Gold Ribbon Banner
Wednesday, January 22, 2020
VoloJuly 2015 saw the 60th anniversary of the launch of the last conventional steam powered cargo ship for Ellerman’s Wilson Line which was, in its prime, the largest private ship owning company in the world. I did a series of personal voyages on Wilson ships during the early winters of November and December in 1958, 1959 and 1961. I look at Ellerman’s Wilson Line and ponder on its perseverance in the use of traditional steam machinery as a motive power long after most shipping companies had turned to motor ships.

Thomas Wilson founded the Hull based Wilson Line in 1841. The company specialised in trading to Scandinavian and Baltic ports, to India and the carriage of immigrants to North American ports, carrying grain and general cargo on the return journey. At the start of WW1, the company owned 84 seagoing ships. Shipping losses for the Wilson line during WW1 were considerable, the company losing 36 ships and 300 crew members through torpedo, gunfire and mines. Replacements consisted of new building, and of war reparations in the form of ten ships including a 3,500 ton passenger and cargo ship built in 1898, which became the Calypso, the first full time cruise ship for the company, on which my parents celebrated their honeymoon with a cruise to the Baltic in 1933. At the end of WW1, the company was sold to Sir John Ellerman, thereafter operating as Ellerman’s Wilson Line.

War again in 1939-1945 took a heavy toll, with 170 seagoing personnel losing their lives. At the outbreak of war in 1939, Wilson’s fleet comprised of 35 steamships; by May 1945 only 10 ships remained. New ships were built and ordered during the war, notably Ariosto and Angelo, built by Swan Hunter in 1940 and fitted with low pressure exhaust turbine added to the traditional triple expansion steam reciprocating engine, and Tasso launched in June 1945 with the same machinery arrangement. Tasso was the prototype for the new Malmo class of eight ships constructed between 1946 and 1947. All were 1,797 ton general cargo ships of pre-war design and specification. Wilson’s were experienced steam ship operators and to them it made sense to build new, using tried and tested, easily managed and operated machinery, but to modern thought and design.

Thermal efficiency of the marine boiler and the reciprocating engine remained a constant consideration for ship owners and builders alike. The problems with steam powered machinery was that right from the moment of heat generation turning water into an expanding gas, everything connected with the generated power contrives to rob the steam of its energy. Heat escapes up the funnel and is conducted away through metal contact. There are losses through radiation, incomplete combustion, exhaust steam, thermal losses within the engine, losses in condensation, mechanical friction, propeller losses, wasted energy at the condenser. Owners were lucky if 6% of the original power arrived at the propeller. Some of these losses plague ship owners today, but some can be countermanded by a lick of non-stick silicone based paint to the ships underwater parts, a product that was unknown 50 years ago.

In simple engines, the steam was used once, arriving at the condenser with most of the generated energy unused. Compounding (steam going from a high pressure cylinder to a low pressure and then to the condenser) was more efficient but still with a lot of waste energy. Taking the steam through three expansions was, for most of the life of the triple expansion system, the best that could be hoped for, but still with big energy losses. Developments in boiler efficiency with high pressures and temperatures made great strides in economy and efficiency. The development of the superheat where generated steam was routed through tubes either surrounding the furnace or in the smoke box at the base of the funnel was a great factor in improving thermal efficiency.

Silvio The prime exponent in the development of superheat was North Eastern Marine (NEM), whose system used a superheated Scotch boiler at 220 psi, with a superheat temperature of 620 degrees F, achieving a reduction in steam consumption of about 30%.

For a 10,000 ton cargo vessel this would see a reduction from 50 tons of coal per 24 hours to 39 tons, a saving of 1,000 tons of coal for a 102 day voyage. (Coal as boiler fuel was still being used by elderly ships well into the late 20th century; the excursion paddle steamer Kingswear Castle on the river Dart in Devon has a hand-fired coal fuel boiler generating steam for its 100 year old machinery).

But there was still a lot of wasted energy, and with the development of the steam turbine, a lot of engineers saw the advantages in routing the low pressure steam from the engine into a low pressure turbine on its way to the condenser. Amazing gains were shown where a ship fitted with Swiss Brown Boverei exhaust turbine gained an additional 1,200 horsepower on top of its existing 4,200. NEM also pioneered the steam re-heat system where the steam was routed again to the funnel uptake after use in the high pressure and intermediate pressure cylinders before going to the exhaust turbine, thence to the condenser. In effect the steam was being taken to seven stages of expansion thus giving an efficiency in operation almost equalling that of an internal combustion motor ship. What could not be overcome was the take up of space by the boilers, using up valuable cargo area that motor ships used to their great advantage.

