Gold Ribbon Banner
Monday, August 19, 2019
MV Laganbank

50 British built ships over a ten-year period from 1957 to 1967.

Post WW2, the Bank Line embarked on a massive building programme, and one which only peaked in the 1970s. Looking back, some 50 years later, it seems even more remarkable that all those vessels all came from British yards, namely, Harland and Wolff in Belfast, William Doxford in Sunderland, and Messrs Swan Hunter on Tyneside. Those were the days of British shipping successes. In 10 years, from 1957 to 1967, no less than 50 new vessels were launched for the Bank Line, often without much of a ceremony, and it is a tribute to the owners, managers, and staff that these vessels could be absorbed so readily and gainfully into the worldwide fleet. It was a staggering achievement by the yards and included a steady improvement in design and features as the years passed. By contrast, it seems almost bizarre that today, not only the building yards, but the Merchant Navy itself has shrunk beyond any significant presence.

The design of the Bank Line ships, so crucial to success, was altered year on year as the needs of the trade became clearer, but it was a moving target, some would say a blurred target, as the traditional break bulk cargoes reduced in volume bit by bit, and shippers started demanding boxes. In the traditional US Gulf loading ports of the company, shippers were starting to express a preference for 40 ft containers which swiftly exacerbated the onboard problem.

Within the fleet, in these heady years of expansion, a competent deck officer could look forward to an early command after just a few voyages in the Chief Officer position, and barely 30 years old. There was also a good chance in the first few years of command of being asked to take out a brand-new vessel from the building yard, something rather special in a normal career. It was a great attraction and helped to retain Officers in a company where signing on for two years was still the rule. After all, wives and girlfriends ashore were always competing for loyalty and affection!

After this frenzied period, there followed another important 12 ship order from Wm Doxford in 1972. These were handsome vessels with 4 hatches ahead of the bridge, and one aft, and they were called the ‘Fleetbank’ class. Altogether then, some 75 ships were built over a 20 year period, a truly amazing record.

Bank Line already had a history of building a series of ships, with the inter war years seeing a similar picture. This was coupled with an early faith in the Doxford oil engine, and also the opposed piston arrangement. This came with advantages and some disadvantages, but trial and error saw a gradual and satisfactory improvement, sufficient for the company to continue with this type of propulsion. Onboard the ships with these engines, there was a satisfying clatter in the engine room, machine gun like, when running at full capacity.

When Andrew Weir was in his prime in the early 1920s, and eagerly forging ahead, he placed a single order with Messrs Harland & Wolff Ltd for 18 ships. This was seen as a great act of faith in the yard. By this time, he had already made his mark in maritime history by owning the largest fleet of British sailing ships, and this had been achieved at a relatively young age. Some of the new motor ships of the 20s were allocated to Harland’s Goven yard on the Clyde to spread the workload. They were all twin-screw vessels giving a good turn of speed of 14 knots, and presumably worth the additional cost of spares and maintenance which two engines entailed. No less than 9 of these ships were lost in WW2, and another wrecked, but those that survived all put in over 30 years’ service, and could be seen in ports around the world, toiling away with steam winches and lattice type derricks well into the 1950s. The vessels were named: Inverbank, Glenbank, Birchbank, Cedarbank, Comliebank, Clydebank, Alynbank, Elmbank, Forresbank, Nairnbank, Weirbank, Larchbank, Myrtlebank, Levernbank, Olivebank, Oakbank, Speybank and Springbank. Not particularly handsome, they were never-the-less the backbone of the Bank Line fleet between the wars, and one, the Myrtlebank stayed in the fleet for 35 years before going to the scrapyard in Hong Kong.

