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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

Photographs © John H. Luxton 2012


26 December 1998


As promised the other week I have made some changes to the menus giving access to the Photographic Features. The changes required a fair bit of thought and experiment. I have removed the category "News Pictures" - now all pictures will go into their appropriate categories. All new updates will be continued to be routed from the "What's New Menu" thus users will still be able to find the latest material quickly. I have tested things and all revised hyperlinks appear to work satisfactorily but if you come across a problem please e-mail.


1998 was certainly an eventful year for shipping on Merseyside and the Irish Sea. I had originally started to write up in some detail a resume of the various events - but then it appeared a rather pointless exercise as all the facts remain on the site and are accessible by just browsing through each month's news. It is quite amazing just how much has happened in the past 52 weeks! Consequently I'll just focus here on some more significant happenings which took place and which spring immediately to mind.

During 1998 two well known IoMSPCo vessels left our waters, the much loved KING ORRY sailed away to the Mediterranean as MOBY LOVE following her sale in October whilst last January the much underused BELARD found a new home in Denmark.

During the year SUPERSEACAT TWO and SEACAT DANMARK appeared, becoming familiar vessels on the Mersey. In fact some might unkindly think that SSC2 spent too much time actually on the Mersey and not enough time on the Irish Sea! The new BEN-MY-CHREE made one fleeting visit for berthing trials to Liverpool and has yet to return.

Both Cats suffered more than their fair share of technical problems and weather delays and cancellations. SEACAT DANMARK had an unfortunate encounter with a basking shark, which did neither SeaCat nor shark any good!

The withdrawal of the KING ORRY saw the retirement of well-known IoMSPCo captains such Jack Woods, Edward Fargher. Whilst in July the sudden death of Captain Vernon Kinley came as an enormous shock to enthusiasts around the area, no more would we experience his interesting "coastal cruises" and I guess never again will a Steam Packet vessel pass between Middle Mouse and the Anglesey shore.

The LADY OF MANN went for a summer holiday to the Azores on charter to Acor Line and returned but plans to operate her on the Liverpool to Dublin service from October were changed and it was decided to keep SUPERSEACAT TWO on the route, the LADY being held in reserve mainly for the Liverpool - Douglas route.

Norse Irish Ferries commenced daytime sailings on three days a week between Liverpool and Belfast. Their rumoured Liverpool - Dublin service which was to have been operated by NORSE LAGAN failed to materialise and NORSE LAGAN left the river first on charter but was then subsequently sold to Fion s.p.a. to join KING ORRY in the Moby fleet.

Start up dates for Merchant Ferries Liverpool to Dublin service came and went though the terminal took shape during early summer but little else happened until the latter part of the year. It looks as though services will finally commence sometime in the new year, though the original 11 January has been put back to February.

Cammell Laird went from strength to strength during the past year. Not only boosting trade at Birkenhead Yard but also going on to acquire the lease on the Gibraltar Shipyard previously operated by Kvaerner. By the start of August rumours of another take-over were doing the rounds and it was soon announced that the company planned to acquire the East Coast yards of ALB Holdings. The acquisition being funded by a shareholder's rights issue. At the end of January the company's share price had been around £2.00 at one point in December it actually touched £7.00. As I write the Birkenhead yard is full of vessels including the impressive support platform IOLAIR and the equally large and impressive PEREGRINE VII drilling vessel.

The Irish Naval service decided to make quite a few calls to Merseyside this year. L.E. CIARA returned for St.Patrick's Day celebrations in March and was followed by L.E. AISLING and LE EITHNE in June, and L.E. ORLA in October.

Vessels from the Royal Netherlands Navy visited for the River Festival whilst in October HMS INVINCIBLE became the first Royal Navy aircraft carrier to visit the Port of Liverpool in 18 years.

The Royal Naval Reserve HQ HMS EAGLET relocated to a new purpose built base at Brunswick Dock. The old HMS EAGLET being quite quickly demolished. Its site to be incorporated into the Princess Dock development.

Misguided objectors have cased further delays for the on-river linkspan development on the Liverpool side of the River Mersey. The same group also being behind objections being placed in the way of the new MD&HB/Sea Containers Terminal planned for the Pier Head.

A number of sailing vessels came to Merseyside this year. In the spring the Charlestown [Cornwall] based KASKELOT operated by Square Sail arrived at Canning Half Tide Basin. The adjacent quay and Mersey Maritime Museum being used for filming by a Portuguese Film Crew undertaking a production about the life of a Brazilian industrialist who was inspired by his experience of Liverpool and the North West of England. The quays were provided with suitable props in the form of barrels, handcarts etc. Some of the more modern fittings had been covered up and the name of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, high on the side of the converted warehouse was briefly partially covered to enable it to be read as the Merseyside Maritime Company. Other visiting sailing ships included LORD NELSON, MALCOLM MILLAR and ASGARD II.

