Smit-Lloyd supply vessels


I attended the sea trials of the Smit-Lloyd 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 14. In good seaman’s tradition number 13, which could bring disaster to the ship, was skipped. Those sea trials on a rough North Sea were often not exactly for the faint hearted. Scores of landlubbers from the yard and others became very sea sick, the penetrating stench of vomit was everywhere. They were kicked out of the accommodation but mostly too late…

Some Smitlloyd supply ship data: L x B x D: 59,77 x 11,71 x 4.10 meters. Tonnage 799. Propulsion by two 6 cylinder Industrie engines with a total of 2700 Hp or 1986 kW. Pulling force 34 tons. Speed 14 knots. By putting the accommodation on the fore ship a thirty meter long flat deck was created.

Sailin’ Home.

The Smilloyd 100 series had a 10.000 hp propulsion system.

Rock and Roll! Those supply boat captains sailed right through everything.

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Some years back I supervised the emission testing aboard a number of vessels in preparation of a project for one of the oil companies. The group from the testing company were not used to the Gulf of Alaska and all were soon sea sick. One of the guys made it up to the bridge after being laid up for a day or 2 in his rack. He swore he would never set foot on a another boat again and that he was puking from his soul. The way he said it caused the Captain and I to laugh so hard we nearly pissed ourselves.


Not a Smit-Lloyd boat, but it could have been:

One of the reasons I quit going up to the North Sea to do rig moves etc. was standing on a rig and watching an operation much like this.
As Marine Rep I had pressured them to start anchor handling operation in “marginal” conditions. Watching the crew risking life and limps on the deck I decided it was best to quit before I would be the cause of somebody getting seriously injured or die to save some hours of rig time.

You are one of the few. Most of the others must have been real “office” types.

“What are those damn things running around on the anchor deck and how can we get rid of them? They get in the way.” Overhead on a semi MODU bridge from the Marine Superintendent

Smit-Lloyd 106 - Anchor handling.

These guys were not afraid of anything, not even of the devil…

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This was not GoM. In the North Sea the situation was very different, at least in the 1980s onward.

After the Ekofisk Bravo and Alexander Kjelland accidents the requirements for qualifications were strengthened, both for drill crew and marine crew in the Norwegian sector.

The OIM on mobile rigs of all types had to be a Master Mariner with additional specialized training and previous experience as Stability Supervisor on Offshore rigs.

Schooling, courses and certification for drill crews were also implemented:

Settle down Beavis.

Companies all over the world preach safety, safety safety until it gets in the way of what they want accomplished.


Those Smit-Lloyd boats were great boats. Well equipped with some real thought put into the layout . But then I was on a Tidewater boat working the same rig.:frowning:

The Smit-Lloyd suppliers contained a tank for the transport of oil, water, cement and chemicals. The design was typically Dutch failsafe; if the supply business went sour - it was a new thing and thus a kind of gamble in the beginning - the tank with the cement equipment could be removed and the ship would become more or less a normal tugboat. Clever…

Back in '76, I worked the last quarter on a seismic vessel in the North Sea. Mobil sent 2 newly minted geologists from Oklahoma to join us in Lerwick the last week of November. This was their first time on salt water. The first week was flat calm. One told me going to sea ain’t so bad. The next 2 weeks we had the shit kicked out of us. These guys alternated various shades of green and grey. They weren’t cut any slack. On the trip to the shipyard in Falmouth, it calmed down. The smart-mouthed one was getting his appetite back. Our cook (retired Navy Chief and master ball-buster) asked him how he wanted his eggs. His reply was any way, I don’t care, I’m hungry! The cook cracked an egg and swallowed it raw and said “like that”? I didn’t see the guy again until it was time for him to catch the train to London.
The next 2 geos Mobil sent to the vessel in January laughed about their classmates getting sick. They thought they had it made because we were going to survey 2 weeks in the Bay of Biscay. They turned the same shades and colors.


We had guys who pretended to be helpful and asked such victims: Do you know what really helps against sea sickness? Yes, they were very eager to know. You must tie a raw herring on a string, lower it down your throat and move it slowly up and down. And then the same moment they were gone…

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Your “all over the world” may be a bit limited??


The North Sea offshore oil and gas boom started in the sixties. As at the start there was little knowledge in Europe about this new kind of business Americans, who had ample experience from drillings in the GOM, were called in to help out. It was a colorful lot with Texas drawls, enormous boots, hats and loud voices. They swaggered around the offices and in the mean time letting us know that we were a complete bunch of idiots and retards who would probably never learn this trade. They regarded the North Sea as a kind of pond or at best an inner sea. No, then the GOM, that was a different matter.

After a while we were sick and tired of their belittling attitude. Our chance came when four of them wanted to board the oilrig by boat, not by helicopter for a change. The rig was at about 150 miles from shore. The weather was not very good but we knew it would be worsening soon. We informed the captain of the Smit-Lloyd vessel and asked him to give them a ride for their money and it seemed he did. They had no idea about the some times filthy weather conditions in the North Sea, it can be a regular hell hole.

When they arrived at the platform they already were a broken lot. The weather was so bad that they could not be hoisted up to the platform either. At that location 12 meter waves were at times normal. Now they had to make the return trip also by boat! When they disembarked they looked like hell, the swagger was totally gone. Now they knew. Never underestimate the North Sea or she will take her revenge…


They missed the Draupner freak wave which was with a maximum wave height of 25.6 metres. A normal wave breaks at the top, not this one it keeps climbing up and up.


The famous Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) made a painting of The Great Wave off Kanagawa which looks exactly like the real wave.


