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02 February 1997

There is some interesting port news this week concerning the proposed on-river ro/ro terminal as well as some more news about Sea Containers/Steam Packet vessels.



LADY OF MANN - Departed Vittoria Dock and was scheduled to pass through the Albert Lock, Birkenhead at 11.30 on Wednesday 29th January to take up service with the following day's 08.30 sailing from Douglas to Heysham.

KING ORRY - passed through the Alfred Locks and entered the Birkenhead dock system on the early morning tide of 30th January and proceeded to Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock for refit.

The BELARD returned to Cammell Laird's wet basin during the week after providing cover for the PEVERIL whilst that ship was away for refit in Scotland.

Sea Container's Hales Trophy [Blue Riband] Holder HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN remains in Canada Dry Dock undergoing her annual refit which is being undertaken by Wright and Beyer. This ship, previously registered in the Bahamas was noted to have been re-registered in the UK at Folkestone.


IBEX has left Cammell Laird's wet basin. The company has been criticised in the local press this week concerning redundancy notices issued to the British crew of the BISON - a regular performer on the company's Pandoro service to Dublin. Apparently they are to be replaced by cheaper crews from eastern Europe and Spain.


The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company floating crane remains in the dry dock on the 1st February along with the unidentified James Fisher [Coe Metcalf] vessel. Sorry still can't see the name! A Stena Line support vessel has appeared in the wet basin - unfortunately I didn't have a pen with me and I forgotten the name - sorry!


Whilst monitoring the transmissions of Mersey Radio - no - not the local BBC Station but the port control radio it was interesting to note the arrival on Sunday evening of EUROMANTIQUE. This vessel chartered to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company operated the now closed Sheerness - Vlissingen [NL] service.

MDHC has announced plans this week to build a 35 million pound terminal for fresh fruit at Sheerness. The company has entered into agreement with Capesan International and Fresh Fruit Services to establish a joint venture company. The Port of Sheerness is operated by MDHC and the new venture will provide for a 160metre berth with a temperature controlled storage and distribution complex. Completion of the building project would be in 15 months of an early 1997 start date.


What do you do with the biggest warehouse in the world ? That's the problem facing developers of this prominent massive building at Stanley Dock. This impressive building is posing a problem. The building contains 27 million bricks and 6,000 tonnes of iron to build. It measures 730 feet by 165 feet. Construction took a lengthy period of time too. Beginning in 1895 the warehouse was finally completed in 1900.

The warehouse has 14 floors and offers enough floor space to house 23,100 medium sized hatchback cars! Its adaptation to a multi-storey car park has been suggested - but its a long way from the city centre and the floors are supported by a forest of concrete pillars.

The Stanley Warehouse does not lend itself into easy conversion to flats or offices either, unlike other converted Merseyside warehouses. The floors are only 7 foot apart - would make things claustrophobic to say the least!

A demolition attempt was thwarted in the 1980s by a massive petition and demolition of this Grade II listed building would be a difficult task even if permission were to be granted. A demolition attempt was thwarted in the 1980s by a massive petition and demolition of this Grade II listed building would be a difficult task even if permission were to be granted.


This week saw the final nail in the coffin of the development of a ro/ro terminal at Twelve Quays, Birkenhead to be operated by Forth Ports. The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company scheme on the Liverpool side of the river has been delayed as occupiers of flats in the converted Waterloo dock warehouse have forced the development to go to a public enquiry.

However, towards the end of the week some compromise looked possible. MDHC is now considering a site a little further north of their original intended location on the former B&I terminal site. They are said to be considering using part of the Clarence Dock Power Station site. This site is owned by the Merseyside Development Corporation the original proposers of the Twelve Quays terminal. With the refusal of a grant to develop the Twelve Quays projects it looks as though the MDC and MDHC may bury the hatchet and co-operate to build the on-river link span at Clarence Dock as preliminary talks have already been held.

