Monthly Archives: September 2021

Places we visited…

Dunedin

Dunedin was a regular call for Bank Line ships discharging around the great N.Z. Ports, and for discharging the all important phosphate rock .

The approach led up via Port Chalmers, and the author remembers steering the Maplebank during her calls. Also, chipping overside in freezing conditions whilst alongside in Dunedin.

The Olivebank in Port Chalmers around 1900

Town Centre

Location

A book called, ” Any Budding Sailors” is a memoir, and it includes a section about life in the Bank Line – travelling the world. Available in print or as an ebook on AMAZON

Places we visited…..

Ocean Island

( Banaba today)

Better known as a former phosphate mining island until 1979, Banaba is Kiribati’s westernmost island with a total land area of 6.0 km2 and its highest point is also the highest point in Kiribati at 81 metres.

Ocean Island is etched in any long term Bank Line man’s heart! A regular call for the phosphate with the prospect of more than one trip up and down, discharging in Australian and New Zealand ports. It was common to do 3 or 4 trips on the trot.

A beach stroll – author with no shirt

On passage down to Australia – Tasman sea

Pinnacles of rock from the worked out mining

The Kelvinbank stranded at Ocean Island. ( See the story on this site)

See a book title below about life in the Bank Line – travelling the world.

“Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951-1955”

On Amazon Books

Places we visited….

Bluff

Bluff, at the southern end of South Island N.Z. was sometimes the last port of discharge for Bank Line ships arriving from the U.S. Gulf. Famous for Oysters, and with a rugged terrain, it was a welcoming port for mariners.

The 1930 built IRISBANK discharged in Bluff in 1956. Shortly afterwards a seaman was sadly lost overboard south of Stewart Island and in rough weather. He was a young man who was nudged by a sling of dunnage that was being dumped overside with the railings unshipped. ( as in those days). His body was recovered in very rough seas which smashed the boat on return.

See the book, ” Voyaging with Icons” about life in the Bank Line, travelling the world.

Places we visited….

Dakar

Dakar was often on the itinerary when discharging round the West African ports, and it was usually the last port of discharge before heading off on another adventure. The unlucky ones found themselves heading across the Atlantic to commence loading outward again. Dakar in Senegal was always a pleasant stop with the French atmosphere and orderly city with most of the expected delights.

More images of the city

Places we visited….

Vizagapatam

One of the least glamourous places visited by Bank Line ships was Vizagapatam in the Bay of Bengal – usually to discharge wheat. The author was there on 2 occasions, and has vivid memories of the 24 hour working alongside, while the stevedores bagged bulk grain throughout the night. The curly sandwiches left out on a tray and the hot and humid conditions etc! Many beggars, mostly children, shared the quay with swooping hawks.

Now a major tourist destination, it was a Royal Navy base overseas for many years.

The old Irisbank loaded grain for India

Places we visited…

Burnie

One of the more unusual voyages that Bank Line ships sometime made was from Par (Fowey) in Conwall to Burnie in Tasmania. Click on the link below to read a fascinating account of such a Bank Line voyage. With a full cargo of bulk China clay, the voyage half way around the world averaged around 45 days at sea. The cargo was destined for a paper and board mill which operated for around 70 years and employed a max of 4000 people at it’s peak.

Burnie – at the top centre

Click below

https://petercleife.org/around-the-world-in-five-and-a-half-months/

Places we visited…

Galle

Bank Line ships occaisonally visited the pretty little port of Galle in Shri Lanka. The Hazelbank visited to discharge a full cargo of flour from Australia, carried out by lighters at anchor.

The port entrance is dominated by the Fort which dates from the Portugese presence in the 1400’s.

The coal burning Hazelbank – ex Empire Franklin

Places we visited…

Lobito

Lobito was sometimes on the discharging itinerary of Bank Line vessels working around the African coast from India. This was usually linked to a call at Luanda, the bigger city up the coast. A run ashore was a pleasant experience with well laid out areas and all modern shops and bars of the time.

