Museum Ship SS „Hellas Liberty”

We often tend to pay special honors, and rightly so, to the crucial battles that took place at decisive moments and changed the course of a war or possibly history, and we often tend to put special emphasis on the bigger than life generals and admirals who were the protagonists and their landmark battlefields and flagships, while the ‘smaller’ efforts and ingenuity to make the battleships and flagships victorious are often referred to the little known minutia of great story telling and away from the attention of the headlines. While we were celebrating ‘D Day’ recently and the landing of the Allied forces at the beaches of Normandy, and while in Greece attending Posidonia, we had the serendipitous opportunity to attend a special event and visit a ship that perfectly fits the concept of the ‘unsung hero’.

During World War II, Nazi U-boats sank in the Atlantic about 3,000 Allied ships, about 2,800 of which were merchant ships; assuming that WWII lasted six years, the rate of casualties were almost one ship per diem in the Battle of the Atlantic. With the US as the only Allied power with its infrastructure intact, there had to be a quick way to move troops, ammunition, provisions, equipment, etc across the Atlantic and to the battlefields, in a sort of a floating pipeline, despite the efforts and successes of the Nazi U-boats to keep supplies short. The answer to a seaway ‘conveyor’ was to keep building cheap ships fast; actually keep building them faster than the Nazis could sink them.

Cargo ships that were built during WWII under the directive to supply the Allied forces eventually came to be known as ‘Liberty Ships’. At a nominal cost of $2 mil (about $34 mil today), 2,710 such vessels were built in eighteen shipyards in the US. The original design was based on British vessel designs developed in the late 19th century; however, adapting the design in the US, several modifications were adopted in order to make the vessels slightly larger, but more importantly, cheaper and easier to build. Riveting in the original design gave place to welding, thus providing one-third savings in labor costs. Two oil-fired boilers were installed and the engine was a simple triple expansion steam engine of 2,500 hp output that could propel the 10,000 dwt vessel at 11 knots (steam turbines engines were known at the time, but they more complicated to build as more precise, and such building capacity was reserved for navy ships). These US-modified ships were designated as ‘EC2-S-C1′: ‘EC’ for Emergency Cargo, ’2′ for a ship between 400 and 450 feet (120 and 140 m) long (Load Waterline Length), ‘S’ for steam engines, and ‘C1′ for design C1.

Approximately 2,400 Liberty Ships survived WWII and more 800 of them used afterwards as cargo / merchant vessels. Three of these Liberty Ships survive today in whole: two of them are fully operational and used as museum ships (SS „John W. Brown” in Norflok and SS „Jeremiah O’Brien” in San Francisco), and a third vessel has been fully restored – but not operational as a ship, in Piraeus, Greece: SS „Hellas Liberty”, originally built as SS “Arthur M. Huddell”.

Greek shipowners acquired about 525 of the remaining ships after WWII, on favorable terms as compensation for their and Greece’s heavy casualties in shipping during the war (the exact circumstances of the transfer can be debatable), and these vessels constituted the ‘seed fleet’ of many Greek owners and their springboard to the top leagues of world shipping. Onassis, Livanos, Niarchos, Theodoracopoulos, Goulandris are a few of the well-known shipping names acquiring Liberty Ships. The truth is that these ‘ugly ducklings’ were built in less than ten days on average, and they were never intended to be quality ships; they were the original ‘disposal’ items of our society when it was expected that most of them would not last more than two-three crossings of the Atlantic, so no special attention was given to quality and durability. When Greek owners were buying them on preferential terms, they were cheap ships expected to last a few years and not the several decades that some of the Greek owners managed to squeeze out of them.

It’s natural then that ‘Liberty Ships’ have a special place in the Greek shipping psyche.

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The bow of SS „Liberty Hellas”

Upon efforts initiated by shipowner Spyros Polemis of Remi Maritime, and after significant lobbying in the US, President Bush 43rd signed legislation passing ownership of the vessel SS „Arthur M Huddell” to the Greek committee in 2008. The vessel had been at lay-up since 1984 and he was in severe state of decay in Norfolk, Virginia, when ownership was passed to the Greek committee; further, the vessel had been cannibalized for parts, including losing her rudder and propeller, for the surviving vessels SS „John W Brown” and SS „Jeremiah O’Brien”. The Greek committee had to arrange for ocean-going towing at its own cost and risk to bring the vessel to Greece in late 2008 and eventually the vessel finished restorations in 2010. Many people in Greece and abroad, in shipping and in other industries, gave generously of their time, efforts, love and money for the vessel to be restored with Captain Vassilis Konstantakopoulos (now deceased) founder of Costamare being instrumental in the efforts, including providing most of the funding, rumored to be approaching $10 million.

