The steel motor vessel Amstelstroom was launched from the Westerbroek yar of E J Smit and Zonen (Yard No 715) in June 1950. She measured 218.8′ x 31.4′ x 11.8′ and her tonnage was 497 gross tons, 217 net tons. She was powered by a 7 cylinder 2SA diesel engine by Sulzer Brothers Ltd.,Winterthur delivering 1050 brake horse power. Built for Hollandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij of Amsterdam she operated for this company unti she was sold to Vroon’s Handels and Scheepvaartonderneming NV, Breskens in 1965 who renamed her Margot. The company renamed her Hereford Express in 1970.
On October 29th 1970 she was en route from Londonderry to Glasgow with a crew of nine men and a cargo of 250 cattle when she ran aground at the southern tip of Kintyre. In the newspaper headlines the day the fate of the cattle overshadowed the loss of the ship itself and even the ordeal of the crew. After she ran aground the crew worked frantically to free her from the rocks and, despite serious damage to her hull, they managed to refloat her and, with the aid of her pumps, she was taken in tow by the German coaster Hope Isle which had sped to the scene in response to the Hereford Express‘ distress calls. The crew of the disabled ship were taken aboard the Hope Isle as a precaution as they set off towards Ardrossan.
The weather was not going to be kind and the continual pitching and rolling of the ship in the heavy swell caused the tow line to break a number of times as they struggled eastwards. Campbeltown lifeboat stood by and a tug was called from Ardrossan to assist. The line broke one last time as they passed Sanda and the Hereford Express drifted onto Boiler Reef south west of the island lighthouse. She stuck fast and took on a heavy list to port but there was nothing that the Hope Isle or the lifeboat could do either for the ship or for the terrified cattle aboard the grounded ship.
The tug Ardnell arrived from Ardrossan too late to save the ship and could only take the crew aboard and return to her home port. In the confusion of the wrecking many of the cattle had broken out of their pens and were rampaging about the ship. Initially it was hoped that many of the cattle could be saved but the day after the stranding the ship took on a severe sixty degree list and it was clear that they were doomed. RSPCA Inspector Alec Miller was winched aboard the Hereford Express and had the unpleasant job of humanely destroying those that had not already drowned.
The wreckage of the Hereford Express lies in approximate position 55° 16.514’N, 005° 35.441’W. The wreckage lies in 13 metres with some larger parts rising to around 8 metres. The wreck was heavily salvaged and as a result very little of interest remains although there are still a large amount of steel plates and girders at the site which is very exposed to prevailing wind and swell and care is needed when diving. The site is also tidal.