "B"s , see below).
Meanwhile, whilst the "Fleetbank" Class were coming out from Pallion between 1972 and 1978, Doxford's had gone through the disasterous Court Line scandal, again been renamed Sunderland Shipbuilders towards re-privatization to come in 1986 when the newly named North East Shipbuilders would emerge in the last throes of British shipyard reorganization.

But to return to the Bank Line participation in all of this. British Shipyards and the British government had over time come to look upon Bank Line as dependable buyers of British-built ships. They had revived the lagging fortunes of the Clyde with their "Gujarat" and "Inverbank" Classes in 1923 and 1924 and 'saved" Workman Clark in Belfast in 1928 with the "Deebank" Class of oil-burning steamships, and subsequent orders for motorships of the "Irisbank" Class and the White Ships. Indeed, the "Firbank" Class from Doxford and the "Cloverbank" Class from Harland and Wolff had to be seen as a lifeline to British shipbuilders given the large number of hulls and engines involved.

So a new class of tween deck motorship was obtained from Doxford. Called the "Fleetbank" Class, again a series of multipurpose ships with a raised forecastle hull form, four hatches forward of the accommodation block and one hatch abaft, placing the engine in the three-quarters aft position.Cargo gear was traditionally still fitted for union purchase derrick operation from centerline stump masts but with additional gear hung from the bridge front and a pair of sampson posts abaft the accommodation block. Main engine was a 6-cylinder Doxford 2 S.C.S.A. oil engine

The ships were:
"Fleetbank" Delivered 1972, sold 1981)
"Cloverbank" (1973 - 1981) renamed "Sibonga" on T/C to Danish EAC (1977 -1978)
"Birchbank" (1973 - 1981)
"Beaverbank" (1974 - 1981)
"Cedarbank" (1976 - 1983)
"Firbank" (1976 - 1983) renamed "Sibonga" on T/C to Danish EAC (1977 - 1979)
"Streambank" (1977 - 1983)
"Riverbank" (1977 - 1983)
"Nessbank" (1977 - 1981)
"Laganbank" (1978 - 1981)

The East Asiatic time charters (EAC) were to allow the Danish company to evaluate the viability of multipurpose ships for their transPacific liner service. They eventually settled on a container/multipurpose type of ship with larger deadweight but it proved no competition to the full container ships introducted by other carriers on the same run.

But parallel with these new buildings entering the fleet, there was a sharp selling off of older units. If fact, no fewer ships than 60 shiips were sold for further trading between 1970 and 1981 comprising six units of the "Beaverbank" Class (Copra Boats), 16 out of the original 17 Harland 12000 tonners (The 17th: "Levernbank" was wrecked on the WCSA in 1974), 19 out of 21 "Firbank" Class from Doxford (the "Trentbank" and "Lindenbank" were casualties in respectively 1964 and 1975), the two Swan Hunter tweendeckers, the six Doxford and the five Harland 15000 tonners of the "Taybank" and "Hazelbank" Classes and no fewer than six of the new Doxford "Fleetbank" Class that had a very short life within the Bank Line fleet.

The disposal schedule was:

1970: "Beaverbank" and "Fleetbank" (Harland Copra Boats); "Cloverbank" (Harland 12000 dwt); "Birchbank" (Doxford 12000 dwt)
1971: "Streambank" (Doxford 12000 dwt)
1972: "Minchbank" (Harland 12000 dwt);
1973: "Nessbank", "Cedarbank", "Foylebank" and "Laganbank" (Harland Copra Boats); "Crestbank" (Harland 12000 dwt); "Firbank" and "Northbank" (Doxford 12000 dwt)
1974: "Carronbank" and "Garrybank" (Harland 12000 dwt); "Riverbank", "Yewbank" (Doxford 12000 dwt);
1975: "Dartbank" (Harland 12000 dwt); "Teakbank" (Doxford 12000 dwt);
1976: "Rosebank", "Ashbank" and "Pinebank" (Harland 12000 dwt); "Wavebank" (Doxford 12000 dwt);
1977: "Elmbank" (Harland 12000 dwt); "Avonbank" (Harland 12000 dwt);
1978: "Springbank", "Olivebank" (Harland 12000 dwt)"Willowbank", "Larchbank", "Weirbank" and ""Forresbank" (Doxford Copra Boats); "Testbank", "Oakbank" and "Inverbank" (Doxford 12000 dwt); "Speybank" and "Marabank" (Swan Hunter 12000 dwt); "Taybank" (Doxford 15000 dwt)
1979: "Lossiebank", "Roybank" and "Weybank" (Harland 12000 dwt); "Rowanbank", "Hollybank", "Sprucebank" and "Laurelbank" (Doxford 12,000 dwt); "Hazelbank", "Irisbank", "Nairnbank", "Maplebank" and "Gowanbank" (Harland 15000 dwt); "Tweedbank", "Beechbank", "Ernebank" and "Teviotbank" (Doxford 15000 dwt);
1980: No Disposals
1981: "Shirrabank" (Doxford 15000 dwt); "Fleetbank", "Cloverbank", "Birchbank", "Beaverbank", "Nessbank" and "Laganbank" (Doxford 16500 dwt).

Many of the earlier ship units saw careers in Bank Line averaging 16 years but newer ships were disposed of much quicker, the new "Fleetbank" Class starting being sold off after a mere eight years for the "Fleetbank" or only four years for the "Riverbank" and the "Laganbank". All this activity was brought about because the role of the multipurpose ship was changing so rapidly that cellular container ships were now the choice of liner operators and bulk carriers were now the choice of charterers moving tramp cargoes. It might be said that Doxford and Bank Line had extended the concept of the multipurpose ship just a shade beyond their commercial usefulness.

But, as usual, Bank Line had hedged their bets. It was readily recognized in the London office that the historic liner services were disappearing. The Bay of Bengal services had all dried up with the drop in worldwide demand for jute and derivatives and the Oriental African Line was falling victim to containerization or at least to competing multipurpose ships that were faster and more flexible. As a last throw in the Far East - South Africa trade, the original Oriental African Line, an agreement with Ahrenkiel to carry KD automobiles to Port Elizabeth from Japan was struck but succumbed to competition in 1987; a resurrected liner service was tried: the old U.S. East Coast and Gulf service to and from South Africa was relaunched, having last been operated by Bank Line in 1939. This service was ultimately to bring about cooperation with Safmarine which actually renamed a couple of their own ships with Bank Line names and eventually also with Mediterranean Shipping (MSC) as containers inevitably took over.

In the U.S. Gulf, the Australia service was dispatching up to three ships a month and there was a sepearate monthly sailing to New Zealand. The Pacific Islands - Homeward (the Copra Service) was also doing well so it was decided to combine these two strong links into a closed loop and to build a seried of purpose-built ships that would operate within this loop on a UK/Continent - U.S.Gulf - Australia - Papua New Guinea - Pacific Islands - U.S.A. West Coast, Gulf and East Coast - UK/Continent rotation. Henceforth, cargo for Nassau and the U.S. Gulf ports would be solicited in the UK and coffee, cocoa and vegetable oils would be loaded in PNG and the Islands for U.S.A. destinations on inducement.

