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Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond
MSN MAY 1997



26 May 1997



LADY OF MANN - The Lady has now commenced her TT duties.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN - The SeaCat is now back in service. There have been some changes in her internal layout since her withdrawal from the Manx routes in autumn 1995. Some of the changes include the removal of a complete seating bay in the stern bar area to provide more standing room. The removal of the additional Ladies toilet facilities provided for the 1995 season and the relocation of the "amusement arcade" to this its original position. During 1995 the gaming machines had been located at the top of the stairs on the bridge observation deck. Up on the bridge observation deck new escape doors have been fitted which lead along the top of the main cabin area to the stern where there is a folding staircase down to the main open deck on the starboard side. A staircase on the port side, fitted since her withdrawal from Manx service has been removed. Up on the bridge observation deck the curved seating on the centre of the deck has been removed. This has been replaced by a raised area which is nothing more than the roof of the new Duty Free Shop.

Seating in the main cabin has been rearranged. The centre rows have been spaced out and instead of all facing the front of the vessel the rows alternate facing fore and aft with tables in between which makes for a more spacious area.

The gift shop at the rear of the main cabin area has been redesigned. From an open counter it is now enclosed and forms a "walk in shop" it is well designed except for a large centrally placed newspaper stand which hampers circulation.

PEVERIL - Remains in Cammell Laird's wet basin. However, whilst in conversation with an other enthusiast at the weekend he has heard that she may well be going to be transferred to the cross-channel Hoverspeed Falcon ro/ro freight service which is currently being operated by the PICASSO.

BELARD - Operating on the Douglas to Heysham route.

CLAYMORE - whilst this ship does not appear in edition 2 of the published timetable she does feature in the WWW on-line version.

She is noted as operating the 10.30 sailing from Douglas to Belfast on the 7th June.

It appears that Sea Containers have the right to cancel the contract to build the four remaining SuperSeaCats if the first two craft fail to come up to expectation in this their season. One of the second batch of SuperSeaCats was earmarked for the Liverpool to Dublin route next year. Perhaps the Lady might sail on beyond next summer?

Closer inspection of the floating linkspan attached to Prince's Landing Stage reveals that it has been widened towards the landward side. Though the widened section does not appear to be moveable. It appears hard to see how vehicles might use the extra width because of the support upright for the original moving section would obstruct access. However, the extra width is sufficient to allow a larger stern door of a mono-hulled vessel to rest on the structure. Is this feature then for the King Orry's replacement? The SuperSeaCat or for a back up conventional ro/ro ferry to be drafted in should the SeaCat fail?



As mentioned last week BALMORAL was due to pay a short visit to the Mersey for two Llandudno and Menai Bridge cruises. Unfortunately there has, as yet, been no national timetable issued which has been something of a hindrance for prospective passengers, the company relying on local newspaper adverts - not conducive for getting passengers from further a field!

Last year BALMORAL had a new Australian master, Garry Wilson after her regular skipper Captain Michel left the company to work for the Forth Ports authority. Captain Wilson left after the end of the 1996 season. It was interesting to note that Captain Michel is back in command.


Last week I reported how the recent Mersey visitor and former trans-Atlantic Mersey liner SYLVANIA had become holed off St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly just days after leaving Liverpool whilst on a round the British Isles cruise. Apparently Scillonian divers called into inspect the wreck found that the ship had NOT hit sunken containers from the CITA wrecked on St. Mary's in April. The divers found quite a large hole big enough to get inside and with pieces of granite embedded in the plating. It is now known that she touched bottom when rounding the Garrison on St. Mary's. The passengers were taken back to the mainland by SCILLONIAN III last Sunday. On the 25th May, the ALBATROSS was expected to leave Scilly where she had spent the past week for repairs.


The dredger CAVE SAND continues dredging work in number 7 dry dock in preparation for the yard's expansion. PEVERIL remains in the wet basin, along with Fisher's new FORTH FISHER. The impressive drilling ship with large drill tower DEEPSEA WORKER arrived on Saturday 24 May.


