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Southampton Castle

Vessel type Cargoship
Year launched 1964
Cargo type General cargo
Country of build United Kingdom

Featured in the July edition of the 1965 Telegraph, Southampton Castle was claimed to be the most powerful diesel ship afloat.

The build

Southampton Castle was built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd. The ship had a loa of 592ft 9in breadth moulded 77ft 3in and depth to upper deck 46ft 2in.

The 13,152-tons-dwt vessel had a service speed of 22.5 knots and was propelled by two Wallsend-Sulzer eight-cylinder RD90 diesel engines, giving a total continuous output of 34,720 bhp at 119 rpm. On trials, Southampton Castle attained 20 knots at only 28,000 bhp.

Technological innovation

The machinery installation was designed on the basis of operation by one engineroom officer. Onboard there was an engineroom staff of two on each watch, and the senior engineer officer watched the overlap by one hour to allow a proper handover. There were specially designed check off lists which were used as an acceptance system.

Normal operation was carried out from a central air-conditioned control room within the engineroom. The whole of the cargo refrigeration system was supervised from this central control room.


Deck manning originally proposed by the company included chief, second, third and fourth officers, but after discussion, this was changed to chief, second, junior second and third officers. The chief officer would not keep a watch.

A 50-line automatic telephone exchange was installed for communications between all senior personnel, catering and other services. A talk-back loud speaker system linked up the wheelhouse with the bridge wings and nine other deck positions.


The Union Castle Line cargo mail ship formed, with its sistership Good Hope Castle and five passenger mail ships, the fleet operating the speeded-up Southampton-Cape Town service which started in June 1965. Thanks to these new vessels, passage time was cut from 13 and a half days to 11 and a half.


Unpopular with passengers? Rose King remembers how passengers weren't keen on Southampton Castle's lack of entertainment. Read more...


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