Cruise and Liner History: Moore-McCormick Lines January 1939 ad from Travel Magazine featuring the “Good Neighbor Fleet” with cruises from New York to South America. This is nine months before World War 2 began.
Messrs. McCormack and Moore (both just shy of 33 years of age) formed Moore & McCormack Company, Incorporated, to charter ships, then to own them. Capitalized at $5,000 with three officer-directors (Henry F. Molloy, as Secretary), with two desks in a ninth floor office of an eleven-story building at 29 Broadway and with ambitions, plans, and hopes as the Company’s major assets.
On the 16th January 1921 a new direct steamship line between Philadelphia, Cork, Dublin and Londonderry was announced by Director Sproul of the Department of Wharves, Docks and Ferries. The line was operated by Moore & McCormack Company, Inc.
In 1926 Moore & McCormack, Inc., as operators, took over the Republics Line which consisted of 11 steamers and the motorship, Tampa. In 1927 the American Scantic Line was sold to Moore & McCormack and was improved under private ownership, with the Pennsylvania railroad eventually purchasing an important interest in it. The American Scantic Line was the first of the Shipping Board lines to enter into agreements with competitive foreign lines under which the United States acquired an equal division of the freight moving between American and foreign ports. The next year the service was extended by adding Leningrad and Gdynia to the ships‘ ports of call. Mooremack played an influential part in the transformation of Gdynia from a small fishing village into a valuable seaport not only for Poland but for all Central Europe.
On the 17th April 1929 a contract was been completed by the American Scantic Line to establish a weekly steamship service between the North Atlantic ports of the United States and the newly created Polish port of Gdynia. It was signed in Poland by Robert C. Lee and was celebrated at a dinner tendered by the Polish Government in Warsaw at which Mr. Lee was guest of honour. The dinner was attended by the Polish Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, and by Minister Stetson, Consul General Cole, and Commercial Attaché Lane.
On the 25th August 1932 Moore & McCormack made an offer to purchase the American Republics Line, owned by the government and operating between Boston, New York, South Atlantic ports and the east coast of South America. The line is currently operated for the board by C. H. Sprague & Son of Boston, and the shipping board had long sought a purchaser.
On the 16th August 1938 the contract to operate the three Panama Pacific liners, California, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, operated formerly by the Panama Pacific Line, and the ten freighters of the American Republics Line which were operated by C. H. Sprague & Sons, Inc., was awarded to Moore & McCormack, Inc. The liners are in dry dock, where renovations costing more than $1,000,000 are being made. They will make a speed of 18 knots or better and reach Buenos Aires in 18 or 19 days. Renovations have been carried out that make the ships 100% fireproof, in accordance with Federal regulations.
The contract with the government permits Moore & McCormack to replace any of the ten freighters with ships that are at least equally fast. The ships now operated make about ten knots, and it is planned to transfer ships now owned by the company from other services, so that a minimum speed of 13 knots will be available in the South American freight service.
The firm name of Moore & McCormack, Inc. was changed to Moore-McCormack Lines embracing the new American Republics service and the American Scantic Line service.
On the 8th September 1938 the firm of Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc., was organised. It operated the American Scantic Line service to the Baltic Sea and the Mooremack Lines to South America. The company is an outgrowth of the development of Moore & McCormack. Albert V. Moore was President and Emmet J. McCormack was Treasurer. The officers were Commander Robert C. Lee, Executive Vice President; Captain George Holt, Vice President, and Henry P. Molloy, Vice President and Secretary. Commander Lee was the ranking operating officer. Captain Holt was assistant to Messrs. Moore and Molloy, secretary and counsel.
On the 4th October 1938 the Argentina, Brazil, and the Uruguay were formally taken over by the operators. Captain Granville Conway, Director of the Maritime Commission in New York, and Robert C. Lee, Executive Vice President of Moore-McCormack Lines, signed the necessary papers.
