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28th December 1997

Welcome to this week's Mersey Shipping News. I would like to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Mersey Shipping News is now well into its third year, having started originally as a weekly news posting to the UK RECREATION and UK FORUM sections of CompuServe during November 1995. Whilst these postings continue, a more comprehensive, web-site version has appeared on the Internet since summer 1996. It all began when I started jotting down my notes from my weekly wanderings around the Merseyside Docks now it appears to have become a regular part of my life.

As we move into 1998 I am certain there will be even more of interest for the ship enthusiast on Merseyside. March will see the arrival of Sea Containers' SUPERSEACAT TWO on the Liverpool to Dublin route, April sees the EDINBURGH CASTLE begin its 1998 Cruise Programme from a Merseyside base. Around the same time Merchant Ferries should commence their new Liverpool - Dublin ro/pax service. All this is in just the first part of the year. There will also be visits over the next few months from a variety of ferries for their refits with Holyman's large Incat craft due to refit on Merseyside in the New Year.

May I take this opportunity to thank all those people who have sent in information, made suggestions, asked/answered queries etc. Your participation has been invaluable and has made the compilation of this weekly news posting much more accurate and interesting.

Finally I am considering a slight change in name from Mersey Shipping News after someone pointed out that when abbreviated to MSN it sounds like Microsoft Network! Mersey Maritime News comes to mind as one possible change. If I decide to change I will do so next weekend.


It looks as though the British registered liner EDINBURGH CASTLE which is to operate out of the Mersey in 1998 has been in trouble again! Last month MSN reported that the ship had experienced a major electrical failure whilst underway. On Tuesday 23rd December six of her crew ended up in the Hudson River, New York after a safety drill went wrong.

The crew were in a lifeboat, which fell from its davits when the securing tackle failed. Four of the crew were quickly rescued by a police launch however, two others were trapped beneath the upturned lifeboat. Of these, one crewman was rescued by a diver from underneath the lifeboat; the other by rescue teams which had to cut through the lifeboat hull.

Though they were suffering the effects of hypothermia none were seriously injured and due to the prompt action of the emergency services all were out of the water within 20 minutes.


Most of Ireland and the west of Britain were battered by storms on Christmas Eve, which resulted in major damage and a number of fatalities including the crew of a French trawler lost in the Irish Sea with all hands.

The TOUL AN TREZ (French-registry trawler built in 1967, homeported at Camaret) was reported missing 24 Dec. after a storm passed over Ireland and the United Kingdom with winds of up to 145 kilometers per hour/90 miles per hour and seas of six meters/20 feet. British and French vessels, three helicopters and a British Royal Air Force Nimrod MR Mk 2P from No. 18 Group at Royal Air Force Kinloss in Grampian, Scotland, were concentrating their search 60 kilometers/35 miles off southern Wales. The trawler has a crew of five. The search was launched after a satellite received a signal from the vessel's Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. The E.P.I.R.B. has been located along with debris believed to be from the trawler. [WMN26/12/97]

Meanwhile in Blackpool the North Pier landing jetty was almost completely destroyed with a large section collapsing. In pre-W.W.II days this landing stage jetty was used by coastal pleasure cruise craft. It remained unused for many years before being "reopened" by a call from the Waverley Steam Navigation Co.'s BALMORAL a few years ago. Since then the BALMORAL has made several calls at North Pier on trips to/from Llandudno as part of her coastal cruise season.


The MOUNTWOOD has left Canada Graving Dock and has returned to her berth in the East Float, Birkenhead.


I can confirm that the PANTHER, which suffered an onboard vehicle fire in the Irish Sea in late November is being renamed EUROPEAN PATHFINDER. She is back in Cammell Laird's wet basin after moving out of dry dock last Sunday afternoon. Though she still bears PANTHER as her name above the bridge, EUROPEAN PATHFINDER has appeared on her bows in the last couple of days.

BUFFALO and LION laid up in the West Float, Birkenhead over the Christmas break. Lion was due to sail from Birkenhead across to Liverpool on Sunday 28th December and enter Langton Locks.


