Unloved and Forgotten

There is little sadder to the eye of the mariner than an unloved ship, rusting and rotting away. 

When I photographed “Loa” in the Panama Canal in 1976 she was approaching her twentieth year, but she still looked as if her crew were taking good care of her. 

Built in 1957 by Eriksbergs Mekaniska Verksted in Gothenburg, she was originally delivered as “Folga” to J. Ludwig Mowinckles of Bergen.

Her dimensions were 145m long x 18.92m wide x 11.36m draft. She was powered by a 5-cylinder B&W diesel of 6,250 SHP and achieved 15 knots.

Mowinckles was, and still is, a family-owned shipping business founded in 1898. They must have taken pride in their new ship. She was photographed in Adelaide in 1968 by Chris Finney. There are the inevitable rust streaks from the hawsepipe and scuppers, but she still looks a smart, well-maintained ship.

Two years later, in 1970 she was purchased by Compañía Sudamericana de Vapores. CSAV is the largest and one of the oldest shipping companies in Latin America. Founded in Chile in 1872, CSAV is headquartered in Valparaiso. In 2014 it merged its container shipping business with Hapag Lloyd, but still operates reefer, dry and liquid bulk services.

Renamed “Loa”, the ship still looked smart and well maintained as she exited the Panama Canal on the Pacific side, in 1976.

Thereafter the story turns murky.

In 1977 she was sold to Carnation Shipping Co. in Cyprus (renamed “Pola Nina”) and a year later to Landsdowne Shipping in Greece. Here she is in 1978, renamed “Saini”, photographed in Avonmouth by Chris Howell.

What a difference two years makes.

To be fair, it does look as if the new crew has made a start in repainting the hull from aft. Some of the areas around the bow look as if they have been red-leaded. But the draft marks are unreadable and there is no sign of the loadline. Below the topside (black) paint the boot topping and anti-fouling are badly worn and there are signs of weed and other growth around the waterline. The accommodation does not look too bad, but areas of the derrick booms are heavily rusted. It is very sad to see what was once such a smart ship, allowed to fall into such an unloved state.

I suspect things did not improve. Three years later the ship was again sold, this time to Meka Shipping in Panama. Her final incarnation as “Tara” – and I dread to think what she looked like by then – came to an end in December 1982. Suffering an engine breakdown, she as towed into Los Angeles. The cost of repairs probably exceeded her value and she was scrapped in January of the following year at Terminal Island.

Some say ships have souls and, judging by the endearing terms in which former shipmates speak of their favourite ships, that might have a grain of truth. Or is it just that they preserve remnants of the lives of all the men and women who worked to build and sail them. Nicholas Monserrat wrote about a ship that died of shame. “Tara”, ex “Folga”, went to her grave broken down, unwanted and unloved. Did she die of shame? Are there seamen somewhere, still haunted by her memory?


  1. Just found your site this morning shortly after discovering Oriental Vagabonds on Amazon. I won't get a chance to dive into your books until this weekend, but I'm a pretty enthusiastic consumer of all things tramp related, I'm sure it'll blow wind up my "skirt".

    I have no tie to the sea short of living in San Pedro CA for a few years when I was younger (I'm an military brat vagabond I reckon). But for some reason, the tramp steamer era just fascinates me.

    While living in San Pedro, we used to spend a lot of time on Terminal Island (navy base) and we would drive over to the scrap yard and watch them tearing up old ships. I was there from 82-85. Entirely possible that I saw them scrapping "Tara".

    Can't wait to get into your books!

    1. Many thanks, Chris. I do hope you enjoy the books.


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