Fisher's new tanker FORTH FISHER originally ordered by P&O has been in Laird's wet basin for a couple of weeks. It looks as though Fisher's new livery is going to be P&O blue/white with the full company name "Fisher" on the funnel. Previous Fisher funnel colours had been white, buff, black with a black "F" on the buff band. The lettering style is similar to that used on the recently published annual report. This also shown a stork in flight as a logo. It would be interesting to see if this logo is also applied. Ships magazine has reported that James Fisher's flagship the RFA OAKLEAF [A111] is due to enter Laird's in the near future for refit. The OAKLEAF which is chartered to the MoD is the largest ship in Royal Navy/Royal Fleet Auxiliary service at 49,300 tonnes.


An unusual vessel has been visible at Mc Tay's fitting out berth in the East Float for the past couple of weeks. The THAMES VITALITY is being completed for Thames Water. This strange, low slung, but rather large vessel is to join an existing Mc Tay vessel which is used to aerate the water of the River Thames at times when the oxygen content of the river falls below a predetermined level. The vessel's unusual profile is caused by the need for it to pass under low bridges across the River Thames.


Plans have been revealed in the local press by a midland businessman to bring the P&O liner CANBERRA to the River Mersey for preservation! The plans include the conversion of the ship to a floating village; making use of many of her existing on-board facilities - but also providing commercial shopping outlets etc. In some ways this appears to be a similar plan to that adopted by the local department store Lewis's when they purchased Brunel's trans-Atlantic liner GREAT EASTERN in the late 19th Century. She was used as a floating department store and recreation centre whilst moored in the river. Visitors being taken to her by ferry. However, the plan was not successful and she was broken up at Rock Ferry near Tranmere.

On a more realistic level there have been various similar plans to preserve ships. A couple of years ago someone was reported as wishing to bring the QUEEN MARY from Longbeach to the Mersey!

Of that hare-brained plan nothing more was heard. Then on a smaller scale the country has witnessed other schemes to reuse old vessels some on Merseyside:

The MANXMAN - after some success as a pub/night club in Preston Docks was brought to Liverpool. The business failed and she was taken to Hull for similar use. Once again the business failed and her future is now uncertain. A Manx businessmen proposed last summer to either restore her to her former glory, or if sufficient money could not be raised, to take her into the Irish Sea and scuttle her somewhere between Liverpool and Douglas!

ROYAL IRIS - after a brief spell as a pub at Stanley Dock she was taken to Cardiff Docks for use as a disco/night club. That failed and she is quietly rusting away.

The DUKE OF LANCASTER this British Railways Heysham to Belfast ship was dumped in a muddy creek near Mostyn on the River Dee in Wales. She was originally used as a pub/leisure centre but is now abandoned.

The HABICHT/PRINCESS ROYAL - this smart and reasonably modern German ferry was moored at the MANXMAN's old berth in Liverpool Docks back in summer 1994 - again with the idea of development as a floating pub/night club with the possibility of operating coastal cruises to North Wales. A couple of months ago she was moved from this berth to Canada Dock, where she now lies.

The BALMORAL ended up as a floating pub in Scotland. Fortunately the demise of the PRINCE IVANHOE [SHANKLIN] was her salvation. She is one of the few ships to have escaped the floating pub/hotel/nite spot fate and gain a new lease of life.

All in all, the reuse of classic ships has not been a great success and frankly I doubt the Canberra will find a new home on the River Mersey!


The OVERCHURCH visited the Ellemere Port Boat Museum this Bank Holiday weekend and was open to the public.


As reported last week HMS Manchester [D95] was berthed in Canada Dock last weekend. She remained there until later in the week. Little did I know when I wrote last week's report that I would end up aboard the ship on Monday morning. Just over a week ago I was asked by a colleague at work to accompany her on a trip with some senior pupils to Liverpool Docks from the school where I work. I thought that it was nothing more than another docks trip until I was asked to drive the minibus to Canada Dock!