Liners had much higher profile this year. SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS returned for a third visit, then the company announced that in 1999 she would call at Plymouth instead! The EDINBURGH CASTLE and APOLLON [ex-EMPRESS OF CANADA] operated a cruise programme for DIRECT CRUISES, though these vessels encountered all sorts of problems. The cruises attracted very mixed emotions from passengers and were well documented by the local press.

Finally Mersey Shipping News itself developed rapidly during the year. At the beginning of 1998 MSN was hosted by CompuServe, but continued growth led to the available space offered on CSI being exceeded. Another problem with MSN was the way that it had grown in a very haphazard way. Management of Hyperlinks was becoming very difficult and the whole presentation was very amateurish. To resolve these problems Microsoft FrontPage was acquired, which allows for significantly improved presentation and hyperlink management.

In August I found a new ISP 1 Way Internet of Bristol. This company offered unlimited web space at a very reasonable cost plus full compatibility with MS FrontPage 98.

Getting used to FP98 was somewhat traumatic. Having been used to the manual creation of HTML pages in MS Word, the automated nature of FP98 and the need to familiarise myself with the new software caused a very traumatic week in mid August. Whilst I managed to get the new site up, it was accidentally deleted in late October and remained off line for over a week as I was away on holiday which was a major disappointment. However, on my return at the beginning of November problems were resolved and the site was restored. I also discovered how to make many of the extended features of FP98 function at this time!

The coming year will hopefully see many more improvements. I would like to thank the many contributors both acknowledged and those preferring anonymity who have provided information and articles during the past year as well as those people on board the various vessels on which I have travelled who have taken time to answer my questions. It's been a great pleasure compiling the weekly updates and a welcome distraction from other pressures.

Thank you all both contributors and the many readers [over 1000 readers every month since August] which make it so worthwhile. Do have a happy and prosperous 1999 and happy sailing



SUPERSEACAT TWO The 21.30 sailing from Liverpool to Douglas was delayed until 23.30 on Tuesday 22 December due presumably to bad weather. On 24 December SSC2 failed to sail on time at 11.00. Passengers were observed to board at around 11.15 but at 11.55 the Captain advised Mersey Radio of at least another 30 minutes delay. However she had been noted as having departed when I returned to the river just before 14.00. 

SEACAT DANMARK is continuing to operate the Belfast – Stranraer route. The Isle of Man craft had initially been brought into service when the SEACAT SCOTLAND experienced problems some time ago. However, following a visit to the Mersey for repairs SEACAT SCOTLAND has remained laid up in Belfast, although at one point she certainly appeared to be receiving attention to water jets.


EUROPEAN PATHFINDER laid up for the Christmas period near the West Langton Liner Terminal on Christmas Eve, whilst EUROPEAN SEAFARER was noted entering Alfred Lock, Birkenhead at 13.30 on 24 December. She the proceeded to Wright and Beyer's dry dock.


TRAFFIC UP: P&OEF are understood to have increased traffic levels on the Larne – Cairnryan route this year. This is in sharp contrast to both Stena and SeaCat both suffering serious downturns in traffic levels. The increase in Larne – Cairnryan traffic comes despite an overall decrease in the North Channel market this year caused by a range of factors including poor weather and the civil disturbances in Northern Ireland in July.

The increase in P&OEF’s market share is bound to have been largely caused by the fact that the JETLINER has been substantially more reliable this year, don’t forget the fast craft was out of service for a large part of the first three months of 1997.

However, there is no doubt that P&O have scored a remarkable coup in increasing their market share and traffic levels in a year when their main rivals suffered major drops in custom. Well done to P&O!

RATHLIN QUESTION ANSWERED: The PRIDE OF RATHLIN basically operates with two passenger capacities; a summer capacity of 630 passengers and a winter capacity of around 250 passengers. I’m informed the passenger capacity can be increased from 250 to 630 with the addition of a few more crew, meaning that if the Jetliner is cancelled it is very easy to increase the capacity of the traditional vessel.

During the period when the PRIDE OF RATHLIN operates with a 250 capacity it is highly likely that this would be sufficient to meet demand whilst the ease of increasing her capacity means that it is not a liability if operation requirements dictate.

I am told that it is true that the PRIDE OF RATHLIN is facing an uncertain future, but no decisions have yet been taken. The Jetliner meanwhile will at least run the course of her current charter (due to expire June 2000), therefore it’s too early to say what the future holds for the Larne –Cairnryan passenger service.

