On Ships Nostalgia Forum, I stumbled on an interesting post by one Derek who claimed to have worked on Oduduwa which he erroneously referred to as NNSL’s first ship. On 22nd December 2005, Derek wrote that under arrangements made with Elder Dempster and Palm Line, the vessels acquired by NNSL would be managed and operated by these companies until such time that Nigeria had recruited and/or trained personnel to operate the ships. Consequently, the Oduduwa was staffed with Elder Dempster personnel.
“I had the dubious honour to be appointed 4th Engineer (later promoted to 3rd). We joined the ship on 11th May 1959 in Redhead’s yard in South Shields where she was undergoing repairs. This was quite a culture shock for the refined young gentlemen of Elder Dempster. Although she was not very old, the ship was showing signs of neglect. The main engine was a 4 cylinder North Eastern Marine Doxford along with steam and engine driven auxiliaries. There was a three fire Scotch boiler for cargo work and a Cochrane type auxiliary boiler, the entire plant needing a lot of work”, Derek wrote.
Below is the full text of Derek’s letter:
We set off on our maiden voyage to West Africa via Rotterdam under the command of Captain F. (Sam) Weller, one of the gents of this world. This turned out to be one of the most unusual and entertaining voyages I have ever been on. Being the first ship belonging to a West African nation to visit the region, we were feted and entertained in every port. This began at our first West African port, Freetown where the master was invited ashore by the local dignitaries and eventually returned to the ship a little the worst for wear and dressed in the regalia of an African Chief! It should be understood that we had no prior knowledge of these celebrations which became more and more elaborate as the hitherto unremarkable ex tramp steamer (now a LINER) continued her triumphal progress down the coast, interrupted only by the occasional breakdown. Entry into each port required the ship to be dressed overall; more work for the mate and his men but well worth the effort considering the parties laid on for us. Drinks were provided by the company through their Agent and the Chief Steward was provided with the wherewithal to put on elaborate buffets, known as ‘small chop’ in African parlance. As these celebrations were usually conducted on the boat deck, the dock workers, crane drivers and anyone who happened to be passing took up their imaginary invitations with alacrity, so the tables were soon cleared. “Like a swarm of locusts.” as the Chief Steward gloomily observed.
I think the climax of all this came in Lagos. Oduduwa, we were told was the founding father of the Yoruba people and representatives of their Oduduwa Society came down to the ship and whisked off the officers, all rigged up in caps and No.!0’s, in a fleet of limousines to we knew not where. All sat round in a circle on the grass under the stars and each man was provided with a roast chicken and a bottle of scotch. I can’t remember what the speeches were about!
Altogether I did six voyages on the Oduduwa which, when the snags were ironed out was not a bad ship. By that time the Nigerian owners were beginning to operate the ships with their own men and I lost track of her after returning to more routine Elder Dempster duties.
Happily, I still meet up with some of the veterans of these voyages at the meetings of the Elder Dempster Pensioners Association
Oduduwa served in the NNSL fleet for 16 years. She was sold in 1975 to Castrenza Compania Naviera which renamed her Nana.
The third ship acquired by NNSL also in 1959 was Anchor Line’s Tyria which was renamed King Jaja. She was 137.39 metres long with 5,896 gross tons. King Jaja was sold in 1975 to S.C. Vazeos which was the same company that bought Dan Fodio. S.C. Vazeos renamed her Esperos.
Elder Dempster Line and Palm Line Limited which were both part owners and technical partners of NNSL brought their experience to bear on the operations of the new national line. The two British companies were to manage the new national line and train Nigerian personnel in navigation, engineering and management. Elder Dempster owned 33% while Palm Line owned 16% shares of NNSL.
NNSL’s office was established at Development House, Labinjo Lane (now known as Wharf Road), Apapa, Lagos.
To be continued next week
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