CHRISTENSEN CANADIAN AFRICAN LINES (C.C.A.L.).

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THOR GLIMT 1968

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Courtesy Coos deVries

HISTORY:

Consul Lars Christensen,  Owner of A/S Thor Dahl lived in New York during WWII.  A/S Thor Dahl had started a liner service in 1938 in the Pacific,  between the U.S. West Coast and a string of exotic Pacific Islands.

When the war ended,  Consul Christensen wanted to expand his interests in the liner trade.  To replace the small m.v. THOR I which operated in the Pacific,  it was decided to contract two 6000 t.d.w. vessels.  The order was placed with the Buntisland Shipbuilding Co.,  on the East Coast of Scotland,  for delivery 1948/49.

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Courtesy Coos deVries

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Courtesy Coos deVries

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Courtesy Coos deVries

In 1947 Mr. Alfred Clegg,  principal owner of Kerr Steamship Company Inc.,  of San Francisco and New York,  a friend of Consul Lars Christensen,  proposed to the Consul that a liner service between the East Coast of Canada and South Africa be started.
The basis of this idea was that in the days following WWII,  a freight service link between South Africa and Atlantic North America  (via West Africa)  was halfheartedly maintained by a British Company,  the Elder Dempster Line,  a Liverpool-based company that was largely focussed on west Africa.   This company which was a family concern,  had its roots in the African Steamship Company of 1852,  later the British and African Steamship Navigation Company.
 
By the summer of 1945 only 6 deep sea ships of the 1939 fleet of Elder Dempster were left  (out of an original 103)  and all five passenger-carrying mail ships had gone.  By 1949 Elder Dempster's fleet was back to its 1939 size.  ACCRA (III) and APAPA (III) were brand new passenger/cargo ships  (7,110 dwt) ships for what was then a three weekly mailboat schedule between Liverpool and Lagos and a third,  AUREOL, was being built on the Clyde.   The other freighters called at one or more South African ports.  

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Courtesy Coos deVries

The EBOE and her sister ship EBANI were 16 knot,  12 passenger ships with a difference having been designated for use between South and West African ports and North America.   The main recognizable feature of these ships was the long bridge deck which extended aft to the mainmast.
 
Mr Clegg suggested the line from Canada to South Africa should be owned and operated by A/S Thor Dahl,  with the Kerr organisation and its network of agents as representatives in Canada and Africa.   General agents were to be Kerr Steamships  (Canada) Ltd. in Montreal,  a Canadian company recently started by Mr. Clegg.

A rough preview of the proposed liner service showed that three vessels would be required to maintain a monthly service.   When A/S Thor Dahl confirmed to Kerr that they would enter into the proposed deal,  it meant that a third vessel had to be contracted with Burntisland.   This was quickly arranged.   The three contracts placed with Burntisland were given yard numbers 319/320/321.
 
At time of delivery the vessels were named THORSHALL,  November 1948,  THORSTRAND,  April 1949,  and finally THORSISLE in June of 1949.   The name THORSISLE was chosen as an indication to Thor Dahl's friends on the Pacific Coast that this vessel would be transferred to the Pacific Islands Transport Line in due course.
 

In January of 1948 Lars Christensen Jr. and his Company Director,  Per Fogstad,  travelled on the STAVANGERFJORD to New York.   (That was before the regular transAtlantic air service).   They would lay the groundwork for the new line and they would also ascertain the most advantageous time for starting up.
 
A committee was set up,  consisting of:
Mr. Chris. Fjellanger of Kerr New York.
Mr. Denis Connor of Kerr Montreal.
Lars Christensen Jr.
Per Fogstad.
 
There were also lengthy discussions in Montreal and thereafter Mr. Christensen and Mr. Fogstad travelled extensively in the Eastern part of Canada to interview traffic managers of the larger Canadian exporters,  soliciting their support for the new venture.
 
Subsequently,  Messrs. Fjellanger and Lars Christensen Jr. returned to New York,  while Messrs.  Denis Connor and Per Fogstad hammered out details in Montreal.   It was finally decided that the opportune moment to start up would be the opening of the 1948 shipping season from Montreal  (April).
 
The name of the Company was going to be:
 
                           CHRISTENSEN CANADIAN SOUTH AFRICAN LINES.