A very interesting guided tour around the ship followed, which took in the crew accommodation, the Operation's Room, helicopter hangar, bridge, damage control etc. At the end of the tour we were able to watch the ship's Lynx helicopter fly in from Portland and land on the helideck. I don't know who was the most excited about this trip - the children or one of their teachers <!

On Sunday 25th May the patrol vessel HMS ALDERNEY [P278] arrived, occupying the berth previously occupied by the HMS MANCHESTER



18 May 1997




LADY OF MANN - On Saturday morning 17th May the crew of the Lady appeared quite busy undertaking last minute jobs prior to her leaving her lay-up berth for the Sunday 18th May Liverpool Echo charter to Dublin. Returning 21st May]. On Saturday she left Birkenhead Docks to run engine trials on the River Mersey. She was due to berth at Prince's Landing Stage shortly after 18.45 when the KING ORRY departs for Douglas. This will be her inaugural run on her new route, which commences scheduled operations on 12th June. On 22nd May the LADY OF MANN will operate a one-off Liverpool-Llandudno-Douglas day trip before taking up her duties for the TT rush.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN was reported having returned to Douglas on Thursday 15th May. Her first scheduled sailing is at 09.30 on Wednesday 21st May to Dublin, returning from Dublin at 19.00.

PEVERIL - still remains in Cammell Laird's wet basin.

BELARD - Since 10 April she has been covering the PEVERIL's sailings between Douglas and Heysham.

The Liverpool linkspan has been moved from Tc Tay's berth at East Float and is now in position adjacent to the SeaCat berth on Prince's Landing Stage.

The Steam Packet timetable on the WWW has been updated this week to include Isle of Man - Ireland services. However, no mention is yet made of the Liverpool - Dublin service.

A new advertising campaign has been noted on bill-board hoardings around Liverpool. Last year's billboard advertisements depicted KING ORRY sailing into a photographically altered Manx harbour in the early evening under the heading "Summer Sail". This years things are much more daring. Under the heading "Go Man, Go Man, Go Man, Go" the bow of SEACAT ISLE OF MAN is seen approaching what looks like a representation of Peel Castle. [Perhaps they are thinking of putting in a linkspan at Peel? <big grin!!!!>]

The Sea Containers 1996 report has been published. It features an impressive photograph of the first SuperSeaCat out of the water just before launch at Fincaniteri's ship yard in Italy. The second picture shows it in the water. One of these new generation of SeaCats may be used on the Liverpool-Dublin service from next year. Sea Containers are also planning to expand SeaCat operations to South America, with routes proposed in Brazil and Argentina.


Sheffield Class, type 42 Destroyer, HMS MANCHESTER [D95] is paying a courtesy visit to Liverpool this weekend. She is berthed in Canada Dock. The destroyer was constructed by Vickers in 1983.


Here is a tale of how two stories on earlier postings of MSN have somehow managed to come together! As reported back in February the ALBATROSS - formerly - Cunard Line's SYLVANIA was due to return to the Mersey on 13th May.

As the SYLVANIA she operated regular trans-Atlantic services from Liverpool until 13th October 1967 when she was withdrawn and subsequently sold. Now named ALBATROSS [24802grt] she is operated on charter by Phoenix Cruises of Bonn.

The ALBATROSS returned to Liverpool on the 13th May as part of a British Isles cruise, her 500 passengers spending the day ashore. Local press reports suggested that she was due to leave at 20.00. However, when I arrived at the Pier Head at around 19.45 she had already departed for Cobh.

The second strand to this story concerns the container ship CITA which was wrecked on St.Mary's, Isles of Scilly on 26th March. This was also reported in an earlier edition of MSN and a text file describing the events surround the wreck has already been posted - as I just happened to be on the Isles of Scilly at the time! Many of the CITA's containers were subsequently salvaged, however not all have been recovered.

