The Ben Line, George Blake
Ben Line, Graeme Somner.
REBUILDING THE FLEET.
At War's end the Ben Line Fleet had been reduced to six wholly owned ships with various others managed for the Government. As the Company purchased new tonnage vessels unsuited for Ben Line's Far East trade were finally handed back to the Government for disposal elsewhere. The first ship completed after the War for the Company was Bencruachan built by Joseph L. Thompsons of Sunderland, the next was Benvorlich built on the Clyde by C. Connell & Co Ltd., Glasgow.
Loading Timber at Otaru, Japan.
Built in 1946 by C. Connell & Co Ltd, Glasgow.
Tonnage: 9, 767g, 7, 062n, 12, 120 dwt.
Engines: Twin Turbine, 7, 500 SHP by Rowans of Glasgow, 15 Knots. Yard No: 447.
Launched on the 23rd October 1945, Completed March 1946.
She was sold to Mardestino Compania Naviera S.A. of Greece in January of 1971 and renamed Kavo Akritas. She arrived at Shanghai for breaking by China National Machinery Import & Export Corporation on the 27th of September 1973.
During 1946 the Company had to hand back certain ships, Empire Macalpine and Mackendrick went back to the Ministry of War Transport and sold on, Macalpine to McGowan & Gross Ltd of London, Mackendrick to Mediterranean and Atlantic Lines Ltd. Empire Dee was handed over to Union of Soviet Socialist Republic's at Port Said and renamed Admiral Ushakov. Ocean Valentine and Ocean Gallant were retained becoming Benlomand and Bennevis respectively. It was in this year that the Company changed the colour scheme of its ships, out went black hull, red boot top and white lifeboats, in came grey hulls, green boot top and varnished lifeboats, only the yellow funnel and grained upperworks remained, altogether quite pleasing to the eye. The following year Fort Louisbourg returned to the U.S. Marine Corporation to be laid up, this was the last coal burning ship in the Fleet as the Company had already begun to convert its remaining Fleet to oil burners.
As trading increased in 1947 Ben Line acquired three Liberty ships and an Empire Class from the Government they were named as follows, Benarty, Benvrackie, Bendoran and Benalbanach. Four of its older servants left the Fleet, Bengloe to a Palestinian concern, Benvannoch to Andrew Weir & Co and Benalder to the Malabar Steamship Company of India. Cargoes outward bound to the Middle and Far East included steel and concrete, locomotives, earth moving machinery and munitions as Great Britian attempted to assert its authority in the regions, alas to little too late. Homeward bound the cargoes consisted of timber from Sarawak, jute and manioc from Thailand, pineapples from Taiwan and the Philippines and manufactured goods from Japan and the emerging economy of Taiwan. The old trades of rubber, spices, timber, rice, hemp, copra and tea also continued to flourish hand in hand with the new and the fortunes of Ben Line improved apace. During 1947 the Company made seventeen outward bound voyages to the Far East and eighteen homeward, by 1948 this had increased to 23 outward and 20 homeward. As trade increased so did the size of the Fleet and at the same time as building it's own tonnage Ben Line attempted to secure suitable vessels second hand.
Built in 1948 by C. Connell & Co Ltd, Glasgow.
Tonnage: 7, 846g, 4, 470n, 11, 420 dwt.
Engine: Twin Turbine by D. Rowans of Glasgow, 7, 500 SHP, 16 Knots. Yard Nos: 457.
Launched on the 29th December 1947, Completed May 1848.
Benvenue served for twenty-five years in the Ben Line Fleet and arrived at Kaohsiung for breaking by Chin Tai Steel Enterprise Co. Ltd in January of 1973.
Benvenue was preceded into the Fleet by her sister Benmacdhui who arrived from Connell's in the February they were joined by Benwyvis, ex-Silvercedar, ex-Samsacola which had been completed as Melvil Dewey at the Bethlehem Fairfield yard in Baltimore in 1943. The Company were now able to complete forty outward bound voyages and thirty-six homeward, a considerable increase. By this time Ben Line ships were using the ports of Liverpool, Avonmouth, Dublin and Glasgow, two notable firsts this year was the discharge of latex by Benvenue at Hull and the resumption of trade with Japan when Bennevis called at Kobe and Yokohama. Two more ships from Connell's came on line during 1949 they were Bencleuch and Benalder joined by Benavon from Thompsons of Sunderland, Benrinnes was sold to the East and West Steamship Company of Karachi. With the success of the transport of latex to Hull all ships built during this period were fitted with appropriate tanks for its carriage.
