Limited Production FDCs...

Blue Star Line Ships

       8 January 2003                              $5.00 minisheet                                       Mint and CTO           $5.00
                                                                                                                                       FDC           $6.00

Technical Details

Release Date             : 8 February 2003
Denominations           : $5.00
Stamp Design            : Typeface, Wellington, NZ
Printer                       : Secura Security Printers, Singapore
Process                     : Offset Lithography
Paper                        : 102gsm Postmaster gummed paper
Stamp Size                : 52mm x 43.5mm horizontal
Mini Sheet Size         : 160mm x 75mm
Perforation Gauge     : 13 x 13.25
First Day Cover        :  $6.00

Until 1998, when Blue Star Line was taken over by P&O Nedlloyd, vessels of this fleet had called at Pitcairn regularly for many years.

Under P&O Nedlloyd ownership, the four ships Melbourne Star, America Star, Sydney Star and Queensland Star have continued to stop at Pitcairn up to 20 times each year, bringing supplies and carrying passengers and mail to and from the island.  Originally, these vessels, launched more than 30 years ago were part of the ACT fleet.  Melbourne Star was originally named ACT III, America Star was ACT IV, Sydney Star was ACT V and Queensland Star was ACT VI.

All four of these ships are now being withdrawn from service and are off to the ship recycling yard in Shanghai, China.

It is interesting that the first of these vessels to visit Pitcairn, ACT IV (America Star) will also be the last of the four to call.  ACT IV first called at Pitcairn on 17 September 1981, arriving from Auckland with passengers Ben and Irma Christian, Christy Warren and his grand-daughter Meralda, together with some supplies and the mail.  America Star will call for the last time, southbound sailing from Houston, Texas to Auckland, New Zealand on 8 January 2003, the date upon which this sheetlet is being released.  For the ship’s Master, Captain Alan Brown, it will be a visit tinged with some sadness.  Captain Brown first visited Pitcairn in the late 1960’s as a cadet.  Since becoming the regular Master aboard America Star, he has seldom missed the opportunity to stop at Pitcairn when passing in either direction.

There are many other captains, officers and crew members who have had special friendships with the Pitcairn people, and will miss the calls at Pitcairn.  At one time or other, every Pitcairner has sailed to or from Pitcairn aboard one of these four ships.

When these ships were converted from steam turbine in the mid-80s, a reduced crew capacity allowed for part of one deck to be converted for passenger accommodation.  Many passengers have completed the 72 day round voyage from Philadelphia, through Panama to New Zealand and on to Australia before returning via New Zealand and Panama to the East Coast of the United States.  Pitcairn lies conveniently on the Great Circle Route, just eight days steaming from New Zealand and many of those taking the full round-trip have stopped for an hour or two, some for up to a day, at Pitcairn, while the ship off-loads passengers, mail and supplies.

Normally, only three of the many calls these vessels make each year, are as official supply ships to the island.  On these occasions, the ships may carry up to four 20 foot containers; two closed general containers amid-ships and two open-top containers above the aft deck.  Stores from the two containers amid-ships are man-handled to the rail and lowered using an air-assisted hand winch, over the side into the longboat tied below.   Supplies in the containers aft are lifted and lowered over the side using the ship’s stores crane into the longboats which position themselves beneath the descending load.  It is an extremely hazardous operation, requiring skill and expertise acquired by Pitcairners from their early teens.  It normally takes between 6 and 10 hours to discharge supplies, depending upon the sea conditions on the day.

Although these ships are being replaced with giant super carriers, the new vessels will be sailing out of Port Chalmers, in the lower South Island of New Zealand and will not be on a course that passes Pitcairn as they voyage to Panama.  Given that Pitcairn has around 35 to 45 ships calling each year, losing 20 of these calls will seriously affect the servicing of the island.

Blue Star Line now joins the list of those others including Shaw Savill and Albion Company, NZ Shipping Company, Ellerman-Bucknell Lines, White Star Line, Port Line and many more whose legendary service has become a part of Pitcairn history.

The sheetlet features all four of these ships, which are almost identical, lying off Pitcairn Island.  Although such a scene was never realised, it has been known for two of them to be visiting the island at the same time.

Pitcairn is pleased to be able to acknowledge the contribution made to the community by the vessels and personnel of Blue Star Line and of P&O Nedlloyd with this special stamp issue.

Limited Edition Covers.

Early this year, we secured an arrangement with America Star and were able to obtain the Official America Star Ship Stamp before it was destroyed.  We produced some special edition Blue Star Line Ships' FDCs which included the official America Star cancel alongside the First Day of Issue cancel.

When this became known aboard the three other vessels featured, we were asked if covers could also feature the stamps of these other vessels.  We have agreed to this and a limited run of covers have been cancelled each with the official ship’s stamp from Melbourne Star, Queensland Star and Sydney Star.

This FDC therefore has five different formats:

1. The regular FDC with First Day of Issue cancel.
2. The FDC with our cancel + the official America Star stamp
3. The FDC with our cancel + the official  Melbourne Star stamp
4. The FDC with our cancel + the official Queensland Star stamp
5. The FDC with our cancel + the official Sydney Star stamp

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