Sister ship of the "Soochow IV"
March 1950. Delivered as "Berganger" to Westfal-Larsen & Co., Bergen.
Dec 1968. Sold to CNC0., and converted to sideport loading by Taikoo Dockyard for the Japan-New Zealand trade.
1969. Entered service with CNCo, as "Shansi III".
February 1977. Sold to Cia. de Nav. Full Moon S.A.(Yatco Enterprises Ltd.), Panama. Renamed "Yat Lee".
Departed Hong Kong on April 25th 1978, Broken up in China May 1978.
Events / Stories
Man Overboard 1975.
I had been cadet on Shansi, my first CNCo vessel, for just two months and we had, a few days earlier, departed Hong Kong on my second voyage on the NZUE service. In Hong Kong we had a young seaman join, and also a retired couple. The husband had, I believe, worked for an associated Swire company. The couple were travelling in the owner’s suite, courtesy of the company, and they were destined for Whangarei. I remember they had bought a home, sight unseen, and the wife was none too happy. I wondered if they had purchased a view of the oil berth, or had some other industrial outlook to enjoy?
It was a Saturday night at sea, just a couple of days after departing Hong Kong, and we were all in the lounge watching a 16mm movie. I was the projectionist. Captain Cornforth was in command, Ernie Cox was the Chief Engineer, and the Mate was a Welshman, Davies, who had also only recently joined, as Geoff Garrett was the Mate when I signed on. We were in full tropical whites as movie nights were considered a formal occasion. Part way through the movie, the Bosun stepped in and briefly spoke to the captain. Cornforth bolted from his seat and left the lounge. The Mate looked at me and we both shrugged our shoulders as we had not heard what had transpired. Captain Cornforth was back in a flash and called out “Man Overboard!” That was the end of movie night. We were mustered and it was determined it was the young seaman, so recently joined, that had gone over the side. I was delegated to take the Aldis lamp, together with its lead acid battery, and go to the forecastle and search with the light. I suspect it might have been a way to keep me busy and out of the way.
Initially I was very keen and searched with high hopes of finding the fellow. Some rain showers later, and the passing of time, dulled my keenness and had me wondering if we would ever see him again. Captain Cornforth did a great search pattern, as twice we ran over a life ring that had been launched from Shansi.
We had been searching for about four hours when one of the quartermasters came forward and told me that I was dismissed in 30 minutes. It had been recognized that there was likely little chance of finding him. As the quartermaster was talking, we both heard the fellow yelling, faintly at first but louder as we drew nearer. The chances of me seeing him were particularly slim so I simply aimed the light straight out to starboard, the side he was going to pass down, and then I yelled to get the bridge team’s attention. The quartermaster and I then hurried to the wheelhouse, Aldis lamp and battery between us.
Captain Cornforth did a hard turn to port and circled back and stopped the vessel close to where he thought the jumper would be. Sure enough, we again heard him yelling. We were all on the port bridge wing and realized he was off to starboard. I took the lamp over to the starboard wing and with an incredible piece of luck lit the fellow up in the beam, very briefly. The Aldis lamp on Shansi was of the tilting mirror type, and, in my excitement, when I hit him with the beam, I squeezed the second trigger and tilted the mirror and he was gone from view. I felt grim, but none on the bridge wing either noticed or said anything.
The focus was now on getting the port side lifeboat ready for launching. The Mate already had the crew working on it and the boat was quickly prepared. The Mate was on the tiller, and he had the Bosun and the Deck Fitter with him, and that was it. I thought it a pretty small crew to be taking a boat away, but I had not been included so remained on the boat deck. I waited till the boat had been lowered about 7 - 8 feet, and then stepped off the edge of the deck and landed on a thwart. The Mate said nothing and the 2nd Mate, on deck with the brake handle in hand, continued to lower the boat.
We were away from Shansi in quick order and the Mate circled around the stern and headed away from the ship. I looked back and it was interesting to see the dim lights of the vessel from sea level on such a dark night. The Mate seemed to steer us directly to where the fellow was, as we were quickly upon him. He was very glad to see us, was hauled inboard, and back to Shansi we motored.
The crew did not want the youngster back in his cabin with them, so he was given a cabin next to mine. The quartermasters were instructed to maintain an overnight watch outside his door, but that did not last more than a night as the nearby banging and clattering of the mahjong tiles was too strong a draw.
The following night was dark and rainy and the 3rd Mate was opening up the wheelhouse after the latest downpour had eased. He was releasing the wedges on the port side door when he saw the face of the jumper staring back at him through the rain-streaked glass. The 3rd Mate later admitted to being terrified, but could not help but slide the door open. The fellow just stood there so the 3rd Mate invited him in and asked him if he would like to steer the ship. Anything to keep him occupied. A brief nod was the only response, so hand steering was engaged and Shansi steered, for some time, a varied and unguided course. The 3rd Mate could care less.
The next morning, I was instructed to move to the pilot’s cabin, adjacent to the wheelhouse, so that I was immediately available, should the need arise.
We briefly anchored off Wewak, Papua New Guinea, and a doctor boarded to assess the youngster. “Not so bad” was the verdict, but Captain Cornforth made it absolutely clear that the ship would proceed no further until the unfortunate fellow was off Shansi. On our return to Hong Kong we heard the young sailor had been confined at Castle Peak Psychiatric Hospital.
As a side note, the uniform shorts I had been wearing were ruined by some of the acid from the battery getting onto them. When the shorts came back from the laundry, there were a few holes where the acid had eaten through the heavy cotton.