The vessel was built as OSA MERLIN by Singapore Slipway & Engineering Company Ltd. Singapore. This shipyard was located near the Singapore River in the town centre and was closed down long time ago. Part of the bay was filled in and today expensive hotels, shopping centres and office buildings occupy the area.

The OSA MERLIN had three sister vessels OSA HAWK, OSA OSPREY and OSA KESTREL and they were built for Offshore Supply Association (S.E.A.) Pte. Ltd. Singapore, a subsidiary company of OSA, Bremen. The keel was laid on 21.03.1976, launching was on 06.12.1976 and the vessel was delivered to her owners on 31.03.1977. The vessel initially sailed under the flag of Panama and worked in the waters of South East Asia (official No: 376287, call sign: 9V2684).

The ship was a deck cargo vessel / landing craft and all dry cargo was carried on deck. A bow ramp allowed to roll-on and to roll-off trucks and other vehicles, either in port or onto beaches. Below the main deck, tank space for fresh water and gas oil was provided to supply drilling rigs and ships offshore. Three cylindrical tanks were fitted below deck, originally used to carry cement, but were converted during a dry dock period in 1996 to carry gasoil.

In early 1987 the ship was acquired by Arabella Navigation Company Ltd. of Limassol, Cyprus for the new West African coastal service of Panalpina. The commercial operation of the vessel was carried out by A.S.B., Air Sea Broker Ltd., Basel, a subsidiary company of Panalpina, Basel. The vessel was renamed MS MERLIN and was registered under Cyprus flag with home port Limassol (official No: 708442, call sign: P3TG2). The vessel was then employed in coastal trading in West Africa between Nigeria and Angola, mainly for the oil industry. The vessel was handled by a Filippino crew of 9 men.

As she was a former OSA-vessel, A.S.B. kept the technical management with the workshop-vessel JOHANNISTURM, commonly known as OSA-ISLAND and located in Soyo (see below). As ABC Maritime AG already looked after the AFRICAN STAR since 1992, the owners transferred the technical management of the ship on 01.11.1995 to ABC Maritime AG, Nyon (together with the MS MERLIN II).

After the arrival of the new MERLIN III in West Africa, the MS MERLIN was sold for demolition and on 16.11.2004 she left Luanda for her final voyage to India, where she arrived in Alang after Christmas 2004. On her last day at sea, the vessel was hit by the waves of the extremely strong seaquake, which hit southern Asia on Sunday morning of 26.12.2004, causing the death of thousands of people on the shores of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. The master reported "bad weather", like a squall, hitting the ship between 07:45 and 08:30 hours local time with some unusual high waves about 2,0 to 3,0 m high, but causing no damage to the vessel. At the time of the seaquake the vessel was in an approximate position of 19° 55’ N / 071° 25’ E (position just inside the 50 m water depth line and about 60 nautical miles from the coast, north of Bombay).

SwissShips HPS March 2018

Additional Information and Stories
OSA and VTG supply vessels, Bremen

In 1967 VTG-Hansa Offshore G.m.b.H. Bremen was founded, share holders were NVG Nordsee Versorgungsschiffahrts G.m.b.H., Hamburg (VTG Vereinigte Tanklager und Transportmittel G.m.b.H. Hamburg) and the Deutsche Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft "Hansa", Bremen. One year later OSA Offshore Supply Association was established as a marketing company, first in London, later it was moved to Bremen, see also www.ddghansa-shipsphotos.de

Their supply vessels were painted in grey and the names ended usually on Tor (gate) or Turm (tower). The company operated worldwide and their vessels were also a common sight in West Africa. Many of these well maintained vessels sailed under the German flag and the senior officers were Germans.

The supply vessel JOHANNISTURM was converted to a floating workshop and supply base after she grounded in 1987 in West Africa and was declared a constructive total loss. The vessel was then commonly known as the OSA ISLAND. Apparently she was first in Pointe Noire, but then for many years she was anchored off the Kwanda-Base in Soyo, Angloa. The town of Soyo is situated at the mouth of the river Congo, opposite of Banana and was once known as Santo Antonio do Zaire. Banana is better known by most seamen, as here the pilot is taken to sail up the Congo to Matadi.


The workshop-ship JOHANNISTURM commonly called OSA ISLAND anchored in Soyo, on 30.05. 2009. Note the JOHNNISTURM is on the right with one of the Tidewater-boats alongside (Photo: Capt. Gion Wetten).

When the Savimbi-rebels overran Soyo and the Kwanda-Base in the early 90thies, the crew of OSA ISLAND managed to tow the vessel away and bring her to Port Gentil, Gabon, where she was anchored for about 3 to 4 years before returning back to Soyo.

In 1989 all OSA-vessels were taken over by O.I.L, Ocean Inchape Ltd. Aberdeen, United Kingdom, however  this did not last for long, a few years later the U.S.-company Tidewater, New Orleans took-over the whole fleet. Note, Tidewater is one of the largest offshore supply vessel companies in the world.

SwissShips HPS, March 2018