HER name was the Bangka 1, and she had been built by Simons-Lobnitz, the dredger-building subsidiary of Alexander Stephen and son, at Linthouse, Glasgow.

She was at that time the largest tin-mining dredger in the world, and had been constructed at a cost of nearly £3 million for the the Indonesian State Tin Mining Enterprises.

She was launched on September 30, 1965. In mid-November she set off from the Clyde, towed by a Dutch tug, Ierse Zee (Irish Sea) on a 9,000-mile journey to Bangka Island.

The journey was forecast to take between two-and-a-half and three months; it was the largest marine towing risk ever to be insured at Lloyd’s, the premium said be around £100,000 for a sum of £3.3 million.

The tug’s master said that the roughest part of the long journey was likely to be the first 3,000 miles across the Bay of Biscay and through the Mediterranean.

The Ierse Zee, with its charge on a 2,700ft tow-line, was expected to maintain a speed of about five knots in good weather.

The tug itself had become famous during the Second World War when she rescued 52 ships of about 350,000 tonnes which had either struck mines or been torpedoed.

To supervise Bangka 1’s running-in period, the builders were sending out a team of five experts. The vessel would need to work 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year – this would mean a recovery of roughly 1,000 tonnes of tin a year, which at current value would be about £1.5 million.

Simons-Lobnitz was hoping that, should the Bangka 1 come up to expectations there would be a good chance of a repeat order from Indonesia.

As it happened, the launch of the Banka 1 in September coincided with an attempted coup d’etat in Indonesia against President Sukarno, the “Great leader of the Indonesian revolution”.

By March 1966 Sukarno’s power base had been eroded and he was eventually forced to hand over his presidential authority to General Suharto, the head of the army.

Read more: Herald Diary