Maritime History Notes: A pioneering containership

The S.S. Fairland had a storied career before being converted for commercial operations.

Maritime History Notes: A pioneering containership

The S.S. Fairland had a storied career before being converted for commercial operations.

Maritime History Notes: A pioneering containership

The S.S. Fairland had a storied career before being converted for commercial operations.

 
The first containership to trade internationally was the U.S.-flag S.S. Fairland, when in late April 1966 the vessel sailed from Elizabeth Port, N.J., bound for North European ports.
   Although the ship was recognized and feted at each port it visited, this was not the first or last time the ship made headlines.
   The Fairland’s story begins in August1942, when it was delivered to the Waterman Steamship Co., at Gulf Shipbuilding Corp.’s Chickasaw, Ala. shipyard. The ship was the third of 30 sisters, known by the U.S. Maritime Commission as the C2-S-E1 type cargo ships.

The Fairland shown at Manila Bay in 1944 during its World War II service as an attack transport.


    The Fairland made a quick voyage to Europe and then embarked on a round-the-world trip starting at Philadelphia. The ship’s itinerary took it through the Panama Canal to Australia, Iran, and Uruguay, before returning to New York, where it was converted to an attack transport capable of carrying 1,393 troops. For the next three years, the Fairland sailed between San Francisco and the Philippines, Australia, Funafuti, Milne Bay, Eniwetok, Guam, Saipan, Ulithi, Okinawa, and Midway, and in 1945 to Japanese ports. Upon returning to Mobile in February 1946, the ship was returned to Waterman Steamship, which promptly converted it to commercial operations. For the next 10 years, the Fairland was employed in the worldwide trades of its owner.

Waterman Steamship Co. operated the Fairland in the years immediately following World War II. Here the ship passed through Cape Cod Canal in 1952.


    Then, in late 1957, the ship returned to its birthplace at Chickasaw for conversion to a containership. The conversion included removing tween decks, installing container cells, and widening the hull 11 feet by the addition of sponsons to its sides. This was done to square up the deck to accommodate two onboard gantry cranes used for handling 226 thirty-five foot containers.
    After conversion, the ship was employed with five sisters that sailed between the U.S. East Coast ports and the Gulf port of Houston. Shortly thereafter, the Fairland became part of Sea-Land Service’s offshore presence in a containership service to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Left: The first containers for Sea-Land Service being loaded on board the Fairland in the late 1950s.
Middle: The Fairland with a load of containers passing sistership Wacosta at the Port of Houston.
Right: The containership arriving at the Port of Bremen on May 6, 1966.


    In 1966, the ship earned the distinction of becoming the first full containership to call at North European ports. Since a good portion of its Europe-bound cargo consisted of hazardous materials, surveyors from the National Cargo Bureau were on hand to ensure the loading and documentation were in accordance with both the U.S. hazardous cargo regulations and those of the International Maritime Consultative Organization, known today as the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
   In 1967, the Fairland became part of Sea Land’s service expansion to the Far East. Unfortunately, the ship was involved in a minor collision on a foggy day in Puget Sound with the freighter Silver Shelton. That was only mishap the Fairland experienced during its long and varied career. The Fairland continued serving Sea-Land’s worldwide services until December 1975 when it was scrapped in Hong Kong.

Sea-Land operated the Fairland from 1958 to 1975.



    Although the Fairland introduced container shipping to many ports around the world, it has not been forgotten. Today, the ship’s large brass bell is enshrined at the American Merchant Marine Museum in Kings Point, N.Y.
   Captain James McNamara, who retired as president of the National Cargo Bureau, currently serves as chairman of the Maritime Industry Museum at Fort Schuyler, N.Y., and remains active in the U.S. maritime industry. Captain James McNamara



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