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Sister ship of the Sinkiang I

ID /IMO No.1139560.
Type Cargo/passenger.
Gross Registered Tonnage 2,549 grt. 1,568 nett
Builder Taikoo Dockyard & Eng.Co. Yard No.160.
Delivery date 1916.
Hull Steel, clincher construction.
Decks 2
Length 310.0 ft. F'c'sle 37.0 ft. bridge 72 ft. Poop 10.0 ft.
Width 41.0 ft.
Depth 24.75 ft.
Passengers 1st.class 2, 28 Chinese. 3rd.class 64.
Engine Builder Taiko D.& E. Co.
Engine Type Steam turbine.
Engine Power 1,400 ihp.
Propulsion mode Single screw.
Speed 11 kts.
Rigged Schooner.
Bale capacity 170,000 cu.ft.
Block coefficient (Cb) 0.74
Power Steam.
Condenser cooling surface 1,306 sq.ft.
Steam expansion ratio 10.2
Boiler Main, circulating (scotch), with superheaters.
Boiler pressure 200 psi.
Boiler dimensions (total) 17.75 ft.dia. 12,75 ft.long.
Heating Surface (total) 4,250 sq.ft.
Grate Area (total) 82 sq.ft.
Steam space volume 693 cu ft.
Fuel Coal.
Furnace 4
Furnace dimensions 3'9" dia.
Draught Forced.
Generator 1
Generator power 9 Kw.
Generator voltage 110 DC.
Propeller Right hand, 14.0 ft.dia, 13.83 ft. pitch.
Propeller blades 4
Propeller formation Solid.
Propeller material bronze.
Built classification society B.O.T.
Original owner China Navigation Co.
Auxiliary boiler. Cochran verticle 7.5 ft.dia. 16.3 ft.high. Working Press 100psi. Heating surface 730 sq.ft. Grate area 32 sq.ft.


March 14th. 1926. The "Sunning" grounded on Button Island. See Images section for the report of the Court of Enquiry into the grounding.

October 23rd 1923. Attacked by pirates near Hong Kong. The Master James Pringle, 1st mate and an anti-piracy guard were wounded. $20,000 was seized by the pirates.

Nov 15th 1926. Attacked by pirates and set on fire, between Amoy and Swatow. Rescued by H.M.S. Bluebell, and towed to Hong Kong. for repairs. Resumed service on Feb 12th.1927. Refer to William (Bill) Orr.

Aug 27th. 1936. While at anchor at Junk Bay, Hong Kong, sheltering from a typhoon, was blown ashore and declared a total loss.


Built for the China coast trade.

Events / Stories

The Piracy of the Sunning

The following is partially reproduced from a report that appeared in the Times newspaper

Sunning, was seized and set on fire by pirates on the evening of 15th November 1926 on her way from Shanghai to Hong Kong a few hours south of Amoy (Xiamen). Her officers told an exciting story of her adventure. They related that when the vessel touched at Amoy [about 250 miles N.E. of Hong-kong] some 40 pirates came on board. On the Monday afternoon the pirates surprised the officers, seized the bridge and engine room, and compelled the officers to navigate the ship in the direction of Bias Bay [a notorious pirate haunt 50 miles North of Hong Kong].

At the same time, certain of the pirates searched the vessel for booty, of which they collected a thousand pounds’ worth. One Chinese who resisted was shot dead and four members of the compradore’s staff were thrown overboard when the pirates failed to find the compradore’s hiding place. There were 80 Chinese third-class passengers aft and only two Europeans in first class – one a Russian woman and the other Mr H.W. Lapsley, a retired member of the Eastern Telegraph Extension staff at Shanghai. With the exception of the officers and crew required to work the ship, all were locked in the saloon.


For eight hours the pirates maintained control of the vessel; Captain Pringle and the second officer, who were on the bridge, and the chief engineer, who was in the engine room, being closely guarded. At midnight the position changed dramatically. The pirate guards on the bridge asked where they were, and whilst landmarks were being pointed out to them the Second Mate, Mr Hurst, seized the ship's lead line, stunned both the guards and took possession of their two pistols and 150 rounds of ammunition. The captain and second officer then quickly released their colleagues imprisoned in the saloon, through the skylight.

Meanwhile, an alarm was given and the pirates attempted to recapture the bridge, and a fight in the dark began. Owing to the narrowness of the passages, the officers were able to check all advance. The pirates then brought up the chief engineer and, using him as a screen, advanced. The officers, not seeing the engineer, opened fire and seriously wounded him. The pirates withdrew, and later the wounded officer was able to reach the bridge. For three hours the pirates attempted to dislodge the officers, who continued to snipe them.

Finally the pirates set fire to the vessel amidships, in an attempt, apparently, to burn the officers out. When the fire got beyond control the pirates offered an armistice, which the officers refused. The pirates then left in the ship’s boats, taking with them a number of hostages. Meanwhile, the fire was threatening to destroy the bridge and its defenders. An unknown steamer passed close, but did not respond to the signals of the Sunning, whose wireless had been disabled. All but one of the boats were burned or inaccessible. This boat was lowered with the woman passenger and some officers, but the painter caught fire and the boat drifted away to be picked up later. The officers and crew fought the flames till the morning, when help arrived. Including the ten pirates killed in attacking the bridge, 13 who were unable to get away and were arrested and nine who were picked up in a boat, 32 of the pirates were accounted for. It was believed that others may have been burned to death in the ship. The nine pirates who escaped in the other lifeboat were eventually captured by the H.M.S. Vindicative the following day and taken to Hong Kong where they were tried for piracy.


With a regular coast run and frequent carriage of bullion in the ship’s safe, Sunning was a prime target for piracy. On this particular trip, she was scheduled to carry a large amount of specie, and it later transpired that the pirate gang, disguised as bona fide deck passengers, had spent months travelling up and down the coast, studying crew routine, in preparation for their attack. By good fortune, however, the ship’s money cargo had been transferred at the last moment to another vessel.

Hong Kong Government anti-piracy regulations at this stage allowed for the carriage of armed guards seconded from the Royal Hong Kong Police, and Sunning had four police guards aboard. All coasting ships were further equipped with anti-piracy grilles, designed to separate the deck, or “steerage” passengers, from the officers’ and saloon accommodation and the navigating bridge. Two gates allowing access between these areas were kept locked and guarded once the ship was underway. Nevertheless, these measures proved ineffective against the pirates, who somehow managed to infiltrate the bridge deck.

The penalty for piracy at sea was death and the pirates had made it clear that whilst they would spare their captives if their mission were successful, if it failed, they intended that the ship’s officers, at least, would die with them. Matters had come to a head, however, when another CNCo ship, Anhui, passed Sunning proceeding northward. The Master of Anhui was also the CNCo Fleet Commodore, and Sunning’s officers hoped that when Sunning failed to dip her flag to the “senior” ship, in accordance with company protocol, Anhui’s Captain would realise something was amiss, and, suspecting piracy, would radio for assistance.

Sunning was later towed into Hong Kong Harbour, still smouldering, by a Taikoo Dockyard tug. Although her superstructure was badly damaged, she was refitted and remained in service for another ten years before she was wrecked in a typhoon in Hong Kong, and declared a total loss.