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None of these shots are mine-two from a friend who was her Master at one time and one from the mass of old press cuttings in my loft!
The first shows her under construction,then her launch-not the best quality I/m afraid and lastly a weather deck view off the South African coast in her first year of operation.
I think she still holds the record for the largest number of people to attend a launch on Tyneside.
 

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Building Esso Nortumbria

I worked at Swan Hunter when she was built. A few things come to mind: -

The final sections of the bow had to be secured in place during a weekend because they were over the design office, which needed to be evacuated during the process.

She could only be launched on one day in March, to co-incide with the Spring tide. The unions naturally thought that this was going to be a bonanza for them, but they were completely outflanked by Tom McIver, the great Swan Hunter MD at the time. The local schools were invited to the yard for the launch and free beer in the Wallsend Boilermakers Club for the night after the launch.

It was the first launch performed by the Princess Royal and she was as excited as anyone.

A certain amount of the south bank of the Tyne had to be excavated to clear the launch path. Tom McIver was not entirely convinced about the calculation and he made the Director responsible stand on the the bank during the launch. The calculation was correct, but the stern wave surged over the bank and produced a very wet Director.

It was a very dank March day and all the launch photographs were rather poor quality.

Although a large number of people came to see the launch, far more turned out to see her depart for Lisbon for dry-docking. Well over 250,000 blocked all roads leading to the river.

She was built during a period of raging inflation and Swan Hunter lost about 20% of the sale price building her. We tried to obtain a contract revision, but got nowhere, but Esso took out their own insurance to cover 40% of the price of the ship in case she was lost before hand-over.

Fred(Thumb)
 

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The one seen in "Get Carter" is the Esso Hibernia, JD.
Northumbria's sister ship and just as bad as far as I can make out.
My last trip was on Northumbria and when I left her in Sembawang dry dock, Singapore, they were still trying to put her back together again.

Cheers
 

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It was the first launch performed by the Princess Royal and she was as excited as anyone.
Fred - I can remember attending the launch of the Shell Tanker Narica at Swan's on the 25th April 1967, and Princess Anne launched that one.
 

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I worked at Swan Hunter when she was built. A few things come to mind: -

The final sections of the bow had to be secured in place during a weekend because they were over the design office, which needed to be evacuated during the process.

She could only be launched on one day in March, to co-incide with the Spring tide. The unions naturally thought that this was going to be a bonanza for them, but they were completely outflanked by Tom McIver, the great Swan Hunter MD at the time. The local schools were invited to the yard for the launch and free beer in the Wallsend Boilermakers Club for the night after the launch.

It was the first launch performed by the Princess Royal and she was as excited as anyone.

A certain amount of the south bank of the Tyne had to be excavated to clear the launch path. Tom McIver was not entirely convinced about the calculation and he made the Director responsible stand on the the bank during the launch. The calculation was correct, but the stern wave surged over the bank and produced a very wet Director.

It was a very dank March day and all the launch photographs were rather poor quality.

Although a large number of people came to see the launch, far more turned out to see her depart for Lisbon for dry-docking. Well over 250,000 blocked all roads leading to the river.

She was built during a period of raging inflation and Swan Hunter lost about 20% of the sale price building her. We tried to obtain a contract revision, but got nowhere, but Esso took out their own insurance to cover 40% of the price of the ship in case she was lost before hand-over.

Fred(Thumb)
Fred,
I surmise that you were with Swan's when a "sister" vessel the "The Texaco Great Britain" was built. A real beast of a vessel to operate and only did so because we had officers and men who devoted hours of blood ,tears and sweat to get to grips with the bad workmanship and poor design of that vessel.
JC
 

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Fred ,my wife, three kids and myself were amongst those thousands who went down to Whitley Bay to see her sail out of the break waters. A very proud day for the locals.

Took us quiet awhile to drive back to Wallsend.
 

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Early VLCCs

I suspect that all of the VLCCs that were rushed into service at the end of the 1960s were very much the same. Esso UK bought six sister ships. They were Esso Cambria from Verolme, which was scrapped 11 years after she was launched; Scotia from Weser and Caledonia from H&W both of which went after 12 years; Ulidia from H&W, Northumbria and Cambria from Swan’s which all lasted 13 years.