From the 8th October 1938 Moore-McCormack Lines started operating the American Republics Line under charter for the Maritime Commission. After January 1, 1939, it operated it for its own account under a contract for three years. On the 31st December 1938 the American Republics Line was turned over to Moore & McCormack at midnight. The company became operators of the Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. A. V. Moore, president of Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc. stated that operation of the line indicated clearly that the service was considered essential both to the United States and South America. The American Republics Line had three passenger ships and six 13-knot cargo carriers. Mr. Moore announced that starting with the sailing of the Uruguay on January 17, ships of the line will call at Barbados southbound, arriving there on the 4th day, and at Rio de Janeiro on the 12th morning. The ships also would call southbound at Santos, Montevideo and Buenos Aires, and northbound at Santos, Rio de Janeiro and Trinidad.
Through a purchase agreement with the United States Maritime Commission in 1940, Moore-McCormack Lines acquired the Pacific Republics Line service. The Company launched the operation with seven ships.
Ships in this service cover ports on the Pacific Coast of the United States and Canada from Vancouver to Los Angeles. In transiting the Panama Canal, they call at Panama and the Canal Zone, then serve Northern Columbia and Venezuela before paralleling the route of the American Republics Line to Barbados, Trinidad, Brasil, Uruguay and Argentina. The ships usually return via the Straits of Magellan with a stop en route at Callao, Peru. Re-established after the War, this service was stepped up in 1957 when Mooremack acquired the Pacific-Argentine-Brazil Line and its four modern cargo ships. This enabled Pacific Republics to increase its schedule from monthly to bi-weekly sailings.
The S.S. Argentina, S.S. Brazil, and S.S. Uruguay were the first luxuriously appointed and regularly scheduled passenger vessels specially converted for South American service. These were the first American flag passenger vessels to make the New York-Buenos Aires round trip in 38 days. Their cruising speed was 18 knots. New comfort, ideas and equipment anticipated the changing tastes of American travelers. Moore-McCormack’s three passenger vessels inaugurated the world famous Good Neighbour Fleet. In the 1940s Moore-McCormack Lines had several firsts including the first extensive use of deep tanks for liquid cargoes, first use of packaged refrigeration equipment, first Cargoair system.
In November 1940 the Moore-McCormack liner, Rio Hudson, became the first United States merchant ship ever to be blessed formally at launching ceremonies. The Right Rev. Francis M. Taitt, Bishop of the Pennsylvania Protestant Episcopal Diocese pronounced the benediction in the presence of 500 persons at the yards of the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company at Chester, Pennsylvania. Bishop Taitt read a prayer for the vessel, asking God to “grant that this ship may be a safeguard to our country and a security for such as pass on to the seas upon their lawful occasions.”
Moore-McCormack expanded the vital Scantic route in November of 1962, when Rotterdam and Antwerp were added to the ports of call for the Company‘s newest cargo liners. These ports give the Company access to the heavy traffic generated in and out of the Benelux countries and the Rhineland.
In the late 1950s a new concept in sea travel was pioneered by constructing the S.S. Argentina and the S.S. Brasil as cruise ships for connoisseurs of travel. The first time American flag vessels were designed with fin stabilizers to reduce roll and increase passenger comfort. Other important innovations included automatic cargo conveyors, side port cargo gear, low pressure evaporators for production of fresh water, quick acting hydraulic hatch covers of new and original design. Greater passenger comfort was achieved through completely draft-free air conditioning with individual cabin controls for passenger and crew, and cruising speeds of 23 knots or better.
Cruise programmes for these lovely liners were designed to please any traveller. Their voyages ranged from 6 to 63 days. The cruises included the famed “Sea-Safari” to Africa and the Mediterranean via the Caribbean and South America … the regular month-long cruises to Buenos Aires and the annual “Carnival” cruises to Rio de Janeiro … the popular spring and summer visits to Scandinavian and European ports … and also the shorter and more economical trips to the Caribbean islands.
