2007 Voyage on ‘Gazellebank”

Richard Woodman, a friend of sorts, actually he’s a chap I sailed with as a Midshipman, is an author who writes fiction and non-fiction books about the sea. Anyway – I told him I was going away on a trip on a Bank boat last year and he said I should write him a piece about it that he could maybe put in his latest book ( A history of the Merchant Navy). This is what I wrote for him on my return. 
In 1972 I left the sea having sailed as second mate on Ocean Fleets cargo liners. So I thought it would be interesting to see how things are in 2007. Sadly Ocean Fleets no longer exist but Andrew Weir & Co. have been running the famous Bank Line since the year dot and have tramped the world very successfully. They now, using 4 ships, run a more or less monthly round the world service beginning in Europe and sailing via Panama across the Pacific to Tahiti and Auckland then up through the Coral Islands to Papua New Guinea, Singapore and back via Suez.I joined the MV Gazellebank in Auckland in May 2007. Built in Finland in 1982 as an ice-breaker for Russian Fleet operations in the Arctic, she was originally named Tiksi, bought by Andrew Weir and modified by Cammell Laird in 1995 with bulbous bow as a Ro-Ro general cargo carrier and renamed Foylebank. In 2005 to celebrate 100 years of Andrew Weir in the South Pacific the name was changed to Gazellebank after a cape in Papua New Guinea.She sails under the Red Ensign although registered in Douglas, Isle of Man. At nearly 174 metres length and 25 metres breadth she has a gross tonnage of 18,663 tons and is powered by 2 Wartsila Sulzer engines driving a single screw with 22,000 bhp. She is fitted throughout for container carriage with approximately 685 T.E.U capacity, equipped with cranes at each hatch, and has over 7,000 cubic metres of tank space for carriage of vegetable oils. There is accommodation for 12 passengers with lounge/bar facilities, a gym, sauna, and a small inside swimming pool.There are 31 crew members including 4 cadets. Captain John Gunson (ex Ocean Fleets) and the 2nd mate and purser are British, the rest of the crew which includes three stewardesses and a lady Chief and 2nd cook are Russian.The ship is fully chartered by Swires and she has Swire funnel colours. The cargo being carried on this part of the voyage was mainly heavy machinery, army trucks and earth moving equipment, drums of steel cables etc. The rest of the space taken up with containers of varying sizes including Reefer. On deck there was a large luxury yacht and one container had been ingeniously converted for the carriage of 4 horses from Auckland to Noumea. 2 grooms accompanied us on this leg. Cargoes loaded through the islands included bagged cocoa beans, coconut oil, palm oil and 4,000 tons of bulk copra, which in turn was offloaded on arrival in the Philippines and Pasir Gudang. That space in turn being filled by timber in Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu.The ship, said to be into its last 4 years of life has been hard used and running repairs were aided by having an AB and a fitter both of whom doubled as qualified welders.Navigation has, of course, improved out of all recognition with Global Positioning by Satellite (G.P.S.) giving a continuously updated Lat & Long, course and speed over ground and ETAs to next waypoint and final destination. The Radar now gives the name of each ship target and its course and speed and point of nearest approach at the touch of a button. I wonder what happened to the old Blue Flue plotting boards and Chinagraph pencils!At the end of June we arrived in Singapore after a fascinating 7 week leg of the voyage – via New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Sabah. 14 ports in 48 days. (I should have stayed at sea!!) Posted by Dennis Richardsat 8:45 PM

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