The Company set up its own dock office at 'C' shed in the Royal Victoria Dock in 1951, opened a new office in Singapore in 1953, these were followed by further office openings in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Port Swettenham and Hong Kong as trade increased within the region.
Built in 1949 by Blyth Dry Dock & S.B. & Co Ltd, Blyth.
Tonnage: 7, 755g, 4, 363n, 10, 770 dwt.
Engines: Turbine x 3 by Parsons M.S.T. Co Ltd, Wallsend, 8, 800 SHP, 16 Knots. Yard No: 338.
She was completed in October of 1949 for the Lancashire Shipping Company Limited of Hong Kong with Mollers Ltd as managers and named Penrith Castle. Acquired by Ben Line in 1952 and renamed Benmhor, she continued in service until arriving at Kaohsiung for breaking by Chin Tai Steel Enterprise Co Ltd on the 22nd March 1973.
1955 saw the introduction of the Benvrackie Class capable of seventeen to eighteen knots which inaugurated a fast direct service in both directions.
Built in 1944 by J.L. Thompson & Sons Ltd, Sunderland.
Tonnage: 9, 487g, 5, 776n, 11, 351 dwt.
Engines: 2 x 4 Cylinder William Doxford & Sons, 6, 800 BHP, 15 Knots.
Completed in June of 1944 as Silver Oak for Silver Line Ltd of London with S & J Thompson Ltd as managers. From 1955-56 renamed Port Stephens for Port Line Ltd. Acquired by Ben line in September of 1956 and renamed Benvannoch, arrived at Kaohsuing on the 15th of January 1969 for breaking by Chin Ho Fa Steel & Iron Co Ltd.
You will note that Ben Line continued its policy of purchasing good second hand vessels to supplement its growing Fleet of new tonnage whenever a suitable candidate came on the market. The following is a prime example of how one such vessel started its life as an Escort Aircraft Carrier and finished up as a cargo ship in the Company's Fleet.
Kindly supplied by Julian Nichols.
Built in 1944 by Seattle-Taloma SB Corporation, Taloma.
Tonnage: 7, 951g, 4, 751n, 12, 546 dwt.
Engines: Twin Turbines by Allis-Chalmers of Milwaukee, 8, 500 SHP, 16 Knots.
Launched as the Willapa she was handed over to Great Britain as part of the Lend Lease programme and renamed H.M.S. Puncher.
Additional specifications as HMS Puncher
Armament 2 x 5"/51 4 x 40mm, 10 x 20mm, 28 Aircraft.
Operational and Building Data
WILLAPA (ACV-53)--a "Ruler" class auxiliary aircraft carrier built for the United Kingdom--was laid down on 21 May 1943 at Seattle, Wash., by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. and reclassified CVE-53 on 10 June 1943. Launched on 8 November 1943, the ship was transferred under lend-lease to the Royal Navy on 5 February 1944 to be manned by a Canadian crew. Renamed HMS PUNCHER (D.79), the carrier served the Royal Canadian Navy in the Atlantic and Mediterranean for the duration of hostilities, mainly in a training role. Initially outfitted as a transport carrier by Burrards at Vancouver, Canada, but refitted as a strike/CAP carrier in the UK. Main reduction gears destroyed 27 November 1944; replaced by gearing from Nabob.
She returned to the U.S. Navy on the 16th of January 1946 and was sold to Lancashire Shipping Co Ltd of Hong for conversion to a cargo ship in 1948. She entered service as Muncaster Castle and underwent a name change to Bardic when on charter to Shaw Savill & Albion Co Ltd in 1954. She was acquired by Ben Line in July of 1957 but remained on charter until June of 1959. On the termination of the charter she was renamed Bennevis and remained as such until ariving at Kaohsiung on the 11th of June 1973 for breaking by Swie Horng Steel Enterprise Co Ltd.
Kindly supplied by Julian Nichols.
Benloyal was the first of a new class of ship launched in 1959, capable of twenty knots they operated the fastest service out to the Far East, nineteen days to Singapore and later twenty-seven to Hong Kong when it was added to the itinerary. In 1963 both William Thompson great grandson and David Thomson great great grandson of the first William Thomson became partners in the Company.
