The MV Port Adelaide was one of Port Line’s handsome refrigerated ships designed for the owner’s service to Australia and New Zealand. She was completed by R and W Hawthorn Leslie & Co, Newcastle as their yard no. 705 and made her maiden voyage in June 1951. In my opinion, she was one of the best looking ships in the fleet of that era. She did not have the slightly exaggerated “streamlining” on the bridge front on the earlier Port Brisbane (2) and Port Auckland (2) of 1949, and the least said the better about the minuscule offering of a funnel on the Port New Plymouth!

The Port Adelaide, being the eleventh commissioned in the fleet since the end of WWII, was the first of a trio having the same hull, but differing arrangement of superstructure etc. These being the Port Townsville (2) coming from Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Newcastle and Port Nelson built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast.

Accommodation for 12 passengers was provided by eight single and two double berth cabins: the Captain’s suite being on the boat deck aft of the wheelhouse and the same for the Chief Engineer. The Engineer Officers’ suite was on the bridge deck and all other members of the ship’s complement were accommodated in single berth cabins on the upper deck, with no accommodation aft. Propulsion was provided by a six-cylinder Doxford diesel engine by the builders.

This ship was the first new ship in the company to run exclusively on heavy boiler fuel, although the Port Vindex had been retro-fitted earlier. A ‘Loudaphone’ installation in the wheelhouse enabled direct contact with the crow’s nest, engine room and forward and aft docking positions. Roller bow stoppers of the self-holding and automatically release type, were fitted forward, thus avoiding the sharp nip at the hawse pipe deck opening. This also gave a more constant load on the anchor windlass. On 19 December 1966, the Port Adelaide came to the rescue of the crew of the fishing vessel Bell of Portugal off Panama which had caught fire and sank, landing the survivors at Balboa.

The ship served the fleet under various management arrangements until 1972 when she was sold to Chinese ship breakers, calling at Cape Town for bunkers en route on 26 July 1972, arriving at Kaohsuing on 19 August 1972. The breakers, Jui Fat Steel & Iron Co Ltd, started demolition work on 23 November 1972 and, surprisingly, this was completed by 23 December 1972.

The Port Line had its antecedents in the amalgamation of four family concerns, being Tyser & Co; part of Star Line of James P Corry & Co; part of the Indra Line of T B Royden & Co; and William Milburn of their Anglo-Australian Steam Nav Co which formed the Commonwealth & Dominion Line Ltd.

On 5 May 1916, the directors agreed with Cunard for an interchange of shares. Mr T Royden was already a director of both companies, and the rather unwieldy name of the Cunard Line Australasian Service, Commonwealth & Dominion Line was adopted. It was formally changed to Port Line in 1937. T & J Brocklebank was also owned by Cunard since 1919 and with Port Line, it appeared to be a hands-off arrangement until the machinations of 1968. Whilst serving with Brocklebank, the only reference to Port Line I heard about was in respect our Chief Engineer Officer having served bravely with them to obtain a diesel endorsement to his steam certificate.

A number of years ago, I had drawn a model plan of the ship based on the original GA drawing published in the Motor Ship monthly, showing a single foremast from which an overseas modelmaker had built a model. Some years later, I managed to photograph her passing Greenock on the Clyde, and on looking on the prints, I knew there was something odd. The answer being that, after some time in service, the single foremast, as shown in the plans, had been replaced by twin goalposts as in my photos, due to the severe vibration of this mast.


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