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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




25th January 1998

Welcome once again to Mersey Shipping News. After last week's mammoth posting things have quietened down a bit!



BELARD departed from Cammell Laird on the morning tide of 23rd January following pre-sale survey and Heysham mishap repairs.

KING ORRY had been due to leave Cammell Laird on Sunday 25th January to resume service, however, she was still in the wet basin after high tide, therefore she will not be operating today's Liverpool - Douglas sailing.

LADY OF MANN had been expected to lay-up at Vittoria Dock after she completes her Douglas - Liverpool sailing on 25th January. However, with the KING ORRY still in Lairds it looks as though she will continue in service for a few more days.

A report in Ship's Monthly suggests that Hoverspeed have become majority shareholders in the former Holyman-Sally Ferries SeaCat operation. This has apparently come about as a result of Sally Line having withdrawn from the partnership following losses on the Ramsgate - Oostende route of almost £13million UKL since last spring when the new Holyman Sally operation took over from the Belgian RMT operation. Surprisingly Sea Container's do not appear to have made an announcement concerning this move, despite a number of recent press releases appearing on their web site since the new year.

MANXMAN - The former Cammell Laird built IoMSPCo ship is reported as being offered for sale for just £30,000 - around the price of a high quality saloon car! A report in this week's Manx Independent reveals that Port St.Mary Commissioners have accused the Manx Tourism Minister of dragging his feet over the possible purchase of the vessel for possible use as the home for the proposed TT Museum.

Representatives from Fleetwood met Steam Packet officials this week to try to persuade the company to re-open the Fleetwood - Douglas route which had been quietly closed by the company at the end of the 1997 summer season in which loadings had been reduced to around 5000. The Fleetwood service has had a chequered career, originally being withdrawn in the early 1960s. Reopened by the NORWEST HOVERCRAFT Company for the 1969 summer season using the chartered STELLA MARINA the route proved popular. However, problems arose in 1970 as the STELLA MARINA was not available. Consequently the company chartered the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company QUEEN OF THE ISLES before purchasing the former David MacBrayne motor vessel LOCHIEL which was rebuilt at Cammell Lairds and renamed NORWEST LAIRD. This proved very unreliable and the company ceased trading. The Steam Packet subsequently reopened the route though in recent years services have dwindled to just one day per week.

The company has promised to review the situation continuously and enter discussions with any interested parties. During the late 1980s the route had been run on a charter basis by Associated British Ports as the FUN BOAT service.

During autumn 1996 an attempt was made to increase sailings from Fleetwood with trips to Dublin and Douglas. Whilst the Dublin service proved very popular carryings on the Douglas run, despite very low vehicles day trip fares were rather poor.

Sea Containers currently hold the Hales Trophy [Blue Riband] for the fastest trans-Atlantic passenger vessel crossing between the US and UK. However, the company's current hold on the trophy won by HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN may be put in jeopardy during the summer when fast ferry SUPER STAR EXPRESS attempts to break the around the world by ship speed record. This is currently held by submarine USS TRITON and achieved in 1960 with a time of 83 days. The vessel will compete for a specially commissioned trophy "Round the World Challenge" and hopes to complete the journey in just 43 days. Star Cruises, owners of SUPER STAR EXPRESS hope to take the Hales Trophy for the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing as part of the attempt.

Ironically the vessel has been constructed by Austal Ships of Australia which had been commissioned to construct the original Sea Container's SUPERSEACAT ONE - a twin hulled vessel - subsequently rejected by SeaCo as being too slow!


Transport Minister Glenda Jackson has given the go-ahead for the construction of the Twelve Quays ro/ro terminal


Proposals were unveiled this week to erect an eight foot high memorial to Commander Johnnie Walker at Liverpool's Pier Head this year.

Walker a Plymothian, adopted Liverpool as his native home during WWII, and became the leading anti-submarine patrol commander during the Battle of The Atlantic. On one patrol six U-boats were sunk. Unfortunately he died in hospital at Seaforth in 1944 after suffering a stroke at the age of 48 and never saw the final victory, which he contributed so much to.

