Khorramshahr

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With such a long time at anchor off Doha, Qatar, there was not any excuse not to write home – at least we didn’t pay for the postage. We handed our letters to the purser or chief steward, which was then handed over to our agent, along with any Company communication. The Company mail was bagged for head office in London and posted. As you see everything was what we call ‘snail mail’ today – life without the internet.

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We sailed from Doha for Kuwait after our thirteen days of hanging around at anchor and only working cargo for a day.

Leaving Doha on the 12th July, we arrived off Kuwait at 4.00 pm on the 13th and of course we anchored . . .

Kuwait from the air

Kuwait from the air – picture from the internet.

We stood anchor watches (the same system as at sea), so I was on the mid-day to 4.00 pm and the midnight to 4 am. I remember recording the temperature at 4.00 am as I completed the ship’s log  37 c ( 98 F), It was a warm night, but not as hot as the lunch time report, which listed the temperature as 45 c (113 F) mat 1.00 pm, and we didn’t have air-conditioning and everything that was metal was too hot to touch, which meant most of the ship outside the accommodation.

The following day we moved alongside to work cargo. An uneventful day of heat and dust and the smell of oil, but what would I expect being in the Gulf?

To reach our next port we would be sailing up the Arvand Rud if we wished to discharge in an Iranian port or the Shatt-al Arab if we wished to do business with Iraq. Both side of the river were ‘touchy’ as to how we named the river.

shatt_al_arabAs you see Kuwait is at the bottom of the map and our destination was to be Basra in Iraq.
Khorramshahr & Abadan are both on the Iranian side of the river.

Shah

In 1968 the Shah was still in control at that time and things did not change until Khomeini

Khomeini arrived in 1979.

From Kuwait we sailed to Basra, the plan being to call at the Iranian ports on the way south – this was our normal procedure.

We arrived in Basra on, I think, the 17th July, which was the day of the Ba’thist bloodless coup d’état in Iraq

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and this gentleman became Vice President. The photo is of when he was a very young man and became more recognizable later in life

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Saddam Hussein in 1980

From memory, the change in government did not affect us and after working cargo we sailed for Iran.

On arrival in Khorramshahr (Iran) on Saturday 27th July, I received a letter from the Company that I was to fly home because my contract for two and a half years on the eastern service had come to an end.
I don’t think I’d ever packed my bags as fast as I did that day – goodbye heat and sand!

My relief walked up the gangway and I warmly welcomed him and offered him my last cold bottle of beer. . . .what a sacrifice!

The ship’s agent drove me to Abadan to catch a plane to Tehran for the connecting flight to London.

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Iran Air B727 /100 had been in service with Iran Air for a couple of years before I flew with them in 1968, configuration was 106 passengers in two classes, I was of course in economy.
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B727 / 100 seating – I was near the back.

As I checked in for the flight at Abadan airport I was surprised at the large amount of hand baggage  that passengers were allowed to carry in to the passenger cabin considering how small the cabin was, in comparison to today’s aircraft.
I’d flown around Asia & Australia to join various ships so I was aware of the restrictions re cabin baggage, but Iran Air didn’t seem to have the same restrictions.

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One person had a small primes stove.

After we had taken off and the seat belt light had been switched off the man with the primes stove squatted in the aisle and lit the stove to make his tea . . . .

Nobody reacted near the tea maker, and as I had an aisle seat I undid my seat belt to tell the tea maker to put out the naked light. Before I had had gone two steps there was a blared movement of a stewardess (one could use this word in 1968) moving from the forward part of the aircraft to the tea maker. I’ve never seen a crew member move so fast before or since.

The flight was IR 800 and we left Abadan at 10.45 pm (2245 hr), flight time was about 90 minutes.
We landed at Mehrabad airport, which at the time was Tehran’s primary airport. The link will give you an idea of ‘yesterday’s’ travelling – it is silent. There weren’t any aero-bridges at that time.
The aircraft in the short film was not the aircraft in which I flew.
My connecting flight was due out at 02.55 hrs (02.55 am) Sunday, it was going to be a long night.

