Sunday, March 3, 2024

End of an Era - Federal Steam Navigation Co Ltd

 Another in the series describing the last of the traditional general cargo ships calling in Halifax.

The Federal Steam Navigation Company* was a British company founded in 1895, tracing its roots to the unusually named Mr. Money Wigram (1790 -1873) a shipbuilder, sailing ship owner and director of the Bank of England, based in London. The company operated ships to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in association with other companies until 1912. At that time it was taken over by the New Zealand Shipping Company, also of long standing. Federal continued to operate under its own name, but in conjunction with NZCS. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P+O) purchased both companies in 1916 but they continued to retain their indivual identities even though sailing on common schedules.

The original trade route was from various UK ports to Las Palmas (originally as a bunker stop for coal) to Cape Town and on to Australia and New Zealand. In 1936 they formed the MANZ Line (Montreal-Australia-New Zealand Line) in partnership with Ellermans and Port Line (owned by Cunard) using Halifax in winter. 

With containerization on the horizon, FSN and NZSC were absorbed by P+O and disappeared from the scene in 1971.

Among the last Federal Steam Navigation ships to call in Halifax was the Westmorland in August 1970. Seen here alongside Pier 27 (note the new grain galleries at Pier 28) it was loading cargo by old fashioned derricks and slings. There were some continers on deck however. Meanwhile at the opposite side of the camber at Pier 31 the first container ships had appeared in advance of completion of the south end container terminal. Australia was an early adopter of containers. but the much smaller New Zealand was slower to make the change.

 The Westmorland was built by Lithgows in Port Glasgow in 1966. A relatively large ship of 8,230 gt, 12.048 dwt, it had double tween decks and tunnel tanks for liquid cargo. Its holds were served by one 30 ton, three 15 ton and four 10 ten derricks (the bipod masts were a touch of modernity). Its 8 cylinder, 17,600 bhp Sulzer engine gave the ship a high speed of 19.5 knots to cover the long sea routes.  It also had substantial refrigerated capacity, accessible through side doors, and was able to maintain -18ºC in maximum sea temperatures of  +30ºC.

Ownership went over to P+O in 1973 then Strick Line in 1979 before the ships was sold to Lebanese owners and renamed Fares Reeefer in 1980 and to Hong Kong owners as Beacon Hill in 1981. It was broken up in 1985 in Huangpu, Shanghai.

There are several pictures of the ship on the excellent Scottish built ships website  Clydeships.

* The Federal Steam Navigation Copmany had no relation to the Montreal based Federal Commerce and Navigation Company Ltd. That company, now known as Fednav, has a fleet of 120 ships, trades regularly to the Great Lakes and is the largest Canadian owned shipping company. Trading world wide, most of its ships are registered offshore.


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