NEW FREIGHT: P&OEF (Irish Sea) are said to be looking at options for new vessels for their Irish Sea routes with orders likely to be placed in 1999 for delivery in 2000. The move is being described as a "re-tonnaging" exercise. It seems likely that recently upgraded vessels such as THE EUROPEAN LEADER, EUROPEAN PIONEER would be kept in service or moved to other routes whilst the older vessels such as the original Townsend Thoresen "European Class" vessels and THE EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR may be earmarked for replacement.

FLEETWOOD FOR PASSENGERS: As with the Dublin – Liverpool route, P&OEF are now advertising car and passenger space on the Larne – Fleetwood route to the general public. Whilst a limited number of cars have used the route since it began it is only now that it is being formally advertised. Due to the heavy number of freight drivers on night sailings the service is currently only available on day sailings ex Larne (usually on the EUROPEAN PIONEER) and day sailings ex Fleetwood (usually on the EUROPEAN SEAFARER). All sailings depart around 10 a.m.

Prices on the service are excellent, although obviously the nature of the service does not make it ideal for families and passengers should be flexible to allow earlier or later departures (Fleetwood’s tidal nature can cause wide fluctuations in sailing times). Anyone requiring further information should call P&O Enquiries on 01253 615 755 or to book call 0990 980 777. Callers to the Enquiries line should ask for the Fleetwood – Larne 1999 Car & Passenger Tariff leaflet.

The return price for a car plus two adults return is £99 January to March (excluding Easter) or November and December (excluding Christmas). April (excluding Easter) to the end of June, September and October and Christmas the price for a car and two adults return is £120. The Peak periods of Easter, July and August see the prise rise to £140. The price includes Breakfast and Dinner but not a cabin. A cabin is hardly essential anyway for tourists on daytime sailings; especially given the comfortable passenger accommodation on all vessels that includes a bar, restaurant and TV/video entertainment.

FLEETWOOD DREDGING: Meanwhile steps are being taken to try to ensure a regular sailing pattern to Fleetwood. A "fixed term-fixed depth" contract has been signed with Westminster Dredging to guarantee a minimum depth in the River Wyre berth throughout the year. As a result of the new agreement the approach channel, turning circle and the berth will be dredged regularly rather than "as needed". Having seen Fleetwood at it’s worst I can only say that any master that can safely dock a vessel the size of the EUROPEAN PIONEER deserves every penny of his pay!

CLYDEPORT UPDATE from Gary Andrews

P&O have described reports that the firm is about to build a new Glasgow terminal with Clydeport as wildly inaccurate. Clydeport also owns Ardrossan and it is understood that the company would like P&O to move the Larne – Ardrossan service to the new port if built. This is something P&O is likely to do given that any new port would allow larger vessels to be used and would allow ‘all weather berthing’. SeaCat, meanwhile, have shelved plans to upgrade from their current "temporary" facilities in Stranraer further fuelling speculation that the firm is likely to switch from Stranraer to the Clyde (along with operating a Belfast – Heysham service). Interesting events are likely to take place in this sphere – watch this space


On Wednesday 23 December MERCHANT BRILLIANT became the first Merchant Ferries vessel to arrive at the company's new terminal at Canada #3 Branch Dock. MERCHANT BRILLIANT normally operates out of Heysham.


It is reported that STENA has sold more than 3,500 places on special Santa roundtrips. For £10 kids children could meet Santa and get a present in the Grotto aboard HSS STENA VOYAGER which operates on the Stranraer - Belfast service.

The special afternoon sailings proved so popular that Stena had to make extra seats available every Saturday in December and added extra dates on 21 and 22 December.

During the past week HSS STENA EXPLORER was noted running behind schedule on the Dun  Laoghaire - Holyhead route due to technical difficulties.


As noted last week RIVERDANCE has been in Cammell Laird for the fitting of an internal ramp to replace the vehicle lift. RIVERDANCE has been owned by the company since December 1996, however the company has now confirmed the purchase of sister vessel MOONDANCE which has been under charter to SEATRUCK for the past 18 months.


John Luxton

26  December 1998




19 December 1998



First of all a Merry Christmas to all MSN readers! I hope everyone has a pleasant holiday. During the next couple of weeks I will probably make some minor changes to the site and remove some of the older material.  I will certainly be looking at ways of improving the menu system, particularly that which gives access to the photo galleries.

1998 has certainly been an interesting year for shipping in the Merseyside area and further a field in the Irish Sea. Hopefully 1999 will prove even more interesting than 1998. Next week I'll make a brief review of some of the key happenings in 1998.

Once again I would like to thank those people who keep me posted with information and I would like to announce that some material included in the week's update has been forwarded from Gary Andrews who is based in Belfast. He has a particular interest in what's going on in the northern part of the Irish Sea.

