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You are in: Wear > People > Your Stories > From Sunderland to South Africa

John Naisby with Prince Charles

John Naisby with Prince Charles

From Sunderland to South Africa

John Naisby's shipbuilding career has taken him all over the world but it all began in the Sunderland shipyards.

A lot of students drift through education not really knowing where they're going or what the future holds.

For John Naisby from Sunderland, however, he couldn't have possibly predicted he would be meeting Prince Charles and re-locating his entire life in South Africa, surely?

John attended Junior Tech School before being selected for an interview to be an apprentice Naval Arch student. Before he knew it he was working at Mitchison Friars Goose Shipyard in Gateshead to work on the design and building of trawlers, including structure, ventilation, heating and systems.

But it wasn't until he was working at the Sunderland shipyards that things began to take a massive turn.

The 200 week plan

John explains: "In 1981 Bibby Line, a Liverpool shipping company, contacted Sunderland Shipbuilders with whom I was employed and they were looking for someone to oversee the repairs of the vessel renamed Cambridgeshire, an 80,000 tonne panamax bulk carrier, in Cape Town."

Work had already began on the Cambridgeshire when John arrived in South Africa, but he soon discovered it was only the tip of the iceberg.

John and the Cambridgeshire

John and the Cambridgeshire

John calculated that with 125 tonnes of steel in each of, at worst, eight holds, there'd be 1000 tonnes to deal with. And, working at a rate of five tonnes a week, it would take us 200 weeks. Nearly four years!

The South African Navy became interested in John's work and expertise but he didn't have professional engineer status. So that ended that. John did not give up though, instead, he went to Japan.

John said: "In order to be employed by YAMCO my first assignment was to supervise the build of three 35,000 tonne bulk carriers in Japan for Safmarine.

"Three ships off one berth in 11 months without any nightshift or overtime working which was a constraint imposed at that time on all shipyards in Japan because of the reduced worldwide build of shipping. On completion, YAMCO SA was closed."

John was brought back to the familiar grounds of Cape Town in South Africa to become a design project engineer for a new project.

Armscor had set up a Maritime section within Liebenberg & Stander (LSM), and were contracted to further the detail design of a 12,500 tonne fleet replenishment vessel and talent from all over the world was called upon.

John explains: "With the detail designer in Cape Town, the end user SA Navy in Simonstown, the Shipbuilder in Durban, design assistance outfitting sub contractors Ventilation, Electrical, Plumbing & Joinery also in Durban, considerable amount of travel was undertaken.

"The late Dieter Carston (from Doxford) was chief draughtsman and a senior partner. I was appointed design project engineer, eventually some 90 members of staff and design engineers were employed from various countries but predominantly Britain. The vessel was launched in April 1986 as Drakensberg."

Memories of Tyne and Wear

John's most memorable task in Sunderland was to accompany none other than Prince Charles while he visited Sunderland in the 1970s.

John remembers: "My allocated task was to accompany the prince for seven minutes through my workstation as pre-fabrication manager producing from drawings of steel structural units of up to 100 tonnes."

"Also memorable on the river Tyne was the steel preparation and pre-fabrication of Sir Galahad, Sir Bedivere and the Sir Tristran for the MOD, two of which were on active service during the Falklands War."

last updated: 27/06/2008 at 16:54
created: 25/06/2008

You are in: Wear > People > Your Stories > From Sunderland to South Africa



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