DEEP SEA WORKER/PEREGRENE VII is in dry dock where she is being lengthened. P&O's PANTHER/EUROPEAN PATHFINDER moved from the newly commissioned No6 Dry Dock back to the wet basin at around 14:30 on Sunday 21st December with the assistance of Howard Smith tugs. The PEVERIL and NORSE LAGAN remain the wet basin. One of the seismic survey vessels has moved into dry-dock. The large jack up rig IRISH SEA PIONEER entered the Wet Basin on Sunday 21st December after the PANTHER/EUROPEAN PATHFINDER. The IRISH SEA PIONEER is due to sail again on the morning tide of 28th December. A ro/ro ferry has appeared in the Number 5 dry dock. I didn't have the time to get over to Birkenhead to check its identity and only viewed it from the Liverpool side of the river. It is possibly a Belfast Freight Ferries vessel, though I may be wrong.


John H. Luxton

28th December 1997


21st December 1997

Compiled by: John Luxton 70374,30

Welcome to this week's Mersey Shipping News. I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope you all have a pleasant break. MSN will be updated again as usual next Sunday.



There was some disruption to services this week due to bad weather.

 KING ORRY did not sail on Wednesday from Douglas on the 08.30 to Heysham. It had been the intention to operate the sailing later in the day; however, the day's sailings were eventually cancelled. The KING's Thursday sailing was also delayed until 12:15 and diverted to Liverpool. She then sailed light to Heysham where she picked up a backlog of freight for Douglas.

LADY OF MANN should have recommenced daily [as opposed to Friday to Mondays only] sailings between Liverpool and Dublin on 18th December. However, poor weather caused Thursday's sailings to be cancelled. I have been informed that waves up to 4 metres were entering the Liffey being whipped up the strong easterly winds. {Irish Ferries and Stena Line were also disrupted]. The LADY sailed for Heysham at 04:00 on Thursday to operate the afternoon 14:30 Heysham to Douglas sailing before returning light to Liverpool to position for Friday's Liverpool to Dublin sailing. The Liverpool to Dublin route will now operate daily [except Christmas Day] until 5th January. The LADY OF MANN will then take over the KING ORRY's services until her refit has been completed.

PEVERIL remains laid up in Cammell Laird.

BEN-MY-CHREE [6] should be launched in April 1998 taking up passenger duties in August though she may operate in freight mode only from late July.


Several weeks ago I mentioned that Direct Cruises had claimed a high number of bookings for their 1998 Liverpool and Greenock cruise programme aboard the EDINBURGH CASTLE [ex-EUGENIO COSTA] and consequently the company was looking to provide an extra liner for the 1999 season's sailings.

The company has announced that the second ship will be the 28,574 ton APOLLO [ex-EMPRESS OF CANADA, Canadian Pacific, ex-MARDI GRAS, Carnival Cruise Lines] the last trans-Atlantic liner to sail from Liverpool. The company hopes to recruit many of her crew Merseyside and intends to have fortnightly liner departures from the River Mersey.


Last week the following comments appeared as part of my LADY OF MANN voyage report:

"En-route at around 18:30 a large passenger liner was seen heading south down St. George's Channel. Most of its lights were on, it had a large flood-lit yellow funnel P&O style towards the stern. First I thought it was ORIANA but the funnel appeared the wrong shape." Browsing through the December edition of Ships Monthly has revealed the answer. The ship concerned was a P&O liner ARCADIA [SUN PRINCESS] which was due to make her maiden arrival at Southampton on 21st December. She will then take up CANBERRA's traffic. Her first outward sailing from Southampton is scheduled for 23rd December