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In 2007 a new airport opened in Tehran for international flights. It is called
Imam Khomeini International Airport. (Picture from the internet)

 

 

 

B.H.S

 

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B.H.S = Boredom – Heat – Sand (and for my British readers BHS is not British Home Stores!)

We sailed from Muscat for Doha, but for some reason, which I can’t remember, we were diverted to Bahrain, which is 130 km ( 81 miles) as the crow flies from Doha, but a little longer by sea.

The above map shows how close most of the ports are to the Straits of Hormuz.

Before we arrived at Bahrain we were diverted again to Dammam, which is in Saudi Arabia. I have underlined Dammam with a green line. Again, not all that far as a diversion but . . .

The problem for us was that we had loaded the cargo in a set way for discharge i.e Doha, Bahrain, Dammam, but by making Dammam our first port of call we had to move the Bahrain & Doha cargo before we could discharge Dammam cargo – a small detail that had to be taken in to account.
Due to delays in Bahrain I think our Gulf agency was trying to avoid further delays by unloading Dammam before Bahrain.

Dammam was, and still is, an oil port, so there was little incentive to go ashore, plus Saudi Arabia was ‘beerless’.
We had to contend with sandstorms mixed with dust and the overpowering smell of crude oil. I thought I’d left that particular perfume when I left tanker life in 1963.

It was not a happy stay because we had to constantly check the cargo being discharged. The supervisors failed in their jobs to identify cargo destined for Dammam, as against Bahrain or Doha.
With a language barrier (supervisors were expected to speak & understand English but didn’t), and the heat and dust, while  standing on the wharf sweating pints to get the labour to reloaded certain cargo was a ‘trying’ time.

I was told by one supervisor that he was a fine fellow who had worked on many British ships . . . biting ones tongue so that we were not in this port any longer than necessary, was a huge effort.

There was a suggestion made that we should ask Australian exporters to write the contents of each box in Arabic, because this might stop the labour breaking in to as many boxes as possible to find something worth stealing.
We had cartons of tinned peas, and other vegetables, which were broken in to, and the cans were opened by the labour, who then drank the liquid and threw the rest away. The pictures of peas & vegetables on the cans didn’t mean anything.
Cartons of liquid detergent were also broken in to and the detergent consumed, at least the thieves would have been ‘regular’ thieves. . . .

I think we were in Dammam for two long days before sailing to Bahrain and anchoring off while waiting for barges to come out to us.
Bahrain did have berths for deep sea ships, but the only time I was on a ship that went alongside was on my first ship in 1962, which was a tanker. So, I think the berths were tanker berths, not general cargo berths, which is why we anchored.

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Arad Fort Bahrain – built in the 15th century, before the Portuguese arrived in 1622.

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Manama Bahrain in the late 1960’s – Manama is the capital.

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Manama today – Picture is from the internet.

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Another shot of Bahrain in the 1960’s – we liked Bahrain because it allowed us to buy Red Barrel beer legally. Buying a beer in the Gulf was always ‘hard work’, unless you had access to private clubs such as the British Club in Basra or you went ashore (via dhow) in Bahrain.

It was very pleasant to sit ashore and drink a cold beer, a different feeling than drinking the same beer on board ship – small pleasures.

Our next port was Doha, and we arrived at 4.00 am and anchored. We hoped that we would begin discharging cargo at daybreak, but we just sat at anchor all day. To keep cool we would shower, but not dry off but just stand in the shade on deck allowing the water to evaporate to cool down.

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Doha in 1968 – picture is from the internet

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Coastal strip in 1968

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Today . . .

Qatar, the capital being Doha, gained independence from the British in 1971, after being a British protectorate since early in the 20th century.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani signed a treaty with the British in 1868 that Britain recognised Qatar as a separate status at the end of the Qatari – Bahraini war of 1867–1868.

In 1867 the ruler of Bahrain sent his brother with 500 men and 24 boats to attack Qatar. The attack was joined by a force of 200 men under Ahmed al Khalifa, and the Abu Dhabi ruler also sent 2000 men in a further 70 boats.
Doha was sacked and basically wiped off the map, the houses destroyed and the people deported.

