Mailboats Article 10 for Tribune Spring/Summer 2016: Hanna Dynasty

Mailboats Article 10 for Tribune Spring/Summer 2016: Hanna Dynasty

From the early 1800s to 1911 members of the Hanna family owned ten vessels of various sizes in the Bahamas. The patriarch of the Hanna clan in the Bahamas appears to be John Hanna, who was born in Aberdeen Scotland and set sail for the Bahamas with three children, John, George and James, with Edward Tobias being born on the voyage to the colony (his nickname was “Salt Water”). John senior went on to become a Member of the Houses of Parliament in the Bahamas, however most of his descendants appear to have settled in the southern island of Acklins. J. Hanna was listed in the Bahamas Gazette as a slave owner on Crooked Island in 1799. One of his grandsons was named Thomas.

In 1868 William H. Hanna of Long Bay, Crooked Island owned a 19-ton schooner named Augusta Justina. In 1935 Castell Rivas Hanna of Pompey Bay, Acklins owned the sloop Delightful. By 1911 five other Hannas from Acklins owned the locally-built schooners Barbara Ellen, Charm, Excite, Mary, and Sea Bird. Their owners were John James, Philip Hannah, Conrad C., William H., and Thomas Benjamin Hanna. J. E. Hanna, owned the schooner Molly registered to Grand Bahama. So 100 years ago the family were already a vessel-owning dynasty, however modest some of the craft may have been (all were from 4 to 18 tons). Additionally Alexander Hanna owned the 9-ton schooner Venus in Crooked Island. He was born in 1840 and passed away in Pompey Bay in 1923, five years before Arthur Dion Hanna, later Governor General of the Bahamas, was born there.

While little is known about his exact connection to the Hannas of Acklins 200 years ago, Captain Thomas (Tom) Hanna has been a substantial ship owner in his own right, contributing significantly to inter-island as well as international seaborne trade between the Bahamas as well as Florida in the last quarter century. Capt. Hanna has owned at least five large vessels, most of them with bow-ramps called roll-on, roll-off, or Ro-Ro type which are shallow draft and well suited to cargo work to remote islands with limited infrastructure like Spring Point Acklins.

Over his career some of Hanna’s trading firms have gone under but Hanna has managed to rebuild under new names, sometimes with the same vessel. His business has also survived one of the deadliest accidents in recent Bahamian history – the collision of Sea Hauler with the United Star on 3 August 2003, resulting in four deaths, an amputation, and 25 injuries.

On a more positive note, following Hurricane Irene in August 2011 his vessel the KCT was one of the first on-scene to bring relief to Cat Island, and last year the New G., which he designed, commissioned and had built, was introduced as the newest mailboat into the Bahamian fleet. Past vessels have included the United Star (served 1996-2007), Sea Spirit II (ex-United Spirit), VI Nais, KCT, and New G. – all still operating today for Carib-USA Ship Lines Bahamas, Limited, of Nassau, with Hanna as president. Though not all are always strictly mailboats, they fill in for each other and provide essential services to the Bahamas and are Bahamian owned and operated.

The motor vessel United Star was built in 1996 by either Chauvin Shipbuilding or Portier Shipyard in Chauvin, Louisiana. She is 178′ long, 36.5′ wide, 417 gross tons, 500 deadweight or cargo carrying tons. It is a Ro-Ro cargo vessel with accommodation and bridge aft made of steel. She was owned and operated in the Bahamas by Hanna from launch to 2007. The ship served the Bahamas on long-haul voyages to Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay (Fortune Island), and Inagua. In 2003 her master was Capt. Rodney Miller. In August 3rd 2003 was in a severe collision with the Sea Hauler 14 miles south of Eleuthera. The Prime Minister termed the event a tragedy of national importance.

A committee was formed to investigate the incident. That report, through a government-appointed Wreck Commission, was presented to the Minister of Transport and Aviation on January 4th, 2005, however efforts by this author to unearth it have so far been unsuccessful. The incident led to a number of lawsuits, including at least nine civil actions filed in the Supreme Court against the government. In 2007 United Star was sold the Compania Internacional Maritima (Coimar Transport) of Roatan, Honduras.