On Friday 16th May the ALBATROSS struck a submerged object whilst leaving the Scillies for her next call - The Isle of Wight. The submerged object is thought to be a sunken container from the CITA, though there is a possibility that the ship could have touched bottom as a result of a marker buoy being out of position.

Consequently the ships outer hull was damaged, tough her inner hull was not punctured. Her passengers are expected to be brought back from the Isle of Scilly on the RMV SCILLONIAN III, whilst the ship heads for a repair yard. Repairs would be expected to take several days.


The BALMORAL is due to make two cruises from Liverpool next weekend [24/25 May] to Llandudno and Menai Bridge. The choice of timing is not opportune as next Saturday sees the first day excursion from Liverpool to Isle of Man on the reintroduced SeaCat service. Also a couple of days previously there is a one off IOMSPCO run to Liverpool - Llandudno - Douglas run. All competing for ship enthusiasts' cash! Tickets are obtainable either from Waverley Excursions at Glasgow or Barry or from the Mersey Ferries Terminal at Pier Head.


Possibly the only vessel in the world to actually be in gaol is the ASGARD. The ASGARD is one of only eight classic yachts constructed to the designs of Colin Archer which still exist. The yacht was the property of Robert Erskine Childers. Childers, author of the famous nautical spy novel "Riddle of the Sands" used the ASGARD to run arms purchased in Hamburg to Howth near Dublin for use by the Irish Volunteers which later became the IRA. Many of the arms landed by the ASGARD were used in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Erskine Childers was executed by the Irish Government, for being in possession of a gun during the Irish Civil War. Ironically the gun had been presented to Childers by General Michael Collins, himself a victim of an IRA ambush at Bealnablath in 1922. However, his yacht went on to become property of the Department of the Marine and eventually became the first Irish sail training ship.

She was later replaced by ASGARD II - the current Irish sail training ship. In 1979 the Irish Government moved the ASGARD to Kilmainham Gaol, an appropriate location as this was the place of execution for the leaders of the 1916 Rising and very much a monument to those who have died for Irish freedom.

A group of classic boat enthusiasts led by a round the world sailor Tim Magennis, have been wishing to restore the vessel to a fully seaworthy condition. However, it looks as though the restoration group's plans have been scuppered by the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. The Department states that restoration would involve the replacement of original material, rather than repair and this is against established practices.



11 May 1997




LADY OF MANN - has been out and about again this week. On Saturday morning when driving along the dock road I saw her moving astern out of Canada Dry Dock where she had been receiving additional attention from Wright and Bayer's during the week. She made her way down to the Langton River Entrance where she entered the River Mersey at around 10.30. She then proceeded across the river to Alfred River Entrance where she made her way back to her lay up berth at Vittoria Dock. Her usual master Captain Kinley was on the bridge.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN has been operating on the Sea Containers Dover to Calais route since being refitted at Canada Dock, Liverpool. She will continue on that route until she heads for Douglas at the start of the TT rush.

PEVERIL - still remains in Cammell Laird's wet basin.

BELARD - This vessel left Cammell Laird's wet basin in March and spent some time working for her old owners P&O on that company's Cairnryan - Larne service. Since 10 April she has been covering the PEVERIL's sailings between Douglas and Heysham.

The Liverpool linkspan remains berthed at the Mc Tay Marine's quay at East Float.

Timetable leaflets are available at last for the Liverpool to Dublin service.

Times as mentioned some weeks ago:

Thursday to Tuesday [LADY OF MANN]


Liverpool dep 08.30

Dublin arr 15.00


Dublin dep 16.30

Liverpool arr 23.00




Liverpool dep 11.00

Dublin arr 15.00


Dublin dep 16.30

Liverpool arr 20.30

[except 9th July when LADY OF MANN will operate]

The Winter Service will operate from 7th November to 15th December, Fridays to Mondays inclusive. [Times same as summer]. The summer frequency will resume on the 18th December and operate through until 5th January.

Some sample fares:

Liverpool - Dublin - Day Return 10.00UKL

12 June to 17 July, 1st September to 18th December and from 29th December

Day Return is 20.00UKL 18th July to 20th August and 19th December to 28th December.

