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Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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Home Ships Built in Leith 1918 to 1939 KOPARA - Yard No 268 - Motor Cargo - Richardson and Co N.Zealand - Built 1938

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KOPARA - Yard No 268 - Motor Cargo - Richardson and Co N.Zealand - Built 1938



The M.V.KOPARA a classic example of a Coaster, built in the Leith Shipyards by
Henry Robb for Australian trade.
The M/V KOPARA Ship No 268   
Owners    Richardson & Co, New Zealand 
Registered    Napier Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Cargo Launched    30/07/1938
      Handed Over    Sept 1938
Ship Details          
Length Overall    193' 0" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    190' 0" Weather    
Beam    35' 6" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     21' 3"      
Draught    18' 8"      
G.R.T.    679 tons      

 Twin screws each driven by 1-4cyl,

 single acting  2cycle diesel engine

Props    2      
Speed    12 Knots      
Arnament     4 x 40mm guns      
Other known names   1966-Sarang, 1969-Cherry Chepat, 1984 See Hai Hong 1     
Current Status   Believed to have been broken up in 1988    

The M.V.KOPARA had a very interesting working life, and even ended up as a U.S.Navy ship during World War II 




Photograph above is of the MV KOPARA

(Shown by courtesy of U.S.Naval archives)


Ships History

Once a ship had been built and launched she then had to be out-fitted, and then complete sea trials
before being handed over to her new owners, who would look to have that ship at sea, as long as possible to pay for her build costs and of course to make the company good profits.

To this end one company may have had no requirement for a particular ship after a time and would then sell her on just like any other disposable commodity.

Hence a ship may have had a few owners and would go through many changes and names during what was hoped for a long and successful working life.

The M.V. KOPARA was built for Richardson and Co in 1938 by Henry Robb Ltd of Leith.
Length 193.10 Breadth 35.80 Depth 11.65
GRT679.15 Net 334.46
In 1942 she was taken over by the United States Navy for service in the Pacific as a supply vessel. The U.S.Navy were so impressed with her capabilities that she was renamed USS KOPARA while they initially required a New Zealand crew to sail her they soon replaced them with there own men.

KOPARA served out the Pacific war with many adventures some of which can be found else where on this website (see U.S.Navy Ships)

M.V. Kopara   renamed U.S.S. Kopara (AG-50)

"KOPARA" had been identified early in the hostilities in the South Pacific as a suitable vessel for the servicing operations in forward area's of the U.S. Forces. Initially under charter with a mostly New Zealand crew she was then purchased by the U.S. Government and manned by a U.S. Navy crew.

Some service history as follows.


Reports of drifting mines sighted by ships long distances from the areas in which they had been laid came in from time to time, and doubtless there were others that escaped observation. On 30 August the coastal vessel Kopara sighted a mine 16 miles northeast from White Island, in the Bay of Plenty. She and the Port Tauranga, which came up about twenty minutes later, shot off all their rifle ammunition without success, but on her return passage from Auckland the Kopara, in company with the Margaret W, found the mine and sank it in a shooting match in which about one hundred rounds were fired. Two other mines sighted far out in the Bay of Plenty were sunk by rifle fire from ships.

After a week at Auckland, the flotilla carried out searching sweeps from Cuvier Island northward to Needles Point, the northern tip of Great Barrier Island, until 16 September 1941, when that stretch of sea was declared free of mines. The Gale and Muritai were then sent to begin cross searches in the Cradock Channel, while the Matai went to Mercury Bay, where a drifting mine had been found by fishermen. She found that they had moored the mine about three miles off Castle Rock in a highly dangerous state, with its mooring spindle half withdrawn. The Matai towed the mine out and sank it some five miles east from Ohena light. During the check search in the Cradock Channel three mines were swept and sunk by rifle fire, well clear of the line which the senior officer thought he had established previously. Because of his uncertainty about the direction in which the mines had been laid in the Moko Hinau sector, he could not guarantee that the area was clear. An intended check sweep north of the Moko Hinau-Maro Tiri line was cancelled because of the difficulty of getting accurate fixes in the prevailing poor visibility, and the flotilla returned to Auckland on 20 September. 

She sailed from Auckland to Noumea, Espirito Santos, Guadal Canal and return to Auckland round about July/September 1942 for the U S Army(Marine Core).



War history continued.

Reclassified as AG-50 on 23 September 1942, USS KOPARA departed Auckland 5 October for supply runs from Noumea, New Caledonia, and Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, to Guadalcanal and Tulagi, Solomons. Arriving Noumea 9 October, she steamed on the 14th for Espiritu Santo to take on board supplies for the embattled American force on Guadalcanal. Loaded with torpedoes and general cargo and escorted by USS NICHOLAS (DD-449), she departed 19 October. USS KOPARA arrived Lunga Roads during mid, watch 22 October and began unloading operations which were completed that evening despite harassing gunfire from enemy shore batteries and a noon attack by Japanese dive bombers. Protected by NICHOLAS, KOPARA departed Guadalcanal undamaged and returned to Noumea 27 October.

