Pishchevaya Industria

I enclose three photographs (see print edition for other photos - Ed) taken in 1979 when the subject vessel was lying at anchor off Lantau Island, Hong Kong.

The vessel was awaiting towage to Taiwan where she was to be broken up after 70 years of service. My involvement at the time was to ensure the vessel was safely moored preparatory to leaving Hong Kong.

The vessel was built in 1909 for the purpose of carrying both passengers and cargo and, despite the ravages of time and the vessel’s conversion to a fish factory ship, the upper deck accommodation for passengers reflected the opulence of the day with elegant staircases and wood panelling. Below decks, the crew accommodation was less splendid and I recall seeing rows of thick leather boots outside the cabins where the stokers lived.

The propelling machinery was a single quadruple expansion steam engine and looked as magnificent in 1979 as it had probably done when first installed in 1909. The boilers, four back-to-back Scotch-type coal-fired hand-stoked, were perhaps less magnificent, but provided testament to the back-breaking work that stokers and firemen had to endure. The ashes from the boilers had not been tipped over the side of the vessel for some time. Instead, an access way had been made in the bulkhead between the stokehold and the adjacent cargo hold, with a wooden ceiling, and ashes were wheeled in barrows into the hold and dumped. One of my first actions after visiting the vessel was to report a well established fire in the cargo hold to port authorities who then instructed the fire brigade to deal with it.

From my recollection, the vessel’s side shell plating was of iron and joints were lap riveted. There may have been one or two plates where recent repairs had resulted in welded joints and seams, but otherwise the hull plating appeared to be original. Either side of the funnel were superimposed large ‘Hammer & Sickle’ symbols which, along with all other artefacts hinting at the vessel’s previous communist connections, required removal before the vessel would be allowed into Taiwanese waters. In its way, a quite amazing vessel which, despite the rigours of its work as a fishfactory ship, had survived well and was a tribute to the excellent workmanship of engineers and shipbuilders of the North- East.

I would be interested to learn if any readers ever encountered this vessel or know what happened to the builder’s yard of Sir Railton Dixon in Middlesbrough. The engine builders, Richardsons, Westgarth Co Ltd, I have known in my own lifetime.

9 Ormsby, Grange Road
Sutton, Surrey, SM26TH

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