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Arklow Bulker Almost Retraces Historic French Tallship's Brazilian Cocoa-Bean Trade Route to Paris

11th November 2017

#Brazil-France - Arklow Spirit a bulk-carrier has almost retraced the historic French tallship Belém's cocoa bean trade route from Brazil to Paris, where downriver in Rouen, the Irish ship docked having sailed from south America via Ireland last month, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Arklow Spirit's maiden call firstly to Cork followed by Dublin as previously reported involved discharging animal feed loaded in Porte Vila do Conde outside Belém. The sailing ship having been named after the north Brazilian city on the Atlantic Ocean. As regards the bulker and sister Arklow Spray are the largest under the Irish flag at 39,905dwt.   

The calls by Arklow Spirit to Ireland will to some revive memories of the state-owned Irish Shipping Ltd's deep-sea fleet, in particular the larger 71,000dwt 'Panamax' bulk-carrier Irish Spruce. The Verolme Cork Dockyard ship completed in 1983 still holds the title as the largest merchant vessel to have been listed on the Irish register of shipping. In the following year, ISL however were liquidated. Afloat will feature a follow-up in comparing the bulk-carriers.   

Upon completion of discharging in Dublin, Arklow Spirit returned to anchorage in the bay before heading to Falmouth for orders. This day last week, Afloat had tracked the 182m bulker during its anchorage off Cornwall. Also in the vicinity offshore of Coverock was anchored the aptly named Green Brazil, given the colour is used on the hulls of the Arklow Shipping fleet and the coincidence in the name of the country.

Further orders led Arklow Spirit to cross the English Channel to take up yet another anchorage call in the Bai de Seine before navigating to the inland port of Rouen. The location of these docks, Petit-Gouronne is just downriver of the Normandy city from where trade is also carried further inland on barges plying to and from Paris.

It is along the banks of the Seine in the French capital where Belém (built 1896 outside Nantes) was essentially a bulker too during that era. The three-mast ship, traded also in Caribbean sugar with the cocoa-beans loaded in Belém would then be bound for a Paisienne chocolate-maker.

During the long career of the ship this included a rename, Fantôme II following ownership to the Guinnes family for use as a private yacht that took a world tour in 1922 and 1923.

Remarkably, Belém at 121 years old still remains in service, albeit not commercially except for the odd 'wine' shipment, Afloat will have more about this historic sail-training ship. The tallship, the oldest sailing in Europe,is recognised as an importanct example of French maritime heritage. In August, this year a visit took place in Galway Port and the ship made open to the public.

Currently, Belém is berthed on the Loire in Nantes. There is another French connection between the sailing ship and that of Irish Spruce, in which Afloat will have more to reveal.

Published in Ports & Shipping
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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