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 NAVUA - Yard No 442 - Diesel Cargo - Union Steamship Co of N.Zealand - Built 1955

Leith Shipyards

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NAVUA - Yard No 442 - Diesel Cargo - Union Steamship Co of N.Zealand - Built 1955


 The M.V.NAVUA  
Owners    Union Steamship Company of New Zealand
Registered     Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Cargo Ship Launched    27/05/1955
      Handed Over    
Ship Details          
Length Overall     Launch Details    
Length B.P.    250' 0" Weather    
Beam    41' 6" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     25' 3"      
G.R.T.    1952 tons      
Engines    5 Cylinder Sulzer 1500 hp      
Props    1      
Other known names        
Current Status        
Content on the MV NAVUA will be added as and when available. 
The M.V.NAVUA was named after a district in Fiji
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.NAVUA was another fine vessel built by the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb for the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand.

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.


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.

The following story as told by Bob Jenkins,

This is one compressed air start that I am glad that I did not make

Navua engine damage

The worst possible outcome from an air start of a marine diesel engine came in the mid fifties when the little banana boat Navua was in the Fijian Islands. She was built in 1955 by Henry Robb, of about 2000 tons gross and was equipped with a 5 cylinder trunk piston Sulzer 1500 HP engine.

She was on one of her earliest voyages, circa 1956, on the Pacific Islands trade and arriving off Lautoka Fiji (from memory) after dark she anchored to await a daylight berthing. The second engineer asked either the third or the fourth to change a defective main engine fuel injector during the night and this was done but apparently the engineer failed to shut off the main oil circulating pump or isolate the cooling oil circulation to the injector jacket before removing the faulty unit. During the time taken to take the valve down to the workshop, select a spare and re-install it a considerable volume of oil flowed in to sit on top of the piston that was parked above the ports in the cylinder liner so we had a disaster waiting to happen.

 The second engineer was on watch when the first movement was rung on the telegraph and as he started the engine it must have fired in such an order to allow the oil logged unit to travel down and then make a full stroke up to hit the solid mass of oil against the cylinder head. There was enough momentum to wreak the ultimate damage to the extent that the connecting rod was bent like a banana, the liner cracked and, worst of all, the crankcase entablature each side of the damaged unit was a mass of hairline cracks.

She was towed into a berth and there she sat for several months for repairs. The Union Co flew in a couple of experts from the Metalock Company and they worked night and day stitching the crank case cracks until the area looked like a spider's web. The end result was successful and she went back into service for some years before being sold off to another owner.

When I joined her in 1958 the metalocked areas on the crank case external walls had to be left unpainted so that any sign of movement of the repair could be detected and it was then mandatory to inspect the internal stitching at the end of each voyage. The second engineer who pulled the lever was back on the ship when I joined and his collection of photos covering the damage made the blood run cold and was a lesson indeed.

I have searched the net for any information regarding this incident but have not found any. Perhaps there are some old Union Co members that can confirm, correct or add to this story.

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.


 (photo credits still to add)

 More Ship Tales,

as told by Bob Jenkins from the engine room,

 It's a long haul from Third Mate to Ship's Master and a wide range of learning to accomplish but in my memory the skill of ship handling, i.e. maneuvering a ship to or from its berth in a harbour was an art form on its own and some masters had it, some slightly less talented.

All the Union steam ship Co's masters held pilot exemptions for NZ ports and for many of the Australian and Pacific Islands ones also so ship handling by the master in the confinements of a port was a frequent happening. Of course I am referring to the handling of relatively small ships here, say 2000 to 8000 tons gross. Of course the Inter-Island ferry skippers were like poetry in motion as are most ferrymen always on a familiar course.

I recall our ship MV NAVUA being berthed on the breastwork in Lyttelton in a tight space and at right angles to the main wharves. We were due to sail that afternoon and were all singled up ready to go when the skipper and the chief engineer arrived back from the company office. The skipper was a dab hand at berthing and sailing with a minimum of telegraph movements so the chief said "I bet you ten pounds that you can't get out of here in one engine command movement"

Soon after standby was rung on the engine room telegraph followed by a very long pause then "full ahead" and we were away. The cunning blighter had let go forward and with the advantage of a light off shore breeze and the tensioning of the out board stern mooring line with the winch had managed to screw the ship through 90 degrees by rotating on the stern rubbing strake against the piling until we were pointed to the seaward channel. The full ahead engine movement to get out of the harbour was not foolhardy as we engineers took some time to ease the engine up to full rpm plus time was needed to gain way all of which the skipper well knew.

I can well remember the chief's sad look as we got the full away signal.





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0 #1 Stephen Anso 2017-07-17 23:04
There is an interesting article that mentions the MV Matua going to the aid of the stricken SS Gothic off the New Zealand coast in the May 2017 issue of 'Sea Breezes', page 44.

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