Skip Gillham Vineland, Ontario, Canada

Prins Maurits

Photo: as PRINS MAURITS at Lock 22 of the old St. Lawrence canal on July 10, 1956, by Dan McCormick

After twenty-eight years of trading, the Carl Levers was far from more familiar waters when it got caught in a tropical cyclone and wrecked at Bombay, India, just over fifty years ago.

The ship was much more at home on the North Atlantic and Great Lakes routes. It was built for trading in these waters and launched at Fredriksstad, Norway, on Sept. 16, 1936. It was completed the following month as Harpefjell and saw brief service across the Atlantic and into the Great Lakes for the Fjell Line of Norway.

Olsen & Ugelstad had recognized the potential of these markets and raw materials that could come and go from the inland ports of North America. The company began this service on a regular basis with the Vardefjell in 1932. The volume of business increased and more ships were needed. Among these was the Harpefjell.

Meanwhile, a Dutch flag operation, the Oranje Lijn, also saw the potential of this business and while working separately at the beginning, they later joined to provide service under the banner of the Fjell-Oranje Line. Oranje purchased two vessels capable of Great Lake trading from Fjell and Harpefjell was one of these. It w as renamed Prins Maurits late in 1937.

Prins Maurits crossed the Atlantic on a regular basis beginning in 1938. It returned in 1939 but, due to World War Two, spent the conflict on other routes. The ship was part of Convoy HX 65 that sailed from Halifax on Aug. 12, 1940. Six of the ships were lost to U-boat attacks while two more were bombed and sunk by aircraft.

Prins Maurits survived this and other wartime duty and resumed inland navigation in 1946 after peace had been won. The ship was used for another decade to serve company customers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Carl Levers

Photo: as CARL LEVERS at Cleveland in 1956 - by Pete Worden, Dan McCormick Collection.

With the St. Lawrence Seaway on the horizon, and new ships under construction for the Oranje Lijn, Prins Maurits was sold to Ernest A. Levers of West Germany, in 1956 and renamed Carl Levers. The 258 foot long by 42 foot, 1 inch wide steamship continued to come to the Great Lakes in 1957 and 1958 but it never traded through the new Seaway system which opened in 1959. The Carl Levers was resold to the Gill Amin Steamship Co. (Pty) Ltd. and registered in India in 1959 without any change in name.

The Carl Levers spent its final years trading around the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It was tied at Bombay, (now Mumbai) India, when Cyclonic Storm Five, as it was known, developed in the Arabian Sea on August 6. As the wild weather approached, the ship was cast adrift rather than be pounded against the dock. As a result, it went aground on August 7, 1964, on a pylon off Mahul Creek that supported electrical wires. The Carl Levers caught fire there on Aug. 24, suffered extensive damage and became a total loss.

In time, Carl Levers was released but was soon sold for scrap, taken back to Bombay, and broken up by N.P. Patel.

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