Let us go back in time to 1960. Ultramar, a fast-growing shipping agency established eight years earlier, developed rapidly thanks to the close contact with its customers, which enabled it to have a good understanding of their clients’ logistical needs.

In the early 1950s, the state-owned oil company Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP) had begun to exploit the oil fields of Tierra del Fuego, and was producing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) at its plants in Cerro Sombrero and Cullen. The LPG was bottled and transported to Punta Arenas, 25 miles across the Strait of Magellan, for local consumption.

Mr. Albert von Appen frequently visited Punta Arenas and in February 1960, during a flight that took about eight hours, he found himself seated next to Mr. Héctor Wilson, whom he did not know. Mr. Wilson was the Chairman of Servigas, a private company responsible for distributing LPG in Punta Arenas.

During the trip, Mr. Wilson told Mr. von Appen about their serious problems and losses while transporting LPG cylinders through the Strait of Magellan in small boats, and that he had been looking for a solution for some time. Until then, the only proposal that seemed viable was to transport the cylinders through towed barges across the Strait.

Mr. von Appen listened attentively, and his imagination began to run wild. He had heard about a new type of vessel designed to transport LPG in bulk. In those years, there were less than 25 dedicated gas carriers in the world, most of them reconverted general cargo vessels. By the end of the trip, he told Mr. Wilson that he had thought of a better solution and asked for some time to prepare a proposal for him.

As Servigas had already made good progress with its own solution using small boats, he was only granted four weeks.

So – upon his return to Santiago, Mr. von Appen asked a small shipyard in Hamburg to design a purpose-built gas carrier that would be 23 meters long with a capacity of 90 m3, the smallest LPG carrier ever built.

Before the deadline expired, Mr. von Appen and Mr. Wilson met in Santiago and within two days the proposal was accepted and a transport contract of LPG in bulk from Tierra del Fuego (Puerto Percy) to Punta Arenas (Leñadura Terminal) was signed, to begin operating the following December.

And so, the race against time began. Mr. von Appen flew to Germany to initiate the contract with the shipyard and entrusted the supervision to his brother-in-law Mr. Sven Behrmann, who had plenty of knowledge of technical and nautical aspects.

Once the construction was complete, the vessel was transported on a cargo ship with the tank separated from the hull. The vessel was assembled and painted in Punta Arenas and sea trials were performed, all under the strict supervision of Mr. von Appen, who was rarely seen in Santiago during those days. He was not only concerned about the technical aspects, but also about the vessel’s crew. Mr. von Appen personally selected the first Captain, Mr. Italo Delano and the first Engineer, Mr. Guillermo Donoso, as well as the rest of the crew.

Thus, on 9th December, 1960, nine months after signing the contract, the LPG/C Ultragas began its first voyage on behalf of Servigas.

If the technical and operational aspects offered great challenges, more so was the financing. The vessel finished up costing considerably more than budgeted, so the construction of Ultramar’s offices in Arica had to be temporarily suspended and a loan was requested from a German bank. But Mr. von Appen’s partners fully supported him.

The adventure was fully justified, as demand soon increased to such an extent that he had to acquire a second and larger vessel. The LPG/C Polargas was 30 meters long with a capacity of 175 m3.

But that’s another story…


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Cargoes & Services

Read more about our cargoes & services.

LGP & Petchem Gases

Navigator Gas operates a fleet of ethylene and semi-refrigerated gas carriers, with sizes ranging from 3,500 cbm to 35,000 cbm capacity.

Dry bulk

Through its subsidiaries Ultrabulk and Horizon, Ultranav serves a wide range of dry bulk segments. The fleet transports numerous types of dry cargo.

Coastal trades

Ultranav has many years of extensive knowledge operating in the coastal areas of South America. We cover a variety of trading platforms in different segments.

Towage & offshore

Ultranav is active in both towage and offshore segments through the subsidiaries Ultratug and Wilson Sons Ultratug Offshore.

Ultra Ventures

Ultra Ventures invest in maritime related start up companies, with the focus on new technologies.


UltraSafe is a programme designed to anchor safety within our culture. Its aim is to create a safety culture which everyone trusts; resilient and strong.

Fuel efficiency

Ultranav continuously investigates and invests in different devices and technologies to optimise our vessels and practices towards more sustainable solutions.


Ultranav operates a diversified fleet including owned tonnage, chartered tonnage and joint venture/co-owned vessels in different segments, offering a full variety of shipping services.