It was recreated by scientists by making two smaller wave groups that crossed at an angle of 120 degrees. It was found that it was possible to recreate the full scaled amplitude of the original Daupner measurement. The height of waves produced under these conditions is not limited by breaking in the same way.


The old timers in the GOM (there are a few still around). When I returned to the oilfield in 2007 from the USCG, I ran into a few. Most had retired or moved to the office. I sailed with a couple while studying for my Master’s license.

They are shells of their former selves from my memories of them from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Alcohol, drugs, weight gain, diabetes and hepatitis took their toll. I could still see the embers in their eyes flare when they discussed working the North Sea at the beginning.

From your memories and experiences, I understand you being proud of where safety has ended up. You have been blessed by not having to work in the grey area or when you started hearing circus music. I have seen that with SHELL, TRANSOCEAN, EXXONMOBIL, and most other big players. Now, think about working in our industry when profits and results become #1, safety a distance second, and those same loudmouth you dealt with in positions of real power.

BP talked a good game but I worked under DWH/Macondo before the “incident” and even the OSV guys knew that was an evil well. Long, late-night discussions with the crane operators did not give us the technical side, but we were not surprised when that well lashed out. It lowered my view of BP immensely.

I never worked the North Sea but have the ultimate respect for the people that have and made it work and made our industry safer or at least gave us the option.


In the early 1970s Brown & Root took one of their lay barges (B 352 I believe) and a burying barge from GoM over to the North Sea to work on the Forties pipeline.
They also brought a couple of West India Line boats as pipe carriers:

I met one of the Captains that had been on the WIL boats in Japan in 1976 when loading heavy lifts on WIL boats for Saudi Aramco. He explained that the attitude was that; “the North Sea is not even as big as the GoM so what is the problem”?
When the first autumn storm rolled in off the Atlantic the B 352 was caught flat footed. The deck got washed bare of loose equipment, including life rafts. Even the crawler crane went overboard.

The first GoM drilling rig that was towed across to work in the North Sea was the “Mr. Cap” (Le Tourneau’s Blt. No. 3)
Mr.Cap 2
She later came to S.E.Asia as R&B’s “Chris Segar” and worked for Brunei Shell.
The Superintendent for R&B had been on her in the North Sea as Driller when working in the Southern Gas fields. He told some stories.

In the beginning they used the same airgap as used in the GoM (35’)
When the first storm came along, the rig got lifted up and slammed back on the hard sand bottom, resulting in damages to the jacking system, jack towers and surrounding hull structure.

Thereafter they consulted Capt. David Noble to get a recommended airgap for the area of operation, which later became standard procedure.
He had advised on preparation for the tow from GoM to UK as a condition from Lloyds Insurance. (The first Warranty Survey carried out)

The Superintendent in Brunei had also been on board in Galveston at the time and was duly impressed with Capt. Noble. As he told it:
He came on board, walked around the rig, gave us a list of the things to be done and the number to his hotel and said; “When you are ready, call me. If you haven’t done it, don’t bother to call”.

The good ol’ boys appreciated tough talking. I know, I worked with many of them from when I first started as a Freelance Warranty Surveyor with NDA in 1974.


These are the stories I like to hear.

What you describe is fully recognizable. We knew the local circumstances but they just wouldn’t listen to us. They always knew better, we were insignificant nitwits, what an arrogance. They had to find out the hard way and that often happened. Communication, because of that, was almost impossible which created dangerous situations.

Then there was the guys from the GOM who had seen the film “South Pacific “ and were all prepared to work in the Great Southern Basin south of New Zealand. The inhabitants of the port of Bluff had never seen such colourful shirts and after a very brief period would never see again.


One of the most notorious regions for rogue or freak waves is the southern coast of South Africa where the five-knot west-going Agulhas Current meets strong westerlies from the Southern Ocean.

On 31 December 1970 the Smit-Lloyd 102 was on its way to Port Elisabeth with a load of casing (220 tons) when it was hit by two consecutive freak waves. During the night the weather deteriorated to force 9 - 10 and seas 20 - 30 feet, both from the west. These came in from behind and passed the ship. Quartering seas are notoriously dangerous especially for a ship with a ‘bathtub’ aft with a length of about 37 meters.

Around 06.30 a high sea, about 15 meters, came on deck, causing the ship to list heavily, followed very soon after by a second even higher one, on which the ship capsized and later sunk at position 34.07 East 24.09 West. The wheelhouse was forcibly torn from the ship! One of the sailors came to his senses in the water, luckily close to a dinghy he could climb into. Moments later, the helmsman was forcibly blown out of the ship and pulled into the dinghy by the sailor.

The two crew members managed to get free of the ship and were able to get to safety by means of a dinghy. With the help of a floating anchor they stayed at the location for 1 hour, then they were driven by the current to the rocky coast, which came into view after 12 hours. The last mile was done by swimming to a small stretch of beach near Humansdorp (Wreck point). The night was spent in a cabin, the next day they met vacationers who took the two men to hospital.

In fact this was the only major incident in all those years with the Smit-Lloyd ships that I know of. And that in a rough and dangerous working environment. It says something about the reliability and safety of these new type of vessels and of course the seamanship of the crews.

This safety record is remarkable if compared with the situation in the GOM where eight offshore supply vessels capsized and sank between 1956 and 1963. Interesting in this respect is this gCaptain thread. One of the causes of the losses was that the mud tank was mounted on the deck which caused loss of stability and capsizing. They were later mounted below decks.


That’s not a good comparison. The offshore drilling in the '50s were moving from the swamp gradually moving offshore. 1963 deep water drilling was in 10 fathoms. The vessels and equipment had transitioned from supply barges and WW2 surplus vessels to mud boats of various configurations of 150 ft max.