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U.S. Ship Repairs Earn City £50,000 Monthly

By E. K GREEN IN the early months of this year * the United States payout for ship repairs carried out in Auckland averaged £50,000 a month. Over the past two years it has averaged about £35,000 monthly. It hasn't stopped yet—and it isn't likely to stop for some time to come; not, at least, while the city has the reputation it has acquired with the authorities for excellence of workmanship, the willingness of local firms to tackle any job that comes along, and of the workers to give long hours of work in order that sailing schedules may be maintained. That is not by any means the full extent of the work done, either. Even in ; war conditions a large proportion of the shipping that uses the Waitemata Harbour carries the flag of the British Merchant Navy, and flags of other nations also. These also require repair work and, alterations from time to time. The story from these sources is equally one of praise. Welder Saved Jxmg , Delay There was the big Home liner I was taken to, to be escorted down into the engine room by its New Zealand engineer. The job he wanted to show me was a tribute to the unusual skill of an Auckland welding expert ... a repair job that initially prevented that ship from being laid up for several months! As the result of an accident the 10ft high flywheel, a ton in weight, had fractured in six pieces. The ship was helpless. The flywheel could not be replaced here, and it might have meant laying-up the ship for up to three months while one was brought here. When the welding expert said he could repair it even the marine insurance engineer was doubtful. Permission was given for a trial. Even for a. man who specialises in the unusual it was.a frightening job. So much depended upon it. Allowance had to be made for heat distortion; the wheel had to be true in the minutest degree because the gear-' teeth had to mesh. In two and a half days the flywheel was back in the ship. It was tested around the coast of New Zealand, proved workable, and the ship sailed. In London, Lloyds' engineers- gave it a complete pass. When I saw it, it had carried the ship 70,000 miles! "As good as new," said the engineer. On this subject of avoiding delays to schedules, particularly in regard to especially valuable cargoes, the repair men. have fiOund the standardisation which is one of the features of Liberty ships an important asset. In more than one instance a damaged part has been replaced from another ship, which could better afford delay.

From the national economic point of view, as well. as the urgency of the work in war circumstances, this ship repair work is not to be taken lightly. One repair and alteration job done here cost £60,000. Jobs worth £25,000 and £30,000 are not uncommon. It is not all grist to one mill, either. Thirty-four Auckland firms were concerned in repairs to one ship. I have seen nothing more closely resembling a bee-hive'from the teeming industry point of view than one ship I visited—a general utility American ship, which, on one run as a troopship, carried 1200 servicemen as well as cargo. For two hours I was taken up and down ladders, along passageways, down into the depths of the holds, through enginerooms, sleeping quarters, messdecks, galleys . . . every conceivable place. And everywhere there were workmen.

The main job that was going on was the-putting in of an auxiliary fire main, so that it ran completely round the ship, with connecting links crosswise. The reason lay in the danger of submarine attack, and the possible cutting of the main system as it was formerly, along one side of the ship only. Now any section of the main can be cut out and the system still function with complete coverage of the ship.

It was too complicated a job ta be discussed here with justice, but that wasn't the only job. Advantage was being taken of the three to fiveweek time allowance to do innumerable jobs—including fitting an extra 65 bunks for troops (New Zea-land-made folding steel frames with steel mesh), and the fitting out of a crew recreation room in what was formerly a sick-bay. Writing- desks were being built in, and the room

fitted with locally acquired steel frame furniture and a piano. There were 250 men to be catered for.

As a minor example of the work involved in each of these jobs there was the insulating of a small galley bulkhead. It required an electrician to take off the electric fittings, a boiler-maker to make brackets, a welder to weld them on, a fitter to drill holes, a sheet-metal worker to make sheathing, a joiner to do the lagging, a plumber to do the fixings, and a painter to finish off!

A naval expert was adjusting and overhauling the master gyro compass, and right down in the depths boiler bricklayers were rebricking the furnaces. Other workmen were installing a new stove, specially built to the requirements of the ship. All this alteration and repair work was costing £20,000. That was not the only ship in the harbour which at that time was undergoing repair or alteration. And there have been times when work has been going on in sixteen different ships at the one time. At times 100 men and more have worked the full 24 hours a day. There is not a man m the industries involved who has not worked 14 and 16 hours in single shifts, and at least 12-hour shifts are worked on all these jobs. More U.S. Ships Here Than Ever All types of ships have been handled—destroyers, minesweepers magnetic minesweepers, transports Liberty ships, even submarines. Whatever has been required has been done here in Auckland, and has been done satisfactorily. The work is still at peak. LieutenantCommander Bushey pointed out that there have recently been more U S ships in Auckland than ever before Overseeing all these jobs, organising the work, arranging for material and generally keeping the work flowing smoothly, are the New Zealand naval engineer overseers for the port, headed by Mr. W. Maskell They certify jobs as finished, and act, as well, as material and accounting recorders.

in one period of twelve months their office spent over £2,500 000! •'ln this war, material—equipment of all sorts—is playing a much larger part than it has in any previous war," declared Lieutenant-C-ommander A. C. Bushey, officer in charge of U.S. vessel repairs in the New Zealand area, discussing this work of ship repair. "We daren't let it be said again that what was supplied was too little and too late These engineering firms are playing a most important part. When a date is set for a ship to sail it must be met, regardless of circumstances Your people here are co-operating to the limit, and making a real con tribution."

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Bibliographic details

U.S. Ship Repairs Earn City £50,000 Monthly, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 188, 10 August 1945

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U.S. Ship Repairs Earn City £50,000 Monthly Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 188, 10 August 1945

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