THE UBIQUITOUS T2-SE-A1 (T2) TANKERS

Along with many of the other British owners of oil tankers, e.g. Anglo Saxon Petroleum Company, Baltic Trading Company, J. A. Billmeir Company, British Tanker Company, Hunting Brothers, Mollers, etc, the Esso Transportation Company joined in the world’s biggest tanker sale after the 2nd World War, principally in 1947, when 52 tankers were acquired by British owners from the residue of the vast fleet of 525 tankers built in American shipyards to the order of the U.S. Maritime Commission.

481 of the 525 tankers ordered were of the T2-SE-A1 type, which was to a standard design of build of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey.  Of 16,700 DWT, these standard vessels were 523’ 6” in length, with a beam of 68 feet.  The cargo arrangement was a total of nine tanks giving a total capacity of some 141,200 barrels of oil.  Propulsion was by means of turbo-electric drive, i.e. steam turbines powering electrical motors connected to the main screw shaft.  Typical speed obtained by this means of propulsion was of the order of just over 14 knots.

Machinery was located aft, accommodation was midships and aft superstructures.  The midships superstructure was placed above Nos. 4 and 5 tanks, and accommodated the Master, Chief Officer, Radio Operator and Radio Room, and the Apprentices.  All other crew were accommodated in the aft superstructure.

Of the 481 Type T2-SE-A1 tankers built by American yards in the latter part of WWII, 18 were lost in enemy action or broken up, 244 were either sold off or returned to their U.S. owners, and the U.S. Navy acquired 18 of the vessels.  The remaining 203 Nos. T2-SE-A1 tankers were sold to overseas owners, the biggest total (71) going to Panama-flag Companies, and Britain acquiring a total of 52 of the vessels.

Although built on the same principles as the other wartime emergency deep-sea building programme used for the Liberty ships, the Oceans, the Forts and the Parks, that is, rapid construction all-welded economic design devoid of unnecessary frills or esoteric design features, these ships in fact gave significant service, rarely less than 15 years, often up to 20 years, and in some cases even 25 years service.  The ESSO GLASGOW, for example, built in 1944 as the WAUHATCHIE, by the Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-Dock Company of Chester in Pennsylvania, the most prolific of the Yards which produced the T2 tanker fleet of WWII, was actually lengthened in 1957 and went on to give a further 14 years of good service before going to the breaker’s yard at Bilbao in 1971, a respectable working life of 27 years. 

Considering that many of these vessels were launched some six or seven weeks after laying down of the keel, and were setting out on their maiden voyages two or three weeks after their launch date, and considering that a significant percentage of the total welding carried out was performed by women, perhaps the British engineering industry today should perhaps be investigating methods and techniques employed more than half a century ago.  Despite the economics involved and frugality of construction aesthetics, there is little doubt in the minds of modern day ship enthusiasts that despite their ‘ugly duckling’ reputation, these ships had a character of their own and looked like real ships.

As previously indicated, the Esso Transportation Company participated in the acquisition of available T2 Tankers, the following nine vessels joining their fleet in 1947 :

CLEVELAND
Completed in November 1944, by Kaiser Company of Swan Island, Chester, Portland, Oregon, as the FORBES ROAD. Bought by the Cleveland Petroleum Products Company in which the Anglo-American Oil Company had had a controlling interest since 1935.  Sold on to Italian owners in 1953, and renamed ENRICO INSOM.  Sold on to the Italian Navy in 1959, converted to a fleet oiler, and renamed STEROPE.  Broken up at La Spezia in 1979 -  aged 35 years.

ESSO BIRMINGHAM
Completed in August 1944, by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-Dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania, as the MAUVILLA.  Broken up at Split in December 1963 -  aged 19 years.

ESSO BRISTOL
Completed in September 1944, by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-Dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania, as the SANDY CREEK.  Sold on in 1954 to A. D. Pappadakis of New York and renamed NORTH DUKE.  Sold on in 1955 to SIOSA of  Italy and renamed PERSEO.  Broken up at Vado in May 1963 -  aged 19 years.

