What’s in a name?

It is interesting to see how ships’ names have changed over the years. Up to the 1960s, ships tended to have meaningful names. Some followed set rules of nemenclature. Port Line vessels all began with “Port”, Cunard ships ended with “ia”, Elder Dempster named their ships after the ports they served, Blue Star ships ended with “Star” and Blue Funnel vessels were named after Greek Mythological characters.

The growth of the cruise industry in the past 40 years has seen a complete change in the style of naming ships. Royal Caribbean decided to name their ships with the suffix “of the Seas” which may be romantic to a cruise travellers but cut little ice with traditionalists. The likes of Carnival, Aida, MSC, Celebrity, Costa, Norwegian, Seabourn and Viking prefix their vessels names with the name of the company. Perhaps the most unimaginative naming policy was that of the late Renaissance Cruises who name their eight larger ships R One, R Two etc. Their smaller vessels were named Renaissance 1, Renaissance 2 etc. Not very romantic. This system is now being used by German company TUI with their ships named Mein Schiff 1, Mein Schiff 2 etc.

Perhaps the most bizarre naming incident was the proposal to name the new Polar research ship Boaty McBoatface. Fortunately common sense prevailed over what was an obviously rigged poll and the ship will take to the seas as the RRS David Attenborough.


A similar furore has happened in Sydney where six new ‘Emerald’ class ferries were introduced last year. Two of these ferries were named after famous Aborigines, three were named after other eminent Australians but the sixth was to be named Ferry McFerryface. However the name for the final vessel in the class has not met with the approval of everyone including the crew who are supposed to be manning her. A spokesman for the Maritime Union of Australia described the name as “an insult to the integrity and heritage of Sydney Ferries,” and suggested that crew members would refuse to engage with it. “Give it a proper name and we’ll work it. Give it a stupid name and it can stay at the shipyard.”

So, for a while the ferry was laid up while the dispute continued. A temporary compromise was agreed with the ferry being operated as Emerald 6 and later this year she will be renamed May Gibbs after the well known Australian children’s book author.

It would seem that for once common sense has prevailed.



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