Former colleagues who served with Walker have launched at £50,000 appeal for the memorial sculpture, which will be made by a Liverpool sculptor Tom Murphy.


The company has taken large full page advertisements in both the Daily Post and Liverpool Echo newspapers this week announcing low fares for the 1998 season. Obviously they feel under threat from SeaCo! Fares start at £79UKL single, for a car and 5 adults on the Holyhead - Dublin route, with a single fare on Pembroke - Rosslare from only £59 for a car and 5 adults. The company has not placed such large adverts before. In addition small caravans are being carried free on daytime sailings. Foot passenger fares are also reduced.


Work on the MOUNTWOOD's annual refit continues at the Duke Street berth in the East Float.

Plans were revealed this week for the use of the former Mersey Ferry ROYAL IRIS, rescued from Cardiff Docks last year, as a restaurant and night club in London's Docklands. The vessel is currently berthed at Sergeant's Wharf, Woolwich


For many years the former WWII amphibious D.U.K.W.s have been a familiar sight on Southport's beach. The D.U.K.W.s were used by local lifeguards as rescue vehicles. However, the lifeguards have for sometime used a new "Supacat" amphibious vehicle.

Originally these vehicles had been purchased by a local businessman in the 1950s who had plans to operate them as tourist attractions, taking visitors out to two well-known wrecks on the sands off Southport - the ZELANDIA [foundered April 1917] and CHRYSOPILIS [foundered March 1918]. However, costs caused the project to be abandoned and the craft were acquired by Sefton Council for lifeguard duties on Southport's extensive beach.

However Sefton Council wish to resurrect the idea of taking trippers to the wrecks which still protrude through the sand, some councillors are sceptical about the plan fearing that costs would still out weigh any income. An alternative proposal has been made to restore the craft as a WWII memorial and place them on display on the promenade.


STENA LYNX III remains in Bidston Dry Dock. The Company also appears to be undertaking work on James Fisher Plc's CABLEMAN at a berth adjacent Duke Street Bridge in the West Float, she was due to leave Birkenhead Docks on Saturday evenings tide 24th January.


HOLYMAN RAPIDE [Incat 38] remains in Canada Dry Dock where she is undergoing refit. There is no sign of any repaint work as yet being undertaken on the vessel's exterior despite. This is despite reports that the Sally Line share of the operation has been taken over by Hoverspeed as from the start of 1998. The Holyman Sally fleetnames remain.


STENA LYNX III has moved from the berth adjacent to Duke Street Bridge into Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock.

STENA LYNX I, that pioneered the Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire high-speed service in 1993 and chartered to Stena Line is now owned by Buquebus Espana. This follows the vessel's transfer from Buquebus International Ltd. STENA LYNX I will operate the Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire high speed service in February 1998 when the HSS is away for refit.

STENA CONCERTINA - an interesting visitor to the Mersey on Sunday was the STENA CONCERTINA the large Stena Bulk VLCC. She was noted at the Tranmere oil stages discharging.


The hopper barge VILLE has been continuing to make two return runs per daytime tide from a berth at Mortar Mill Quay in the East Float, Birkenhead where she is being loaded with stone for the project at New Brighton.


KING ORRY is in the wet basin and is expected to depart on Sunday 25th January. BELARD departed from #6 Dry Dock on Friday 23rd January. Geotechnical Vessel SIMON LABRADOR remains in #7 Dry Dock and DEEPSEA WORKER/PEREGRINE VII in #5.



18th January 1998

Welcome once again to Mersey Shipping News. There is certainly no shortage of news this week with so much to report.



Sea Containers Web Site URL has been changed to

BELARD was unable to make her final Heysham - Douglas sailing prior to her disposal to Danish interests as a result of damaging her bow on entering Heysham harbour. She was despatched to Cammell Laird and arrived at #6 Dry Dock on 13th January.