The new ships, the "Corabank" Class of six units were built at Swan Hunter's in the North East of England. These would be of a short forecastle and a long raised poop configuration. There would be four hatches forward of the accommodation block and one abaft on the raised poop. A mixture of cranes and derricks would service the cargo spaces and there would be two tween decks. Holds 3 and 4 were to be suitable for container carriage as were all hatch tops and hatch squares. No fewer than eleven deeptanks of various sizes were included in the design. These were usable for outward-bound non-flamable oils and chemicals from the Gulf and for vegetable oils (coconut and palm) from the Islands. The main engine would be a Doxford 6-cylinder 2 S.C.S.A. oil engine and the speed, 16.5 knots.

These ships incorporating some mild steel in their construction were conceived by the Bank Line London office under the direction of Captain David Gale who was the Chief Marine Superintendent and were delivered as follows:
"Corabank" (1973)
"Meadowbank" (1973) renamed "Toana Niugini" (1985 - 1987)
"Moraybank" ( 1973) renamed "Toana Papua" (1984 - 1986 and 1987)
"Forthbank" (1973)
"Ivybank" (1974)
"Clydebank" (1974)

At the same time, the Europe-U.S. Gulf leg was recommended for upgrading to a two-way service catering for containers. This was accomplished by chartering-in handy, container-friendly ships as needed to maintain a fortnightly service along with the outbound Bank line ships.

By the time, these new Copra Boats were in service in 1974, the Bank Line fleet was down to ten ships but the remaining "Fleetbank" Class to follow, quickly brought the ship count up to 16. This was adjusted in 1978 with the the delivery of two large capacity ships from Doxford of some 18000 dwt called the "Crestbank" Class. These were somewhat similar to the Doxford 'Standard B' Design and were no doubt offered to Bank Line by the builders at an attractive price as demonstrations of a class of ship that had, so far, found no other buyers.
Truly, by this time, Bank Line were supporting the dying efforts of British shipbuilders to get a foothold in the multipurpose ship sector now dominated by Japan, Korea, Poland and Finland.
Now Bank Line were to be the principal seller of second-hand superior multipurpose British-built ships and of the Doxford engine.

The "Crestbank" Class:
"Crestbank" (1978 - 1986)
"Fenbank" (1978 - 1984)

But as a final tribute to British Shipbuilders, Bank Line now agreed to purchase a newer version of a multipurpose ship designed by British Shipbuilders as Doxford's now were and this turned out to be Bank Line's last hurrah. These ships were the "Fish" Class, ships named after a series of fresh water fish and built in various shipyards in the North East of England. These would also have a deadweight around 18,500 and be powered by a new higher-rated 4-cylinder Doxford 2 S.C.S.A. oil engine. These had what was now the customary five cargo holds and hatches, with four forward of the accommodation and one abaft. What was different from the "Fleetbank" Class but similar to the "Corabank" Class was that the No.5 Hatch was on a raised poop. The cargo gear was the "Velle" system of swinging booms with double gear at hatches two, three and four and single systems at hatches one and five.

The "Fish" Class of six ships was:

"Roachbank" (delivered 1979, sold 1987)
"Pikebank" (1979 - 1987)
"Dacebank" (1979 - 1987)
"Ruddbank" (1879 - 1983)
"Troutbank" (1979 - 1986)
"Tenchbank" (1979 - 1986)

When in Bank Line service these ships were assigned to the U.S.A - South Africa and to the Oriental African services or chartered out to other liner operators. They were quite successful as far as breakbulk cargo was concerned but their very limited container accommodation of 306 teu was to prove totally inadequate. As will be seen from their disposal dates these ships lasted a mere four to eight years.

But there was one more ship to come. This was the "Willowbank", a sister of Shaw Savill's "Dunedin" and a close sister of The Shipping Corporation of New Zealand's "New Zealand Caribbean" These three ships would form the backbone of yet another liner cooperation servicing the U.S. Gulf, Australia and New Zealand, Central America and the Caribbean and would signal Bank Line's fateful if belated recognition of the container age.

Next: Part VII

Alistair Macnab
26th September 2009, 19:41
BANK LINE - The Big Picture
Part VII


By the second-half of the 1970s the Bank Line's 'liner' services were mostly centered on the U.S. Gulf and incorporated regular sailings to and from the UK/Continent and South Africa and, of course, the Gulf - Australia and the Gulf-New Zealand services outwards which were going strong.

Nevertheless, it was decided that the Australia and New Zealand services need to be formed into a 'loop' with a return service to the Gulf. The northbound cargoes of coffee, cocobeans and vegetable oils from the Islands to the USA were not developing as had been hoped and, anyway, their discharing ports were completely scattered, incorporating San Francisco, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York or Halifax (NS) on ships that were then proceding to Europe. There was a lot of extra steaming for not much reward.

It would be better if a return service could originate in Australia and/or New Zealand back to the Gulf and the London office were seeking friendly arrangements with other British shipping interests to help bring this about.

For some time, Shaw Savill had been operating their own Gulf-Australia and New Zealand service using the smaller ship units of their otherwise fast-diminishing fleet. Outward bound from the Gulf, they were not doing particularly well but northbound, they had the support of the New Zealand Dairy and Meat Boards for reefer cargo to Central America and the Caribbean.
This looked like a promising partnership and in 1977 the Bank and Savill Line was formed to be run from London where the two principals were located but with USA representation in Houston.

As mentioned previously, three reefer container ships were ordered for the new service, the "Willowbank" and her sister "Dunedin" from Smiths Dock, Middlesborough designed along the lines of recent Blue Star ships from the same shipyard, and the "New Zealand Caribbean" built in Germany and operated by the Shipping Corporation of New Zealand, which had become a partner in the service. The three ships were to provide a two-way monthly service with additional Bank Line ships filling in as additional southbound sailings to pick up the remaining breakbulk cargo that was still moving.

For the three cellular container ships were to be exclusively for container cargo having been designed on the 20 x 8 x 8 ft. module favored by the antipodean producer boards for the insulated boxes. The boxes were of the 'porthole' type and were served by the ship's reefer machinery via clamp-on connections in their stowed positions within the insulated holds.

This arrangement was well suited for the northbound leg but unsuited for the southbound leg because southbound shippers overwhelmingly preferred the 40 foot container which was 8' 6" high and could only be carried on deck although there was provision made in No.5 hold (abaft the accommodation block) for 40s to be loaded below deck.

Marketing was rendered most difficult by the necessity of encouraging U.S. shippers to use 20 ft. units. What's more, the cargo had to be clean and not compromise the northbound "food grade" reefer cargo with the result that a great many empty 20 footers were carried southbound and very many empty 40 footers were returned to the USA on the northbound leg.

