History of Nerissa

History of the S.S. Nerissa

A passenger and cargo steamer of 5,583 tons gross, the Nerissa was the final ship to be built for the old-established Red Cross Line service between New York, Halifax, and St. John’s, Newfoundland. Her registered owners were the New York, Newfoundland Steamship Co. Ltd., the managers of which were C.T. Bowring & Co. Ltd., of Liverpool. The latter had opened this service in 1884; the first ship used being their then brand new Miranda. Winter conditions could be arduous and to face up to the ice floes the Nerissa was given a specially strengthened hull with an icebreaker type stern, which from a point near the waterline, sloped back sharply to the keel.

Her length b.p. was 349.5 ft, breadth mid 54 ft and depth mid 33 ft. The net tonnage was 3,116 and the Nerisssa could carry 3,110 tons d.w. on a draught of 20 ft 8 in. She was built by Wm. Hamilton & Co. Ltd., Port Glasgow, and her machinery by David Rowan & Co. Ltd. Of Glasgow. This was of 4-cylinder, triple-expansion type, with cylinders of 27, 45 and 54 (two) in. diameter and 45 in. stroke. Her boilers, four in number, were oil-fired and had a working pressure of 200 p.s.i. The hull had two continuous decks with a third one in the holds. Their cargo capacity was 197,430 cu. ft, this including 7290 cu. ft of insulated space. Her passenger capacity was given as 163 first-class and 66 second-class, and the cabins and public rooms for the former were described as bordering on the luxurious’.

In all she was an exceptionally well-equipped ship, yet she was built in a remarkably short time. Her owners needed her for the opening of the 1926 season and when they stressed this on 3 November, 1925 – the day when the contract was signed – many thought that Hamilton’s would never achieve the deadline. However, the keel was laid within a week and the ship launched on 31 March. She ran preliminary trials on 27 May and during further runs in loaded condition she did over 15 1/2 knots. On 5 June she was away on her maiden voyage to New York.

The Red Cross Line relied largely on the American tourist traffic and this became increasingly affected by the trade depression. By 1927 it was decided that the service must be closed down and at the end of 1928 the Red Cross Line with its three ships, Nerissa, Rosalind and Silvia were sold to the Furness Withy Group. They then became part of the Bermuda & West Indies Steamship Co. Ltd., with their funnels repainted in Furness Withy style, black with two red bands, one narrow and one wide. The Nerissa continued on the New York – Halifax – St. Johns (N.F.) run at least until 1931. She was then switched to warmer routes, still based on New York but running to Bermuda, also to the West Indies as far south as Trinidad and Demerara. But she met her end in other waters, for it was in position 55-57N, I0-08W (to the N.W. of Ireland) when, on 30 April, 1941, she was torpedoed and sent to the bottom by German submarine U-552.

Ref: Merchant Ships of the World in Colour 1910-1929, by Laurence Dunn.