The oil tanker Otokia was built for the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand by Messrs. Livingstone and Cooper, Ltd., Hessle, East Yorkshire. The ship was built on the Isherwood system of longitudinal framing, constructed under Lloyd's special survey to Class 100 A1 for carrying petroleum and spirit in bulk with a gross tonnage of about 7,500 and designed to carry about 10,250 tons deadweight on a draught of 26ft. The main cargo pumps were capable of discharging at the rate of 800 tons per hour. There were 20 main oil tanks, 10 summer tanks, deep oil fuel tank forward, and also a cargo hold, water ballast being carried in the after peak, and fresh water the fore peak tank. The propelling machinery consisted of two sets of single-acting two-cycle Diesel engines of the Sulzer type, producing about 3,000 bhp. The fuelling arrangements were sufficient to enable the vessel to travel for a distance of about 18,000 miles without rebunkering. There were two auxiliary oil-fired boilers working at a pressure of 180lb. In view of the existing regulations with regard to oil in navigable rivers and harbors a large separator was fitted to obviate the annoyance caused by the discharge of oily bilge water.
The yard of Livingstone and Cooper, Hessle operated from 1915 to 1926, building a series of coasters and naval tugs, the Otakia would be the last ship built there, which is believed to have drained the company of its resources. The yard closed shortly after its completion.
The Otokia had been purchased to replaced the tanker Orowaiti which had been lost. The steamship Orowaiti (built 1921) had run aground in thick fog at 7pm on August 12th 1924 at Point Buchon whilst in ballast from Wellington to Port San Luis. Attempts to refloat the vessel ended on September 9th 1924 when the plates under the engineroom started to buckle.
On October 9th 1925 the Otokia was noted at Colon on its maiden voyage (?) for New Zealand, it departed Colon October 22nd passing through the Panama Canal.
The primary purpose of the tanker was to transport oil from ports of San Francisco, San Luis (Obispo) & San Pedro, California to Wellington, New Zealand. A round trip from Wellington to California and back to Wellington would on average take about seven weeks. (Not all sailings are recorded in the information below).
1925 November 13th departed Wellington for San Luis, its first trip?.
1926 January 2nd arrived Wellington from California.
1926 March 3rd arrived Wellington NZ from San Luis / San Pedro.
1926 April 16th departed San Francisco for NZ.
1926 May 19th departed Wellington for San Luis.
1926 July 9th arrived Wellington from San Luis.
1926 August 10th departed Port San Luis for NZ.
1926 September 3rd arrived Wellington from San Luis.
1926 September 17th departed Auckland for San Luis.
1926 November 4th arrived Wellington from San Luis.
1926 November 11th departed Wellington for San Francisco.
1927 March 6th arrived Wellington from San Luis (Obispo).
1927 March 15th departed Wellington for San Luis.
1927 May 9th arrived Wellington from San Luis.
1927 May 19th departed Dunedin for San Pedro.
1927 August 28th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1927 September 26th departed Wellington for San Pedro.
1927 October 22nd arrived San Pedro from Wellington.
1927 November 16th arrived Wellington from San Pedro, master Captain Corby prior to this date.
1927 November 21st departed Wellington for San Pedro.
1928 January 10th arrived Wellington from San Luis Obispo.
1928 February 9th/11th at Los Angeles from NZ.
1928 March 11th departed Wellington for San Pedro.
1928 April 8th departed Los Angeles for Wellington.
1928 June 6th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1928 July 2nd arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1928 July 6th departed Wellington for San Pedro.
During the first quarter (?) of 1929 the Otokia visited the Bethlehem Shipbuilding yard at San Francisco for cylinder repairs.
1929 January 10th departed San Francisco for NZ.
1929 April 1st arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1929 May 2nd departed Los Angeles for Wellington.
1929 June 12th departed Auckland for San Luis.
1929 August 11th departed Wellington for San Luis.
1929 October 17th departed Wellington for San Pedro.
1930 January 15th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1930 February 10th arrived Wellington from San Pedro, Tahiti.
1930 February 15th departed Wellington for Los Angeles, arrived March 13th.
1930 March 15th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1930 April 10th arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1930 May 17th at Los Angeles.
1930 May 20th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1930 June 12th arrived Wellington from Los Angeles.
1930 August 12th arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1930 August 17th departed Wellington for San Pedro.
1930 September 12th departed Los Angeles for New Zealand.
1930 October 6th arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1930 December 3rd departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1930 December 28th arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1930 December 30th departed Wellington for San Pedro.
1931 January 27th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1931 February 20th arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1931 March 25th arrived Los Angeles from New Zealand.
1931 March 27th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1931 April 22nd arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1931 May 20th departed Wellington for San Pedro.
