MV Empire Abercorn

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StateLibQld 1 70623 Rakaia (Ship).jpg
United Kingdom
  • Empire Abercorn (1944-46)
  • Rakaia (1946-71)
Operator: New Zealand Shipping Co 1945–1968
Port of registry: Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Belfast, later London
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast
Yard number: 1230
Launched: 30 December 1944
Completed: 30 June 1945
In service: 1945
Out of service: 28 March 1968
Fate: Scrapped in Hong Kong, 1971
Notes: Sister ship Empire Clarendon[1]
General characteristics
Tonnage: 8,563 GRT
Length: 474 ft 2 in (144.53 m)
Beam: 63 ft 3 in (19.28 m)
Depth: 34 ft 2 in (10.41 m)
Propulsion: 1 x Harland & Wolff two-cycle double-acting 8-cylinder diesel engine, 7,500 hp (5,600 kW)
Speed: 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h)
Capacity: 367,902 cu ft (10,417.8 m3) insulated cargo space, 45 passengers (later 40 cadets)

MV Empire Abercorn was a cargo and passenger ship built in 1944 and in service until 1971. She was also known as MV Rakaia.


Empire Abercorn was built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast for the MoWT and was initially managed by the New Zealand Shipping Co, London. She was sold to the New Zealand Shipping Co in 1946 and renamed Rakaia.[2] In 1950, Rakaia was converted to a cadet training ship, and the accommodation reduced from 45 passengers to 40 cadets. Her first voyage in this role started on 10 June 1950.[3] On 16 February 1955, a dockside fire at Wellington, New Zealand threatened to spread to Arawa, Port Pirie, Rakaia, and Rangitoto.[4]

On 16 October 1957, on a voyage between New York City and Liverpool, No.8 piston rod in the engine snapped. The ship was about 300 miles (480 km) off Halifax at the time. The weather deteriorated, and the ship was rolling, making repairs difficult. To stabilize Rakaia, it was decided to jury rig a set of sails. Tarpaulin sails were made from hatch covers. Two square sails and one staysail were erected, giving approximately 2,500 square feet (230 m2) of sail. The engine was reduced from eight to six cylinders, running at a maximum of 50 rpm; it took eleven days to reach Liverpool.[5]

On 28 December 1966, Rakaia was sold to the Federal Steam Navigation Co, remaining under the management of the New Zealand Shipping Co. Her last voyage as a cadet training ship ended on 28 March 1968.[3] Rakaia was sold to the Lee Sing Company, Hong Kong in August 1971 for scrapping.[6]

Engine and generators[edit]

Empire Abercorn had an eight-cylinder, two-cycle double-acting diesel engine built by Harland & Wolff. It produced 7,500 hp at 115 rpm. Normal operating speed about 101.2 rpm, giving a fuel consumption of 28 tons per day.[7]

Empire Abercorn had four main generators and one auxiliary generator. The main generators were "Harlandics", built by Harland and Wolff. They were powered by six-cylinder diesel engines of 335 horsepower (250 kW) producing 250 kW each ; the auxiliary generator was powered by a three-cylinder diesel engine of 30 horsepower (22 kW) producing 15 kW, voltage was 220 volts.[7]

Official number and code letters[edit]

Official numbers were a forerunner to IMO Numbers.

Empire Abercorn had the UK Official number 166215.[8] Empire Abercorn used the Code Letters GFGW.[8] Towards the end of her life, Rakaia was given IMO Number 5289481.[9]


  1. ^ "Blue Star's M.V. "Tuscan Star" 2, Blue Star's M.V. "Timaru Star" 1, Blue Star's M.V. "California Star" 2". Blue Star Line. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  2. ^ "Empire — A". Mariners. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  3. ^ a b "M.V. “RAKAIA”, NEW ZEALAND SHIPPING COMPANY LIMITED" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  4. ^ "5,000 Bales of wood destroyed". The Times (53168). London. 17 February 1955. col A, p. 8. 
  5. ^ "JURY SAILS IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  6. ^ "RAKAIA / EMPIRE ABERCORN 1945". Shipslist. Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  7. ^ a b "M.V. “RAKAIA”, MAIN ENGINE AND AUXILIARY MACHINERY" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  8. ^ a b "LLOYD'S REGISTER, STEAMERS & MOTORSHIPS" (PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 10 January 2009. 
  9. ^ "Vessel ID 5289481". New Zealand Maritime Index. Retrieved 2008-11-23.