Gold Ribbon Banner
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
MV Crestbank

The Crestbank was the second of a massive 17 ship order from Harland & Wolff in Belfast commencing with the Cloverbank in 1957. I joined her there in 1959 as second mate. She was back at the builders for repairs and adjustments.

At this time, Andrew Weir (now Lord Inverforth) and the Bank Line Board had placed an even bigger order for 21 ships, from William Doxford and Sons in Sunderland, beginning with the Firbank. The vessels that emerged were noted for having slightly more rakish lines, the most obvious difference being in the funnel shape; Harland’s tended to be flat-topped. It was a familiar pattern, with orders divided more or less evenly between the two yards on opposite sides of the UK. All new build orders for the Bank Line went to UK yards. Although the company continued to place orders for vessels up until the 1980s, this particular period was probably the peak of the postwar building spree. The following 20 years’ or more of steady global trading provided work for a modern fleet that hovered around the 50 ship mark. The old stalwarts that had survived WW2, and a dozen stop-gap Liberty ships that had given good service, were phased out as new smart vessels joined the fleet. Smart they may have been, but who would have guessed that break bulk vessels of this type were shortly to be mostly redundant and would be replaced by the large container types? A crystal ball would have been useful, as always, but in hindsight, these new buildings at least had a long and satisfactory career. A later 12 ship order placed in the 1970s, and starting with the lead ship Fleetbank, was not so lucky and resulted in vessels being disposed of in as little as eight years.

Crossing over on the Irish Sea Ferry, I was a bit overawed being sent to serve on such a ‘modern’ ship! My previous vessels had included a wartime Liberty ship, the Maplebank, and a wartime coal-burning Empire Boat, the Hazelbank. I also had a spell on the 1930s built passenger vessel, the Inchanga. This was now the nearest I would ever get to sailing on a new vessel, and she even had some basic air conditioning, meaning that the ubiquitous oscillating fan was no longer the most important cabin fitting. She also had a ‘Brown’ fitted gyro, and auto steering. More about this beauty later.

The honour of having the class name traditionally went to the first vessel off the stocks, called the lead ship - in this case, the Cloverbank completed in 1957. These were shelter-decked vessels of dimensions 483ft long, 62.9ft wide, and a 26ft loaded draft. Deep tanks were provided for the regular oil cargoes that Bank Line carried. Lube oil or similar from the US Gulf ports went out to Australia and New Zealand, and vegetable oil, mainly coconut oil, from the Pacific Islands was carried homewards on a regular basis. A six cylinder diesel engine by the builders gave them a decent speed of 14 knots plus, and a daily run often well in excess of 300 miles was something I had not been used to! The opposed piston engines now burnt heavy fuel oil, and were also turbo charged. However, scavenge fires were a daily occurrence and we soon got used to slowing down at sea while the engineers went through the drill to dowse them. Familiar clouds of black smoke observed from the bridge would signal what was coming.

Between March 1957 and March 1964, all 17 vessels of this class were delivered. After the first dozen were launched, there were minor modifications to the design. The heavy lift derrick became 50 tons, and other slight changes made in light of the experience with the earlier vessels. All of these ships, however, gave a good 16 or 17 years of service before being sold on. Crestbank went to Greek owners after 16 years, where she gave a further five years’ service afloat. Only the Levernbank out of the 17 was unlucky enough to be lost. In 1973, She stranded spectacularly between some cliffs in southern Peru, near Matarani though, fortunately, without any loss of life.

The voyage, or voyages ahead on this occasion, would complete my time for a Master’s ticket, and the whole trip was to last 14 months and take in transits of both Panama (twice) and the Suez canal. This was less time away than many Bank Line voyages, which were still completing the statutory two years before Officers were relieved. We were not to know.

On boarding in Belfast, the Master turned out to be a genial and pleasant man appointed to his first command. This, understandably, made him a bit apprehensive when we were navigating close inshore or through islands. On the ‘graveyard’ watch from midnight to 0400 hrs, the traditional watch for the second mate, it was irksome sometimes to share the space and solitude with him. However, his nature was far removed from some of the post-war Masters we suffered. Many were tyrants, drunks, or social outcasts - sometimes all three!

The Crestbank was a big improvement on the older ships, but it was still years before reliable and efficient air conditioning. We did have extra rooms, like a lounge, and a minuscule drying room, but improvements further down the line, like a bar, a pool perhaps, and a nippier boat for rescue and runaround were still years away in the offing. The lounge was rarely used, lacking the crucial feature of a bar. It was a barren place. On the bridge the equipment included the clunky automatic pilot which we treated very suspiciously. It was no substitute for a quiet and trustful Indian seacunny standing there silently.

