Monthly Archives: March 2021



One of the prettiest ports visited regularly on the south island of N.Z. Formed from an extinct volcano in past times. Bank Line ships discharged U.S. Gulf cargo, and phosphate from Ocean Island. and Nauru.

The Maplebank apprentices climbed the peak overlooking the port in 1956. A view looking down.

The Liverpool AB’s of the MAPLEBANK in port in Lyttleton.


The beautiful Barque Cedarbank was built for Andrew Weir by Mackie and Thompson, Glasgow, in 1892.    She was a steel 4 masted Barque, and was a sistership of the famous Olivebank, built at the same yard.   Her tonnage was 2825 gross, and 2649 net.    After 21 years service, she was sold out of the fleet in 1913 to a Norwegian owner. 

On her maiden voyage, in June 1892, she loaded coal at Newcastle for San Francisco.  Her cargo was 4,400 tons.   She sailed at the beginning of March, but shortly after sailing she ran into severe weather and lost part of her masts off of the Australian coast after being caught in a cyclone.    The cyclone caused much damage all along the Australian coast, and the Cedarbank had to return to Sydney for 2 months repairs, sailing again at the end of April. 

Outside of the harbour again, the winds were mainly SE’ly, and it was decided to take advantage and sail the northerly route across the Pacific.   All went well on the long passage until, after 45 days at sea, strong fumes were detected coming out of the ventilators. Some hatches had been taken off to allow painting of the coatings, and then smoke was seen trickling up through the coal cargo.   The temperature was taken by lowering  thermometer down the inside of the masts, and as a result, it was decided to fight the fire at number 2 hatch first.       The coal was stowed right up into the hatch square, and the crew set to, dumping some 250 tons overboard. This was to make a space, and to get near the seat of the fire.   After three or four days, the men were all overcome by fumes, preventing further efforts, so the pumps were started and water played over the coal.  30 inches of water ws sounded in the bilges when it was then pumped out and recycled back onto the cargo.   This was kept going for several days, until just after 12 midnight one night, and ten days after the fire was first noticed there was a sudden explosion.   This was in the fore end of number 2 hatch, and occurred whilst a man was down below spraying water around.   The flames burst up through the coal and blue flames danced over the visible surface. 

The man who had been below scurried out of the hold, yelling and shaking, and with good cause. 

At this stage, the nearest land was approximately 1000 miles away, and the situation looked serious.   The Cedarbank at this point was situated in the North Pacific Ocean, above the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).  

All the hatches were put then back on, and the hoses were redeployed down the ventilators.  The excessive heat turned the water to steam, and after a further period it appeared to put the flames out. 

At daylight, the Master ordered all the boats to be swung out and fully provisioned in readiness for a long journey, and before dark on that day were put over the side and towed astern.   Charts, chronometers, and all equipment was loaded together with two men for steering.      After eight or nine days, after the fire appeared to subside, the boats were again hoisted up on davits, and  where they stayed until the ship arrived in San Francisco. 

The night before making the Farallones, outside of San Francisco, there were several heavy new explosions.  This was put down to the fresh breeze which had sprung up giving new life to the fire. Hatches were blown off, and a bizarre game ensued as the crew replaced them time after time, attempting to contain the fire and starve it of oxygen.   However,  they were repeatedly blown off by the exploding fire!    This happened despite the firm wedging to keep the boards in place.  Despite this, they were nearing port, and the crew began to feel confident that they could make port this way. 

Every outlet was covered up to smother the fire as much as possible, and after 35 days in total fighting the fire, to the great joy of those onboard, a tug was sighted looking for a tow.  As the breeze was fresh and favourable, the tug’s first offer was refused, but eventually a price of 70 dollars was agreed which was a cheap tow. Some 3 years later the same service cost the vessel 200 dollars.   The tug captain did not suspect that anything was amiss, although with the boats swung out it was an unusual sight, except when carrying passengers.   He then saw smoke coming out of the focs’le and asked the Mate what was going on.   The Mate replied that it was probably the crew burning paint pots, and the tug only heard of the fire later from sources ashore.    On the way in it was usual for shipping reporters to come on board for details of the passage, but when they learned of the ongoing fire, they quickly returned to the boats alongside and conducted interviews from there!

Once in port, the Cedarbank was towed to mudflats by the same company, and two tugs with pumps provided, all at the normal rates.   The exercise to pump water in and out took about 36 hours, after which she berthed alongside and discharged her cargo.   It was then seen the fire had started in several places, and it was seen that coal and coke had fused together in the heat, standing up like a wall in number 2 hold. Beams and stringers were buckled, and the wooden deck in that area all burned away. 

