SD-14 Liberty Replacement Ship

This standard ship, a so-called “Liberty replacement ship”, was the success ship of the 19th century. The Austin & Pickersgill and Bartram and Sons shipyards in Sunderland, GB were responsible for the type of ship to come on the market. Of the SD-14 around 250 units were built in the Great Britain and Greece. I.H.I. in Japan built about 80 SD-14’s and another 34 SD-14’s Mark III were built in Brasil.

The SD-14 is a full-scantling Shelter Deck, hence the SD. Nowadays this is called a tweendecker.The SD-14 was BRT / DWT: 8,953 / 15,149 in size (Panama measurement) and the LxWxHxD. was 140.97 / 20.46 / 11.74 / 8.86. Propulsion was by a Hawthorn-Leslie-Sulzer diesel engine, type: 5RD68 of 7,500 rpk good for a speed of 15 miles.

It is interesting to note that, by 1990, only 10 ships had been scrapped for commercial reasons, a further three were going to the breaker’s yard after marine accidents. Of the dozen vessels reported as sunk, at least two fell victim to missile attack during the Iran/Iraq conflict.


I was lucky to visit Austin & Pickersgill in 1976. I was a cadet coming to the end of my time and had to do a thesis for my ONC in Nautical Studies which was allied to 2nd Mates. Luckily we were in Sunderland for a fortnight.

With the SD 14s it was much like buying a car, you could elect for the basic model (3 cylinder Doxford, basic accommodation, derricks, wire pull Macgregors) up to a top of the range with options like heavy lift, cranes, Sulzer ME en suite accommodation, hydraulic lids. Whatever the option it was the same hull. Somewhere I still have the brochures from A & P.

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Crew’s mess room with uncomfortable wooden benches and the cheapest plastic chairs.

A typical British twist was that the SD-14’s had fireplaces with imitation coal fires in the smoke-room which some called terrible crap plastic fires! The accommodation was very basic, spartan you might say, cold in the arctic, hot in the tropics, small cramped accommodation. Not much joy for the crew.

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I surveyed a bunch of these in my ABS days.

During the early 80’s the US Maritime Administration started developing plans for a Emergency War Design which was designated EC3 or EC4. It was apparently a modified version of the USNS Schulyer Otis Bland, a bastardization of the C3 and C4 designs and was often called a “prototype C4 Mariner”. The final details of the newer design were never finalized, as the propulsion system was not chosen, leaning heavily toward medium speed or slow speed diesels…

The C3-S-DX1 was an experimental design and the prototype for a potential mass production vessel in the event of a national emergency. Faster than Liberty ships but with a similar cargo capacity, the Maritime Commission intended for the C3-S-DX1 design to be a central part of post-war commercial and military shipping. During construction, however, the vessel was surpassed by the C4-S-1A “Mariner” design and Schuyler Otis Bland was the only vessel built.

The Bland was a civilian-owned ship regularly employed by the U.S. Navy for covert operations such as to transport defoliants incognito and that was able to bypass customs inspections of military vessels entering foreign ports.


The equipment seen at the left side of the chart table, with the tell tale handles, looks like the Marconi Lodestone radio directionfinder. In those days this instrument fell into the VINI category, Very Important Navigation Instrument. Coming from the English Channel and sailing towards the Azores we could soon hear the very powerful radio signal of the Horta USAF radio beacon. It was a matter of homing on that signal, as I remember on a heading of about 225°. Sailing boats these days are still using the Horta Airport radio beacon transmitting on 360 kHz.

For tanker cleaning purposes it was necessary to reach a milder weather area as soon as possible, hence the Azores. Shortly after coming up to the Azores we changed course to cross the Atlantic and then the Butterworthing of the tanks would start. Most of the time we were headed for Curaçao where Shell had a big refinery for Venezuelan oil or to the Lake of Maracaibo.

Another VINI, the Marconi Radiolocator Mark IV radar. The drilling towers in the Lake of Maracaibo are clearly visible.

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Interesting mention made of the SD14, there was to be a larger class called the SD15 of which only one was ever built .This was the MV Armadale owned by Trinder Anderson 10328 Gross Tons powered by a 4 cylinder 10,000hp Doxford engine

Yes the mv Armadale, one of a kind, was built as a SD-15, a 15.000 ton version, that was marketed as the liner version of the SD14.

Of the type SD-18, the 18.000 ton version with a speed of 15.75 knots, only three were built, the mv Murree, Kaghan and Ayubia.

On October 28, 1989 the Murree foundered 15 miles off Start Point, Devon during a severe storm. The crew of 40 were rescued by helicopters. The two winchmen from 771 Squadron were awarded the George Medal for bravery during an operation in which all the crew were rescued including two women and two babies. The two winchmen were the last remaining on the ship when she suddenly sank, they jumped 90 ft into 20 ft seas before being winched to safety.


The SD-14’s were economically built, not to use the word cheap. Wherever possible corrugated iron was used, like on the side of the accommodation. This meant thinner plating and no or less strengthening steel thus less steel weight.

These days you see more and more modern ships were corrugated iron is widely used for the same reasons.

I wonder what the savings are if the ship is built in China where steel work costs next to nothing.

Good question, no idea, but I suppose the Chinese as master imitators also have copied this trend. The Santa Barbara was built by Iwagi Shipbuilding in Kamijima, Japan.

Customers could choose from a variety of loading gear. Some examples can be seen here.


A SD-14 with containers on deck.

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Also in the planning was a SD 14 that would be built as a passenger ship, rather ambitious, but that was never built due to bureaucracy. The design was known as SD14-P. It would have accommodation for 198 passengers and 86 crew members. The passengers were accommodated in 2 bed suites and 2 and 3 bed cabins. Public spaces, including a dining room, lounge with dance floor, swimming pool and a shop were planned.

Outside the navigation mast just in front of the chimney, the ship had no masts. It was equipped with two deck cranes, 1 x 25 tons, the other 12½ tons that could work the 4 holds. The container capacity would be 108 TEU. The chimney shape was in the middle between the types used by Alfred Holt and the Blue Funnel Line. Very British indeed, so to say.

The construction costs for this designed ship were estimated at 16,000,000 pounds sterling. Later another design was chosen that was calculated at 19 million, but then again adjusted to 24 million. However, it never happened…