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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



31 August 1998

Welcome to the new MSN Web Site. After much work I have finally moved MSN to a new home which should allow it to grow and develop. As you will have noticed the presentation has changed somewhat through the use of Microsoft Front Page '98.

The site follows a hierarchical structure which I hope is fairly obvious. To make things easier a site search function should be operative soon, together with a new Visitors' Book and access counter which is part of the site rather than being operated by a commercial third party as at present.

On the subject of access counters I am pleased to note that the old counter which was installed at  the end of August last year had by Sunday morning 30 August recorded 11145 hits - around 928 visits per month which is very encouraging!

Please ensure you bookmark the FRONT PAGE URL of the new MSN site. For the next few months  the existing front page which is hosted by CompuServe will provide a link to the new site. Eventually though I may develop this site for a new project - watch this space.

Please also remember that many images are now "thumbnails" which will increase page download speeds but allow users access to full size image files - just click on the "thumbnail" to download.

Your feedback and comments on the new layout would be appreciated.



On Thursday 20 August bad weather again disrupted schedules:

SEACAT DANMARK went to Liverpool as usual at 0730 in an increasing westerly. At 1230 she was expected back in Douglas "on time at 1330". Though she arrived an hour late having headed off towards Point of Ayre.

The poor weather resulted in KING ORRY being substituted for the 14.30 sailing to Dublin, though departure was delayed until around 17.15.

The BEN-MY-CHREE was still loading at Douglas at 20.45, she finally sailed at 20.58 almost an hour late.

With the winds having moderated SEACAT DANMARK operated the 21.30 sailing to Liverpool, departing 7 minutes ahead of schedule with 347 passengers and an almost full car deck.

Passengers, in particular day-trippers, were advised by the captain that the evening crossing to Liverpool would not be as bad as that morning's outward sailing. The captain did file a passage time of 2.45 minutes for the crossing,

however, SEACAT DANMARK arrived at Prince's Landing Stage at 00.20, several minutes ahead of the passage time and just 20 minutes late.

BEN-MY-CHREE - The letters in the Manx Press continue whilst the BEN appears to have acquired her first blemishes. Two port side air vents having been damaged near the stern.

KING ORRY is likely to remain in service until the end of September being used "when needed" which will probably be weekends. She may operate as a duplicate to the BEN. She will operate the 09.00 to Heysham and 14.30 return on 30/31 August. The BEN will also operate a 08.30 [light sailing] to Heysham on Sunday returning at 14.00.

The KING ORRY worked the Dublin sailings on Thursday 20th August and was due to arrive back in Douglas at approx. 06:00. The BEN-MY-CHREE took the 09:00 Heysham sailing.

LADY OF MANN - An extension of her charter has not yet been confirmed. Ships Monthly has erroneously stated that she is operating "Whale Watching Cruises"

SUPERSEACAT TWO - The November and December Liverpool to Douglas timetable is likely to be as follows: Liverpool dep. 21.30 Thursday to Sunday, Douglas depart 07.30 Friday to Monday.


The LINDA KOSAN is regular caller at Douglas Isle of Man with cargoes of gas. She carries gas bound for Kosan Gas's Isle of Man operation "Douglas Gas". On Monday morning 24 August she was reported to be on fire some 15 miles south of Rame Head, Cornwall.

A helicopter from RNAS Culdrose was used to fly out a team of fire fighters to the LINDA KOSAN which was carrying 1000 tonnes of gas. The fire originated in the pump room, following an explosion, which contained equipment used to keep the gas cargo under pressure.

However, by the time the fire fighters arrived on the scene the crew had extinguished the blaze by activating the on-board inert gas system and sealing off the area. Cornwall Fire Brigade praised the actions of the crew for averting a "very, very big bang" and saving the ship.

One member of crew received an elbow injury in the explosion and was taken to Derriford Hospital, Plymouth for treatment.

The helicopter was supported by Plymouth's lifeboat that ferried the fire fighters aboard, the danger of explosion preventing the fire crew from being winched directly down to the tanker.

Following the blaze the tanker headed to Falmouth for survey.


On Tuesday 25 August 50 fire fighters using 10 fire appliances struggled for two hours on the evening of 25 August to control a fire aboard the tanker LASBECK which had been unloading paraffin for the United Molasses plant adjacent to the West Float, Birkenhead Docks.

The fire began in the engine room following the leak of hydraulic oil. Fifteen members of the crew and a fire fighter were injured, though the crew, Croatian and Filipino declined hospital treatment being taken to the Seamen's' Mission for the night.

The emergency services put into operation the major incident plan and sealed off the area.


Keith Messant has sent some sad news from the shores of Windermere:

"The latest news re: SWIFT, Windermere Passenger Motor Vessel, is that dismantling and breaking has commenced, 24th August 1998, at the Windermere Lake Cruises Ltd slipway, Lakeside, Cumbria.

A belated attempt to set up a rescue plan for this vessel by various bodies, principally The Furness Railway Trust, which produced a short deferment of demolition has failed because it proved impossible to reach a

suitable agreement with the owning company concerning mooring afloat and insurance until suitable funding and other problems could be resolved.

