This year marks the centenary of the sinking of the NZ Shipping Company vessel OTAKI which ultimately resulted in the senior boy from the Master’s old school – Robert Gordon College, Aberdeen – being taken to New Zealand and return on one of the Companies ships each year. The early scholars spent some of the time in New Zealand at the Agricultural College, Flock House. For a Scottish version of the sinking and the subsequent history history click on this link below.



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Captain IFOR BODVEL OWEN 19 February 1930 – 01 February 2017

Ifor without background

It is with great sadness that we learn of Captain Ifor Owen’s death on 01 February at home after a very  short illness. Our sincere condolences to Clare his wife of 60 years and their family.

Ifor, a very proud Welshman started his career as a cadet with Lamport & Holt Line in 1946, serving on the UK/ South America and USA/North Brazil trades until his transfer to Blue Star Line in 1953.

Ifor was appointed Master in 1963, he later commanded the pre-war New Zealand Star and came ashore as assistant marine superintendent in the London docks in 1964. With the advent of Blue Star Port Line Management in 1968 he was appointed as one of the port operations superintendents responsible for the joint operations of Blue Star and Port Line vessels on the Australasian services.

In 1969 he accepted the position of cargo superintendent in New Zealand with the newly formed Blue Star Port Lines (NZ) and was posted to their head office in Wellington. As both Blue Star and Port Lines services to Europe/ECNA were fully containerised by 1984, Blueport ACT (NZ) was formed and Captain Owen was appointed marine operations manager within the new company, which was responsible for all Blue Star’s agency work throughout New Zealand. This was a period of expansion for Blue Star Line in New Zealand, with the containerisation of the West Coast Service and the beginning of the Middle East Service, and Captain Owen was closely involved in planning the operational side of these new ventures.

In 1989, with the acquisition of the Shipping Corporation of New Zealand by ACT(A), the New Zealand Line was formed to replace Blueport ACT and Captain Owen became responsible for the ship management division within this new company.

Although Ifor retired in 1991 after 45 years’ service to Blue Star Line and the associated companies he kept in touch with his former colleagues with regular weekly meetings at the Featherston City Tavern in Wellington.  He was also responsible for instigating the bi-annual trans-Tasman Blue Star Line reunions being held since 2005.

He was a long tine member of the Wellington Branch of NZ Company of Master Mariners and was a volunteer at the Wellington Maritime Museum until 2014 where he sorted and catalogued much of the memorabilia.

Ifor maintained relatively good health with an excellent memory.  Having a keen interest in history he was a fount of knowledge when it came to the Blue Star Line and the maritime industry in general – he will be sorely missed.






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The death occurred last week in Wellington of ALISTER MacALISTER QSM. Alister was a member of the Wellington Branch for many years and the Company’s Honorary Solicitor.

He served in the RN during the second world war and was a past commodore of the RPNYC Wellington. During his working life he represented many ship masters at various inquires.

With his passing goes one of the last connections with the sinking of the Russian liner MIKHAIL LERMONTOV.

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Public Demand for Commerce – Going All In to Eliminate Accidents

By Capt. George H Livingstone

I recently saw the movie “Sully”, I recommend it to anyone with an interest in aviation or marine transportation.  It is a Clint Eastwood Directed movie about Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s first ever (successful) emergency water landing of Flight 1592.  Something considered technically impossible prior to his successful execution of it on the Hudson River.

As a mariner, captain and pilot I was interested in the NTSB investigation as it played out in the movie which got me fact checking.  In the movie, the NTSB investigating committee was critical of Capt. Sully’s decision to make a water landing, indicating a landing at one of the New York airports would have been a far wiser and safer decision.  Commenting directly on that, Mr. Malcolm Brenner (part of the NTSB’s actual investigation of the accident), recently told Bloomberg News “There was no effort to crucify him or embarrass him”…“If there were questions, it was to learn things.”  In contrast, Capt. Sullenberger himself, told the New York Times that the investigation was “inherently adversarial, with professional reputations absolutely in the balance.”  Whatever the movie did or did not portray correctly, the NTSB and Capt. Sullenberger certainly have different takes on the actual investigation.  Given the NTSB is the National Transportation Safety Board, perhaps there is a takeaway here for them?

It’s a big world, mostly (70%) covered by water.  There are thousands of ships and tens of thousands of smaller craft like tugs/barges working on it every day.  Thousands of vessels, the world over, driven by one thing, Public Demand for Commerce.  That’s you, me, neighbors, friends, enemies, conservatives, liberals, environmentalists; everyone you know, have ever known or will know.  Each of us are directly responsible for every mile traveled by every vessel on God’s Blue and Green earth.  Make no mistake, it is not someone else driving world trade, it’s you.

In mid-October of this year, an American tug/barge unit went aground near Bella Bella, British Columbia in a remote part of the famed “Inland Passage” of Canada.  In the same time period, a passenger ship hit the jetties while inbound to the port of Nice, France causing a hole below the waterline.  A ship being maneuvered in the port of Houston suffered a loss of power causing it to ground on an underwater obstacle resulting in a spectacular explosion and fire.  A semi-submersible being towed from Scotland to Turkish scrap yards broke free from the tug towing it and went hard aground in Scotland’s Western Isles.  Where am I going here?