As the first newbuilding would only be ready in time to take the last sailing of the 1948 season from Montreal in November,  Sandefjord decided to timecharter the Danish vessel NORDEN for two/option three voyages.   Kerr Montreal scrambled hard to get the first cargo together.   It was also necessary,  for the first and only time,  to call at New York to load.   The NORDEN then sailed in May 1948 with 1890 tons of cargo onboard.
 
The second sailing was the Norwegian vessel VALHALL,  chartered for a southbound voyage in June 1948.

In the meantime Consul Lars Christensen had bought an old American-built vessel of about 6000 t.d.w. called the PHILAE which was registered under the Panamanian flag.   A/S Thor Dahl made an application to the Norwegian authorities to buy the ship and an import license was obtained.   The vessel was reconditioned quickly,   registered under the Norwegian flag and took the third sailing in the new C.C.S.A.L. with the name THORSCAPE.   Captain Olaf Nieman was master of this ship and thus the first of Thor Dahl's own captains in the Christensen Line service.
 
A few chartered vessels filled in empty positions in 1948 making it possible to maintain a monthly service from the beginning.   However,  from 1949 and until the end of Thor Dahl's ownership,  the service had been operated by Thor Dahl's own vessels,  the THORSHALL  (Captain O. Bjornsgaard),  the THORSTRAND  (Captain Harry Thon)  and the THORSISLE  ( Captain Anders Abrahamsen)  who was also the Commodore of the fleet.   An occasional charter,  as a supplement to Thor Dahl's own vessels,  was brought in at a time of  bountiful cargoes.   One of those charters was the MAUD,  the master of which suddenly died on the South African coast.

In those days the THORSCAPE was useful as a 'supernumerary' and she even went as far off the South African coast as Mauritius to load sugar in bulk for Canada.

CCSAL started out with a contract with Kerr as agents for all ports.   In 1951,  during a visit of Mr. Alfred Clegg to Sandefjord,  it was agreed to have a contract with Kerr for Canada only.   Thor Dahl then concluded a General Agency contract directly with Holland Africa Line for all African ports.
 
In reminiscing about these early Captains,  it may be said that Captain Bjornsgard was by far the jolliest and friendliest of the three.  His nickname was "By Golly" because in almost every third sentence he uttered,  he would say,  "By Golly you know!".   Captain Thon was very 'matter-of-fact',  to the point and basically a "no-nonsense" Captain.  One of the CCSAL's agency staff who had the pleasure of making a trip with him to Canada was very impressed by Captain Thon's seamanship.   In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with virtually no visibility because of the infamous fog in this region, he stood for hours on the bridgewing with his face in the raw cold listening for possible fog horns from other ships.   
 
Beira  (Mocambique) was not his favourite port and we cannot blame him because it certainly was a very unattractive place with a strong current in-and-out and always with lighter work.   When the agent greeted him upon arrival with,  "Good afternoon,  Captain",  his standard reply was,  "Never mind the afternoon.  When the hell are we going to get out of here?"
 
Captain Abrahamsen,  friendly but reserved,  was the 'gentleman Captain'.   He was a heavy smoker which ultimately caused his untimely death years later.   He looked very much like King George VI of England and,  as a result,  he was often called  "King" Abrahamsen by the reporters of South African newspapers.

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THOR 1 AT SEA TRIALS - THOR GLIMT May/78

As the traffic grew,  it was decided to replace the Burntisland vessels with larger and speedier tonnage.   Thor Dahl contracted three vessels of about 8000 t.d.w. in Bergen.   The THORSGAARD was deliverd in 1952 and Captain Abrahamsen was appointed as her Master.   The THORSISLE could then be transferred to the Pacific.   The THORSCAPE was delivered in 1954  (Captain Bjornsgaard),  and the THOR I in 1955  (Captain Thon) while Captain Fritjof  Bang took over the THORSHALL.
 
Other Thor Dahl vessels operated in the CCSAL were THORSDROTT  (fruit),  THORSDRAKE, built in Germany with a typical German design,  and the THORSCARRIER.   These were supplementary to the regular trip of vessels.   The THORSDRAKE had Captain Abrahamsen as her Master.  Captain J. Thommesen was assigned to the THORSGAARD and Captain Rolf Berg to the THORSCARRIER.   Later,  Captain Jacob Lunde took over the THORSDRAKE but regrettably he had an untimely death.