Northbound, the discharging ports were Manzanillo (Mexico), Acajutla (El Salvador), Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Cristobal (Panama Canal), Maracaibo (Venezuela), Willemstad (Curacao), La Guaira (Venezuela), Port of Spain (Trinidad), Bridgetown (Barbados), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Kingston (Jamaica), Vera Cruz (Mexico), New Orleans and Houston (USA),

The three container ships were about 16,300 dwt with 358 reefer slots and 408 dry slots with a speed of 19.0 knots by an H & W, B & W 6K90GF oil engine. Cargo gear consisted of 4 X 35 SWL deck cranes serving all five hatches.

It soon became necessary to add additional ships to the reefer northbound leg as the schedule could not be maintained on a strict 90 day round trip. Accordingly, a couple of existing Bank Line ships were adapted for carriage of insulated reefer containers below decks to assist in the integrity of the service which was fully operational by 1980.

On the UK/Continent service, three container-friendly ships were chartered in. These were:
"Testbank" ex- "Charlotta" (1979 - 1981)
"Tielbank" ex- "Caroline" (1979 - 1981)
"Tynebank" ex- "Sandra Wesch (1979 - 1980)
These three ships offered a fortnightly container round trip service between the Continent/UK and the U.S. Gulf with an added call at Nassau, Bahamas outwards, a port that had been dropped by Royal Mail Line.

On the South African service, Bank Line placed some of the units of the "Fish " Class to run monthly calling at the Gulf and East Coast. They had recently chartered in then purchased the "Olivebank" (ex-"Nara" of Chargeur Reunis) to augment this service but it was soon found prudent to come to a business arrangement with Safmarine and form a joint service called SafBank Line. An increased frequency of sailings was necessary to combat Mediterranean Shipping Company's (MSC) container service.

But all this effort proved to be too little too late and one by one these service initiatives were to fold.

First to go was the Bank Line Transatlantic Service. To continue the service the ship charters had to be renewed and the new higher rates could not be supported by the revenue generated. Next the SafBank Line went full container, Bank Line dropped out and Safmarine joined up with MSC off the East Coast only. Safmarine (later its parent Maersk) would eventually mount a breakbulk service out of the Gulf to West Africa. But the Bank and Savill Line didn't survive either. The Caribbean and Gulf ports were abandoned and the west coast ports of the USA and Central America were selected for a joint operation with Australia New Zealand Direct Line (ANZDL). The U.S. Gulf had for many years been a steady revenue earner for Bank Line but by 1984 all was gone.

Meantime, the Bank Line's Westbound Round-the-World service was augmented, first by a joint service arrangement with Columbus Line, then by the purchase of four second-hand Finnish-built, ice-strengthened breakbulk/container ships in 1995. These were:

"Foylebank" ex-"Tiksi"
"Speybank" ex-"Okha"
"Arunbank" ex- "Vuosaari"
"Teignbank" ex- Nikel"

Once these four ships were fitted with bulbous bows and cargo deeptanks were installed for coconut/palm oils they were introduced into the the SoPac Service which eventually relieved the "Corabank" Class. The "Clydebank" and the "Forthbank" in 1996 were for a time employed on a Bank-Ellerman Service Between South Africa and the Arabian Gulf, Pakistan and India but this breakbulk/container service did not prosper and was abandoned.

All four of this "Tiksi" Class were renamed on being taken over by Swire Shipping in 2006. Ownership of each ship was in a one ship company managed by Andrew Weir Shipping but commercially operated by Swire.
New names were:

"Gazellebank" ex- "Foylebank"
"Mahinabank" ex- "Speybank"
"Tikeibank" ex- "Arunbank"
"Boularibank" ex- "Teignbank"

The service was discontinued in the Spring of 2009 and it was expected that the ships would be sold for scrapping.

Bank Line had always been a shipping company that was operated differently from conventional British shipping practice. An operating philosophy of managing a large fleet of similar ships suitable for tramping and liner voyages was unique to the company and it had fared well throughout the 20th Century with this philosophy. The first Lord Inverforth was a very aggressive and successful entrepreneur and many of his business ventures provided good connections for his shipping company. Over the years, friendly relations had been forged with many of the world's leading businessmen who controlled prime commodities in many parts of the world- oil, foodgrains, fertilizer. All these links merged into liner services whenever possible and multipurpose tweendeckers were quite suitable to sustain regular cross services between overseas countries. Bank Line were not averse to joining Shipping Conferences when the opportunity arose but they were not aggressive members and usually were content with recognition by the other members and a token presence. Its interesting to note that they usually signed onto a Conference as Andrew Weir and when the members voted it was alphabetically with Weir usually casting the deciding vote!

But the prospect of substantially enhancing a family fortune from ocean shipping was waning and respected money managers were pointing out more lucrative investments to their clients. Anyway, container shipping involved a huge investment of capital and the entrepreneur and buccaneer spirit of the first Lord Inverforth was no longer around.

Nevertheless, Bank Line has left its mark in the annals of British shipping. Its quite true that they were not ready to accept containerization. In fact, when being invited to join the ACT container consortium, Lord Inverforth was heard to remark that there was nothing in the proposition for Bank Line. "They just want our money!" In the end, a tepid recognition of containerization was not enough and the fourth Lord Inverforth (another Andrew Weir, son of Roy Weir) was titular head of the family when the doors finally closed on Bank Line. Today, Andrew Weir Shipping (AWS) is a ship management business.

It also must be recognized that Bank Line had supported the British shipbuilding and engine-building industries through thick and thin, often to financial advantage of the Line but nevertheless to the sustainability of what was a key industrial sector in its day. Today, there is something of a resurrection of multipurpose cargo liners of a fresh and exciting configuration, not to be built in Britain it seems and far too late for Bank Line as it sinks into history.

Truly, the sheer excitement and enterprise that was the hallmark of service in the Bank Line lives on in the memories of those who were part of the company. The Bank Line story is, in fact, the full British Merchant Navy story compressed into one company, predominantly over one century. Many young men went off to sea dreaming of ascending the ranks to Chief Engineer or to Master and fulfilled their dream in Andrew Weir's Bank Line.

In time, the stories of poor food, unreliable white crews, bilge diving, hectoring Mates and imperious Masters fade away and the rememberances of balmy sunsets over beautiful tropical paradises, the lessons learned never to be forgotten and the interesting people encountered afloat and ashore remain as lives well lived.


Copyright (C) RVW Productions LLC 2009

iain48
26th September 2009, 20:20
Alistair, a thoroughly good history of the Bank Line and its ships. Thank you for all the work put into this project. I did not spend long with the company but on reflection spent some of my best times and met some great shipmates.

Iain

johnb42
27th September 2009, 01:27
Great work, Alistair. A truly enjoyable read. I now view my time with the Bank Line somewhat differently and feel even more pleased that it happened.

Alan Rawlinson
27th September 2009, 08:42
Alistair,

A fascinating and important account which adds perspective to the time spent in the Bankline. As always, history puts things firmly into place.