The American Australian and British papers all made fun of how the British ship had scored off of the American tug company, but as any shipmaster will attest, it was simply a matter of protecting the owner’s interests. 

The Captain was later awarded a gold watch by the underwriters for his actions.

This is an extract from the ebook:  “ Man The Braces! “ available on AMAZON.


UBC as it was commonly known had an interesting history, being founded at the request of King George V. to serve Poland and the Baltic countries. Shares were equally held by Andrew Weir in the UK, and the East Asiatic Company in Copenhagen. It commenced trading in 1919.

The 1924 built BATAVIA purchased in 1937. Passengers and cargo.

Some vessels of the UBC fleet. For the Bank Line mariners, hooked on world-wide sailing, UBC and the subsidiary company, MacAndrews serving the Mediteranean were sometimes regarded as a bit ‘down market’ – but hindsight suggests that they were a ‘best kept secret,’ offering the most interesting short voyages!

BANK LINE Ports…………


A regular and popular port call for Bank Line vessels with friendly and fun loving locals!

A fairly recent view, but before the container era, a berth near the beach meant access for swimming , especially on layup, as when the IRISBANK had several weeks waiting for a replacement lifeboat to arrive in 1956.

The ‘old’ NAIRNBANK loading flour in Fremantle

The approaches past Rottnest Island.



Readers might recall the ships that ran from the various phosphate islands to Australia/New Zealand. Names beginning with ‘TRI’ and the service often augmented by Bank Line vessels.

An interesting article follows by Michael Smith, who commenced his sea going life on the TEAKBANK and who later served as an engineer on the TRI ELLIS

Please click on the link below for the account of life onboard.

Many thanks to Michael Smith in New Zealand who is a regular contributor.


Below is a link to an article by a regular contributor, Captain Geoffrey Walker. After Bank Line, Geoffrey rose to command of vessels sailing throughout the Pacific and Far East waters and his knowledge and love of the area shines through in his many fascinating articles. A huge thanks Geoffrey for sharing these with Bank Line readers…..

The ill fated LEVERNBANK in which Geoffrey served as an apprentice on an earlier voyage.

Click below to download the full illustrated article

Michael Smith, who commenced his seagoing career on the M.V. TEAKBANK continues his account of serving on other vessels…


Triple Expansion Steam Engine with Exhaust Turbine

The S.S. Triadic was built in 1945 as a service vessel and originally named the HMS Dungeness. I am led to believe that the ‘Dungeness’ was used to patrol the waters around Darwin. She was later converted to a Phosphate bulk carrier and named S.S. Triadic. To the best of my knowledge the ‘Triadic’ was owned and run by The British Phosphate Commissioners (BPC) who managed extraction of phosphate from Christmas Island, Nauru and Banaba (Ocean Island) from 1979 until 1981. British Phosphate owned and ran 2 other vessels, the ‘Triellis’ and ‘Triaster’. During my time with BPC I served on the ‘Triellis’ and the ‘Triadic’.

I joined the Triadic in Fremantle, Western Australia after a 4 hour plane ride from Melbourne, Australia in the early 70’s. This was to be my second (and last) steam powered vessel. At that stage the Triadic was on a semi-permanent run carting Phosphate from Christmas Island to Albany and Geraldton in Western Australia. As some of you might remember, Albany operated as a whaling station in the days of yore. If memory serves me right it took around 9 days to get to Christmas Island and around 12 days on the return trip to Albany. I cannot remember whether we carried passengers on the Triadic, but we certainly took up to 12 passengers back and forth on the same run on the M.V. Triellis.

Taking a look around the engine room for the first time, I discovered that there were two oil fired 500lb per square inch boilers, which made steam for the two 300kw generators and the triple expansion Main Engine. The Steering Gear aft consisted of three steam driven pumps, these operated a somewhat large screw mechanism, which in turn meshed with a large quadrant which when moved, turned the rudder in the required direction. When testing the steering gear prior to leaving port, clouds of steam with the mandatory hissing sound filled the steering gear flat, the three pistons whizzed up and down at a great rate of knots when the wheel on the bridge was turned, and then stopped abruptly when the desired position was reached. I often wondered whether this sudden starting and stopping had any effect on the sleeping habits of the crew.

The main engine itself, was an ‘open crankcase’ design, in other words, there was no outer casing on the engine, and everything that went up and down and round and round were in full view. When under way all three connecting rods and big end bearings spun around at 90rpm for all to see. The 2 nd Engineer suggested that I should look at learning to check the big end bearing temperature by touching the 4 ton big end as it spun around! Needless to say I was never really open to acquiring this legendary skill!

