Contrasting fate of two tankers

HIGH TIME ... one of the Common Brothers tankers on the stocks at Readhead's in the 1970s.
HIGH TIME ... one of the Common Brothers tankers on the stocks at Readhead's in the 1970s.

TWO shipping dramas at the turn of the year – the loss of the cement carrier Cemfjord off the north of Scotland, with eight lives, and the stranding of the car carrier Hoegh Osaka in the Solent – briefly captured the public’s attention.

But as happens, both stories eventually faded from view and the dangers of seafaring went back to being invisible.

I mention it only because one shipping loss certainly escaped my attention at the time, but now turns out to have a resonance with one of this week’s topics.

This was Readhead’s shipyard’s latter days building tankers, one of which, the Strait of Canso, we saw leaving the river on trials in 1975.

By the way, it was lovely to subsequently hear from Tim Hudson who sailed as chief engineer in the Strait of Canso on two occasions, in 1976 and 1977, so when she was still very new.

“I joined her along with a full Tyneside crew in St John, Newfoundland,” he says.

“In those two years, much off our trade was in and around the St Lawrence, Quebec/Montreal/Come by Chance and Cornerbrook (in Newfoundland).

“For around Christmas 1976, my wife and toddler son sailed with us and we were fortunate to make a couple of trips to the US, Virgin Islands (Hess Oil) and Tampa before returning to the cold weather in the north at New York and Albany

“Before coming home we even paid a visit to Punta del Gardo in the Azores.

“She was a really comfortable and happy ship at that time and I have very fond memories of her.

“I still have the chart of the River Tyne somewhere, signed by the original officers who sailed out of the river in her after her delivery from Readhead’s.

“A couple of her sister ships had quite ‘colourful’ lives but, as far as I know, not the Strait of Canso.”

Which brings me to the other Common Brothers tanker which Readhead’s built, which was the Hindustan.

This dramatic photograph, I should mention, is of one of the two vessels on the stocks at Readhead’s, towering over the surrounding area, but it’s not certain which it is.

The Hindustan certainly seems to have enjoyed a more varied life than the Strait of Canso, as it seems she went on to be sold half-a-dozen times, changing her name on each occasion.

Now I think I’ve got the right ship – I daresay someone will tell me if I haven’t – but it would appear that by 2007, she was known as the Northsea when, off the coast of Ghana, she was struck by lightning, caught fire and sank with the loss of seven lives.