The bigger subject of '' How Bankline missed the container revolution '' should perhaps be '' How Bankline tried to ignore the container revolution ''. Looking back a bit, it is never too late to change, just look at Microsoft and the internet, which Bill Gates tried to ignore!

Alistair Macnab
28th September 2009, 16:31
Addenda......to Part VII

Having revised my original script to reflect all the latest information from my SN friends, I see I have forgotten to include the disposition of the "Corabank" Class. Here is this information now:

"Corabank" was the first to go in 1984. Sold for further trading and broken up at Alang in 1993.
"Meadowbank" also had a comparatively short Bank Line career, being sold out of the fleet in 1988 and broken up in China in 2000.
"Moraybank" lasted in the fleet also until 1998 and went straight to the breakers yard at Alang.
"Forthbank" and "Clydebank" operated on the South African-Arabian Sea service as Bank-Ellerman Line. The "Clydebank" went to the breakers yard at Alang in 2000 whilst the "Forthbank" became the longest serving ship of her class in Bank Line by being sold to Chittagong shipbreakers in 2002.
"Ivybank" on the other hand, was the lone survivor of the class, having been sold out of the fleet in 1998 and not broken up until 2003 in China.

I also have to gratefully acknowledge the privately-published "Seventy Adventurous Years" (1955); "Bank Line 1885-1985" by H.S. Appleyard (1985); the "Ships Nostalgia" database and the memories and recollections of ex-Bank Line SN members together with the valuable photograph records in private collectors' hands.
Thank you all!

(C) RVW Productions LLC. 2009

chadburn
28th September 2009, 17:11
I think most British companies "ignored" the Container revolution barring for Manchester Liners who were embracing it very quickly by building new vessels that were container "friendly", on the alongside slip another Company would be sticking with the traditional build of cargo ship. Which like Bank Line vessels had very short lifespans in British hands.

John Dryden
30th September 2009, 23:18
Really enjoyed your Bank Line up-date,sort of knew it but good to see it so eloquently written,how you find the time I don,t know but I will be posting stuff one way or the other and asking a few questions and hopefully having a good dose of nostalgia in the Bank Line forum.
Yours nostalgially JD.

simomatra
3rd October 2009, 19:52
Alistair, what a terrific account you have done much appreciated you have filled in a lots of history I was unaware of.(Applause) (Applause) (Applause)

John Campbell
3rd October 2009, 21:39
Many thanks Alistair for such a fine account of Bank Line -although I spent but seven years out of my 27 years at sea with Bank Line I still say that those years seem the best.
I forever remain indebted to Andrew Weirs for starting me off on a great life adventure.

Alistair Macnab
4th October 2009, 19:14
Addenda II

The "Willowbank" (1980) was sold out of the fleet in 1988 and was finally scrapped in 2009. During 2003 under other owners, she had a disasterous fire off Durban but was subsequently repaired and sailed on for another five years as an ungeared container ship, the deck cranes having been removed during reconstruction.

I can always count of SN friends to keep me right!

(c) RVW Peroductions LLC 2009

Alan Rawlinson
24th October 2009, 15:28
Have just had a read through of Alistair's careful chronology and summary of the Bankline death throes....

Just wanted to add that in 1998 my son Guy, found a job in the fleet management in AWS ( Andrew Weir Shipping). By then the office was located not at Bury St but in the old Royal Mint building at Tower Hill, and I visited a couple of times. The ship models, ( SOUTHBANK, was over his desk) were still there, but I got the impression that shipping was very much a poor relation to the trading desks which were in pole position. The fleet consisted of some 15 ships, 9 of which had Bankline suffixes. The atmosphere was like a rearguard action, but some long serving Bankline sea staff with interesting cv's were still working there.

pete l
24th October 2009, 20:15
Hi Alistair
Just read your interesting account of the Bankline and what happened to it after i had left. It must have taken many hours of searching to put it altogether,thanks a lot
Pete l

Donald McGhee
26th October 2009, 02:13
Hi Alistair,

What a great history; you have given a great deal of information regarding what happened to which ship and when!
Many thanks for your time and effort, which is greatly appreciated by one who spent some never to be forgotten times with this famous company.(Pint)

Alan Rawlinson
8th November 2009, 10:14
BANK LINE - THE BIG PICTURE, Part V

At the end of WW2 the first Lord Inverforth (the original Andrew Weir) was in his 80s and his son, Morton Weir, was active in day-to-day business although his father still came to the office in Bury Street and his two sons, Roy and Vincent were also in the family business. Many of the pre-war activities had been curtailed or eliminated and as far as Bank Line was concerned, Calcutta still remained as the most important centre for employment of the fleet. The U.S. Gulf-centered trade to Australia and New Zealand was growing in significance and, of course, the long established Pacific Islands -Europe service was again getting back on its feet after the Pacific war.

The partition of Bengal into India and East Pakistan entailed separate marketing of the company's services to East and South Africa, the River Plate and the West Coast of South America. Manufactured jute products mainly came from the Indian side through Calcutta whilst raw jute was the principal export from the East Pakistan ports of Chittagong and the new port for Khulna, called Chalna which was essentially a mid-river anchorage served by barges.

Durban was also an important centre for Bank Line as the Oriental African Line resumed service with Japan becoming increasingly important as it recovered from the effects of the war and China less so as the political circumstances in that country interfered with commerce. Politics, too, entered into the India - South African trade when India officially withdrew from trading with South Africa over the issue of apartheid and a similar situation was to develop over India-Rhodesias trade with Ian Smith's Unilateral Declaration of Independence and general trade embargo with his regime. Nevertheless, there were always commercial ways of overcoming such impediments to trade and the Bank Line's Indian-African Line, Indian-Natal Line, Pakistan-African Line and Pakistan-Natal Line operated successfully within the existing political restraints.

Over in the U.S. Gulf, Bank Line's service to Australia and New Zealand grew steadily. Bank Line were members of the USA-Australasia Conference but were limited by the other members to the Gulf ports as they confined their operation to the U.S. East Coast. This was somewhat similar to Bank Line's membership in the Calcutta Conference where the other members took all the "home" cargoes but allowed Bank Line to operate exclusively on the lesser and "cross trades" services to East and South Africa, the River Plate and to the West Coast of South America. These were examples of the hold British shipping companies had on world commerce even after WW2 with the Calcutta Lines including latterly, Clan, Hall, Harrison, Brocklebank and BI inheriting and operating the world's oldest ocean shipping cartel.

But Bank Line were also interested in tramping and it could be argued that at any one time, the split between liner services and tramp operations was about half-and-half. Tramping operations were very much conducted with a group of world-wide cargo interests with which Lord Inverforth had built up a close relationship. These included the British Phosphate Commissioners (Nauru, Ocean Island and Makatea), Bunge y Baun (Argentina grain cargoes) and Chilean Nitrate Interests. Not for nothing was Weir's office next door to the Baltic Exchange in London where cargo and ship trading were closely watched and monitored by Bank Line through their brokers, Chadwick Weir & Co.

