BanK linE – 100 yEars
Bank Line celebrates its centenary in 2005. The company was established in Glasgow by Andrew Weir in 1905 – although he acquired his first sailing ship, the 882-ton Willowbank, 20 years earlier in 1885, when he was just 20 years old. During those formative years, the fleet had grown rapidly and by 1900, Andrew Weir already had 38 ships under his house flag. The line soon established offices in New York, Buenos Aires, San Francisco and Hong Kong, and by the mid-1920s included services from the USA to India, Africa, Asia and Australasia, India to Africa and to South America, and Africa to Asia, as well as a shipping agency business in the Persian Gulf. By the 1920s, Bank Line included a substantial tanker fleet, and Andrew Weir had also begun to acquire diesel-powered vessels – one of the first British ship owners to do so. The Second World War saw the loss of 37 ships from Andrew Weir’s various fleets, but post-war the company embarked on an ambitious newbuilding programme. By the 1960s, one of its principal homeward cargoes was copra from the South Pacific and the company designed vessels with deep tank capacity to carry coconut and vegetable oil in bulk. Since these island trades were more suited to bulk commodities, Bank Line embraced the container revolution with cautious enthusiasm, launching its first ships with additional container carrying capacity in the mid-70s. The only purpose-built container ship built for Bank Line, Willowbank, was launched in 1980; she could carry 768 standard containers and 358 reefers. During the 1980s recession, the fleet was reduced to this vessel and four Pacific Islands trade vessels. The four SA-15 vessels that make up the current Bank Line fleet, Speybank, Arunbank,Teignbank and Foylebank, were purchased in 1995 from the Russian Arctic fleet and modified to provide improved container capacity, the addition of heated vegetable oil tanks, and to enhance them for blue water trading; they already had a quarter ramp for ro-ro traffic and could carry 576 TEUs and up 6,400 tons of vegetable oil. China Navigation purchased the Bank Line trade from Andrew Weir Shipping in August 2003.