The Furness Rly Co. launched SWIFT on 1st Jan 1900 from the very slipway upon which she is now being demolished. She was erected at the shipyard of T.B. Seath, Rutherglen, Glasgow, and there dismantled, whereupon the component parts were transported by rail to Lakeside on the branch railway from Ulverston, and re-erected on the slipway, the only one upon the lake which was large enough to receive her.

"SWIFT" was the longest vessel ever to be launched on Windermere and was a twin screw vessel built of steel. She was 203 gross tons, 150 ft long x 21 ft 1in beam x 10ft 1 in depth and cost the Furness Rly 9500 UKL. Her steam non-condensing 2 cylinder compounds were built by Fisher's of Paisley, Glasgow and were powered by a locomotive-type boiler which she carried until the winter of 1956/7 when twin Glennifer marine diesel engines were installed.

The conversion improved her appearance in the view of some people as she received a typical motor yacht funnel but her manoeuvring ability was not improved. She always had difficulty swinging around to reach the quayside at Lakeside and much vibration resulted from her new diesels. Her ability to move astern was also impaired and after conversion, navigation at the piers was always a tricky operation, which her great length did nothing to alleviate."

And so another example of our maritime heritage is destroyed. One would think giving the popularity of Windermere there would have been no difficulty in finding a role, even a non-operational role for the SWIFT.


Only a few weeks since the death of a Lancashire man whilst trying to sail a canal narrow boat from Fleetwood to the Isle of Man, another canal boater found himself in trouble in Liverpool Bay on 19 August.

Ian Botteril set sail from Connah's Quay heading for Preston in his 30-ft canal boat EYE BEE MARPLE at around 08.30. After a buffeting by tides and currents he was forced to beach his vessel on Ainsdale Beach near Southport at 17.30. Coastguards were monitoring the situation and sent the Southport Inshore Rescue boat to retrieve Mr. Botteril. The boat was made secure above the high water line.

Mr. Botteril, who is reported to suffer from a heart complaint, stated that he undertook the voyage to enable him to write a book. Liverpool Coastguard were not impressed, issuing a statement that putting to sea in such a craft was like "going down the M6 on a pogo-stick".


Damaged caused to one of the new vessels DAWN MERCHANT by a floating crane in Spain, is rumoured to be behind the decision to delay the introduction of the Liverpool - Dublin ro-pax service until January 1999.


On Wednesday 19 August, the day after the company's first AGM it was announced that Cammell Laird Holdings has agreed terms for the purchase of the north-east ALB Holdings Ltd for 32.7 million. As part of the deal Cammell Laird will make a share rights issue of one share @5.20 for every eight held.

These looked like being a bargain last week with the shares trading at just over 6.00. Unfortunately at the close of business on Friday 28 August Cammell Laird shares were trading just below the rights issue price! It is hoped that the rights issue will raise 20.18 million of the purchase cost, the remainder being funded by a share issue of 12.5 million to ALB's owner Albert Le Blond.

ALB's yards are located on the East Coast and the company hopes that the new facilities acquired from ALB will give access to the shipping traffic in the North Sea.

ALB commenced operations in 1974 when the company reopened a small derelict dry-dock in Sutherland for the repair of small tankers and coasters. The 1980s saw the company develop and concentrate on general marine fabrication work. Further dry docks were opened on the River Tees in 1988, and in 1994 the former Hebburn Yard of the recently demised Swan Hunter Group was acquired. The Hebburn yard possesses one of the largest dry-docks in the UK with a 150,000 tonne capacity.

In 1996 a short-term lease was taken on the Pallion Shipyard in Sunderland, currently home to the sad, neglected MANXMAN, herself a product of Cammell Laird.


15 August "Ocean Jewell" - Panama

16 August "Scorpius" Taranto

17 August "Stena Akarita"   Norway





 Acknowledgements: RC, Keith Messant, Dave, Martin & Mike Edmondson

John Luxton

31 August 1998

Back Up Next



Compiled by John Luxton

17 August 1998



A major new gallery has opened. "IoMSPCo - The Last Years of Independence" accessible from the SeaCo/IoMSPCo gallery section. The various areas of the gallery features photographs taken between 1994 and March 1996 when Sea Container's assumed control of the company. It is subdivided into sections depicting all the vessels including MONA'S QUEEN. The photographs are supplemented with personal reminiscences and notes on events. One section is rather light hearted and features some amusing photos of "happenings"! You will also find many of the pictures are less conventional in that they are only a few standard front three quarters views of the vessels.

The Queries and Marine Radio sections have been updated.




Sea Container's woes appear to be continuing this week. Criticism of the BEN-MY-CHREE continues in the media whilst later in the week Hamish Ross released a statement concerning the reliability and poor weather capability of SuperSeaCat Two.

The IoMSPCo Web Site has been updated. Pictures of BEN-MY-CHREE and SEACAT DANMARK now appear alongside pictures of KING ORRY, LADY OF MANN and SUPERSEACAT TWO. PEVERIL has now been deleted. However, whilst the pictures have been updated the timetables have not. The BEN-MY-CHREE is still shown operating the Douglas - Liverpool service during November and December.