During the next few months, KOPARA continued supply runs to the Solomons; and, while she unloaded at Guadalcanal and Tulagi 13 through 15 November, American battleships, cruisers, and destroyers fought the enemy in two fierce night naval battles off Savo Island. From 20 February to 26 June 1943, she carried cargo along the sea lanes between Auckland, Noumea, Efate, and Espiritu Santo.

At one period the "KOPARA" was reported lost, as the result of a convoy action in which her companion ships were scattered to the four corners of the compass by the threat of Japanese submarines. The American authorities actually reported her loss, but she turned up unharmed.

And from 11 July to 17 September she shuttled supplies between New Zealand and Norfolk Island.

After a voyage to the New Hebrides, KOPARA departed Noumea 10 November to resume supply duty in the Solomons. She reached New Georgia 16 November; and, for almost 8 months, ranged the waters of Melanesia from Bougainville to New Caledonia bringing supplies to forces which loosened the enemy's hold on the Bismarck Archipelago and New Guinea. Returning to New Caledonia 7 August 1944, she began supply runs eastward out of Noumea. Between 10 August and 21 December she made four voyages to Fiji, American Samoa, and the Ellice Islands. She departed Noumea 24 December and steamed via Norfolk Island to Auckland 3 January 1945. KOPARA decommissioned 12 January and was turned over to the New Zealand Joint Purchasing Board for return to her previous owner.

It is interesting to also note that due to a British government regulation at the time while she was still registered in London she could not have her registry changed as seen in a memo from the time kindly sent to the Leith Shipyards website from U.S.Navy source and quote as follows:-

 Memo- 9-19-42 OP-23-Eg

This vessel built 1938 by Henry Robb Ltd

Purchased (Early August) by COMSOWESTPAC from the owner thru the New Zealand Govt. Reverse lend Lease.

Originally this vessel was chartered but British Law does not permit change of registry on bare boat or time charter.

For this reason and due to the urgent need of this vessel being manned by a Navy crew the KOPARA was purchased for 120,000 pounds.

The KOPARA was stricken from the U.S.Navy register 19th January 1945

1946 Saw her returned to her owners for coastal trading which included Auckland, Hicks Bay, Tokomaru Bay, Tologa Bay Gisborne, Napier, Wellington, Bluff, Dunedin, Oamaru, Timaru, and Lyttelton.

KOPARA was formerly owned by Richardson & Co and sold to Karlander Line of New Guinea during 1966 was renamed SARANG. The vessel had a monthly sailing from Sydney calling at Brisbane, Honiara, Kieta and Rabaul. With general cargo.

Her first voyage as SARANG being on the 29 June 1966, she continued up till around 1987 under a few other names.

A remarkable adventure for the ship and all her crews and a working life of 50 years, bearing testiment to her builders at Leith. 


We try here to give as full an account of her history as time and research permits, if you know of missing info or you have any photographs of her, then please get in touch and we shall update her story as we go along.




 Photograph above is from the U.S.Navy archive and reproduced her by kind permission



Tales from the Ship

Here you will find the stories from the men and women who sailed on the ships, what was it really like to be working on a ship in a raging sea and in the pitch dark of night, the real stories some funny some sad, some good and some bad.

Dedicated to all the brave men and women who sailed the vessels from the Leith Shipyards.

As told by Charles Fawcett,

I read your article on MV Kopara in your May edition. What a great article (and website for marine artists checking specs etc.)  I have done a few paintings of her from  photos that I took in '60s when I was 2nd Mate for a short period when Richardsons owned her. She was also known locally as the "Tin Hare" because of her speed in all weather although she "worked" in heavy weather and was not uncommon to get small jets of water at deck level into my cabin under the forward bulkhead!!..when she pitched heavily.


Above is an example of a fine painting by Charles of the KOPARA  




Should you know of anyone who may have sailed on her, then please feel free to get in touch so that we can add the story here.


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0 #4 Mark Roberts 2015-11-15 09:35
My father Stan worked on the Kopara as an OS during 1942.
0 #3 Peter Aldhamland 2015-08-11 22:52
Joined her 1955 - first ship as OS after 12 months as Deck boy - had 4 hours to learn the quarter-points of the compass - no steering by numbers in this ship - big Ike the hunchback boson was my mentor.
+2 #2 Mike Beaver 2013-04-27 18:41

The above is a link to the obituary of Rodney Davenport, the commander of the Kopara during WWII.
+2 #1 charles Fawcett 2011-01-07 03:50
I was 2nd Mate during the mid 1960's when she was owned by Richardson Co. of Napier, NZ. The Master was Doug Haye. Ihave painted the Kopara several times and these can be viewed on my website...if not email me and I will send you the images.
Charles Fawcett

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