On The Waterfront: Recalling the days of veteran steamers

Nowadays, it's unusual for elderly merchant ships to trade in UK waters as stringent maritime regulation and inspection regimes are likely to spot deficiencies and lead to detention of offending vessels.

Saturday, 9th December 2017, 9:28 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:46 am
The steamer Vindö.

In the past, such controls were not so strict with many older vessels soldiering on until they met an unfortunate fate or ended their days in the breakers’ yard.

During the 1950s, the Port of Sunderland saw visits from many veteran steamers which must have made a fascinating sight for ship buffs of the era.

The steamer Vindö was one such vessel. She was one of 176 turret deck ships built by William Doxford and Sons at Pallion between 1892 and 1911 to a design intended to save on tonnage dues on ships passing through the Suez Canal. Another six were built under licence elsewhere. They were constructed in a variety of lengths, some being as long as 400 feet.

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Basically, they were built with a narrow upper deck (known as the turret) which ran their full length above the main or harbour deck. Despite concerns over their stability, the design was an amazing success for Doxfords.

Launched on May 20, 1909 for Gothenburg owners Ångfartygs A/B Tirfing, the 2,335 gross tons steamer had originally been named Inland and was initially used in the Narvik iron ore trade.

With a registered length of 290.1 feet and beam of 43.6 feet, she was propelled by a Doxford triple-expansion three-cylinder steam engine.

Being fortunate to survive two world wars, she also sailed under the names of Sarimner and Ulla before becoming Vindö in 1951.

At this time she was owned Rex Shipping Line under the management of Ragnar Källström, being registered at Stockholm.

A regular caller at Sunderland and other North East ports under her various names, her penultimate visit to the Wear came on September 21, 1953 when she docked at No 23 Staith, Hudson Dock, to load coal for Västerås in Sweden.

She was back in port on April 26, 1954, when she berthed at Lambton and Hetton Staiths, to load another coal shipment for Västerås.

Although no-one could have foreseen this, it was to be Vindö’s final voyage, which would begin not far from her birthplace at Pallion.

It would also mark what was almost certainly the last occasion on which a Doxford turret deck ship visited Wearside.

After leaving port on April 29, the 45-year-old Vindö sailed across the North Sea.

In May, 1954, Lloyds reported that she had sunk by the head while moored in the Swedish port of Södertälje – still carrying her cargo of coal. Although salvaged, she never re-entered service and was broken up by Carl Persson and Soner at Ystad in 1958.