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A deck from another age…

The keel of SS „Arthur M Huddell” (IMO No 5025706) was laid in late October 1943 and the vessel was launched in December of same year from St. Johns River Shipbuilding, Jacksonville, Florida. She’s 441 ft 6’’ long (134.6 m) with a molded beam of 56 ft and 10.75’’ (17.3 m) and draft of 25ft and 3.25’’ (7.7 m). Typical to a ‘Liberty Ship’ arrangement, she has five cargo holds which were sub-sectioned, almost similar to a tweendeck vessel, with the lower section of the holds able to store either dry bulk or liquid cargoes. Once upon her delivery, she carried explosives to Europe during her first voyages, and later in 1944 she was partially converted to a pipe carrier by modifying her two aft cargo holds. The vessel was used under the PLUTO operation, laying an undersea pipeline between England and France during WWII in order to provide fuel the armies following the Normandy landing. After the end of the war, the vessel was laid up until 1956, when chartered to AT&T and converted to a cable laying vessel. SS „Arthur M Huddell” had been in cold lay up from 1984 until her donation to the Greek committee in 2008. The vessel, unlike most of the Liberty vessels, has remained under the ownership of the US government throughout her life and she has never been sold and being part of the world merchant marine.

During restorations at Salamis and Perama in Greece, several hundred tons of bird droppings had to be removed from outdoor and indoor areas, several tons of steel plate had to be replaced, several original, vintage or comparable parts from the era had to be sourced, as well as a new propeller and rudder (not original design however). The engine has been restored but presently not operational. The cargo hold immediately aft of the accommodation has been arranged as exhibit space, while cargo hold #3 immediately forward of the accommodation has been arranged to a reception hall for conferences and receptions.

The vessel is presently docked within the property of the Port of Piraeus and open to the public. Still minor restoration work takes place and the ship is in the process of gearing up to fully operational status as a museum ship. A tour of SS „Hellas Liberty” offers an opportunity to transcend time and travel through history, to times when ships were much simpler than today’s, when navigation was a skill indeed and dependent on rudimentary instrumentation and natural observations; bridge officers had to make do with a wheel, a gyrocompass and a magnetic compass and no more; next to the wheelhouse, on each side, one can observe the chart-room and another hot room filled with bulky equipment from where the ship’s ‘Marconi’ could communicate wirelessly with the outside world. In today’s ships, neither of these functions commands much space as charts now are in digital form and displayed on a screen and the communications room has shrunk to a couple of satellite phones.

Liberty ships had been silent but instrumental factors for the outcome of the war effort. This out-of-necessity heavy ‘investment’ by the US-government in shipbuilding won the war effort, but also had many complimentary desirable effects; a small example: modifications for more efficient design and a streamlined production process allowed famous naval architect William Francis Gibbs to fine tune his approach to shipbuilding that eventually led to the construction of his masterpiece, SS „United States”. Liberty ships through private ownership after the war have been instrumental in rebuilding the world economies, primarily the European ones, and Greek shipowners and Greek shipping owe a great amount of debt to the circumstances and the design of these ships that provided the springboard to the world shipping stage. And, the efforts to save and restore the vessel to her original condition is testament to the historical value as her whole class.

It has been a journey for the ship worth the costs and efforts and the visit to the ship worth a profound maritime lecture.

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Museum Ship SS „Hellas Liberty”


 

© 2013-2014 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

A Reflection on Posidonia 2014

In ancient Greek mythology, Posidon (also spelled as ‘Poseidon’ and known as Neptune in the Roman mythology) was a major god of the Olympian Pantheon protecting the waters and seas. Posidon, although not as temperamental as his more famous older brother Zeus, was known from time to stir the waters for fun or just to raise hell – so to speak; his weapon was the three-pronged trident which not only caused major storms in the sea but also could shake the earth and cause earthquakes.

It’s only logical that Posidon’s name is metaphorically associated today with shipping endeavors, and a biennial conference in Greece in named in his honor. This year’s Posidonia was consummated shortly ago, and the waves of Posidon’s trident have yet to settle.

Posidonia_logo14For once, the attendance according to un-official reports has set a new high and reconfirmed Posidonia as the premier event of the shipping industry, and by association, Greece as a major shipping cluster. Close to 20,000 attendees visited the Expo where 1,843 exhibitors from 93 countries presented their businesses and products. It can be said with confidence that there has been an equally impressive amount of guests who never made it to the Expo and tried to enrich their visit by staying at the south suburbs, attending the many corporate events, enjoying great food and libations and talking shop and massaging deals at the deck of a yacht or the veranda of a private bungalow at the Astir Palace complex.