BEN-MY-CHREE - An artist's impression of the second BEN-MY-CHREE class vessel for the Condor/Commodore Channel Island's service has appeared in the Summer 1998 European Ferry Scene. Once again the passenger capacity is stated as being 500 of which 260 passengers would be accommodated in the main saloon area. Forty-one cabins would be provided as opposed to 20 on the BEN-MY-CHREE. However, 12 would be available as additional seating space for 72 passengers. Speed is quoted as being 19 knots.

KING ORRY - Operated the delayed 18.00 Liverpool - Dublin service on Wednesday 12 August.

SUPERSEACAT TWO - Missed both sailings on Tuesday 11 July being in Langton Dock for repairs. One of the cabin attendants told me there were "all sorts of things wrong with her." On Friday and Saturday SSC2's afternoon arrivals from Dublin were both reported running late by Mersey Radio. The Saturday 23.00 departure from Dublin had a reported ETA at Prince's Landing Stage of 04.10 on Sunday morning - normal arrival time 02.50.

On Friday 14 August SSC2 was font page headline news in the Liverpool Echo under the heading "CAT FLAP". Despite some of the paper's usual inaccuracies, it didn't paint a very rosy picture. Hamish Ross issued the following statement:

"Over the past few weeks we have had a number of weather cancellations and also some ongoing technical problems which necessitated the withdrawal of the vessel on Tuesday of this week for repairs.

It is disappointing but perhaps not surprising that a craft at the very leading edge of ferry technology should have some initial teething problems on the technical side. Fast Ferries have operating limits which mean they tend to lose more trips to weather than conventional vessels but of course they also bring tremendous advantages.

The SuperSeaCat has brought Dublin and Liverpool within four hours of each other by sea and has re-established Liverpool as a major passenger ferry port. In 1998, from the start of March to the end of the year we expect to carry 60,000 cars and 350,000 passengers. We will of course learn from our operating expertise and are already planning an upgrade of the stabilisation system at her refit early in 1999.

This will greatly improve 'ride' control in adverse weather and provide enhanced comfort. On the technical side we are working closely with the engine manufacturer to improve reliability."

It's basically a case of speed versus reliability and regularity. If the LADY OF MANN had continued to operate the Liverpool - Dublin route headlines such as this combined with the experiences of many frustrated passengers might have been avoided. Of course Mr. Ross's comments will be of little comfort to the residents of the Isle of Man who only last week were told the wonderful news that the Liverpool - Douglas route will be operated by SSC2 during November and December. Someone, somewhere is putting a lot of faith in the weather! Then again there is the KING ORRY and LADY OF MANN!

SEACAT DANMARK - Her arrival and departure from Liverpool on Friday evening were delayed due to the late running of SSC2.



The Royal Navy is officially unveiling its new northern headquarters in

Liverpool's Brunswick Dock. The new 6 million Headquarters will house the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines Reserve, The Sea Cadets and the Naval Regional Officer. The existing HMS EAGLET buildings at Princes Dock will be closed.

Recently, this building at the far end of Princes Parade had been suggested as a potential terminal for Sea Containers Ferries, despite the fact that its is several hundred yards from the Landing Stage!


The liner SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS made its third annual visit to the Mersey on Tuesday 11 August. However, it was announced that Liverpool did not feature in the ship's itinerary for 1999, this caused dismay in the local press.


Playwright Jimmy Mc.Govern intends to make a movie about the 1996-1998 Mersey Docks Dispute which will be filmed on Merseyside.


Work has commenced on the demolition of the Ellerman City Liners Transit Sheds adjacent to the Duke Street Bridge in Birkenhead.


Rumours that the Merchant Ferries Liverpool - Dublin service would be delayed until the new-year have been confirmed. Though the "terminal facilities" are more or less complete, the boards at Canada Branch #3 Dock have had the "Coming Soon" banner replaced with "Opening January 1999". It was becoming obvious from the lack of press advertisements etc, that the hoped for August/September start would not be met. At least the company should be able to start with two ships, rather than commence with just one and then increase to a two-ship service.


The Cutty Sark Tall Ships race will conclude at Dublin next weekend. The arrival of the ships will be greeted with a carnival running the length of the quays, Traffic on North Wall Quay, City Quay, Sir John Rogerson's Quay and Britain Quay will be prohibited and the East Link Bridge will be closed for much of the time between Saturday 22 and Tuesday 25 August.

On Tuesday 25 August there will be a parade of sail let by Irish sailing ship ASGARD II. The ships will sail down the Liffey and head for Dub Laoghaire where the Defence Minister Michael Smith TD will take the salute from the naval vessel LE AISLING. The tall ships will then sail across Dublin Bay to Howth. The conclusion Tall Ships' Race coincides with the arrival of the QEII on 24 August off Dun Laoghaire.


I have received the following information concerning vessels calling at the Tranmere Oil Terminal for the week ending 14 August.