The trip to Christmas Island was relatively uneventful. I do not believe that ‘blowing the tubes’ was an operation that was carried out on the Triadic. This just might have been because the boilers were fire , rather than water tube boilers? Cannot remember.

We anchored off Christmas Island some days later as another vessel was being loaded with Phosphate. We were told that we needed to be at anchor for about 3 days. In the early 70’s the whole area around the island was teeming with fish, and fishing with hand held lines when not on watch, was a favorite pastime for most of us. A line dropped into the water almost always resulted in a tug on the line within a minute or two. Most of the fish were Snapper with the occasional Barracuda from time to time. The R/O on board at that time was a very keen fisherman, and would have up to 4 lines ‘going’ at the same time. He would drop the lines in, tie his lines to the handrail and ask the others to give him a call if any of the lines caught a fish. He would then disappear to his cabin. This of course attracted some of the guys with not much to do, to play tricks on the Sparky. They often would haul his lines up and tie a couple of cans of Tuna on to the hook and then give him a call. On one occasion someone managed to ‘obtain’ a frozen fish from the freezer and tied it to the end of his line and then gave him a call. It was all done in fun and no one was ever terribly upset at all this carry on.

At some stage 3 of the lads got a tad more adventurous, and decided to make a large hook in the engine room with the view to snagging a shark. A lump of meat was stuck on the hook and with the help of a rather stout rope line lowered into the water. Its end was tied securely to the handrail. Due to the abundance of fish in the area quiet a few sharks could sometimes be seen cruising around. Some time later the rope went as taut as a bow string, and with a cry of joy three of them rushed to pull whatever had taken a bite of the hook up to the surface. As luck would have it, a large 4 or 5 meter Bronze Whaler had taken the bait. It took a great deal of cursing, swearing and grunting to haul this shark, who had possibly decided that it would not go quietly! to the surface. Due to the fact that we were ‘light ship’, meant that there was quite a way to go before we got the shark on the deck. So, there was a big shark + gravity pulling one way and 3 aspiring ‘shark hunters’ pulling the other. Gravity played a huge part in this endeavor, and no sooner had the shark been lifted a few feet out of the water when it’s weight overcame the muscles and sinews of the 3 lads, and it flopped back into the water. Some of the others, who were witnessing this unequal duel of wills shouted many expletives, encouragements and many and varied instructions as to how they should go about landing/pulling this large shark up on to the deck. Some even lent a hand with the pulling all to no avail. At one stage there would have been at least half dozen brawny lads tugging on the rope. By this time the rope was starting to chaff the palms of the gallant three. Meanwhile it was up 2 or 3 meters…the shark would give an enormous wiggle and it was down into the water again. Finally, after some time, it dawned on the 3 guys and the others assisting in this capture, that it was a lost cause and that basically they had a ‘tiger by the tail’. With some reluctance they cut the rope and allowed the shark to swim free. A lot of discussion took place as many availed themselves of a couple of cleansing ales after all the huffing and puffing, seeking a way to improve their technique and do better next time.

Thanks to Alan Rawlinson for giving me this opportunity to share my stories with you good people.

May you be well.

Michael Smith


Some details….

SS Triadic 7461 tons Built 10/1945 by West Coast Ship builders, Vancouver, BC. 426.8 x 57.2 x 34.9. 3 cylinder up & downer built by Canadian Allis Chalmers. 2 WT boilers. DF, ESD,GyC, radar, 2 decks, cruiser stern, O/No;181713.
Owned by British Phosphate Commisionaires. A H Gaze MBE as managers.
Registered London British flag.


Newcastle N.S.W. Australia

Newcastle in NSW has been a regular port of call for Bank Line ships, and the friendly and welcoming shoreside has remained in the memory of many of the visiting crews.

This was Newcastle around 1910 when coal to S America was a huge export. The Bank Line fleet were regular callers, and some paid the price for being nominated for this sometimes deadly cargo and routing.

The CASTLEBANK lost after loading coal in Newcastle. A purchased ship, the ELLISLAND also was lost after laoding here in 19010.

The CASTLEBANK lost after loading coal in Newcastle. Another purchased ship, the ELLISLAND also was lost after loading coal here in 1910.



An aerial view of the river Hooghly

Of all the world ports, Calcutta was visited most by Bank Line ships, loading cargoes for Africa and S. America among other destinations. A feature of a visit was the long haul, sometimes 2 days, up the river Hooghly.