The mood was positively optimistic as the bottom of the market has definitely been considered to be behind us. While at Posidonia 2012 were still doubts about having found the market bottom, now the debate has been centered on where on earth the expected recovery is! The buoyancy and improvement of the freight markets in the second half of last year have really convinced market players that the market definitely was not dead at all but a fundamental rally was underway. As a reminder, last summer freight rates for capes VLCCs were well below operating expenses and well below $10,000 pd while by the end of the year rates has bounced fivefold. If an anemic market can bounce that strongly, what else could be the cause besides a fundamental rally? Asset prices improved by 10-50% depending on asset class from summer till spring this year and newbuilding orders were placed by the dozen, like the good old days of 2008. The rally had been impressive and the market slowdown since Easter has not been considered menacing, just a ‘breather’ for the market. A few hopeful IPOs failed to obtain a listing in the spring as well, but that’s part of the game, no more.

However, given that BDI has dropped by about 45% since March 20th (at 1621) to date (906 at present), Posidonia’s optimism had to be qualified. Yes, there has been abundant optimism that better days are ahead of us, but … several shipowners, including high profile publicly traded shipowners, openly admitted at panel discussions their disappointment with the freight market  and confessed that they were not expecting such low rates at this time of the cycle. The fact that we are heading to the summer, which seasonally is a weak freight period, it means that there may be two more months of weak earnings before the market shows any improvements. And, the rally since last year has not been ‘money in the bank’ in the traditional sense: the strong cash generated in last year’s rally has partially been used to make current shipping loans or was deployed as down-payment for newbuilding orders, thus, no excess cash has been preserved for a prolonged weak market. There even has been mentioning that some shipowners may be hitting the ‘panic button’ if the market ends the summer in such a malaise. But again, there has been the argument that trading patterns have been shifting and most of the trade takes place in the second half of the year in the last few years – such as Chinese re-stocking of inventories causing last year’s rally– and thus that no need to write off 2014 yet as not a good year for shipping; optimism has been strong that the second half of the year will be another strong positive surprise for owners and charters alike.

The optimism for the market could be sensed in the expectations for strong capital markets as basically every investment banker from New York active in shipping was in attendance and lots of meetings were noted on and off premises with IPO hopefuls. Apparently expectations are high that strong freight will return soon, and given the environment of exceptionally low interest rates and $780 billion ‘dry powder’ by the institutional investors in North America, IPO hopefuls should be ready on the runway for take off. The few IPOs that failed to obtain listing in the spring are considered one-off events and not a trend.

Private equity funds have been focal during Posidonia for the deals they have done so far in the Greek market but mostly for the ‘noise’ without deals that have done. It’s always great to have a rich partner to bankroll a venture, but there has been abundant complaining that ‘funds do not get shipping’; on the other hand, curiosity has been high on whether funds are done investing in shipping and what may be the ‘next big thing’ they may be looking in shipping: a neglected sub-sector, a local market, possibly a service industry possibly?

The strange thing is that since Posidonia 2012, the BDI has been literally flat at just above 900 points, despite some volatility within this interval. However, despite the freight market moving sideways, about 3,400 vessels have been ordered since the last Posidonia, that is about FIVE vessels each single day in the last two years.  No much happened about freight as far the indices are concerned, but tonnage supply has made a great jump.

One has to be an optimist in shipping, whether for Posidonia or not!


 

© 2013-2014 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

MUSEUM SHIP SS ‘HELLAS LIBERTY’ (Images, Part II)

MUSEUM SHIP SS ‘HELLAS LIBERTY’ (ex- SS ‘Arthur M. Huddell’)

SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ in Piraeus Port, Greece after major restoration (2010)
Namesake: union leader Arthur M. Huddell (1869-1931)
Ordered: MCE hull 1215
Builder: St. Johns River Shipbuilding, Jacksonville, Florida
Laid down: 25 October 1943
Launched: 7 December 1943
Christened: SS ‘Arthur M. Huddell’
Refit: 1944
Sold for preservation to Greece in 2008, and after extensive restoration was converted to museum ship, re-flagged under the Flag of Greece and re-named SS ‘Hellas Liberty’. Presently moored at the Port of Piraeus, Greece.

General characteristics
SS ‘Arthur M Huddel’, IMO: 5025706, is a Liberty ship built by St. Johns River Shipbuilding Company with keel laid 25 October 1943 and the yard workers working overtime to launch on 7 December 1943 and complete outfitting nine days later.                                                             Type: General cargo

Displacement: (as built) 14,257 (fl) tons
Length: 441 feet 6 inches (134.6 m)
Beam: (molded) 56 feet 10.75 inches (17.3 m)
Draft: (as built) 25 feet 3.25 inches (7.7 m)
Installed power: Two Combustion Engineering oil-fired boilers
Propulsion: Filer and Stowell triple expansion, reciprocating engine; 2,500-shaft horsepower (shp)
Speed: 11 knots
Range: 19,000 nautical miles

SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ is one of three Liberties remaining afloat, with the others being SS ‘John W. Brown’ and SS ‘Jeremiah O’Brien’ in the United States.


