Past and PresentTownsend Thoresen

Empire Shearwater (Ex LST 3033) – Past and Present

ID Number: 6121613

Empire Shearwater

ex LST 3033

© Imperial War Museum

A “Seabird Class” former twin screw LST (Landing Ship Tank), the hull was built by William Pickersgill & Sons Ltd, Sunderland (Yard Number 275) in 1945, and engined by George Clarke (1938) Ltd, also of Sunderland

Technical Data

  • Length on deck: 105.4m (347.5m)(overall), 100.6m (330ft) (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth of hull: 16.5m (54.1ft) (extreme)
  • Draught: 3.2m (10.5ft) (summer)
  • Tonnage: 4,285 gross, 2,296 net, 4,820 deadweight
  • Engines: Eight 8-cylinder Clarke triple-expansion reciprocating type
  • Power: 5500 ihp
  • Speed: 13 knots (10 knots cruising)
  • Capacity: 68-80 commercial lorries
  • Complement: 115 officers and ratings
  • Could carry: 10 tanks plus 15 vehicles
  • Call Sign: GKZR
  • Official Number: 187500
  • ID Number: 6121613
  • LR Number (1958- 1959): 59623
  • Registry: London/UK 🇬🇧
  • Military load: 168 troops, seven LCMs, eighteen 40 ton tanks and twenty seven trucks. All cargoes could be discharged through the bow door mechanism which was fitted with a 23 feet by 14 feet ramp.
  • Inside was a second ramp (50 feet by 11 feet) connecting the enclosed tank deck to the open upper deck.
  • The tank deck was 204 feet 6 inches long and 28 feet to 29 feet 6 inches wide.


February 11th 1945: Launched as one of nineteen tank landing ships owned by the Ministry of Transport and managed on their behalf by the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company Ltd.

July 19th 1945: Completed as LST 3033.

© Imperial War Museum © Imperial War Museum © Imperial War Museum

© Imperial War Museum

1949 – 1951: Anti-Aircraft firing ship.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

1956: Named EMPIRE SHEARWATER when she was recalled to service as a mercantile, being transferred into the MOD (Army) during the Suez crisis as a military transport ferry (having previously been cocooned in the River Clyde). Operated by the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company on behalf of the Ministry of Transport.

1958: Management transferred to European Ferries Ltd (Townsend Bros Ferries Ltd) and modified as a roll-on roll-off motor ship with bow doors, the intention being to use her for a cut-rate Dover-Calais service (in competition with an existing transport ferry service between Tilbury and Antwerp) operating from a newly-built ramp at the root of the Eastern Arm in Dover’s Eastern Docks.

January 12th 1959: Eventually arrived at Dover from Greenock.

January 19th 1959: First commercial sailing to Calais.

June 1959: Withdrawn; the vessel thereafter being returned to her former owners.

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection (all)

June 1959: The service was closed and the ship was sent to the Medway to lay-up.

1961 – 1962: She was managed by the British India Steam Navigation Company.

November 28th 1962: Broken up at Terneuzen, Ghent.

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions found. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright.

Article © Nigel Thornton and Ray Goodfellow (Dover Ferry Photos Group)

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