War Time Emergency Ships to Modern Bulk Fleet

The 15,670dwt bulk carrier Irish Plane at Leith. She was built in 1963 by Verolme at Heusden. In 1976 she was sold to Sealanes Navigation of Piraeus and renamed Salamis. Later that year she was renamed Canadian Farmer before reverting to Salamis in 1979. In 1985 she moved to Energy Shipping of Malta as Ionian Wave, then on 8th January 1986 she arrived at Gadani Beach to be broken up by S.Z. Enterprises. (Malcolm Cranfield)

The Republic of Ireland shipping fleet was very small on the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany on 3rd September 1939 and had no deep-sea ships and stood at only 56 coastal vessels including 14 Arklow schooners and 33 small coastal cargo ships. The reasons for this were the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), the Irish Civil War (1921-1922), a policy of self-sufficiency, the world trade depression (1929-1935), a lack of investment, and Irish Government neglect. Ireland relied on British and Allied ships including Greek, Norwegian, Estonian, Brazilian, Argentinean, Swedish and Finnish deep-sea ships, and only 5% of imports in 1939 were carried in Irish flagged ships.

The Government of Ireland immediately declared itself neutral of all hostilities and found itself completely alone as never before, including the policy of not allowing damaged British ships of torpedo and bombing attacks from entry to all of its ports. In 1940, the food needs of the Irish Republic amounting to 400,000 tons were supplied by British and Allied ships to their great cost in terms of ships and loss of seafarers. The Republic of Ireland in return sent much smaller amounts of potatoes and other vegetables and other types of cargo to British ports.


However, Winston Churchill in a letter writing to the American President Roosevelt in mid December 1940, made it abundantly clear that this policy of supplying foodstuffs to Ireland was to about to come to an end. This information was reported in the Irish Press in mid January 1941, and took effect quickly with only seven deep-sea ships of non-Irish nationality arriving with cargoes between April 1941 and June 1942. The Irish Government realised that they needed to be much more independent of British supplies and become self-sufficient. In February 1941, Sean Lemass, the Minister for Supplies stated ‘The creation of an Irish Mercantile Marine was necessary, as it was as important for the national safety of the country as was the Irish Army’.

The 5,285grt Knockfierna of Limerick Shipping Co. was built in 1919 by Napier & Miller at Old Kirkpatrick. In 1935 she was sold to Aegeon Shipping of Greece and renamed Aegeon. On 11th April 1941 when on a voyage from Buenos Aires for Freetown and Barry with a cargo of 7,151 tons of wheat she was torpedoed by U-124 and sunk off West Africa. Four crew were lost. (John B. Hill collection)

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