Built in 1963 by Caledon S.B. 1 E. Co Ltd, Dundee.
Tonnage: 10, 294g, 6, 152n, 12, 619 dwt.
Engine: Single Screw, 6 Cylinder Sulzer by D. Rowan & Co of Glasgow, 9, 000 BHP, 17.5 Knots. Yard No: 534.
Launched 12th October 1962, Completed February 1963.
In the years after the War Ben Line had taken a specific interest in ships capable of heavy lifts, the Benarty was a prime example of this and had a Stulcken derrick capable of lifting 180 tons. She was still in service in 1980 if anyone knows her eventual demise I would appreciate the information.
James Grieve died in 1964 and Ian Miller was forced to retire due to ill health, also in this year the partnership was dissolved and all the partners became Directors of Ben Line Steamers Limited.
Built in 1951 by Blyth Dry Dock & S.B. & Co Ltd, Blyth.
Tonnage: 8, 038g, 4, 586n, 11, 465 dwt.
Engines: Turbine x 3 by Parsons M.S.T. Co Ltd, Wallsend, 8, 800 SHP, 15.5 Knots. Yard No: 339.
Completed June 1951.
She was originally ordered for the Lancashire Shipping Co Ltd of Hong Kong and named Thurland Castle but was purchased on the stocks by the Pacific Steam Navigation Company of Liverpool and renamed Cuzco. Acquired by Ben Line in 1965 and renamed Benattow. She finally arrived for breaking at Kaohsiung by Sing Cheng Yung Iron and Steel Co Ltd on the 25th of September 1977.
Major E.G. Thomson retired as Chairman from the Company in April of 1966 but was persuaded to become the first Company President in recognition of his sixty years service, he was succeeded in the Chairmanship by his cousin Sir Douglas Thomson.
Advert on a Wall. Kindly supplied by Julian Nichols.
In 1967 the Suez Canal was closed during the war between Israel and various Arab States, most notably Egypt. Having commenced its even faster service to the Far East in 1965 with Benledi which had managed to reduce the passage time from the U.K. to Singapore to a mere 16.5 days in the autumn of 1966 Ben Line was forced to re-route its ships via the Cape of Good Hope. A knock on effect was that with the ships spending more time on passage there was a serious shortfall in the availability of vessels to carry the increasing cargoes and so Ben Line purchased five ships from Ellermans in February of 1968.
Built in 1967 by C. Connell & Co Ltd, Glasgow.
Tonnage: 11, 466g, 6, 333n, 12, 735 dwt.
Engines: Single Screw, 9 Cylinder Sulzer by Barclay Curle, Glasgow, 20, 700 SHP, 21 Knots. Yard Nos: 510.
Launched 12th April 1967, Completed July 1967.
Sold after only five years service due to containerisation in November of 1972 to Grisella S.p.A of Italy and renamed Da Verrazano. Sold to Italia S.p.A di Nav in 1976, no name change, laid up at La Spezia in April of 1979.
Built in 1946 by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle.
Tonnage: 9, 850g, 5, 644n, 11, 956 dwt.
Engines: Single Screw, 6 Cylinder Doxford by Builder, 6, 600 BHP, 14.5 Knots. Yard No: 1770.
Completed July 1946.
Built for Ellerman Line, Liverpool and named City of Poona she was purchased by Ben Line in the April of 1968 and renamed Benarkle. Arrived at Kaohsiung on the 16th June for breaking by Li Chong Steel and Iron.
With the advent of by far the biggest innovation in the transport of materials in the Twentieth Century, and to date, Ben Line accepted the offer to join a new consortium of British Companies which became known as Associated Container Transportation Ltd (ACT). Ellerman Lines was the only other partner which served the Far East routes and so they formed a partnership which became known as Ben Line Containers Ltd in March of 1970.
Built in 1951 by Cammell Laird & Co Ltd, Birkenhead.
Tonnage: 10, 593g, 5, 677n, 13, 249 dwt.
Engines: Turbine x 3 by Cammell Laird, 14, 300 SHP, 17 Knots. Yard No: 1, 210.
Completed November 1951.
Built for Ellerman Lines Ltd of London and named City of Brisbane. Acquired by Ben Line in the October of 1970 and renamed Bencairn. Arrived at Kaohsiung on the 21st March 1975 for breaking by Sing Cheng Yung Iron and Steel Co Ltd.