 

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA; restored and converted to museum ship in 2008 – 2010 in Greece.

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA.

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA; restored and converted to museum ship in 2008 – 2010 in Greece. (Portside view looking aft)

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA. (Portside view looking forward)

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA; restored and converted to museum ship in 2008 – 2010 in Greece.

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA; restored and converted to museum ship in 2008 – 2010 in Greece. (Funnel)

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA; restored and converted to museum ship in 2008 – 2010 in Greece. (Funnel)

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA; restored and converted to museum ship in 2008 – 2010 in Greece. (Main deck looking forward)

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA; restored and converted to museum ship in 2008 – 2010 in Greece. (Main deck looking aft)

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA; restored and converted to museum ship in 2008 – 2010 in Greece. (Main deck looking forward)

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA (Wheelhouse essentially equipped)

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA (View of the portside stern)

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Museum Ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ – Liberty Ship built in 1944 at St. Johns River Shipbuilding, USA (detailed view of propeller; not original propeller)


 

© 2013-2014 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

 

MUSEUM SHIP SS ‘HELLAS LIBERTY’ (Images, Part I)

MUSEUM SHIP SS ‘HELLAS LIBERTY’ (ex- SS ‘Arthur M. Huddell’)

SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ in Piraeus Port, Greece after major restoration (2010)
Namesake: union leader Arthur M. Huddell (1869-1931)
Ordered: MCE hull 1215
Builder: St. Johns River Shipbuilding, Jacksonville, Florida
Laid down: 25 October 1943
Launched: 7 December 1943
Christened: SS ‘Arthur M. Huddell’
Refit: 1944
Sold for preservation to Greece in 2008, and after extensive restoration was converted to museum ship, re-flagged under the Flag of Greece and re-named SS ‘Hellas Liberty’. Presently moored at the Port of Piraeus, Greece.

General characteristics
SS ‘Arthur M Huddel’, IMO: 5025706, is a Liberty ship built by St. Johns River Shipbuilding Company with keel laid 25 October 1943 and the yard workers working overtime to launch on 7 December 1943 and complete outfitting nine days later.                                                             Type: General cargo

Displacement: (as built) 14,257 (fl) tons
Length: 441 feet 6 inches (134.6 m)
Beam: (molded) 56 feet 10.75 inches (17.3 m)
Draft: (as built) 25 feet 3.25 inches (7.7 m)
Installed power: Two Combustion Engineering oil-fired boilers
Propulsion: Filer and Stowell triple expansion, reciprocating engine; 2,500-shaft horsepower (shp)
Speed: 11 knots
Range: 19,000 nautical miles

SS ‘Hellas Liberty’ is one of three Liberties remaining afloat, with the others being SS ‘John W. Brown’ and SS ‘Jeremiah O’Brien’ in the United States.


 

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In Piraeus Port, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII – A vessel design intended to bring supplies for a prompt end of war in Europe but indadvertedly launched many a great shipping fortunes.

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In Piraeus Port, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII.

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In Piraeus Port, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII.

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In Piraeus Port, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII – A vessel design intended to bring supplies for a prompt end of war in Europe but indadvertedly launched many a great shipping fortunes.

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In Piraeus Port, Impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII – A vessel design intended to bring supplies for a prompt end of war in Europe but indadvertedly launched many a great shipping fortunes.

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In Port of Piraeus, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII.

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In Port of Piraeus, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII.

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In Port of Piraeus, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII.

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In Port of Piraeus, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII.

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In Port of Piraeus, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII.

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In Port of Piraeus, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII.

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In Port of Piraeus, impeccably restored museum ship SS ‘Hellas Liberty’, one of the last three surviving ‘Liberty Ships’ of WWII.


 

© 2013-2014 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

How to Name a Ship: “My Wife will be Delighted!”

In 1936, Cunard White Star Line Limited’s chairman Sir Percy Bates was granted an audience with King George V to inquire about a sensitive matter, to get the king’s consent to name one of company’s ocean liner vessels under construction at the time after the king’s grandmother, Queen Victoria. Traditionally Cunard’s vessels had names ending in –ia, and at the time, the Cunard line was on the quest for a more nationalistic and majestic, shall we say, line of vessel naming.

“Your Majesty,” Bates said respectfully, “the Cunard line is building the best, biggest, and speediest ship in the world, and requests your gracious permission to name her after the most illustrious and remarkable woman who was ever been Queen of England.” The king, probably presuming a uxorious hyperbole in the proposition, replied, “My wife will be delighted,” and so, the vessel got to be known to history as Queen Mary instead of Victoria. [1]

Ships have been huge undertakings from time immemorial in terms of physical dimensions and financial commitment, often disappearing on the horizon not to be seen or heard from again, if ever on occasion, until several months later, whether the purpose of their voyage was military or commercial. While the shape of their hulls was determined by the progress of the science of naval architecture at the time, anthropomorphic markings (such as the ‘oculus’) or artifacts (such as figureheads on the prow) were to impose fear on the enemy, dispel bad luck or bring good luck, calm the elements of nature, and so on, and so forth. The naming of ships has often played a similar role through history, and has imparted practical and commercial concerns through the times.

There is no formal procedure or nomenclature on vessel naming, but usually after the launching of the vessel on the slipway in the shipbuilder’s yard and the smashing of a champagne bottle on the bow by the vessel’s godmother (again, a superstitious act offering libation to the gods of the sea for favorable treatment of the vessel while plowing the waters), there is the naming (or christening) ceremony at which ceremony the vessel is named and her name is ceremoniously revealed from under garlands and banners; sometimes, the naming ceremony takes place just before the delivery of the vessel to her new owners. And today, by IMO regulations, it is required that the name of the vessel is clearly printed on both the portside and starboard bow and the superstructure, while the name along with her IMO number and her homeport are clearly printed on the stern with lettering at least four inches in height. According to the US Coast Guard, “a name for the vessel composed of letters of the Latin alphabet or Arabic or Roman numerals and may not exceed 33 characters. The name may not be identical, actually or phonetically, to any word or words used to solicit assistance at sea; may not contain or be phonetically identical to obscene, indecent, or profane language, or to racial or ethnic epithets.” On occasion vessels can have two names, one stated on the bareboat charter party and another actually printed on the hull – often trying to accommodate legal or financial considerations. Vessels upon their sale most often change name and the chimney is painted with the house colors and house flag of the new buyer, while the vessel on documents can be identified by the prefix ‘ex-‘ on her previous names, such as MT “Mediterranean”, ex-Exxon Valdez. Sometimes, for older vessels or vessels intended for demolition, the new name can be a variation of the previous name, especially if buyers are to save on new lettering and documentation expenses; as such, a once beautiful tanker named MT “Glenross” became just MT “Ross” on her way to the scrap yard by just painting over partially over previous name; no much romance and aspiration in the naming, just surplus black paint (or primer) did the trick.

 

A tanker to be renamed: MT 'Glenross'

A tanker to be renamed: MT ‘Glenross

In terms of ship naming conventions and writing style, a ship’s name is always italicized. Prefixes, hull or pennant numbers, and disambiguation are rendered in normal upright font. The definite article is not used with vessel names, and usually feminine pronouns (sometimes neutral as well) are utilized for ships. Common prefixes are MV (for Motor Vessel), MS (for Motor Ship), MT (Motor Tanker), SY (for Sailing Yacht) or MY (for Motor Yacht), while prefixes from older times were SS (for Steam Ship) and RMS (for Royal Mail Ship) or ever older HMS (for His/Her Majesty’s Ship). For a more thorough list of maritime abbreviations, please click here.

While the presence of women onboard ships bored on the superstition of bad luck, non military vessels traditionally have been given female (or neutral) names rather than male names. On occasion vessels were named after the shipowner’s wife, daughter or even paramour, mistress or female companion. There have been owners who went as far to name vessels after colloquial names of ‘working girls’ in port cities such as ‘Lulu’, ‘Fifi’, and ‘Zuzu’; vessels trading in the spot market (often called ‘tramp trade’ since the next cargo and voyage is unpredictable and completely dependent on what cargos and trades will be found at the next port call), just as a ‘working girl’s’ schedule in a port depends, well … depends on trade. Vessels are named after flowers, whether national (“Chrysanthemum” or not, such as “Rose”), in English or in local languages (“Bunga Begonia” in Malay and Indonesian for “begonia flower’). Vessels are named after “Love” or “Amor” or “Prem” (love in Hindi), while there are trading tankers at present named “Lovely Lady” and “Amoureux” (in love), while we should not forget a sitcom of the past taken place on cruiseship MS “Pacific Princess” (better known as “Love Boat”). Pleasure boats and yachts often bear more affectionate, inspirational or evocative names such as SY “Sea Joy” or MY “Eclipse” (Abramovich’es yacht) or “Octopus” (Paul Allen’s, Microsoft co-founder) or MY “Rising Sun” (Oracle’s Larry Ellison yacht) or SY “Maltese Falcon”. Cruiseships often had alluring names such as “Oasis of the Seas” but now at the age of size and industrial scales are also named MS “Carnival Victory” and MS “Carnival Valor” just the way major industrial shipowners name their vessels with in two-words, with their funnel name accompanied by a second name such as MV “Maersk Alabama” or MV “MOL Japan” or MT “Front Cecilie”.