 10 August: BELGREETING - Monrovia

11 August: BELGREETING - Monrovia and PETROSKALD - Monrovia

12 August: Both of the above vessels left Tranmere stage.

13 August: No movements

14 August: OCEAN JEWELL - Panama


DEEPSEA WORKER remains in #5 dry dock whilst Royal Fleet Auxiliary Landing Ship [Logistic] L3027 SIR GERAINT remains in the wet basin. AUSTRAL HORIZON moved from dry dock into the wet basin on 14 August. The press announced that the company would make an announcement concerning a major acquisition this week. Consequently, despite the general decline in stock-market prices during the past week, Cammell Laird shares rose to an all time record high of 6.25 at the close of trade on Friday. A significant increase from the Company's floatation price on the London Stock Exchange last summer at 1.14. The company's first annual general meeting is due to be held this Tuesday.


As readers will have noticed I have recently started to develop a section devoted to Marine Radio on the Web Site in the area covered by MSN. Dave, who has supplied additional information, has the following request:

"I Wonder if you could request the radio frequency for the Mersey Inshore Rescue boats? These operate on channel 0 but they also have a private, possibly UHF, channel. This used to be on 442.675 but this frequency is now Wirral Beach Patrollers. Call Signs in use on the private channel will be "MerseyMobile" and alphanumeric call signs such as "Golf" and "Bravo".

Now how about any frequencies for the rigs in Liverpool Bay? One frequency is 129.775MHz on the Airband (AM mode) which is manned by all the rigs in the Bay to give visiting Bond Helicopters permission to land and weather reports etc. Some times the rigs chat to each other and mention their "other channel"".


John Luxton

17 August 1998

Back Home Up Next



11 August 1998

I have just returned from a few days on the Isle of Man. This is just a news update and obviously its going to be SeaCo/IoMSPCo biased!

 Last week I provided some information on Marine Frequencies in the area covered by Mersey Shipping News. Dave from, Birkenhead has provided a list of more frequencies for the Mersey. I hope to get these up and on-line with next Monday August 17 update.

 Sorry things have been a bit rushed this week as a result being away. I should have stuck to the original plan of not posting news until next Monday as had been originally planned!

 Maritime Queries will also be updated at the next update.

 I understand that there will be a delay before the next edition of WORLD MARITIME NEWS appears it had been due on 7 August, but due to other pressures regular publication may have to be suspended for a while. Consequently there is no posting on MSN this week.





It looks as though it is SeaCo/IoMSPCo baiting time again! The company appears to be fighting a rearguard action against its critics who appear to have surfaced in their droves in the past few weeks. Whilst I wasn't familiar with the company back in the 1970s/80s I have read the interesting Manx Electric Railway Society's book "Is This Any Way to Run A Shipping Line - The Crisis in Manx Shipping". The way things are going I wonder if the publishers are considering writing volume two?

BEN-MY-CHREE - The BEN saga rumbles on, and it's been interesting to pick up on a Manx perspective. The local press is full of comment, and comments have also appeared on Manx Radio too.

This week both Manx Airlines and Emerald Airlines have decided to increase their discounted fares to/from Liverpool by 5.00. On the "Mannin Line" phone in show on Manx Radio Monday 10 August 11, 1998 a member of the public wondered if the decision had something to do with the BEN-MY-CHREE's low capacity.

Speaking to the proprietor of the Sound Cafe, a popular venue for coach tours, I picked up some interesting gossip. It could just be part of the BEN rumour mill. He told me that a coach driver had informed him that coach operators had been asked to drop off their passengers at Liverpool, then drive the coach to Heysham and put the vehicle on the BEN-MY-CHREE. Passengers crossing on SEACAT DANMARK to be reunited with the coach in Douglas. Presumably the same procedure would occur on the return run, with passengers arriving hours before their transport. Of course it could be just gossip and a rumour....!

The Mannin Line phone in programme on Friday produced a lengthy message from lady who had experienced difficulty getting to the island on 3rd August, when bad weather disrupted SeaCat sailings. This message has also appeared in the latest edition of the Isle of Man Examiner as an open letter to Hamish Ross in response to the announcement that SUPERSEACAT TWO would operate between Liverpool and Douglas during November and December. This lady claimed that a member of staff suggested that the Ben's capacity could be increased by using each cabin as seating for 6 passengers.

Listening to comms traffic it appears that the BEN-MY-CHREE is only carrying a maximum of 370 passengers. On 6 August there appeared some confusion as to whether the BEN was taking passengers on the 09.00 sailing or the KING ORRY. When it was revealed that the KING ORRY was taking passengers it was requested at a supervisor give clearance to accept bookings above 370!

I actually travelled on the BEN-MY-CHREE for the first time on the 02.15 sailing from Heysham to Douglas on Thursday August 6. I don't have sufficient information for a voyage report as much of the crossing was spent asleep!

I arrived at Heysham at around midnight to find quite a few cars already present. Boarding commenced at around 1.10. The few foot passengers being conveyed on board by a midi-bus to the lower vehicle deck. Cars were directed up onto the upper vehicle deck. The stern of which was loaded with trailers, the cars being placed in the covered area. As one board's the ship the large size of the vehicle decks is clearly apparent, a great improvement over the crowded interior of the PEVERIL and even the more spacious areas of the KING ORRY.

I travelled up to the passenger lounge in the lift. I had started to head for the stairs but crewmen shouted use the lift. [I have since heard of complaints about the excessive flights of stairs to reach the BEN's lofty heights.] Perhaps it was a case of being defensive? Interestingly there is a device which looks strangely like a shower located just to the side of the life door. I jest not!

