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Golfito

Built at the Alexander Stephen yard on the Clyde, the 8,687grt Glasgow-registered steamship Golfito took the title of the largest and fastest British ‘banana boat’ when delivered to Elders & Fyffes some 70 years ago.

Built at the Alexander Stephen yard on the Clyde, the 8,687grt Glasgow-registered steamship Golfito took the title of the largest and fastest British ‘banana boat’ when delivered to Elders & Fyffes some 70 years ago.

Established in 1901, Elders & Fyffes had lost 14 ships in the Second World War, and Golfi to and sistership Camito were built as part of a programme to restore the fleet size once the banana trade to the UK had resumed in December 1945. Named after a port in Costa Rica, Golfi to was originally intended for the company’s service between New York and Costa Rica but, because of falling passenger traffic and currency exchange problems, was fi rest switched to the Rotterdam-Jamaica run and in 1952 was transferred to the UK-West Indies route.

Completed in December 1949, Golfi to was of 447ft 4in (136m) loa, with a maximum draught of 26ft 3in. Propulsion was by four Parsons steam turbines, developing 10,500shp and double reduction-geared to two screw shafts, giving a top speed of up to 18 knots. During sea trials, problems with scuffing of the engine gears were discovered and the remedial work was the subject of an award-winning paper presented to the Scottish Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders.

Golfito offered comfortable accommodation for up to 94 passengers, all in first class, and excellent facilities on holiday voyages to the Caribbean in the days before aircraft dominated the leisure travel market. There were three passenger decks – promenade, bridge and upper – and because the vessel had higher superstructures than Fyffes’ previous passengerships, it could provide much larger and more spacious public rooms than before. There was a cinema, library and a swimming pool.

The ship had four large refrigerated cargo holds, two forward and two aft, with capacity for up to 140,000 stems (approximately 1,750 tons) of bananas at a temperature of 54°F (12.2°C). Golfito operated month-long voyages from Southampton or Avonmouth to Barbados, Trinidad, and up to five ports in Jamaica – Kingston, Port Antonio, Montego Bay, Oracabessa and Bowden. The ship would carry general cargo and manufactured goods from the UK, returning with bananas and other fruit.

In 1966 Golfi to underwent an extensive refit at the Cammell Laird yard, which increased passenger capacity to 111, increased tonnage to 8,740grt, and included the installation of air conditioning throughout. However, by the 1970s rising fuel costs and falling
passenger numbers meant the economics of passengership operations had become precarious and the Fyffes Group
decided to pull the plug on the services. At the end of 1971 Golfito was withdrawn from service and sold to Shipbreaking Industries of Faslane, Scotland, for demolition. Sistership Camito was sold to breakers in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, later in 1972.

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