Esso Birmingham

13th April 2004, 13:41
In the late 1950s when the Suez Canal had reopened and Israel and the Arabs were holding an uneasy truce, a constant stream of small to medium-sized tankers shuttled to and fro continuously from European refineries via Suez to various remote oil terminals in the sweltering heat of the Gulf region. This was the end of the golden age of shipping when 36,000 ton super-tankers were just coming on the scene, all the regular liner routes were operating and British-flag ships were to be seen in abundance.
The ESSO BIRMINGHAM above (ex MAUVILLE 8/1944) was built by Sun S.B. and D.D. Co., of Chester Pennsylvania. Her port of registry was London, SHP 6,000, net tonnge 6,203, gross tonnage 10,727 and DWT 17,000 approx.

21st October 2006, 23:11
I recall approaching the breakwater at Gibraltar on the ALHAMA in 1960 or '61 and seeing a strange looking vessel moored on the shore side. I seem to remember that she was the tanker Esso Birmingham and as we passed through the breakwater, I could see why she looked so strange. She was floating in two parts, looking as if she had been neatly cut just forward of the bridge superstructure - and her bow was pointing at the bridge.

The story went that a crew member had dropped a steel spanner into an empty tank and this had caused an explosion which killed the crew member and split the vessel in two.

I've seen a photo from Terry Northen at, which shows her laid up near Pembroke Dock, South Wales, in 1962. The photo is taken from astern, so I can't determine whether or not the bow section is attached. She was scrapped in Split (now there's a coincidence) in 1963.

There are a number of photos of the ship (in better days) on Auke Visser's Famous T - Tankers Pages at

Does anyone have a photo of her when she was split in two?

22nd October 2006, 15:58
The Tanker you saw near Gibraltar was probably the Esso Durham, she blew up near Cadiz. She was converted to an all aft Tanker later on, somewhere on the Tyne I think. The other Esso Tanker that blew up was the Esso Portsmouth, she was discharging in Milford Haven in the early hours of the morning. I sailed on the Esso Birmingham, she was U.K. coasting at the time. She developed a vibration problem in the Turbo Alternator that supplied power to the main motor, and she was laid up in Pembroke Dock. I stood by her for a few months and left her in 1962.

Peter Trodden
10th February 2010, 12:08
I'm Late on this,as I'm a new boy. I joined the Birmingham at Dingle Oil Jetty,(right after the seamans strike)29/9/60.Took her round to Smiths dock on the Tyne. 1wk Later joined Esso Salisbury in Milford. t.t.f.n.

4th November 2015, 19:01
I am trying to trace or discover any news about Sydney Ward who was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1930. I know that he sailed on the Esso Birmingham as an Efficient Deck Hand between 1950 and 1954. He may have been part of the crew for longer. I see that two forum members sailed on the Esso Birmingham in the early 1960s - do you have any recollection of Sydney or know where he lived or if he married. I am trying to find him for a cousin of his.

4th November 2015, 22:26
I think I was 2nd mate on her in the late 40's. Must dig out my discharge book.

4th November 2015, 22:40
Sydney arrived in the UK in February 1950 from South Africa. He certainly wouldn't have been with the Birmingham pre that time.