All were built on fixed price contracts at a time of sharply rising material and labour costs. All of the yards lost a lot of money building the ships. The Esso superintendents at Wallsend were particularly difficult. Shipbuilders have a lot of respect for owners’ representatives who are exacting professionals, but in my experience some of the Esso team were often merely obstructive. That is not the best way to obtain a quality ship.

One thing is certain Esso and Texaco got far more than they paid for.

Fred
 

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I did two trips on the Northumbria.
The first one started in drydock (Lisnave) and the second one ended in drydock (Sembewang).
I was told by the regular RO, who had been on her since maiden voyage, that they had no idea what they were doing when they built her. They just multiplied all the figures from the next size down that they'd built.
One of the chief stewards on her had been a welder when she was built and I'm surprised he dared to sail. She was falling apart when we went into Sembewang drydock with cracks across the main deck in way of the manifolds and very large "I" beams from under the deck found resting on the ribs at the bottom of a tank.
It was the first time I'd ever seen a special room full of strain recorders to try and find out how she would behave. She was certainly very flexible.
 

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Kris

Are you saying that these problems were unique to Esso Northumbria? If so, why did Esso keep her in service longer than other members of the class? I suggest that most of the early VLCCs were too lightly built and the problems you refer to are due to design deficiencies. This would be well known to Esso, which is why the stress gauges where installed in the ship.

When an owner orders a class of ships from a number of builders, the owner supplies the design and specification for the class. The builder creates production drawings, which are submitted to the owner’s designer for approval. All these do***ents are also approved by the various regulatory authorities before construction starts. The problem with the leap to VLCCs was that neither the owners’ designers, nor the regulatory authorities, fully understood the structural problems involved.

Each steel plate used in shipbuilding has a quality test certificate issued by an independent authority and each individual plate is tracked to its exact position in a ship. This information is passed to the owner. Esso would know the exact characteristics of the individual cracked plates and it would be clear that the design of the ship was imposing stresses that were beyond the strength of the plates.

Like most VLCC builders, Swan Hunter had a Panel Line. Plates were automatically butt welded along their long edge to form a flat panel then the frames and stiffeners added. The “I” beams referred to were positioned by a machine that supported and rolled in each beam from the side of the line, clamped it into place, then automatically welded it to the panel. Sample X-Rays were taken from every panel to ensure the process was sound. In my view the beams could only have been dislodged by excessive flexing of the structure fracturing the welds.

Neither the Esso pair, nor Texaco Great Britain were the subject of unusual guarantee claims. I left Swan Hunter in 1972, but as far as I am aware there were no subsequent claims from the ships’ owners. I think that if there were a build problem, the American oil companies involved would have raised it!

Fred(Thumb)
 

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Fred,
I have no doubt that Texaco were working to a very tight budget and screwed the yard down. The Texaco Great Britain had many fractures on her shell plating in No 1 Port Tank making more than a few calls at Capetown in ballast to repair. We had trouble with the Horse Shoe doublers in the Ballast tanks. She had a major structural failure in her port permanent ballast tank and had to be towed to the scrap yard on her final voyage. I was Master of her for a few years and once I learned how to handle her she was OK but she was hard work for all concerned. The main problems were design faults especially the Weir Pacific cargo valves and the hydraulic controls. I could go on and on but it was not the ship builders but the system that made the problems. The Bridge Wings had to have support posts built on her maiden voyage - the engines were good I must say and never once gave me a problem apart from the Bridge Control never working.
JC
 

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The first time I was on her was 1971, Fred. I joined in Lisbon in June 1971 which would be 2nd annual drydock. As far as I can remember there wasn't an awful lot wrong.
The second trip I did was March to July 1977 and by that time she was a bit of a mess with all the problems I mentioned before. I assume by then that she was out of warranty.
The drydock was a heavy one that included almost total replacement of a lot of capital equipment like radars and other nav gear. Also a very thorough de-sludging.
I have heard that she spent 4 months in Capetown when the rudder failed. I think that may have been after 1977.
I also heard that the Hibernia suffered bad cracking on her maiden voyage.

