Ships Nostalgia

Ships Nostalgia (
-   J & J Denholm (
-   -   Asiafreighter (

Fairfield 16th August 2004 07:43

1 Attachment(s)
Managed by Denholm/s in Glasgow,she and her two sisters,ASIALINER and EUROLINER were a familiar sight on the Clyde in the early days of First Generation container ships in the 70s-this taken in 1973.
Gas turbine powered,they were extremely fast ships.All later sold out and over the last 5 years or so have all gone to breakers.

Gulpers 8th September 2005 21:52

GTV Asiafreighter
GTV Asiafreighter had 3 sisterships. Asialiner, Eurofreighter and Euroliner, all built in Emden, owned in the US and British flagged. The original concept was that the Euro ships would run from UK / Continent, across the pond to East coast USA. The boxes would then be transported across the States by rail for collection by the Asia ships on the West coast. This cunning plan was foiled because, to cross the Pacific, the ships would have had to stop off in Hawaii for bunkers. Commercially this wasn't viable because of the US Coast being a closed shop for US flag ships.

Accordingly, the four vessels ended up on the Atlantic run. They had a 28 day programme and one would arrive off Gourock to collect their pilot - George Grierson - every Friday morning at 06:00 hrs. Ports of call were Greenock, Weehawken (New Jersey), Baltimore, Norfolk, Wilmington (NC), Charleston, off Brixham (to collect North Sea Pilot), Le Havre, Rotterdam, Bremerhaven and back to Greenock via the Pentland Firth and Minches. Not bad in 28 days, considering we singled up to one engine when going across the Atlantic.

cboots 9th September 2005 05:48

Thanks to both posters for reminding me of these interesting vessels, I remember them well from the days when box boats seemed to be getting faster and faster. They had adapted aircraft turbines didn't they? I recall that they did some fantastic speed and drank the bunkers like a thirsty sailor. I never knew that the concept had been an early day intermodal one, and of course, US West Coast - Hawai would be Jones Act. Though it surprises me that they could not have got a waiver on the grounds that they were only bunkering, not working cargo. Couldn't have had the right political connections.

Gulpers 9th September 2005 09:27

The four ships were powered by twin Pratt & Whitney Gas Turbines. As mentioned in my previous post, we generally didn't need the speed when crossing the 'pond'. The ships came into their own on the coast when, if there had been a delayed departure from one port, we had to 'boot it' to reach the next port on schedule.
I served as Cadet, 3/O and 2/O on the Asiafreighter and Asialiner and used to get a real buzz when driving the maritime equivalent of a Porsche up the English Channel.
All four ships were originally powered by Dash 4 Pratt & Whitneys - the engines fitted to a Boeing 707. The Asiafreighter was used as a testbed for the US Navy and could also use the Dash 12 Pratt & Whitneys - these were the engines fitted to early Boeing 747s. With the 'big' engines fitted the AF could easily maintain 36 knots without going to 120% power. The best speed I ever witnessed on the AF was 43 knots 'over the ground' with a following tide in the Pentland Firth - chocks away, or what?
cboots is correct, all that power came at a price. The AF could consume 240 tons of MGT4 a day on each engine. There were a couple interesting spin offs from burning Av Gas. Tank inspections could be carried out without getting filthy and secondly, there was a residue from the burnt fuel which was pumped into bunker barges in Rotterdam each trip. This waste was able to be burned in conventional diesel engines without any further refining.
Oh happy days - I have so many memories of these ships and the people I sailed with.


Marcus Cardew 9th September 2005 18:11

I came across most of these boats when I was with ACL on the Conveyor and Causeway (24.5 knots downhill, with sun astern). Was always very impressed when the Denholm GT's 'took off' at the mouth of the Clyde.... There was also a SeaLand GT vessel that I saw once.. I think it was named SL181... not very pretty, but went like smoke!

Gulpers 9th September 2005 19:41

Marcus has a point. These were the only ships I sailed on where you could watch the log increasing or decreasing like a car's speedometer. I remember one occasion when sailing from Greenock on the Asiafreighter, we dropped the pilot at Kempock Point, Gourock, and by the time we reached the Cloch corner, we were up to full sea speed.

All very well until the company received a letter from Dunoon Town Council complaining that our wash had picked up several 'hire' rowing boats from the beach and dumped them above the high water mark!


japottinger 9th September 2005 19:51

What ticket did the Chief Engineer have, steam or diesel!

Gulpers 9th September 2005 20:09

japottinger, thanks for the question.