ESSO CARDIFF
Completed in August 1945, by Kaiser Company of Portland, Oregon, as the HALLS OF MONTEZUMA.  Sold on to Liberian-flag owners, Cia. Nav. Lorca, in 1954 and renamed AQUITANIUS.  Converted to ore/oil carrier in November 1955, including lengthening, and renamed ANDROS NEPTUNE.  Sold on in 1960 to Greek interests, Cia. Nav. Vicalvaro, and renamed SKOPELOS.  Sold on again in the same year back to Liberian-flag owners, Cia. Nav. Patagonia, and renamed TRANSWARREN.  Sold on in 1962 to American interests, Sea Transport Inc., and renamed NIAGARA.  On 28th January 1965, whilst on a passage from Ijmuiden to Nassau, she suffered damage and the loss of some 400 ft2 of plating, during a storm in the Atlantic.  She was able to make port at Ponta Delgada, where temporary repairs were carried out.  From there, she was towed to Marseilles for drydocking, where it was found that repairs were not economically feasible. Consequently the vessel was sold for scrap and taken to Castellon for breaking up, arriving at that port on 29th October 1965 - aged 20 years.

ESSO FAWLEY
Completed in September 1944, by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-Dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania, as the TURKEY ISLAND.  Sold on in 1955 to Liberian-flag owners, Cia. Nav. Lorca, converted to a bulk carrier by Sasebo Heavy Industries and renamed ATTICUS.  Renamed ANDROS SATURN in 1957.  Sold on in 1960 to Greek owners, Cia. Nav. Vicalvaro, and renamed SKIATHOS.  Broken up at Aioi in August 1963 -  aged 19 years.

ESSO GLASGOW
Completed in December 1944, by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-Dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania, as the WAUHATCHIE.  Lengthened by installing a new 310 ft. midsection in April 1957.  The new section  was built and fitted by Harland & Wolff of Belfast.  The original midsection cut out was sent to Faslane for scrapping.  Now suitable for the carriage of a number of different grades of fuel oil, the vessel resumed trading around the British coast from August 1957.  On 12th January 1963, during snow and fog conditions in the River Humber, Esso Glasgow was involved in a collision off Spurn Head with local pilot cutter J. H. Fisherwhich sank as a result. On 3rd January 1967, whilst lying alongside at Fawley, Esso Glasgow suffered severe explosions that resulted in a spectacular blaze.  After the fire, the vessel was moved to Husbands Shipyard at Southampton for temporary repairs, then on to Wilton Fijenoord at Rotterdam for permanent repairs.  Following this, she remained in the coastal service until she arrived at Bilbao on 18th July 1971for breaking up - aged 27 years.

ESSO LONDON
Completed in November 1944, by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-Dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania, as the CHAMPION’S HILL.  Broken up at Split in June 1958 -  aged 14 years.

ESSO MANCHESTER
Completed in February 1944, by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-Dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania, as the SANTIAGO. Broken up at Faslane in August 1963 -  aged 19 years.

ESSO PURFLEET
Completed in July 1944, by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-Dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania, as the RIDGEFIELD.  Broken up at Willebroek in August 1963 -  aged 19 years.

In addition to the above nine vessels acquired in 1946/1947, another T2 tanker was transferred within the Standard Oil Group, to the British flag, in 1955 :

ESSO AVONMOUTH
Completed in August 1945, by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-Dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania, as the FORT MASSIAC.  Acquired by the Standard Oil Company, under the Panama Transport Company flag, in 1949 and renamed ESSO VALPARAISO under the Panamanian flag.   In 1955, changed over to the British registry/flag and renamed ESSO AVONMOUTH.   From 1955 through 1960 the vessel worked out of Fawley.  In June 1960 she was laid up at Falmouth  and shortly later was sold on to Cia. Athlos Nav., S.A. under the Greek flag and renamed ATHLON.  Her new owners despatched the vessel to Bergen where she arrived on 18th December 1960 to serve in the capacity of a temporary power generation facility.  In 1962 the vessel was enlarged by Navali di Taranto, with her length increasing to 578 feet and her deadweight capacity to 23,980 tons.  She then served as a bulker until 14th March 1975 when she arrived at Bilbao for breaking up -  aged 30 years.

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