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En el año 2010 Bland Gibraltar cumplía 200 años de existencia. Tradición y buen hacer ingles en la roca y, también, historias de guerras y supervivencia que les ha hecho fuertes a lo largo de los años. Nuestra felicitación.
En este blog ya hemos visto un buen número de buques de esta Compañía. Hoy veremos uno de los últimos y mas poderosos que tuvo su flota; el MONS CALPE.

The side-loading doors and ample freeing ports above the car deck are well shown in this trials view. From THE MARINE ENGINEER AND NAVAL ARCHITECT.jpg
The side-loading doors and ample freeing ports above the car deck are well shown in this trials view. From THE MARINE ENGINEER AND NAVAL ARCHITECT.jpg

Mons Calpe significa Gibraltar en latín. Una detallada descripción técnica aparece en la revista The Marine Engineer and Naval Architect, extraordinaria revista fundada en 1879, quien en su Núm. 934, Vol. 77 de October, 1954, cita:…”MONS CALPE” for Gibraltar-Tangier Service.
Built by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., and fitted with twin British Polar engines, this passenger and vehicular ferry has many novel features.
The Bland Line and Gibraltar are almost synonymous among seafarers for the shipping company has maintained a passenger and cargo service across the Western gates of the Mediterranean for very many years and their ship repair establishment is always busily engaged in voyage repairs.
In recent years the Gibraltar-Tangier route has become exceedingly popular with travellers visiting North Africa and Morocco, while the number of passengers wishing to take their cars across the Straits has also greatly increased. These circumstances led the owners to order a new ship for their first-line service which would be capable of satisfying these demands and providing a measure of cargo space.

MONS CALPE as built with hull painted light green. From the book BLAND GIBRALTAR.jpg
MONS CALPE as built with hull painted light green. From the book BLAND GIBRALTAR.jpg

The order was placed with the Ailsa Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., of  Troon, who delivered the ship in the latter part of August. The name, MONS CALPE, is taken from the Roman for Gibraltar, and it is interesting to note that the Bland fleet also includes a ship named after the Arabic equivalent GIBEL TARIK. The principal particulars of the MONS CALPE are as follows: — Length overall, 282 ft. 11 ½ in.; Length of load waterline, 267 ft. 6 in.; Moulded breadth to car deck, 48 ft. 0 in.; Moulded breadth at load waterline, 45 ft. 0 in.; Moulded  depth to shelter deck, 26 ft. 0 1/8 in.; Load draught, 10 ft. 6 ½ in.;  Deadweight capacity,  400 tons.; Gross tonnage, 2,000 tons.
The London owners’ agents, Watts, Watts & Co., Ltd., have acted as supervising consultants for construction of the ship. Much of the design has resulted from the seamanlike ideas of Mr. E. H. Watts, who is also a director of the owning company and whose remarkable WANSTEAD and   WINDSOR-class vessels will be recalled. The knuckle line has been given a considerable rise forward which improves the general appearance and adds to the ship’s seaworthiness, this being a well-known feature in the ships of  Watts, Watts & Co., Ltd. The block coefficient of 0.487 is remarkably low and this, coupled with an easy water flow to the propellers, has ensured a good performance. Provision has been made for the carriage of approximately 70 cars or an equivalent number of lorries, which are loaded from adjustable ramps on the piers through side doors in the super-structure beneath the bridge and in the bulwarks aft.
Manually operated 14 ft. turntables supplied by Francis Theakston (1933), Ltd., of London, are fitted forward and aft. Special precautions have been taken to ensure the integrity of the main (car) deck by fitting generous freeing ports throughout the length of the side plating and raising all coamings to a height of 3 ft. above the deck.  Effective ventilation is provided for this compartment by means of Woods’ Aerofoil fans.

