Fengtien III

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Fengtien III
ID No. 7824015
Type Bulk Carrier.
Gross Registered Tonnage 16,430 grt. 9,670 nett.
Builder Mathias-Thesen-Werft, Wismar.
Delivery date 1979.
Hull Steel, 5 holds, 10 hatches, 4 single cranes, 750 TEU.
Decks 1.
Length 176.5 m. F'c'sle 15 m. Poop 32.4 m.
Width 22.9 m.
Depth 14 m.
Engine Builder VEB Dieselmotoren, Rostock.
Engine Type Diesei, 2 stroke, single scting.
Engine cylinders 8.
Engine Power 9,000 bhp.
Propulsion mode Single screw.
Speed 15.5 kts.
Deadweight 23,323 tons.
Power Diesel.
Aspiration Turbocharged.
Boiler Composite, exh.gas/fuel oil.
Fuel Diesel/fuel oil.
Propeller Solid.
Propeller blades 4.
Propeller formation Cast.
Propeller material Phospher bronze.
Original owner China Navigation Co.
Delivered to owner June 1979
Scrapped March 31st 2006.


1979. Delivered to China Navigation Co.

1982. Transferred to Swire Pacific Ship Management, Hong Kong.

1983. Registered again with CNCo.

1986. Sold to Ceram Shipping Incorporated, Panama. Renamed "Feng Shiang". Managers:- Yick Fung Shipping & Enterprises, Hong Kong.

1987. Sold to Oceanwaters Shipping Ltd., Limassol. Renamed "Sea Rover".

1988. Renamed "Star Rover" by Rover K/S, Norway. (Billabong Shipping Agencies A/S).

1990. Owners now A/S Grieg Finans, financiers. Renamed "Rover".

1995. Bought by Marcissus Shippiing Ltd., Valletta. Renamed "Med Pisa".

1998. Owners renamed the vessel "Rio Express".

2003. Renamed "Patara".

March 31st.2006. Broken up at Chittagong'


The "FENGTIEN"III spent her life in CNCo in the Scanscot pool, as one of a number of sister ships.

One particularly hated rival was the FINNTIMBER, as she always managed to lift more cargo than we did, resulting always in a barrage of pointed questions from Brostroms, who were the Pool managers. We concluded that in general the Finns adopted a less cautious approach than we did to matters of stability, but on one occasion Brostroms had us "bang to rights" when the FENGTIEN under Frank Cunningham loaded a mixed cargo of zinc spelter and woodpulp in Western Canada and shut out some deck cargo on grounds of stability; the FINNTIMBER had loaded a similar cargo shortly before and taken the deck cargo. A Stewards Enquiry was convened and we were docked Pool points.

Jimmy Lough retired to his office with the stowage plan, the stability book and a pad of scrap paper and emerged having found that Frank had taken the C of G at the centre of the hold... to say he was unamused was to put it mildly...

The Scanscot pool was faltering by this time; earnings were weak, as of course was the freight market generally, but one particular bone of contention was that Brostroms had the privilege of the harlot throughout the ages, in that they were responsible for fixtures but NOT for post fixture work or freight and hire collection, which was down to the individual Pool member concerned. This is NOT a good way to run a pool, as their fixtures were frequently felt by us to be irresponsible.

The only way to get out of the Pool was to sell the ship.

Events / Stories

Notes by Andrew Craig-Bennett...

"But Oh, that fatal, that perfidious bark,

Launched in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark..." (Milton)

In this case, launched whilst the prison labour force were still painting the bottom. The Swire owner's party asked why they were working so slowly and were told that was because they were prisoners and were not getting paid.

The last of the three East German built sisters (Foochow IV later Pegasus Timber of Dong Young Shipping, Kweilin III and 'Fengtien III) and a stinker from start to finish. Foochow and Fengtien were bulkers, Kweilin III of course had folding tween decks, and had the slight advantage of having been built for a Hamburg owner - the legendary F Laietz & Co of the Flying P Line, if you know your sailing ship history - who got some sense into her.

All three had horrible East German main engines and unspeakable East Germann SKL generators. There is no point in having four generators if three of them are forever in pieces!

The Fengtien was the first ship ever sold by the legendary Hamburg shipbroker Christian Hinneberg, son of the even more legendary Walter Hinneberg, who could probably sell snow to the Inuit; unfortunately on this occasion he sold a newbuilding, abandoned by a Greek buyer, to Sir Adrian Swire.

