My favourite command…

by Captain John Campbell, who earlier served in the Bank Line.



My first Command is my favourite.

One sunny day in July 1971 I joined the Texaco Saigon as Master for the first time .It was 17 years since I started as an Apprentice. This was my first command and perhaps my favourite one.

Built in Mobile , Alabama, her sea going service began as the SS  Chicaca in 1943 when she joined her 500 sisters in helping fight World War II . She was a veteran and travelled many miles carrying millions of tons of petroleum crossing the oceans of the world . She became a British Ship in 1952 managed by Caltex Overseas Tankships until Texaco took over. She was scrapped in 1981.

As I joined her in Bahrain, she looked a handsome vessel She was on her maiden “jumboized.” voyage .She had been lengthened  and widened by having had her entire bow and cargo section replaced and the foreword accommodation placed over the engine room . It was a great idea as Texaco got a longer bigger tanker carrying more cargo at half the cost of a new ship. . The Turbo Electric Engines were in great condition, but her boilers were showing their age.

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3 thoughts on “Texaco Saigon

  1. Having travelled by bullet train from Hirao vessel shipyard, where we ran the “Caltex Calcutta” on shore, I joined the “Caltex Saigon” in the Kawasaki Shipyard on January 6th 1967 as 5th engineer to assist in the “Jumbolisation”. Midships accommodation was transported from the old hull and deposited on the Engineers accommodation, aft. It was a very cold winter with winds from Siberia and as the ship was “dead”, extremely unpleasant to work on. The company Marine Superintendent (I think it was Larry Lightfoot) had said that the more work we did, the more money would be available for our improved accommodation. However, the only “improvements” I saw involved installing intrusive stantions in the Engineers cabins to hold up the Mates’ accommodation above. We sailed from Kawasaki on April 1st 1967 as the “Caltex Saigon”, but surprisingly with Texaco freshly painted on the funnel. Our first load from Bahrain (and part loaded at Ras Tannura) was on April 25th to Singapore. Caltex became Texaco on May 1st 1967. We ran aground entering Singapore and us Engineers spent many hours clearing cooling lines and main engine condenser tubes. We loaded for Penang (once again running aground entering Penang and more cleaning) and on to Sattahip and Bangkok. Back to Singapore for next two voyages to Saigon, up the Mekon Delta. No body armour or helmets were offered to us by the company, but a message that officers should patrol the decks to spot Vietcong. We thought this was amusing. We were kept awake at night, at the fuel terminal, by regular shelling over the vessel – vibrations felt in the engine room. I left the “Saigon” in Bangkok on July 10th 1967, along with our self appointed “Commodore” Electrician, Tommy Deakon, a real Gordy character. Our flight was a BOAC 707 (we always flew first class in those days), and the aircraft Captain shook hands with the first class passengers on exit, and our Tommy tipped him half a crown, much to his surprise.
    I can’t understand that you say the maiden voyage was 4 years after the Jumbolisation and name change!
    Brian Beeson


  2. Delighted to read the article by Captain John Campbell regarding the Texaco Saigon in 1971 and I would love to tell him that I read it. I was on the ship as a second mate’s wife at the time of the explosion and I remember it well. My gosh! fancy being reminded of it 50 years later.


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