The south west West African coast

Places we visited…

Lourenco Marques

A regular call for Bank Line was the Mozambique port of Lourenco Marques ( now Moputo). The passenger service carried on by the Isipingo and Inchanga made stop there southbound, discharging gunnies and spices and loading produce and ingots.

The port today

A trip ashore here was always welcome – strong local and Portugese beer served with beans or snacks, well laid out streets, and an air of order and modern living. The Portugese stevedores worked alongside their local charges without distinction.

Places we visited…

ABIDJAN

Abidjan on the Ivory Coast was one of the more interesting ports visited by Bank Line ships when discharging on the West African coast. The very French atmosphere, nicely laid out boulevards etc gave it a continental feel – a total change from the cities up and down the coast. It was a hint of charm and sophistication that made shore trips there memorable.

The old ‘war horse’ IRISBANK visited twice in one 2 year voyage, both times to discharge gunnies from India for the produce exports.

More views of this beautiful city

ABIDJAN, on the Cote D’ivoire is centrally situated in the Gulf of Guinea.

Places we visited…

Coatzacoalcos

Mexico

In the 1950’s and 60’s Bank Line ships occasionally loaded sulphur at Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, in the Bay of Campeche. The 1958 CRESTBANK visited.

The subsidiary Cia. Exploradora del Istmo, S.A. Headquarters were established in Coatzacoalcos in 1950, and production from their Nopalapa plant commenced in 1957.

Places we visited..Moji

MOJI

The ERNEBANK of 1937 discharged bagged sugar from Cuba at Moji Port

A recent picture

Moji-ku is a Japanese ward of the city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture. It is the former city of Moji which was one of five merged to create Kitakyūshū in 1963. It faces the city of Shimonoseki across the Kanmon Straits between Honshū and Kyūshū. The ward’s area is 73.37 km². It had a population of 114,754 as of 2000.

Wallaroo

The 1924 built COMLIEBANK at Wallaroo Dec. 1924 on her maiden voyage. Note the sailing ships still loading grain.

Wallaroo in the Spencer Gulf, S Australia was one of a number of ports frequented by the Bank Line ships. Loading grain and sometimes discharging phosphate rock were the reasons to visit. Most would probably agree that these smallish ports were a treat, mainly due to the very friendly and welcoming folk .

Places we visited….

AUCKLAND

A call to the port city of Auckland in New Zealand was a regular feature of life in the Bank Line. Often the first port of call after the long Pacific crossing from Panama, and the start of a most welcome trawl around the N.Z. ports discharging general cargo and often sulphur loaded in the U.S Gulf Ports. In the days after WW2, when the Liberty ships were in the fleet, crewed by European seamen, it was often the beginning of a drunken revelry too hard to resist, and progress around the ports of North Island and South Island was dependent on having enough sober crew to proceed!

The last vessel ever built for the Bank Line – WILLOWBANK berthed in Auckland 1980’s

It is hard to do justice to the beauty, the surroundings, and the climate of this area with scenic beauty and the water vista out to the islands and seawards. A perfect location for water sports and the sailing enthusiast alike.

As it was – Queen St. Auckland 1950,s

Places we visited…

CALLAO

The port for Lima

The big port of Callao in Peru was a Bank Line call, usually to discharge gunnies from India, and it was one of many on the long run up the S American west coast ending often in Quito, Equador.

The LEVERNBANK that stranded at Matarani Peru, nearby. See the report on this site by searching, ‘ levernbank’

A card from 1910 – This was a busy sailing ship port

Places we visited….

SUVA

Suva in the Fiji islands was a regular call for Bank Line vessels that provided a steady stream of ships picking up Copra and sundries, like meal. The old Suva was a welcome call with all of the Pacific island charm, but today it is well and truly on the tourist trail, with all that that means. Staged shows, walks, performances, etc. A stream of huge liners call regularly and have transformed the wealth and economy,for the better or maybe the worst. A military junta runs Fiji but it is a popular destination. Back before the flood gates opened it was a different and slower paced world. Occasionally a Bank Line ship ran into trouble with the many reefs around the island, as evidenced by the Maple grounding. ( See below)

1950’s SUVA high street

Saigon

An interesting and original first hand description of Saigon in Vietnam in the years when it was a blend of oriental and French charm. Some lucky mariners made it there on Bank Line ships in the 1950’s and 60’s.