1931 June 16th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1931 July 12th arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1931 August 25th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1931 September 24th departed Wellington for San Pedro.
1931 October 24th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1931 November 19th arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1931 December 30th departed Los Angeles for New Zealand.
During 1931 the Otokia visited the Bethlehem Shipbuilding yard at San Francisco during January, June, August & October for miscellaneous repairs.
1932 February 27th departed Los Angeles for New Zealand.
1932 March 25th arrived Wellington from San Pedro.
1932 May 3rd departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1932 July 22nd arrived Los Angeles from NZ.
1933 January 20th/21st at Los Angeles.
1933 January 24th departed Los Angeles for NZ.
1933 February 17th arrived Dunedin from San Pedro.
The early 1930's saw the increased commercial delivery of oil to New Zealand which allowed the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand to reduce the number of tankers operating within its fleet. Thus on February 20th 1933 the Otokia was laid-up at Wellington, remaining here for thirty months until sold for £120,000 to the Nippon Tanker KK, Tokyo during November 1935. The local newspapers reported the buyer as Mr. Edward Alan Summers of London. Captain Salter, a British master, together with a Japanese crew passed through Brisbane on the Kamo Maru, then sailed to Sydney by the Wanganella to take delivery of the Otokla at Port Chalmers, and then sail for San Pedro.
By 1937 the vessel was under the Ownership of Cia Maritima Istmenia Ltda, Panama and had been renamed Panam. It appears the tanker was then used in oil movements across the Caribbean to the east coast of the United States.
The Panam drydocked at Galveston during January 1941 for general repairs and an overhaul of the engines and hull, a Lloyd's certificate of seaworthiness was issued to the vessel after the inspection. A leakage of oil on May 19th 1941 was the subject of a lawsuit brought in the court, United States v. Pan Am, Action No. A-136(a), but was dismissed on the ground that the cause of leakage was stormy seas. During June 1941 the ship stranded off Cuba, was repaired and given certificates of seaworthiness by both Lloyd's and Reuters. On proceeding to Tampico it was discovered that the rivets of No.9 tank were loose and that the vessel was leaking. The leaky rivets were punched out and specially machined bolts and washers were inserted.
An August 1941 voyage of the Panam would later become a case for the Circuit Court of Appeals, Third Circuit which was argued on March 6th 1945 and decided on April 25th 1945. The United States filed a libel against the Oil Tanker Panam alleging breach of the Oil Pollution Act of June 7th 1924, in that the vessel had discharged oil into coastal navigable waters of the United States. On August 8th 1941 the Panam departed Curacao in the Netherlands West Indies for New York, on August 11th the vessel encountered strong northwest winds which strained her; it was noted that oil had escaped through the vessel's seams.
It was conceded that oil was leaking from around rivets below the water line on both sides of the tanker while she was moored at the Cities Service Company's dock at Linden, New Jersey after the completion of the voyage from Curacao on or about August 22nd 1941. The log book showed that the Panam had encountered northeast winds which varied between Force 3 & 5 on the Beaufort wind scale for a period of about two and a half days, whereupon the wind went around to the southwest and rapidly fell from Force 4 to Force 2.
On March 1st 1942 late in the afternoon a United States Army plane sighted the tanker Panam at position 38-03 N., 74-12 W. making 12 knots on course 330°. This was considered as suspicious because the ship had been sighted the previous day in the same area hove to on a southerly course. Three days later (4th) shortly after midnight the Panam was noted anchored at 39-28 N., 74 W. with the Allegheny standing by.
On July 14th 1942 the Panam was seized at New York by the US War Shipping Administration (WSA) and assigned to the Marine Transport Lines Inc, New York. At some point the vessel was equipped with one 5 inch gun and two .50 calibre machine guns.
On April 12th 1953 convoy NG 355 departed New York with 26 ships, including Panam and no escorts, arriving at Guantanamo on April 19th 1943.
On May 1st 1943 the Panam under master Jorgen Knudsen departed Norfolk for Lake Charles LA in water ballast. Three days later on May 4th, engine problems caused the ship to become a straggler behind convoy NK 538, and came under attack from U-129 (Capt Hans Witt) shortly after 2pm. Two torpedos hit the ship, seriously damaging the engine room, killing two crewmen and stopping the pumps. The ship sank just before 3pm, 37 miles offshore, SE of Cape Lookout shoals, in over 450ft of water, position (34.13517N / 76.11629 W). 35 crewmen and 14 armed guards took to three lifeboats and were rescued by the American sub chaser USS SC-664 at about 8pm and landed at about midnight at Morehead City SC.
Built: Livingstone & Cooper, yard # 198, ON 148655
Page added January 6th 2014