Save SS United States!

Save SS United States!

On occasion, ships are pointedly named, especially in times of war and conflict, while veins of nationalism can sometimes run through ship onomatopoeia as well. Japanese-owned vessels often contain the word ‘Maru’ as the last word in a vessel’s name, meaning ‘circle’ literally, but based on the notion that ships are floating castles, protected spaces or small worlds on their own; a rather astute connotation, actually! When the US claimed as prize of war the German-built Vaterland (‘Fatherland’), President Woodrow Wilson had her re-named Leviathan; when asked about the name, his reply was: “Why, that’s easy, Leviathan …It’s in the Bible, monster of the deep.” [2] In 1952, the ocean liner vessel SS United States was built in Newport News shipyard; the vessel was an engineering marvel of her time in terms of safety, speed, efficiency and luxury, and she was so named to make a point against traditional British dominance of the seas through superior naval architecture and navigational skill.

Sometimes shipowners used to recycle names of glorious, lucky or profitable ships, or maintain a line of naming through family generations; during World War II, the dry bulk vessel “North King” survived seventeen crossings in convoys of the Atlantic Ocean and the Nazi U-boats, and even today the multi-generational house of A.G. Pappadakis & Co. has been naming vessels bearing the first name “North” such as “North Prince”, “North Empress”, “North Princess” [3]. In previous and more innocent times when communications were expensive and access to information not instant (anyone remembers such times?), ship names were more important for trading purposes as charterers and brokers who recalled their names were more inclined to contact the owners for more business. In an interview several years ago in a shipping trade publication, Japanese shipowner Hachiro Kaifu, who was heading Far East Shipping & Trading, brought up such point as “charterers and brokers involved in shipping with Far East often remember our vessels because of their names, and consequently whenever they have a cargo we want, they recall our vessels more quickly than any other vessel,” and thus the unusually but memorably named fleet: MV “Never on Sunday”, MV “Louisiana Mama”, MV “Amor Amor”, MV “El Condor Pasa” and MV “ Shenandoah”.

Famous names of ships are Syracusia, allegedly the largest commercial ship in (western) antiquity; Argo, Jason’s ship going after the Golden Fleece, Santa Maria (or fully La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción) as Columbus’ flagship on his first trip to Americas; Mayflower bringing the Pilgrims to the western world; HMS Beagle, Darwin’s ship for his scientific travels and call to the Galapagos Islands; Calypso, Jacques Cousteau’s oceanography vessel; HMS Victory, Nelson’s man-of-war flagship. The clipper vessel Cutty Sark (‘short house skirt’) was famous for her sleek lines and fast times and iconic USS Constitution (‘Old Iron Sides’) in the US instrumental in the country’s war for independence; SS Patrick Henry, was the first of about 2,200 ‘liberty ships’ built during the war effort in WWII; Glückauf was the first oil tanker, with MT Exxon Valdez being a tanker of notoriety, and MT “Seawise Giant” (renamed “Happy Giant”, renamed “Jahre Viking”, renamed “Knock Navis”), was the largest tanker (and movable structure) ever built; as the litany of her names suggests, her size was not commensurate with luck or commercial success. But if there is a vessel that rightfully holds the dubious crown of bad luck, and according to polls has been the most recognizable ship name ever, it is RMS “Titanic” that sank on her maiden voyage with great loss of life, some say as the result of a provocative name and claims of man taming nature and delivering the ‘unsinkable’ ship.

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[1] The Cunard Story; Johnson, Howard; Whittest Books, 1987.                                                       [2] Home is the Sailor; Hartley, Herbert; Vulcan Press, 1955.                                                           [3] Ἑλληνες εφοπλιστε᾽ς και ναυτιλιακε᾽ς επιχειρἠσεις; Για᾽ννης Θεοτοκα᾽ς & Τζελι᾽να Χαρλαυ᾽τη; Εκδο᾽σεις Αλεχα᾽νδρεια, 2007.

 

© 2013-2014 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

Save SS United States, “America’s Flagship”

She was built as an unsinkable ship, a claim allegedly attributed to Bruce Ismay, the managing partner of the White Star Line, the direct shipowning company of the famous RMS Titanic. The year was 1912, and liner companies were in fierce competition with each other for the Transatlantic passenger trade. Fate would not be kind to Ismay and RMS Titanic as both soon floundered spectacularly, both literally and metaphorically.

