Revolutionary ships for their time, they were built for the French Polish Shipping Company, but operated by Polish Ocean Lines (POL).
Built expressly for the transatlantic trade, they were combination container RoRo ships, with a capacity of 1417 TEU, including 150 reefers, and a speed of 20 knots. Their fine lines and 29,000 bhp allowed the four ships to maintain a weekly service.
For ships measuring 30,000 tons and 200m (656 ft) in length their capacity was relatively small, especially when it is understood that 317 of those TEUs related to the capacity of the car decks.
With engines and accommodation amidships, the forward part of the ship consisted of five cellular holds for containers with a capacity of 438 TEU. The after part of the ship was the RoRo area, served by a huge skewed ramp. The deck hatches forward carried containers and the deck aft had frames for containers with a capacity of 662 TEU on deck.
As part of the joint venture, the ships were built in France, but fitted with Polish (Cegielski) engines.
The ships began calling in Halifax in 1981 with the French Polish line lasting until 1993 by which time some of the ships had been sold and the line bought space on ACL. ACL/ Hapag-Lloyd at that time was directing much of its cargo to Montreal, but with the change, it came back to Halifax.
All four ships were initially sold to the Oldendorff company and chartered back for a short time, but two were resold to the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (NSCSA) and began to call in Halifax again for a time.
The other two were had diverging careers and only one ever came back to Halifax.
First ship was named Tadeusz Kosciuszko after a man who was a colonel in the revolutionary forces of the American states and a friend of Thomas Jefferson. He later returned to Poland and commanded the Polish National army. The ship was built Chantier naval le Ciotat and launched September 30, 1980 and completed in May 1981. It made its first call in Halifax June 12, 1981 and on November 10 of the same year it was the first container ship to use the Fairview Cove container terminal operated by Ceres.
In 1992 it became Gebe Oldendorff and continued to call on Halifax until the service ceased.
3. As rebuilt, the ship had a new wheelhouse added above the bridge. This allowed containers to be stacked four high on the forward deck.
In 1993 it was converted to a fully cellular container ship. The stern ramp was removed and the car decks removed and converted to cellular container space. This increased its container capacity to 2002 TEU including 324 reefer plugs. Gross tonnage increased from 30,080 to 31,207 Renamed Neptune Lazuli, it called in Halifax in 1993. It was then worked on charter for Hapag-Lloyd, Choyang, Maersk and P&O Nedlloyd. It had no less than eight subsequent names before it was broken up in Jiangyin China in April 2006.
Kazimierz Pulaski was the second ship, named for “the father of American cavalry”, also a revolutionary general who at one time saved the life of George Washington. It was launched April 10, 1981 and completed in July 1981 by Chantier Atlantique in St-Nazaire. In 1992 it was sold and renamed Hinrich Oldendorff. It became Pyrmont Bridge in 1993, Australia Star in 1996 and P&O Nedlloyd Taranaki in 1999. It sailed from Brisbane in December 2005 and arrived in Xingang China February 26, 2006 for breaking up.
It continued to call in Halifax until 2001 when it became the Italian Jolly Argento. It later flew the flag of the Comoros Islands. It arrived in Alang India on February 26, 2012 and was beached March 10 for scrapping.
Stefan Starzynski was named for a World War I soldier, writer and politician who went on to become President of Warsaw. He maintained the position under German occupation in World War II. He was imprisoned and probably died in a concentration camp. The ship was launched by Atlantique August 30, 191 and completed in December 1981. The ship’s first call in Halifax was not until March 6, 1982. In 1993 it became Gerdt Oldendorff, and in 1995 Saudi Riyadh, and called in Halifax under both those names.
On February 27, 1999 it arrived in Halifax with chaos in its car decks. During a storm on the way from New Yoprk to Halifax, many rolls of newsprint broke loose crushing several cars, a school bus a combine harvester and several tons of canned corn.Much of the resulting gurry had to be removed by wheel loaders, but some of the paper was salavaged and restowed. The ship had previously been in a collision February 4 off Virgain Beach with USS Arthur W. Radford, resulting in several dents and scrapes.
It was sold in 2001 to become the Italian Jolly Oro. In early 2012 it was renamed Oro, under the Comoros flag, for the trip to the breakers. It arrived in Chittagong, Bangladesh February 26, and was beached March 10. Sharing the same scrapping date as its sister ship.
These were significant ships for the time, and survived well beyond expectations, lasting thirty years in two cases.