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MERSEY & IRISH SEA NEWS BULLETIN

SEPTEMBER 1999

30 September 1999

NOTES & NEWS

As stated last week there will not be a news update on Sunday as I will be away for most of the week end. Consequently there follows a news bulletin covering major happenings during the past few days. I will post a further update on Tuesday  5th October.

SEA CONTAINERS

Sea Containers announced that in partnership with Peruval Corporation, the company has acquired control of the Southern and South Eastern lines of the Peruvian railway system previously run by the state organisation ENAFER.

Sea Containers has been appointed on a long-term management contract to operate the railway under the name PeruRail and will be making significant improvements in the months ahead.

AUTUMN SCHEDULES

The autumn timetables for Sea Container's Irish Sea routes commence on the 1st October. The routes out of Liverpool operate as following:

Liverpool to Dublin - SUPERSEACAT THREE departs the Pier Head at 11.00 and Dublin at 16.00.

Liverpool to Douglas - SEACAT ISLE OF MAN Operates Friday, Saturday and Sunday During October as advertised in the timetable, however, the 11.00 departure from Liverpool to Douglas on Fridays is retimed to depart at 12.00 so as not to clash with the 11.00 SUPERSEACAT THREE sailing to Dublin.

From November, SUPERSEACAT THREE operates both Liverpool - Douglas and Liverpool - Dublin sailings. Additional sailings to those shown in the timetable will operate as follows: Thursday depart Liverpool 21.00 and Monday Depart Douglas 07.30. These sailings operated last year, though were not shown in this year's timetable.

LIVERPOOL SEA TERMINAL

Alternative plans for improving facilities at Liverpool's Pier Head Sea Terminal have been drawn up. These plans remove the two principal points of contention. No encroachment will be made on the public open space at the Pier Head and the Memorial to the Heroes' of the Marine Engine Room [Titanic Memorial] will be left in its present position. However, the floating roadway cut will be in-filled and the present pay and display parking bays and bus lay-by will be used as a vehicle marshalling area.

The plans have the backing of prominent local politician Sir Trevor Jones. Preliminary plans were discussed on Wednesday by interested parties and agreed in principal. They will be drawn up in detail and put to the general public.

A spokesman for Sea Containers said: "We are fully supportive of the new proposals and look forward to seeing them progressed.

ARGYLL & ANTRIM STEAM PACKET COMPANY

Speculation is continuing into the future of the seasonal Ballycastle to Campbeltown route.

MERSEY FERRIES

The Seacombe Stage is now operational, though work on the stage is not expected to be completed until 25th October.

STONE MANGANESE MARINE

Stone Manganese Marine, the Wallasey based ship propeller manufacturers may reopen its propeller foundry, which closed last year. Last year's decision to close result mainly from falling propeller prices and the strong pound.

Forty members of staff were made redundant when the company decided to end the casting of propellers at the Wallasey site and concentrate on finishing propellers, which had been cast in Germany and the Netherlands.

However, the company has approached Wirral Council for grants, which could result in the creation of 13 jobs and the reopening of the foundry. The company is reported to have some forthcoming orders in the pipeline according to managing director Graham Patience.

CAMMELL LAIRD

Cammell Laird continues its expansion with the announcement this week of the acquisition of yacht builders Camper & Nicholson Yachts for £532,000. In addition the company is purchasing the freehold site currently leased to Camper and Nicholson at Gosport for £2 million.

Camper and Nicholson currently employ 150 at Gosport.

Jon Schofield, finance director said: "The deal provides an exciting opportunity to further develop the group in both the UK and Gibraltar. The Mediterranean is one of the top locations for luxury yacht activity and a combination of our existing Gibraltar activities and the Camper and Nicholson name will create a formidable player in the market."

Camper and Nicholson were established in 1782 and are now well known around the world as a manufacturer and repairer of sailing and motor yachts.

Cammell Laird is currently developing its number 3 dock at Gibraltar into a covered, controlled environment, which will operate under the Camper and Nicholson name.

The issue of £496,000 in shares and £36,000 in cash is financing the deal.

CONDOR 10

Michael Pryce writes that the Bass Strait ferry SPIRIT OF TASMANIA resumed service on 22nd September consequently CONDOR 10 arrived at Hobart on 25th September to lay-up.

John Luxton

30 September 99

Back Home Up Next

26 September 1999

NOTES & NEWS

Welcome to this week's update. Apart from the main news bulletin, the principal addition to the site is an illustrated voyage report of my lively journey to Dublin on the Lady of Mann last weekend. I have been fortunate in being able to illustrate this both from my on-board pictures and by some pictures taken of her arrival in the Liffey by Paddy Cahill, which have been forwarded to me.