The following year, 1868, a Qatari force counter attacked Bahrain, and destroyed 60 ships and 1000 people were killed.

Lewis

British Resident at Bahrain Lewis Pelly – Lt General, KCSI (Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India) awarded in 1874. Click on the link to read of an interesting life.

Lewis Pelly, accused Bahrain of breaking maritime law by attacking Qatar in 1867 and he fined Bahrain 10,000 Iranian Tomans.

One Iranian Toman was the equivalent of 10,000 dinars or about £740 British pounds at that time.
So the total fine was around £7 million (GBP) in 1868, which allowing for inflation, is about £125 million (GBP) today. A large sum for a small area like Bahrain that had yet to find oil . . . .

The official currency of Persia was (is) the Rial and 10,000 rials would equal one toman, which itself is a Mongolian word due to the Mongolian invasion around 14 AD, but spelled as tomen, which in Mongolian means ‘unit of ten thousand’.

The current Iranian currency can be referred to in two ways as rials or toman, which for a foreigner is confusing, but the actual notes and coins are the same.
In 2019 the Iranian Government passed a Bill that the currency would change from rial to toman and this would take place in May 2020, and the change over will be phased in over the next two years.

Back to 1968 . . .

We sat at anchor for days waiting for labour to come out to us and discharge the cargo. With temperatures around 40 c (109 F) at 4.00 pm in the afternoon, life was a little tedious to say the least.

We did have one high moment – a group of us where outside around 4.30 pm having a beer (in the shade) when we heard a loud shout from the Chief Engineer – he’d just had a telegram from England that his wife had given birth to their first child – it was party time!

We lay at anchor for thirteen days, the sea like a mirror and our position was sheltered from any cooling breeze. It was hot!

We did experience a ‘small’ distraction when another BI ship anchored near us – she was the MV Chyebassa.

Chyebassa

Any diversion from the heat and boredom was welcome. On the day of the Chyebassa’s arrival I was on duty, but the other officers went across to her and many stayed the night, and the following day MV Juna reciprocated the hospitality.

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MV Juna

It was a pleasure to rekindle friendships with two cadets that I’d sailed with when in MV Bankura, in 1966 on the India to New Zealand run and the second engineer I’d sailed with when in MV Pundua in 1967 on the India, Hong Kong, Japan run. It was have another beer, and ‘remember when’ time . . . . a very pleasant interlude.

Bankura

MV Bankura

Pundua

MV Pundua

Thanks to the heat during our time at anchor I think we were Allsopp’s best customers in the Persian Gulf,

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and when we eventually sailed for Kuwait we didn’t have any regrets leaving Doha, even though Kuwait was not on our holiday list.

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Kuwait maybe on certain people’s holiday list today, but I doubt that it was a holiday destination in 1968.

 

 

 

Kuwait

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The emblem of Kuwait

Kuwait is about 277 miles north of Dammam, or a short seventeen hour voyage, but far enough away for the weather to have changed for the worse.

We arrived off Kuwait at night during a wild storm with high winds and dashing rain that hammered on the bridge windows. The clear view screen was going flat out.

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The Clear View is a circular area of the bridge window that spins at high speed which doesn’t allow water to ‘grip’ on the glass. As the rest of the bridge windows might be ‘blind’ by sea spray or heavy rain the ‘Clear View’ is always clear for those on the bridge, a limited amount of visibility on this night was in great demand.

Of course, we had to arrive during the midnight to 4.00 am watch, which was my watch, so I had all the fun. We had tugs in attendance, which helped us to ease our way alongside, cargo ship in the 1960’s didn’t have side thrusters to ease a ship into a berth.

People don’t think that it can get cold in the Persian Gulf, but it can, and during my time in the tanker (62- 63) we had ice on the deck after a cold night. Admittedly it didn’t last long once the sun came up, but it was still cold if you were out and about.

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The above is Kuwait in the early 1960’s. I sent this post card home to my parents, so I was surprised that it came to light recently. Obviously, I am a hoarder of the old school.

