The Loftsman
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 KARITANE - Yard No 269 - Motor Cargo - Union Steamship Co N.Zealand - Built 1938

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KARITANE - Yard No 269 - Motor Cargo - Union Steamship Co N.Zealand - Built 1938


The famous old flag of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand.
Owners    Union Steamship Co of New Zealand
Registered    Wellington, New Zealand. Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Motor Cargo Launched    21/12/1938
      Handed Over    Feb 1939
Ship Details          
Length Overall     Launch Details    
Length B.P.    275' 0" Weather    
Beam    45' 0" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     21' 6"      
G.R.T.    2534 tons      
DWT    3410 tons      
Engines    Twin Polar Atlas Diesels      
Props    2      
Speed    11 knots      
Other known names   See Ships history below.    
Current Status    KARITANE was broken up in 1970    


G.A.Profile from L.Butterfield Collection


The motor vessel KARITANE was named after a town on the South Island of New Zealand.
A beautiful spot just north of Dunedin (The Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh)

For more information on the town visit

Over the Mountains of the Sea

Over the Mountains of the Sea

Drawing upon more than 80 personal diaries and journals of those on board, this resource explores the rich experience and the trials and tribulations of hopeful Anglo-Celtic pilgrims headed to Australia and New Zealand aboard migrant ships in the late 19th century. From daily routines to matters of food, health, religion, crime, and mutiny, this history unearths the humor, scandal, and personal triumph that defined the nautical pilgrimage of hundreds.

Ships History

MV KARITANE here at Greymouth on her final voyage in 1965 for the U.S.S.Co of New Zealand.
(Photo is courtesy of the G.Ferguson collection)

The twin screw Motor Cargo Vessel KARITANE had a long and successful history of 32 years.
Built by Henry Robb of Leith Scotland, the KARITANE was launched without any fuss or ceremony on December 21st 1938, and was taken over by the Union Co the following February. She loaded 2000 tons of coal for Port Said and sailed that month for Port Safago, Egypt, where a part cargo of phosphate was shipped.

The KARITANE left on March 15th for Wallaroo South Australia, where after discharge, she loaded bagged wheat and sailed for Wellington on April 10th arriving nine days later. Her Master on her delivery voyage was Capt C.C. Waters who died at Palmerston North six weeks ago, a week before the vessels sale was reported.

The KARITANE was the only motor-ship with steam winches built for the Union Co. It was understood that she would be employed in trades where it would be necessary to use grabs for discharging, in which case steam would be more reliable. On arrival in New Zealand she entered the Trans Tasman trade, where she remained until requisitioned by the NZ Govt for war service in 1941. She sailed from Lyttelton on November 30th for Lautoka and returned with a cargo of sugar for Auckland.

Further voyages were made to Fiji and she was returned to her owners in January 1942, but was requisitioned again in June of that year. Several trips were made to Fiji, New Caledonia and other Pacific Island ports she was released again in March 1943. In October 1952 she was fitted out to carry bulk wheat and she took her first cargo from Geelong to Wellington that month.

The KARITANE left the bulk wheat trade in November 1958 and re-entered the general cargo service on the trans-Tasman run, she also did short spells in the New Zealand coastal trade and made a voyage to the Islands in May 1960. In October 1964 she was chartered by an Australian Co to load bulk salt at Adelaide.

Principal dimensions of the KARITANE were 2534 gross tons, 1274 net tons 3410 Dwt, length 278 ft 8 in x breadth 45 ft 3 in x depth 19 ft 1 in., she was powered by twin Polar Atlas diesels which gave a speed of 11 knots. The name KARITANE is the Maori word for swamp. During her 26 years with the Union Co she wasn't involved in any serious incidents.

Her new owners were Kinabatangan Shipping Co of Hong Kong who renamed her GOOD PHILIPPINE ANCHORAGE, she was later renamed AMARIAM, then became the UNISTAR until broken up in Hong Kong in 1970.

It was ironic that her first cargo was coal and her last cargo was coal loaded at Greymouth, she departed Greymouth for Auckland in July 1965, which was to be her last voyage under Union Co ownership.


OSF Graham Ferguson 20.7.08

Tales from the Ship

We have a few stories from this fine old ship, with the first one from Leo Butterfield from Lyttelton in New Zealand who served as an AB on the KARITANE just before she was requisitioned by the N.Z.Government for war service.
This picture is Leo on the KARITANE on the Tasman Sea and he is standing beside the 10 pdr gun on the Poop Deck. The ship carried 2 DEMS gunners.

The following is with the kind permission of Leo's son Lyndsay. An interesting story told to me many years ago by my late father when he was serving as AB on this vessel was on her last trip prior to being requisitioned by the Navy for war service in November 1941.
On the 8-12 watch on the night of 21st. October 1941 whilst bound Melbourne to Wellington and in a position to the east of Bass Strait a vessel was observed at about 8 miles distance acting suspiciously and showing many deck lights but no navigation lights and steaming slowly to the west .

Capt.C.C.(Tubby) Waters , master of KARITANE took avoiding action to the north but however later when returning to his original course , this vessel suddenly appeared abt. 3 miles off showing steaming lights . At this stage KARITANE, once again took avoiding action and placed the vessel astern but when she appeared to be gaining Capt. Waters instructed an RRR signal to be sent . This signal was picked up by many stations and Naval Headquarters in NZ alerted . Shortly after the signal was sent the suspicious vessel extinguished her steaming lights and was not seen again.
It was later believed that this vessel could have been the tanker 'STORSTAD' , renamed 'PASSAT', which was found to have laid minefields of Wilsons Promontory , entrance to Bass Strait and Cape Otway.

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.

 The M.V.KARITANE (Photo courtesy of Jan)



The above story is reproduced with kind permission of L.Butterfield.


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0 #2 Richard Gardner 2017-10-07 21:53
My Grandfather worked on the Karitane as a A.B from fitting out. First port of call was Port Said for coal, then Phosphate at Safaga then for Australia.
0 #1 Graham Haxell 2014-12-20 07:07
My father sailed on her as 4th engineer on the delivery voyage to Hong Kong.

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