One of the turntables is seen in this view, looking aft, of the car deck. From THE MARINE ENGINEER AND NAVAL ARCHITECT.jpg
One of the turntables is seen in this view, looking aft, of the car deck. From THE MARINE ENGINEER AND NAVAL ARCHITECT.jpg

Mobile crane. A small cargo hold aft, which contains a mail room, is loaded through a 6 ft. by 10 ft. hatch by means of a Coles mobile crane.  The deck machinery consists of a Clark Chapman electric windlass and an electric capstan by Thos. Reid & Sons (Paisley), Ltd.  As with all recent Watts, Watts-built ships the berthing arrangements have received special attention and a bullring is fitted in the stem plate for convenience when securing to a buoy.
Interesting steering gear. The steering gear is of electrohydraulic pattern by John Hastie & Co., Ltd., and operates twin suspended spade-type rudders.  This steering gear is of some interest as the port Hele-Shaw pump which provides hydraulic power for actuating the athwartships rams is driven by an electric motor, and the one on the starboard side is driven by a Freeman – Riddell compressed air motor.  This motor comes into operation automatically on failure of mains power.
Day accommodation is provided for 600 passengers in attractively-decorated public rooms. A dining saloon is arranged on the shelter deck at the forward end of the midship house, and a lounge is situated aft, the two spaces being separated by a wide entrance hall.
Employment of Warerite. The dining saloon is capable of seating 110 persons at small tables, and cooked foods are delivered by a lift from a spacious and well-equipped galley below. Two bars are also provided, for serving of ices, teas, cakes, etc. Hot and cold food cabinets are also provided. An original and effective scheme of decoration has been adopted. The sides and end bulkheads are lined with a combination of quilted maple, diced Warerite and sycamore, with red facings.  The inboard panels partly dividing the compartment on the centre-line are clad with Warerite carrying attractive wrought-iron murals designed by Mr. Roland Emmet and executed by the Dunmow village blacksmith. The rectangular windows by Watson & Dundas,   Ltd., have   sycamore jalousies with bronze sea-horse motifs. The steel centre pedestal-type dining tables are for 4 or 6 persons, and have red rims and tops of diced Warerite. The chairs are of modern black steel pattern with a hat rack incorporated beneath the seat and upholstered in red hide.
The floor is laid with patterned linoleum and flush coiling lights are provided overhead.

A view in the steering flat. The three-cylinder air motor can be seen on the left. From THE MARINE ENGINEER AND NAVAL ARCHITECT.jpg
A view in the steering flat. The three-cylinder air motor can be seen on the left. From THE MARINE ENGINEER AND NAVAL ARCHITECT.jpg

Lounge and bar. Seating accommodation for 52 persons at tables for four is provided in the lounge, where the wood-work at the sides is of Nigerian pearwood to dado height, with green Warerite Finaweave above. The tables are also of Nigerian pearwood with red rims and green Warerite tops. The chairs are similar to those in dining saloon and the linoleum is of a pattern combining black, red, green and yellow. Double wall lights in bronze provide the artificial lighting.
Exceptional accommodation has been provided for the officers and crew. The officers’ cabins, including those for captain and chief engineer, are situated on the boat deck, and in general the furnishings are of the highest modern standard.
An officers’ lounge is situated between the captain’s and chief engineer’s rooms. It is panelled in zebrano wood squares, the grain in adjoining squares being arranged in opposite directions. The squares are divided by red headings and seahorse motifs on each square gives a pleasing decorative effect. The furniture is of sycamore and upholstery of green hide.
The  accommodation  for  the Spanish crew is situated forward, and is furnished in the most up-to-date manner and each member is provided with cot berth. A recreation room for the crew is situated on the lower deck, aft of the engine room.
Galley beneath car deck. The galley equipment is all-electric, the range and hot presses of G.E.C. type.  The latest appliances, including a 14 lb. potato peeler, gravity-feed cold meat and bread slicer, and a stainless steel dish-washer, all by the Hobart Manufacturing Co., Ltd., are provided for the efficient supply of meals to passengers and crew.

The lounge has modern steel-framed chairs with integral hatracks. From THE MARINE ENGINEER AND NAVAL ARCHITECT.jpg
The lounge has modern steel-framed chairs with integral hatracks. From THE MARINE ENGINEER AND NAVAL ARCHITECT.jpg