The two ferries of Stena Line, built in 1996, that will be dry-docked by Harland & Wolff Holdings PLC at Belfast are the Stena Explorer and the Stena Voyager. It is the first time that work for the ships has been offered commercially, as both had been previously dry-docked under guarantee terms by their builder, Finnyards Ltd. Stena Explorer will enter dry dock on 19 January and leave 7 February. Stena Voyager will follow immediately after and work will be completed by 26 February. The catamaran ferries will rest on 10 8.3-meter/27-foot towers under their wet decks while in dry dock, not on their hulls. Work includes repairs to the car and platform decks, gearboxes, the four KaMeWa water jets and painting. Kvaerner Energy will work on the gas turbines. [WMN 19/12/97]


The shipping company Cenargo purchased Scruttons Plc this week. Scruttons are the operators of the Belfast Freight Ferries which operate between Heysham and Belfast. Cenargo are the proprietors of Merchant Ferries which currently operate the Heysham to Dublin route. From 1998 Merchant Ferries will commence operations between Liverpool and Dublin using two new purpose built ro/pax vessels which are currently under construction in Spain.


Continuing rail disruption saw the ferries operating an enhanced service [shuttle and cruise] from mid-day Monday 15th December until mid-day Tuesday 16th December. The MOUNTWOOD remains in Canada Graving Dock.


PANTHER moved from the recently commissioned No6 Dry Dock back to the wet basin on Sunday 21st December. Interestingly enough transmissions from Mersey Radio announced the movement of EUROPEAN PATHFINDER. Though the ship was still bearing PANTHER two patches of greyish paint were apparent on the stern possibly where a new "double barrelled" name could appear. She originally carried the name EUROPEAN CLEARWAY.


DEEP SEA WORKER/PEREGRENE VII is in dry dock where she is being lengthened. P&O's PANTHER moved from the newly commissioned No6 Dry Dock back to the wet basin at around 14:30 on Sunday 21st December with the assistance of Howard Smith tugs. The PEVERIL and NORSE LAGAN remain the wet basin along with seismic survey vessels SIMON LABRADOR and BLUE SKY ONE. The large jack up rig IRISH SEA PIONEER entered the Wet Basin on Sunday after the PANTHER.


John H. Luxton

21st December 1997




14th December 1997

Compiled by: John Luxton 70374,30


Welcome to this week's Mersey Shipping News I have made some alterations to the Front page to make it brighter and reduce its size. I hope to make some further alterations during the Christmas Holidays. If anyone has any suggestions I would be please to hear from them. 



SUPERSEACAT TWO advertisements appeared in the Liverpool Echo this week advertising vacancies for cabin crew for SSC2 which is due to commence operations between Liverpool and Dublin in March 1998.

LADY OF MANN is now back in service on Liverpool to Dublin route. Her sailing from Dublin on Sunday 7th December was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions as was her outward sailing from Liverpool on Monday 8th December.

PEVERIL remains in Cammell Laird, though has been moved, almost out of view, to near the Campbeltown Road entrance to the ship yard.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN finally left Merseyside on Thursday 11th December. Despite poor conditions reported out in the bay though with the prospect of a moderation in conditions after 00:00 she left Princes Landing Stage at around 20:10. The skipper reporting to Mersey Radio that he would be off the Scillies by daybreak. Break in reception of transmission missed actual destination though that was expected to be at 18:00 on Friday suggesting a voyage to Dover to take up cross channel services during the post Christmas refit period. In his parting comment to Liverpool Coastguard the skipper made some reference to the fact that the next SeaCo SeaCat to be seen on Merseyside would be SEACAT DANMARK currently operating on the Belfast - Stranraer route during SEACAT SCOTLAND's winter holiday in Argentina.


 Irish Ferries has chartered the NORMANDY (24,872-gt, 3,315-dwt ferry built in 1982, formerly the Stena Normandy) for operations across the English Channel.


On Tuesday's p.m. tide the NORSE LAGAN entered Cammell Laird's wet basin following work at Canada Graving Dock and is currently laid up. She shows no sign of the "other destination" being applied to her side as yet!


Continuing rail disruption saw the ferries operating an enhanced service [shuttle and cruise] from mid-day Friday 12th December until mid-day Saturday 13th December. The MOUNTWOOD is now in Canada Graving Dock.