I honestly don't know. Engineers were always a mysterious breed to me. I do recall the first time I went below to transfer ballast in the Engine Control Room on the GTVs and being amazed to see the Engineers wearing immaculate white boiler suits. Instead of being festooned with 'shifters' and hammers, they had a dinky little row of ring spanners in their top pockets!

However, I remember that we used to have two RO's. A junior who used to take care of the daily schedules between Glasgow and the States and the senior RO who was retitled as an ECO. The Electronics and Communications Officer spent most of his time working on control systems for the Gas Generators and Gas Turbines.



cboots 10th September 2005 05:18

All this sounds like a different world, science fiction almost, to an old 13 knot man. It sure must have been fun though.
Envious CBoots

R58484956 10th September 2005 10:35

Generally speaking steam turbine/ gtv engineers nearly had clean white boiler suits as there was no oil/grease on the loose, whereas diesel ship engineers generally had greyish boiler suits gained from oil etc when repairing the engine.

Gulpers 11th September 2005 12:35


Science fiction indeed. The bridges were hi-tech but a visit to the engine control room was like stepping into the 'Star Trek' set! Remember we are talking about the early 70s here.


japottinger 11th September 2005 18:12

There was a full description of these ships in a shipping magazine at toime of commissioning, I think the idea was that they could replace a gas turbine in 8 hours. I will need to look out the magazine.
Actually I think the Chief had to have a combined ticket, steam for the clean whirly bit and diesel for the dirty grease driven bit!
Guess what machinery I sailed with !

Gulpers 11th September 2005 20:18


Yes you are absolutely correct. You will have gathered that I used to 'drive' the ships and engineering was not my field.
On the Eurofreighter, Euroliner and Asialiner, the engine 'change over' time was around eight hours. On the Asiafreighter, eight hours was the norm if we were changing from a Dash 4 to another Dash 4, or a Dash 12 to another Dash 12. If the 'change over' was from 4 to 12, or vice versa the job took about fourteen hours. From what I remember, this was mainly due to engine mounts (beds) having to be swapped over.
Remarkably, the 'change over' was generally done at sea, when on passage from Greenock to Weehawken. We would arrive in Weehawken to find our 'new' (serviced) engine waiting for us on the quayside.


Gulpers 24th September 2005 06:32

For those who have followed this topic, I have found a German website which has interesting material on the construction and propulsion of the Euro and Asia Containerships. If I have copied the link correctly, this should be a translated version of the site.

ex ro 30th October 2005 20:08

hi Iwas a second radio officer on the Asiafreighter over the winter of 72 she was almost brand new, and was very futuristic for her time with microwave ovens etc, infact I believe she was designed for the crew to have frozen meals and to cut the crew members to an absolute minimum. She also had a crew lift, which was virtually unheard of on a cargo ship, her callsign was GOYX the radio room was marconi as was I, she was an extremely busy ship in terms of radio traffic, and because of her speed it was easy to get to the destination before the agents had sent the berthing info. The bridge was up to the mark with Loran ,but somewhat spoiled with as I recall interswitched Marconi Raymarc radars. The main tx was a Crusader !.6 kw and she had the ultramodern Apollo main rx regards ex ro

RobW 6th January 2006 14:58

I read with great interest the correspondence on the Euroliner-class boxships since I dealt with these superb vessels in their final years with OOCL which purchased the ships from Hamburg-based Ahrenkiel following the demise of Seatrain in 1980.
By this time they had been re-engined by HDW, Hamburg with twin medium-speed Stork Werkspoor diesel engines after the huge increase in fuel costs between 1973 and 1979. Whilst they were re-engined their carrying capacity was increased from around 1,700 TEU to 2,200 TEU by increasing their draught and expanding their on-deck box capacity.
Initially OOCL used all four ships on a RTW service between the US and the Far East but during 1987 transferred three of them to the Dart Line which saw them return to the transatlantic trades as replacements for the so-called 'Seapac' (1,000 TEU) vessels built by Namura, Japan which by then had become too small for this service.
The replacement diesel engines brought about a major decrease in service speed to around 19-knots. Interestingly, some of the space taken up by the air intakes in the accomodation block during their Pratt & Witney period was converted to crew quarters after they were re-engined. Sadly the ships suffered regular breakdowns and additional engineers would regularly travel with the vessels, no wonder they needed additional cabins !!
OOCL sold the ships in 1991, two went to CMA of France whilst Shanghai-based Cosco also bought a pair.
Euroliner and Eurofreighter were demolished in 1995 as Bright River and Splendor River whilst Asiafreighter was scrapped in 1998 with Asialiner finally bowing out in 2001 after 29 years in service.