The reaching the main lounge/cafe/bar areas known as the Rendezvous Lounge, I must say I was very impressed. Perhaps it's easy to be impressed by something that is new? The layout is very attractive. A long bar/servery area is situated to the rear of the lounge. The information bureau is located on the opposite side, and also acts as a sales point for a well laid out shop. [I had read somewhere - Manx Independent letter - I think] that the BEN didn't have a shop - see what I mean about rumours!

Collecting my cabin key from the bureau attendant I went and had a drink. I didn't record the passenger figure, but everyone appeared well spread out so I guess there were not that many passengers. I had a quick exploration of the outside deck area which is a little limited, climbing to the balcony at the rear of the accommodation area I was interested to note what looked like another snack-bar area. This is the crew's quarters and has the same large windows which feature on the port/starboard side of the passenger areas.

I guess this could be drafted into use for additional passenger space! [Howls of protest from the crew!]. I made my way to my cabin, which I found to be a great improvement to the KING ORRY's. Disappointed that the window didn't open, this was compensated for by the very effective air conditioning, which is operated by a switch in the ceiling.

The cabins are bright, with duvets and pillows in matching SeaCo blue! Between the bunks is a small circular coffee table, but no hospitality tray which is provided on the KING ORRY. Also noted was the lack of TV. On day time sailings on the KING ORRY and LADY OF MANN quite a few passengers book a cabin and watch the TV possibly something that needs rectifying. The bathroom was also much bigger and better than those aboard KING ORRY. The toilet/washbasin area is actually separated from shower.

In wandering round the cabin area I did note that three of the BEN-MY-CHREE's 20 cabins are inside with no exterior windows a point to note if one likes a room with a view. I guess cabins are allocated on a first-come first served basis.

Settling down I didn't get off to sleep until after the safety broadcast, though it was pleasing to note that the speakers in the cabins are not as noisy as the speakers in the KING's cabins. I drifted off to sleep around 02.30 - the time at which the BEN started to move off. It was very pleasing to note how much quieter the cabin accommodation on the BEN-MY-CHREE is. The KING ORRY's outside A deck cabins located behind the funnel do vibrate and shake quite a lot. On the BEN there was virtually no vibration.

I briefly woke at some stage and was aware that the BEN was pitching somewhat but fell asleep again. I awoke at just before 06.00, not being aware of anyone banging on the cabin door as I have noted on trips on the KING ORRY. Looking out of the window the BEN was on her final approach to Douglas harbour, venturing outside to watch the final docking, it was then down on the lift to the car. There was a short wait whilst the ramp to the lower vehicle deck was lowered but by around 06.20 the cars where going ashore.

Obviously something is going to have to be done about the BEN-MY-CHREE. I must admit that I feel very positive about the vessel, she is a breath of fresh air but she needs a genuine 500 passenger seating capacity plus cabins and Blue Riband lounge, not fully inclusive as at present to be a viable ro/pax ship on the Manx routes. Relying on fast craft is just not the way forward for the Irish Sea in winter. The company has a reliable fast vessel which can travel in most weather conditions quite successfully and maintain schedules in all but the worst conditions - the LADY OF MANN. Perhaps if the Lady and BEN worked together, with Lady on the day time sailings running from Liverpool, with the Ben providing extra day time capacity from Heysham and the overnight freight run a reliable service which could be operated. The SeaCat could then provide April - October support as necessary - just a thought.

As for speed perhaps a cruising speed of 21 to 24 knots would have been more appropriate. There actually appears to be some confusion as to the ship's top speed.

A letter in last week's Isle of Man Examiner from John Shepherd, author of the most recent IoMSPCo history, claims that she is the slowest vessel since the TYNWALD of 1891. He states the speed to be 19 knots. However, from my own observations she does appear to be quite nimble. She maintained her lead and appeared to increase it over the KING ORRY on which travelled when both ships operated the 20.00 sailing from Douglas on 18 July, though admittedly she was almost empty except for a handful of trailers.

John Shepherd concluded his lengthy letter by making the following comment "Perhaps it is time once again for a group of Douglas businessmen to sit down and form a company to provide an adequate service to the Isle of Man .... This is just what happened in 1830 after years of discontent with the service provided by the then so-called operators".

SEACAT DANMARK - She appears to be experiencing timekeeping problems especially as the day goes on. On 8 August she did not make fast in Douglas harbour until 21.57 - scheduled 21.15. Her 22.00 departure, finally leaving at 22.40

She was noted sailing from Douglas on the 08.30 to Belfast with a good load of 482 passengers. She departed from Douglas on time. However, something must have gone wrong later in the day as she did not arrive back in Douglas with her afternoon sailing from Liverpool until 23.30. [Scheduled arrival 21.15]. Her 22.00 sailing from Douglas to Liverpool being delayed until 00.10.

 Notes received from a correspondent booked to travel on the 01.45 on Monday 10 August from Liverpool are interesting.....

"I was told she was running an hour late but that I should still check in on time (0015) as sometimes they manage to make up time. The delay was "due to being held up in Belfast".

