Monthly Archives: June 2014

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.

SS HELLAS LIBERTY_article 2

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.

SS HELLAS LIBERTY_article 1

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.

SS HELLAS LIBERTY_article 3

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.


 

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_1

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.

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_2

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_3

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)

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_4

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_5

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.

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_6

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)

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_7

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)

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_8

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)

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_9

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)

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_9a

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)

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_10

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_11

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY B_12

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.


 

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 1

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.

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 2

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 3

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 4

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.

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 5

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.

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 6

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 7

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 8

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 9

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 10

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 11

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

SS HELLAS LIBERTY 12

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.