Farmers again blockaded the port of Liverpool in their ongoing protests against the imports of Irish Beef. Late on Sunday evening Mersey Radio warned the skipper of the SEAHAWK to reduce speed up the channel and delay arrival at Liverpool in response to a request from a MDHC Police Inspector. Later in the week P&O appeared to be operating revised schedules with SEAHAWK arriving much later in the day.


Harland & Wolff Holdings P.L.C. has won a contract to dry-dock two Stena HSS ferries, the first time that work on them has been commercially tendered.


PANTHER has moved from the wet basin into the recently commissioned No6 Dry Dock as work on fire damage repairs continue.

P&O has signed up to a 12 year to deal to use the new on-river linkspan on the Liverpool side of the river due for completion in 1999.

However, the company is not quitting its present base in Gladstone Dock. During 1998 the northern end of the "Dock Road" will close and the MDHC estate will be extended into vacant land to the east of the road. P&O will use 6 acres of the additional 70 acres for a new marshalling area and trailer park.


DEEP SEA WORKER/PEREGRENE VII is in dry dock where she is being lengthened. P&O's PANTHER has moved to the newly commissioned No6 Dry Dock. BLUE SKY 1, PEVERIL, NORSE LAGAN and support vessel SIMON LABRADOR were in the wet basin on Sunday 14th December.


Her Majesty's Yacht BRITANNIA was decommissioned 11 Dec. at Portsmouth. It was announced 10 December that the vessel will either be taken over by Forth Ports Plc for mooring at Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland, or by Peel Holdings Plc, in which case it would be berthed at Trafford near Manchester.


John H. Luxton

14th December 1997

Mersey Shipping News

7th December 1997

Compiled by: John Luxton 70374,30



The PEVERIL returned to lay up in Cammell Laird's wet basin on Monday evening after her brief charter to Irish Ferries at Rosslare and then providing a couple of days relief for the BELARD on her old Douglas - Heysham route.

The LADY OF MANN had been due to return to service on 5th December after being out of action for a month after suffering a camshaft failure. On Friday BBC Radio Merseyside Travel News first announced that sailings would recommence, then changed the broadcasts to state that sailings were suspended "until further notice".

I went down to the Pier Head after work on Friday to find both the KING ORRY and LADY OF MANN at the stage. The LADY being berthed astern of the KING in the SeaCat berth. KING ORRY should have been well on its way to Douglas by the time I arrived at 16:40. However, she did not depart until 16:45. The inbound sailing had also been delayed due to a medical emergency on board which had resulted in the ship putting back to Douglas when she was 90 minutes out.

On Saturday 6th December the LADY finally re-entered service with the 08:30 departure to Dublin. Her arrival back at Liverpool was behind schedule. At 0:42 on Sunday morning she was heard calling Mersey Radio at Q9 buoy with arrival at Prince's Landing Stage at 01:11. Some 2 hours 11 minutes behind schedule.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN remains in Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock.


A conference was held by the travel industry at the Merseyside Maritime Museum this week concerning the EU proposal to withdraw duty free facilities from Summer 1999. There is concern that fares will increase and services will be cut as on some routes duty free sales amount to over 30% of revenue.


Work on the NORSE LAGAN appears to be almost complete. The ship looks very smart in her slightly revised livery - mainly white as before - but with a solid blue line replacing the previous red/white/blue lines. Her funnels are now blue with the new Norse Irish Viking longship sail logo - though smaller than the logos on her two new fleetmates. The company name has been repainted too, in fact she looks neater and tidier than I think she has ever looked during her Merseyside career.

What does the future hold? For some time now on her side sponsons she has carried "Liverpool to Belfast" painted in red. Now the Liverpool bit has been reapplied on both sides but nothing else!

Is it likely that we could be seeing yet another operator on the increasingly crowded routes to Dublin? Or perhaps there could be some other port in Ireland that the company has in mind.


