Monthly Archives: October 2021

A fine Geoff Walker article

Austasia Line

Click on the download button above to read the full article

An original, unpublished article about the history and vessels of the Austasia Line, centered on Singapore.

Please see Geoff Walker’s own maritime site at Many interesting postings of stories, paintings, and sea related memorabilia

Life in the Bank Line throughout the 1950’s is the subject of a book called, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951-1955″ available on Amazon or directly from –


IMO7422740.Built 1977 for Bank Line Ltd, (A. Weir & Co. Ltd ), London, by Sunderland Ship Builders Ltd, Pallion yard, Sunderland. grt 11,173, dwt 16,875, spd 17 knts, General Cargo. 1981 Sold to Buckingham Maritime Corporation, Piraeus renamed ALKAIOS. 1994 Renamed GEORGE. 24-3-2000 Broken up at Alang.

The Nessbank held the record for the shortest time in the fleet for a new building, just 4 years.

Places we visited…


now Banjul, Gambia

Bathurst was a fairly regular stop for Bank Line vessels discharging around Africa.

The ‘old’ Irisbank was there in 1956 when there was a change of officers, the new arrivals came out on a Viking aircraft, and those leaving spent 2 days returning on the same aircraft, stopping overnight in Gibraltar.

Banjul, formerly (until 1973) Bathurst, city, capital, and Atlantic port of The Gambia, on St. Mary’sIsland, near the mouth of the Gambia River. It is the country’s largest city. It was founded in 1816, when the British Colonial Office ordered Captain Alexander Grant to establish a military post on the river to suppress the slave trade and to serve as a trade outlet for merchants ejected from Senegal, which had been restored to France. Grant chose Banjul Island (ceded by the chief of Kombo) as the site, which he renamed St. Mary’s. He named the new settlement for Henry Bathurst, 3rd Earl Bathurst, then colonial secretary. It became the capital of the British colony and protectorate of Gambia and after 1947 was governed by a town council. With The Gambia’s independence in 1965, the town was granted city status and became the national capital. The name was changed to Banjul in 1973.

Banjul, Gambia

The present airport. In 1956 it was a shed affair with a metal mesh runway.

See the book, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951-1955″ for accounts of voyages back then

Joining in the 1950’s

By Alan Rawlinson

It doesn’t seem so long ago,
the winches hissing and clanking in the snow.
There’s a lovely smell of warmed up oil and steam,
and Copra’s spread there, on the beams.

Hoses, cables, boards, and battens,
are strewn around in  random patterns.
There was nothing like a Bank Line ship,
home at last, from a 2 year trip.

See the cabins, glossy white,
narrow bunks with quilts tucked tight,
Then comes the tea, thick and treackly,
brought by stewards, ever so meekly.

So, an alien world, but let it be known,
some of us, – we called it home!

Places we visited..


Trinidad, Point Fortin, was a regular call for outbound Bank Line ships loading bitumen drums for Australa or NZ ports. It was the first foreign port for the author asa first trip apprentice on the FORTHBANK in 1951

Loading took place at anchor offshore, and trips ashore to the Shell club usually were enabled. First foreign port for a first tripper left everlasting memories. The Cicadas at night making their loud racket, and the calm of the morning at anchor without a sound and the sea like glass. It was magical.

More accounts of Bank Line voyages can be read in the book, ” Voyaging with Icons”

Palm Line

Many Bank Line folk will remember seeing the Palm Line vessels on the West African Coast with their distinctive funnel sporting a palm. Here is an article summarising the fleet, and kindly submitted by Captain Geoffrey Walker in Melbourne. He has a fascinating Maritime site at

To read the full article, please click on the download button above.

A book about the Bank Line experience is called, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951-1955″. It is available in print or as an ebook via Amazon.


A great view of the foredeck on the old timer – FLEETBANK. Not a container in sight! These decks, usually Oregon pine, were a sheathing over steel. When holystoned, and wet with spray, they glistened in the sun. In port they often took a beating – gouged and chewed up by beams being crashed down, and sometimes stained with cargoes like bitumen or oil, but somehow the appearance always recovered.

Photo kindly supplid by Peter Ferrer who was onboard the Fleetbank

King Line Ltd

(click on the link to download)

An article re the ‘King Line’, penned by the author Captain Geoffrey Walker . His website, has an interesting variety of Maritime postings.

Books on the Bank Line include:

” Voyaging with Icons”

” Any Budding Sailors”, and,

” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951-1955″

Fleets we knew..

Stag Line

Stag Line was one of the many British shipping companies on the world maritime stage during the pre-container era.

The following article has been penned by the maritime author, Geoff Walker whose own website ( is an interesting collection of all things maritime.

Click on the link to download and read

Some books with Bank Line content are called:

” Any Budding Sailors?”

” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951-1955″

” Voyaging with Icons”

All available from Amazon online.

Places we visited..


The Inchanga (above) was in Beira , Mozambique, every few weeks on the India/Africa passenger service. Both loading and discharging was normal. In her day, it meant anchoring for longish periods in the river and suffering the heat and the Tstse flies while working as an apprentice. Today, a modern port offers berths alongside.,

A book titled, ” Voyaging with Icons” describes life on the Bank Line ships

Places we visited…

Hong Kong

Hong Kong harbour saw many Bank Line ships come and go, occasionally just for a crew change. The stunning location was hard to beat, and ashore in the early days everything that jack tar could ever need was available with many bars and haunts offering a variety of food and drink. A couple of pics below capture the 1950’s scene – star ferry terminal and a busy street.

The book, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951 – 1955″ is about life circling the world in the 1950’s.

Places we visited.

