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Canadian Pacific Railway

Cargo ships

Cargo, to give freight its proper marine term, has always been important to Canadian Pacific both for its ship operations and the railway as well. From the earliest years with tea and silk being the most prominent cargo carried, import and export freight has always been a valuable source of revenue. Timber was the earliest export cargo shipped from Canada. High value and perishable goods including food products have always been carried in the holds of passenger ships with their fast and regular schedules. Ships dedicated to carrying cargo alone and free from rigid passenger schedules always sailed the seas and continued to do so long after the liners were sold off as cruise ships. Less glamorous than the sleek Empress ships, just as freight trains were less in the public's mind than its luxurious passenger trains such as the Trans Canada Limited and The Canadian. In the last part of the 20th century containers became the preferred way to handle most cargo except for such bulk commodities as grain, potash, sulphur, coal, ore, oil, etc. Replacing break-bulk handling that was very labour intensive and therefore expensive was a key benefit of containers along with the very real loss factor through theft that long plagued waterfronts everywhere.

The first cargo ships were those of the Beaver Line acquired from the Elder Dempster Company in 1903; Milwaukee, Monmouth, Monterey, Montezuma and Montfort all sailed from London, headquarters location. In addition, Allan Line's sixteen ships included a number of cargo ships, all of which were acquired in 1909 but, only made public in February 1915. The Beaver Line ships brought over 20,000 emigrants annually to Canada usually returning with 1200 head of cattle. Many ships were lost during the Great War (WWI). These losses saw twenty cargo ships acquired between 1915 and 1919. These ships were named with various M, B or other names however, in 1923 it was decided all cargo ships would begin with B, by which time there were twelve.

Five new 520-foot, 10,000 ton cargo ships were ordered by Canadian Pacific and delivered in 1927-28. Named in the Beaver series in honour of the Beaver Line, they were the Beaverburn, Beaverford, Beaverdale, Beaverhill and Beaverbrae. These were the first coal-fired ships on the North Atlantic equipped with mechanical stokers. Four water-tube boilers supplied superheated steam at 250 pounds per squire inch driving turbines that propelled the ships at a speed of fourteen knots, a fast speed at that time. This permitted a regular scheduled service whereby a ship left Montreal every Friday morning and by the second following Monday was unloading cargo in London. These ships each made an average of six sailings to Montreal each summer season and four to West Saint John each winter. London, England; Antwerp, Belgium; Hamburg, Germany and Le Havre, France were all served in Europe. All of the old B series ships were disposed of.

All five of these new cargo ships were requisitioned by the British Admiralty at the beginning of World War II and unfortunately, all five were lost during the conflict. The SS Beaverford was lost with all 77 hands when sunk by a German pocket battleship the Admiral Scheer on November 5, 1940.

Following the return of peace, a new batch of Beaver cargo ships were acquired by Canadian Pacific. Eight ships entered service between 1947 and 1952. All but one were 476 foot ships, 9800-9900 gross tons requiring a crew of 64. These were the Beaverdell, Beaverglen, Beaverlake and Beavercove. Note: Beaverdell and Beavercove were renamed for Pacific service between August 1952 and July 1954. They were returned to the Atlantic in 1954 and their names were restored in 1956

Two further ships were built in 1944 for Ministry of War Transport duty and acquired by CP in 1946.
Beaverburn II formerly Empire Captain
Beaverford II formerly Empire Kitchener
Beaverlodge built 1944 as Empire Regent it first went to Furness Withy & Co as their Black Prince, later renamed Zealandic. CP acquired it in October1952.

Another ship, Beaverbrae II a 1939 469 foot German ship Huascaran for Hamburg Amerika Line. It was captured by the Allies in 1945 and turned over to CP in Sept. 1947.

St.Lawrence Seaway

The St.Lawrence Seaway was a major project that changed Great Lakes shipping forever when it opened in April of 1959. Begun in 1954 it created seven locks (800 feet long, 80 feet wide and 27 feet deep), five of which are in Canada and two in the United States. This permitted much larger ships to navigate the St.Lawrence River to and from ports including Toronto, Hamilton and after passing through the "new" Welland canal, a large number of ports in Canada and the USA all along the Great Lakes as far west as Port Arthur and Fort William at the Lakehead.

The CPR had ships on the Great Lakes since its very earliest days but, it had not entered into lake shipping for bulk cargo leaving that it others including Canada Steamship Lines and Algoma Central. Now however, it decided to join the others beginning with charters of ships small enough to pass through the existing locks and expanding into larger chartered ships following the opening of the Seaway. By 1962 nine ships provided a fortnightly (every two weeks) service from London and the European Continent along with a three-weekly service from Liverpool to Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton and Detroit.