Incidentally, Mersey Radio has announced for several days that on-river drilling will be taking place from 6th February. This may very well be connected with the ro/ro terminal - perhaps to evaluate the new site? On river drilling was conducted two years ago on the site of the proposed Trafalgar Dock ro/ro terminal adjacent to the Waterloo Dock warehouses.

Two years ago, it was said that the new on-river link span would be operational by the end of 1997! Now the operational date looks to be sometime in 1999!


The collapse of the Twelve Quays terminal plan could be good news for the development of the northern annex of the Imperial War Museum. Part of the Twelve Quays site was already on a short list of two locations for the IWM annex. With the ferry terminal out of the way the plans make the site even more attractive for the Museum development.


09 February 1997




LADY OF MANN - In service.

KING ORRY - In Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock undergoing annual refit.

The BELARD remains laid-up in Cammell Laird.

Sea Container's Hales Trophy [Blue Riband] Holder SeaCat HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN departed from Canada Dry Dock at 14.30 on Saturday 8th February. Earlier in the day Mersey Radio had announced an earlier departure with HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN due to pass through Langton Lock at 12.30. She was then due to have proceeded to Prince's Landing Stage before departing the latter at 15.30. Were there plans afoot to get official publicity pictures of LADY OF MANN and a SeaCat at the Landing Stage by the Steam Packet? However, the journey to the Landing Stage did not materialise and SeaCat HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN passed directly into the river to head back to Folkestone.


The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company floating crane remains has left the dry dock. The unidentified James Fisher [Coe Metcalf] vessel remains in the dock. No attempt appears to have been made to remove the Coe-Metcalf "C" logo from the funnel as yet despite the fact that Fisher announced that the Coe-Metcalf fleet would trade under the name of the parent company last year.

The Stena Line support vessel which appeared the wet basin last week is the SEAWAY FALCON.


Those familiar with the River Mersey and its shipping may recall the One O'Clock Gun. The gun, which was electrically fired from the Bidston Observatory at 13.00 hrs was used as a time signal for the setting of ships' chronometers. Though the daily firing was discontinued almost 30 years ago memory of the gun has been kept alive by the commentary on the Mersey Ferries cruise.

Imagine my amazement when studying the mobile drilling platform mentioned elsewhere in MSN and slightly panning the binoculars to see a canon mounted on the small brick building on which the gun was housed. I am fairly certain it wasn't there last week.

The canon is painted back, and mounted on a grey carriage and appears to have a brass band around the barrel. There has been no mention in the local press about reinstating the One O'Clock Gun either as a cosmetic waterfront feature or in an actually functioning role. I'll try and find more information.


A small mobile drilling platform appeared on the Mersey this week on the 6th February. I had mentioned that drilling was due to commence on the river in last week's MSN. On 8th February the drilling platform was noted off the former Morpeth Dock river entrance which has been closed for many years. In fact just a few yards from the proposed Twelve Quays ro/ro site plans for the development of which were shelved last week. However, it was announced that MDHC and MDC were working on some compromise between schemes!



16 February 1997




LADY OF MANN - In service.

KING ORRY - In Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock undergoing annual refit. On Saturday afternoon she appears to be looking quite smart again and should be back in service soon. LADY OF MANN had been due to stand down after the 08.30 sailing from Douglas on 14th February. KING ORRY had been scheduled to take up sailings with the 14.30 from Liverpool that day.

The BELARD remains laid up in Cammell Laird.

During the past week the LADY OF MANN had a particularly lively voyage from Heysham on Thursday . Leaving Heysham at 14.30 she did not finally berth at Victoria Pier, Douglas until turned 19.30! Observing her approach from Douglas Head I must say she certainly was making heavy weather of things.

The LADY OF MANN's summer programme is becoming clearer. As well as operating the a slightly enhanced Fleetwood to Douglas service during the Summer and the Thursday sailings from Liverpool to the Douglas she will fill the rest of her schedule operating from Liverpool to Dublin. Provisional information suggests a Liverpool departure time of 08.30 with a Dublin return time of 16.30. The Liverpool to Dublin service operating Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Obviously some attempt is being made to try the lucrative "booze cruise" market on Merseyside - the experimental service last autumn from Fleetwood had been highly successful. I dare say there will be some booze cruise voyage reports in MSN during the summer <grin>!