All the ships in the Wilson fleet constructed between 1945 and 1955 had the common factor of being powered by triple expansion, three crank reciprocating engines coupled to a low pressure exhaust turbine with double reduction gearing and Fottinger hydraulic coupling to the screw shaft. All turbines were to the Bauer-Wach system, developed in Germany in the 1920’s. Steam was generated in two traditional Scotch boilers using the Clyde oil firing system.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - January 2016 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Boudicca

Most Popular

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • RNLI to Cut 135 Jobs +

    RNLI TO CUT 135 JOBS AS GREATER ‘EFFICIENCY NEEDS FEWER PEOPLE’ Read More
  • Twenty Years of Cruise Ships +

    Twenty Years of Cruise Ships ON AUG 30, the Port of Tyne celebrated 20 years of cruise ship travel. Read More
  • Race Through Horrendous Seas to Aid Fishing Vessel +

    Race Through Horrendous Seas to Aid Fishing Vessel ON THE afternoon of Aug 30, a fishing vessel reported to the Coastguard that she had lost power near Peterhead, Read More
  • RAF Chinooks Arrive by Sea From us and Fly to Their Base From Quayside +

    RAF Chinooks Arrive by Sea THE Atlantic Container Line (ACL) won a contract from Boeing Defence UK to transport seven Chinook helicopters across the Atlantic Read More
  • Launch of a Unique Memorial to a Memory +

    Launch of a Unique Memorial to a Memory THE NEW Invergordon Shannon class lifeboat which enters service next spring will feature the names of thousands of people in Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Tanker Returns to Shipyard After Hurricane +

    Tanker Returns to Shipyard After Hurricane The Grand Bahama Shipyard (GBS) officially resumed operations and welcomed back its first commercial vessel following Hurricane Dorian. Read More
  • Boost for Area's Exports and Jobs Forecast +

    Port of Morrow in Oregon THE EXTENSION of the barge service at the port of Morrow, in Oregon, is one of only three projects on Read More
  • USCG Cutter and Two Life Boats Ensure Damaged Vessel Reached Post +

    USCG Life Boat In a four-day operation off the coast of Oregon, three separate vessels of the US Coast Guard towed a 50ft Read More
  • Operation to Salvage Three Tugs +

    Tug Salvage THE US Coast Guard has launched an investigation into the sinking of three vessels in the Illinois River near Hardin, Read More
  • Terminal Being Made 'Big Ship Ready' for 2021 +

    Terminal Being Made Big Ship Ready WORK has started on the expansion of Seattle’s Terminal 5 so it can handle container ships of up to 18,000 Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • Next Generation of Bulk Carrier Handed Over +

    Next Generation of Bulk Carrier Handed Over THE JAPANESE shipbuilder Japan Marine United has delivered what it described as “a next-generation energy-saving bulk carrier” to Nissen Kaiun, Read More
  • Coal Carrier to Serve Japanese Power Stations +

    Coal Carrier to Serve Japanese Power Stations THE Japanese shipping line, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line), have taken delivery of the coal carrier Corona Citrus, 88,000dwt, built Read More
  • Network Demands Recovery of the Second VDR +

    Stellar Daisy A new search has been demanded to recover the second Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) from the wreck of the South Read More
  • First of Giant New Container Ships is Handed Over +

    MSC Gulsun THE SWISS-based Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) has taken delivery of one of the world’s largest container ships, the MSC Gulsun, Read More
  • The Last New Magnolia Ship in Series +

    The Last New Magnolia Ship THE Singapore-based container shipping company Ocean Network Express (ONE) has taken delivery of the 14,000 teu capacity ONE Cygnus, 138,611dwt, Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • US Navy Orders Another Two Expeditionary Sea Base Ships +

    US Navy Orders Another Two Expeditionary Sea Base Ships American News The expansion of the US Navy’s amphibious capability continues with the announcement that General Dynamics NASSCO has received Read More
  • RFA Tideforce is Welcomed into Service +

    RFA Tideforce BRITISH News THE FOURTH and last of the new Tide class tankers, RFA Tideforce, was offi cially accepted into service Read More
  • USS Cincinnati to be Delivered to US Navy +

    USS Cincinnati US News USS CINCINNATI is the latest member of the expanding littoral combat ship fl eet to be delivered to Read More
  • Scorpene Sub Snags +

    INS Khanderi indian News The troubled Scorpene class submarine program hit another snag in June. Read More
  • US Navy’s Frigate Program Passes Significant Hurdle +

