4 Inspection and claims
Even as the final details were being settled in Brussels, Jebsen and Mossige returned to London on 22 May with a list of vessels for the Nortraship superintendents. After conferring with the MOT that had several of the ships under management, the superintendent in Cardiff, captain Anskar M Fredhjem (born 1893 in Dypvåg) was instructed to survey the vessels lying in British ports.
For vessels in Germany ,captain Einar Müller (born 1887 in Bergen) was dispatched from Oslo to start his round of surveys under rather primitive conditions. The next few weeks survey reports began to pile up on the Directorate’s desk; not all of them encouraging.
One of the most valuable vessels was the cargo liner Kamerun (built 1938) lying in Gareloch, Scotland, where it had arrived under own power. It turned out that she had been used as a submarine repair ship. New superstructure for 100 men had been erected on deck, in addition to tweendeck accommodation in holds no 1, 2, 3 and 4 for a total of 380 persons. Hold no 3 had been turned into a generator room for driving an extensive outfit of tools and machinery. The vessel would need substantial conversion before she could return to trading.
Bukarest, a cargo liner built 1939, was presently trading for Ellerman Papayannis Line, Haga for Ellerman Wilson Line, and the steamers Peter Vith, Ingrid Traber, Ilse L M Russ, Pickhuben and Karl Chr Lohse were also trading for the MOT. The chlorine tanker Norden rested at anchor in Methil Roads, as did Adele Traber. These had all been given British names in the “Empire” series.
From Hamburg captain Müller reported by telephone that Morsum (1936) was lying in Hamburg with bottom damage. The steamer Paul L M Russ had been used as a training ship and had extensions added on her hatches, while Sonnenfelde and Reinhard L M Russ were in Kiel in fair condition. There were also the small tankers Belt and Frieda, the latter with defect engine.
In Kiel he had also found Königsau, which turned out to be a naval auxiliary for the charging of torpedoes. She had powerful engine, but would require a total conversion to carry cargo. May be it was a different Königsau?
Angeln was a naval barge for 500 tons coal and 300 tons oil and remained in Kiel. She should be used as a support vessel for the German minesweeper operation Norway, rather than the Lindenau, capt Müller suggested. In Kiel he also came across Schafstedt, which proved to be a tank barge, had been sunk twice and was in a poor condition. Probstei, which had been listed as a tanker, turned out to be an old motor barge; the engine was in order, but she could hardly be used west of Kristiansand (i.e. in open waters). The steamer Else Müller was actively trading, while Passau was being used by the Russians. Tiba turned out to be a Rhine barge.
The surveys again indicated that the original listing of vessels had not been satisfactory.
A statement by the Ministry of Trade forwarded through diplomatic channels to the Brussels embassy and the IARA comprised 9 vessels that in principle should be refused or revalued:
Passau had already been given to the Russians and should be replaced
Frieda turned out to be an impractical tanker with cylindrical tanks and listed with excessive value
Probstei was no tanker with double hull, rather an old motor barge from 1909
Main was given as built in 1936, but was 10 years older
Schafstedt was a harbour barge with extensive bottom damage that had been temporarily repaired with concrete
Kamerun had been extensively converted and would require substantial conversion
Luna, a motor vessel from 1939, would require major reconditioning of her engines
Paul L M Russ had also been converted and would require a major refit
Königsau had now been exchanged for the correct vessel, while Denmark would take the torpedo auxiliary (which they in the event, did not).
So, while the physical transfer of the vessels began in August 1946, the second phase of the IARA talks commenced.
To the Norwegians there were to main issues: To have the values adjusted and to obtain replacement for Passau and Tiba. Both matters were settled, and in February 1947 Norway was allocated a further three vessels:
Hertha and Julia were modern coasters, while Königsau was the original one (the torpedo auxiliary) that no one else wanted and was apparently bestowed on the Norwegians as an extra. (She went to the Navy as the submarine support vessel RNN Sarpen).
There was to be a final adjustment, however. In February 1948 another vessel, the former motor liner Heinz Horn (1928) was ceded to the Norwegian Government, bringing the total tally to 44 vessels 81,945 gross tons.
Thus, the final war reparations settlement for Norway amounted to a total value of GBP 1,391,988 – corresponding to NOK 27,881,500.
The sale process
The intension was to sell on the allocated vessels to commercial owners as soon as possible. Politically, the issue was expedited by “An interim Act of 5 July 1946 on transfer and chartering etc of former German vessels”. In principle, the vessels would be sold at valuation, and companies with war losses should have “some preference”. The sale process was carried out quickly, apart from a number of problem vessels.
The first was the whaling factory Walter Rau lying in Liverpool. There was a hurry to get her ready for a Antarctic season, so the vessel was handed over on 23 May to Anders Jahre, Sandefjord. A week later she was formally registered to the Kosmos companies for NOK 8,88 million and renamed Kosmos IV.
It was decided to bring all vessels lying in German ports home for further inspection, repairs and sale. On 23 August the following vessels were taken over in Kiel: Angeln, Belt, Frieda og Probstei, while Reinhart L M Russ, Schafstedt og Sonnenfelde gathered in Hamburg. They were to be brought home by a mixed German-Norwegian crew escorted by the subchaser RNN Vigra. Three days later the first batch (Reinhart L M Russ, Sonnenfelde, Angeln, Belt og Probstei) arrived in Oslo.
During the autumn of 1946 most of the vessels were brought home for repairs or laid up pending upgrading.
The vessels taken over from the MOT in British ports were generally trading. Most were taken over in July and August and brought home with cargo. Since formal delivery was taken in Norway, one must assume that the delivery voyages were undertaken under British registry.
Apart from the Walter Rau, the transfer of Empire Oykell (ex Adele Traber) to the Norwegian State Railways went particularly quick, being delivered in West Hartlepool on 8 July 1946 as Bruse.
For the other vessels it was only in October 1946 that the first batch were offered for sale by the Shipping Directorate. From there the sale process went rapidly up to the end of January 1947. As per 1 April 1947 the NH&ST (a newpaper), reported that only five vessels remained unsold:
Of these the Schafstedt turned out to be a problem. Only in September 1947 she would find a buyer willing to invest in conversion and a new engine.
The final vessel, and one of the more eligible ones, was the former Heinz Horn, 5200 tdw, whch since July 1946 had been under Dutch management with Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot Mij as Betuwe. She was taken over in February/March 1948 and immediately sold to a Bergen owner as Livarden.
Through the IARA settlement Norway was allocated 44 merchant vessels of 81,945 gross tons from Germany.
This number included the whaling factory Kosmos IV as well as the Königsau which became the naval depot ship Sarpen.
Of the 43 were three modern diesel-engined cargo liners which all ended up in Bergen as Taranger, Goya and Clio. Then there was the reefer Asnes, later Mona Lisa. The majority were, however, tramp steamers of the German type with long bridge, suitable for cubic cargo. The allocation also comprised seven coasters and five coastal tankers of varying quality.
Most of the German reparation vessels were sold on relatively early, but a few would have long lives in Norwegian ownership, like Paul L M Russ of 1923, which as Hesnes and later Rask remained in service until 1967. Similarly, Süderau of 1939 became Norwegian Svartnes and better known as Fred Olsen’s Barlind, their last steamer, disposed of in 1971.
For sake of completion, there would be more German vessels to end up in Norway. This comprised a group of naval auxiliaries and a group of vessels acquired through USA, as well as a number of war wrecks raised and returned to service. But that is a different story.