To read the whole article download by clicking on the red button above

Written by Geoff Walker who served his time in the Bank Line on the Levernbank and Weybank. His specialist maritime site is https://oceanjoss.com

Places we visited…..

Baton Rouge

Downtown Baton Rouge in recent times

Baton Rouge to load lub oil and derivatives was an occasional Bank Line routine. Usually there was little time for shore excursions, but the charm of this old world capitol made it memorable. First came the very long winding journey up the mighty Mississippi, 135 miles past New Orleans, a total of 231 miles from the entrance in the Guf of Mexico.

The SOUTHBANK made a memorable visit

The Delta (bird’s foot) entrance to the Mississippi – The SW pass bottom left.

River view

To move goods up and down the Mississippi, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a 9-foot shipping channel from Baton Rouge, LA to Minneapolis, MN. From Baton Rouge past New Orleans to Head of Passes, a 45 foot channel is maintained to allow ocean-going vessels access to ports between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

See the book, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the 1950’s Bank Line

Places we visited…

Dar Es Salaam

The entrance today

Another regular call for Bank Line vessels was Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. The ‘white’ ships like the ISIPINGO pictured, called each voyage south on her Calcutta to Durban schedule, usually after the Mombasa stop. In those days it was the anchorage but a run ashore was always enjoyable. The rich and pungent aroma given out by spice cargo is forever linked with this tropical stop off.

As it was

The East Coast of Africa

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited…

BASRA

A trip up the Shatt-El-Arab waterway sometimes occurred on Bank Line vessels. The author was there on the 1958 built CRESTBANK to discharge grain from Australia.

A view of Basra city centre years ago and before the wars.

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Placed we visited……

RANGOON

( NOW YANGON)

Rangoon ( now Yangon) river was a fairly regular call for the passenger ships and other Bank Line vessels – usually to load rice.

The author (left) and fellow apprentice visiting the Pagoda. Note the ‘fag’ in hand.

The port today. We lay mid river.

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited…..

BAHIA BLANCA

( Puerto Enginerio White)

The port in the distance

Another port frequented on some Bank Line voyages – usually to load grain, was Enginerio White, the quirky named port for the big city of Bahia Blanca, a short ride away. On a visit on the Eastbank, loading went on no more than 2 hours a day! (A few rail waggons would appear mid morning and tip in the grain, and that was it for the day). This gave us a month in port to exhaust our funds and enjoy the delights of the bars in the city.

The port with grain silo in the foreground

A tourist Hotel pool

A tourist hotel pool today

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited…..

YOKOHAMA

The fondest memories of life in the Bank Line ships often included a visit to Yokohama. This beautiful city, full of delights is situated in Tokyo Bay and has now been upgraded beyond all recognition. The 1950’s visitors usually spent time at an anchorage to discharge and an evening run ashore offered many pleasures…

Yokohama today
Location

There are accounts of a visits to Yokohama on this site. One such is in the article headed ” Around the world in Coronation year” which tells of a memorable stay in 1953 discharging sugar from Cuba .

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited…Monte

Monte Video

Lucky ‘Bank Liners’ occasionally got to Monte Video in Uruguay to discharge gunnies from India or maybe other cargo. It was a chance to savour the delights of this Uruguayan city with everything that a visitor would ever want, from art and architecture to the usual seaman’s delights.

A map of the River Plate, with Monte Video opposite Buenos Aires. The river is wide and brown coloured, despite the map above. It also holds the remains of the German cruiser “Graf Spee” after her scuttling in WW2.

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited…sing

SINGAPORE

The Eastern anchorage
MODERN SINGAPORE

Many Bank Line folk will have fond memories of calling at Singapore. Here is an interesting summary written by Captain Geoffrey Walker. See his site at https://oceanjoss.com ( Click on the download button to read)

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited

TAURANGA

New Zealand

Many ex Bank Line folk will have very pleasant memories of visiting Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. Situated under Mount Manganui, the local people were always exceptionally friendly and welcoming. Bank Line ships discharged their cargo from the US Gulf and other cargoes here, leading to lasting memories of many leisurely days ashore.

