Port Elizabeth of Yore: Shipping Activity of 13th April 1935

During the first half of the 20th century, one major service, now in severe decline, occupied a prominent place in the city’s commercial life. That was shipping and its ancillary services. It was fortunate to represent both major industries in Port Elizabeth: the export of wool and the importation of motor vehicles’ parts to be assembled in the two major motor plants viz General Motors and Ford.

To satisfy the interests of commerce and the general public in these activities, The Eastern Province Herald ran various articles regularly on these activities. Interestingly these articles even listed the names of passengers.

My uncle, George Wood, the representative for Mitchell Cotts in Port Elizabeth, kept copies of these newspaper clippings especially where they mentioned him. This is an example of such an article published on the 13th April 1935 and provides an insight into a vital aspect of commercial activity.

Main photo: Port entry of PE photographed on the 5 Jan1938 from the bridge of the German battleship training ship – SCHLESWIG HOLSTEIN during its 6 months cruise around Africa.

In the article Scrap Log of the Harbour in the E.P. Herald dated 13th April 1935, it reports the following:The troop (sic) aboard the Heraclites is probably a paying freight, but livestock on a 40-day passage through the tropics makes the Houston steamer’s voyage no pleasure cruise. Resinous pitch pine provides a more agreeable cargo so far as smell is one of five senses left to sailors. The Gunnaren of the Swedish Transatlantic Line is due on Monday morning with another 29 standards of Baltic timber and an unusual portion of a Baltic trader’s total cargo – 998 tons of general cargo.

6th December 1934. Warwick Castle becoming the first mail ship to berth on the Charl Malan Quay

They also have one of their Australian ships, the Mirrabooka, due here on the 22nd, to discharge, but details of her manifest have yet to be advised.

Mr. George Wood

And, just as this is written, he who personifies the Baltic trade so far as Port Elizabeth is concerned, celebrates his silver jubilee before even middle age overtakes him. Mr. George Wood, who from boyhood has marked the ships that have become bywords in Algoa Bay, and, as one of the younger shipping men here, looks like making his mark on many more, has just concluded his 25th year in the service of Mitchell Cotts (S.A.) Ltd. His shadow is not likely to grow less as the Charl Malan Quay is extended.

George Wood

The Wangoni of the German Africa Lines is also on the list to arrive on Easter Sunday but is not [expected to]sail until Easter Monday if she holds her current schedule. She was in port on Wednesday discharging all items from the continent and is returning to land a [indecipherable] wood shipment, reported as being pines and 8,000 bales, for German interests.

The Wangoni’s outward tonnages, if more than 641 tons, shows improvement out of Hamburg which the Altoma of the German Australian Line is likely to confirm.

PE Harbour at night by Dorothy Lovemore in 1937 in NMM AM

The Altoma here next Wednesday is authoritatively reported to have the heaviest  cargo to be carried from Hitlerised Germany, in a German ship, for South Africa, within the last three years. The Reichsbank has found means through the reichsmark to square the circle between our wool shipments and German exports trade, in short, is following the swastika.

Mention was made last week of a full timber cargo on the water from Vancouver for three ports in South Africa. The motor ship, Borgastad, a Norwegian, is now discharging at Lourenco Marques and is not now due here until after Easter. She has a heavier load for this port than was first thought. 4,500 tons of Canadian Pine.

Most men would think that one who had his ship discharge 2,100 tons in one working day, and yet felt deeply disappointed, was slightly obdurate. If boxboards in shooks may be considered an ideal cargo for breaking records, an odd hundred tons over 2,000 sounds like hustle. It is not done every day, but it was done this week at the Charl Malan Quay, for the first time.

The Hammaren, of the Swedish Transatlantic Line, berthed on Tuesday morning when eight gangs were awaiting her to shake her up. The Port gave her five cranes and the stevedores trimmed over-side three derricks. Then she had 2,485 tons to come out and had t load 242 wool bales. When the hatches were covered at 5 p.m. there remained only 385 tons to discharge. That was a good job of work, but the ship’s agents were dejected. They wanted to clear her in one day.

Cranes loading paper rolls onto train in Port Elizabeth harbour


Scrap Log of the Harbour in the E.P. Herald dated 13th April 1935

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