Nordic Trader

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Nordic Trader
IMO /ID No. 8004208.
Type Products Carrier.
Gross Registered Tonnage 20,085 tons
Builder Hashihama Zosen, Tadotsu. Yard No.808. Completed by Tsuneishi, Numakuma.
Delivery date May 1981.
Hull Steel.
Length Overall 170.5 m. Between LPP 161.0 m.
Width 30.0 m.
Engine Builder Ishikawajima Heavy Industries.
Engine Type Pielstick
Propulsion mode Single screw.
Speed 14 kts.
Displacement 37,384 tons.
Power Diesel.
Aspiration Turbocharged.
Boiler Composite, exh.gas/fuel oil
Propeller Controllable pitch by Tsuneishi, Numakuma.
Launched Nov 15th. 1980


May 1981. Delivered as "Nordic Trader" to a joint Swire Pacific / F A Bugge J/V company. Liberian flag.

1990. Renamed "Nortank Skauholt".

1993. Renamed "Skauholt"

1999. Renamed "Skowhegan"

2004. Renamed "Skawhegan"

July 24th. 2009. Beached at Chittagong for breaking up.


Events / Stories

The "Nordic Trader" was an anomaly; the only deepsea cargo ship to have been owned by Swire Pacific.

She was never manned or managed by any part of the Swire Group; she was managed and manned by Finn Axel Bugge, and a very good job he and his staff did with her. However, the market was against us. She was one of four sister ships ordered from Tsuneishi by Finn Bugge, whose offshore interests ran close to Swire Pacific's, and at the time when she was ordered there was a management theory, attributed to Sir John Brembridge, that a business ought to have three legs, so in addition to offshore support vessels SPO was directed to invest in rigs (a mistake soon corrected!) and in ships, or at least in this ship.

Sadly the Nordic Trader was one of many product tankers ordered on the back of a Drewry report (a very new thing in 1979!) which predicted, quite incorrectly as it transpired, that the oil producers of the Middle East would seek to add value by refining prior to shipment (the only OPEC member to try this was Kuwait). In fact, such plans, if they ever existed, were put on hold by the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war.

She was in fact a victim of that conflict; she was shot up and set on fire by the Iranians. However her Norwegian officers and Filipino crew did an outstanding job and extinguished the fire unaided - for which two of her officers were awarded Lloyd's Medal, a very rare honour. The accomodation block was wrecked and she was, after much negotiation, towed back to her builder's yard for repairs.

One reason for the haggling was that she was, in the Norwegian manner, and unlike the Swire fleet, insured for loss of hire, at US$9,000 a day. This was more than she ever earned by carrying cargo, and the Director concerned expressed confidence that the repairs would take a very long time. However, for one who had spent a long time in Japan, David Gledhill reckoned without Japanese efficiency; as she was towed in to Tsuneishi the new superstructure could be seen, prefabricated, ashore, and in all too short a time the remains of the old one had been gas axed and the new accomodation block, already fitted out, was craned aboard, welded on and hooked up. Nobody had the heart to explain to the yard that. far from being delighted, we were quietly cursing them!

The rest of her career passed off without much incident - there was another fire, in the engine room in the Atlantic, also dealt with by the crew, in the week when the oil price crashed she loaded fuel oil in Dalian and, after an exceptionally long and complex voyage, during which her cargo changed hands again and again, she eventually discharged a cargo intended for Singapore in Quebec, having steamed the length of the Mediterranean three times...

It should be noted in passing that, although she had a Pielstick, she never had engine trouble.

Her only other contribution to the fortunes of the wider Group happened on her only call at Hong Kong. It happened that a group of visitors to Hong Kong were being entertained by the senior staff of Swire Properties on a harbour cruise. Tired of having Group properties, and no doubt passing Tri-Stars and 747's, pointed out to them, one of the guests pointed to a big orange-painted tanker, coming up the Lamma Channel, and said, "I suppose you own that, too!".

"As a matter of fact", his hosts replied, "We do !"