OCAL 50 Year Reunion - Sydney

Post date: May 26, 2019 8:16:21 AM

The following write-up and photograph covering an an event in Sydney marking the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first 'Bay Boat' in Australia has been kindly provided by David Baker:

A very enjoyable reunion was held in Sydney on 03 April 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of the maiden voyage arrival on ‘’Encounter Bay’’ at Sydney on 03 April 1969. The reunion was held at the Fortune Village Chinese Restaurant in the city. There were 40 attendees and the restaurant gave us the ground floor for our celebrations. There were many apologies from people who would have liked to attend many unable to mobility limitations.

It was wonderful to renew friendships with many from the old days of 1966 and 1967. Among them were Cec Partington who is now 90, John Webster who is 92, John Spurrett 86, Ken Baxter 88 (subsequently sadly deceased) and others including Michael Long and myself 82. I well recall that with Ron Eaton and Bill Page, we sat down with a blank sheet of paper on 14 February 1966 to commence the feasibility study for the introduction of international containerisation into Australia with purpose built container ships.

In his welcoming speech David Baker said the development and introduction of containerisation was nothing short of a spectacular achievement by the teams in both UK and Australia. As far as the Australian end is concerned David Baker said that when you consider in February 1966 there was nothing in Australia relevant to international containerisation, no terminals, no depots, no statutory body procedures, no land transport, no rail transport, no market experience by importers and exporters, no commercial procedures, no computers, absolutely nothing yet just 3 years later the first ship arrived in Australia to bed down the service.

We must never forget the immense contribution by Ron Eaton OBE MBE in heading up the Australian team. Baker said London certainly selected the right man to do the job for them in Australia. He doubts there would have been anyone else other than Eaton in Australia who could have done the job to timely completion. Ron Eaton had many unique talents which led to the success. He had a clear vision of what had to be done. He had a clear vision of the personnel which would be required to get the job done and he had a clear vision of which personnel would be required to do each job.

David Baker said for his part he has never been involved with anyone with the talents of Ron Eaton who not only had an acute business brain, but also was an extraordinary people manager who knew how to get the best out of every person in the team, even when necessary to employ the KITA principle to people such as Baker.

Baker said everyone should never forget the part they played in the development and successful introduction of the OCL international container business, and also to remember that as such they were part of maritime history.

We all remember that day in April 1966 when ‘’Encounter Bay’’ steamed into Sydney Harbour, a beautiful autumn morning. The ship seemed immense, but by today’s standards she was small by comparison. Nevertheless ‘’Encounter Bay’’ and OCL/OCAL were the trailblazers and maritime history makers of international containerisation as we know it today.