Adult 5 day return 38.00UKL low season, 50.00UKL high season

Car + 2 adults 5 day return 115.00UKL. High Season 199.00/229.00UKL [higher fare outward travel on Saturdays]

Dates which fares operate are same as Day Return fares.

Standard Adult singles are 19.00/25.00UKL

Car+2 Adult single are 69.00/129.00UKL

Children 10.00/14.00UKL

As reported some months ago the complimentary pocket sized Seawatch Magazine which had been produced by the IOMSPCO has been discontinued. Seawatch has now been replaced by a new magazine known as Island Visitor. This is also free, but produced to a much larger glossy format by the Illustrated London News Group - another part of the Sea Containers Group. Interestingly the route map in the magazine does not show Liverpool to Dublin service, though Campbeltown to Ballycastle and Stranraer to Belfast are shown. According to the magazine during TT fortnight the company uses 250 miles of toilet paper!

New timetables have also been issued for services to and from the Isle of Man. These issue two timetables show substantial revisions to issue one. During the summer school holiday period there are opportunities for day trips from Liverpool to Douglas on most days of the week.

The on-line timetables for the Douglas to Fleetwood/Heysham and Liverpool services are now available. Services from Douglas and Liverpool to Ireland are not yet shown.

You can access the timetable on the Steam Packet's web pages

I now have the full timings for the Liverpool - Llandudno - Douglas sailings on 22nd May:

Liverpool 07.00

Llandudno 09.30

Llandudno 10.30

Douglas 13.30

Douglas 18.30

Llandudno 22.30

Llandudno 23.30

Liverpool 01.00 [23 May]

This will be the first visit of a Steam Packet vessel to Llandudno since 27th August 1980.

Sea Containers this week reported that they reckon that 1997 should be a very profitable year. President James Sherwood reckons that profits should increase from 66.8million UKL in 1996 to 98.2millionUKL in 1997.


Since late April HSS services have been suspended since the departure of HSS STENA VOYAGER. Services should resume on 10 th May when HSS STENA EXPLORER returns from her refit at Finn Yards. Services have been operated by STENA CAMBRIA to Dun Laoghaire and STENA CHALLENGER to Dublin.


The IOMSPCO PEVERIL remains in the wet basin. The small dredger CAVE SAND is still busy undertaking dredging works as part of the re-commissioning of the previously abandoned dry docks. The P&O vessel IBEX paid a short visit to the dry dock early in the week and on Saturday the new Chinese built James Fisher & Sons tanker FORTH FISHER was in the wet basin. Originally ordered by P&O she was to have been named in the former P&O Tankship "man" series of names as QUARTERMAN.


The next River Mersey liner call will be on Tuesday 13th May when the ALBATROSS calls.


The annual Friends of the Ferries Dock and River Cruise will operate on 7th June 1997. Departing Seacombe at 11.25, Liverpool 11.40 and Woodside 11.50 the cruise will include Garston and Eastham Channels plus as many docks as possible south from Seaforth. Tickets priced at 7.00UKL [children 3.50] are available from G. Ditchfield, 7 Foxcovers Road, Bebington, Wirral, Merseyside. L63 3EQ.


04 May 1997




LADY OF MANN - has returned to her lay-up berth in Vittoria Dock. On Saturday 3rd May her crew appeared rather busy applying finishing touches to her paintwork. She was gleaming in the bright sunlight and looks in fine form for the new season and her new role on the Dublin - Liverpool service.

PEVERIL - remains in Cammell Laird's wet basin.

The Liverpool linkspan seen last week heading for McTay's ship yard at Bromborough in the care of the tug CANADA was noted on Saturday moored at the McTay Marine's quay in East Float.

