The River Boyne has sailed from QAL for the last time and is on its way to Singapore.
The River Boyne has sailed from QAL for the last time and is on its way to Singapore. Contributed By QAL

End of an era for QAL steamers

THIS is a region where you could learn something surprising every day. Here is a classic example.

Until two weeks ago, Gladstone Harbour had coal-fired cargo ships operating.

Four coal-fired, steam-powered ships were used to transport bauxite from Weipa in far north Queensland to QAL on Gladstone Harbour.

The last of these steam ships was retired a couple of weeks ago; the River Boyne departed the QAL wharf for the final time on July 18.

The 75,000 tonne bulk carrier is now making her way to Singapore where she will be handed over to new owners.

"It's a sad day," QAL managing director Phil Campbell said.

"The River Boyne was the first steam ship to arrive at QAL and is the last to leave.

"The four steamers have made an enormous contribution to the refinery's operations and their signature twin funnels will be but memories of a bygone era."

The four steam ships were built in the 1980s, decades after diesel had revolutionised the industry. The world oil shortage in the early 1980s prompted the building of the four steam-powered ships.

They were the first coal-fired ships built anywhere in the world for many decades and were the only ones operating in commercial cargo, other than those restored for tourism.

Steamy story

  • The River Boyne was built in Japan and managed by ASP Ship Management.
  • It was at the forefront of technology for steam turbine vessels at a time when fuel prices were extremely high.
  • It travelled more than two million nautical miles.

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