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Courtesy Coos deVries

LOADING PORTS IN CANADA:
In the beginning the vessels would turn around in Montreal.  The St. Lawrence Seaway in those days could only accommodate vessels of up to approx. 3000 t.d.w.  CCAL at this time had three vessels of 7,600 t.d.w. each and a 4th vessel built in Germany of about 12,000 t.d.w.   The main export cargo from Canada was newsprint,  printing paper and other other forest products.   The main bulk of this cargo from Canada was produced in areas far from Montreal and it was necessary for the vessels to call at other ports in the St. Lawrence Gulf & River to load paper.  Calls were also made at such ports as Corner Brook,  Nfld.,  Baie Comeau,  Port Alfred and Three Rivers in Quebec.
 
The normal port rotation was to call at Montreal first to unload all import cargoes from Africa.  This first call could take many days taking into account that cargoes such as canned fruits were manhandled carton by carton.   When the vessels were fully unloaded the ships would proceed down the river to start oloading for all the ports in South Africa,  Mozambique and later Tanzania and Kenya.   Then they proceeded up the river to Montreal again to complete the loading before departing on the 19 - 20 day voyage to Cape Town.  Ships often spent 4 weeks in the total cargo handling operation in Canada.
 
Traffic fortunately continued to grow.   Also cargo prospects to and from East Africa  (Mombasa,  Tanga,  Dar es Salaam)  looked favourable.  Therefore the Line was stretched to include East Africa.   Henceforth the Line was called CHRISTENSEN CANADIAN AFRICAN LINES.
 
In the East African ports CCAL discharged paper products,  Canadian project cargoes and other general cargoes.   They also discharged some coastal cargoes loaded in South Africa.   The cargoes loaded in East African ports consisted mainly of sisal in bales,  coffee in bags and chests of tea.  There were also some bulk cargoes from the port of Lourenco Marques.   The CCAL also started to call at some West African ports.
 
Thor Dahl then contracted a new trio at their own shipyard,  Framnaess  in Sandefjord.   They were faster and close to 9000 t.d.w.  The THORSHOPE  (Captain Famestad)  was delivered in 1958,  the THORSRIVER  (Captain Fritjof Olsen)  in 1959 and finally the THORSTREAM  (Captain Abrahamsen - later Captain Thorvaldsen)  in 1960.

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Courtesy Coos deVries

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Courtesy Coos deVries

Early in 1960 negotiations were opened between the South African Citrus Exchange in Pretoria and the CCAL to carry oranges  (trade name OUTSPAN) from Capetown to Montreal.   The CCAL ships at that time had no cold chambers but in an ingenious way the walls,  floors and ceilings of the upper 'tweendeck spaces were pasted with aluminium foil.   Thereafter in the 'tweendecks cool tunnels were built with 4"X2" dunnage around which the orange crates were stowed.   The tunnels connected with a hole in the hatch coaming.  A hose on deck was on the one side fitted to that hole and on the other side to a mobile refrigerator unit that was placed on deck.   These units ran on either electric power from the ship or on diesels and they produced a steady stream of cool air at 40 degrees F that was pumped into the tunnels.   As oranges 'breathe' out CO2 gas the 'tweendecks needed to be force ventilated at regular intervals in order to get rid of that gas as it was dangerous for human beings.   The pilot shipment was a great success and "Miss Outspan" was on hand to meet the first consignment of oranges in Montreal.   Thus "Outspan" oranges appeared in the Canadian supermarkets.
 
The three Framnaes vessels were a few years later taken back to Sandefjord where Thor Dahl had large refrigerated chambers installed for fruit,  not only to accommodate citrus fruits but also deciduous fruits such as oranges,  apples and peaches.
 
Thor Dahl also had a still larger vessel built at Framnaes,  the THORSWAVE,  which operated in the CCAL from 1968 until she was sold in 1983,  having by then made 62 round trips in the Line. 

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Courtesy Captain Andreas Gjevik

Captain Fritjof Olsen of  THORSRIVER  is coaxed into sampling an orange upon the ship arriving in Montreal.

