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By the mid-1960s, containers were starting to radically re-shape traditional cargo shipping operations, and the containership ACT 1 was one of the vessels in the vanguard of the UK industry's response to developments. By Andrew Linington
By the mid-1960s, containers were starting to radically re-shape traditional cargo shipping operations, and the containership ACT 1 was one of the vessels in the vanguard of the UK industry's response to developments.
The first containerships had been converted from tankers, but in 1968 United States Lines had introduced the first purpose-built vessels, the C7 Lancer Class. In 1967, Atlantic Container Line introduced its G1 ships – including the UK-flagged Atlantic Star – to bring containerisation to the transatlantic services.
British shipping companies were determined to rise to the challenge and in 1965, four of the UK's largest liner companies – P&O, Blue Funnel, British & Commonwealth, and Furness Withy – joined forces to launch Overseas Containers Limited (OCL).
Early in the following year, five other British shipping companies – Ben Line, Blue Star Line, Cunard (Port Line), Ellerman Lines and Harrison Line – formed a rival to OCL, Associated Container Transport (ACT).
ACT (Australia) was established in 1967 by Blue Star, Ellerman and Port Line, who ordered three 1,130TEU vessels for the containerisation of services between Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The three ACT ships were designed to run in collaboration with five OCL vessels on what was known as the Australia Europe Container Service, a consortium which also included Nedlloyd, Hapag-Lloyd, Messageries Maritimes, and the Australian National Line.
ACT 1 was one of the world's first purpose-built containerships. Right from the start, the Union raised concerns about the impact of the new service on crews