In addition to this week's news update, there is a photo feature on The James Fisher managed Irradiated Nuclear Fuel Carriers which are based in Barrow by Michael Pryce with some additional photographs taken by myself. There is also a new posting in the Maritime Queries section.

Next week the main update will again be on Saturday 26 December. Though there may well be other updates during the latter half of this week.

It is anticipated that the main feature of next week's update will be my trip on the BEN-MY-CHREE from Heysham to Dublin on Tuesday 22 December.




PICASSO it now looks as though PICASSO may re-enter services with Falcon Seafreight the former SeaCo partner in the Hoverspeed/Falcon operation on the Folkestone - Boulogne service. The vessel currently remains laid up in Vittoria Dock where she has been since SeaCo withdrew from the Hoverspeed/Falcon partnership.

SUPERSEACAT TWO did not operate on the Liverpool to Dublin route on Monday 14 and Saturday 19 December.

LADY OF MANN operated the 21.30 Sunday sailing from Liverpool to Douglas returning on the 07.30 sailing from Douglas on Monday. The LADY also operated the 21.30 Friday sailing between Liverpool and Douglas and the 07.30 return sailing from Douglas to Liverpool.

SEACAT DANMARK - there are growing rumours SEACAT DANMARK will be based in Belfast in summer 1999 and operate only Belfast and Dublin to Isle of Man. Could Sea Containers be planning to try a Belfast – Heysham route?

The rumours surrounding Sea Containers new ferry service purchase (started by James Sherwood himself) have been linked with Holyman in New York. Sea Containers assumed the Sally Line share in Holyman-Sally cross channel operation in 1998.



Swansea Dry-Docks are to refit Stena Line’s Belfast – Stranraer conventional vessels STENA GALLOWAY and STENA CALEDONIA in the New Year.

BELFAST PORT by Gary Andrews

CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER BELFAST PORT SELL-OFF Elected representatives in Northern Ireland have been warned that if they refuse to endorse the transfer of Belfast Harbour to the private sector, money earmarked for road improvements will not be available. It is currently hoped that £80 million will raised from the move of the port to a new private/public partnership.

It has recently been stated that the final decision on such a move will rest with the New Northern Ireland Assembly making the chance of the move succeeding much more unlikely. The majority of Northern Ireland politicians are currently opposed to the move believing it is not in the public interest. There is also a worry that individuals may significantly profit from the deal, Belfast Harbour Commissioners have hit out at these suggestions stating that there would be "no unwarranted financial gains" for any individuals.

Belfast Port is currently a trust port but last year a submission was put to the government for its transfer to the semi-private sector with the government retaining a "golden share". The Government agreed to this proposal and the port is currently preparing plans for this to take place.

In the view of this author, it is extremely unlikely Northern Ireland politicians will consent to this move. This is a rather naïve attitude due to the benefits of the profits of the sale. Additionally the "golden share" to be retained by the government is a safeguard against the port being run in a way that runs against the public interest. One hopes that sense prevails.



The JETLINER is expected to refit at Wright & Beyer between 9 February and 4 March. EUROPEAN SEAFARER is also due to refit there but no dates are available as yet.


A full enquiry is to be launched into the sinking of the Bibby Line bulk carrier DERBYSHIRE [LIVERPOOL BRIDGE]. The deputy prime minister the Rt. Hon. John Prescott MP announced on Thursday that the High Court would hold a full enquiry into the loss of the largest British ship to be lost.

Of the 44 British crew lost when the Derbyshire foundered in a typhoon off Japan in 1980, 15 of them came from Merseyside. The decision to hold the enquiry is in the light of a Government backed expedition to the wreck which was undertaken in the spring.

The first enquiry concluded that the weather had been the reason for the ship's loss, however, there is growing criticisms of design faults thought to be inherent in bulk carriers in general. This particular class of ship has experienced an abnormal number of sinkings.

The government's expedition concluded that structural faults did not cause the DERBYSHIRE to sink. However, the deputy prime minister stated "The reopened formal investigation will be able to address all the outstanding questions and close the chapter on the loss of the vessel with the tragic deaths of all those on board.


It looks as though Merchant Ferries Liverpool to Dublin service will commence in February 1999.

Departures are 22.30 from Liverpool and Dublin. However on Sundays the Dublin departure will be 20.00 Daytime sailings are 0900 from Dublin and 1100 from Liverpool. Crossing times are around 7.5 hours.

Liverpool reservations can be contacted on: 0870 600 4321



Apparently the Twelve Quays terminal at Birkenhead is now approved with work due to start in early 1999 with completion in 2000.

The Liverpool Trafalgar terminal plans have been revised to try and meet objections this means re-submission for planning approval and could (but they hope not) mean a public enquiry.

If there is no public enquiry MD&HC are still hoping to have the Liverpool terminal running in 2000 but this scheme is running second.