Ben Line Containers had three 73, 000 ton ships delivered between October of 1972 to November of 1973 each had a carrying capacity of 2, 687 T.E.U., they were Benalder, Benavon and City of Edinburgh.
Built in 1973 by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, Kiel.
Tonnage: 57, 887gt, 34, 014nt, 49, 590 dwt.
Engines: Twin Screw, Turbines x 4 English Electric-A.E.I., Manchester, 88, 000 SHP, 26.5 Knots. Yard No: 44.
Launched 6th August 1972,Completed January 1973.
Benavon was to be re-engined with M.A.N. Diesels in 1980-81 by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Whereabouts unknown.
In the year of Benavon's completion both Bennevis and Benrinnes whose service lives had began as Convoy Aircraft Carriers made their final voyages to the breakers at Kaohsiung. Four other ships sailed to the breakers and a further five were sold for further trading, two to China and three to Italy. Ben Line purchased two second hand Bulk ships in 1973 naming them Benhiant and Benvorlich it also sent Benvenue to the breakers at Kaohsiung.
Ben Line diversified in 1974 entering into the offshore drilling trade forming a partnership with the American firm of Ocean Drilling Exploration of New Orleans it also ordered a dynamically positioned Drillship from Scott Lithgow Ltd. Under its new joint name of Ben Odeco it also purchased the self propelled Drillship Typhoon renaming her Ben Ocean Typhoon the following year. Also in 1974 Ben Line ordered a Chemical Carrier which came into service at the end of the year, she was the Benvenue.
With the re-opening of the Suez Canal in 1975 the four main carriers to the Far East, Blue Funnel, Ben Line N.S.M.O. and Glen Line decided that it was in all their best interests if Ben Line was to operate the only conventional Cargo Liner sailings under the new title of Ben Ocean. Also this year Ben Asia Container Service came into being calling at Kobe, Moji, Yokahama, Singapore and Port Kelang, initially the Company operated a chartered vessel until Benvalla was delivered in 1979.
Ben Line's Bulk interests increased in 1976 when it acquired Sheaf Steam Shipping Co Ltd of Newcastle along with its subsidiary Bamburgh Shipping Company Limited and by the end of 1978 Ben Line was operating six Bulk Carriers.
Built in 1956 by Vickers-Armstrong S.B. Ltd, Walker-on-Tyne.
Tonnage: 7, 713g, 4, 033n, 10, 982 dwt.
Engine: Single Screw, 6 Cylinder Doxford by Builder, Barrow, 8, 000 BHP, 15.5 Knots. Yard No: 145.
Completed March 1956.
She was completed for the City Line Ltd of Glasgow and named City of Ripon. Transferred to Ellerman Lines Ltd in 1972 and retained her name. Acquired by Ben Line in May of 1978 and renamed Benvannoch, arrived Kaohsiung on the 20th of April 1979 for breaking by Kao Feng Iron & Steel Co Ltd.
Sheaf Steam Shipping had owned shares in a rig owning company and in 1977 this became wholly owned by Ben Line becoming the Atlantic Drilling Co Ltd, by year's end the Ben Line Group became Britain's biggest offshore drilling contractor.
By 1977 Ben Line had moved its offices from Leith to St. Mary's Street in Edinburgh, its Fleet employed over 2, 000 staff both ashore and at sea and consisted of five Container Ships, six Bulk Carriers, four Cargo Liners, three Chemical Carriers and five Rig/Drillships it also managed three Oil Tankers for other owners. Its Board of Directors this year was made up of the following Mr. M.F. Strachan, Mr. H.R. MacLeod, Mr. W.R.E. Thomson, Sir David Thomson, Hon. N.D.G. Galbraith, Mr. R. Thorman, Mr. J.F. Muirhead, Mr. D.W.B. Walker and finally Mr. W.A.C. Thomson brother of Sir David and likewise a great, great grandson of William Thomson the Founder of Ben Line.
Built: 1979 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Kobe.
Tonnage: 7, 112g, 3, 512n, 8, 319 dwt.
Engine: Single Screw, 6 Cylinder Akasaka, Yaizu, 6, 000 BHP, 14 Knots. Yard No: 1, 101.
Launched 18th December 1978 Completed March 1979.
Any further update on Ben Line would be greatly appreciated.