I had hoped to provide a number of new galleries this week - but once again the problem of time - has entered into the equation. Plans this morning to scan more films were interrupted when I was informed that PEREGRINE VII was back in the river heading towards Cammell Laird [Thanks Alan!] but this was a photo opportunity which just could not be missed.

However, I have provided a small gallery feature on a diminutive former Sealink vessel, which remains in service in Cornwall. In fact so diminutive is the ADRIAN GILBERT that a certain well know ferry publisher omitted ADRIAN and his brother HUMPHREY GILBERT [its hard to call them sisters ships!] from a recent history of Sealink!

Consequently this week's update is smaller than originally planned.

Next week there will not be an update on Sunday. I am off to the Isle of Man on Friday after work and will not return home until around 19.00 on the Sunday evening. I will try to get news posting up on Monday evening 4th October. If any major stories break during the coming week I may to an additional bulletin on Thursday 30th September.

Once again, thanks for all the correspondence and news during the past week.

SEA CONTAINERS FERRIES

BEN-MY-CHREE A superb picture appeared in this week's Manx Independent featuring the Ben dipping into the swell in Douglas Bay when she was forced to spend an hour riding out the weather on the 14.15 from Heysham last Saturday.

SUPERSEACAT ONE: SSCI has commenced a new twice-weekly (Tuesday and Thursday) ferry service between Gothenburg (Sweden) and Langesund (Norway). The four-hour crossing is operated by the Gothenburg - Frederikshavn (Denmark) vessel, SUPERSEACAT ONE.

The new service meant a reduction in the Frederikshavn sailings.

The service is being operated on a trial basis for this autumn. If it is successful the schedule may be retained and increased for 2000. The main reason for the route is that it is possible to sell tax-free goods onboard (Norway not being a member of the European Union), the Frederikshavn service having lost passengers following the ending of duty free on 30 June.

The company has announced that the number of Stranraer - Belfast sailings will be increased to three roundtrips per day, Friday to Monday from October.

The sailings follow a warning in August from Dumfries and Galloway Council that a failure by Sea Containers to offer a sufficient number of Stranraer - Belfast sailings would result in the firm being "evicted" from Stranraer council owned West Pier in April 2000, the facility is currently leased to Sea Containers for their Belfast service. SeaCat Scotland reduced the number of Belfast - Stranraer sailings to one round trip per day earlier this year when the new Belfast - Troon route opened.

Whether the announced increase in sailings is sufficient to encourage the Council to drop their "eviction warning" remains to be seen. There has been no indication as yet from Sea Containers as to which vessel will operate the new sailings, however, it seems likely that the ATLANTIC II will be used. The new sailings will run until 4 January 2000.


SEA CONTAINERS RUMOURS FOR 2000 by Gary Andrews

Rumours in France suggest that Sea Containers plan a number of significant changes to their UK fleet deployment for 2000.

The rumours suggest that SUPERSEACAT FOUR will be used on the Newhaven - Dieppe route from March, it is said that the vessel will allow the growth of coach trade on the route. Existing Newhaven - Dieppe vessel, the SUPERSEACAT TWO will be technically upgraded (presumably with the fitting of the T-Foil system) and transferred to the Belfast - Heysham route replacing the SEACAT DANMARK.

It would appear that either the SEACAT DANMARK or ATLANTIC II will support the Hovercraft on the Dover - Calais route when the Dover - Ostend service returns to a full two vessel service with the 81 metre Incat craft, DIAMANT and RAPIDE. It is understood the SEACAT SCOTLAND will continue on her existing Troon/Stranraer timetable with additional Stranraer sailings operated by either the SEACAT DANMARK or ATLANTIC II.

It is understood SUPERSEACAT THREE will continue to be used on the Dublin - Liverpool route, the SEACAT ISLE OF MAN on Douglas services and the HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN on Folkestone - Boulogne services. However, there are also rumours that one of the 74 metre Incat vessels will not be required and may be offered for charter. Similarly there are claims that Hoverspeed would like to see the SUPERSEACAT TWO operating on the Dover - Calais route.

GARY ANDREWS' COMMENT: Whilst the above would appear to make relative sense quite what transpires is another thing, it is "early days" yet. Many factors will have a bearing on the above. The extent of Belfast - Stranraer sailings is unclear, also unclear is the extent of the use of the LADY OF MANN and one must note that changes to the current Irish Sea timetable isn't impossible. The result is that the above scenario could change significantly. Watch this
space!

MANXMAN

John Shepherd reports that a friend of his went to the Pallion Shipyard, Sunderland on Thursday and spent three hours on board the MANXMAN with his video camera. The results show the actual devastation caused by the sinking, the 1997 arson attack and 17 years of neglect. Apparently, at one stage during the sinking, the starboard lifeboat on the bridge deck was filled with water in an attempt to bring her back on to an even keel. Amazingly, the lifeboat was watertight.