Mersey Radio announced the arrival at 19.00 in Langton Lock of SEACAT NORGE - previously SEACAT ISLE OF MAN on Saturday 15 February presumably on her way to Canada Dry Dock for refit by Wright and Beyer who have just completed work on the Hales Trophy holder HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN.

HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN noted as leaving the Mersey on Saturday must have returned, possibly due to bad weather on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning she was in Langton Dock opposite the Norse Irish Ferries terminal in the Brocklebank Branch Dock. She passed through Langton Lock and was seen to leave the Mersey on the mid-day tide.

SEA CONTAINERS is reported to have sold the Southern Railway motor ship SOUTHSEA to company known as Brasspatch Ltd which appears to be have some association with the Waverley Steam Navigation Co. The ship, along with her two sisters BRADING and SHANKLIN, entered service for British Railways built to a design by the Southern Railway prior to Nationalisation.

She is the second of this class of vessel to be acquired by WSN associated interests as her sister ship SHANKLIN was acquired by Firth of Clyde Steam Navigation Co from British Rail Sealink at the start of the 1980s. The Firth of Clyde Steam Navigation Co. being an affiliated company of Waverley Steam Navigation. Sadly after just a brief spell in service on the Clyde and the Bristol Channel, she struck an uncharted object and was wrecked at Port Eynon in Wales whilst on a Gower Coast cruise in August 1981.

The SOUTHSEA and her remaining sister ship the BRADING remained with Sealink and passed into Sea Containers ownership with the main Sealink business. When the bulk of Sealink was sold on to STENA LINE by Sea Containers the Isle of Wight services were retained by SEA CONTAINERS. Though the two remaining Denny built ships had been eclipsed by the arrival of Sea Container's first high speed catamarans OUR LADY PAMELA and OUR LADY PATRICIA.

The BRADING went for scrap over a year ago, but happily the SOUTHSEA has survived. She should be in service by summer 1998 operating primarily on the south and south east coasts. Will anyone dare name her PRINCE IVANHOE II? Or would that have been like White Star line having a TITANIC II!


The SEAWAY FALCON and BELARD remain in the Wet Basin. The unidentified James Fisher [Coe-Metcalf] ship which was in the dry dock was the ROSETHORN. On Saturday 15th February the INCAT built STENA LYNX III arrived on the afternoon tide and entered the dry dock


The HSS STENA EXPLORER will have conventional ship back up during the summer months in the form of STENA CHALLENGER. The HSS is due to go off service on 14th March for a month's refit at Rotterdam. Her sailings are to be taken up by the STENA LYNX III which has just entered Cammell Lairds for its annual refit. This should be the big INCAT vessel's first appearance on the Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire run so anyone looking for an unusual vessel on which to travel!


The new MERSEY VIKING which will replace the current chartered ship of the same name is scheduled to enter service on 16th August. She is the first of two new vessels being built for the busily expanding Liverpool to Belfast operation.

She will boast a 170 seat restaurant, bar lounge with video and satellite TV, a drivers' lounge, Pullman Lounge, Business Club Lounge and family room. There will be 66 standard twin and four berth cabins, four deluxe 2 berth cabins, and two cabins for disabled passengers. She will be capable of carrying 340 passengers, 166 trailers and 100 cars. The new NORSE MERSEY will have a length of 186 metres, a beam of 25.6 metres and a draught of 5.55 metres. When her sister is delivered at a later date the present NIF owned NORSE LAGAN will be redeployed.