Thanks to Google Earth

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

LEVERNBANK in PERU

The loss of the Levernbank on the coast of Peru has been covered extensively on this site. Here is a summary, courtesy of the ‘wrecksite’ online, and a first hand account by one of the engineers. Grateful thanks to both.

M.V. Levernbank 
With regard to strandings and losses, I was 5/Eng on the Levernbank when she foundered off Matarani, Peru, back in 1972. I was on watch with the 3/Eng at the time the ship struck rocks during the early hours somewhere around 03.00 hrs. The propeller also hit rocks as the ship turned away which wrapped the blades round the rudder this took the main engine out and that was it. Within what seemed seconds the crew were into their paying off suits, jackets stuffed with cartons of fags, and ready for the off. The crew and those officers who wished to leave the ship were taken ashore by fishing boats. The ship had torn open from the stem back to No2 hold, 23 foot of water in these holds within minutes,these holdswere loaded with bales of paper pulp which started to expand with frequent loud bangs as the ships plates parted, and the tween decks buckled. The deck officers, myself, the second and third engineer stayed on board, keeping pumps and generators running, for the two days she lasted before the Peruvian Navy took her in tow.The Peruvians intended to tow the ship to a suitable place to beach her but the tow parted and she went back ashore close to where she originally grounded.  At the end when Captain Steers gave the oder to abandon ship, the forward deck was almost awash and sitting on the poop you could look over the top of the funnel, time to go, and we were taken off by local fishing boats. The ship had a good crowd onboard, Levernbank on that trip was probably best described as a happy ship with loads of laughs and good humour,as well as hard work, it was such a pity that the voyage ended in this way. As I remember it, Capt Lewis Steers, C/O Harry’Matt’ Dillon,C/Eng Stan Gough 2/Eng Alec Wood ( I don’t speak to junior Engs before 7 AM),3/E Geff Miller 4/E Fred Kennedy, 6/E Arnie Atkinson, 1 EL?. 2 EL Terry? (from cardiff) 
Last edited by jedward

The ship was loaded on the Bay of Bengal West coast S.A. service, we had done what I imagine was the normal run up the coast discharging at Punta Arenas, Valparaiso, Antofagasta and other ports I can’t remember now. 

We had radar problems which were supposed to have been sorted in Durban, but the only real outcome was that the Sparky had his camera pinched by the radar ‘engineer’, and the system went back on the blink as we crossed the bar out of port. 

As I recall, Matarani would’nt accept vessels at night, so the plan was to stop and drift until daylight, seems anchoring was not possible, not sure why but the Chief reckoned the sea was too deep – don’t know myself. Anyway as we tracked along up the coast there seems to have been an understimation of our actual distance from shore. The turn to seaward to drift was interrupted by a bump, which I took to be a collision with a fishing boat but which was in fact our first contact with the Peruvian mainland, the engine was still full ahead at this time, when we suddenly got standby followed immediately a double full astern ring followed, and then by a major bang and the engine stopped dead. I ran down the tunnel to see the tail shaft about three feet out of line with the last two bearing pedestals tipped over by about 30 degrees. I reported this to the second who condsidered the best thing to do was put the kettle on!

When dawn broke and all was revealed, the ship was inside a small cove and was a perfect fit, couldn’t have got it in there if you wanted to. The cove or inlet I suppose was enclosed by high cliffs upon which were stood several of the local population taking the michael. 

A tug was sent from the port to assist but went off in the wrong direction, a couple of distress rockets soon had it coming our way. The tug towed the ship out to deeper water where we attempted to asses damage and keep the ship afloat in the vain hope that assistance was a realistic prospect – it wasn’t. The ship was abandoned aboard local small anchovy fishing boats, and so onwards and upwards after an enforced stay in Peru whilst our illegal immigrant status was resolved ( all discharge books etc, including the overtime records were lost).