The steel tripod mast carries a Tyfon air whistle and the calibration instrument for the Decca radar. The squat oval funnel is blended into the boat deck structure and contains, in addition to exhaust and ventilation up-takes, the Exide batteries for the Keepalite system, a 15kW Ruston-Campbell & Isherwood emergency generator and a deck-chair store. The fore steaming light is carried above the wheel house. Six wooden 26-ft., 42-person life-boats, one of which is powered, are carried under Stone-Marepa davits of gravity pattern. Four of these are deck-mounted and two are of portal type, bridging   the ship’s side alleyways.   Additional life-saving accommodation is provided by the deck seats which are arranged to float off from their trunnion mountings should the vessel sink.
Navigation equipment. The instruments in the wheel house include a Hastie hydraulic steering telemotor, Decca radar, Kelvin-Hughes magnetic compass. Robinson’s engine order telegraphs and Marconi Seagraph instrument.
There are also a Walter Kidde smoke-detecting cabinet, Siemens telephones and navigation light indicator panel, and Ardente loud hailers.  The wireless installation has been provided by the Marconi International Marine Communication Co. and includes two Reliance transmitters, Mercury and Electra receivers, an Alert automatic emergency set and an Auto-key distress sender.
Machinery. The MONS CALPE is propelled by two seven-cylinder British Polar engines of the M47M type, each designed for an output of 1,310 b.h.p. at 300 r.p.m.   The intermediate shafts are carried in Michell journal bearings.
The solid steel propeller shafts are carried at their after ends by A-brackets, but the shafting itself is not exposed, being enclosed within steel sheaths which extend from the bossing to the A-bracket. The shafts run in oil-lubricated stem tube bearings which are fitted with Cedervall oil-retaining glands at the inboard end of the shipbuilder’s tubes and the after end of the A-brackets. The propellers are of Scimitar design, supplied by the Manganese Bronze & Brass Co., Ltd., of Birkenhead.
The engine room is unusually spacious for a ship of this type and the various auxiliaries are well laid out on either side of the main units.
The space is entered from the car deck through an island casing which is split above this point and extends upwards to paired skylights on the boat deck. Two of Woods’ Aerofoil fans supply fresh air to the engine room through trunking which extends almost to floorplate level.
Essential services for the main engines are provided by two 94-ton Rotary Centrex salt water pumps, two 95-ton upright fresh water pumps and two 58-ton Vertoil lubricating oil pumps, all supplied by Drysdale & Co., Ltd. An Aspinall alarm system consisting of one pressure alarm for the lubricating oil system of each engine, one temperature alarm for the fresh water system of each engine, and one pressure alarm for the salt water cooling system for both engines is provided.

Wrought iron designs on plastic panelling are a feature of the dining saloon. From THE MARINE ENGINEER AND NAVAL ARCHITECT.jpg
Wrought iron designs on plastic panelling are a feature of the dining saloon. From THE MARINE ENGINEER AND NAVAL ARCHITECT.jpg

The oil coolers and heat exchangers are of Serck design and supply. The lubrication system incorporates   twin   Auto – Klean strainers and a Sharpies centrifuge.
Shell lubricants are used throughout.
Auxiliary machinery. A 3-ton Drysdale Horzoil fuel transfer pump, a Sharpies centrifuge and a Barclay Curle sludge ejector are incorporated in the fuel system.
Starting air for the main and auxiliary engines is provided by a motor-driven Reavell compressor with a capacity of 50 cu.ft. of free air per minute at 350 Ib. per sq. in., and a CSA4 unit driven through a friction clutch by a hand-starting Ruston 3VSHZ diesel engine.
The two general service pumps are of Drysdale Rotary Centrex type, with a capacity of 94 tons per hour. Drysdale & Co., Ltd., have also supplied a 50-ton emergency fire and bilge pump and two-ton Wee Mac pumps for domestic fresh water and sanitary duties. A 5-ton Victor Minor oily water separator is installed. Auxiliary power is generated in three 110 kW, 220 volts, 600 r.p.m. Ruston-Campbell & Isherwood sets which are arranged across the after end of the engine room.
The switchboard is carried on a platform above the shafts and has been supplied by Campbell & Isherwood, Ltd., who have also been responsible for many of the electric motors.
The fire-fighting arrangements have been very carefully worked out to meet the unusual conditions and design of the ship. Much assistance and advice has been given by the heads of dock and city fire brigades as well as the Ministry of Transport”.
Excelente articulo de esta revista. La vida operacional del buque y las circunstancias que le toco vivir, nos las cuenta Graeme Somner en el pequeño e interesantísimo libro Bland Gibraltar. Editado por The World Ship Society en 1981 (ISBN:  0 905617 16 9). Veamos a traves de el como fue la vida del MONS CALPE: …“The new car ferry, named MONS CALPE—the first major vessel in the fleet not to be given a name with the prefix GiBEL since 1884—arrived at Gibraltar from Scotland on 31st August, 1954, and commenced sailing to Tangier shortly after.
With aggressive marketing she became an immediate success, offering roll-on loading facilities for vehicles, so that by 1964 she was carrying nearly 27% of the total of  4,884 cars shipped across the Straits, a great achievement for a single ship company, against the multi-ship Cia. Trasmediterranea, state subsidised and operating to Ceuta as well as Tangier.


