Penarth Dock, South Wales - 150 years - the heritage and legacy  
Penarth Dock, South Wales - the heritage & legacy . . .

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Volume Eight - Pre-Victorian to the present day - more aspects - Pamir and Passat - the end of an era . . .

Demand for Nitrates - The massive German sailing fleet of which Pamir became a part, had been built up during the 1880's on the chemical industry's insatiable demand for nitrates used in fertilisers and explosives, and obtained from natural sources in Chile.

Loading facilities at nitrate ports were rudimentary - vessels lay off in open roadsteads and were loaded by hand from lighters - and steel four-masted barques, with their low overheads, has an advantage over steamers which continued almost up to the First World War. For two decades the world's major nitrate carrier was the German shipping magnate Fritz Laiesz, which in 1874 created what became known as the 'P Line' - all his ships had names beginning with that letter. It was to become the most efficient shipping line ever to trade under sail.

From a modest start with three vessels - the first was the 1,020-ton Polynesia - Laiesz had a fleet of 17 barques by 1890 and shortly afterwards commissioned another eight from the Hamburg shipyard of Blohm and Voss.

First came the Pottsi, followed by the Pagani. The third, with the yard number 180, was the Pamir. She was smaller than the other two, with a registered tonnage of 3,020, but Blohm and Voss predicted that her slightly fuller stern sections would make her faster, and they were right. 'I always thought Pamir the peak achievement of merchant sailing-ship design, particularly when sailing to windward,' her first skipper, Captain Carl Martin Prutzmann, recalled many years later.

'Providing the seas were not too big she would regularly reach her maximum speed of 16 knots and had no problem averaging nine on the nitrate run. She was no flyer but I always felt safe in her. In my experience, Pamir was a sea-kindly ship.'

Overshadowed by Preussen - Pamir was launched on the River Elbe in a brief ceremony by a member of the Laiesz family on 29th July 1905, the fifth of ten near-sister ships, and was overshadowed by the recent launch of the 5,000-ton Preussen, the world's largest five-masted ship.

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