Ports of New Guinea

Many Bank Line folk will have memories of the New Guinea ports, good or otherwise! The following comprehensive article was penned by the Maritime author, Captain Geoffrey Walker. Grateful thanks to him.

Press the Download button to read the article

Geoffrey’s book which is a memoir is called ” A Tramp for all the Oceans” See his site – to purchase

Places we visited..


Cotonou in Benin was a regular call for Bank Line ships discharging gunny bales from India. Back in the 1950/60’s dischaging was carried out to lighters out at anchor, but today there is a thriving port.

The Irisbank visited Cotonou several times

Cotonou  is the economic center of Benin. Its official population count was 761,137 inhabitants in 2006; however, some estimates indicate its population to be as high as 2.4 million.

In addition to being Benin’s largest city, it is the seat of government, although Porto-Novo is the official capital.

The urban area continues to expand, notably toward the west. The city lies in the southeast of the country.

See the book, ” Any Budding Sailors”, available on Amazon for accounts of life in the Bank Line.

Places we visited…


Shanghai was visited by Bank Line vessels both discharging and loading. Visits to this memorable city offered everything that could ever be needed plus a fascinating history and scenic views etc.

The old Lindenbank was bound for Shanghai with wheat when she stranded

More accounts of life in the Bank Line are in the book called, ” Any Budding Sailors?” available from Amazon.

Places we visited…


The port of Liverpool, Birkenhead ( Bromboro Dock) and the Mersey wll always be huge in any Bank Line old timers mind. It was often the place where the journey and adventure began and where it often ended years later. The author, for one, felt emotional , watching the Liver Birds line up when passing outward bound. Often, as mentioned, it was possible to see them line up again as the ship sailed back up the Mersey, as on the ‘old’ Ernebank in 1953, on a ‘short’ 8 month trip!

The Ernebank building in 1937.

Life in the iconic Bank Line can be read about in the book titled, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice, 1951-1955″

Places we visited….


Bunbury in Western Australia was a fairly regular host to Bank Line ships loading grain. As always, the local folk were extremely friendly and welcoming, making the visit a pleasure.

Welcome to the port of Bunbury | Southern Ports
  • The Port of Bunbury is located 175kms south of Perth , Western Australia and is home to over 70,000 inhabitants. The third largest city in the state, European settlement of Bunbury occurred in 1836 and the port was established shortly after, on the existing natural harbour.

The Comliebank in her early days

Accounts of life in the Bank Line in the 1950’s can be read in the book, ” Voyaging with Icons”, available on Amazon.

Places we visited…..


Occaisonally, Bank Line ships visited Vitoria in NE Brazil to load grain or iron ore. Today, like many of the old ports it has become a tourist destination.

Vitoria, Brazil

This lovely island city is the capital of Santo Espirito state and one of Brazil’s oldest cities, dating from 1551. Its original Indian inhabitants dubbed it the “Island of Honey” for its abundance of fish, forests and natural beauty. From the delightful beaches to the hilltop views, Vitória marvelously blends its colonial and contemporary aspects. Vitória’s beaches are magnets for the local people — young and old, day and night — especially Camburi beach, which is floodlit after dark. It is the center of the city’s nightlife. Everyone can enjoy a swim, a walk on the sand, impromptu conga lines, or dinner by the sea.

The Liberty ship, Maplebank loaded iron ore here.

See the book called, “Merchant Navy Apprentice, 1951 – 1955” for accounts of life in the Bank Line

Places we visited..



Beaumont in Texas was a regular call for Bank Line ships loading Sulphur, Oil, and generals around the U.S Gulf Coast. Pilotage was interesting, entering via the Sabine Pass, and passing the huge reserve fleet of ships from WW2. The whole area had a unique oil and chemical smell and a very distinctive and memorable atmosphere, hard to describe. Ashore were all the delights and goodies that made the start of a long voyage interesting.

See the book, ” Voyaging with Icons” for a description of Bank Line voyages

Places we visited….


Zanzibar was a regular stop sailing southbound on the East African coast. It will always be associated with spices and the sight of Dhows. Cargo working at anchor was slow and leisurely and dominated by the aroma of spice sacks being stowed by hand.

Zanzibar’s main industries today are spicesraffia, and tourism. In particular, the islands produce clovesnutmegcinnamon, and black pepper. For this reason, the Zanzibar Archipelago, together with Tanzania’s Mafia Island, are sometimes referred to locally as the “Spice Islands”. Tourism in Zanzibar is a more recent activity, driven by government promotion that caused an increase from 19,000 tourists in 1985, to 376,000 in 2016.

The ‘ white ships’ of Andrew Weir were regular callers. Anchoring was a ‘must’ and they were in frequent use on this coast and in the islands and inlets.

The 1950’s

A tourist hotel today

A fuller account of life on this coast and in the Bank Line is in a book, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice, 1951-1955″ available in print or as an ebook on Amazon.

Places we visited..


Chittagong on the Karnafuli river was a very regular call for Bank Line ships loading Jute bales. The above picture is of the modern port, but in the 1950’s the berths were old and loading took place throughout the day and night from the quay, and from barges overside. The chanting of the gangs sweating bales up between the lower hold beams was a memorable event, usually watched by an apprentice to ensure that all the space was used.

The Irisbank was a regular visitor

Jute at market ready for baling

Approaching Chittagong in 1956, the Irisbank grounded on a shoal at full speed and bounced off! It transpired that the marker buoy had been displaced by a recent hurricane, and little damage was done. This huge Delta area contains the world’s greatest mangrove swamp and is swept by Monsoon winds each year

More accounts of Bank Line voyages can be found in the book titled, ” Voyaging with Icons” available from Amazon.