R58484956 6th January 2006 15:31

Welcome Robw to the site, your 1st posting is very interesting. more to come?
enjoy the site and a happy new year to you.

Tom Morton 6th January 2006 16:26

With the 'big' engines fitted the AF could easily maintain 36 knots without going to 120% power. The best speed I ever witnessed on the AF was 43 knots 'over the ground' with a following tide in the Pentland Firth - chocks away, or what?

Those speeds absolutely boggle the mind !!! Given that that was in the 70's, what speeds are such ships capable of now.
My memories of crossing the pacific at 12 knots, with a couple of stops to change fuel valves must sound quite archaic ; yet that was early 60's.
With all those advancements down below, what happened on the bridge/ Presumably sextants are quite obsolete!!

RobW 6th January 2006 16:53

Tom might be interested to know that no big containerships travel faster than around 24-25 knots these days with most running at between 20-22 knots. Typically they are powered by one slow-speed diesel with the largest ships of round 9,000 TEU capacity requiring about 90,000BHP to reach their service speed.
However, gas turbines have made something of a comeback in merchant ships with several new major cruise vessels utilising this power source, including the QM2 which has two General Electric 40,000SHP units fitted in addition to four diesel motors.

John Cassels 7th January 2006 10:57

I was ch,mate on all 4 Seatrain ships 1974-1977 and have never heard of the
Asiafreighter(fastest of the 4) recording 43kts. Also 36 knts without 120% power
is also an exageration.
Was on board her during the famous Arsine gas incident and even running out
to the western approaches to meet up with HMS Kent for the gas freeing operation
we never got near to 36 kts.
They were also not particularly good sea ships , especially in a following sea and
stability was the mate's nightmare.
The most that can be said for the speed ia that you very rarely had a crossing


Gulpers 7th January 2006 11:08


Happy New Year!

Beg to differ! I was on board AF with Dougie Naismith as Old Man when she clocked 43 knots 'over the ground' in the Pentland Firth. I vividly recall Dougie's celebratory binge afterwards! The 43 knot spurt was only over a very short period (12 minutes) but was still most exhilarating. Conditions in the Pentland Firth were absolutely perfect and unusually, flat calm. Our ETA was timed to perfection so we able to make the transit at the maximum ebb spring tide.
No disrespect to Dougie whatsoever, he was a madman at times but he was probably the best ship handler I ever sailed with. (Thumb)

John Cassels 7th January 2006 18:44

Your lack of experience re the GTV's is beginning to show.

43 knts (over the ground )---------how was that acertained... in your dreams !.

If you think that DM was probably the best ship handler you ever sailed with...
then I rest my case.


Gulpers 8th January 2006 09:34


I'm not going to fall out with you over this! I only sailed on the two Asia ships, not all four like you but, I reiterate that I was there, and I know what I witnessed.

As for a character assassination of DN - I'm not going to get into that one. I will however say that I wasn't a great fan of his because of his drinking habits but on several occasions I witnessed him manoeuvring those ships in a way that no other could! Maybe it was alcohol-induced bravado, or pure luck, but he did the business!

contals 8th January 2006 23:29

I only did a single (28 day) trip on Asialiner in 1975 ish as cadet. George Mayne was old man and spent his last trip in the foces'l making furniture

I remember the entire crew being permanently jet lagged as there were clocks every night due to the speed.

Storm damage resulted in a plentiful supply of bicycles washed up on deck.

On our return to Rotterdam a change of pilots asked for Full ahead- being cadet I did as told, within a ships length we were doing 12 knots, the third mate pulled her back and rapped my knuckles- (Ian MacKay?)

There were rumours then of the Asiafreighters 43 knots through the Pentland Firth, apparently a van was seen on a parrallel course ashore and the ship left it standing.

After I left there were interesting stories about Seatrain being a money laundering excercise for an Italian-American organisation in Hoboken. Unconfirmed reports of 40 foot containers in the dock area being fitted out and staffed by PVC clad ladies offering "services" to passers by....


RobW 9th January 2006 16:44

Please feel free to check out the photos of this class recently posted on the gallery under 'Asiafreighter'.
During their diesel days Harwich pilots would moan about their lack of maneuveribility, twin screw one rudder didn't help I guess without the punch of gas turbines.

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