STX France, based at St Nazaire in France, specialises in building large cruise ships. It is part of the troubled Korean shipbuilding conglomerate STX, which is currently in receivership. The Seoul bankruptcy court stated in November that four parties had expressed interest in taking over the French part of STX, but it has since confirmed that currently only one bid has been received. This is from the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri.
In spite of an apparently healthy order book, including the two recent orders from MSC, other yards have been hesitant to make a bid for the profitable shipbuilder. One of these, French naval contractor DCNS, admitted they had held talks with Fincantieri and were presently keeping their options open. Getting Hong Kong announced it was no longer interested.
The French government has a 33% stake in STX France, but has made public that it is not interested in getting a majority stake. However, it insisted that it would be retaining its blocking powers on any changes, and would have a say in any ownership change. The French Industry Minister insisted that France would maintain its right to veto any sale if the conditions weren’t right.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on 22nd December 1941 Normandie was transferred to the US Navy Department, under the name of USS Lafayette, listed as AP53. To all who knew her, however, she would always Normandie. On the 24th December the Commission handed the liner to the US Navy, to to be hastily converted into a troopship, based on experiences gained with Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. The American need for troopships helped to speed up the bureaucracy. She was officially entered on the register on 1st January 1942.
Plans were quickly put in hand for her conversion. Initially 18,000 bottles of wine were removed, along with many other items including six grand pianos, four hobby horses and other fixtures and fittings, most of which were later sold at public auctions. 2,400 vans were needed – transport costs alone were put at more than $100,000. Major works of art were carefully removed to storage, panelling was dismantled. Several local warehouses were rented for the storage. Robins Drydock was awarded the contract to convert her to a troopship, the work to be carried out while she was still at her pier. Sadly, following a number of bizarre decisions and careless workmen, on 9th February 1942 she caught fire, and later that day capsized. Too badly damaged and too big to be salvaged at the time, she was eventually scrapped in October 1946.
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Cunard’s Ivernia was built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson at Newcastle. She was launched on 21st September 1899, and made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on 14th April 1900. There was an almost identical sister ship, Saxonia. Ivernia ran aground in thick fog off Daunts Rock on 24th May 1911, but was salvaged and later rebuilt. She returned to service on 17th October 1911. She was later used on the emigrant service from Trieste to New York.
With the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, Ivernia was hired by the UK government for use as a troop transport, mainly between Canada and the Mediterranean. On 28th December 1916 she sailed from Marseilles for Alexandria, Egypt, with HMS Rifleman as her escort. Carrying over 2,400 troops, mainly from the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, she was under the command of Captain Turner, who had previously been in command of Lusitania when she was torpedoed. On 1st January 1917 she was south-east of Cape Matapan, Greece, when she was torpedoed by the German submarine UB47. The torpedo hit on the starboard side and exploded in a boiler room, killing 22 of the crew. HMS Rifleman drew alongside and took off 666 troops and 36 crew, Other survivors were rescued by escorting trawlers. The ship sank soon after. Total casualties were 84 troops and 36 crew lost.
After 31st December 1949 the name “White Star” disappeared from use. The two surviving White Star ships, Britannic and Georgic, would continue in White Star livery and fly the White Star burgee with Cunard’s house flag until the end of their careers, although the Cunard flag would now fly above the White Star burgee. Cunard-White Star, Ltd. continued for a while as a corporate identity, “largely as an investment company”.
Following the merger of the two companies, the convention had been that Cunard ships flew the Cunard flag above the White Star flag, and on White Star ships the opposite was flown. The attached photo shows the two flags being lowered for the last time on Aquitania, when she finished service.
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The US Coast Guard has officially called off the search for a 74-year-ol,d woman who went missing from Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 while on a 12-night Christmas and New Year cruise from New York to St Maarten in the Caribbean. Queen Mary 2 sailed from New York on 22nd December, but when the liner was about 100 miles off the Coast of New Jersey, the passenger was reported as missing.
The liner immediately turned back to search for her, and the US Coast Guard launched a C-130 aircraft and an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. Once darkness fell the initial search was called off, and Queen Mary 2 resumed her cruise. The captain later reported that she would soon be back on schedule. There are no details at present of how she went missing, but it is presumed she fell overboard/ The lady is reported to be a regular cruise passenger.
In the meantime it has been reported that a 22-year-old passenger jumped off an upper deck of Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas. Despite a search by the ship, US Coast Guard and other nearby ships, at present there is no sign of the passenger. It is reported that since 2000, 283 passengers have been lost overboard from cruise ships worldwide.