P&O Ferries and Clydeport are to build a new £12 million ferry terminal, according to the Belfast Telegraph of 7 December 1998.

The article states that a new £12 million terminal is being planned for Glasgow that will handle passenger and freight services to Northern Ireland ports. The River Clyde terminal is said to involve a linkup between Clydeport (owners of the former Scott Lithgow shipyard) and P&O Ferries and will be officially announced in February.

The terminal will be sited on part of the 92 acre Scott Lithgow site and is expected to have an impact on existing North Channel operations.

The inclusion of P&O in the picture is very interesting given that any speculation until now has involved Sea Containers operating a Belfast – Glasgow service. It is difficult at this stage to guess what will emerge, but I would suggest that it is unlikely P&O will launch a Larne – Glasgow passenger operation unless new tonnage is introduced. The PRIDE OF RATHLIN is too old and lacks the facilities required for such a route and the JETLINER would face major problems operating anything longer than her current Cairnryan service. Therefore I would suggest that if P&O plan to introduce a new passenger service to Glasgow it will be instead of the Cairnryan service which would become freight only and operated by new vessels.

However, if the story is accurate, I suspect the most likely development is that P&O’s hugely successful Ardrossan freight service will be moved to Glasgow (possibly using ro-pax vessels). This would allow the company to use larger vessels; the current European Highlander is about as big a vessel as can operate to the current port. Meanwhile, Sea Containers may well launch a passenger service from Belfast, probably at the expense of the Stranraer route. However, nothing is clear yet and everything is pure speculation at this stage.

Sea Containers are rumoured to be planning to bring back Scotland – Isle of Man sailings using the company’s port at Stranraer. Given previous losses on Scotland – Isle of Man services it is likely that any service would be very infrequent.


The PEREGRINE VII remains in #5 dry dock whilst the large Dundee registered semi-submersible offshore support platform IOLAIR occupies both dry docks #6 &

#7. Also in the wet basin this week was TYNE FISHER. The RIVERDANCE, which arrived last week, is in Cammell Laird to have her vehicle lift replaced by a fixed ramp. MOONDANCE is also expected to enter the yard on Christmas Day also to have a ramp fitted. RIVERDANCE should be back in service January 3 with MOONDANCE returning to service January 15.

The company has won a contract from the Ministry of Defence for the refit of The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ORANGELEAF [34000grt]. The work will be undertaken at the recently acquired Tyneside yard. During summer 1997 the company undertook the refit of the OAKLEAF the James Fisher owned tanker which is chartered to the RFA.


John Luxton

19 December 1998


13 December 1998


This week there are a number of new updates. There is a further reply to a Maritime Query, photographs of the ASGARD II when she paid a brief visit to Canada Half-Tide basin last month. Michael Pryce has sent some more interesting material - this time concerning the wreck and existent remains of the Shaw Savill and Albion Line's RUNIC a regular caller to the Mersey.

With Christmas and New Year fast approaching thoughts turn to what 1999 has to offer. I have posted information concerning liner calls in the Irish Sea during 1999 this information is by no means complete though you can access the Liner Calls Directory from the What's New Menu this week.

The next two editions of MSN will be posted on Saturday 19 December and Saturday 26 December at around 21.00 as I will be out both Sundays.

On 22 December I will be undertaking a long trip on the BEN-MY-CHREE from Heysham to Dublin via Douglas and return. This will enable to produce my first detailed voyage report on the BEN-MY-CHREE and report on her very first sailing in to Dublin. The resulting Voyage Report will appear on Saturday 26 December.




PEVERIL & PICASSO Remain laid up in Vittoria Dock.

BEN-MY-CHREE - Monday 7 December 08.30 sailing from Douglas to Heysham was cancelled due to technical problems and consequently the return sailing from Heysham was also cancelled.

SUPERSEACAT TWO's 07.30 departure on Monday 7 December from Douglas to Liverpool was delayed until 08.15 to allow Heysham passengers to be conveyed via Liverpool and bussed to Heysham. This delayed SSC2's departure to Dublin by around 40 minutes according to the Mersey Radio movements' announcement. On Thursday the Liverpool to Dublin and return sailing did not operate, though the evening 21.30 sailing to Douglas did. Threatened bad weather led to the replacement of SSC2 by the LADY OF MANN on the 21.30 sailing to Douglas on 12 December and on the 07.30 Douglas to Liverpool sailing.

