Officer dispersal on demise of RSL

This posting is in reply to a question as to how officers were chosen to stay when Reardon Smith ceased trading.
There was no list. Some two or three years before the firm's demise, all officers were asked if they wanted to stay on the British flag vessels of the fleet or whether they were willing to go "foreign flag". Perhaps Griff Jones and/or Tony Lightfoot if they read this could correct any errors in my contribution. Those officers who said they wanted to stay on the British Flag ships were warned that there was no guarantee that they would remain in employment as the red Ensign flag fleet in RSL was contracting.
Myself, well i thought since I was already sailing on TMM ships - the Bibi and the Silvia Sofia and both those ships had changed to Bermuda registry in early 1984 - I stayed where I was. I had earlier told Smiths that I was happy enough to go foreign flag.
There were both advantages and disadvantages in going foreign flag.
I sailed on the Bibi first in 1980 when she was registered in Cardiff and my first voyage on the Silvia Sofia was in August 1981. Both those ships changed flag in 1984 to Bermuda registry.
On the 30 May 1985 I flew to Japan to assist with the flag change on the car carrier "Lerma"in Yokohama On the 31 May 1985 the new Mexican crew arrived for the "Lerma" also Vic Duncan and Wilkinson, Coombs and Atkinson.
Ian Jones called me when I was in the hotel to tell me that Reardon Smith Line would cease trading that day. P.J. Prendergast was also with me as we were both scheduled to fly to San Francisco to join the "Silvia Sofia". I told him the news.
After Mike Bellamy joined the "Lerma" PJ and I flew off to SFO on the 4 June
I also had to fly to Mexico City to be briefed by the Far East Line managers.
When finally, PJ and I joined the Silvia Sofia on the 10 June, I found that the British officers on board although aware that RSL had gone were very worried about being paid etc.
While we were at the Oakland terminal I took the C/E with me to the container terminal offices to try and telephone Cardiff office even though Dave Litson had told us that there was no one there as the liquidator had thrown all the RSL staff out.
However we telephoned and Griff Jones answered. He told us to carry on as usual not to worry we were working for the management company owned by TMM and we would be paid as normal.
Being foreign flag officers working for a non-UK based company meant we were paid gross emolument and had to make our own arrangements re nat insurance, income protection income tax and private pension.
Of course, all the RSL owned ships left under the British flag were seized by the liquidator and sold off the pay the banks etc. I know very little about the personnel on those ships.
A number of originally RSL owned ships had earlier been sold to TMM, some of the 840's and there was the Gela, Maria Elisa, Sara Lupe etc. as well as the car carriers.
Employment continued without any real problems but gradually the Brits were replaced by Mexicans and Middle European officers.
There were NO contracts for any of us on the managed TMM ships only the ship's articles. We really had no guarantees but the salaries were paid by TMM.
The Indian crews were all gone replaced by Mexicans who by and large were quite staisfactory and good seamen. There were problems of course, The Mexican crew were drunks in port, catering was not so good any more and there were few comforts particulary on the car carriers. But for me at any rate it was OK but I knew that the executive in CSMS when Griff left were going to let all the Brits go. TMM were of course to get out of shipping some years later and CSMS folded. I took early retirement and enjoyed a new career first as a North Sea pilot and later as a senior condition surveyor for a well-known P and I Club. I enjoyed that immensely as it meant that I could be beastly to shipowners!
Perhaps Griff Jones or Tony lightfoot could add some more to the above. But in answer to Mike Snook's query as to the reasons why some stayed and some left after RSL went to the wall, it was teally a matter of their own choice.
Reardon Smith Line when I joined the company in 1955 was dragging itself into the 20th. century and with an active building programme was by the mid sixties a great outfit to work for. Once the bean counters took over in the early eighties, then the good days soon came to an end. I still look on my nearly 40 years with RSL as the highlight of my life. Charlie Boyer. January 2011



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