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 1946 to 1984 SWIFT - Yard No 397 - Diesel Cargo Vessel - General Steam Nav. Co Ltd - Built 1950

Leith Shipyards

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SWIFT - Yard No 397 - Diesel Cargo Vessel - General Steam Nav. Co Ltd - Built 1950



 The MV SWIFT Ship No 397

(Photo is by courtesy of


Owners    General Steam Nav. Co Ltd (part of the P&O shipping group)
Registered    Liverpool Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Cargo/Coaster Launched    19/10/1950
      Handed Over    
Ship Details          
Length Overall    199' 8" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    196' 0" Weather    
Beam    35' 6" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     20' 4"      
Draught    16' 6"      
G.R.T.    757 tons      
DWT    1152 tons      
Engines   7-cylinder diesel engine, producing 1120 bhp, built by 
British Polar Engines Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland.
Props    1      
Speed    11.5 knots service speed      
Other known names   1966-Cikat, 1978-Unity    
Current Status   Sank in 1982    
Content on the MV SWIFT will be added as and when available. 
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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.SWIFT Ship No 396 was an order from the General Steam Navigation Company Ltd, this small coaster was the first of a two ship order to be built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb.

In what was to be a golden era for British Shipbuilding, with all yards having full order books and working to maximum capacity, what with the shipping companies trying to replace war losses. The next ten years were to be very profitable for the Henry Robb shipyard.

This was at a time before the German and Japanese shipyards were to get there acts together with all the new funding and tooling supplied in principle by the victorious allies (mostly American money as Britain was skint)

The SWIFT was a modern single screw diesel engine ship for use on short inshore coastal routes. With her low funnel astern and collapsible masts for navigating up the inshore river ports, they were the principle method of transporting goods at a time before air and road transport had taken a hold of transportation.

The M.V.SWIFT was the second ship in a two ship order from the General Steam & Navigation Company Ltd. (part of the huge P&O shipping group)

From a long pedigree of fine Coasters, she was a single screw diesel cargo vessel for trade around the British Isles.

She was another fine looking small coaster built for short haul sea routes and she was to work on the trade routes between London and the Netherlands ports service.

With her first voyage being to Harlingen in the winter of 1950, she was to serve the GSN Co, ltd for 16 years before being sold on to Losinjska Plovidba, Yugoslavia, and renamed Cikat.

In Jan of 1966, she was sold on again in 1978 to A&N  Koutouvalis, Cyprus, and renamed Unity.

On the 23rd of may 1982 she sank whilst on a voyage from Lebanon to Bilbao where she was due to be broken up in position 34°20'N-32°22'E

Perhaps the old girl did not want to end up as scrap?

She was a sister ship of the M.V.HIRONDELLE also ordered from GSNC Ltd, which although an autonomous company in operation the parent company was in fact P & O shipping group, which had taken them over in the 1920's.

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


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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.

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 #1 John Houston 2013-10-21 23:55
I served as a Steward on both the Swift & her sister ship Hirondelle. Both ships ran to Germany, plying their trade at the ports of Hamburg, Cuxshaven , Friedrickshaven & through the Kiel canal into the Baltic. Thoroughly enjoyed working on both ships. Sad to hear of their demise and the way they went down.

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