The CPR began acquiring its own ships beginning with the 2900-ton 374 foot Beaverfir which began its maiden voyage on July 6, 1961 from Antwerp, Belgium and Le Havre, France to Quebec City and Montreal. In September 1962 she became the first Canadian Pacific oceangoing ship to enter the Great Lakes.

The seven 10,000 ton Beaver ships were sold off between 1960 and 1963 and replaced by smaller ships that could fit through the seaway locks. These included two fairly-new ships the 4000 ton re-named Beaverelm and 4500 ton re-named Beaverash.

Traditionally, West St.John, New Brunswick had always been the winter port for CPR traffic as was Halifax, Nova Scotia for the CNR. This, along with closure of the Welland canal caused a great boom in tonnage for both railways as they moved freight, especially grain from the Lakehead eastward to Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes for both domestic use and export.

Now, interest in winter shipping up the St.Lawrence increased and CP first chartered CSL ice-strengthened ships to reach Quebec City and later Montreal, and then began acquiring its own such ships. The first was the 4500 ton motor ship Beaverpine which made its maiden voyage from London on October 24, 1962 and in January 1963 became the first CP ship to enter Quebec during the winter.


A new Beaver, the 6000 ton 408foot long Beaveroak began its maiden voyage on September 7, 1965 from Antwerp, bound for London then across the Atlantic to Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton. What made this ship unique was its design which enabled it to carry 100 twenty-foot containers. It was the beginning of a new era in shipping one that would see Canadian Pacific take the lead in the switch to containers both for domestic and marine freight. A new term came into being, "intermodal", meaning a method of shipping goods that went between rail or road and ship, seamlessly as far as the customer was concerned. It was particularly adapted to marine use since it allowed goods to be moved "dock to dock" (in this instance it refers to the shipping dock at a factory or warehouse at each end of the movement) from ship to shore and onward without actually handling the cargo since it was all locked away inside the container. This drastically reduced damage and theft, something that was not insignificant on the waterfronts of the world. Canadian Pacific was an early proponent of the advantages of intermodal containerization. See: Intermodal Pioneer.

Eleven ships were chartered in 1969-1971 while three new ships were being built and Canadian Pacific Steamships headquarters were moved back to London as the CPR got serious about containerization. In addition, the Beaveroak was converted into a container ship by adding a 57 foot midships section increasing her capacity to 322 container boxes. It returned to service on October 2, 1970 as the CP Ambassador. The following year the Beaverpine was converted and became the CP Explorer entering service December 13, 1971.

Three new ships ordered in 1968, CP Discoverer, CP Trader and CP Voyageur of 14,000 tons and capable of carrying 700 containers each entered service in 1971 on the North Atlantic.

Wolfe's Cover Terminal

To handle all this new type of cargo service a wholly owned subsidiary, Transport Terminals Ltd, was formed to operate a new terminal at Wolfe's Cove on the Quebec Wharf. This new terminal was reached by a rail tunnel built in 1930 under the Plains of Abraham to serve the Empress berth. The terminal was equipped with a crane to handle containers between trucks and trains along with a 35-ton crane for loading and offloading ships operating along a 1200 foot track with a fifty foot gauge! It was opened on December 5, 1970 with the CP Ambassador dockside.

CP Transport (London) subsidiary was created in 1972 to handle containers inland.

Changes due to competition and a surplus of capacity saw an agreement at the end of 1973 with Manchester Liners to co-ordinate routes which resulted in the two small ships CP Ambassador and CP Explorer sold off as CP struggled for profitability.

In 1974 railway piggyback and container services were consolidated as Intermodal Services (IMS).

Racine Terminals (Montreal) Ltd. a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific Steamships was created in 1978 to operate a new terminal in east end Montreal where CP relocated to bringing containers farther inland by ship to reduce rail costs.

At the end of 1979 CP Voyageur ended her CP service and was replaced by the 20,000 ton CP Hunter which was the E.R.Brussel chartered from Ernst Russ of Hamburg. Adding Hamburg to the Rotterdam, London, Le Havre route improved service from Germany, the Scandinavian and Comecon countries. Note: COMECOM was the communist equivalent to the EEC. (European Economic Community).

Canadian Pacific (Bermuda) Ltd.

In October 1964 a wholly-owned subsidiary, Canadian Pacific (Bermuda) Ltd. was created to own, operate and charter oceangoing bulk carriers to transport the growing exports of Canadian commodities. Bermuda was chosen as the headquarters of this new company because of its tax exemption advantages.