LADY OF MANN operated an extra 20.00 departure from Liverpool to Douglas on Monday 7 December to convey passengers from the cancelled 14.15 BEN-MY-CHREE sailing from Heysham. She returned light to Liverpool passing through Langton Lock at 10.30 on Tuesday morning. The LADY then had a few days rest before being reactivated on Saturday 12 December to operate the 21.30 Liverpool to Douglas due to forecast bad weather in the Irish Sea overnight. She locked out of Langton and followed the early running SSC2 up river. Whilst SSC2 discharged the Lady circled in the river off Seacombe. On Sunday morning 13 December she was noted at the landing stage discharging passengers after operating the 07.30 Douglas to Liverpool instead of SUPERSEACAT TWO.


It was announced at the Merseyside WSS meeting this week that the former German ferry HABICHT II that has carried the name PRINCESS ROYAL since she arrived on Merseyside and laid up four years ago would enter service in May 1999.

It had originally been intended that the PRINCESS ROYAL would operate as a floating pub but this fell through following objections from Merseyside Fire Brigade. After spending sometime berthed at the MANXMAN's former berth in at Salisbury Dock she was moved nearly two years ago to Huskisson Dock, where she has lain ever since. PRINCESS ROYAL will operate coastal / Manchester Ship Canal Cruises and services to Llandudno and possibly Blackpool/Fleetwood. Apparently this will be experimental. If not successful she will be moved to the south coast. Brochures and further details should be available during January 1999.


Additional fencing appears to have been erected around the terminal. One wonders how vehicle/foot access will be gained to the south side of Canada #3 Branch Dock as a result. The route via the main Canada Dock entrance is closed off on weekdays when to gates to Norton's Scrap Terminal are open and it looks as the usual Canada #3 Branch entrance will be used for access to the Merchant Ferries terminal.

Given that it is now less than  one month from the supposed start-up date for the Merchant Ferries Liverpool to Dublin service [11 January] it is strange that there have been no local announcements   consequently one wonders if there might be another delay?


STENA LYNX I has been returned to her owners, Buquebus to operate Palermo - Napoli. She has been replaced by ELITE/STENA LYNX III on the Fishguard - Rosslare route. ELITE/STENA LYNX III will operate the Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire service when the HSS STENA EXPLORER is withdrawn for refit from 8 January.


The other week I commented favourably on the availability of a model of the SUPERSEACAT, which is available from SEACO onboard shops. Whilst this is obviously aimed at the toy market there must be a demand out there for ship models.

Quite a few people spend hours constructing intricate models from scratch or resorting to very sophisticated and expensive kits. Unfortunately many people lack the time and patience to undertake such tasks and for them the ready availability of ship models at realistic prices would be welcome.

Shipping magazines have recently featured some excellent, if a little pricey display models, but as yet no mainstream model manufacturer has produced either waterline or display models at reasonable prices for many years, though in the past this was not so.

At the quality end of the market Bassett-Lowke produced a range of models until the 1960s and during the 60s Triang marketed a range of waterline models with accompanying harbour accessories.

On reading the January 1999 edition of Model Collector which mainly covers die-cast buses, trucks and aeroplanes it was very pleasing to note that Exclusive First Editions a long standing producer of very accurate 00 scale model buses and trucks is to enter the maritime model market.

The first model will be RMS TITANIC and should be available in January. There is a mock up photograph in Model Collector. The model is of the complete ship [not waterline] and mounted on a plinth. From the photograph my main criticism would be that the plating and porthole detail looks rather too heavy. However, mock-up models and production models vary considerably in quality, it's been very apparent in model buses.

Choosing the TITANIC is I suppose inevitable given its popularity but the mould would also allow minor tweaking to produce BRITANNIC and OLYMPIC.

If EFE are successful in this venture then perhaps their ship models will become as popular as their buses and trucks. There will be many enthusiasts who would welcome a model of their favourite ship. Perhaps one day it might be possible to build up complete fleets. Given all the Steam Packet fans out there .......!

As virtually all EFE's models are priced at under £20 the ship models will prove to be very attractive if they are sold in the same price band.


Provisional timetables for 1999 are now available including timings for the Catamaran JONATHAN SWIFT.

The Catamaran will run as follows:

Dublin dep: 05.45, 12.15 18.00 and 23.30 [not Mondays]

Holyhead dep: 02.30 [not Tuesdays], 08.30, 15.15 and 20.45

ISLE OF INISHMORE sailings remain as now at 09.45/21.45 ex- Dublin and 03.45/15.45 ex- Holyhead. Timings on Rosslare - Pembroke route operated by ISLE OF INNISFREE also remain unaltered from 1998.



The PEREGRINE VII remains in #5 dry dock whilst the large Dundee registered semi-submersible offshore support platform IOLAIR occupies both dry docks #6 & #7. Entering the wet basin this week was TYNE FISHER on Monday 7 December followed later in the week by SeaTruck Ferries RIVERDANCE and the heavy lift barge LM BALDUR.