KING ORRY the KING remains in Lairds undergoing her last annual refit in IoMSPCo service. However, she is going to end her IoMSPCo career in a new livery. Her hull is being painted standard Sea Containers blue! Yes, yet another blue-ship on the Irish Sea! Currently James Fisher, P&O, Coastal Container Line, BG Container Line, ACL, operate blue hulled vessels. At least Norse Irish Ferries chose a fairly bright red which is refreshingly different. One wonder's if the LADY OF MANN will suffer the same fate.

LADY OF MANN is currently operating Liverpool - Douglas and Heysham - Douglas sailings until the KING ORRY returns.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN after a season of poor performance and technical troubles which often saw her falling behind her scheduled times will probably spend her summer on the Channel. It is expected that SEACAT DANMARK, which has greater seating capacity, will operate on routes from Douglas in 1998 once she is relieved of her Stranraer - Belfast duties on the return from Argentina of SEACAT SCOTLAND.

This year sees the introduction of the new BEN-MY-CHREE multi purpose ro/pax ferry on routes between the Isle of Man and the UK. However, as she replaces both KING ORRY and BELARD there will apparently be a reduction in the number of officers required to operate the new fleet. Currently 57 officers are employed and the company may be seeking to reduce this by around 50%. A NUMAST representative will be travelling to the Isle of Man to discuss proposals with the company and reduce the number of redundancies.

SeaCat Danmark - Back Early

SeaCat services between Belfast and Stranraer, will recommence twelve days earlier than planned following the SEACAT DANMARK's £500,000 annual refit at Harland and Wolff's in Belfast.. The first sailing will be the 0500 from Stranraer on Thursday 29 January, ahead of the original schedule for Wednesday 11 February.

There will be a special offer to welcome its return – an £89 fare for a car plus one person for a three day return (subject to availability).

Freight Records at Heysham Port

Latest figures from Sea Containers-owned Heysham Port Ltd. show that the port continues to expand as one of the leading ro/ro terminals on the Irish Sea, breaking all records for freight traffic.

In 1997, the port handled more than 260,000 freight vehicles for the first time, an increase of 29 per cent on the 1996 figure of 205,000. It was also a record year for the export of new cars to Ireland and the Isle of Man with the total exceeding 80,000 for the first time.

These results mark eight years of consistent freight traffic growth at Heysham.

Additional traffic was attracted to the terminal through increased frequencies from the four ferry operators using it - Merchant Ferries, Belfast Freight Ferries, SeaTruck Ferries and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

Together, the companies provide 11 daily sailings from Heysham to Dublin, Belfast, Warrenpoint and Douglas.

This year the port will be looking to consolidate business with the help of a new third £2 million roll-on/roll-off ferry berth, which was officially opened by the Minister for Shipping and Aviation, Glenda Jackson MP, on 21 August last year. This facility utilising the IoMSPCo Navire Linkspan which was formerly located at Edward Pier, Douglas, IoM.

AA Line Timetable

The Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company, operator of the ferry service between Campbeltown in Argyll, Scotland and Ballycastle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland have confirmed timetable details for 1998.

The service will start on Friday 8 May with two daily crossings from Campbeltown and will operate until Monday 1 June. (Fridays to Monday only). On Monday 1 June there will be no 1915 sailing from Ballycastle.

The CLAYMORE which can carry 300 passengers and 50 cars as well as commercial freight will then go on a private charter from 2 June (during the annual Isle of Man TT motorcycle races) to 15 June.

The ship will return to AA Line to recommence operation on Friday 19 June from Ballycastle until Sunday 11 October and operate seven days a week.

However during the Old Lammas Fair, one of Ballycastle’s major community events, which takes place on Monday 24 August and Tuesday 25 August, departures will take place from Campbeltown at 0800 and 1530 on these dates only.

The full timetable is:

May 8th to June 1st (Fridays to Mondays only)

& Monday & Tuesday 24th/25th August.

Campbeltown dep 08.00 15.30

Ballycastle arr 10.45 18.15


Ballycastle dep 11.45 19.15

Campbeltown arr 14.30 22.00

June 19th to 11th October (7 days a week)

Excluding: Monday & Tuesday 24th/25th August.

