The OCL Containerships

 Captain Joe Welch joined Overseas Containers Limited in 1969.  From that date until he retired in 1997, whenever he went to sea he took his cameras with him, recording what were then everyday scenes in both movie and still photograph format. 

Captain Welch initially started converting these images into digital format for his own purposes but it soon became apparent that his film archive would be of interest to others.

Whether you were at sea yourself, involved in port operations, or someone who has an interest in the history of container shipping, Captain Welch's first video is likely to be of interest to you.

Volume 1 - The Early Voyages 

The first video consist of 30 minutes of archive cine film and photographs from the first OCL ships and voyages.  It starts with an introduction to the Encounter Bay class vessels and then footage taken during three voyages on those ships - Europe to Australia, Europe to Gulf and an MANZ charter.


Amongst the scenes captured are a mail call in Cape Town and arrival in Melbourne with the Westgate Bridge still under construction. Captain Dick Hannah, then Fleet Operations Manager is seen disembarking the ship by launch in Dubai, and there is footage of transits through both the Suez and Panama canals. 

Stilll photos show the interior of the bridge and officer's accommodation on the Encounter Bay class vessels, and there is footage of the aft-deck swimming pool being used by the crew and family/supernumeries. 

While the majority of this first video is dedicated to what many of us knew as the "Baby Bays" in the 1970s and early 1980s (the Botany, Discovery, Encounter, Flinders, Jervis, and Moreton), other classes of OCL vessels are also covered.  


Captain Welch has included static shots of the OCL-liveried Strathettrick during the period that that heavy-lift general cargo vessel was on the Gulf/Far East cross-trade, and also the container vessel Strathconon. 

The Mairangi Bay is seen passing Cape Horn on the long deep-sea transit from New Zealand to Europe and her sister-ship, Resolution Bay is shown in transit along an icy Elbe.


It is not only the ships captured on this video that are long gone.  Ports such as Fremantle and Dammam as shown here bear little resemblance to the modern container ports that they are today.  


While obviously not comparable to today's high-definition/commercial productions, the quality of the finished video is remarkable.  The film footage may have been taken on a Cine 8 camera up to 40 years ago, but it is as good as much of the documentary footage from the same period that we see used on TV today.  

Background music has been provided but it's not intrusive, and the minimal captions provide a useful introduction to the scene.

Order your copy, turn on the TV or computer on and enjoy :-)

 (PONLHeritage review by Mike Chapman)

How to Purchase  

A copy of the Volume 1 - The Early Voyages video can be purchased direct from Captain Welch for £10.00, (including UK post & packing).  If you wish to order a copy then please email, providing your name and address.  The price will then be confirmed, along with the payment arrangements.

Captain Welch will be donating all profits from the sale of the videos to the Missions to Seafarers (


Future videos

Captain Welch is hoping that volume 2 will be ready in 2012.  This will cover the later period of his time at sea with P&O Containers and P&O Nedlloyd, through to the 1990s.  Watch this space!


Until now the videos have been offered in DVD form but with many people no longer having access to a suitable DVD player, Captain Welch has decided to switch to using USB/memory sticks.  The price of £10 per video with all profits going to the Mission to Seafarers charity remains unchanged.

As of 01/02/2023 Joe advises that nearly £2,000 has been donated to the Mission.

Updated 03/02/2023