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.
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.
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.
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
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.
|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.
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.
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.
|Courtesy Captain Andreas Gjevik
Captain Fritjof Olsen of THORSRIVER
is coaxed into sampling an orange upon the ship arriving in Montreal.
|Courtesy Captain Andreas Gjevik
Later, when the vessels had sophisticated cooling
chambers installed with the required ventilation, boxes were replaced with cartons.
|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
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
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.
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).
The last new buildings THORSCAPE & THOR I in
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
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.
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.
CP Ships through it's Americana Ships subsidiary
has reached agreement with Thor Dahl Shipping AS to acquire Christensen Canadian African Lines (CCAL).
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
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GALLERY OR FOR ANOTHER SELECTION.