Cheers
Kris
 

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I watched the launching of the"Texaco Great Britain " from the south bank of the Tyne opposite the slip - I was on Tyneside for "workshop training" as part of my BP cadetship. The police moved everyone back from the sea wall by quite a long way as they clearly knew what would happen. They allowed a couple of photographers through the cordon - who clearly didn't know what would happen - and proceeded to set up their gear on the sea wall. The brute was sent on its way and came charging across the river towards us. The stern got bigger and bigger and bigger, and eventually , with the sky almost blotted out, the photographers' nerve broke and they grabbed their kit and ran like f**k! Just as well they did, because the wash that followed very shortly afterwards would have made a mess of them and their equipment.

Anyway, it was a most impressive sight, and probably not one that can be witnessed nowadays. Does anyone, anywhere still launch VLCCs from slipways?

Steve
 

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The wife ,sister in law and myself were lucky to get tickets to the launch of the "Texaco Great Britain". Certainly was a awesome sight to see something as big as her take to the water. The drag chains took out power cables added to the atmosphere.

Sometime later the family moved out to NZ and we were able to watch it on tv here.
 

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The first time I was on her was 1971, Fred. I joined in Lisbon in June 1971 which would be 2nd annual drydock. As far as I can remember there wasn't an awful lot wrong.
The second trip I did was March to July 1977 and by that time she was a bit of a mess with all the problems I mentioned before. I assume by then that she was out of warranty.
The drydock was a heavy one that included almost total replacement of a lot of capital equipment like radars and other nav gear. Also a very thorough de-sludging.
I have heard that she spent 4 months in Capetown when the rudder failed. I think that may have been after 1977.
I also heard that the Hibernia suffered bad cracking on her maiden voyage.

Cheers
Kris
I joined her just out of drydock and she still was not right we limped across the indian ocean due to engine problems picked up parts off the African coast can't remember which port. then we had an oilspill whilst loading which I believe was down to a stuck valve.
 

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None of these shots are mine-two from a friend who was her Master at one time and one from the mass of old press cuttings in my loft!
The first shows her under construction,then her launch-not the best quality I/m afraid and lastly a weather deck view off the South African coast in her first year of operation.
I think she still holds the record for the largest number of people to attend a launch on Tyneside.
I've attached copies which might be a bit clearer - I hope you don't mind
 

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The Northumbria i seemed to remember was actually the worst in the VLCC fleet, I do remember her limping back down the west coast of Africa with failed steering gear.

The story i heard was the engineering department did a superb job of rigging a up steering gear system involving a 50 gallon oil drum as a header tank to a locally steered jury rigged hydraulic pump system, to get her to a repair port.
She was actually put out as a navigation warning at the time.

The rest are right ,these ships where built with every expense spaired.

Another thing i heard, the Esso Dalriada and Demetia, where built in Malmo Sweden, where the Swedes actually turned around to Esso and said you can cut costs and corners with the accomodation, but not with the basic design and build, which they seemed to be able to do with the UK built ships.

As said, it was a time of strikes and massive inflation, and Esso cost cutting on the build of these ships.

Dalriada and Demetia both came out with twin boilers not single, and did seem to be a lot more reliable.

So i don't think it was bad building on the British yards part, but more bad management, in allowing Esso to make so many cost cutting changes.

I sailed on the Esso Dalriada,Ulidia,Scotia(twice) and Hibernia,(circa 1975-77, as cadet and third mate) and Dalriada was definitely the best of the bunch to me.

Anyone remember A. Holt,( i think it was Alfie), catering officer on the Scotia? he signed me off twice,and it sticks out in my discharge book.

Pete
 

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Been following this thread with some interest as I came ashore from the Esso fleet in 1979 and recall the results of a study, done jointly by Esso and Lloyds into the cracking on these ships. As a layman I don't fully remember all the details, but seem to recall that one finding was that the class contruction rules for racking and shear stresses were under calculated by three orders of magnitude. That is to say, the peak stresses in practice were 1000% greater than those assumed by the class rules at the time of construction. Probably explains a lot.

A recent thread inn the same vein "Really good tanker resource site" introuced by Tacho, referred to the new book The Tankship Tromedy by Jack Devanney at the Center for Tankship eXcellence, which can be read/downloaded on line from their website at www.c4tx.org . This polemic book contains the facts and explains a lot about what went on in the construction of these VLCC's and goes on to predict the impending disaster in Tankers. It's a good read for those interested folk safe at home.

Chris Allport
 
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