Fast forward to the 1950s. The steady parade of new vessels meant that the oldtimers could finally be phased out of the fleet, and the warbuilt ships went with them. They had given valuable service and provided much needed capacity. Andrew Weir (later Lord Inverforth) had recently passed on at the age of 90, and still attending the office, but his unique global network of Agents, trades, and established routes took up the challenge readily. Soon, the shiny new hulls could be seen in ports all around the globe. They were aided by a very able chartering department who joined up the dots of regular and time honoured routes by spot charters when needed. It was a giant chess game for those involved. The term ‘tramping’ is often used in connection with Bank Line activities, but the true story is much more sophisticated. A glance at the sailing schedules and the advertising of the day showed a bewildering commitment to regular lines, and that bewilderment included some from employees of the company! A magnificent ‘spider’s web’ of routes encompassed the globe. The House Magazine of the time carried a list of ships under the heading “Where are they now?” and they might well have asked!

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - August 2019 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!


Most Popular

  • Lifeboat Withdrawn After Some Crew Stood Down +

  • Scorpene Sub Snags +

  • New Crane Lifts Business Growth +

  • Test Spells The End of Paper Bills of Lading +

  • An Unexpected Job in Cuba +

  • 1
  • 2

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Lifeboat Withdrawn After Some Crew Stood Down +

    Peterhead Lifeboat Peterhead lifeboat has been taken out of action by the RNLI. Read More
  • Test Spells The End of Paper Bills of Lading +

    CargoX Demo It is possible to stop using the paper Bill of Lading according to a test of CargoX’s blockchain-based Smart Bill Read More
  • New Crane Lifts Business Growth +

    Hull Port A new £3.5mn hybrid Liebherr crane has been delivered to Associated British Ports (ABP) for operation at Hull to support Read More
  • Crowds Tribute to the Last Tyne +

    Annie Blaker The last of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s famous Tyne class lifeboats was launched for the last time at her Read More
  • Clyde’s Vital Role in Onshore Windfarm +

    Clydeport Clydeport has played a vital role in the building of the UK’s largest onshore windfarm on Eaglesham Moor, just 20 Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • 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
  • Changes in Tolls for Using Panama Canal +

    MSC Pohlin The Panama Canal plans to modify its tolls structure for all types of ships “to better serve the global maritime Read More
  • Largest LNG Carrier Sails From West to East +

    Al Safliya The largest LNG tanker to use the Panama Canal since it was expanded less that three years ago passed through Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3


  • 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
  • “Prelude” Makes its Debut With First LNG Cargo +

    Prelude The first shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has left Shell’s floating LNG facility Prelude some 475kms north-east of Broome Read More
  • Special Navigating System to be Fitted to VLCCs +

    AR Nav Following two-ship trials, augmented reality (AR) navigation systems are to be installed on 21 very large crude oil carriers (VLCCs) Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • 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
  • US Navy Seeks Faster Ship Delivery +

    FFGX Rendering American News The future frigate program for the US Navy is getting fully underway and some idea of the urgency Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • 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
  • Windemere Jetties +

    Osprey and Branksome Last month I commented on the new setting of the classic collection of mainly steam boats held at Windermere. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • 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
  • Thames Tributary Barges +

    Lady of the Lea Most of the rivers flowing into the Thames had their own barge type. Read More
  • Dry Rot and Dry Dock +

    HMS Victory For some time Victory, the 110gun ship of the line, has had trouble with dry rot and is in danger Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • 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
  • Lifeline Cash for “Waverley” Agreed +

    Waverley The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS) has announced that it will provide immediate funding to support efforts to “Save The Read More
  • Viking Glory Celebrates Keel Laying +

    Front Altair The construction of Viking Glory is proceeding on schedule. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • 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
  • Singer Andrea Bocelli Trades Up in Size +

    Stella del Nord Andrea Bocelli, the blind Italian tenor and song writer whose work spans both popular music and classical opera is a 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


From Fjords to Fiji

On the morning of 9 October 2014, two patrol boats from the Spanish Maritime Service and Public Safety Unit were Read More
MV Laganbank

Bank Line's Building Boom

50 British built ships over a ten-year period from 1957 to 1967. Read More
  • 1
  • 2