Recent rail disputes on the Mersey Rail network have resulted in the suspension of services on the Mersey Underground system. Consequently the ferries have provided extra sailings from the Wirral. On strike days the regular Cruise service operates but is supplemented by another vessel running a direct service.

This week Mersey Ferries announced the appointment of a new Manager. David Pugh, a Merseysider is not from the maritime or transport industries. Instead his background is in leisure as the former manager of leisure and swimming centres. It is hoped that under his leadership the Ferries will continue to reduce their trading deficits which was 2 million pounds in 1996.


The Stena Line port of Holyhead was subject to a blockade mounted by Welsh farmers protesting against the import of cheap beef from Eire on Monday night. Apparently a lorry was hijacked and 40 tonnes of beef burgers ended up in the harbour!

Later in the week protests spread Fishguard whilst early on Thursday farmers attempted to picket the Port of Liverpool being attracted to the arrival of the SEAHAWK which is on charter to P&O Pandoro.

Apparently road hauliers have been advised to use Liverpool Docks for ro/ro meat traffic to beat the farmers protests as Liverpool Docks have several exits so making it more difficult to picket. I noticed on Saturday morning that Norse Irish were making some modifications to their fencing extending it out on to the small traffic island at the terminal entrance. This traffic island has been used by former Dock employees as a refuge during there lengthy dispute for weekday pickets. Obviously neither they, nor the farmers, will use it in the future!

It would have been better for the farmers if they had taken their protests to the Government rather than causing hassle for lorry drivers, ferry companies and port operators.


The Norwegian vessel MARINE EXPLORER which is on charter to the Royal Navy for Hydrographics survey work remains in Mannings Marine Clarence Dry Dock for repairs following a recent fire.


PANTHER remains in Cammell Laird's wet basin following the fire on board early last week.


On Saturday there appeared to be some activity around the site of the proposed Twelve Quays Ro/Ro terminal on the Wirral side. This terminal, originally to have been developed by Forth Ports in association with the Merseyside Development Corporation, is now an MDHC project along with a similar terminal on the Liverpool side.

In the river the small jack-up platform SKATE 2 was in the process of drilling the river-bed. Ashore, a JCB appeared busy breaking up concrete around the remaining railway lines of the former GWR Morpeth Dock freight depot


As noted last week, the VANGUARD returned home from Penzance where she had been receiving attention from PD&E on the evening tide of 29th November. She is now at the company berth in Vittoria Dock. She had left Penzance on the previous day, 28th November. I noted another Carmet Tug the Toronto registered BEAVER GEM in Canada Dock on Saturday looking rather battered!


CONDOR 10, which sailed from Liverpool on 12 November 1997 on her seasonal "migration" south, arrived at Wellington on the evening of 6 December after a 23-day voyage. She made refuelling stops at Malta, Suez, Djibouti, Colombo, Cilacap, Darwin and Cairns. CONDOR 10 is in commercial service across Cook Strait from 10 December 1997 to 14 April 1998. She makes three return-crossings per day from Wellington to Picton, with a scheduled 1 hour and 45 minutes for the 52 n. mile voyage.


DEEP SEA WORKER/PEREGRENE VII is in dry dock where she is being lengthened. P&O's PANTHER remains in the Wet Basin following the on-board fire. PEVERIL also re-entered the wet basin on Monday following her brief outing. Also noted in the Wet Basin looking like a support/survey type with the name which read something like "BLUE SKY I". Anyone have any information on this ship? On Saturday MDHC floating crane MERSEY MAMMOTH was noted off no6 Dry Dock. However, the lifting operation was cancelled, with divers being reported in the river off No 6 Dry Dock later in the afternoon. Early Sunday [7th December] MERSEY MAMMOTH was again in position and had commenced lifting the caisson across the entrance to No 6 Dry Dock on the incoming tide. Another rig support vessel had appeared in the Wet Basin since Saturday but MERSEY MAMMOTH's position made identification of this vessel impossible!


John H. Luxton

7th December 1997



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