High Walker Yard No. 104 Owned & Operated by – The Peninsular & Oriental
S.N.Co, London Dimensions – 159.1m x 20.5m
Displacement – 8,934 grt Crew – 87-88 personnel plus accomodations for up to 12
passengers Date of shipwreck – October 23rd 1959
The loss of the Shillong
In October 1957, the Shillong departed the Ushant, loaded with 11,700 tons of general cargo, 6 passengers, 26 British Officers and 61 crew, en route to TsingTao, China, under the command of Captain E.J. Spurling. After making port calls at Almeria, Spain and Genoa, Italy, she sailed to Port Said, where she joined a south-bound convoy through the Suez Canal. The convoy anchored in the Great Bitter Lake to allow a northbound convoy to pass and then to await fog to clear before proceeding to Port Tewfik. After clearing Port Tewfik on October 22nd 1959, she increased speed and continued south through the Gulf of Suez in weather described as being fine and clear. The Shillong overtook and passed slower-moving south-bound vessels, while at the same time north-bound vessels were passing her on both sides. At 20:00 the bridge watch was changed by the 2nd Officer and a training cadet. Two hours later the light of Ras Gharib was sighted, while she was moving in one of the narrowest parts of the Gulf of Suez, with 2 other south-bound vessels and 2 north-bound vessels advancing towards her. The 2 north-bound vessels, the Purina Congo and the Scotland altered course by 20 degrees, which placed them on a collision course with the Shillong’s port bow. As the Ras Gharib light drew near, the five vessels were converging on each other, greatly reducing the manoeuvring capabilities of the Shillong. At less than a mile apart, the 2nd Officer ordered a hard turn to starboard when, at the same time the oncoming vessel, the Purina Congo, altered her course as well !!! The 2nd Officer then ordered Emergency Full Astern…..but it was too late. The Purina Congo struck the Shillong, leaving a huge gash in the amidships area, flooding the ship’s engine room and the port side cargo oil tank. As the ship was flooding, the order to abandon ship was given. As the starboard lifeboats were finally deployed, the ship’s crew abandoned the sinking vessel, with Captain Spurling to be the last one to leave the ship. The ship finally sank just after midnight in the separation channel just north of the July Oilfield. The M/V Skotland, the other north-bound vessel, returned and rescued the crew. Two crew members were killed in the initial collision, and a third died sometime afterwards.