Moore-McCormack Lines established a four-continent American-flag shipping service in 1957 when Robin Line was acquired by the Company. Ships flying the red and green Mooremack house flag now traded in North America, South America, Europe and Africa. Founded in 1935, the Robin Line quickly became known for swift, dependable cargo service from Atlantic ports of the United States to South and East Africa. Ports served range from Cape Frio on the Atlantic around the Cape of Good Hope to Mogadiscio on the Indian Ocean. These ships also served the Malagasy Republic, Zanzibar and other Indian Ocean islands.
In the early 1960s they introduced new ships, designated as “1624s,” which were the first ocean going vessels designed for Great Lakes service. Other new ideas included the first extensive use of hydraulics for cargo handling, the first 75-ton booms and evaporators for production of all fresh water requirements.
In the mid 1960s their Constellation class vessels are the first to use dry-cargo multiple hatch design techniques. They also featured extra heavy lift booms, the highest capacity rig ever built in the U.S. They are the first cargo vessels designed for 21 knot speed, made possible by a hull of ultimate efficiency and a steam power plant more efficient than any used on a cargo vessel. The Company pioneered many techniques for the transportation of heavy equipment, refrigerated, dry, liquid and powdered products and many other cargoes.
From 1965 on it decided upon a different type of vessel for its replacement program. The dawn of the container age was starting to break upon a shipping world that still could not rid itself of the obsolete passenger liners. But the majority of the company‘s business was in South America and Africa–areas that, because of their rudimentary transport and port systems, placed containers at least 10 and probably 20 years into the future. Thus MM needed a highly versatile vessel that could readily adapt to general cargo, containers, and Roll on/Roll off vehicles (Ro/Ro), without forgetting special defense measures particularly important in the Vietnam War period. The unique design MM created provided for false decks and the closing or opening of special hatches so that the vessel could increase its capacity of either container or Roll on/Roll off vehicles. The ships were quite well suited to the African and South American trades, but when MM launched the first regular container route to Europe in February 1966 (two months before Malcom McLean’s Sea-Land) the higher cargo-handling expenses in European ports used almost all of the profits. The ports in Europe soon installed facilities to handle containers economically, and the European lines ordered full containerships, the smallest of which had twice the container capacity of MM‘s vessels.
This put Moore-McCormack into difficulties. In 1966 it sold its Straits of Magellan service to Grace Line. Then in 1970 the company abandoned the North Atlantic service, and even after selling the four vessels to American Export, it still suffered a $17 million loss in 1970. The company was on the verge of collapse, but in 1972 the sale of its two passenger liners, Argentina and Brasil (laid up since 1969), for cruise purposes to Holland-America brought a much-needed cash infusion that allowed the company to revive. Since February 1971, the company had been under the leadership of a new president, James R. Barker, who had learned well the lesson of other steamship companies–that corporate survival depended upon diversification away from the highly risky and volatile shipping business. Diversification began in 1964, but Barker made it his primary goal. He sold 20 overage vessels from the fleet, and kept only the most modern and efficient ships running on the South American and African services. As a result he invested in the natural resources field. The biggest acquisition was Pickands, Mather, and Company in April 1973, a supplier of raw materials for the steel industry. Pickands, Mather, and Company owned and operated iron ore and coal mines, as well as all supporting facilities, including Interlake Steamship Company, a Great Lakes fleet of bulk cargo ships.
However he took his eye off the ball and concentrated too much on diversifying into the energy industry and neglected the shipping operations. Eventually the energy investments began to fail. The losses of the Moore-McCormack began to pile up from 1981, and Barker desperately sought to sell off assets while buyers could still be found for the rapidly collapsing energy ventures. At this moment Malcom McLean appeared, now the proud owner of United States Lines, who was preparing to establish a worldwide transportation network. As the populariser of container services, McLean was judged the ideal person to handle the transition to containers in the African and South American routes; after quick discussion, McLean purchased the fleet and routes of Moore-McCormack in December 1982. United States Lines then bought Delta Lines from Crowley Maritime (who had acquired the company in 1982) in 1985. However United States Lines filed for bankruptcy in 1986, due to financial difficulties caused by too rapid expansion. The service was gradually phased out between 1986 and 1989 and the company was formally liquidated in 1992.