During January, 1959, as a change from sailing to Tangier with holiday-seeking passengers, MONS CALPE was chartered by the Moroccan Government to carry troops from Tangier to Acheucemas, on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, where there was a revolt by the local tribesmen. She landed the troops at dawn without any opposition as had other Bland steamers in the early part of the century, when they too carried out similar functions”…
Mas adelante, el mismo libro cita:…”Following Her Majesty The Queen’s visit to Gibraltar in 1954, Spain once again commenced to build up pressure for the return of the colony by imposing restrictions on the movement of persons and goods between Spain and Gibraltar.
Even though the political situation appeared to be black from the community’s point of view, the Company sent MONS CALPE back to Scotland on 4th September, 1964, for modifications to improve her passenger amenities and to facilitate the development of day excursions (rather than transitting traffic), when it was anticipated that Frontier restrictions could prove to be prolonged. She took with her, as cargo, 80 self-drive cars owned by Bland’s, which now could not be used because of delays at the land Frontier, for sale in the UK. Whilst away from Gibraltar, to avoid any possible problems at any time of a Gibraltar-registered vessel passing through Spanish territorial waters, MONS CALPE was re-registered at London. She returned to Gibraltar on 8th January, 1965.
From October, 1964, the Spanish Government intensified their programme of economic restrictions against the colony, but the British Government were not prepared to discuss a transfer of sovereignty without the consent of the Gibraltarians, and thus the restrictions were escalated until in October, 1966, the land Frontier with Spain at La Linea was closed to vehicles. This resulted in the car traffic from Europe that transitted Spain and crossed the Straits via Gibraltar and Tangier, and the expatriates residing in Morocco who returned to Europe for their holidays, being totally diverted to Algeciras, with Bland’s car traffic reduced to a figure of about 2,500 annually, whilst their competitors’ traffic rose at the peak to approximately 500,000. As all supplies coming in from Spain were cut off and Spanish nationals were not able to seek employment in Gibraltar either, Gibraltar turned to Morocco instead for its labour needs and for the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Foto del MONS CALPE. Autor indeterminado.jpg
Foto del MONS CALPE. Autor indeterminado.jpg

The sailings of MONS CALPE were severely cut back as virtually 95% of her traffic had disappeared overnight. In an attempt to ascertain the feelings of the Gibraltanans to a transfer of sovereignty, the British Government held a referendum in December, 1967, in which they received a clear mandate that such a transfer was not acceptable to the inhabitants of the Rock. The Spanish Government reacted to this result by stopping the Algericas ferry service, and closing the land Frontier to all movements in June, 1969, thus virtually cutting off Gibraltar from Europe. The Spanish authorities even cut off the telephone link in October, 1969, in an effort to isolate Gibraltar completely. The net result of all these restrictions was that the Gibraltar tourist trade dropped from 700,000 movements per year at the peak in 1964, to about 150,000, with the outcome being that Bland’s were forced substantially to reorientate their business. As an example of this, Gibraltar commenced selling itself as a holiday resort rather than a place from which to tour the area.
In an effort to offer Gibraltarians some other place of relaxation locally other than Tangier, excursions were run by MONS CALPE to the Moroccan Mediterranean resort of M’Diq during the summers of 1969 and 1970 , but this enterprise did not meet with sufficient support and the excursions were withdrawn.
Currently, Bland’s fleet (other than lighters and motor harbour launches), consists of the re-engined motor tug BASHA (1922) and the car ferry MONS CALPE (1954)”…
Acabaremos diciendo que tuvo el número de grada 485 de Ailsa Shipbuilding Company.
Se boto el martes 4 de mayo de 1954.
En 1964 aparece como propiedad de Marland Shipping & Trading Co Ltd (M H Bland & Co Ltd).
En 1986 pasa a ser de bandera griega y nombre de CITY OF LIMASSOL, después. en 1987. cambia el nombre a IGOUMENITSA EXPRESS. En 1988 aparece con el nombre de LILY T.  En 1991 esta registrado bajo la contraseña de General National Maritime Transport Co, Tripoli, Libya. Y el nombre de AFRICA.
En 1992 lo adquiere el Gobierno de Mozambique (Ministerio de Transporte y Comunicaciones).
Estos datos estan sacados de la pagina Clyde Built Ships,  y según esta indica:…” Previous to 9/12/1997 out of service and arrived in tow at Matola Anchorage in Maputo Port Area, in 25.58S 32.28E. On 9/12/1997 reported sunk/grounded as a wreck; believed subsequently broken up

Esperamos la colaboración de los lectores para ampliar en documentos o datos este articulo.


