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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

CS Restorer
by Dirk van Oudenol

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C.S. Restorer's Final Days Part 2

VI. C. S. Restorer

This ship was built by Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co., Newcastle-on-Tyne, England and completed on or about 1/3/1903. (NOTE: This date has to be an error, as it is a fact the ship was finished and loading cable on 18/1/1903). It was purchased from the Eastern Extension, Australasia & China Telegraph Company, Ltd., in December 1904 for U.S.$469,879.27. The ship is therefore over 47 years old. It is fully depreciated in the accounts.

The question as to whether the Restorer should be continued in service was brought up on 8/12/1948, in a joint letter addressed by the President of Commercial Pacific Cable Company to American Cable & Radio Corporation, Cable & Wireless Limited, and The Great Northern Telegraph Company, Ltd. This joint letter referred in the main to the Midway-Guam cable interruption that occurred on 10/8/1948, and to the failure of the Restorer to make the repair due in large measure to the inadequacy of cable machinery on the ship for successful work at great depths.

In the concluding part of that joint letter, four questions were asked, of which only the first and second were eventually answered. The other two are pending, i.e.,
(3) Shall we incur substantial expenditure on the 46-year-old Restorer to make that ship available for working in depths of 3,000 fathoms in the future?
(4) If the answer to (3) is negative, shall we start exploratory conversations with the Commercial Cable Company to ascertain how the C.S. John W. Mackay can be made available to Commercial Pacific Cable Company and on what terms?

And it was further stated - "We feel that the problems are such that Board members would feel constrained to refer to their principals for guidance and advice before reaching a final decision."

Also - "It will be appreciated if you will sent us a message, followed by a more detailed letter giving us your views and decision with respect to the four points raised in the next preceding paragraph."

Cable & Wireless and Northern made no response by letter to our communication of 8/12/1948. The late Mr. Kenneth E. Stockton, of American Cable & Radio, sent a short note to Mr. W. H. Pitkin that was referred to the President of Commercial Pacific Cable for comment. A copy of his response dated 15/12/1948 is hereto attached, - No. 10. Thus it will be seen that the question of the future of this ship has been under consideration for some time.

In a letter dated 26/7/1950 from Mr. F. Lansbury, Secretary of Cable & Wireless, to Mr. Jordan, he states: "We are * * * of the opinion that major survey works on Restorer are not warranted, but you should give careful consideration to whether a limited survey will or will not be offset by enhanced disposal value."

Comments: (1) The estimate given on page 17 for repairs on the Restorer is only that which the plant engineer considers essential together with those repairs which would be called for by Lloyds and the U. S. Coast Guard in order to obtain certificates for insurance and navigation. If the survey is made, the inspectors for Lloyds and the Coast Guard may uncover areas where replacements will be necessary that are not covered in the estimate of $50,000.

(2) In its present condition the Restorer has scrap value only. No one can venture a reliable estimate of the price for which the ship could be sold.

(3) For the purposes of sale, work performed under survey would add very little value to a ship as old as the Restorer. A prospective buyer would be faced with additional expense to convert the ship into a cargo carrier.

(4) Work done under survey (with the amount added for necessary hydraulic brakes) would put the ship in good condition for cable repair work.

Mr. Lansbury also states: "Having regard to the fact that any uneconomic retention of the Restorer has already lasted several years, we should have thought it was immaterial if this state of affairs continued for a little longer while the future of CPCC is under review."

Comments: (1) There can be no objection to delaying the repair work on the ship until the future of CPCC is decided upon. It must, however, be borne in mind that, for sea purposes, Restorer has already lost her classification, which will not be re-issued until after she undergoes the repairs called for by the survey.

(2) For many years the personnel of the ship has been reduced to a skeleton crew basis immediately upon return from a repair expedition. Any necessary work such as scraping, painting, occasional turnover of engines to prevent deterioration has been performed by the skeleton crew.

(3) The comment "uneconomic retention of the Restorer has already lasted several years" is not entirely clear. It has been necessary for the Company, under its landing license in the United States, to maintain cable repair facilities. NOTE: Clause 13 of the Company's landing license reads: "That ample repair service for said cable shall be maintained." This is a broad statement and, in the light of present discussions as to the future of C.S. Restorer, would appear to require interpretation by the Federal Communications Commission. In the early days, when international communication was by cable only, each private American company provided its own cable repair facilities. We wonder if the dispatch of a ship like the John W. Mackay from a port in the united kingdom to a point in the Pacific area where an interruption occurs in the CPCC lines is maintaining "ample repair service", and particularly if the John W. Mackay were engaged in other repair work, regardless of the duration thereof, and notwithstanding the existing agreement CPCC has with Mackay Radio to handle cable traffic during periods of interruption to CPCC cables.

Even on a skeleton crew basis the cost of maintaining the ship has been high. Under demands of labor unions the wage scales and port allowances have practically doubled since the year 1941 (with shorter working hours), as shown by the accompanying statement (Attachment No. 5). The cost of repairs and renewals under Lloyds and U. S. Coast Guard surveys increases from year to year while the ship is kept in service. Nevertheless cable repair facilities must be maintained while the company conducts its operations.

We venture to express the view that other cable companies are likewise faced with increased costs at the present time of maintaining cable ships not only with respect to wages but also for repairs and renewals at dates fixed for periodic surveys.
Following is a statement of other cable ships that have been in service over 25 years:

Placed in service
Western Union - "Lord Kelvin"
"Cyrus Field"

Commercial Cable Co. - "John W. Mackay"
"Marie Louise Mackay"

All America Cables - "All America"
Great Northern - "Store Nordiske"(II)

It is fair to assume that with the increased cost of maintaining any of the ships above listed , the per diem charter hire will likewise increase.

(4) The only new cable ship of which we have a record is the Sir Edward Wilshaw. All of the cable companies are apt to be faced in the not too distant future with the problem of providing new cable repair ships to replace the old ships presently in service.

During WW II, the United States Government had two new cable ships under construction at Chester, Pennsylvania. They were completed shortly after V-J Day. We understand the cost was very high, somewhere around $7,000,000 each. They are fitted with every modern convenience, including an elaborate layout for crew's quarters. The ships were offered to the American cable companies at a price considered to be beyond reach of any company. There were no takers and, according to our advices, the ships were placed in "moth balls" at Norfolk, Virginia. They have now been laid up for such a long time we feel the expense of reconditioning either of them would be prohibitive for any company.

Mr. Lansbury further states: "If, after consideration of the foregoing you are satisfied that disposal of the ship is the best course, we would agree to such action."

Comment: As already noted above, there are grave doubts in our minds that the ship could be sold for more than scrap value. Although there may be a demand for shipping tonnage due to the Korean incident, we feel it would be sometime before we found a purchaser. Meantime, the ship should have a staff on board for current maintenance.

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| Home | Contact Email | Prologue | 1901 - 1904 | Joint Reports 1903 - 04 | Early Operations | First World War | Peace | Second World War | 3rd Naval Armed Guard Report | Winter Cable Laying | 11th Naval Armed Guard Report | Peace Again | Home And Back To Work | C.S. Restorer's Final Days Part 1 | C.S. Restorer's Final Days Part 2 | Services Rendered by C.S. Restorer | The End For C.S. Restorer|

Copyright © 2006 Dirk van Oudenol

Last revised: 6 December, 2015

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