On final effort is going to be made to sell the MANXMAN as a nightclub. However, the prospects of this happening are not very great and it looks likely that she will be broken up.

 HMS THETIS

A play "HMS Thetis - A story which had to be told"  written by Marc Gee in conjunction with maritime historian, publisher and broadcaster David Roberts [Avid Publications] will be performed at the Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool between Wednesday 17th and Saturday 20th November 1999 at 20.00. Tickets are priced at £7.00 [£5.00 concessions] and are available from the box office 0151 709 5297.

The production is sponsored by Cory Towage and Howard Smith Towage. A copy of the poster is reproduced. Click on it to download a full size version.

Visit the Avid Publications web site: http://www.avidpublications.co.uk/

CENARGO IRISH SEA FERRIES by Gary Andrews

The Department of Trade and Industry in London has approved Cenargo's planned take-over of Norse Irish Ferries and decided that there is no reason to refer the acquisition to the Competition Commission.

Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers said this week that he was accepting the recommendation of the Director General of Fair Trading that a monopoly would not result.

The take-over deal now only requires the backing of Cenargo's bondholders, who include several major institutions. Such approval is expected to take place soon, meaning it is only a matter of time before the Belfast - Liverpool route becomes part of the Cenargo network.

A spokesman for Cenargo said: "Although we never considered this move represented a monopoly situation, we welcome this announcement which we see as representing an important step ahead. We have, however, other formalities to complete before the acquisition will be done and dusted, but we expect everything to have been settled within a few weeks' time."

The monopoly question arose due to the existing Cenargo ownership of the Belfast - Heysham route.

CAIRNRYAN PORT by Gary Andrews

Re-development work began at the port of Cairnryan last week when Norma Hart, Programme Director of Dumfries and Galloway European Partnership, officially drove in the first pile for the extension of the port's No.1 berth (the main conventional ramp).

P&O European Ferries has been awarded £675,000 of European funding to assist with their re-development of their Loch Ryan port. The award is part of £1 million worth of European Regional Development Funding that will also assist with four other projects throughout the region. In partnership with Dumfries and Galloway Council the aim of the additional funding is to upgrade and modify the firm's existing twin level ro-ro berth to allow for larger ferries to access the port such as the new 21,000 ro-pax ferry ordered for delivery in June 2000. As previously reported, the entire development programme at Cairnryan will cost around £4.5 million, most of the amount going on the new terminal building. A P&O spokesman said: "The extra money is part and parcel of the redevelopment scheme for the terminal. But the redevelopment of the ro-ro berth was subject to this type of funding, however, now we can go ahead with it and bring Cairnryan up to date."

The Number 1 berth was extensively re-built 1995-96 and it is understood the current investment will allow the berth to accommodate longer vessels.

IRISH FERRIES by Gary Andrews

STRIKE ACTION HITS IRISH FERRIES.

Irish Ferries services were disrupted by strike action this week.  It is understood that all sailings of the ISLE OF INISHMORE and ISLE OF INNISFREE were suspended for 24 hours between 21 and 22 September. Crew members on the JONATHAN SWIFT and NORMANDY were not involved. However, JONATHAN SWIFT sailings suffered delays as the vessel attempted to cope with heavier loadings and was forced to use an alternative berth at Dublin as the regular Irish Ferries berth was occupied by the ISLE OF INISHMORE which crew members refused to move.

The strike was called by ships' crews in support of one of their members who has been sacked for allegedly raping a woman colleague. The SIPTU union claims that the company has not produced enough evidence to justify the dismissal and decided on strike action due to the company's failure to
produce the evidence. However management says it has supplied all the information on which the case is based. A Garda spokesperson said an investigation had been carried out into the alleged rape of an Irish Ferries employee by one of her colleagues. The spokesperson said that a file had
been sent to the DPP as a result of the investigation but no decision has been made regarding prosecution. He said Gardaí are still in consultation with the DPP about the case.

The Director of Human Resources at Irish Ferries, Brendan McCarthy defended the unnamed man's dismissal, saying that the case had been investigated over a six-month period culminating in the dismissal in April, he said: "As far as the company was concerned, a very serious allegation of
harassment and rape was made by one member of staff against another."

Irish Ferries' Brendan McCarthy accused a "small group of maverick shop stewards" of "not only defying the law and the industrial relations institutions of the State, but defying their own union in defence of an individual who was dismissed for serious misconduct". (For many years SIPTU
has campaigned against sexual harassment in the work place). Mr McCarthy added that the action was:

"A deliberate and premeditated action to inflict maximum damage on our customers. We believe this action is outrageous and shows trade unionism in this country in a very bad light".