John Luxton

13 December 1998





06 December 1998


Once again, can I thank the various people who have contacted me during the past week with notes, news and queries. For various reasons its been a bit of a rush putting together this week's edition. I hope I have not omitted anything of significance.  Next week I hope to have some more pictures on-line. However, I will be reviewing some of the existing galleries - some of the older picture material from the site later in the month.



There have been significant changes to the winter timetable which first appeared on the IoMSPCo web site last week and which was mentioned in last week's MSN.

The service has been revised and though I posted this as after receiving the new leaflet on Tuesday quite a few readers who visit MSN on Sunday and Monday may well have missed this information - therefore I am repeating it.

The good news is that the new January - March timetable features both BEN-MY-CHREE and LADY OF MANN. Unfortunately the BEN-MY-CHREE will not now visit Liverpool; however, the LADY OF MANN will operate the Liverpool to Douglas route.

Winter Timetable - 6th January to 11th March

BEN-MY-CHREE Departures:

Heysham - Douglas: 02.15 Daily and 14.15 Monday to Friday

Douglas - Heysham: 19.45 Daily and 08.30 Monday to Friday

The 02.15 sailing from Heysham on Tuesday and 19.45   from Douglas on Wednesdays will have restricted space availability. This is usually done when hazardous cargo is conveyed and the passenger certificate is reduced accordingly.

LADY OF MANN departures:

Liverpool - Douglas: 08.00 Fridays only - 18.45 Friday to Sunday

Douglas to Liverpool: 13.00 Friday and Sunday. 07.30 Saturday and Monday

This timetable allows day trips sails from Liverpool to Douglas on Fridays

Special Fares offered in conjunction with the new timetable are as follows:

*       Car & 2 passengers return £89 evening/night sailings and £99 day sailings

*       Motorcycle & 2 pax  return £69 evening/night sailings and £79 day sailings

*       Foot passengers £32 return and £16 single

*       Child £16 return and £8 single

*       Family £90 return and £45 single

*       Day Returns: Adult £25, Senior Citizen £21 and Child £13

LADY OF MANN returned to Liverpool light on Monday morning 30 November, passing through Langton Lock at around 11.00 after having spent last weekend at Douglas on standby to cover for SUPERSEACAT TWO should her sailings be cancelled due to adverse conditions. She is being maintained in a high state of readiness should the need for her cover be required at short notice.

PEVERIL & PICASSO Remain laid up in Vittoria Dock. Tynwald Select Committee hearing on Monday revealed that PEVERIL would be retained for the time being.

SEACAT SCOTLAND departed from Langton Lock at 09.00 on Friday 4 December. It is expected that SEACAT DANMARK will return to Merseyside shortly.

On Tuesday 1st December the company's newspaper contract commenced. Newspapers being conveyed aboard the 02.15 BEN-MY-CHREE departure from Heysham as opposed to being flown to the island via Emerald Airways. The greater speed of the BEN-MY-CHREE and shorter crossing times when compared to the PEVERIL have made this switch possible. It's good to see a shipping line gain an advantage over an airline!

Earlier this week the company led by Managing Director Hamish Ross and Chairman Juan Kelly put up a robust defence of its operations in the face of a Tynwald Select Committee, which is investigating the performance of the IoMSPCo service.

Whilst admitting to some complaints in particular the layout of seating on the BEN-MY-CHREE Hamish Ross emphasised that steps were being taken to redress the problem. The increase in frequency of sailings was also emphasised along with the fact that the company had to experiment with a winter SeaCat operation and that valuable experience was gained by monitoring performance. He also hit out at the fact that many complaints had been received about the ship by people who had not even been on board!

Mr. Kelly pointed out that the company was a traditional point of grievance for the Island citing Lloyds List which recently decried the lack of appreciation in an Editorial - "Manx Moan"

Mr Kelly listed progress in the last couple of years:

*       Investment in improving passenger facilities at Heysham.

*       Substantial investment in fast craft.

*       Greater frequency of service.

*       Choice of UK ports between Heysham and Liverpool.

*       Major investment in greater freight capacity.

*       Improved marketing of the Steam Packet through Sea Containers

Finally Sea Containers are reported to be actively looking at proposals to operate a fast ferry service from Newhaven to Dieppe should P&O Stena Line abandon the route, as is widely predicted.


Hopes of a rapid solution to the problems of the Pier Head Terminal have encountered a setback.

Last month magistrates agreed to land adjacent to the Pier Head piazza area being transferred to the MD&HC to provide joint MD&HC/Sea Co facilities.

Unfortunately the two leaders of the protest against the terminal have lodged an appeal at the Crown Court. It is unfortunate that people continue seek to harm the commercial development of the port and deprive the travelling public and operators of a decent sea terminal near to the heart of the city whilst seeking to preserve the old muddy cut of the floating roadway.


