Since the dawn of shipbuilding on the Wear, progressive increases in tonnage and dimensions of vessels cumulated in the launch of the giant ore/bulk/oil carrier Naess Crusader from North Sands in 1972 – Sunderland’s largest ever ship.
A milestone was reached during the early 1950s, when a pair of oil tankers – Hoegh Arrow and Hoegh Eagle – constructed for Norwegian owners proved to be the biggest built on the river up to that time.
In July, 1948, Sir James Laing and Sons announced the yard had secured orders for two 22,808 tons deadweight motor tankers from Leif Hoegh and Company of Oslo.
They were to be built at Laing’s East Yard at Deptford, where a smaller tanker, Hoegh Rover, was already under construction for the same Norwegian shipowner.
On July 19, 1950, thousands of spectators watched the launch of the 15,083 gross tons Hoegh Arrow, the ship being named by Mrs Alex Hoegh, wife of a company director.
Owing to her size, extra drag chains were attached to check the vessel as soon as she cleared her berth.
Among onlookers was a party of 16 Norwegian schoolchildren standing alongside pupils from Wearside. Pilot in charge was George Gibbons of Roker.
Fitting out took place alongside Laing’s Quay before Hoegh Arrow was towed to William Doxford and Sons’ Palmers Hill engineworks on September 3, 1950, for installation of her six-cylinder Doxford opposed piston engine.
Sister-ship Hoegh Eagle was launched from the same berth on April 4, 1951, the ceremony being performed by Mrs JS Maclay, wife of the MP for Renfrewshire West.
Virtually identical to Hoegh Arrow, including an overall length of 604 feet, Eagle was marginally the larger ship as her gross tonnage measured 15,100 – 17 tons more than her sister. The same type of Doxford engine was installed.
Before handover, both ships were dry-docked at Middle Docks, South Shields.
Hoegh Arrow completed acceptance trials in November, 1950, with Hoegh Eagle following the next August.
Both were fitted out to the highest standards, with Mrs Hoegh, wife of Dr Carl Hoegh, one of the Leif Hoegh partners, playing a prominent role in their interior design.
Speaking at the time, Captain FA Madsen, of Hoegh Arrow, said: “I have been at sea for 25 years and this is the finest ship in which I have served.”
Echoing the captain’s satisfaction, Dr Hoegh said: “This ship speaks for itself. We are exceedingly proud of it.”
Hoegh Arrow traded until 1972 when she was broken up at Taiwan, having also sailed under the names of St Matthew, Oriental Trader and Mayflower.
Hoegh Eagle also ended her days at Taiwan, being broken up there in 1973. She also traded as St John, Crown III and Crown.