    USS Minneapolis-St Paul US News The US Navy has unveiled its plans for the purchase of a new frigate known as FFG(X). Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • DFDS and Moby +

    DFDS and Moby PROPOSED FERRY EXCHANGE ‘AND A TALE OF TWO STEAMERS...’ Read More
  • From Port Glasgow Nationalisation to Philip & Son, Dartmouth +

    Red Eagle So, not many months ago, nationalisation was unfashionable and unlikely ever to return, especially within the EU where that institution’s Read More
  • Alan Sinclair to Nova Star +

    Glen Sannox Those in management positions must dread the retirement of those characters who retire from their life’s work with a wealth Read More
  • Fragile Future for Calmac +

    Isle of Arran TMore and more, I am reading reports that say the media, and the public too, are well aware of the Read More
  • Oscar Goes to Italy +

    Oscar Wilde Irish Continental Group has entered into a bareboat hire purchase agreement for the sale of its 1987-built Oscar Wilde to Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • Visits to Brixham and the Pin Mill Race +

    Visits to Brixham and the Pin Mill Race In July, the brigantine Tres Hombres called at Brixham on passage from the Caribbean to Amsterdam with 35 tonnes of Read More
  • From Gloucester Tall Ships to Kenyan Sailing Dhows +

    Royalist Gloucester Dock is linked to the River Severn at Sharpness by a 16 mile canal. Read More
  • The Zea Servant +

    Zea Servant The Hong Kong registered Zea Servant arrived late June from Hull. She was in Campbeltown to load wind turbines for Read More
  • The Green Band of Marstal +

    Bessie Ellen The Danish Maritime Museum had the schooner Bonavista built on the island of Aero at Marstal and this year they Read More
  • Norweigan National Day +

    Thorodd I was in Montrose on the Norwegian National Day, 17 May, when its independent constitution from Sweden was confirmed in Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Flying Focus Calendar 2020 +

    Flying Focus Calendar 2020 FOR MORE THAN 30 years, Flying Focus, based in the Netherlands, has specialised in maritime aerial photography.. Read More
  • Seized Stena Impero Leaves Oran, Owner Confirms +

    Seized Stena Impero Leaves Oran, Owner Confirms It was good news to hear in late September that, according to the ship’s owner, Stena Bulk, the detained tanker Read More
  • Gulf Tensions Result in Cruise Cancellations +

    Oceana IN THE ‘MESSAGE FROM THE BRIDGE’ I referred to the tensions with Iran in the Gulf, following the seizure in Read More
  • Waverley Appeal Reaches Half Million Milestone +

    Waverley Appeal THE WAVERLEY – the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world – had to be withdrawn from service in May this year Read More
  • Welcome to 'Spirit Of Discovery' - Farewell to 'Oriana' +

    Spirit of Discovery WITHIN the last two months the British cruise industry has welcomed the arrival of Saga Cruises, 58,250gt, Spirit of Discovery, Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Silversea Cruises has Partnered with French Luxury Glassmaker Lalique +

    Silver Shadow SILVERSEA CRUISES has partnered with French luxury glassmaker Lalique to enhance the dining experience onboard Silver Shadow and Silver Moon. Read More
  • Billionaire Arthur Blank has his own Dreamboat +

    Billionaire Arthur Blank's Dreamboat ARTHUR BLANK helped create the American home improvement store chain, Home Depot, and it seems that now, his new fl Read More
  • Boudicca Pays Tribute to D-Day Veterans +

    Boudicca Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines were proud to have played its part in hosting 250 D-Day veterans. Read More
  • Captain of a Modern Passenger Carrying Sail Ship +

    Sea Cloud 2 If you have ever wondered what qualities a Captain of a cruise vessel might need to have listed on his Read More
  • Every Ash Cloud Has A Silver Lining +

    The ash cloud crisis continues to cause uncertainty as we see sporadic closures of airspace and cancelled flights, and this Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

Cuba

An Unexpected Job in Cuba

In 1948, I joined the MV Yamaska Park as an EDH and, over the first few days aboard, I became Read More
Suez Canal

The Creation of the Suez Canal - Part Two

IAt the end of 1858, the company’s Works Committee convened for the first time. It included an impressive assembly of Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Seventy-Five Years On

Seventy-Five Years On

In 1944, Tom Bradbury was serving as a 22-year-old Royal Navy lieutenant in the DIDO class cruiser HMS Scylla. Having Read More
The Falkland Robinson Crusoe

The Falkland Robinson Crusoe

During the 1982 South Atlantic conflict between Britain and Argentina over control of the archipelago known to the British as Read More
  • 1
  • 2