"DRIFT" Cargo

24th May 2011, 20:40
Does anyone remember the term "drift" being used, particularly in NW European ports for cargo that had been loaded previously but then had to be landed in order to load cargo, on completion of which the original cargo would be reloaded? It seemed to be used a lot with vehicles. The need for damage survey each time was laborious too.

What was the origin of the word "drift"?

John Dryden
29th May 2011, 21:44
Could have been duty avoidance or at worst stolen vehicles!
Maybe just me being suspicious but another cargo was ''personal effects'',could have been anything stowed in the tween decks.

29th May 2011, 22:10
John, I think we can all remember those crates of P.E. that we carried from port to port. However do you also remember that occasionally we would pick up the SAME packages for return to the same port they were loaded at in the first place. Very odd that however it all went to pay our wages I suppose.....pete

John Dryden
29th May 2011, 22:53
Indeed, I do remember crates turning up after they should have been discharged and thinking why they were still a'board,I guess they reached the destination though,knowing Bank Line.

Alistair Macnab
30th May 2011, 16:08
This is somewhat along the same lines as prvious contributions to this thread. I was second mate on the "Carronbank" and we were the third ship to load in Europe on the New Guinea Direct Service (March 1960). The tween decks were full of general cargo, we had Bank Line reefers on deck which were ex-Booth Line and the lower holds were filled with coking coal for Noumea.
Needless to say, the company were very anxious that we made a good impression when discharging the generals so we tallied in and tallied out each piece. I was allocated to No.6 tweendeck so settling myself down with my note book and pencil, I carefully recorded each piece that was slung up by the New Guinea wharfies and hauled ashore.
All went well as far as Madang but on our way to Rabaul, the Master, Peter Stewart, received an urgent message from Lae to say that one particularly large tractor tire that had been stowed in No.6 tween deck had not been found on the wharf. Was it still on board?

Master hauled me up to enquire about the situation and I swore that I had been extremely careful in tallying all the cargo out and that I couldn't possibly have missed anything so large and noticable as a tractor tire. Well, he said, just for the record, go and see.
So I did and do you know? the tire was as plain as daylight lying flat on the deck just by the forward ladder! How had I missed it? Easy. I had been sitting on it and been careful to note everything that was happening all around me but obviously not looking under my ****!
The bloody tire was landed in Rabaul and I suppose it eventually found its way back to Lae on some other ship as Bank Boats rarely if ever went from Rabaul to Lae!

By the way, one of the reefer boxes on deck broke down and Leckie couldn't fix it so we had Lyons ice cream gateaux for lunch and dinner for the next week until we were sick of them! What was left was stowed in the ship's domestic freezer and delivered break-bulk on arrival in Port Moresby. I never heard how the discrepancy was explained!

ruthven whisker
30th May 2011, 16:27
dear claire,anton,finn&pheebles will contact you later loveriv&pat

30th May 2011, 16:49
judging by the tales presented so far, and no doubt many more similar to unfold i would hazard a guess that the term 'drift' is just the truncated form of 'adrift' as in has anybloodything else gone adrift(Sad)

30th May 2011, 18:03
Looking at the responses it appears that I didn't make myself clear with the original thread starter.

Drift was a term used by stevedores in Germany, Holland and Belgium for cargo that had previously been loaded, say in the UK, and now had to be unloaded in order to get access to a particular space on the ship. After that space had been loaded they would then reload the "drift" cargo. I seem to recall it generally referred to cars or any item that required top stowage on completion of the entire loading programme. I just wondered if anyone else had heard the term and whether anyone knew the origin of the word itself?

I do recall loading outwards on the SOPAC service on one of the Cora class where we "drifted" many cars and one tractor in Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp! A right pain in the proverbial.

8th June 2011, 22:14
hallo sailors,
a friend of my, a captain, told me about his job on a RoRo-ferry between england and norway many years ago.
Once it happened that the owner company of an empty truck trailer went bankrupt during a crossing or for some other reason the trailer has to be shipped back but also there nobody wanted it. So the trailer made several crossings and the crew started to use it for smuggling: just after arriving stevedores put it somewhere on the terminal and the black gang searched the whole ship, found nothing and left disappointed. Then the stuff was distributed and the trailer returned back on board for the next haul! (Thumb)

fair winds,


Alan Rawlinson
9th June 2011, 08:18
Reminds me of the chaos time in Lagos in the 70's, when absolutely anything could happen on the quay due to chronic congestion, amounting to gridlock. The ' stevedores ' would refer to 'compression' as a means of landing cargo, particularly containers. It consisted of ( some may find this incredulous, but I can assure them it regularly happened - I was there) of using the back end of a heavy FLT to ram the cargo and containers on the quay, in order to make more space for the discharge of newly arriving boxes. The finished result was a large bow shaped area adjacent to the ship composed of badly damaged and curved containers, some just piled up as they overrode the neighbouring boxes. Must be a photo record somewhere online.

All this happened at the time of the cement congestion when several hundred ships were at anchor outside. It was a time of considerable hardship to some of the crews, who would motor in , in the lifeboats, looking like survivors from a ship wreck.