Forward Portside View of SS United States

Forward Portside View of SS United States

Four decades later, a longer, beamier, stronger, more powerful passenger vessel would be built in the US at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Virginia for the same trade. Like RMS Titanic, her maiden voyage made great news as well at the time as she crossed eastbound the Atlantic Ocean in record time of about three days and eleven hours. Soon thereafter, she pulverized the record for the more challenging westbound leg of the Transatlantic trip with a record of about three days and twelve hours. She earned the Blue Riband, the trophy for the fastest average cruising speed on both directions of the round Transatlantic voyage, a record that she still holds today, six decades later. Now, an arthritic, gracious, old lady past her prime and with the memory token of the trophy misplaced somewhere in the attic that today’s grandchildren of history would barely care getting bothered about. The name of the distinguished old lady is SS United States and her figurative attic is Pier 82 on the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

Ship's badge: SS United States

Ship’s badge: SS United States

Her speed may have placed her name on the record books, but she has been a remarkable ship in more ways than one. With 990 ft length overall, she was 110 ft longer than RMS Titanic and well within comparison to the 1,000-ft length commanded by today’s supertankers and monster containerships. Despite her length, her beam was kept narrow at 101 ft so that she could pass gracefully through the Panama Canal if her voyage called for it. Her steam turbines were capable of producing 248,000 shaft horsepower (SHP) – more than twice the power of today’s either typical supertanker or a two-engined Boeing 777 airplane. She brought the Blue Riband to American shores from Queen Mary by sailing as fast as almost 36 knots (approximately41 mph), which is believed to be even today the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in both directions by a standard mono-hull, merchant vessel. Last decade, when the world economies were growing robustly and just in time inventory was in vogue, containerships – the fastest commercial vessels these days – were crossing the oceans at twenty-four knots maximum speed, while in today’s anemic economic environment and high bunkering fuel cost, the fastest containeships typically slow steam at sixteen knots. Cruiseships are capable of achieving close to thirty knots, but usually barely sail above twenty knots in order to economize on fuel expense. Being built after RMS Titanic’s tragedy, the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in 1914, and after her sistership SS Olympia, SS United States was an embodiment to prevention and safety in the event of unforeseen events.

Where first class cabins used to be - SS United States

Where first class cabins used to be – SS United States

The vessel was launched in 1952 at a contract price of $78 million, or approximately $690 million in today’s purchasing power. With 4,060 berths, her contract price was 50% more expensive than today’s cruiseships (though she was a different, now extinct ‘asset class’, an ‘ocean liner’); efficiencies in shipbuilding can attribute to savings, but SS United States was distinctly a luxury vessel with half of her passengers traveling in first class (versus one-third of RMS Titanic) and she had one crew member for every two passengers (versus one crew member for every three passengers on RMS Titanic.) The high cost of the vessel was also partially attributed to increased specifications for military use, as less than a decade after World War II and with Cold War just settling in when she was built, the US government wanted access to passenger vessels in order to move rapidly military troops worldwide in case of military action. Although the vessel could accommodate up to three thousand passengers on a commercial voyage, five times as many (15,000) soldiers would be transported on one of the vessel’s military trips. As such, the vessel’s hull was built with re-enforced steel in order to sustain hostile fire and she was heavily compartmentalized with water-tight doors and bulkheads in order to prevent heavy flooding. For the right of having access to the vessel in time of emergency, the US Navy paid $50 million of the contract price, while $28 million was paid by her official shipowner and manager, the now defunct United States Lines (signage of the company can be seen today along the Chelsea Piers on the Hudson River in Manhattan.)

Pioneering luxury: swimming pool onboard with layer of beach sand all around!

Pioneering luxury: swimming pool onboard with layer of beach sand all around!

There were twenty-two decks and plentiful luxurious common areas for the enjoyment of her privileged passengers, amenities such as indoor and outdoor promenades and sundecks, huge library with high ceilings and large, sunny windows in the front of the ship, ball room and dance floor with a dome structure, theater stage, tennis court, an elevator to the the master staircase, a luxurious bar opening to the sun deck in the rear of the vessel, a swimming pool complete with sand around it for the passenger’s enjoyment. All such luxury had to be dispensed without the presence of wood onboard the vessel in order to avoid fires; extensive use of aluminum substituted for wood, and Steinway himself had to demonstrate that the specially made piano for the ship was fire proof indeed and could actually cannot be set on fire (the piano and the butcher’s block were the only two wooden pieces ever allowed onboard.)

Forward funnel, radar and crow's nest - SS United States

Forward funnel, radar and crow’s nest – SS United States

Two 65-ft tall, brilliantly red-painted funnels with small wings and gently leaning backwards, with a white stripe on top in parallel to a white stripe along the upper end of a black-painted hull, and almost a vertically raked bow and round ‘spoon shaped’ stern typical for ocean liners of that age, SS United States was cutting a graceful figure over the water and on the horizon and her New York City port calls have been immortalized on numerous post cards. Even today, the fainted red color of the two funnels is an eye-catcher when one is crossing the bridge approaching Philadelphia and from afar form the Seaport up the Delaware River; almost like two faint, red candle-flames over the horizon, two candle flames of the memory and glory, a prayer that the wind of modern times will not peel off the colorful existence altogether.