There were various minor improvements, but it was still many years before satellite navigation or the global positioning system was to arrive. Navigation in the fifties was still reliant on the tried and trusted ‘star sights’ morning and evening, weather permitting, and the morning longitude with a run up to the noon position. Like many mariners before and after this time I suspect that, just like me, they got a great feeling of satisfaction from plotting a position from celestial observations. It was an art form, rather than science, and all the better for it. Judgement was needed, especially when a clutch of position lines on the chart formed an almighty great box! Which ones to ignore was the burning question?

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - November 2018 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!


Most Popular

  • First of Giant New Container Ships is Handed Over +

  • Alan Sinclair to Nova Star +

  • Billionaire Arthur Blank has his own Dreamboat +

  • From Fjords to Fiji +

  • Two Gulf Tankers Set on Fire in Attacks +

  • 1
  • 2

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Admiral Bellingshausen +

    Admiral Bellingshausen A 24m YACHT carrying members of an Estonian expedition arrived at Lerwick on Aug 14 on a voyage to mark Read More
  • Two Rescued by Lifeboat +

    Two Rescued by Lifeboat TWO local fishermen were rescued after their fishing vessel caught fire off Land’s End on the afternoon of July 16. Read More
  • First Task of Shell Bunker Barge +

    Shell Bunker Barge SHELL’S first inland waterway LNG bunker barge carried out her first bunkering operation at Rotterdam in June. Read More
  • A Special Surveyor Joins the Humber Estuary Fleet +

    Special Surveyor A NEW £600,000 vessel has joined the survey fleet of Associated British Ports (ABP)’ Humber Estuary Services. Read More
  • Denmark Sails into Fifth in the World +

    Denmark Sails into Fifth in the World DENMARK has now moved into fifth position in the list of the world’s largest shipping countries. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • 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
  • Record Set by Largest US Ship for Hawaii Service +

    Lurline The largest combination container, roll-on, roll-off ship ever built in the United States was formerly named in a ceremony at Read More
  • $293mn for Port Projects +

    Long Beach port The United States is to invest $292.7mn in the country’s ports through a new Port Infrastructure Development Programme. Read More
  • Facility Exports First Cargo of Propane to Japan +

    Sumire Gas The first marine export facility for propane in Canada has been officially opened. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3


  • 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
  • Line Adds Automated Power Kite to Propulsion +

    Airseas The Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen KK (K Line) aims to cut ship greenhouse gas emissions with automated power kites. Read More
  • ONE Express to North Sea and Baltic +

    ONE Apus The Japanese shipping line Ocean Network Express (ONE) was due to start an enhanced North Sea Baltic Service with Russia Read More
  • MOL Links with Russian Uni for Crew Training +

    Makarov University The Japanese shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Russian university on co-operation Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • 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
  • Fourth Dreadnought Named HMS “King George VI” +

    Dreadnought Class UK News The fourth member of the new Dreadnought class of nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines will bear the name Read More
  • US Navy Orders Flight II Landing Platform Dock +

    LDP30 American News The contract for the construction of LPD30, the first Flight II Landing Platform Dock of the San Antonio Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • 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
  • CalMac Heritage +

    Columba I include a fine poster and artist’s image of the famed Macbrayne paddler Columba. Read More
  • Russian Adventure +

    Ocean Adventurer To the North East Coast and arriving at Aberdeen for the first time for many months, I witnessed a passenger Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • 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
  • Port of Aberdeen Fifty Years On +

    Aberdeen Harbour Extension Project When I first arrived in Aberdeen in 1968, I couldn’t believe my luck. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • 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
  • Lower Figures in the Area of Ship Losses +

    The Sincerity Ace IT WAS HEARTENING to read in a recent press release from the Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality SE’s (AGCS), in Read More
  • President Opens ‘Largest UK Ship Simulation Centre’ +

    Sir Michael Bibby With the training of seafarers being so important to safety at sea, and in particular navigation equipment and bridge procedures, Read More
  • Hands-Free Mooring at St Lawrence Seaway +

    St Lawrence Seaway I feel there are probably many readers, like me, who feel a shiver down their spine when they think of Read More
  • Flying the Flag on Merchant Navy Day +

    Red Ensign For more than 35 years, it has been my immense privilege to be a local Isle of Man committee member Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • 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
  • Damen Group Superyachts +

    Amels With 25 projects underway, business is booming for Amels, the Dutch luxury yacht builder. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places


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


Women and Children First

HMS BIRKENHEAD was one of the first iron-hulled warships built for the Royal Navy. Although laid down as the frigate, Read More
MV Scillonian

The Boatmen of Scilly

The romantically named Guiding Star, Sapphire and Sea King will be recognisable to folk all over the UK who are Read More
  • 1
  • 2