The LADY OF MANN will make her first sailing from Liverpool to Dublin ahead of the official opening of the route. The official start date is 12 June. However the Liverpool Echo in conjunction with the IOMSPCO is offering an outward sailing on Sunday 18 May 1997 from Liverpool at 11.00 with a return from Dublin on Wednesday 21st May at 17.30. Special return fares will be available on these sailings of 49.00 for a car and four passengers. The fare for foot passengers will be 14.00.

On the 22nd May the Lady of Mann will operate a Liverpool-Llandudno - Douglas return sailing chartered by Llandudno Council and the Liverpool Echo. The ship will depart Liverpool at 07.00 and arrive back at 01.00. This will be the first visit of a Steam Packet ship to Llandudno since the classic turbine steamer MONA'S ISLE departed on 27th August 1980. Since the late 1980s the Liverpool - Llandudno route has been operated on just one or two days each year by the Waverley Steam Navigation Company. One wonders if further IOMSPCO expansion could see Llandudno Pier being used as a calling point for foot passengers on the Dublin - Liverpool service at least during the summer months.

Sea Containers have officially opened the newly refurbished IOMSPCO terminal facilities at Heysham this week. The work is reported to have cost 200,000. The Ferry Boat Cafeteria has been replaced by a "Little Chef". Further work at Heysham will involve the upgrading of car parking facilities and provision of baggage handling facilities.

IOMSPCO staff are being issued with new uniforms. The new uniforms are designed by the "Careerline" of Dublin.


Cable and Wireless's CABLE INSTALLER left on the evening tide of Saturday 3rd May. The IOMSPCO PEVERIL remains in the wet basin. The small dredger CAVE SAND is still busy undertaking dredging works as part of the re-commissioning of the previously abandoned dry docks.


On Sunday 27th April I went down to the Landing Stage to see the Airtours Liner SUNDREAM arrive back from her weekend cruise to Dublin. I am uncertain of the history of this vessel and would welcome any information about it. She looks quite modern, but on closer inspection one gets the impression that she is not that recent. The ship has a pronounced "clipper" style bow and is of quite substantial size. She certainly towered above Prince's Landing Stage on which large quantities of provisions were stacked. For one moment it looked something like that depicted on old photos of the old Prince's Landing Stage during the heyday of the liners. The SUNDREAM occupied almost the whole length of Steam Packet's Prince's Landing Stage which is capable of handling two IOMSPCO vessels. In a few weeks her berthing at the Landing Stage would not be possible with the re-installation of the IoMSPCo floating link span which occupies the up-stream berth.

The next liner call will be on Tuesday 13th May when the ALBATROSS calls.


The Barrow and Liverpool based James Fisher and Sons Plc will be renaming some of the former P&O Tankship vessels acquired as part of the recent take-over of the P&O tanker business.

The new buildings originating in China ordered by P&O Tankships will be named as follows:





The names for the two tankers ordered by James Fisher from the Barrow shipyard of VSEL will be named THAMES FISHER and HUMBER FISHER. The company is considering remaining the existing ex-P&O vessels as well as adopting a new livery.


The Nigerian Shipping Company's RIVER ANDONI appears in the latest WSS Marine News. This 1979 built vessel had an enforced stay on Merseyside when it failed a safety inspection. Reconditioning work being undertaken by Wright and Bayer's yard at Bidston came to an abrupt end when the vessel caught fire last summer. In December I saw her being towed from the Mersey to her final resting-place at Aliaga. The photo dated 5th March shows demolition well advanced.


Two new permanent galleries are in the course of planning. the galleries will be on the same floor as that occupied by the Battle of the Atlantic Gallery. The additional galleries will provide what is essentially a Museum of the British Merchant Navy.

The first gallery due to open in two years will be known as British Shipping 2000 and will be dedicated to contemporary and future British shipping. The second new gallery will be known as "Merchant Mariners" and is due to open in 2001 and will depict the changing lives of British Merchant seamen during the past three centuries.

The Museum needs to raise 600,000UKL to commission the galleries. So far 100,000UKL has been raised. Donations are currently being sought and can be sent to Dr. Alan Scarth, Maritime Museum Department, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool. L3 4AQ.


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