An early pilot vessel
Chowringhee some time ago

Bank Line ships in the docks and on the river moorings


CASTLEBANK and LAURELBANK crews take part in a ship’s regatta


An account of a regatta between the ship’s crews in 1896 in Newcastle NSW. Taken from a Sea Breezes issue of 1937.

The Castlebank crew won the last race – for copper punts. See the last paragraph. She then loaded coal for Valpairiso in August and disappeared with it at sea in September.

It was quite common that ships loading coal out of Newcastle would go missing. Sometimes due to weather, but often fire or capsize, coal being a risky cargo.

The Laurelbank also disappeared at sea 2 years after this event.


Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha)

Loading Soya
The ‘old’ FORRESBANK was lost close to Port Elizabeth in 1953

Comment from


Loved Port Elizabeth, visited on Beaverbank and Ruddbank and remember spending a lot of time in a bar/hotel owned by a couple from Maghull near Liverpool where I lived – can’t remember name of it though


Did my first trip to sea on Cloverbank, renamed Siena, On a E A C charter in 1977 ,6 month trip ,joined her in Hong Kong , paid off in Bangkok .sailed to Busan,Pusan in Korea, Yokohama & Kobe in Japan across to Vancouver, Seattle,Portland & Astoria in Canada, then down to L A & San francisco ,then Manilla, Singapore,Bangkok then back to Hong Kong . Did 3 round trips on that run . WOw what a trip that was !!!

Many thanks to William Petch for this great recall..

kildonan1 commented on cloverbank comment

CLOVERBANK Did my first trip to sea on Cloverbank, renamed Siena, On a E A C charter in 1977 ,6 month trip ,joined her …

I was 2nd engineer on that trip, BJ Peterson was the old man, Eric Nixen 3rg eng, Garry Russel 4th eng, Fridel was the Chief. What a trip that was, when we left in Bangkok the Samson derrick was lying on the wharf after being dropped and smashed through one of the winches. What position were you onboard? Do you have any photos?



Comment by William Petch…

Whilst standing by in Sunderland at Crestbank new build, the funniest thing I ever saw was when I gave Captain C B Davies a lift on a Friday lunchtime to the train station as he was going home to Wales for the weekend he was standing on the platform waiting for his train , with 4 prize winning leeks under his arm.The previous night 4 of the shipyard workers had taken him out to the local Southwick working mens club leek show.& he was wined &dined there & presented with the 4 leeks. Talk about coals to Newcastle.!!!!


William Petch commented…

Sailed on maiden voyage of RUDDBANK in 1979 , had an eventfull trip up to China with Steel cargo from Spain, picked up 134 Vietnamese refugees off the coast of Borneo had them on board for over a month , finally landed them ashore in first loading port on next charter in Japan where we loaded for the Persian gulf. Captain C B Davies being our leader , best captain I ever sailed with .!!!! Very sad end for vessel in Venezuela.!!!!

NB: She was later called, ” Global Mariner” owned as a seafarers training ship, and sank on the river Orinoco in 2000 after a collision.

BANKLINE devotees, stop here!

You have reached a sheltered anchorage full of good things. Ships passing in the night, and casual visitors alike – you are all WELCOME!

See thousands of entries – ship pictures, stories, records, and memories old and new. Wartime accounts and fascinating history from 1885 onwards. Explore the surroundings, and for the lucky ones who spent time in the company, wallow if you like in nostalgia, recalling the heady days that will never, ever, be repeated. Best viewed with rose tinted glasses and your favourite tipple to hand! Now scroll on…..

Commander J.R.Stenhouse

Joseph Stenhouse served his apprenticeship in the Bank Line, spending 4 years on the sailing vessel SPRINGBANK. The book called ” Cracker Hash” tells the most interesting story

A short extract describes Melbourne in around 1900

Commander J.R. Stenhouse went on to become famous as Master of Shackleton’s ship AURORA , and later, the DISCOVERY. He was killed in the Red Sea in WW2.


Bank Line’s ALYNBANK after conversion to HMS ALYNBANK

A comprehensive article by Captain Geoffrey Walker follows, and an extract reads:-

Click on the Download button for the full article. Many thanks to Geoff for permitting this posting on the Bank Line site. Interested readers should also see his site at


William Petch. commented….

The Fish class vessels were in my opinion the best bankline ships built .Their Doxford 4 CYLINDER 670 J type engineswere a joy to sail with, once you got used to the starting & manouvering technique. Also working on the engine units for unit overhauls was quite labòur intensive. BUt boy did you enjoy a few beers afterwards!!!!