The Sea Spirit II was built as Russell Portier in 1999. In September 2007 she was renamed the United Spirit for one year, or until August 2008, when she Sea Spirit II. She is 498 gross tons, 750 cargo-carrying tons and was built of steel at Russell Portier Shipyard, Chauvin Louisiana. Hanna has been her owners since 2007, under different companies. She serves Acklins, Long Cay and southern Long Island, leaving Nassau Tuesdays afternoon. According to a Tribune article dated February 7, 2011, Hanna was chased by a number of creditors and removed his vessel from the Bahamas Maritime Authority Registry in December 2007, changing ownership from Carib-USA to Ro-Ro Company Ltd. Despite all this the vessel’s trading seems to have been uninterrupted. 

The boat VI Nais is 487 gross tons, 587 cargo-carrying tons, 190 feet long, powered by two Mitsubishi engines rated 927 hp at 1,400 rpm. The engine manufacturer stated that “provide owners with much better fuel consumption than the older engines that [Hanna] had been operating.” They related that the engines are rated Tier 3 with the US Environmental Protection Agency. Portier Shipyard built her in 2007. The vessel serves North and South Cat Island, taking about 24 hours, and costing $60 each way. Over her career it appears she was also chartered to GG Shipping to ply from Florida to the Bahamas. For a time her owners were MMS Ship-management of Palm Beach. Another owner was the Ro-Ro Company of Nassau. She is flagged to Panama.

Hanna’s fourth vessel, the KCT, is 165 feet long, powered by Mitsubishi engines rated 630 hp at 1,600 rpm. She serves Fresh Creek and Central Andros, spending Wednesday to Saturday there and Sunday to Tuesday in Nassau. She has also served Acklins at $90 each way for a 26-hour voyage every ten days. Since she was built in 2012 it has been owned by Hanna under either the Ro-Ro or Carib-USA brands.

In August 2011 the KCT was one of the first ships to arrive in Cat Island with relief supplies from the Bank of the Bahamas following Hurricane Irene. KCT brought “a container packed with love and crammed with proof that people cared. It bore furniture, paper goods, cleaning supplies, food, toiletries, clothing and more.  The owners of the M/V KCT, refusing to accept pay for shipping relief supplies.” Furniture donated from homes in Lyford Cay were re-purposed for those in need on Cat Island.

The ship New G. is indeed new: it is 178′ long, 40′ wide, 10′ (aft) to 6.6′ deep forward. Her speed is 10.5 knots, and holds crew, 486 gross tons, 145 net tons, and 587 cargo tons. New G. is a landing craft type Ro-Ro vessel, flagged to Panama. She was built of steel in 2015 delivered in February. According to a Carib-USA spokesperson, New G. was “designed and engineered by Tom Hanna at a private shipyard.” Officially her owners are the Consolidated Marine Group located in the United Building, Soldier Road, Nassau. As well as being a relief ship on other routes, the New G. serves North and South Cat Island, arriving in Nassau Monday, taking freight Tuesday, and leaving Wednesday evenings. We hope this vessel has an illustrious and successful career in the Bahamas. 
Overall Captain Thomas Hanna is an exemplar of those owners who adapt to changing market conditions, take immense risks by expending considerable funds for new-built ships in foreign yards (the US is a cabotage shipping market, protected from foreign competition, and thus an expensive place to build vessels), and providing innovative design solutions custom-fit for the Bahamas, as well as forward-looking propulsion technologies which are better for the environment and also more fuel-efficient.

Though Hanna’s maritime roots can be traced to remote Pompey Bay Acklins (also the site of the largest Lucayan settlements in the country), and go back hundreds of years, including a dozen or so vessels, this entrepreneur’s outlook is thoroughly modern, and practical. He has shown that even in legal and financial adversity he and his colleagues can re-invent themselves and survive, rising from the ashes. Hanna is one of the most private owners that this author has contacted, as in, not even a website. When we finally met the captain was busy cleaning up his company’s small working area on western Potter’s Cay with a forklift and by hand – in person, working alongside the officers and men from his ships. 

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