Arrived at Pier Head 0016 - car marshalling area in front of terminal full - gates to stage still closed. Duty marshaller says "Please park on Princes Parade".

Went into terminal seeking news - behind two very irate citizens who "would have gone to Heysham and got a cabin if they'd known".

Being a reasonable guy I smiled at the young lady who told me "yes you can check your car in here - but did I know there was going to be a delay of about an hour or [sotto voce] maybe a bit longer.

I said I knew and soon had a coffee thrust into my hand - and was told it happens quite a lot. Drank coffee - went back to wife/car - now 0045. The moon shone - the gentle breeze lapped the high tide ...... but nothing happened.

Who would have missed such an idyllic summer night? (well me for a start) .. 0145 and still nothing had happened so went back to terminal again when I was told she would be in at 0245 and that we would sail at 0300.

As this was the marshaller telling me I confess that at that point I did ask about whether he believed that pigs could fly. Went back to car again and sometime after 02.00 they had to come along and wake us up to ask us to move our cars onto the stage!

At 0245 we were all now lined up on the stage - and nothing happened. At 0255 SCD actually arrived and at 0305 managed at the third attempt to get the pax gangway linked up (having unloaded half the cars first!) By 0320 we were on board (and as the matelot who told me where to park put it:" I'm not sure how you are going to get out of your car sir!").

By 0325 made it to the BR lounge just as we cast off to be told over the tannoy that the captain was ever so sorry we had been so inconvenienced but it was all the fault of the Super SeaCat which had held them up on the previous trip.

We actually arrived in Douglas at 0600 to find the BEN already alongside and discharged..... and the KO sitting there too - looking as if someone might have tried to cover up some of the worst rust .... but with her starboard escape chute missing."

KING ORRY - The starboard side escape chute was noted to be missing on the 8 August. It may have been missing when I viewed the ship on August 6, and may have failed to notice it. As reported by John Entwistle last week she did have a bump at Heysham in difficult conditions last Monday - perhaps the escape chute was damaged? Monitoring comms in Douglas Harbour it appeared as though she was operating on a reduced passenger certificate of 420 passengers.

On 7 August she operated the 20.00 to Heysham for non-freight vehicles and passengers sailing from Douglas with 369 on board.

On 8 August she sailed from Douglas on the 09.00 sailing to Heysham carrying coaches, freight and foot passengers. Cars were loaded on the BEN-MY-CHREE which sailed at 08.45. From what I could gather she was due to return from Heysham light-ship. Though I did not witness her return.


 The liner SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS made its third annual visit to the Mersey on Tuesday 11 August, in much better weather than that of her visit last August. She was due to sail at 17.00.


I have a news update from Keith Messant regarding the SWIFT whose future is in doubt.

SWIFT, Windermere 'Steamer' of 1900 (Furness Rly) The latest good news (dated 06:08:1998) about the ex-Furness Rly ex-steam vessel, now T.S.M.V. SWIFT of the Windermere fleet, is that there has been a stay of execution for the moment. The previous news that the contract for demolition had been finalised proved to be premature even though the source was a Windermere Lake Cruises Ltd's spokesman.

SWIFT is now raised on the Company's slipway at Lakeside, Newby Bridge, Cumbria, and is now awaiting the outcome of some belated attempts to find ways and means of implementing preservation proposals. One suggestion is that she should form the basis of an exhibition of 'steamer' related artefacts (and at 150 ft, 48.8m length she would be the largest artefact present) at the

Windermere Steamboat Museum at Bowness, but this proposal awaits the decision of the relevant committee of the Windermere Nautical Trust. Another proposal, stemming from Mr Tim Owen of the Furness Railway Trust and the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Rly., is to take on responsibility for SWIFT for a period of time in order to enable funds to be raised for a restoration to steam project.

WLCLtd., however, although wishing to avoid the necessity for demolition, are at present insisting that in the event of a return to service on the lake, she should not compete with their trade for passengers in any way. This seems a very onerous restriction upon options for the future survival of the vessel!

One of the main problems in the way of restoration is that WLC Ltd's fleet of three large vessels: one centenarian, ex-steam now T.S.M.V. TERN ( absolutely unique world wide) and two sister T.S.M.V. vessels TEAL and SWAN, both sexagenarians, require ever-increasing funding to maintain them to the high standards which today's conditions demand. This, of course, requires that they spend greater overhaul periods on the only slipway on the lake which can accommodate them, thus preventing the SWIFT from being able to take a turn for a lengthy period while restoration progresses. This would have to take place while she remained afloat!


EUROPEAN LEADER [formerly BUFFALO] has re-entered service on the Liverpool - Dublin route after her lengthening at Falmouth.


DEEPSEA WORKER remains in #5 dry dock whilst Royal Fleet Auxiliary Landing Ship [Logistic] L3027 SIR GERAINT remains in the wet basin.


John Luxton

11 August 1998



Having been on the Isle of Man this past week-end I have not managed to complete all the updates to the site as planned. However, I am posting the weekly news as promised for 3 August which contains some interesting news items.

A further update has been undertaken on 5 August. There are two new Gallery pages featuring the KING ORRY arriving at Heysham and the BEN-MY-CHREE at Douglas and departing for Heysham. Both taken on 18 July. 

