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Commonwealth & Dominion Line
Port Line

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Following the amalgamations new jointly operated shipping companies were formed to cater for the changed marketing needs. The first of these companies was the Atlas Line which operated to Japan from the Australian ports, the first ship operating the route being the Port Albany. A new funnel design was devised based on the Blue Star format as was that of the Compass Line which was formed to operate services between South Africa and Australia. The Compass Line commenced operations in 1969 with the Port Melboune and Blue Star's Hobart Star and Newcastle Star but Port Line withdrew in 1971 because the route proved to be unprofitable. In March of 1969 the Actanz Line was formed for the purpose of bringing together all the remaining conventional cargo vessels belonging to Port Line, Blue Star and Ellerman's under the management of Blue Star Port Lines (Management). At the same time the M.A.N.Z. service was replaced by PACE (Pacific America Container Express), an ACT subsidiary which maintained Port Line's share in the service.

Changes were also taking place within the parent company, Cunard. In 1970 Cunard Cargo Shipping Services Ltd. was incorporated to co-ordinate the activities of Cunard-Brocklebank, Port Line, Moss Tankers and Offshore Marine. There was still a need for some conventional cargo ships and this company deployed ships to satisfy that area of trade. For example, cars and other wheeled machinery would be loaded in the refrigerated cargo spaces and unloaded in the Middle East and Persian Gulf during the outward voyage to Australia where frozen produce would be loaded for the homeward voyage.

In 1971 Port Line Ltd moved into Blue Star's Albion House in Leadenhall St. as part of the Blue Star Port Line (Management) consolidation.

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In August 1971 Cunard was taken over by Trafalgar House Investments Ltd. Lord (Victor) Mathews replaced Sir Basil Smallpiece as the chairman of Cunard and Norman Thompson became the chairman of Port Line to oversee the reorganisation which followed the take over. However, the consolidation by the the new owners resulted in William Slater of Cunard-Brocklebank becoming chairman of Port Line on 1st January 1972.

The role of 'Blueport' was also changed. Instead of operating the ships it managed the new arrangement was that they would be chartered to the 'Blueport' with the crewing and control reverting to the owners. This rectified the unhappy situation which had arisen where crews and traditional operating traditions became mixed resulting in bureaucratic, cumbersome and inefficient practices.

In 1972 the fleet comprised 18 ships and during the year nine were disposed of demonstrating the dramatic effect that containerisation was having on the shipping industry. The ships sold were the Port Adelaide, the Port Albany, the Port Burnie, the Port Huon, the Port Melbourne, the Port Montreal, the Port Pirie, the Port Sydney and the Port Townsville. On 29th September 1972 Port Line withdrew from Crusader Shipping as the venture was unprofitable, their share being taken over by the other two members. In 1973 Joint Cargo Services Ltd divided into two and Port Line's office in Sydney was moved to ACT (A).

By this time containerisation was making huge inroads into traditional shipping operations and, as a result, in 1974 the conventional cargo services operated jointly by Port Line and Blue Star were terminated and Blue Star Port Lines (Management) Ltd ceased to operate. In September of 1974 the group's remaining conventional cargo ships came under the control of Cunard-Brocklebank's Board Executive Committee and with that decision Port Line was finished as an autonomous business entity.


The Port Victor, the Port Jackson and the Port Wellington at Hobart
(Photo: James Martin)

The run down continued and the fleet was reduced to five ships when the Port Launceston was sold in 1977 comprising the Port Alfred which had been built for the M.A.N.Z. service, the Port New Plymouth, the Port Nicholson, the Port Caroline and the Port Chalmers. In the following year it was decided to centralise the crewing of all Cunard's ships and, at the same time, Port Line's separate ship identity also disappeared. In September 1978 the activities of Port Line (Australia) Ltd. were transferred to the Associated Container Transportation (Australia) and with that move the Port Line name was no longer visible in Australia.

Also in 1978 the Port Alfred was transferred to the Cunard Steam Ship Co. reducing the fleet at the beginning of 1979 to four ships. The Port New Plymouth and the Port Nicholson were sold for scrap and the Port Caroline and the Port Chalmers were laid up in the River Fal until, in 1981, they were transferred to the Brocklebank fleet where they continued in service for another two years before being sold to foreign owners.

Port Line was a victim of the container revolution but as a tribute to a splendid British company, every ship that the company ordered for its fleet was built in Britain..

The Fleet

Atlas Line "Vintage Port"
All former employees of the Port Line Ltd are encouraged to join "Vintage Port", whose objectives are the continuance of contact between those employed by Port Line Ltd prior to March 1968. There is no annual subscription and the cost of annual reunions in London is born by those attending. Applications for membership should be made to the Secretary, Cyril Simmons, at cyril@simmo6.freeserve.co.uk
Vintage Port maintains a web site at http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/VintagePort where there are a substantial number of photos of Port Line vessels as well as other relevant documents. Access to the site is provided, free of charge, to all members of Vintage Port. Applications from persons who were not employed by the Port Line but wish access to the site for a specific purpose will be given careful consideration.

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