Funnels - SS United States

Funnels – SS United States

In her 800 Transatlantic crossings over her seventeen year career ending in 1969 (about one crossing per week), notable politicians and celebrities enjoyed unparalleled luxury in her fast and graceful sliding over the ocean; Marlon Brando, Coco Chanel, Sean Connery, Gary Cooper, Walter Cronkite, Salvador Dali, Walt Disney, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are known to travelled with her. Four U.S. presidents sailed aboard SS United States overtime, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, the last as fresh graduate from Georgetown was on his way to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1968, one year before the retirement of the vessel.

Indoors promenade: SS United States

Indoors promenade: SS United States

Ever since her retirement from active duty in 1969, the ship has been having a tumultuous life seeking a purpose and a permanent home; she has changed ownership several times since then, with buyers hoping to find commercial uses for her. She was designed as a passenger liner vessel to travel fast and her conversion to a cruiseship or theme vessel or a floating hotel is not absolutely ideal, as she’s too narrow by her beam and her fuel consumption (replacing diesel powered steam turbines) will be high. She has been gutted internally and most of the asbestos has been removed, so she’s ready for her next development stage. There have been proposals for her to be developed as a museum or theme vessel and get relocated to major metropolitan areas, possibly New York, perhaps along the historic aircraft carrier Intrepid or find a place with Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.

Stern - SS United States registered with New York as her homeport

Stern – SS United States registered with New York as her homeport

At present, the vessel is owned and controlled by the SS United States Conservancy (http://www.ssusc.org/), an non-for-profit organization, under the leadership of Susan L. Gibbs, the granddaughter of ingenious William Francis Gibbs, the naval architect and marine engineer who designed SS United States (and also notably the vessels that would be known as ‘Liberty Ships’ during WWII.) Through sizeable donations and ongoing fund raising efforts, the Conservancy has kept a close watch over the vessel and her constant need for upkeep and continuous cleaning efforts. However, a couple of recent proposals for the ship’s development have fallen apart, and the running costs of keeping the vessel at her present location is more than $60,000 per month.

We have had the distinct honor to be invited recently by the SS United States Conservancy to board and tour the vessel, to be allowed to get a glimpse through history’s spider-webbed, broken glass of a porthole into another age and way of life. It was a breezy, sunny day in March after a long winter in Philadelphia and the Northeast; just to envision for a few hours the luxury ship built with military grade steel and aluminum superstructure careening effortlessly fast over the ocean, with Marilyn Monroe lingering on a chaise lounge chair on one of the sundecks portside and Salvador Dali pondering on surrealism by his cabin starboard, John Kennedy leaning over a book in the library while there was a stage performance in the theater abaft, it was indeed a unique invitation to have a front row viewing to a maritime and historical miracle, a project of supreme American engineering and soaring ambition, to a ship that links us to the roots of American maritime tradition which regrettably seems to slip further away from us by the day.   While ‘unsinkable’ RMS Titanic got crushed by fate soon in her maiden voyage, SS United States, more than sixty years after she was launched from a navy shipyard, still stands tall, a testament to her shipbuilder’s ambition for building a ship that ‘you cannot catch her, you cannot set her on fire and you cannot sink her’.

Save SS United States!

Save SS United States!

‘America’s Flagship’ has done her duty to her country and to her owners and her passengers, glamorous or not; she has served history well. We owe it to her to keep her afloat in glamor and perseverance, to get involved, to volunteer or donate for her maintenance until the right development is found for her. One can find more about the vessel and the Conservancy at http://www.ssusc.org/ and donations are strongly encouraged at http://www.ssusc.org/give-and-join/donate/ or at https://www.savetheunitedstates.org/

The pictures taken during the recent visit are a testament to her magnificent structure and an invitation and challenge to see the ship restored to her past glory; we owe it to her!

Additional pictures, including many historical pictures collected from the internet, can be found on the Pinterest page of Karatzas Marine Advisors, board for SS United States!

 

Imposing structure: The bow of SS United States

Imposing structure: The bow of SS United States

© 2013-2014 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

 

Alternative Ship Finance North America 2014

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                  Examine how to obtain and structure finance from alternative sources                                                                                                                                                                                                            ALTERNATIVE SHIP FINANCE NORTH AMERICA 2014                                      5 – 6 May 2014, Downtown Conference Center, New York  http://www.lloydsmaritimeacademy.com/FKT2722KAWL

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