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Maritime Tales – Blue Funnel Titan

5 January 2012 by stepheng

Ship model

Courtesy Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I remember following closely the Six Day War in 1967 when Isreal defeated the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

 

At this time I was a 19-year-old junior reporter staying in lodgings at Preston while taking a block release course in practical journalism.

 

We did not have access to a TV so listened to the news reports on the radio. The war was one of the shortest in history but created major disruption to shipping.

 

The Suez Canal was closed for eight years, forcing operators to change their routes and commercial strategies.

 

The canal, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, opened in 1869 and slashed journey times between Europe, the East and Australasia.

 

The Six Day War and the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict resulted in an Egyptian blockade of the canal and shipping lines assumed correctly it would remain closed for a very long time.

 

The huge bulk oil tanker Titan was one of many Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) designed during this period when operators knew they could not use Suez. They were too big to go through the canal but their large size made them more cost-effective for travelling the extra distances.

 

Oil transportation was one of the most profitable shipping sectors at the time. When OPEC (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) quadrupled oil prices in 1973 it triggered a worldwide slump in shipping.

 

Titan was built in 1970 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and registered in Liverpool with the famous Blue Funnel Line (Ocean Steam Ship Company).

 

There is a superb six-foot long model of the 113,551- ton tanker on display in Merseyside Maritime Museum (pictured).

 

Titan only sailed under Blue Funnel colours for five years before being sold to Mobil Oil in 1975. Just seven years later she was sold for scrap in South Korea.

 

By 1982, when there were 577 VLCCs in the world, it was found that 326 of them including Titan were surplus to requirements.

 

Photographs show other VLCCs of the era including a deck view of BP tanker British Admiral about 1970. The main engine room of the British Mariner shows crew members dwarfed by enormous pipes and machinery.

 

Titan was the fourth and last Blue Funnel ship to bear that name. The first Titan was built in 1885 by Scott & Co of Greenock and broken up in 1902.

 

The second Titan, built in 1906, was torpedoed and sunk in 1940 by the German submarine U-47 with the loss of six lives.

 

The U-boat was commanded by Günther Prien, a notorious ace who sank more than 30 Allied ships including the veteran British battleship Royal Oak. Titan was the 18th vessel he sent to the bottom.

 

This is an edited version of the Maritime Tale that originally appeared in the Liverpool Echo.

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