Campbeltown dep 11.45 19.15

Ballycastle arr 14.30 22.00

Ballycastle dep 08.00 15.30

Campbeltown arr 10.45 18.15

The crossing time has been reduced to 2 hours and 45 minutes and prices are from £99 for a car and two adults.

IOMSPCO Timetables

Printed timetable brochures for IoMSPCo services are now available for Isle of Man/UK/Ireland routes as well as Magic Holidays. I understand the Liverpool - Dublin brochure will be available on 28th January.



On Thursday 15th January the Liverpool Daily Post announced that the 125 year leasehold on the Pier Head would be included in an auction of Liverpool City Council property disposals to be held during February 1998. The area includes that occupied by the present Mersey Ferries Terminal, adjacent Riverside Restaurant and the recently landscaped Piazza area. By the publication of the afternoon's Liverpool Echo it was announced that the Pier Head had been withdrawn from the forthcoming auction.

Merseytravel, Mersey Docks and harbour Company and Sea Co/IoMSPCo are reported to be in discussions about the future of the site with Merseytravel being tipped as likely purchasers of the leasehold. It is anticipated that new terminal facilities for MDHC/IoMSPCo will be built on part of the site, which will include the unsightly muddy void, formerly occupied by the floating roadway consequently the "Titanic Memorial" looks likely to be moved, see below.

MDHC is looking to provide better facilities for liners calling at the Mersey. On 17th January the jack-up platform SKATE 2, which had been drilling core samples off the Morpeth river wall on the site of the proposed Twelve Quays ro/ro terminal, had moved to Prince's Landing Stage. This is to enable MD&HC investigation as to the prospects of deepening the river channel to allow larger liners to come alongside the stage.

Last spring the Airtours liner SUNDREAM became one of the largest liners to berth at the landing stage since the days of the old landing stage which was demolished in the 1970s. One wonders, of course, if it might actually be necessary to lengthen the landing stage as there would be insufficient space to berth both cruise liners and IoMSPCo vessels. When the floating linkspan is in place only one of the two berths can be used.


On 23rd January the new film TITANIC opens in the UK, this is a part fictionalised account of the sinking of the vessel in 1912. A brief glipse of a clip on a recent TV news programme of the liner underway looked most impressive. Its not possible to pass judgement until one sees the film; but it is a pity that given the massive investment the producers did not think it appropriate to retell the story along the lines of the classic "Night To Remember" rather than dress it up as romantic "faction". Merseyside actor Bernard Hill is playing the role of Captain Smith. Hill made came to fame as a result of playing "Yosser Hughes" in the Merseyside black comedy dram "Boys from the Blackstuff" in the early 1980s. He has starred in a maritime role before as that of the boatswain in the Anthony Hopkins/Mel Gibson film "Bounty".

Between the site of the old floating roadway and the present IoMSPCo Terminal is a Memorial to the Heroes of the Marine Engine Room. However, when originally conceived the memorial was to have been dedicated to the Engineers of the RMS Titanic. The memorial was designed by Sir William Goscombe RA and cost £4,500 to construct. It was completed in May 1916 during the First World War. Consequently the memorial was dedicated to the Heroes of the Marine Engine Room to include those lost during the conflict. Apparently the plans for the new terminal facilities will include the movement of the memorial to a new site at the Pier Head.


The company has announced that it expects to operate day-time sailings on three days per week between Liverpool and Belfast from March. The actual owners of MERSEY VIKING and LAGAN VIKING are Lavantia Transport of Italy, part of the Visentini Group. NORSE LAGAN remains laid up in Cammell Lairds. Coastal Cruising Monthly suggests that the vessel may be employed on yet another Liverpool - Dublin service which they speculated may have commenced by the start of the new year. However, plans for this service appear to have been abandoned.


Once again the Mersey Ferries operated an enhanced service on Friday 16th January to provide 30 minute shuttle departures from Birkenhead Woodside to Liverpool. This is in addition to the hourly day time cruise sailing and was provided to cater for passengers displaced from the Merseyrail Underground which is continuing to experience industrial action by drivers. The MOUNTWOOD appears to be undergoing extensive work at ferry berth in the East Float, near Duke Street Bridge.