But a fleet of 48 generally similar ships had to be operated profitably and the Bank Line boast was still that they could place an empty, recently-built Bank Boat for any charterer at 14-day's notice in full readiness to load. The belief that a multipurpose-type ship could still trade profitably still predominated in the head office in London even after Andrew Weir (the first Lord Inverforth) died in 1955. Chartering out to other liner operators which were not renewing their conventional fleet was also good business.

The liner services too, benefited from a uniformity of ship layout, equipment and performance. Some of the liner trades would diminish over these post-war years whilst others would grow and it was vitally important that the chartering and ship operations departments in London could maintain flexibility with the ready ability to switch any individual ship unit from liner to tramp operations and from a Calcutta base to a New Orleans base with the minimum of notice.

One notable development was the establishment in 1961 of an outwards from the UK/Continent monthly liner service to Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the western Pacific French dependancies. This was the Bank Line's first incursion into a "home-based" outwards liner service after half a century of operations!
This was the genesis of the eventual SoPac Service and the Round-the World Westbound service albeit in the opposite direction.

But the so-called handy-size ship was changing. a deadweight of 12,000 tonnes was no longer the preferred size. With the development of gearless dry bulk ships, a growing preference for general-purpose ships to be 15,000 dwt had become the norm, so Bank Line embarked on a series of newbuildings with this capacity to eventually replace the smaller ships or at least to supplement the chartering department's ability to deliver what charterers wanted: 25% greater cargo deadweight at the going charter price.

Accordingly, in 1963 at Doxford's and 1964 at Harland's, series of 15,000 dts tween deckers were commenced. These would be the "Taybank" Class from Doxford's and the "Hazelbank" Class from Harland's. These geared ships would operate in the smaller bulk cargo tramp market with the ability to service the secondary bulk loading and discharging ports where water depths and cargo-handling-facilities had still not been adapted for the very large dry bulkers beginning to dominate the tramp markets. They would also do very well for the liner trades, Bank Line's and those of other liner operators looking for additional ships to maintain advertised schedules which were becomming necessary to match the demands of cargo shippers.

The building program was:
1963: "Taybank" (Doxford)
1964: "Tweedbank" (Doxford); "Hazelbank" and "Irisbank" (Harland's)
1965: "Beechbank" and "Ernebank" (Doxford)
1966: "Shirrabank" (Doxford); "Nairnbank" (Harland's)
1967: "Teviotbank" (Doxford); "Maplebank" (Harland's)
1968: "Gowanbank" (Harland's)

This represented six ships from Sunderland and five from Belfast. The physical differences between the two classes were that the Doxford ships were much more 'streamlined' when compared with the more traditional Belfast shape.
Topmasts had gone to be replaced by a signal mast immediately forward of or mounted on the leading side of the funnel. Doxford ships had an elongated funnel often accommodating the radio room whilst the Harland & Wolff ships were content with a smaller sized funnel. All ships were of the raised forecastle hull type with three hatches forward of and two hatches abaft the amidships accommodation block with deck and engine room crew located aft at tween deck level. All ships had their builders' latest 4-cyl (Doxford) or 6-cyl (Harland's) 2 S.C.S.A. oil engines giving 15 knots except in the case of the Doxford ""Shirrabank" and "Teviotbank" which were given 6-cyl versions of the builder's engine which made these two ships capable of maintaining a service speed of 16.5 knots.

Apart from the loss of the "Trentbank" by collision in the East Mediterranean in 1964, and the sales of the "Eastbank" and "Westbank" in 1965 for further trading, the fleet had now increased to 57 units because the "Beaverbank" Class (1953 - 1955) of Copra Boat still continued to operate and would do so until 1970 - 1973 when they would also be disposed of for further trading.

It would be 1973 before the next building splurge would take place and this would prove to be extraordinary in Bank Line terms as it would include the design and building of trade-specific ships, the shifting of accommodation blocks to the three-quarters aft position and even a cellular container ship.

Next: Part VI

Attached is a nice pic taken in the English Channel of the fully loaded TEVIOTBANK mentioned above.

tonyhalsall
4th February 2010, 14:43
Fantastic account Alistair. I had only five years with Bank Line 1977 to 1982 as a Deck cadet and one solitary trip as Third Mate. I spent a few of those trips on the Corabank Class and was also on the laganbank when it was sold in Durban circa 1981.
The writing was on the wall even in the late 1970's but we had a great time, travelled the world and would not have missed the experience for anything.
I rarely reminiss being "at sea" but I have great memories from many different countries thanks to The Bank Line.

david harrod
10th February 2010, 07:23
Have just had a read through of Alistair's careful chronology and summary of the Bankline death throes....

Just wanted to add that in 1998 my son Guy, found a job in the fleet management in AWS ( Andrew Weir Shipping). By then the office was located not at Bury St but in the old Royal Mint building at Tower Hill, and I visited a couple of times. The ship models, ( SOUTHBANK, was over his desk) were still there, but I got the impression that shipping was very much a poor relation to the trading desks which were in pole position. The fleet consisted of some 15 ships, 9 of which had Bankline suffixes. The atmosphere was like a rearguard action, but some long serving Bankline sea staff with interesting cv's were still working there.
Just been reading this thread after a long time away; I too visited the Tower Hill offices (in 2002) and had a surreal time talking to staff there about the models, many of which were ships I had sailed on...I was made to feel like a dinosaur; the staff couldn't believe that there were people still alive with memories of these ships...ah welll...cheers

Rob.L
3rd March 2010, 06:56
Addenda II

The "Willowbank" (1980) was sold out of the fleet in 1988 and was finally scrapped in 2009. During 2003 under other owners, she had a disasterous fire off Durban but was subsequently repaired and sailed on for another five years as an ungeared container ship, the deck cranes having been removed during reconstruction.

I can always count of SN friends to keep me right!

(c) RVW Peroductions LLC 2009
Hi Alistair. Fantastic piece of work. After serving my apprenticeship with Bank Line (55) I left the sea. Until 5 or 6years ago when my eldest grandson asked me what I did when I left school that I became interested in the old company again. I now have a very good account of what has transpired in all those years. Thanks Alistair.

lagerstedt
5th March 2010, 08:10
Hi Alistair
Some additional information for you. However you may already know this and have not published for what ever reason.

MV CEDARBANK [1940]
Sunday,21 April 1940

Convoy AP.1 of small steamers ST SUNNIVA [1368grt] and ST MAGNAS [1312grt] departed Aberdeen at 0430\19th April 1940 escorted by Destroyers HESPERUS and JACKAL, which departed Scapa Flow at 1400/18th April 1940 dor Aberdeen. They were joined at sea by the CEDARBANK [5159grt] escorted by Destroyer JAVELIN which departed Scapa Flow at 1000\19th April 1940.
At that time HESPERUS was detached and returned to Scapa Flow. The convoy arrived at Aalesund early on the 21st and completed unloading by 0500. Anti-Aircraft Destroyer CURACOA joined for anti aircraft support on the 21st.
At 0427 on the 21st JACKAL attached a submarine contact. However at 0635, before CEDARBANK [5159grt] could disemback her cargo, which included anti aircraft guns for area defence, artillery, mortars, transport and bren carriers for the troops of 148th infantary brigade, she was sunk by U26 in 62-49N 04-10E [ The location was given in the Home Fleet Destroyers War Diary as 62-54N 04-39W. Her crew of 14 plus 1 gunner were lost. Escorting destoyers JACKAL and JAVELIN were unable to inflict damage on U26 which was returning from delivering supplies to Trondheim. ST MAGNUS and ST SUNNIVA arrived saftely at Aadalsnes that evening with troops.

