The Best Years?

Jim Harris
19th July 2009, 05:48
What would have been the best years to sail on a
British tramp?

Between 1950 and 1960, on traditional long voyages with
tough conditions.... but romantic times.

Or between 1960 and 1970 when trips were getting
shorter and conditions better?

Or in the twilight years of between 1970 and 1975?



19th July 2009, 10:01
If you listen to the old hands the best times were always about 10 years before you went to sea!!

19th July 2009, 10:21
Would have liked to have tried the 50-60s.

19th July 2009, 18:28
I sailed on one in 1964/5 one H.T. and one FGN. Seven months an awful ship. Crap accommodation. It finished me, I went ashore after that. In retrospect I should have tried another ship though, I think I might have continued.

Bob Sendall

Alistair Macnab
19th July 2009, 20:42
The war and sailing on "standard" ships;
The 'old hands' have extended enormous service to country and shipowners and ready to retire;
Is there a true professional career at sea?

1953 -1960
"Fleetbank", "Laganbank", "Ettrickbank", "Inchanga"
This first two ships were new and the second two ships were pre-war. Ship's crews were mostly "company men" but sailed with a couple of one-offs on the "Ettrickbank" who were decidedly peculiar and imbued with a rough-edged trampship attitude; Runs were great, though. First discovered Buenos Aires, the West Coast of South America, Japan, Durban, Mombasa and....Calcutta!

"Carronbank", "Laganbank", "Ernebank", "Roybank", "Fleetbank"
Newish or familiar ships and another maiden voyage on "Ernebank". Great crews on all. By this time, the one-offs had disappeared, voyages were shorter and a much more "professional" attitude prevailed in all departments.
Air conditioning somewhat spoiled spontaneous camaraderie on deck but the bar became the gathering place. Captain's bond but tacitly company approved provided no problems.
Runs were even better as strange but interesting tramp voyages decreased and company liner voyages predominated. Discovered Copra Run, Vancouver, 70 days at Sandheads....and West Africa.

New ships being delivered; new runs and company liaisons being tried out; containers being introduced.....female cadets.

Decline and fall of the British Merchant Navy's cargo liners and passenger ships; Disappearance of actual ship OWNERS and the age of container consortia.

Ship type specialization continues; Emergence of customer/shipper-driven
ship operations; Ports and terminals increasingly isolated from destination cities; Decline of sea-going career opportunities without extreme individual initiative;
Ships moved from one service to another to follow revenue generation ('Tramping' now the norm.);

The Age of Excess - gigantic containerships and cruise liners,
Quick turnaround in port;
The decline of professionalism at sea and the emergence of legislative and administrative shore control of shipping;
The failure of the new money-making model with borrowed money;
The Pacific Century begins.

What were the best years?
One may well argue that the best decade was the one just before an individual went to sea but the reality is that the 30 years between 1950 and 1980 delivered the greatest individual satisfaction, brought out true professionalism and created a cadre of seafarers who understood international commerce, the reason for operating smart and efficient ship units and when their talents and expertise were handled properly, they would deliver true cost-benefit to any operation.
What followed in the 1980s was a waste of manpower, education and experience and a sad ending to a glorious 30 years!

K urgess
19th July 2009, 21:54
From a purely personal perspective and donning my rose-tinted glasses I would say 1966 to 1974.
From a broader perspective 1963ish to 1973ish.
Ships had improved so that conditions were a lot better. The new ships that came along to replace old tonnage in the early 60s were much more comfortable and they hadn't got around to changing the runs yet. Best of both worlds and the time for a young man to go out and experience the world.
Then it faded out.........

I remember likening my last three years at sea to being a conductor on a bus.

23rd July 2009, 08:19
From my personal experience as an amateur ship watcher from the mid 1940,s through to being at sea during the 1950ís and keenly following the developments for at least a decade thereafter I would suggest that the immediate post war years were the exciting ones by way of ship replenishment following the losses and the aging of fleets during WW2 and the need to put more and more ships into service to facilitate the huge upsurge in post war trade and economic recovery.

I believe that the British ship building industry was already attuned to the new construction required before the warís end even to the extent that some keels were laid down and hulls constructed with a degree of dual purpose in mind such as larger passenger/cargo vessels planned with the option of completion as light aircraft carriers and the like, the Matson liners Mariposa and Monterey being such US built ships, but when peace was declared there were hundreds of new ships immediately underway and the pace continued from the late forties through to the mid/late fifties when two niggers started to emerge from the wood pile in the form of plans for containerization and competition from foreign ship builders.

In NZ we saw a constant parade of new post war vessels, almost like a fashion parade, as ship after ship arrived in the ports and the old steamers with their vertical stems, counter sterns and tall funnels bowed out, some after more than normal years of service, an example of these long service ships being the Shaw Savillís SS Pakeha built by Harland and Wolfe in1910, served on the UK/NZ refrigerated cargo trade until serving as a troop ship to land reinforcements at Gallipoli in 1917. In 1939 she was sold to the Admiralty for conversion into an imitation of HMS Revenge, cruiser stern and all.
1941 saw her reconverted to MOW troop ship Empire Pakeha and in 1945 she was hired by the British Ministry of Food as a refrigerated food store. In 1946 she was repurchased by Shaw Savill to again ply the UK/NZ route until 1949.
She was eventually broken up at Briton Ferry in 1950 after 40 years of honest service

There were hundreds of similar aged and honoured ships on all of the British Merchant Serviceís routes around the world, all well served but tired, inefficient and worn out making replacement shipping a huge priority.
On the local scene the Union Steam Ship Co of NZ was taking a swarm of new vessels from the Scottish yards of Alexander Stephen and Henry Robb to number a fleet of about 75 ships by the late 50ís while those old pre war steamers they replaced were sold off to the likes of Manners of Hong Kong to serve a final effort under cheaper manning conditions.

It was a non stop flow of ships with the latest hull designs, engines, navigational and communication aids, cargo handling gear and, above all, accommodation as crews were brought out of the forecastles and poops to more spacious and congenial conditions amidships. How many ships came down the British Isles slipways in these years? Hundreds at least, perhaps thousands, which makes it hard to comprehend the demise of the British ship building industry after this injection of work load and prosperity.
The 1960ís were probably the golden years as far as crews were concerned, new ships, improved cargo handling and stowage, improving pay and conditions and always, for the general cargo carriers at least, at bit of leisure time in the ports of the world. But then the rot set in or shipping efficiency improved, depending on which side of the fence you were on, as the Asian yards started undercutting British yards and the concept of pre packaged containers was warmed to.
These changes saw less but bigger ships carry more cargo faster at sea and with less time in port with constant change in size and efficiency to arrive at the Mercantile Marine service that serves the world today.
Those 1950ís, 60ís particularly, and perhaps into the 70ís, were our golden years.