Lykes Lines

Please note: Reagan did not end ODS, ODS continued on until 1997.

You are absolutely correct. Reagan ended CDS in 1981. The end of CDS had the unintended consequence of causing the ODS program to begin to deteriorate. As vessels covered under
an ODS contract approached 25 years of age, the operator would contract for a
new vessel in a U.S. yard and CDS would defray the cost. After CDS ceased, it was economically impossible to have vessels constructed in the United States due to the comparatively high price of domestically produced vessels for international trade.

When CDS ended, with the exception of the 3 Seabees, all of Lykes steamships were built in the 1960’s. Lykes was caught by the short hairs running ships whose time had passed. They tried running the ex-States Lines Ro-Ro’s for a while. In the early 80’s they got into diesels and containerships by purchasing a number of ex-Hansa Line ships. Those 1000TEU ships were tired when they when they got them. I believe some of that tonnage was built in the late 60’s. They did have ships built in Korea but those were chartered to APL once delivered.

IMO, Lykes was not prepared for changes in technology, and government policies. They had a lot of ships, but they were the wrong ships to have when the 1980’s came knocking. By that time their resources were limited.

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Good analysis Seadog. The chartered to APL ships were called L-9’s by us and were pretty good container ships. However, having the house far, far forward they were not confortable riding ships when used in Trans-Pacific service. Later moved to a Singapore/U.A.E. shuttle service they worked well. Ultimately Lykes got their ships back and operated them for a while.

Good stuff!

If/when I run into folks who sailed in those days I like to get perspective on the highs and lows — I always really wanted to find out from an MMP perspective what our top of the line contracts were pre-containerization, or in the boom ship days up to the Vietnam War period.

Before 1980 or so MMP, MEBA and the NMU and surprisingly the SIU all had standard dry-cargo and tanker contracts. Sweetheart contracts were relatively rare. MMP and MEBA had various adjustments for tonnage, horsepower and automation which increased the pay on newer more automated ships. The unions used to publish the rates in their newspapers. This all ended in the early 80s when the SIU and AMO started a race to the bottom, competing for work on the government gray hulls and it didn’t take long for it creep over to commercial contracts.

Mobil west coast had company shop contracts with MEBA and SUP until the merger with Exxon in the late 90s. Chevron had the same until at least the late 80s.

I sailed on the James Lykes, on her last voyages before the breaker yard. I had heard a lot of horror stories, but overall the experience was not that bad and the pay was very good. I think their real problem was with management, they were very short sighted.

Sailed on the Sue and the Leslie about 50 years ago. Sue had one of the best skippers ever. Leslie the worst.
On the Sue we had excellent food - Cookie and the 2nd (baker) each loved his job so much they bought ingredients and made extra stuff during their (too little) off time.
2nd mate on the Sue worked hard to be hated. 2nd engineer was an angel to work with and we literally would never have made it across to the Med without him.
Leslie was great to work on most of the time - when the demon skipper was invisible. Lots of fog that winter in NW Europe.

When I was chief of Outpatient Services at the Galveston Marine Hospital 1969-70), Lykes mariners were a big part of our clientele. Probably # 1 employer among our blue water sailors (we also cared for a large number of inter-coastal, oil rig service & fishing mariners….anyone w a Z card).

I think operations were at a fever pitch at Lykes (the Viet Nam war being at full throttle). Every so often I’d get a call from their Sr. Captain (a Greek name…Stavridis?) who needed to get an officer in for a physical NOW because he was only in port a very short few hours. I always bent over backwards to accommodate those kind of things for our patients and occasionally came in on a weekend to do a physical.

When I was close to getting out, I got the idea that the Merchant Marine Staff Officers “Surgeon” Coast Guard license would be a nice thing to have. If you were medically qualified, the only real obstacle was that you had to get the endorsement of a ship owner/company that they would hire you if/when they had a position.

So I called Lykes Sr. Captain and he was only too happy to write me a letter of endorsement. I got the license, but by the time it came together, I’d been accepted for an eye surgery residency that I’d thought was a long shot but applied for anyway. And that’s what I ended up doing for 36 years.

So I never used the license. But, when I had a cruising sailboat for a number of years, I used to carry the big diploma size license, along w my Z card, in with my “ship’s papers” when going back and forth between Portland & Canadian cruising grounds. It rated the occasional hard look from Coast Guard & border people looking at my documents. Usually they’d say, “Huh! I’ve never seen one of those before!”