As yet I have not cross checked the dairies of U26.

My sourse for the information is from RN Day by Day 1940 and Naval Events and credits go to them who allow publication if credits go to them.

Regards
Blair
Central Hawkes Bay
NZ

Joe C
5th March 2010, 09:17
Hi Alistair
Some additional information for you. However you may already know this and have not published for what ever reason.

MV CEDARBANK [1940]
Sunday,21 April 1940

Convoy AP.1 of small steamers ST SUNNIVA [1368grt] and ST MAGNAS [1312grt] departed Aberdeen at 0430\19th April 1940 escorted by Destroyers HESPERUS and JACKAL, which departed Scapa Flow at 1400/18th April 1940 dor Aberdeen. They were joined at sea by the CEDARBANK [5159grt] escorted by Destroyer JAVELIN which departed Scapa Flow at 1000\19th April 1940.
At that time HESPERUS was detached and returned to Scapa Flow. The convoy arrived at Aalesund early on the 21st and completed unloading by 0500. Anti-Aircraft Destroyer CURACOA joined for anti aircraft support on the 21st.
At 0427 on the 21st JACKAL attached a submarine contact. However at 0635, before CEDARBANK [5159grt] could disemback her cargo, which included anti aircraft guns for area defence, artillery, mortars, transport and bren carriers for the troops of 148th infantary brigade, she was sunk by U26 in 62-49N 04-10E [ The location was given in the Home Fleet Destroyers War Diary as 62-54N 04-39W. Her crew of 14 plus 1 gunner were lost. Escorting destoyers JACKAL and JAVELIN were unable to inflict damage on U26 which was returning from delivering supplies to Trondheim. ST MAGNUS and ST SUNNIVA arrived saftely at Aadalsnes that evening with troops.

As yet I have not cross checked the dairies of U26.

My sourse for the information is from RN Day by Day 1940 and Naval Events and credits go to them who allow publication if credits go to them.

Regards
Blair
Central Hawkes Bay
NZ

I believe the St Sunniva disappeared overnight while on the Atlantic convoys .She was a beautiful yacht-like ship built for the Orkney and Shetland/Aberdeen mail boat service.

Rob.L
8th March 2010, 02:10
Hi Alistair
Some additional information for you. However you may already know this and have not published for what ever reason.

MV CEDARBANK [1940]
Sunday,21 April 1940

Convoy AP.1 of small steamers ST SUNNIVA [1368grt] and ST MAGNAS [1312grt] departed Aberdeen at 0430\19th April 1940 escorted by Destroyers HESPERUS and JACKAL, which departed Scapa Flow at 1400/18th April 1940 dor Aberdeen. They were joined at sea by the CEDARBANK [5159grt] escorted by Destroyer JAVELIN which departed Scapa Flow at 1000\19th April 1940.
At that time HESPERUS was detached and returned to Scapa Flow. The convoy arrived at Aalesund early on the 21st and completed unloading by 0500. Anti-Aircraft Destroyer CURACOA joined for anti aircraft support on the 21st.
At 0427 on the 21st JACKAL attached a submarine contact. However at 0635, before CEDARBANK [5159grt] could disemback her cargo, which included anti aircraft guns for area defence, artillery, mortars, transport and bren carriers for the troops of 148th infantary brigade, she was sunk by U26 in 62-49N 04-10E [ The location was given in the Home Fleet Destroyers War Diary as 62-54N 04-39W. Her crew of 14 plus 1 gunner were lost. Escorting destoyers JACKAL and JAVELIN were unable to inflict damage on U26 which was returning from delivering supplies to Trondheim. ST MAGNUS and ST SUNNIVA arrived saftely at Aadalsnes that evening with troops.

As yet I have not cross checked the dairies of U26.

My sourse for the information is from RN Day by Day 1940 and Naval Events and credits go to them who allow publication if credits go to them.

Regards
Blair
Central Hawkes Bay
NZ

Information in u-boat.net re U-26 sinking of Cedarbank.
Sunk 62.49N, 04.10E 21-04-1940.
14 crew members and one gunner were lost. The master William James Calderwood and 29 crew members were picked up by HMS Javelin.

Rob.L

lagerstedt
9th March 2010, 05:39
Thanks for the correction Rob. When I read the figures I throught they were a bit light for steamships of 5000 tonnes.

Regards
Blair
Central Hawkes Bay
NZ

Alan Rawlinson
9th March 2010, 08:03
Information in u-boat.net re U-26 sinking of Cedarbank.
Sunk 62.49N, 04.10E 21-04-1940.
14 crew members and one gunner were lost. The master William James Calderwood and 29 crew members were picked up by HMS Javelin.

Rob.L

U26 was lost to depth charges dropped from a Sunderland flying boat some 9 weeks later, near Bishop's Rock. The Captain was Heinz Sheringer and he and the crew survived. ( from my U boat reference book - U-Boats destroyed - by Paul Kemp)

Hey Guys, we're getting a long way from the ' container revolution ' !

lagerstedt
13th March 2010, 22:28
Hi Allen
All I was doing was adding to the info on one of the Bank vessels in Al's notes.

Regards
Blair
Central Hawkes Bay
NZ

Johnnietwocoats
14th March 2010, 04:25
U26 was lost to depth charges dropped from a Sunderland flying boat some 9 weeks later, near Bishop's Rock. The Captain was Heinz Sheringer and he and the crew survived. ( from my U boat reference book - U-Boats destroyed - by Paul Kemp)

Hey Guys, we're getting a long way from the ' container revolution ' !

Alan...I know we are getting off Thread but do you have any info regarding German Bombers and Bombing Coastal Shipping during the War...TC

Alan Rawlinson
14th March 2010, 08:46
Alan...I know we are getting off Thread but do you have any info regarding German Bombers and Bombing Coastal Shipping during the War...TC


Hi JTC,

Only general books about the bombers of all sides. The book I mention - ' U boats lost' by P Kemp is a good one for reference, and I originally purchased it to find out what happened to all the U boats that sank or damaged Bankline ships throughout WW2. Most of the U boats involved were sunk or damaged soon after, but a couple made it through the whole war. In the book, there is a para or two for each sub , describing the actual engagement.

ozedev
14th March 2010, 10:56
Sunderland that dropped the depth charges was Royal Australian Air Force - Squadron 471 and was based at Poole, Dorset.
The squadron had been formed at Mount Batten, Plymouth - later shifted to Poole and then shifted again to Pembroke until the end of hostilities.
Poole had become too congested for the RAAF due to the BOAC flying boats on the Empire routes.

