Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, February 15, 2009, pg. 4
In the November 15, 1989 edition of this column we wrote about the Albion Victory ship, a World War II merchant ship constructed as part of the War effort, named after Albion College. It was christened by Albion Mayor W. Clark Dean and his wife Mate Dean, and launched from Fairfield, Maryland on January 5, 1945. The Albion Victory was used to support military and civilian operations in Europe in the final months of the War, and transported refugees from Europe following the War. It was also used as a cargo and transportation ship during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. It’s final cargo in Viet Nam was ammunition which was discharged at Vung Tao in 1970. The ship was then transferred to the National Defense Reserve Fleet (mothballed) in the James River in Norfolk, Virginia.
Whatever happened to the Albion Victory ship? The answer was recently supplied to us by the man who helped tow it, “Captain Peter.” Peter read our article on the www.Albionmich.com website, and wrote us on the brand new Albion History blog on that site. Here’s the story: The Albion Victory, along with the Duke Victory were scheduled to be scrapped at the Alang, India ship scrapyard in the summer of 1994. The tugboat that came from the UK to tow them from Norfolk to India was an Azerbaijan vessel named the Neftegaz 62.
As the ships reached West Africa and the tug crew stopped to restock their supplies, pirates got aboard the Albion Victory and stole the generator that powered the navigation lights. They were still on the ship when it returned out to sea and after being discovered were not allowed to depart until 100 miles down the coast. As the ships were off the coast of South Africa, a storm hit and the towlines snapped. The location was off Cape Agulhas, 120 sea miles south of Port Elizabeth.
The two “escaping” vessels began drifting apart and became lost at sea. “Captain Peter” of Houston, (not Texas) County of Renfrewshire, Scotland, an expert in drifting ship salvaging, was called in to find the two ships, reconnect the tow line, and tow them to shore for repairs. After waiting two weeks because of the adverse winter (it was winter south of the equator) weather, he was successful in his search.
It took a spotter plane to find the Albion Victory which had drifted 60 miles away from its counterpart. The operation was a major South African news event, with reports and interviews broadcast to a nationwide television audience. There even was a rumor that both ships had been at the Bikini atoll and were radioactive!
Captain Peter went on board to inspect water tightness and the towing arrangements several times. He wrote this writer, “You had to watch where you stood as the deck was so thin it bent under your weight. on the bridge there were still old charts of Vietnam!” The two ships were towed to Durban, South Africa, where necessary repairs were made to the tow lines (the ships were undamaged). There the S. S. Albion Victory was involved in one final military mission. The South African Marines Corps asked if they could use it for training. So their unit stormed both ships by climbing up the anchor chains.
After two months the repairs to the tow lines were complete, and the tug and tow left Durban. Captain Peter was thereby helicoptered off. The final leg of the tow trip was then made by the Azerbaijani crew to Alang, India. There both ships were scrapped. Pictured from our Historical Notebook this week, courtesy of “Captain Peter,” is the recaptured Albion Victory being towed by the Neftegaz 62 nearing Durban, South Africa.
The Recaptured Albion Victory being towed by the Neftegaz 62
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic