Completed 1956 as "HELISOMA" for STUK. 1973 sold to African Coasters and renamed "AFRICA SHELL". 26-9-1977 arrived Kaohsiung for scrap. Model Kevan Corcoran.

Also known as
Africa Shell
IMO number
Call sign
Construction number
19.349 ton
Length overall
Year of construction
Year of renaming/broken up
Service for Shell
1956 to 1977
Flag state
Home port



Name Job Period Details
Alistair Montgomery apprentice engineer 1958
Stuart George Lye 5th engineer 1958
Neil Carmichael apprentice engineer 1959 to 1960
Thomas David Shreeve messman 1959 to 1960
Billy Mccann senior ordinary seaman 1960 to 1961
Geoff Amos deck apprentice 1961 to 1962
Doug Hart 5th engineer 1961 to 1962
Colin Mussell senior ordinary seaman 1962
Norman Williams 2nd cook and baker 1962 to 1963
Michael Thompson assistant steward 1962 to 1963
Bill Mullen 5th engineer 1963 to 1964
Mel Fidgeon 5th engineer 1963 to 1964
Dave Hone catering boy/galley boy 1963 to 1964
Charles Hammond able seaman 1963
Victor Stephen Park engineer 1963
Brian Robert Sharpe deckhand 1964 deck hand ab
Peter John Houghton engineer cadet 1964
Doug Hart 4th engineer 1964 to 1965
Alex Thomson apprentice engineer 1964 to 1965 engineer apprentice/junior engineer
Brian Crew 2nd engineer 1964
Ian Candy radio officer 1964 to 1965
Michael Rand 5th engineer 1965 1st trip
Terry Hatton deck apprentice 1965 to 1966
Peter Graham 2nd mate 1965 changing ships between curacao and cardon!
wilka 3rd. Mate 1965
William M Wood 3rd engineer, 2nd engineer 1965 to 1966
Leonard Mcaskell catering boy/galley boy 1966
Mike Muir 1 senior ordinary seaman 1966
Michael Mcmurtha deck cadet 1966 to 1967
Neil Frederick ... 2nd cook 1966 to 1967
Robert Ian Fletcher apprentice engineer/5th engineer 1966 to 1967
Ian G. Kendall crew messman 1966
Brian Gray 4th engineer 1967
Richard Hindle training officer 1967 to 1968
Peter Brian Coxwell extra 3rd mate 1967
Larry Loughran senior ordinary seaman 1967 to 1968
Michael Cullen ordinary seaman 1968
Stephen Colin Lloyd catering boy/galley boy 1968 to 1969
Nigel Page apprentice engineer 1968
Jim Lakeman 3rd engineer 1968
John Ross 2 3rd mate 1968 to 1969
Brian Selman 2nd steward 1968
Alan Drury po mechanic 1968 to 1969
Brian Gray 4th engineer 1968
J. Egan able seaman 1968 to 1969
Peter Wilkinson engineer cadet 1968
Gerry Mapson chief steward 1968 to 1969
Peter Brian Coxwell 3rd officer 1969
Alan Woodger catering boy 1969 1st trip
Alan Jones Alan... 2nd steward 1969
Hugh Smith deck cadet 1969 to 1970
Fred Ravenscroft cook 1969
Des Mclindon deck apprentice 1969 to 1970
Thomas Ogle able seaman 1969
Martin Tait deck cadet 1970 to 1971
Kevin Shooter deck boy 1970
Bernard Reynolds chief officer 1970
Geoff Hoyle 5th engineer 1970
Tom Forrest deck cadet 1971 1st trip at sea, joined in Shellhaven . March.
George Alan Shewan 5th engineer 1971
Willie Howe able seaman 1971
Trevor Gadd 5th engineer 1971
Peter M Morgan uncertificated 3rd mate 1971
Geoffrey Forster 2 assistant steward 1971
Geoff Donnelly 3rd mate 1971
Andy Crooke 3rd engineer 1971
Chris Hallam efficient deckhand 1972
John Parker fireman/greaser 1972
Michael Ashcroft deck cadet 1972
John Parker fireman/greaser 1972
Malcolm Frost able seaman 1972
John Parker fireman/greaser 1972
Zia Addin Kalan... deck cadet 1972
Colin Sandeman 2nd mate 1972 to 1973 2 Trips. All UK, European & Baltic coasting with white oils. Paid off at Falmouth when sold to African Shell.
David Barnard senior ordinary seaman 1972
David Chambers steward 1973
Peter Copeland deck cadet 1973
Gordon Robertson engineer cadet 1973
John Michael Co... master 1976 to 1977
Ken Williamson gp 1 1977


Date Visitor Anecdote
01/16/2023 - 16:50 Dave Curry

I was the Executive Officer of the USS Safeguard (ARS-25) which rendered salvage assistance to SS Helisoma in the harbor at Nha Trang, Vietnam during the period 26 December 1968 to 2 January 1969. Helisoma had been mined while at anchor by suspected Viet Cong swimmers from an island in the harbor. I have numerous photos during the operation as well as articles that were written and unclassified portions of the salvage report. The Commanding Officer of Safeguard was LCDR Charles H. Billings (deceased).

Upon arrival, Safeguard moored portside to Helisoma's port bow. An initial survey revealed two holes in the skin of the ship - a hole 10'8" by 11'7" existed on the port side 16 feet from the bow and 3.5 feet below the waterline; a small blown out hole 10" by 17" was found on the starboard side 56 feet from the bow and 12 feet below the water line. Helisoma's draft at this time was 36' forward and 27'5" aft. The hole in the port side penetrated the port bunker tank, foreword dry cargo hold, forward cofferdam, and the number one port cargo tank which contained JP-4 fuel. An estimated 1000 tons of JP-4/bunker fuel remained on top of water in damaged tanks and spaces. To prevent this mixture from being discharged into the harbor, the mixture was pumped to the Dutch Shell tanker SS Korenia.

A 16' square wooden frame, steel reinforced American type patch was built and fitted by 28 December over the hole on the port side. Pumping of uncontaminated cargo, approximately19,000 tons of JP-4 to Korenia and saltwater to Helisoma's midships tanks by 31 December. A great New Years Eve celebration occurred, a story unto itself.

The job was completed on 2 January and Helisoma got underway for Singapore at 1430 hours for permanent repairs.

02/22/2021 - 16:23 Robert Ian Fletcher

I served as Eng App and junior engineer on Hellisoma from July 1966 to July 1967. If my memory serves me well it was a great ship and I enjoyed my time on her. The old man for a time was Willy Cairns who was by all account a bit of a bastard but when I did my bridge time I got on fine with him. I think Keith Fenwick was first mate during that time.

07/05/2015 - 13:10 Barrie Comfort

it surprised me a bit that no one has written about the time the Helisoma was taking fuel from Singapore for the Americans fighting in Viet Nam,i was a crew member when the ship was mined in Na Trang we were at anchor when a mine exploded under the port bow puncturing three cargo tanks full of jet fuel this happened about two in the morning how the fuel did not ignite is a miracle it was hard to breath as the high octane vaporized it was a frightening experience for all of us the Americans sent the USS Safeguard a salvage tug to assist us who patched us up to get back to Singapore for major repairs we were flown home from Singapore via Bangkok Bahrain Rome Frankfurt and then London on a Boeing 707 we were asked at the time by the captain if we wanted our family's to be informed there was a report on BBC overseas radio service that said the ship had been mined and no fatalities had been reported so we thought it best to tell them of our troubles and that we were OK which was just before Christmas 1968 my parents received a Telegram saying the ship had been damaged in Viet Nam and would be heading for Singapore when repairs were complete so they spent Christmas worrying about their sailor boy son,i spent ten years at sea sailing on two shell H boats but mainly BP tankers

05/23/2014 - 18:56 Trevor Gadd


During 1971 the company I worked for Bayliss Jones and Bayliss in Wolverhampton West Mids as an apprentice went bankrupt. I was 19 years of age.
Work was hard to find. I was a machine tool fitter apprentice with six months to go to get my indentures and had passed all the City and Guilds college stuff.
There was a Scottish guy working at BJB that had filled my young impressionable head with dreams of tropical ports and adventures.
When BJB shut the doors I went to Liverpool to take the Pre seaman entry exam, which I passed and then went to Shell in London to take their exam.
I remember the post exam interview. The guy interviewing me asked me why I wanted to join the Merchant Navy and I told him to see the world and to save money to buy a house. He told me that I would be a 5th Engineer but I would find it hard to progress as my math was not that strong. ( I have my fourth but never used it). He was wrong but that is besides the point.
I remember getting fitted up for my uniform and apart from the main jacket and pants it was for warmer climes.
I was informed I had to go to Teeside to join the Helisoma. I took the train on a miserable day and arrived about 8pm. Upon arriving was greeted by the Chief Eng ....this is where you will have to bear with me as I cannot remember any names.
Chief Eng was a Taffy Bastard from Swansea who took an instant dislike to me, his words were as follows.. Wolverhampton, what the fuck are you doing here? I bet you don't even know the sharp end from the blunt end. I replied that is what I am here to learn. I was signed up for 15 months and the destination was Teeside to Rotterdam, Kiel canal, Baltic Sea and then to Lulea Sweden. Back to Rotterdam and then to Canvey Island up the Thames and Repeat.
He took me to my room and said get some sleep you are on watch at 12pm.
In retrospect I do think this asshole had a point as generally sailors come from seafaring ports and families.
My watch was 12 till 4am and 12 till 4pm with fire drills etc in between. Not much sleep as I recall.
I arrive in the engine room at 12pm and was greeted by 2nd Engineer named Jerry as I recall. He was from Tee side and also took an instant dislike to me.
The pipework and color codes and boilers , turbine, burners, desalination plant ....Wow it was so new and overwhelming. I had to learn fast. I was told that if we were to lose vacuum on a certain gauge then there was a sequence of valve turning required to bring it back, failure to do so in time would result in reduced power generation. Invariably this Jerry guy would meet me on the engine room deck and then disappear so I was on my own. Not long after I was doing the rounds and noticed that the vacuum on this particular gauge was low and the lights were starting to dim. I called out for Jerry and he did not answer. In desperation I called the Taffy out of bed and he corrected the problem. He then told me NEVER call me out of bed again!!!
Another night on duty Jerry did his usual greeting and gave me the sheets to go and do the temp and pressure checks. As usual on arriving back at the Engine room deck he was nowhere to be seen. I smelled smoke and followed my nose to a room where there was a metal ladder and above was a room with waste rags. He was there and had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette. I feel that I saved his life that day but gratitude was not one of his attributes.
I was getting very depressed as I could not under any circumstances win the friendship of the Chief or Second engineers.
I did learn a heck of a lot in a short while and feel I would have made a competent engineer over time.
I made friends with the Chief cook who had a short wave radio. He knew I loved boxing and would invite me to listen to the then Cassius Clay fights over shortwave.
As the new fiver I was always on watch when the ship was in Port. I was in desperate need of some music and one night we were docked in Rotterdam, I had the boilers under control and went quickly ashore to the duty free and bought a Sony cassette player with radio, mono and two tapes. Let it Bleed the Rolling Stones and Bouree Jethro Tull. These tapes were my way of escaping the harsh reality of the Helisoma experience.
I remember when I was playing this cassette in my room getting ready for the 12 midnight watch my door burst open and in came the Taffy and Jerry. They said "you went ashore you little bastard and proceeded to beat me up before I could get out of bed. I was in rough shape and could not eat for three days because my jaw was out of line.
The next day I put on my uniform and went to see the Captain to tell him about what had happened. I had black eyes and could barely talk. He listened and then said.
I don't believe you. I said well how do you think I got in this state? He said you probably fell over.
I told him that he better believe that I was going to jump ship at first port which was luckily Canvey island.
He told me that I would go to prison for breach of contract and I told him to have the police waiting for me because prison could be no worse than the life I was living on board this rust bucket.
We docked in Canvey and I took a taxi the train station and back home to Wolverhampton. Sanity, Friends with understanding and compassion. Wow, my mental state immediately returned to positive.

I took a job in a steel plant as the nightshift foreman for 12 months and then landed a service engineer position with a Danish company . My Jurisdiction was the entire UK. I remember going to the bars in Swansea hoping to meet Chief Taffy Engineer so I could give him a good hiding, but never saw him. Probably good because manslaughter is not a nice label to have attached to ones name.

I later got into competitive cycling and won the British national championships 6 times, went to 1976 Olympics in Montreal Canada . Became 5th in the world Venezuela , Two silvers at the Commonwealth games in Edmonton Canada and then emigrated to Canada and been here ever since.

I often wonder what the Taffy Bastard and Jerry did with their lives.
Fuck the Helisoma I am so glad it is scrapped.

Trevor Gadd.

05/07/2011 - 07:45 Michael Cullen

When sailing near Bermuda the helisoma court on fire in th e acomadation area, it took us about 5 hour to get it out.
There was tow ships stading by ibook alsoncase it got out of control as we had a full cargo on our way to Canada.
I have a pictur of me standing by one of the outside doors with all the black around it from the fire on face book.
Also when I joind here in Singapore we did a trip to Bangkok and one night on our way back to the ship a crew member sliped on get on bourd and fell into the water,
I dived over the side and saved him as I new he could not swim, we was picked up by a small boat as we was down abit from the Helisoma. the crew mwmber never thanked me.
There is also the artical about this that my mother had put in our local paper back home on my facebook also. ( mick cullen)

12/27/2010 - 03:54 Billy Mccann

Back in 1960 I was SOS on the Helisoma,. We left the Maracaibo Lake Venezuela and headed for Brazil, destination Manus 1000 miles up the Amazon River. Helisoma was the first Shell tanker to go that far up the Amazon and our cargo of crude was the first ever delivered to the new refinery that had just opened.

From the mouth of the Amazon to the refinery just below Manus it took four days sailing the return journey down the river took 2 days. Interesting place Manus a true seamans port in those days where a good time could be had by all.

Billy McCann

09/21/2010 - 16:55 Kevin Shooter

i had just come out of sea school and joined the ship at the isle of grain after 6 wks at sea the crew put food and bones in my bunk a scotman tried to give me one a quick smack in the mouth and there all left the cabin i was respected after that the bosun then was a polish or hungarien very good bloke .

12/31/2009 - 12:50 David Anderson

The Helisoma was the first ship -launch I had ever witnessed.I was 15 years old and had just started as an apprentice at Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson's yard at Wallsend.

12/06/2009 - 17:51 Bernard Reynolds

I was on the Helisoma around 1970, Captain Chillman was the old man and we were on the UK/continent coast. We went to Shellhaven my home port and were unable to discharge part of our cargo as there had been a fire in the refinery so we had to go and anchor off Southend pier until the unit for which that parcel was required had been repaired. Shirely was with me on the ship as it was our Childrens half term and they were staying with my parents in Southend. Capt Chillman suggested that the children could join us on the ship, they were 5 & 6 years. So I phoned my parents who put them on a boat at the end of Southend pier. The next thing we knew they were clambering up the pilot ladder. They were thoroughly spoit, they slept in the pilots cabin. The 2nd Steward took them tea and biscuits every morning. One dinner time my son had four helping helpings of chocolate duff then the 2nd Steward asked him if he would like another for when he went to bed. All in all we were over a month in the River Thames. After we had completed discharged at Shellhaven we then went to BP at the Isle Of Grain and loaded for the Esso terminal at Purfleet.

The Helisoma was the only ship I was on that was pooped while in ballast. We were crossing the North sea during a gale to Teesport with a following sea when a might wave struck the poop. It swept over the stern, smashed both wooden teak doors in either side of the galley.On the port side the wave went up into the salon and junior engineers alley way. On the Starboard side it swept through the crew messroom and down the stairs into the crew alleyway. The mooring ropes ended up as a bunch of knittingwhich we had to quickley untangle as we were going into Teesport for bunkers. After a short respite we headed back into the gale as our next cargo wasn't ready.