In my time, she was mainly distinguished by her ability to have expensive accidents, to damage cargo, to have mechanical failures and to demoralise those who had the misfortune to be sent to her. I distinctly recall arguing an off hire claim by pointing out that she had drifted 27 miles in the right direction whilst broken down and we ought to have credit for her performance as a sailing ship. It was another engine failure that sealed her fate in CNCo - she had an engine failure in the Taiwan Strait in winter - I recall Jimmy Lough, Ron Sullivan and I assembled late at night on the seventh floor of Swire House, whilst we tried to find a salvage tug (not a hope!) and Ron did his best to offer useful suggestions to the C/E (sadly I cannot recall who this was - if he reads this he can perhaps comment further).

I recall that in the course of the evening a half full bottle of whisky was produced from the chart cabinet which had appparently been there for years, kept for occasions such as this...if I recall correctly it was said to have belonged to Len King.

When she was within a couple of hours of going ashore and becoming the first CNCo total loss since WW2, the engine was got going, but the three of us formed a grim deputation to Tim Bridgman's office the following morning and said "She must go!" Soon after the next board meeting Tim opened the office door and said "You've got your wish!"

Sadly, and by way of a footnote, her sister ship the FOOCHOW was lost, with the loss of two lives, long after CNCo sold her, when she grounded on the coast of Taiwan because of a engine failure in heavy weather

Engine stops were a fact of life aboard the Fengtien. In her early years these happened daily, at around 4pm. This happened to be when the Uncertificated Fourth started the fuel transfer pump to fill the daily tanks - the cabling ran up the same duct as the engine telemetry and the starting surge tripped it. As is the nature of Fourth Engineers, he never made the connection between his starting the pump and the engine stopping - fortunately Stuart Shields did!

Amongst her achievements were a million dollar cargo claim in Japan for "wetting" a cargo of paper loaded in January in Arctic conditions in Kotka, Finland and discharged in Japan (Master was Frank Cunningham, mate was Steve Barber, I think?), a million dollar stevedore injury claim in the States (we won that one - it was the usual Mafia trick and John Milward was a convincing witness), a collision with a Russian in a Baltic ice convoy because the breaker and the five ships ahead were all Russian and communicating in that language on VHF (Mike Parker) hitting the dock in Leghorn and costing another million, but with no damage to her Ice IA bow,(Mike Swift I think?) a similar incident the following year in Antwerp when the Belgian pilot had a heart attack on the bridge entering the lock with four tugs attached leaving Olaf Overland to communicate with the tugs in his best Flemish - on that occasion the lock revetment was unharmed but the bulbous bow was destroyed, and of course a complete failure to earn any money. A figure of US$ 2,200 per day for her last year in Scanscot comes to mind....See paragraph before last...

At one point the "FENGTIEN" looked as if she might redeem herself, if not cover herself in glory, by maining use of her Ice Class to pick up a cargo from a mine in the Canadian Arctic. Mike Parker was in command at this point. Sadly it was not to be, the Chinese crew jacked up - they read their Articles, pointed out that the proposed voyage was outside the limits and refused to take orders. Huge loss of face for CNCo and the FINNTIMBER got the job..

We sold her to Cosco who in those days in Hong Kong went under the names of Ocean Tramping and Yick Fung - Yick Fung were the buyers at US$1.87M and we were glad to see the back of her.. but even then something went wrong.

Delivery was in California for some reason.

Such was the awfulness of her East German machinery that she carried her luboil not in drums but in tanks. Jimmy and I had carefully read and re-read the Norwegian Saleform and concluded that we could observe the letter of the bit about "unbroached" drums of luboil (an extra payable on delivery) by decanting the extra TONS of luboil into road tankers and pumping them into the "Polynesia". All went merrily as a marriage bell, with road tankers full of expensive Shell stuff thundering up the Interstate... but some clot forgot to empty his waste paper basket, Yick Fung found an incriminating telex and a delegation arrived in our office holding out the crumpled but recognisable document...we had to pay up. Years later, in Cosco, I recognised the head of that delegation and he recognised me. Unable to sink through the floor, I did my best to smile wanly - he strode up, smiled and said "Tell me - did you ever get that VP propeller to work?"

"Not too well" I said "What did you do with her?" "Sold her to Greeks, as soon as we found out what she was like!" he said, and slapped me on the back!

By a country mile, the worst ship in CNCo in my time.