OZEDEV

Waighty
18th March 2010, 11:06
Well done Alistair for this excellent piece of work. I've learned much here that I could never have found out when with Bank Line (and I was there from 1969 to 1983). I tried on a couple of occasions to get a tour of the Bury Street office with a someone who could let me know the "nitty gritty" of the Weir empire but each time was gently and politely rebuffed.

Alistair Macnab
18th March 2010, 23:05
Guys.....
I've been asked by SN to place the Bank Line articles on SN's Directory which I shall do and at the same time correct all my mistakes and perhaps add one or two operational titbits which I had earlier forgotten. Many thanks to all of you who have recorded your appreciation of my effort. And to those of you who have told me that my record is not as good as others previously published, let me once again state that I did not wish to cover the same ground in the same way as the esteemed other authors, but thought to put the data in perhaps a new way and light that truly reflected the operation of the company as I saw it.
Stand by.......

rabaul
19th March 2010, 17:21
Alistair - this is a magnificent piece of work which will be appreciated for many years to come - very well done

regards

Bill

China hand
19th March 2010, 19:16
Are you going to go into print? I think it would be a smashing addition to the more "dry" works that get put out. All very valuable, but sometimes a bit soporific. Have a talk with Hamish, he might have an idea or two (Playboy Club, NoLa)?
(K)

Alistair Macnab
19th March 2010, 21:56
Methinks China Hand is trying a spot of blackmail by mentioning Hamish's association with the Playboy Club in New Orleans. The club was only used to interview prospective office secretaries or to show visiting firemen that Supers can have fun too!
This recalls the evening visiting a Safmarine ship at St. Andrew's Wharf with two Bank Line Masters from further along the quay. After picking up the Safmarine Old Man, the driver of the Volkswagen Beatle, that redoubtable Hamish, exited smartly in reverse from the dock shed and promptly took a flyer off the shed level and landed the car on its port side on the railway tracks just in front of the oncoming switching train
It says a lot about the size of the VW's occupants that no one was injured despite it being before seatbelts were legal. Four jolly jacks bent on a shoreside jaunt literally filled up the interior of the car, shoulder to shoulder, and had no where to fall to except climb out of the starboard door window opening as the door had jammed.
Nothing for it but to call on the shed labor to lift up the VW and put it back on its wheels whereupon the trip to Bourbon Street continued.....

China hand
20th March 2010, 19:14
Oy vey: so THAT was why the beatle was seen at Piety and Luisa back in those days. Moshe has been informed. Those tracks could be real offspring of unmarried parents, thought Hamish. Methinks. (A)

boatlarnie
22nd March 2010, 10:19
Methinks China Hand is trying a spot of blackmail by mentioning Hamish's association with the Playboy Club in New Orleans. The club was only used to interview prospective office secretaries or to show visiting firemen that Supers can have fun too!
This recalls the evening visiting a Safmarine ship at St. Andrew's Wharf with two Bank Line Masters from further along the quay. After picking up the Safmarine Old Man, the driver of the Volkswagen Beatle, that redoubtable Hamish, exited smartly in reverse from the dock shed and promptly took a flyer off the shed level and landed the car on its port side on the railway tracks just in front of the oncoming switching train
It says a lot about the size of the VW's occupants that no one was injured despite it being before seatbelts were legal. Four jolly jacks bent on a shoreside jaunt literally filled up the interior of the car, shoulder to shoulder, and had no where to fall to except climb out of the starboard door window opening as the door had jammed.
Nothing for it but to call on the shed labor to lift up the VW and put it back on its wheels whereupon the trip to Bourbon Street continued.....

Hamish, were Safmarine Masters bad luck for you Superintendents in New Orleans?? I remember being in NOLA one evening on a Saf ship, Mike Ward and a couple others picking me up and driving straight off the edge of the warehouse platform which did the car no good at all. I think the drop was only a couple feet but I got the blame for encouraging him to keep on driving when he wanted to stop!!

spenboy70
1st April 2010, 20:09
Hi Alastair - now I know why I haven't heard from you for some time !! Well done on all the research - it triggered a number of memories both from the seagoing side and the "office" side - we had fun didn't we !!
All the best
Spen

RayL
11th April 2010, 15:35
Thanks from me too, Alistair. How nice it is to have the whole story, and so well written too. Congratulations.

Joe C
9th May 2010, 10:55
A documentary worth watching tonight (May 9th) on BBC 4 at 9pm.
"The Box That Changed Britain"how shipping containers ushered in an era of globalisation.

John Dryden
9th May 2010, 20:20
Should be a good watch indeed,narrated by Liverpool poet Roger McGough and told through the eyes of dockers,seafarers and shipspotters according to the BBC.

chadburn
10th May 2010, 11:59
There is some really good programmes on BBC 4 at the moment for former Seafarer's both MN, RN and the Fishermen, last night included a programme on the "Cod War's".

Alistair Macnab
15th May 2010, 21:03
Look in the SN Directory for the updated version of this site together with photographs of ships etc. There are seven chapters of which the first two are already on the directory. New ones weekly to finish. Fred Henderson of SN has very kindly helped me to make this effort possible and the finished material should make a good reference for all ex-Bank Line members and anyone else interested in this unique company. As usual corrections will be gratefully received in order to memorialize the true facts. We might even contemplate a few aprcryphal yarns from all the stories that have been submitted to SN!

John Dryden
15th May 2010, 21:37
Great stuff,Alistair, it will be good when it,s all in the one place in the directory.It is much appreciated the work you have done and the work you and Fred are doing now.I know it,s a labour of love but nevertheless still a labour and all takes up your time.
JD.

royaloak
30th August 2011, 19:47
Thank you for this extremely interesting history. I sailed on the MV Garrybank for 15 months in 1967-68 on what was called, if I remember correctly, "The Africa Orient Express" service. I was the Radio Officer (her callsign was GWQS) . Without doubt the best 15 months of my life! I was sad to read that the Bank Line is no more, but so many great memories. I recently bought a slide scanner and came across this old slide from that time. Cheers to all, Robin

bones140
30th September 2011, 09:24
Addenda......to Part VII

Having revised my original script to reflect all the latest information from my SN friends, I see I have forgotten to include the disposition of the "Corabank" Class. Here is this information now:

"Corabank" was the first to go in 1984. Sold for further trading and broken up at Alang in 1993.
"Meadowbank" also had a comparatively short Bank Line career, being sold out of the fleet in 1988 and broken up in China in 2000.
"Moraybank" lasted in the fleet also until 1998 and went straight to the breakers yard at Alang.
"Forthbank" and "Clydebank" operated on the South African-Arabian Sea service as Bank-Ellerman Line. The "Clydebank" went to the breakers yard at Alang in 2000 whilst the "Forthbank" became the longest serving ship of her class in Bank Line by being sold to Chittagong shipbreakers in 2002.
"Ivybank" on the other hand, was the lone survivor of the class, having been sold out of the fleet in 1998 and not broken up until 2003 in China.

