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Bank Line - Part 5

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The salvage tug, USS “Winnebago” was immediately dispatched from Honolulu but salvage was found to be impossible despite favourable weather. The ship had flooded and rapidly broken up, so “Winnebago”s job was now to get the survivors off the island and carried to Fanning then Honolulu. “Southbank” was declared a Constructive Total Loss, ending the year 1964 as an extraordinary year of ship casualties. The salvage tug, USS “Winnebago” was immediately dispatched from Honolulu but salvage was found to be impossible despite favourable weather. The ship had flooded and rapidly broken up, so “Winnebago”s job was now to get the survivors off the island and carried to Fanning then Honolulu. “Southbank” was declared a Constructive Total Loss, ending the year 1964 as an extraordinary year of ship casualties.
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'''m.v.”Levernbank”''' '''m.v.”Levernbank”'''
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Whilst approaching Matarani in fog on July 9th. 1973 the ship stranded just one mile north of the port. Salvage was attempted and the ship actually refloated but again drifted ashore and sank with no loss of life. Whilst approaching Matarani in fog on July 9th. 1973 the ship stranded just one mile north of the port. Salvage was attempted and the ship actually refloated but again drifted ashore and sank with no loss of life.
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'''m.v.”Lindenbank”''' '''m.v.”Lindenbank”'''

Revision as of 14:39, 16 June 2010


Narrative by Alistair Macnab; Edited by Fred Henderson

A 20th Century Perspective of a British Ocean Shipping Company

Andrew Weir - Lord Inverforth
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Andrew Weir - Lord Inverforth


Lord Inverforth by the “Mirror of Downing Street” (a Political Observer in 1918):


“Andrew Weir, as he was in those days, went to school at Kirkcaldy, where he was chiefly notable for seeking information on more subjects than came under the jurisdiction of his pedagogue's ferule. A benign Rosa Dartle might have been his godmother. He was for ever consulting encyclopaedias and books of reference. However badly he knew his Greek verbs or his Latin syntax he had a very shrewd and curious knowledge of the world when he left school at fifteen to enter the local branch of the Commercial Bank of Scotland.


“At school he had wanted to own ships. This ambition still lodged in his brain. His thoughts were all at sea. There was no romance in the world so pleasing to his soul as the romance of the merchant marine. He had a real passion for harbours. He loved the idea of far voyages. The smells of cargoes and warehouses composed a sea-bouquet for him which he esteemed sweeter than all the scents of hedges and wood. If there was a big man for him in the world it was the sailor.


“I don't think he had so profound a feeling for bankers. Not quite so downright as Lord Leverhulme in stating his opinion of bankers, Lord Inverforth nevertheless regards them on the whole as lacking in courage and imagination. He said to himself on his banker's stool, "I will learn all I can, but I won't stay here; I'll be a shipowner."



“In his twentieth year he bought a sailing ship. This was at Glasgow in the year 1885. He called himself Andrew Weir and Co. He had the feeling that sailing ships, engaged in coastwise trade, might be bigger. He announced his intention of building a large coasting ship. People informed him, with an almost evangelical anxiety as to his commercial salvation, that he was a lunatic. But the big ship was a success. He built more and bigger. Then, in 1896, he said to himself, "Why shouldn't steam be used in the coasting trade ? " and he went into steam. Again there were inquiries after his mental health, but the steamer flourished like the big sailing ship. At the beginning of what the curate called " this so-called twentieth century," the firm of Andrew Weir and Co. flew its flag in all the ports under heaven, and controlled the largest fleet of sailing ships in the world.



“There is this fact to be noticed in particular, Mr. Andrew Weir's inquisitive mind had not merely mastered the grammar of shipowning but had crammed the cells of his brain with the whole encyclopaedia of commercial geography. He knew each season what the least of the islands of the world was producing, and the crops, manufactures, and financial condition of every country across the sea. He knew, also, the way in which the various nations conducted the business of transport. From his office in Glasgow he could seewhole vast labours of industrious and mercantile man, that Brobdingnagian ant of this revolving globe, merely by closing his eyes. The map of the world's commerce was cine- matographed upon his brain.


“One thing more remains to be said. Mr.Andrew Weir inherited the moral traditions of Scottish industry. He grew rich, but not ostentatious. His increasing fortune went back and back into trade. He never dreamed either of cutting a figure in plutocratic society or making himself a public character. A quiet, rather shy, and not often articulate person, he lived a frugal life, loving his business because it occupied all his time and satisfied nearly every curiosity of his inquiring mind.


“War came, and Mr. Weir was busier than ever with his ships. Not until 1917 did it occur to the Government that the work of buying supplies for its gigantic armies was something only to be mastered by a man of business. The nation may be grateful to Mr. Lloyd George for having discovered in Glasgow perhaps the one man in the British Isles who knew everything there was to know about commercial geography.”




Lord Inverforth’s Business Philosophy


"All the fallacies and wild theories of revolutionary minds, break ultimately on the rock of industrial fact. The more freely nations trade together the more clearly will it be seen that humanity must work out its salvation within the limits of economic law. And the way to a smooth working out of that salvation is by recognizing the claims of the moral law. We are men before we are merchants. There is no reason why mistrust should exist between management and labour. The economic law by no means excludes, but rather demands, humaneness. I believe that a system of profit-sharing can be devised which will bring management and labour into a sensible partnership. Selfishness on the part of capital is as bad as selfishness on the part of labour. Both must be unselfish, both must think of the general community, and both must work hard. The two chief enemies of mankind are moral slackness and physical slackness.”