I have also provided a directory of Marine Radio Frequencies for the principal Irish Sea ports within an area bounded by Belfast - Stranraer and Arklow - Holyhead. Along with this are some tips and information about receiving marine transmissions. Several people have asked about this information so it is about time it was posted! Anyone with further information on frequencies please drop me a line so that I can update the lists.

Hopefully remaining updates to the site will be completed by Wednesday 5 August. An additional news update will be made on Tuesday 11 August as well.



It's good news and bad news again this week! The good news is that passenger and vehicle figures have shown an excellent increase. Unfortunately the BEN-MY-CHREE remains the focus of unfavourable attention. Her on-going problems, actual and perceived, mean that SUPERSEACAT TWO will be having an interesting autumn, if the weather is kind!

Traffic figures published on Friday confirm Sea Container's success in developing Irish Sea ferry services. By the end of June - the Liverpool - Dublin route had carried 138,000 passengers and 27,000 vehicles since the route recommenced in March. In the first 6 months of the year passengers figures on the Isle of Man routes had risen by 16% to 221,000 whilst vehicle loadings were up 11% to 73,000.

The BEN-MY-CHREE - "She's Not the Girl of Everyone's Heart" says the headline on last week's Isle of Man Examiner! In a poll conducted by the newspaper out of the 472 respondents only 8 readers believed that the ship was suitable for the island's needs.

Other problems concerning the BEN-MY-CHREE have surfaced during the past week. Apparently she cannot use Liverpool's floating linkspan, despite the intention to do so. The BEN does not have side-loading capability, unless a side door is fitted, as was the case with the KING ORRY. The prospect of seeing her at Liverpool again in the near future appears remote.

The BEN is probably up to 700 tonnes, too light which means she sits too high in the water. I have only seen the BEN-MY-CHREE depart from Douglas with a few vehicles on board. Neil Anyon saw her, "With what looked like a full compliment of ro-ro freight on both upper and enclosed decks. She was 2 metres higher than the indicated load line, on an even keel with the upper third of her bulbous bow and the upper parts of the rudders clear of the water." Neil's description of her loaded, appears the same as when I have seen her almost empty!

Neil suggests that the BEN-MY-CHREE will be returned to van-der-Geissen's in six week's time to enable work to be undertaken on improving her passenger accommodation. Neil goes onto say that he had heard that a "major re-allocation of superstructure space .... with some of the upper cargo deck as well as the 'dead' space ahead of the funnel being converted into passenger accommodation.

SEACAT DANMARK - 07.30 ex-Douglas and 11.00 ex-Liverpool were cancelled due to bad weather on Monday 3 August.

KING ORRY - Apparently the KING ORRY will remain in service "at weekends" on the Heysham route until the end of August. There is some confusion as to which sailings she will actually operate.


John Entwistle writes: "I was due to sail back Sunday night but decided to stay an extra night and return on Monday's 9:00 sailing [03 August] on the Orry. Overnight the weather deteriorated and woke up this morning to find the island gripped by gale force winds. I arrived at the Sea Terminal to find the 7:30 Sea Cat sailing to

Liverpool cancelled and the passengers transferred to King Orry's sailing.

The Orry was almost full as we set sail at 9:05 and what seemed to be the Liverpool heading with the Captain warning of a "very bumpy crossing" in prospect and he was right. By 10:00 it seemed to be getting worse and a call came over for anyone who was a doctor or medically trained to report to any of the crew. At 11:00 the officer of the watch informed us we would be making a course change to hopefully make things more comfortable; but passengers would have to sit down while the course correction was made. A few minutes later the Orry lurched violently and we came onto a more comfortable heading which took us right through the middle of the gas rig field. We were further informed that we would arrive in Heysham Harbour about 1:15. But it didn't finish there as we entered the harbour and turned to reverse onto the linkspan the wind swept us against the "Merchant Bravery" berthed at No 2 Linkspan as we scraped along her a small gash was made along King Orry's Starboard side. After a great deal of use of the bow thrusters we cleared her and berthed at about 1:45. A large number of passengers were waiting presumably a number from Liverpool's 11:00 Sea Cat Sailing. A member of the crew was heard to say that at one point the weather may have touched Force 9/10 and this had resulted in the course change.

A very eventful journey and one a lot of passengers stomachs will probably never forget. Once again King Orry has proved her worth."


Last week I speculated on the provision of additional SeaCo fast-craft on the Irish Sea next year. Apparently this guess appears to be correct. This is confirmed in a memo issued by Hamish Ross on 24 July.

The memo seeks to explain that the BEN-MY-CHREE will supplement fast ferries and that additional provision will be available on the Irish Sea next year. It is also explained that the Liverpool - Douglas service will be operated by SUPERSEACAT TWO during November and December. The company also states that they can boost their services from "spare conventional capacity". [LADY??!!]

 SUPERSEACAT TWO - Last week I mentioned that SSC2 would continue to operate the Liverpool - Dublin service after the expiry of the present timetable at the start of November instead of the LADY OF MANN which had been widely expected to return.