Kuwait may be on certain people’s bucket list today, but in the mid 60’s it was not a holiday town, and foreigners were there to work, and not holiday.

The smell of oil hung over the whole area and just forty kilometres south of Kuwait was Mina al Ahamadi, which was my first port that I visited on my first ship in 1962, which was the tanker.

Due to its location Kuwait has been a crossroad for trade for thousands of years. Evidence has been found that there was a society living in the area 8,000 years ago. The island of Failaka, which is just of the Kuwait coast, is where the Mesopotamian people settled in 2,000 BC.

In 400 BC the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, colonised the area, and even today the remains of a Greek temple and fort can be seen.

In the fifteen hundred Kuwait was under the control of the Portuguese and they built a defensive settlement.

By the 1700’s Kuwait was part of the trading route from India to Basrah, Baghdad, and on to Constantinople. The British East India Company controlled the sea route from India to Kuwait.

Kuwait became a melting pot of nationalities,and was ethnically diverse & was known for its religious tolerance.

In 1899 Kuwait signed a treaty with the British, granting Great Britain the responsibility of Kuwait’s foreign affairs, and Kuwait became a British protectorate.

In the early 20th century during WW 1 Kuwait supported the Ottoman Empire (the Turks), so Great Britain imposed a trade blockade, which damaged Kuwait’s economy.

As the pearl trade declined a number of prominent families turned to smuggling gold from Kuwait to India, and some became very rich.

In the 1960’s it was not uncommon for sailors to take advantage of the fact that Kuwait was a ‘very’ dry State concerning alcohol.
This created opportunities for some to buy spirits on their ship and to hoard it until they reached Kuwait.
On anchoring to wait for the labour to come out to work cargo, small dhows would arrive at night to buy the liquor, via basket at the end of a rope lowered to the dhow. Of course is was cash in the basket before lowering the alcohol.
The cash was then spent in Kuwait to buy gold jewellery, which the ‘smuggler’ wore, around his neck or as bracelets or rings when he went ashore in Bombay.
He would sell the jewellery & have a good time with the profit, and any cash left over would be exchanged for various currencies, other than Indian rupees, using a foreign passport, and so began the circle once again.

Just to be clear I did not take part in this trade.

After WW1 Saudi Arabia attacked Kuwait, in what is now known as the Kuwait Najd War, which further damaged Kuwait. The Saudi’s wanted to incorporate Kuwait into Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia blockaded Kuwait from 1923 to 1937.

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The above map shows how precarious Kuwait was with Saudi Arabia, Iraq & Iran as potential aggressors. Kuwait is the white area on the map.

Kuwait suffered economically for years until 1938, when they found oil and things changed.
Due to the oil Iraq now claimed Kuwait as part of their territory and offered incentives in support of an uprising in Kuwait, which failed.

The oil revenue helped Kuwait to become the largest exporter of oil in the Gulf at that time, and major public works took place throughout the country.

In 1961 they became independent of Britain when the protectorate ended. Six days after they became independent Iraq resumed its claim that Kuwait belonged to Iraq, which was knocked back by the British, and later also by the Arab League.

The period from 1948 to 1982 is recognised as the Kuwaiti golden age of development.

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A close up of the earlier map – I’ve underlined with green Kuwait – also Abadan, and Basrah, which are both on the Shatt Al-Arab, Abadan is in Iran & Basrah is in Iraq.

After discharging our cargo we sailed for Abadan – we were virtually empty of cargo, our fuel was low and we were still on water rationing, so we had very little weight to allow our propeller to dig in to the water – everything on board shook as the engine struggled to drive us forward because only part of the propeller could be used. Talk about shaking . . .    Shake rattle & roll  it was not just the pots & pans, but the furniture, our bunks, the crockery, everything vibrated, and the vibrations were felt through our bodies, which was not a pleasant feeling because it was constant.

We sailed after lunch and took our time to sail the 120 km (about 70 miles) so as to arrive at the mouth of the Shatt al Arab just after midnight, where we anchored to await the pilot for the river transit.

Being on the midnight to 4.00 am watch I was on anchor watch – the pilot for the river transit was due to board us at 4.00 am.