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Courtesy Captain Andreas Gjevik

Later, when the vessels had sophisticated cooling chambers installed with the required ventilation, boxes were replaced with cartons.

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Courtesy Captain Andreas Gjevik

In the early to middle 1980's the export cargoes from Tanzania and Kenya seemed to diminish considerably.  This was also the case with project and aid cargoes shipped by the Canadian Government,  as well as aid from international aid organisations such as World Food Programs.   The considerable time needed to service East Africa in addition to the drop-off in cargo offers made it uneconomical to continue calling there.   It was therefore decided that CCAL would no longer serve East Africa on a regular basis and that the vessels would turn around at Durban,  or often Richard's Bay,  which by now had become an important bulk loading facility.
 
PORTUGAL INCLUDED IN THE NORTHBOUND SERVICE:
The threat of international sanctions against South Africa was often on the minds of CCAL operators.  When the Canadian Government,  after some consideration,  eventually decided to boycott the import of agricultural products from South Africa,  this came as a devastating blow to the future existence of the Line.  As a large portion of the north-bound cargoes consisted of fruit,  fresh or canned,  all this was lost.
 
Sandefjord started to look for options in order to keep the Line in business while the sanctions lasted.  After some research it was decided to add a port of call between Cape Town and Montreal.  Ports in Portugal were targeted in this respect since investigations had revealed that a fair cargo volume moved from Portugal to Montreal.   It consisted of mainly container traffic,  with a small amount of general cargo.
 
This extra call would,  however,  mean an added transit time between Cape Town and Montreal of approximately 8 days plus an extra day in port.  In addition to this,  the vessels now had to negotiate a different ocean route with bad weather conditions that often delayed a vessel as much as 5 days.

Another carrier that competed with CCAL for certain cargoes from S.A. to Canada also found itself in trouble when sanctions came into force.  Fednav of Montreal had for years had a contract to carry S.A. sugar in bulk from Durban to Canada.  Having this base cargo,  they also catered for other S.A. cargoes such as steel and granite.  Sugar was included in the sanctions and this left Fednav without their regular base cargo.   Fednav therefore left the South African scene,  leaving more steel and granite for CCAL.
 
It was now realised that the added weight cargoes from South Africa in addition to the mainly heavy containers lifted from Portugal on at least two occasions caused vessels to arrive in the St. Lawrence with such a deep draft that some cargo had to be discharged in Quebec City to lighten the vessels for the voyage to Montreal.   This operation was costly,  taking into account the extra port of call,  and arranging and paying for extra inland transport.  It was therefore decided that CCAL abandon the calls at Portugal.

PASSENGERS:
As with many liner companies in earlier years,  CCAL also had passenger accommodation in most of their vessels, being customary to have space for a total of 12 passengers.  More than 12 required to vessel to have a doctor on board.
 
Passengers were usually elderly people with an abundance of spare time although CCAL also had a number of Catholic priests and nuns  (missionaries) as passengers.  It was very common for CCAL to have a full load of passengers on most voyages.

M.V. THORSWAVE, which was built at Framnes yard in Sandefjord,  and which entered the service in 1968,  had no passenger accommodation.  This was also the case with the latest M.V. THORSCAPE & M.V. THOR I built in Japan.  (See below).
 

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Courtesy Coos deVries

The last new buildings THORSCAPE & THOR I in Durban 1981.

CCAL's LAST VESSELS:
In the early 1970s oil crisis,  there were signs that the tanker market could be in for a nose-dive and A/S Thor Dahl decided to try to convert that ULCC order into something more promising.   After a long period of protracted negotiations with Mitsui,  the order was converted from tanker(s) into two 20,000 TDW multipurpose cargo ships.  Mitsui had built similar multi-purpose vessels for Barber Lines and for Torm Lines of Denmark as well.  The new CCAL vessels had to be built to different specifications,  however,  in order to meet the special needs of the trade.  One requirement was the St. Lawrence Seaway compatibility,  which meant that the vessels could not be as wide as the prototype.
Also,  the vessels had to be ice-strengthened for navigation in Canadian waters.  This also included provision for cooling of the main engines by cooling water circulating through ballast tanks rather than from exterior intakes,  as these became frequently blocked by ice.   It was furthermore felt that the flourishing fresh fruit trade between S. Africa and Canada could not be ignored.   The upper 'tweendecks in holds 2, 3 & 4 were,  therefore,  insulated and modern refrigeration machinery provided cooling for the three compartments.   This enabled a vessel to carry about 2000 MT of fruit per sailing.