This is confirmed in the memo of 24 July for November and December but the big news is that SSC2 is will also operate the weekend [Friday - Sunday] Liverpool - Douglas sailings. These had been originally scheduled for the BEN-MY-CHREE! This is certainly an interesting development; the new schedules are expected to be issued shortly.

Presumably during November and December SSC2 will only operate one return Liverpool - Dublin trip each day. This would allow sailings to be made to the Isle of Man. Provision will have to be made for the popular Douglas - Liverpool day return facility on Saturday which is favoured by football fans from the island coming over to Liverpool. Weekends are also a busy time on the Liverpool to Dublin route and given the support of passengers which was apparent in the early part of the season, one wonders if there will be a fall off in demand on the run up to Christmas? The new schedules are awaited with interest!

Operating SSC2 on the Isle of Man route from Liverpool contradicts reports early this year that the company where not planning to introduce a SUPERSEACAT on Manx routes, except for the busy TT period, because loadings would not justify it. Looks as though necessity has taken over.

When I was in Douglas at the weekend I picked up a copy of the provisional TT Timetable for 1999. Apparently the majority of sailings are to be concentrated on Heysham and not Liverpool. Probably to avoid the mayhem at the Pier Head and enable the Liverpool - Dublin service to operate unhindered. The LADY OF MANN is expected to operate on the Heysham route during the TT period, though the provisional sailing details do not show which vessel will operate particular sailings.

SSC2 08.15 departure from Liverpool and the 13.00 return from Dublin did not operate due to adverse weather conditions. Though I did not see the reports myself I have been informed that the cancellation drew unfavourable comments from local TV/Radio.

STOP PRESS Mersey Radio reported [Monday 3 August aty 18.38] that SUPERSEACAT TWO with over 500 passengers on board had developed a technical problem at C22 buoy on the 18.00 sailing and was returning to the Landing Stage.


SSC2 Schedules for Liverpool - Dublin route:

October 6 to November 2nd - as per summer schedule but no 18.00 sailing from Liverpool on Tuesdays or 23.00 sailing from Dublin.

From 3rd November to 5th January there will be one sailing per day at 11.00 from Liverpool and 16.00 from Dublin.

These times were those operated by SEACAT ISLE OF MAN on Wednesdays during the 1997 Summer Season.



The funeral of Captain Vernon Kinley took place on Monday 27 July at Rushen Parish Church, Isle of Man. The Manx Independent reported that it was "standing room only" inside the church.


ROAD TO MANDALAY - Jim Sherwood made a appeared on John Pilger's investigation into the ITV documentary investigating human rights violations in Burma on Tuesday 28 July. Sea Co operates the cruise ship ROAD TO MANDALAY in Myanmar.


Shell Transport's tankers both large and small are a familiar sight on the River Mersey with their bright red hulls and shell logos on the funnels. However, this is all to change with the company reverting to a former livery adopting that of the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company which was established in 1907 as part of the alliance formed by Shell Transport and Trading and Royal Dutch Petroleum.

The new livery will comprise a black hull, plain buff funnel with black top. The shell logo will continue to be carried on the house flag and worn on uniforms.

Shell also plan to close their terminal at Shell Haven, concentrating their operations at Stanlow which will obviously bo to the benefit of Merseyside.


Notices appeared in the Merseyside press recently concerning the transfer of part of the Pier Head area from Liverpool City Council to the MDHC. This is required, as the Pier Head is a public right of way. Objections have to be submitted by 7 August. Apparently a group is planning to fight proposals, stating that they think that the terminal should remain within the Princes Dock area!

Obviously they wish to deny Liverpool the prospect of a well-laid out terminal such as those provided at Douglas and Dublin. Thus perpetuating the "portakabin" style facilities which Liverpool passenger shipping terminals appear famous. They must also wish to continue the present congestion and mayhem which appears to prevail at busy times and is exacerbated by traffic seeking access to the new Princes Parade office complex.

The objectors must also wish to see the retention of the old "floating roadway" cut which separates the Pier Head and presents a most dismal appearance at low-water being full of silt, discarded scaffolding poles and other assorted junk!

The southern most linking boom at the Landing Stage has been removed and an anchor laid in that position during maintenance work.


Direct Cruises, part of the Direct Holidays organisation, which was purchased by Airtours last week, is facing legal action from a group of 170 passengers who travelled aboard the TSS APOLLON [ex-EMPRESS OF CANADA] on her maiden voyage from Liverpool. The passengers are seeking a refund and compensation for a number of complaints including building work, dirty swimming pool, and graffiti, overflowing toilets and catering problems. The company has confirmed it is in discussion with the passengers' legal representatives and emphasised that the complaints only referred to the maiden voyage.


The Cairnryan - Larne Jetliner service has been suspended at least until Thursday for essential maintenance. JETLINER is reported in bound for Liverpool's Langton Lock on Tuesday morning 4 August due at 06.00 at Alfred lock. Presumably she is heading for Wright and Beyer's Bidston Yard.


DEEPSEA WORKER remains in #5 dry dock whilst Royal Fleet Auxiliary Landing Ship [Logistic] L3027 SIR GERAINT remains in the wet basin.

 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: RC, Neil Anyon, John Entwistle

John Luxton

3 August 1998


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