The End of an Era: The Last Historic Sailing Tanker Falls of Clyde Faces Removal from Honolulu Harbor

Honolulu, Hawaii – A chapter in maritime history is closing as the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) prepares to bid farewell to the 145-year-old Falls of Clyde, the world’s last surviving sail-driven oil tanker, from its berth at Pier 7 in Honolulu Harbor.

A Vessel in Decay

Docked since 2016, the Falls of Clyde, built in 1878, is now a shadow of its former glory. According to the HDOT’s draft environmental assessment, the ship suffers from severe corrosion, leakage, and has lost structural and watertight integrity. This once majestic vessel, now deemed a safety risk, threatens harbor operations due to its potential for structural failure and sinking.

Delisting from Historic Registers

The ship’s deteriorating condition led to its recent removal from the Hawaii Register of Historic Places, a move that underscores its significant loss of historic value and integrity. Once celebrated for its exceptional national significance as the oldest American tanker and the only surviving sailing oil tanker, the Falls of Clyde‘s fate hangs in the balance.

State Intervention and Nonprofit Ownership

Though under the stewardship of the Scotland-based nonprofit Friends of the Falls of Clyde, the Hawaii state government assumed control seven years ago citing safety concerns. This intervention marked a turning point in the vessel’s preservation saga.

The Environmental Assessment and Future Plans

In the comprehensive 346-page Draft EA, the state examines the environmental implications of removing the ship, offering various alternatives, including no action, drydock and repair, dismantling, sinking at sea, or third-party acquisition. The final method of removal and the ship’s ultimate fate will be determined by the chosen contractor.

A Historical Overview of Falls of Clyde

The Falls of Clyde boasts a rich history as the world’s only surviving iron-hulled, four-masted, fully-rigged ship. Originating from Glasgow’s shipbuilding boom, it sailed under the British flag to American ports. In 1898, Captain William Matson of the Matson Navigation Company acquired it, marking its re-registration in Hawaii.

From 1899 to 1907, the ship was re-rigged as a bark, facilitating over sixty voyages between Hawaii and San Francisco, transporting passengers, sugar, and general cargo. Later, under the ownership of the San Francisco-based Associated Oil Company, it was modified to carry up to 750,000 gallons of liquid bulk, shuttling kerosene to Hawaii and molasses back to California.

The Falls of Clyde‘s impending removal from Honolulu Harbor marks the end of an era in maritime history. This once-proud vessel, a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the late 19th century, now faces an uncertain future. As the state proceeds with its plans, the legacy of the Falls of Clyde continues to resonate with those who cherish maritime heritage and the stories of the sea.

We at the Herd Law Firm are proud to fight for maritime workers and passengers in all types of personal injury claims. As Houston maritime attorneys, we never waver in our commitment to help these maritime workers and their families when they are injured.


Image Credit: Friends of the Falls of Clyde, National Maritime Historical Society

Let’s Discuss Your Case

If you or someone that you know has contracted COVID-19 while on board a cruise ship, you may be entitled to compensation. If so, call the law offices of the Herd Law Firm, PLLC for a risk-free evaluation of your potential case.

Call 713-955-3699 now!

We Are Here To Answer Your Questions