Losses of Bank Line Ships Since 1945


s.s.”Kelvinbank”


Launched as the “Jesse De Forest” from Bethlehem-Fairfield’s shipyard in Baltimore MD. in 1943, this “Liberty” ship was assigned to the British Government as a “SAM” or “Standard American-built Merchantman” as s.s.”Samuta”. She was bought by Bank Line in 1947 and renamed “Kelvinbank” as one of twelve Sam ships bought by the company to replace WWII losses. Operated chiefly as a tramp ship on many of Weir’s bulk interests, “Kelvinbank” was on charter to the British Phosphate Commission and had just completed loading bulk phosphate at Ocean Island on January 6th. 1953 when she ran aground on departing the berth. “Kelvinbank” was said to have lost main engine power but to compound the problem, she also ran afoul of an existing wreck, the s.s.“Ooma”. She was refloated but badly holed and abandoned as a Costructive Total Loss.



Image:Bank_Line_05__Kelvinbank.jpg

Photo 1: Kelvinbank after breaking in two


"Kelvinbank”s remains were visible for a time with the bow and the foremast visible on the reef but with the rest of the ship broken off and sunk in deep water.


m.v.”Trentbank”


This ship was a variant of the Firbank” Class from Doxford’s Sunderland. The sixteenth unit of the series but distinguished from many of her step-sisters by having a raised poop and an additional pair of Sampson posts aft of the main mast, she was designated as a Copra Boat by virtue of her six deeptanks installed immediately forward and abaft the engine room. “Trentbank” was completed in 1962.

Image:Bank_Line_05__Trentbank.jpg

Photo 2: Trentbank


On passage from Port Pirie and the western Pacific Islands ports, “Trentbank” had just cleared the Suez Canal en route for Liverpool when on the 18th.September, 1964 she was in collision with the Portuguese tanker “Fogo” following a steering gear malfunction and was badly holed. The ship was towed towards Port Said barely afloat with a view to beaching in shallow water but foundered just eight miles from shore before that could be accomplished. Passengers and crew were rescued and salvage of the wreck was undertaken, resulting in the hulk being raised and towed on her side, 650 miles to Piraeus where she was eventually scrapped in 1970.


m.v.”Southbank”


Representing the first of the WWII replacement ships from Wm. Doxford’s shipyard in Sunderland, the “Southbank” was the second of a three-ship order from Bank Line and came out in 1948. As one of the post-war Copra Boats, she was regularly employed on the South Pacific-Homewards Service and was just completing loading bulk copra at Washington Island in the Line Islands Group on the 26th of December, 1964, when a freak 40-foot wave forced the ship onto the nearby reef and to her doom amongst the heavy surf. Crew and temporary on-board labour from Fanning Island were landed safely on the island with the help of the islanders but unfortunately there was one ship’s officer casualty.

The salvage tug, USS “Winnebago” was immediately dispatched from Honolulu but salvage was found to be impossible despite favourable weather. The ship had flooded and rapidly broken up, so “Winnebago”s job was now to get the survivors off the island and carried to Fanning then Honolulu. “Southbank” was declared a Constructive Total Loss, ending the year 1964 as an extraordinary year of ship casualties.


m.v.”Levernbank”


Another Pacific Ocean casualty was the “Levernbank” but on the coast of Peru where she was discharging almost at the end of her voyage on the Indian-Chile service having proceeded via South Africa and the Straits of Magellan calling at nearly every port between Punta Arenas and Matarani, not her ultimate destination which would have been Buenaventura, in Colombia.

The m.v.”Levernbank”, built in 1961, was a product of Harland and Wolff, Belfast and was the 12th. in a series of 17 general-purpose cargo ships started in 1957 with the “Cloverbank”, the class leader.

Image:Bank_Line_05__Levernbank.jpg

Photo 5: Levernbank agroud at Matarani



Whilst approaching Matarani in fog on July 9th. 1973 the ship stranded just one mile north of the port. Salvage was attempted and the ship actually refloated but again drifted ashore and sank with no loss of life.


m.v.”Lindenbank”


Another Copra Boat from Doxford, Sunderland, the m.v.”Lindenbank” was the third of a sub-group of the 19-unit Firbank Class built in 1961 and regularly employed on the U.S. Gulf – Australia service outwards and the South Pacific service homewards. Last loading before departure to Liverpool, the ship was taking on bulk copra at Fanning Island during the day and laying off the atoll at night since there was no anchorage available owing to the extreme depths of the Pacific Ocean surrounding the Line Islands Group.


The hand-over of the bridge watch at midnight on August 17th. 1975 was uneventful but shortly afterwards, the vessel gave a lurch as it contacted the coral reef that surrounds Fanning. The Equatorial Counter Current had been unexpectedly strong and forced “Lindenbank” onto the western lea shore.


As in the case of “Southbank”, the nearest salvage vessels were at Honolulu and operated by the U.S. Navy. The USS. “Bolster” and “Brunswick” were sent to salvage “Lindenbank” but before their arrival, a series of incessant westerly winds and currents had moved the ship further onto the reef.


Nevertheless, strenuous salvage efforts were made despite the inability to place ground tackle to seaward of the wreck owing to the depth of water. With one salvage boat at each end of the stranded ship, she was found to be pivoting on a hard coral outcrop located just under the after deeptanks area even when the cargo of bulk liquid palm oil was pumped out from the six deeptanks and spread a red tide of vegetable oil into the Pacific Ocean that was detected by university and government satellites.


After many days of attempted salvage the “Lindenbank” was declared a Constructive Total Loss. Her back was broken and she was abandoned on the reef as a visible sign of the navigational hazards of trading in the vast Pacific Ocean.


Ultimately, intensive research into the effects of vegetable oil spills into navigable waters resulted in this class of discharge being classified as extremely harmful to the marine environment in a manner similar to mineral oil.






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