According to a local news report most places available on the Direct Cruises service from Liverpool in 1998 aboard EDINBURGH CASTLE have been sold out.


HOLYMAN RAPIDE [Incat 38] arrived at Canada Graving Dock during the week for refit by Wright and Beyer. On Saturday 17th January she was noted to have a large section of port hull plating removed, presumably to give access to one of the vessel's engines which I understand is to be replaced.


STENA LYNX III has moved from the berth adjacent to Duke Street Bridge into Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock.


On Saturday the large jack up platform was noted making her way up river for a scheduled locking in at Langton River Entrance on the afternoon tide.


The construction of new groynes has begun off the Egremont - New Brighton promenade in the vicinity of the small boat moorings which see heavy use from spring through autumn. The motorised hopper barge VILLE is making two return runs per daytime tide from a berth at Mortar Mill Quay in the East Float, Birkenhead where she is being loaded with stone for the project. It was in this area that SEACAT ISLE OF MAN was blamed during 1997 for swamping several classic sailing yachts belonging to local residents.


This week saw the announcement of plans for a new development at Birkenhead Docks. The Nautilus Centre could be created around the existing, preserved historic Warships in the East Float, Birkenhead.

The centre will be themed - Underwater Exploration, History of the Royal Navy, Man and the Sea and the Battle of the Atlantic. A feasibility study into the plans will be undertaken soon. It is hoped that a former WWII Corvette HMS CAROLINE, built in 1912 at Cammell Laird together with a sailing ship the MOSHULU could be secured for the project

Some funding could come from the National Lottery and the Government. The underwater exploration theme will be developed around the story of the Birkenhead built pioneering submarine RESURGAM, a replica of which is on display adjacent to the Woodside Ferry Terminal. This development is being considered as something of a compensation for the closely fought battle between Birkenhead and Manchester for the northern annex of the Imperial War Museum which finally went in favour of Manchester.


Irish Ferries' latest acquisition arrived in Dublin at 10.15 on 17 January 1998. The NORMANDY, ex-STENA NORMANDY will replace the Saint Killian II and Saint Patrick II on the Ireland - France service..


A NATO Naval force has been exercising in the Irish Sea this week prior to participating a programme of exercises in late January. The five minesweepers/minehunters these vessels comprise the NATO Standing Force Channel. Vessels involved are HMS HURWORTH [UK]; FALSTER [DK]; NARCIS [B]; HARLINGEN [NL] and SULZBACH-ROSENBURG [D]. The ships are due to call at Barrow this weekend.


 Cammell Laird has certainly featured in the news this week!

First this weeks vessels: Present in the wet basin are KING ORRY refitting, BELARD in #6 Dry Dock undergoing repairs to accident damage prior to sale, DEEPSEA WORKER/PEREGINE VII remains in #5 dry dock where she is being lengthened, plus the Geotechnical vessel SIMON LABRADOR in #7 dry dock. NORSE LAGAN also remains in the wet basin laid up. In the large construction hall, which remains in the ownership of former yard proprietors VSEL/GEC Marine is Richard Branson's new VIRGIN balloon which is being tested inside the hall. The balloon, constructed in Oswestry on the Welsh border, was brought by truck to Birkenhead. The construction hall provides the idea atmosphere, away from wind turbulence, to test the balloon before it is despatched by truck for Liverpool's Speke Airport on Monday when it will be flow out to Marrakech. PEVERIL has now left to resume service between Douglas and Heysham.

Cammell Laird Plc hope to have the Gibraltar Dry Docks in operation by March after the formalisation of a leasing agreement with the Government of Gibraltar. The company is currently assembling a management team to run the former Royal Navy Dockyard which had been run by Kvaerner until April 1996. It is hoped that the new facilities will double the company's capacity and enable the company to offer facilities for repair work on Mediterranean cruise liners and ferries as well as other Atlantic shipping.

This week the company announced record profits of £1.3 million compared £1.1 million for the previous financial year despite a fall in turnover from £14.6 million to £10.5 million caused by the closure of the wet basin during March and April for the overhaul of the large river gate. The stock market was suitably impressed with Cammell Laird's performance with the company's shares ending the week at £2.22 compared to their debut price of £1.09 in July 1997.