Built by Harland and Wolff at Belfast and launched on 28th June 1893, Gothic was jointly operated by White Star and Shaw Savill on the New Zealand service. She could carry 104 passengers in First Class and 114 in Steerage, and was intended to also carry a large cargo of refrigerated mutton and other goods to the UK. Her maiden voyage left London on 28th December 1893, under Captain Jennings.
On 3rd June 1903 fire broke out in the cargo, and eventually she had to be beached off Plymouth and then scuttled, to extinguish the fire. She was later raised and given a thorough refit before returning to service. In 1907 she was transferred to Red Star Line and renamed Gothland. She later reverted to White Star and her old name, then in 1913 was back with Red Star as Gothland. In June 1914 she was stranded on the Scillies but was salvaged and repaired, and gave useful service in the Great War. Finally sold for scrap in 1925, she was broken up at Bo’ness in early 1926.
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On 28th December 1914 the convoy for the Second Detachment of Australian and New Zealand Imperial Expeditionary Forces assembled at King George’s Sound at Albany. The majority of the fleet sailed on 31st December, and included Suevic (A29), Persic (A34) and Ceramic (A40), carrying troops and horses to Egypt.
Persic had embarked the 5th Light Horse Regiment at Sydney on 21st December. Suevic had embarked the 6th Australian Light Horse Regiment. Leaving Fremantle for Colombo on 2nd January 1915, the three White Star ships were diverted to Aden for additional coal. The convoy reassembled at Aden on 24th January and reached Suez on 24th January. The troops were disembarked at Alexandria on 1st February.
A general cargo ship, Cabrera, ran aground on the Greek island of Andros last Saturday, in heavy weather. The ship partially sank on the rocky coast, with very heavy surf. All nine crew members were lifted off by a Greek Navy helicopter and transferred to a local hospital.
The Cabrera was sailing from Larymna in Greece to Tornio, Finland with a cargo of ferronickel when she went aground. With the pounding of the heavy surf, she quickly sank until just portions of the superstructure are still showing above water. There are fears of pollution in the area, with an oil sheen already appearing around the wreck and along the adjacent coast. The Greek Coast Guards admitted pollution control was proving difficult in the continuing bad weather.
Federal authorisation has been granted for the US Army Corps of Engineers to improve access to Port Everglades. The navigation channels are to be widened and deepened as part of improvements to the infrastructure of the port. Approval for the work was signed by President Obama on 16th December 2016.
Two projects are involved in this development: the Port Everglades Navigation Improvements and the Central Everglades Planning Project. Work is already in hand planning both projects and establishing the logistics. It is anticipated that 2,200 jobs will be created for the construction, and 1,500 permanent jobs once the work is completed. Already handling over 3.5 million cruise ship passengers last year and nearly $30 billion in trade, the development of the port will enable it to increase operations and modernise systems ready for growth in the future. It will be able to accommodate the larger cruise ships due in the next few years and also the larger post-Panamax containerships using the recently-widened Panama Canal.
By the late 1920s the directors of Cunard realised that their current fleet was becoming dated, and that marine engineering and technology was moving forward. It was time to have a fresh look at the needs of the modern trans-Atlantic passenger. After an extended design and research period, in early 1929 they put out a tender call to various UK shipyards. The successful bid was from John Brown’s on the Clyde, and on 1st December 1930 the contract was signed. At that time the hull was known simply as 534.
The slip used for Aquitania was lengthened and reinforced ready for the massive new liner. The first keel plate was officially laid on 27th December 1930. Work was underway on what was to become one of the world’s best-known liners – RMS Queen Mary. Work was halted by the Great Depression and Cunard’s faltering finances, but following the UK government’s intervention with a massive loan, she was eventually launched on 26th September 1934. Once fitting out was completed and the trials passed successfully, she left on her maiden voyage on 27th May 1936, to begin a hugely successful career, both as a trans-Atlantic passenger ship and as vitally-important troopship.
She gained the Blue Riband, and fought France’s Normandie several times before World War II, finally retaining it. Her war service saw her entering many areas of the world for which she had not been designed, and the lack of air conditioning aboard made many troops suffer when she was in the tropics. Refurbished after the war, she went on to forge a successful partnership alongside Queen Elizabeth, until the advent of jet aircraft and declining passenger numbers forced her withdrawal in 1967. Subsequently sold to Long Beach, California, she is permanently moored there as a memorial to the glory days of trans-Atlantic liners.