William Petch commented…

I remember in Sydney in 1982 on TROUTBANK, ashore with some shoreside friends went to a late night Jazz club down some dark stairs in the city some place ,went to visit the gents urinals standing there and suddenly the band started playing and I could watch them perform from where I was standing. The toilet was right next to the stage with no side wall to it , talk about blowing your own trumpet.!!!!

FORTHBANK memories

FORTHBANK memories

William Petch recalls the FORTHBANK.

I joined the Forthbank in Hull in March 1981 as 3eng afte obtaining my 2nd eng ticket at South Shields marine college . She had just carried out a quadrennial survey at Boness in Holland where unfortunatly after leaving the drydock on a cold foggy winters day she collided with a bridge on her way out to sea.!! ( See the report on this site). So she was turned around & back up to a layby berth for foremasts replacement & some deck repairs .The master was Harry Barber, but the collision was totally the pilots fault as they were talking in Dutch only to the tug & a misunderstanding caused the pilot to try &take the vessel through an unopen section of the bridge.Sutch is life’s surprises.!! This was my first Sopac copra run, down through the Panama canal & back up through the Suez canal a round trip of 4 months back to Rotterdam & payoff. My shortest trip after 4 voyages with the company. On our return from the south Pacific to Europe we carried a dug out canoe with outrigger attached which was a gift to Prince Charles on his visit there from the king of Tonga. The boat was located on top of containers down the aft end of vessel on the poopdeck , we took great pleasure in throwing our empty beer cans into the canoe on our voyage homewards. Needless to say it was full on arrive back in Europe!!!! Good job they were only cans & not bottled sp beers.!!!!

Below is the full report of the bridge collision – a highly technical examination with diagrams etc!

Tales of the deep, continued.

The career of Michael Smith in N.Z. who started out his career on the TEAKBANK


S.S. Hemiglypta

3 Stage Parkinsons’ Turbine

An extract….

During my 22 or so years in The Merchant Navy most of the vessels I served on were Diesel powered. The only two vessels that happened to be Steam powered, were the Shell Tanker Hemiglypta, and the Phosphate Bulk Carrier S.S. Triadic.

See the full article by clicking on the link below. Many thanks to Michael.

William Petch commented..

JOINED Clydebank on a floating drydock in Hamburg in early 1985, loaded around Europe, then off on the Sopac service. On our rundown to New Guinea, the captain asked us if we could build a wooden bar outside on the aft accomadation deck as we were expecting to have several ship board social events with shoreside guests, as the captain was C B Davies, NO sooner said than done was the order of the day .WE all devoted our spare time to the task & a very impressive wooden structure including a fine display of imaginitve lighting, provided by the electrian Steve Davies !!! Needless to say the bar was a roaring sucess around the islands ,even the superintendent John Mackenzie was impressed.!!!! ON the voyage back to Europe we had acummulated so much beer ,wine & spirits as all excess bar stock had been acquired by us .& the superintendent put the cost of all socialising6 down to ships account for entertaining clients.!!!! Fine Fellow Sir.So all the way home it was a free bar for all on board.!!!Unfortunately on arrival in Europe we heard that passenger accommodation was to be added to the after structure so our deck bar had to be
removed ! That’s life I suppose !!!

A treat….

Bank Line Ports….Islands and Atolls

Here is a remarkable and original article by Captain Geoffrey Walker about Islands and Atolls. The Bank Line ships regularly traversed many of them and called for Copra, e.g. Fanning Island. There was a love affair with the Maldives which claimed the old Laganbank as a victim.

An extract…

See the whole illustrated article by clicking on the download button. Grateful thanks to Geoff Walker for permission to post here. See his site


The SPRINGBANK was in the fleet from 1894 TO 1913 before being sold on

Barque “Springbank”

“Upon the arrival In Sydney on Saturday last of the four-masted barque Springbank, it was reported the wife of the captain and two of the crew had died from natural causes during the trip from Vancouver. In other respects the trip of the vessel was also remarkable; her great deck-load of timber making her so tender that she would not stand a heavy press of sail. Consequently her movements were necessarily slow, the voyage occupying 97 days.

The vessel brought over two million feet of lumber.”

“The Argus” 01 Dec 1909. Melbourne, Victoria

BANKLINE – regular ports



William Petch comment….

Remember in Sydney in 1982 on TROUTBANK, ashore with some shoreside friends went to a late night Jazz club down some dark stairs in the city some place ,went to visit the gents urinals standing there and suddenly the band started playing and I could watch them perform from where I was standing. The toilet was right next to the stage with no side wall to it , Talk about blowing your own trumpet.!!!!