Thanks again to those people who have supplied extra information this week - MF, RC, JM.

John H. Luxton

18 January 1998


11th January 1998

Welcome to this week's Mersey Shipping News. Once again another lengthy update which contains some interesting information concerning the jack up platform IRISH SEA PIONEER forwarded by one of the vessel's designers.

I will be changing the Galleries soon and the ORIANA gallery will be closed with next Sunday's update[18/01/98]. If you wish to download pictures from that gallery please do so NOW!




BELARD subject to final confirmation has been sold to Danish interests. This ship which was acquired in 1994 by the IoMSPCo abortive Great Yarmouth to Ijmuden [NL] service. She began life as the MERCANDIAN CARRIER in 1979 operating for Mercandia of Denmark. During 1983 she was renamed ALIANZA before being renamed CARRIER II in 1984. She was acquired by P&O in 1985 for operation between Scotland and Ireland her new name BELARD being a shortening or BELfast ARDrossan. In 1993 she was chartered by P&O to the IoMSPCo for the Mannin Line service between Great Yarmouth and Ijmuiden, the following year she was purchased by IoMSPCo. However, by 1995 IoMSPCo decided to discontinue their unsuccessful exploits on the North Sea. She spent much of her subsequent time until spring 1997 laid up, though she did receive charters to her former owners P&O. However, increasing freight traffic between Douglas and Heysham saw her placed in service in place of PEVERIL in April 1997. PEVERIL then proceeded to Cammell Lairds to lay up.

PEVERIL is expected to recommence operations during on 13th January with the 16:30 Douglas to Heysham, the additional freight traffic displaced by PEVERIL's lower capacity being carried by the KING ORRY. This arrangement will exist until the bigger BEN-MY-CHREE [VI] enters service during the summer. The PEVERIL, though suggested to be a backup ship to BEN-MY-CHREE for the freight service is also reported as being available for sale.

KING ORRY entered Cammell Lairds this week for her last refit whilst in IoMSPCo service.

LADY OF MANN as noted last week did not sail for Dublin on Saturday 3rd January due to the weather. However, she did venture out on Sunday 4th January for a really wild trip to Dublin. She left Princes Landing Stage at 09:10, encountering winds of up to force 10 off Anglesey she arrived at Dublin at 17:15. She sailed again at 19:30, three hours behind schedule with another full load. I understand that the LADY was the only ferry operating on theIrish Sea last Sunday! She closed the Dublin route on the 5th January in much calmer and quite pleasant weather conditions. - She spent much of Tuesday alongside the landing stage before departing at around 15:00 for Douglas to be in position ready to take up Manx services on Wednesday to allow KING ORRY to stand down for refit.

According to a report in the Manx Independent Newspaper the Steam Packet is recruiting additional customer service agents in addition to those normally recruited in the run-up to the summer season to cater for an anticipated increase in demand after the publication of the 1998 Timetable brochures.


As reported last week the future of Southport Pier remains in doubt. It now looks as though the pier's future will be decided in the next few months. Local reports indicate that if funding for restoration is not available by Easter, demolition my quickly follow.


On the morning tide of 10 January Incat built STENA LYNX III entered Birkenhead Docks and proceeded to the West Float, berthing in by the former Ellerman Line Transit sheds adjacent to the Duke Street Bridge, she is berthed facing towards the river.


 Readers will have noted the mention of the jack up platform IRISH SEA PIONEER on MSN. I have recently received e-mail from Jack Cook one of this interesting vessel's designers. He has forwarded some background information, which will be of interest to readers:

IRISH SEA PIONEER "was designed and built by Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, Louisiana. The legs were built and assembled in Texas. It came to Liverpool from Texas on the deck of the MIGHTY SERVANT 2. Electrical systems (including the jacking system), some outfitting, and systems testing were finished at Langton dock. The keel was laid in early 1994. She arrived in Liverpool in September of 1995. There were various sea trials, but mostly she was in Langton dock (right to the swing bridge) until April 1996 when she went to work."