CP Bermuda began acquiring a fleet of nineteen vessels most of them named for senior CPR company officers beginning in June 1965 with a small 15,000dwt ship built in 1959 and renamed for R.B.Angus. It was chartered by Pine Point Mines, a subsidiary of Cominco, itself owned by the CPR, and by MacMillan Bloedel which CPR also held in interest in. it handled lead, zinc and forest products from British Columbia to Japan. Unfortunately, it was soon lost in a storm on the Pacific on December 17, 1967, although fortunately, all of the crew were rescued.

Lord Strathcona in Liverpool.

New ships included the Lord Mount Stephen delivered in November 1966 and chartered to Shell; and the Lord Strathcona delivered in February 1967 and chartered to BP (British Petroleum). Both of these 72,000dwt 758-foot tankers had been ordered in December 1964 and were built in Japan. These were soon followed by two 57,000dwt 744 foot ships for coal and iron ore hauling, the T.Akasaka delivered in November 1969 and the W.C.Van Horne delivered in June 1970. Pacific Logger was a 16,000dwt log and lumber carrier delivered in September 1969. In February 1977 it was renamed Fort St. John. Three further forest-product ships, all of 29,000dwt and 594 feet, were the H. R. MacMillan delivered January 26, 1968 and the J. V. Clyne on April 26th and finally, the N. R. Crump on May 31, 1969 which was chartered to Canadian Transport Company, a subsidiary of MacMillan Bloedel. Again, all were built in Japan, no longer did the ship yards of the UK build for Canadian Pacific.

These were followed by three more bulk carriers of 120,000dwt at a price of $13,150,000 each. The E.W.Beatty delivered September 1973, W.C.Van Horne and the W.M.Neal delivered in August 1974.

D.C.Coleman was delivered in January 1974, and the T.G.Shaughnessy delivered in January 1971 went on a ten-year charter to Gulf Oil.

Three 30,000dwt product carriers were built in Holland and delivered as the G.A.Walker in March 1973, to Exxon; W.A.Mather July 1973 and R.A.Emerson November 1973 to Shell. Two more of these ships from Holland came along right afterwards at a cost of $11.5 million each. The Fort Macleod delivered in March and Fort Steele in November 1974.

Port Hawkesbury a 253,000 ton VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) delivered in July 1970.

Another VLCC "supertanker" was the I.D.Sinclair delivered in July 1974 which cost $33,100,000.

Three 35,000dwt geared bulk carriers designed for forest products were built in Japan at a cost of $10,300,000; Fort Nelson delivered in August 1975, Fort Calgary March 1976, Fort Assiniboine in June 1980.

Three 30,000dwt product carriers were built in Holland at a cost of $15,900,000 each. Fort Edmonton delivered in February 1975, Fort Kipp in July 1975, and Fort Coulonge in February 1976.

Two Panamax bulkers were built in Denmark, at a time of peak demand for the world's shipyards, as a result they cost $26 Million each! The Port Vancouver was delivered in January and the Port Quebec in April 1977

Three geared bulkers of 28,000dwt Fort Kamloops, delivered in October 1976, Fort Victoria, delivered in February, and Fort Yale in August 1977. Top dollar was again paid for these ships.

Early in 1975 a wholly owned subsidiary, CP (Bermuda) Marketing Services was established in London for the Bermuda fleet which by now had grown to nineteen ships.

Three 22,000dwt geared bulkers were the Fort Walsh delivered in January, the Fort Carleton and Fort Hamilton, both delivered in March of 1978.

In 1979 four 30,000 dwt products carriers were ordered for carrying caustic soda solution. Fort Assiniboine, Fort Garry, Fort Rouge, and Fort Toronto.

In 1979 and 1980 five bulk carriers of various sizes were bought and renamed Fort Norman, Fort Fraser, Fort Douglas, Fort Erie and Fort Nanaimo.

Some ships were also sold off, beginning with the H. R. MacMillan in June 1978 followed by the J.V.Clyne and the N. R. Crump in early 1979.

Beginning in 1980 it was decided that all Bermuda registered ships would gradually be transferred to the UK and Hong Kong registry.

Maple Shipping Company

Originally formed in 1960 to handle chartering of ships to supplement the CPS fleet it fell into disuse with changing conditions. It was reactivated in October 1971 in London and in April of 1972 a branch office was opened in Vancouver. It soon handled 250 vessels a year as a brokering agency. A Montreal office was also added. A 1977 reorganization saw the creation of Maple Shipping (UK) Ltd. as a subsidiary of CP Steamships, while the original Maple Shipping became a division of Crossworld Freight which was a subsidiary of CanPac International Freight Services. Confused enough?

The history of Canadian Pacific shipping continues for another twenty five years until
late in 2005 when CP Ships was acquired by Hapag-Lloyd including 79 containerships.

Great Lakes Steamships

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