At the end of December I reported that the RIVER ANDONI had been seen under tow heading for the Mersey Bar on 22 December 1996. The RIVER ANDONI which had an unfortunate spell on Merseyside, was first arrested due to its failure to conform safety regulations at Ellesmere Port. Her crew being marooned aboard following the demise of the Nigeria Shipping Line. She was later sold and moved to Wright and Beyers during summer1996 for repair. Whilst there she suffered a major fire and was removed from the yard and laid up in West Float. It is understood that the ship has been sold for scrap to Turkey based breakers. Her tow from the Mersey in the company of the Ukrainian tug ZUBR was due to take three weeks.


MSN readers may recall several mentions of the American P.S. Willow which was berthed and partially refitted in the East Float at Birkenhead during the first half of 1996. This ex- Mississippi Paddle Steamer left Birkenhead early last summer bound for a new home in Spain. According to reports in the local WSS Mersey Log she is now berthed at Benalmadna near Torremolinos. Now known as the USS Willow she is owned by John Rigby and is available for hire for conferences, receptions, parties etc.


The former Cunard Liner SYLVANIA is to return to the Mersey on 13th May 1997. This ship operated regular trans-Atlantic services from Liverpool until the late 1960s. Her final departure from Liverpool was on 13th October 1967. Now almost 30 years on and renamed ALBATROS [24802 grt] this 40 year old liner is due to call in the Mersey whilst on charter to Phoenix Cruises of Bonn. She will arrive from Belfast and depart for Cobh, the former principal trans-Atlantic terminal for liner services from Ireland.

The former SYLVANIA has had a varied career since leaving the CUNARD fleet. Now registered in the Bahamas the vessel became the FAIRWIND, SITMAR FAIRWIND, DAWN PRINCESS before finally becoming the ALBATROS in 1993.



23 February 1997



LADY OF MANN - has laid up again in Vittoria Dock.

KING ORRY - departed from Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock on Monday. The ship proceeded through Alfred Locks into the Mersey at around 18.50 hours before running engine trials out to the Bar in very adverse conditions. She was scheduled to take out a sailing from Liverpool at 20.00 replacing the 14.30 sailing from Heysham which had been cancelled due to severe weather conditions. The Steam Packet's sailings were further disrupted by bad weather on Wednesday with all sailings cancelled.

The BELARD remains laid up in Cammell Laird.

As noted last week SEACAT NORGE [SEACAT ISLE OF MAN returned to Merseyside last weekend. She is currently in the Canada Dry Dock undergoing refit. Since she last occupied the dock in December 1995,whilst undergoing repairs for storm damage which was incurred on a rough passage to Douglas, her profile has changed somewhat and not really for the better. Walkways have been fitted which lead from the bridge viewing deck on both port and starboard sides backwards toward the rear open deck, access down to which appears to be via folding stairs.

One would guess that this arrangement was an additional safety feature which was fitted during her operation on the joint Sea Containers/Colour Line service last year. Such walkways would allow for the speedy evacuation of passengers from the higher bridge deck in emergencies without the need to pass through the main cabin area. Other SeaCats are not fitted with this feature and it is interesting to note if it is to be retained.

When HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN departed after her refit in Canada Dry Dock a couple of weeks ago it was noted that the ship had been re-registered in Folkestone. This is the first ship to be registered at that port for ten years.

The Sea Containers SeaCats have been registered in Nassau, Bahamas. In an apparent change of policy the fleet is to be re-registered under the "Red Duster". The local newspaper the Daily Post reports that Sea Containers has decided to change its fast ferry fleet to British registry. This is certainly welcome news for the declining British Merchant Navy.

Presumably SEACAT ISLE OF MAN will be registered in Liverpool? If its Douglas, Isle of Man it will carry the Manx Red Ensign rather than the British. The Manx Red Ensign comprises that of Britain defaced by the Legs of Man.


The House of Mannanan is a new multi-million pound museum and heritage centre which is to be opened by Manx National Heritage in the City of Peel, Isle of Man, during summer 1997. This museum will have galleries devoted to the Manx seafaring and The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.


The SEAWAY FALCON and BELARD remain in the Wet Basin. STENA LYNX III remains in the dry dock where she arrived last Saturday.


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