 "There are lots of liftboats operating in the Gulf of Mexico, but she is huge compared to them. She's not really a rig, there are no drilling capabilities. Her mission is to rotate between the four platforms owned by BHP in Liverpool Bay, and provide well testing, well maintenance, cranes, accommodations, and a helipad, so she should stick around awhile. I hope she pumps a lot of money into the local economy. I wouldn't want to have been on her lately though, what with the weather. She's supposed to survive through 50-foot seas while jacked up, but ... that wasn't my department."


McTay Marine of Bromborough is to build new ferry to serve Scottish islands for Western Ferries (Argyll) to replace its Sound of Gigha, which operates to the Scottish islands of Islay and Jura. The new vessel will be a ro/ro and passenger ferry with bow and stern ramps. It will be 25.6 meters/84.0 feet long with a 6.25-meter/20.5-foot beam and a depth of 2.25 meters/7.38 feet. Capacities include vehicles or a single 44-ton truck, the largest vehicle allowed on British roads, and as many as 50 passengers. Service speed is nine knots using two high-speed diesel engines, reduction gearboxes and fixed-pitch propellers. The design, Crinmax-44, is by Stirling Ship Management Ltd., which will oversee construction and daily management. The design name is derived from the fact it will be the largest vessel capable of transiting the Crinan Canal. The new vessel will be delivered in July to the Argyll and Bute Council with classification by Lloyd's Register. During 1996 the company completed a ro/ro ferry for the Scottish operator Caledonian McBrayne. [WMN09/01/98]


Mersey based Bibby Line Ltd. has ordered four self-elevating multipurpose support vessels from Arab Heavy Industries P.J.S. Co. The first of the Searex-designed vessels will be delivered next year and will likely work in the Middle East or Asia. [WMN09/01/98]


The LION was renamed EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER during her short spell in Canada Graving Dock after her Christmas lay-up. EUROPEAN PATHFINDER [PANTHER] has departed Cammell Lairds. Other P&O name changes are: BISON - EUROPEAN PIONEER and PUMA - EUROPEAN SEAFARER. At a personal level I think the animal series of names was much more suited to these ro/ro vessels.


Sea Truck Ferries RIVER DANCE departed from the number 6 dry dock on 7th January. NORSE LAGAN remains in the wet basin along with PEVERIL and has been joined by KING ORRY for refit. The DEEP SEA WORKER/PEREGRENE VII remains number 5 in dry dock where she is being lengthened. On Sunday morning tide 11th January, the James Fisher vessel SOLENT FISHER entered the wet basin.

Thanks again to those people who have supplied extra information this week - JC, JM, RC.

John H. Luxton

11 January 1998


 04th January 1998

Happy New Year!

I decided that I the name Mersey Shipping News for these pages would be retained for the time being! All the 1997 news bulletins have been moved to "The Archives" the menu for which can be accessed via the front page. Please note that World Maritime News Bulletins are currently kept on line for approximately 3 months though I may reduce this to 2 months in the near future to conserve valuable web space.

Over the next few weeks I will be reorganising the gallery pages and providing an overview of interesting shipping in the area during 1997. I also intend to produce a gallery depicting a journey from Liverpool to Dublin aboard LADY OF MANN which will be made up of images taken on my sailings this year. Please note that some of the existing gallery pages will disappear soon. Please download any that may be of interest NOW! Sorry about this but I am almost up to my Web Space Limit. I will try and investigate some of the free space sites available to see if I can expand further as there is so much more that could be placed on line!



Weather conditions disrupted sailings again. The LADY OF MANN did not make it to Dublin on New Year's Day or on Saturday 3rd January. On Saturday 3rd the KING ORRY's Douglas to Liverpool sailing was also cancelled.

On Sunday 4th January the KING ORRY operated two sailings to Liverpool, arriving at around 11:49, departing again at 13:25 with 425 passengers on board due to arrive Douglas at 17:30. She was due back at Liverpool at 23:00, the same time as the LADY OF MANN's arrival from Dublin.