Access to Regent Road [The Dock Road] has been further cut back. From this week access to the road northwards beyond the entrance to the Norse Irish Ferry terminal to the Strand Road Dock Gates has been prevented by the erection of a new fence.

Access to the Strand Road dock gate near Alexandra Dock now has to be made via Atlantic Boulevard.


P&O have started to offer a £99 car and driver return fare between Fleetwood and Larne on the route which has previously been freight only.


The on-going restoration of Leasowe Lighthouse continues according to reports in the local press. The MD&HB once operated the lighthouse, which has been a familiar landmark on the Wirral coast.

It is hoped that exhibition space inside the lighthouse will be given over to an exhibition featuring the northwest's very first Fast-Ferry service operated by a Vickers VA-3 hovercraft.

Operated by British United Airways the Vicker's hovercraft inaugurated a Leasowe to Rhyl service on 20 July 1962. The craft weighing in at 12.5 tonnes and with 24 seats did not have a particularly successfully season - bad weather and engine problems - [some things don't change!] led to 23 out of 59 operating days being cancelled. The experimental service failed to operate again.

The next high speed ferry to operate in the area was the B&I line's Boeing Jetfoil CU NA MARA - [Hound of the Sea] which operated during the summer of 1980/81 from Liverpool Landing Stage. This service failed due to high operating costs and poor reliability due to bad weather.

It wasn't until SEACAT ISLE OF MAN arrived on the Mersey in 1994on charter from Sea Containers that fast ferry operations became more firmly established, though then independent Isle of Man Steam Packet Company did have second thoughts for the 1996 season. However, the subsequent Sea Containers take over of the IoMSPCo really paved the way for fast ferries becoming fully established in the area.  

Other early fast ferry experiments in the area were undertaken by Mersey Ferries  with Western Ferries HIGHLAND SEABIRD in the 1980s and NORWEST HOVERCRAFT experiments with the DENNY ENTERPRISE hovercraft operating out of Fleetwood in 1969.


Michael Pryce continues to track CONDOR 10. This Incat vessel didn't make Merseyside for her refit prior to her charter to TranzRail in 1998.

Condor 10 is understood to have sailed from Algeciras during July 1998 and laid up at Weymouth during the northern summer after her charter to Euroferries fell through. She went into dry-dock at Portsmouth on 15th October and on completion returned to Weymouth to await suitable weather conditions.

CONDOR 10 sailed from Weymouth on the afternoon on 4th November 1998, and made refuelling stops en route and sailed from Malta on 10th November, cleared the Suez Canal on 12th, Djibouti (14th), Colombo (18th), Cilicap (23rd), Cairns (28th), and arrived in Wellington on 2nd December. She is to resume commercial service across Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton for her fifth southern summer season on 9th December 1998, and is scheduled to operate until 18th April 1999.

Her livery has changed. The blue band around her upper hull  has been removed and the vessel is now predominantly white though she carries the TranzRail THE LYNX logo on the lower rear hull. The photograph shows CONDOR 10 at Wellington, New Zealand on 3 December 1998.


The second volume of "ALL IN A DAYS WORK - A look at Everyday working life on the River Mersey" produced by Merseyside shipping author David Roberts is now available.

This is a sequel to the first  volume featuring  working life on the Mersey today. Much the material is really up to date. There is an visit to, and interview with, the skipper of, the rock barge VILLE which spent much of the first part of 1998 carrying boulders from Birkenhead Docks to the site of new groynes off Wirral shore.

Also featured are the Mersey Ferries, Tugs and the oil bunker vessels, which are familiar sights on the Mersey. There is also a look at the port control facility at the MD&HC Maritime Centre and a visit aboard the liner EDINBURGH CASTLE and an interview with her Captain.

Steam Packet enthusiasts will be delighted with footage of the BEN-MY-CHREE's first and only visit so far to the Mersey and berthing at the Landing Stage. And every so often shots of the LADY OF MANN appear still in her traditional livery worn until early this year. It's always nice to see the LADY!

All in all a very enjoyable video which runs for around 55 minutes and costs just £12.99 - a good Christmas present for shipping enthusiast and Merseysiders . Produced by Avid Publications ALL IN A DAY'S WORK II is available from Merseyside Maritime Museum, and other good video outlets on Merseyside. The video can also be supplied in overseas formats. Avid Publications can be contacted at or Tel: 0151-645-2047


The PEREGRINE VII remains in #5 dry dock whilst the large Dundee registered semi-submersible offshore support platform IOLAIR occupies both dry docks #6 & #7. Cammell Laird subsidiary DG Electrical has acquired Netlift. Around 95% of Netlift's work is undertaken for Cammell Laird's northeast operation.

John Luxton

06 December 1998


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