I also have to gratefully acknowledge the privately-published "Seventy Adventurous Years" (1955); "Bank Line 1885-1985" by H.S. Appleyard (1985); the "Ships Nostalgia" database and the memories and recollections of ex-Bank Line SN members together with the valuable photograph records in private collectors' hands.
Thank you all!

(C) RVW Productions LLC. 2009

Great Reading Alistair. This postcard has appeared on ebay (#360390849895) as Taybank, built 1977. Its has a bulbous bow but not a converted icebraker type, and there is no cargo hatch aft of the accomodation. I'm not sure where it fits into Bank Line history.

CrazySparks
25th January 2012, 08:47
Wonderfully researched and written history - sincere thanks Alistair. In 1977 I was R/O on the Riverbank, which was a very new ship. Green though I was then (the Riverbank was my first assignment as solo R/O), I very clearly remember some of the deck officers remarking that the ship was of 'old - fashioned design'. I wonder if company management were as aware of this as their officers seemed to be!

Alan Rawlinson
25th January 2012, 12:07
Wonderfully researched and written history - sincere thanks Alistair. In 1977 I was R/O on the Riverbank, which was a very new ship. Green though I was then (the Riverbank was my first assignment as solo R/O), I very clearly remember some of the deck officers remarking that the ship was of 'old - fashioned design'. I wonder if company management were as aware of this as their officers seemed to be!

Interesting comment. Bankline were always regarded as conservative - the issue of having the deck winches on the main deck, instead of up on the mast houses was a forerunner to rapidly changing practices which the Board fatally failed to acknowledge.

The half hearted attempt to embrace containerisation on the cheap spelt the death knell.

Alistair Macnab
25th January 2012, 17:00
I don't dispute that all new Bank Boats were somewhat behind in the ship-design department or wanted to slip into the container revolution 'on the cheap' but let's look at where they were coming from:

For years they had supported British ship and engine builders, Harlands at first and latterly exclusively Doxfords. This was one of the few political assets that Weir's had in Britain. After all, they were practically invisible as far as ship call at British ports were concerned and it was only on account of fleet size and British-built that they were of any political account at all. Notice that in this same time frame, UBC and Macandrews had advanced design short-sea liners built with all the latest features including masthouse mounted deck winches, cranes, steel hatch covers, stainless steel deeptanks and ro-ro capabilities AND built in non-British yards. Same owners; different policies!

No, I think the Bank Line tradition and operational pattern had been designed and instituted by the first Lord Inverforth and his loyal and faithful executives and was firmly entrenched, unique and pre-eminent in that market sector between liner and tramp trading and had become fossilized in that area. As an example: it should be noted that the last Bank Line Chief Marine Superintendent, Captain Brian Rodgers, was cut in the same pattern as earlier Chief Marine Superintendents but was expected to superintend decline rather than growth as his earlier forebears and although he represented the same personal family connection with the Weirs that was traditional in the company, but by the end-time, the Weir family were not as fully engaged in the running of the company as formerly, that having been devolved to a financial-control cadre.

As for entering the container era 'on the cheap' I rather put this down to 'keeping closure at bay' until all the loose ends like the disposal of UBC, Macandrews and the SoPac and South African based services had been settled. Even Bank and Savill had to be terminated with a face-saving migration to the West Coast of the USA suggested by the other partners.

Finally, it must be recognised that Bank Line were not only alone in abandoning general purpose ships but were merely the LAST major British operator to do so. The loose informal association of British shipowners had all decided to abandon cargo liner services and embrace container shipping by forming OCL (the 'big shot' public companies) and ACT (the privately owned ship operators). Lord Inverforth had said 'no' to ACT membership and had to live with that decision. (It was the correct decision as ACT are now gone!). But this found Bank Line very isolated and without the fortitude to go it alone against what seemed to be the inexorable tide of containerization.

Duncan112
25th January 2012, 18:11
but by the end-time, the Weir family were not as fully engaged in the running of the company as formerly, that having been devolved to a financial-control cadre.



I believe that one of the root causes of this was the untimely death of the Second Lord Inverforth which left something of a vacuum which was filled by the Honourable Vincent Weir who's heart was not really in shipping and by the time the Third Lord achieved control the damage had started, he too passed at an early age allowqing the bean counters full range.

Alan Rawlinson
26th January 2012, 07:52
I don't dispute that all new Bank Boats were somewhat behind in the ship-design department or wanted to slip into the container revolution 'on the cheap' but let's look at where they were coming from:

For years they had supported British ship and engine builders, Harlands at first and latterly exclusively Doxfords. This was one of the few political assets that Weir's had in Britain. After all, they were practically invisible as far as ship call at British ports were concerned and it was only on account of fleet size and British-built that they were of any political account at all. Notice that in this same time frame, UBC and Macandrews had advanced design short-sea liners built with all the latest features including masthouse mounted deck winches, cranes, steel hatch covers, stainless steel deeptanks and ro-ro capabilities AND built in non-British yards. Same owners; different policies!

No, I think the Bank Line tradition and operational pattern had been designed and instituted by the first Lord Inverforth and his loyal and faithful executives and was firmly entrenched, unique and pre-eminent in that market sector between liner and tramp trading and had become fossilized in that area. As an example: it should be noted that the last Bank Line Chief Marine Superintendent, Captain Brian Rodgers, was cut in the same pattern as earlier Chief Marine Superintendents but was expected to superintend decline rather than growth as his earlier forebears and although he represented the same personal family connection with the Weirs that was traditional in the company, but by the end-time, the Weir family were not as fully engaged in the running of the company as formerly, that having been devolved to a financial-control cadre.

As for entering the container era 'on the cheap' I rather put this down to 'keeping closure at bay' until all the loose ends like the disposal of UBC, Macandrews and the SoPac and South African based services had been settled. Even Bank and Savill had to be terminated with a face-saving migration to the West Coast of the USA suggested by the other partners.

Finally, it must be recognised that Bank Line were not only alone in abandoning general purpose ships but were merely the LAST major British operator to do so. The loose informal association of British shipowners had all decided to abandon cargo liner services and embrace container shipping by forming OCL (the 'big shot' public companies) and ACT (the privately owned ship operators). Lord Inverforth had said 'no' to ACT membership and had to live with that decision. (It was the correct decision as ACT are now gone!). But this found Bank Line very isolated and without the fortitude to go it alone against what seemed to be the inexorable tide of containerization.

This feels like an accurate summary of events. Can't help thinking of the inevitability of what came about - at least the Bankline demise was a reasonably dignified end! And didn't we all have fun!

After Bankline, I got involved in a minor way in the absulutely HUGE West African trade by Elder Dempster and their conference partners. ( 19 sailings a month from the UK alone) They disappeared spectacularly, a bit like the tragic space shuttle 'Colombia'.