13 respuestas a «MONS CALPE»

  1. Avatar de


    1. Hi Alistair.

      Thanks for your comments. I spend some time in Gibraltar. Nice place and nice ambiance

  2. […] MONS CALPE | Vida Marítima […]

  3. Avatar de

    Hola Vicente, enhorabuena por este artículo que me trae muchos recuerdos. Yo viví en La Línea de la Concepción durante ocho estupendos años, llegué justo cuando se cerró «la verja» con Gibraltar, y el «Mons Calpe» era una pieza fija del paisaje que se contemplaba desde la antigua Línea de Contravalación de Gibraltar, bien atracado o dando sus regulares viajes a Tanger, con aquella chimenea roja y negra.

    Era un barco esencial para «la roca», pues cortada la comunicación por tierra con España proveía de víveres a la colonia y facilitaba el tránsito de pasajeros, que solo tenía otro medio de transporte alternativo en la vía aérea, en los vuelos regulares aviones de la BOAC y la BEA. Aquellos Vickers Viscount, Vanguard, BAC One Eleven, y Trident principalmente, que con frecuencia pasaban apuros para poder despegar de la corta pista de aterrizaje de Gibraltar.

    Seguro que por algún lado tengo una foto del «Calpe».


  4. Avatar de

    Hi, I’ve just found this page and I’m very glad you’ve produced it. I spent some of my childhood years in Gibraltar and I sailed on the Mons Calpe on several occasions. It was OK when the weather was nice, but a real test of the stomach in rough seas.

    I notice the comments of the previous post above, regarding Gibraltar’s tiny airport. To my memory, the Gib Air Viscount was often airborne before it reached the road across the runway. Shame about its demise at Tangier. I recall there was a tradition to have a slow handclap as the plane proceeded down the runway, ending in applause and a cheer when this eccentric, ancient aircraft became airborne. However, it must be said that the Boeing 737s and other jets really struggled.

    Thank you very much again for producing this. It really brings back memories.

    1. Avatar de Vicente

      Thank you very much for your comments. Really the Viscount marked an era and was an esplendid product from Vickers. I love Gibraltar, I went for a couple of times and I remember such very nice ambiance in the town. Tks and brgds. Vicente

  5. Avatar de

    Residia en Tánger cuando se inaguró la linea a Gibraltar con el «Mons Calpe». Todo me trae entrañables recuerdos.

  6. Avatar de

    Im so glad that i found this site as it brings back very happy memories. My father was the first officer on the Mons Calpe up until it was removed from service and i spent much of my childhood roaming around the ships decks.
    Thank you for keeping its memory alive.

    1. Hello daniel

      Thanks for your comments

  7. Thanks for posting this … like a couple of your other readers, I spent part of my childhood in Gibraltar (76-79) and relied on the Mons Cape for trips to Morocco and Spain (via Morocco), as well as fresh supplies – given the border situation. I have fond memories – thank you for remind me.

  8. Avatar de

    It is wonderful to see that so many people still have such fond memories of the Mons Calpe.

    Should anyone be interested in reading more about her there will be an article on the Mons Calpe in this years Gibraltar Heritage Journey. She is also mentioned in the MH Bland 1810-2010 booklet which was printed last year to commemorate the companies bicentenary. It can be found on the MH Bland & Co Ltd website: http://www.mhbland.com/bicentenary/ebook.htm along with a few photographs in the archive gallery.

    thank you

    1. Dear Mr. Gaggero.

      Thank you very much for your comments.

  9. Avatar de Chris Miles
    Chris Miles

    Great research!! I crossed into Morocco on the Mons Calpe with a friend on August 3, 1967. I have little memory of her interior; we too busy looking at the Rock and the fig line. I illustrate ferries for a hobby and this ship will be one of them. Sorry she had to go, as do all great ships!

    Chris M Orlando Florida

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