The ships were going to be christened THORSCAPE and THOR I .  Over the years in service these two vessels made over 100 round trips each.  They were indeed workhorses and every imaginable type of cargo could be and was carried including up to 400 TEU's.  It can be said that the vessels were still very suitable for the trade when they left it in the late 1990's.   The problem ultimately was that cost of maintenance was steadily increasing and the main engines were not of the fuel-efficient types used in newer ships.

WINTER IN CANADA:
It was customary to call at Montreal from April to December,  or during the period when the St. Lawrence River was free of ice.  During the winter months vessels called at Saint John N.B. and Halifax.  In 1964 a small Danish vessel made history when she forced her way to Montreal in the middle of winter.  M.V. Helga Dan was an ice-strengthened vessel with good engine power.  This was,  in effect,  the beginning of winter navigation on the St. Lawrence River.  However,  it was still some time before winter navigation into the Port of Montreal became common practice.
Vessels such as THORSTREAM,  THORSRIVER and THORSHOPE  had been ice strengthened and did have good engine power.
 

However,  the stretch between Quebec City and Montreal was problematic and dangerous.  There would be no navigation buoys left in the river in the winter months until much later.  When m.v. THORSWAVE,  which some of the pilots had named the "Royal Yacht", came into the service in the 60's,  things were starting to change and it was becoming more commonplace to see ships at the berths in Montreal during the winter months.
 
The two new buildings from Japan were ice-strengthened and had sufficient engine power to force ice in the St. LawrenceGulf & River.  The pilots on the river seemed quite happy when they piloted the two vessels which were referred to as the 'ice breakers',  due to their stubborness in heavy ice.
These vessels were very strongly built and even after years of use there were no signs of fatigue of the hull plating in the bow area.

Today, as winters have become somewhat gentler,  and as winter navigation on the river has become the order of the day,  many vessels with no ice class certificates trade in the river on a regular basis.
 
Running a liner service is quite complex.  It requires constant attention to details,  both ashore and afloat.  It brings many people together and many lasting friendships develop,  between sailing personnel and people ashore,  and also between agents and owners.

CAPTAINS:
Anders Abrahamsen
Steinar Andersen
Einar Ask
Fritjof   Bang
Rolf    Berg
Olaf  Bjornsgaard
John Christensen
Jan Danielsen
Arve Erlandsen
H.   Famestad
Jan Fosshaugen
Andreas Gjevik
Fritz Gullord
Anders Hasle
Jan Hjelmtvedt
Birger Johannessen
Oskar Lian
Birger Liverod
Torlief Lund
Jakob Lunde
Roy Myrsve
Olaf  Nieman
Fritjof Olsen
Osmund Osmundsen
Per Samuelsen
John Sorensen
Hans Thommesen
Harry Thon
Arnold Thorvalsen
J.P.Walbeck
Per Matisen
 
Captain Abrahamsen was the first Commodore of the fleet when the Service started.
 
The first year of operations - 1948 - showed a loss.  When Consul Lars Christensen came to Sandefjord in 1949,  after having spent the winter in New York,  Mr Fogstad reluctantly gave him the sad news.   His answer was, "Don't worry,  we shall soon recover that small loss".   He was right.   The operating result at the end of each year has been positive ever since.   That has resulted in the buyers of Thor Dahl's CCAL investment still being in business after almost 60 years.

CURRENT INFORMATION
 
CP Ships through it's Americana Ships subsidiary has reached agreement with Thor Dahl Shipping AS to acquire Christensen Canadian African Lines (CCAL).
 
CCAL operated at this time a 21 day Multi-Purpose Service between Eastern Canada, Great Lakes and South Africa, deploying three "Astrakhan" type vessels. CCAL had provided uninterrupted service for more than 50 years.
 
The deal was closed on 31st August 2000.
 

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