  1. Worldwide public demand for movement of commerce and people guarantees said movement -worldwide
  2. Public demand for safety is certain. Responsible working professionals understand that
  3. Safety is far more complicated than the general public realizes
  4. National safety agencies like the NTSB (USA), ATSB (Australia), MAIB (UK) are not necessarily subject matter experts.  For hundreds of years maritime accidents were adjudicated in Admiralty courts by Admiralty Judges.  When those cases went to civil and criminal courts vital expertise was lost.  Maritime professionals sincerely hope they can rely on the reputational integrity of national safety agencies to be unbiased, fair and expertly informed.

Is it hypocritical to get in one’s giant SUV, fill it with gas, drive the family to the airport for a European vacation and take no accountability for where the world presently finds itself regarding international transportation?  Is it irresponsible for working maritime and aviation professionals in command not to acknowledge, “The Public Trust” is in their hands?  Is itarrogant if national safety agencies conduct accident investigations under the general assumption they know better than the subject matter experts walking the walk every day?

We are “all in” on this, whether public, working transportation professional or national safety & regulatory agency; all of us are accountable, no excuses.  Although much effort is put into eliminating accidents, the probability is they continue.  Let us all work meaningfully and effectively to reduce their impact on Public Safety and the planet.

This article was published in today’s newsletter from GCaptain 

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ON DECK Vol 2 No 4 May 1939 (Part 2)


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ON DECK Vol 2 No 4 May 1939 (Part 1)


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ON DECK Vol 2 No 1- September 1938


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ON DECK Vol 1 No 2 – November 1937


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The position of the Ship Master, apparently enshrined in centuries of law, custom and practice, is showing evidence of strain in the light of 21st century ship operation and management. The Master’s traditional authority is widely perceived as being diminished while responsibility is being increased, frequently in matters over which he has little or no control.

Is the role of the Master under attack? How has his authority and responsibilities been affected in an age of instant communication between ship and shore, and a growing volume of laws and regulations affecting the way the Master runs his ship?

These are the core questions for the 14th Cadwallader Debate and Dinner to consider at Drapers’ Hall, London on October 26th. The event is being organised by the London Shipping Law Centre (LSLC) Maritime Business Forum. Michael Grey, LSLC Council member and former seafarer, has no doubts about the growing difficulties facing Ship Masters. He cites external interference in loading and stowage, course, speed and performance decisions, sometimes overriding the Master’s safety concerns and backed by bullying.

There are increasing instances where the Master is held as a ‘legal hostage,’ when local and port authorities, sometimes corrupt, find something wrong with the ship, its operations and its cargo. With an estimated 150,000 new merchant officers required in the global shipping industry by 2025, Mr Grey is concerned that these factors could well discourage those contemplating a career at sea and ultimate command. He said: “Ambitious and bright officers need to be attracted to the Ship Masters’ role. However, there are worrying signs that senior officers are being deterred from this aspiration when they observe first-hand the burdens borne by those who command the ships they sail in.”

Under the chairmanship of Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony, the speaker’s panel will be led by Captain Kuba Szymanski, Secretary-General of Intermanager, as moderator. He will be supported by Michael Kelleher, Director, West of England P&I Club; Faz Peermohamed, Global Head of Shipping, Ince & Co; Michael Chalos, Partner, K&L Gates (New York): and Jeff Lantz, Director of Commercial Regulations and Standards, US Coast Guard. Captain Szymanski said: “Hierarchy is vital to a vessel’s performance, as clear decisions are fundamental to a ship’s performance and the safety and integrity of crew, cargo and the environment. Ever since all shipping companies had to adopt the ISM Code, we have seen a transfer of authority from ship to shore personnel who are making more key decisions. Yet the Master remains formally responsible for factors which he does not control. “The Master must continue to be the voice of the vessel, just as he has always been.” Mr. Grey added: “The debate is designed to tease out areas of real concern within the industry, ashore and afloat. The issue is that modern legal developments and the communication technology, which binds ship and shore more closely together require the traditional role of the Ship Master to be revisited.”

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It is with regret that we report the deaths of two former members of our company.

Ian Mackay K.St.J., LLB,  Master Mariner, Barrister and Solicitor, passed away on 15 August. He obtained his Masters Certificate when with Port Line. On coming ashore he obtained his law degree and spent some time working for Chapman Tripp after which he founded P&I Services representing both the Standard and UK Clubs.

He was founder Chairman of the NZ Branch and Former President of the Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand, Chief Arbitration Commissioner for New Zealand, and first Chairman of the Maritime Safety Authority of New Zealand. He was the founding Patron of the Merchant Navy Association

Captain Dudley Neill spent his whole working life at sea and passed away on 20 August. He came to New Zealand in the 1960’s and was a deck officer and master with Holm & Co. He was appointed first Marine Superintendent with New Zealand Railway when they took over the management of their ships. He later joined ABC Container Line as Marine Manager. When that company finished trading he went back to sea as master with Milburn Cement.  After retiring from that company he acted as pilot at the Manukau harbour for the LPG tankers until his final retirement.


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