The Isle of Man Steam Packet's 1998 timetables are now on-line at their Internet Site. Users should ignore the "last updated May" message on the IOMSPCO front page and make their way to the timetables. It is pleasing to note that the online timetable is available before the printed timetables which I understand should be available in mid January.

Last year, the company was criticised in the Manx press for not having online timetables available until well into the new year.

The timetables include details of the new BEN MY CHREE [VI]'s sailings. The BEN MY CHREE's first passenger sailing will be the overnight July 31st/August 1st sailing. Day time services commence on the 3rd August with 09:00 Douglas to Heysham. The BEN's first passenger sailing to Liverpool will be on November 6th. From the conclusion of the TT all Liverpool - Douglas sailings will be operated by Sea Cat until November.

The BEN MY CHREE will make her appearance on the Douglas to Dublin route with two day trips in December 1998 on 22nd and 29th.

Of course the BEN may, perhaps, show up at these locations earlier if weather conditions disrupt the SeaCat, though as the BEN MY CHREE will be providing the essential Heysham - Douglas freight service I guess there will be less flexibility in using her to cover for SeaCat disruption. Unless BELARD or PEVERIL are retained as a back-up freighter, there had been some mention of retaining PEVERIL about the time of the Sea Con. take-over.

SUPERSEACAT TWO times for the Liverpool to Dublin service will be Liverpool dep. 08:15 and 18:00 with returns from Dublin at 13:00 and 23:00 with a crossing time of 3 hours 50 minutes. This should offer some stiff competition for Stena's Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire route! Services may start on 20th March initially, with the morning round trip increasing to the full service in time for Easter.

LADY OF MANN - makes her last sailing on the Dublin route on Monday 5th January. On the 6th she travels over to the Isle of Man before taking over the KING ORRY's schedules from 7th January. Her final sailing this winter should be the Douglas to Liverpool sailing on 31st January. She will then lay-up until the 30th May taking a well earned rest after what has probably been her most intensely utilised year of her whole 21 year career; in which she has re-establish the Liverpool - Dublin passenger service - perhaps too successfully for her own good! Lets hope Sea Containers find some other routes for her to pioneer, it is known that Sea Containers are interested in providing a service to the Channel Islands in 1999!


Last week I reported on the demise of the Blackpool North Pier landing jetty which has been used in recent years by BALMORAL on her coastal cruise programme. This week Southport Pier is the news. Its many, many years since Southport Pier had landing facilities for vessels as anyone who knows Southport will now just how far the tide recedes at low water. However, complete with narrow gauge railway, it has been popular with visitors since it opened in the 1860s. Unfortunately an attempt to secure Lottery funding has been unsuccessful [unlike some other pier projects such as Clevedon] and the future of the pier, closed since the end of the Summer season is now in some doubt.


On the 1st January the Liverpool bound timber carrier OAK was reported in distress with a serious list in poor conditions some 700 miles west of Land's End.

The 13,000 ton Bahamas registered vessel was on a voyage from Canada to Liverpool carrying timber. At one point the vessel's list reached 40 degrees which caused the crew to jettison deck cargo. A tug ANGLIAN PRINCESS was despatched from Falmouth to rendezvous with the vessel.

The OAK is now scheduled to lock into the Liverpool Dock system at around midnight on 3rd January


LION crossed the river on 28th December and entered Langton Lock to proceed to Canada Graving Dock where refit work is underway.


After several changes in planned departure, the jack up rig Irish Sea Pioneer eventually departed from Laird's Wet Basin on New Year's Eve. She is currently working adjacent to the Hamilton Platform in Liverpool bay a short distance from The Bar.


Though this little paddle steamer does not have any Merseyside or Irish Sea connections, fellow ship enthusiasts may be saddened to hear that this gallant Dunkirk veteran sank at her berth on the River Medway on Boxing Day. There was a large article in yesterday's Daily Mail newspaper. She has been undergoing restoration work for sometime, however, progress was hampered by the refusal of a National Lottery grant two years ago. Her preservation society, are trying to pump the water out of the vessel and refloat her.

John H. Luxton

04 January 1998


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