Irish Ferries have described the action as unofficial, but this was denied by SIPTU, which said its members were balloted and notice was given to Irish Ferries to produce some evidence of the reason for the dismissal. SIPTU official John Finney said a vote on the subject had gained 97% backing from the ship's crew, which was 60% female. He said that it demonstrated overwhelming support for the sacked worker from women crew members who "know the man is absolutely clean". The company had wished to have the case tested before Ireland's Employment Appeals Tribunal but the union and the man concerned had refused to agree following what the union described as the
firm "aggravating" the situation.  SIPTU added that as they had not been given all the evidence against the man they could not defend him against the allegations.

The former shop steward at the centre of the controversy denies the allegations and says that the only way to clear his name is by winning reinstatement.   He says the only evidence offered to him was a copy of a statement made by the woman in the case, which was presented to him around a week after the alleged incident last November.   The company formally dismissed the man on April 16th after an internal hearing. Senior management upheld the original decision at an appeal hearing on June 2nd. The man has been unemployed since April and has had to put the family home up for sale.

The company has declined to comment on the case. However, the Irish press has reported on comments from Irish Ferries sources that more than 30 people were interviewed about the incident and questions put to the man were culled from their statements. The sources claimed the shop steward refused to co-operate with the investigation. The woman is understood to be still
receiving counselling and is not at work.

The disruption began on the evening of 21 September after 126 freight vehicles and 100 cars had been loaded on the ISLE OF INISHMORE for her 21.45 sailing to Holyhead.   Passengers had to dis-embark and transfer to the JONATHAN SWIFT. Similar disruption occurred in Rosslare to the ISLE OF INNISFREE's 21.30 sailing to Pembroke.  Ships' officers on the ISLE OF INISHMORE, who are also members of SIPTU, were asked to sail with freight only, but refused.   It appears that sailings recommenced with the 21.45 ex Dublin and 21.30 ex Rosslare on the evening of 22 September.

Meanwhile the Union has threatened that an "all-out strike" will follow soon if the dispute is not resolved.

GARY ANDREWS' COMMENT: Coming so soon after the recent JONATHAN SWIFT strike, one would be concerned that industrial relations problems may undo much of the good work done in recent years by Irish Ferries. Without examining the very controversial nature of this strike, one simply has to say that history has shown that a ferry line on strike is a ferry line that attracts a reputation for being unreliable. When one thinks of the SNAT Newhaven - Dieppe route one only has to remember the basic reason that closed the service, industrial action. Let us hope that Irish Ferries' recent union problems can quickly be put in the past.

JHL's COMMENT: Obviously if this dispute is not resolves and develops into an all out strike is will be a disaster for Irish Ferries. However, it might be seized upon to advantage by the company's competitors.


CELTIC SEA CRUISES

Despite the arrest of the THRAKI II, Captain Eddie Hope who is intending to introduce a Whitehaven to Douglas service is optimistic about finding another suitable passenger vessel for the route. Captain Hope claims that he a shipping agent has recently informed him of a Norwegian passengers vessel which is currently laid up in the USA.

Captain Hope states that if the vessel is suitable he may be able to introduce a Whitehaven to Douglas service next year.

The THRAKI II remains under arrest in Whitehaven and is at the centre of a dispute between Captain Hope and its Greek owners about money. The Admiralty Marshal seized the ship as the Greek crew prepared to sail it back to the Mediterranean. Captain Hope claims that the ship's documentation has been forged, whilst the owners claim they have not been paid. It looks as though this one could develop into a long legal tussle! - Somehow the ghost of Norwest Hovercraft and the LOCHIEL / NORWEST LAIRD appear to be lurking. Thirty years on the dreams of alternative services to the Isle of Man continue.

MERSEY FERRIES

The new Seacombe Landing Stage was installed this week. The old stage has now been moved away from the Duke Street Bridge, to Mortar Mill Quay where the new stage had been fitted out.

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

Due to bad weather conditions last week and requirements for additional work on the STENA CHALLENGER berth in Holyhead, the current temporary sailing schedule on the Holyhead - Dublin route has been extended to 27 September. The normal schedule is anticipated to resume with the 21.30 departure from Dublin to Holyhead on 27 September. Originally it had been anticipated the normal schedule could have been resumed on 22 September.

DIRECT CRUISES by Gary Andrews

Discount cruise firm, Direct Cruises have revealed their Summer 2000 programme. The APOLLON's [ex-EMPRESS OF CANADA] (marketed as APOLLO) March - November 2000 cruise programme includes departures from Bristol, Dublin, Greenock and Liverpool.

Given the ship's Irish Sea calls it is perhaps worth looking at the programme of cruises.

The season starts and ends with the ship based in the Mediterranean as part
of a "cruise and stay" holiday packages.

The APOLLON's 2000 cruise programme begins with an "Egypt and the Holyland" cruise between 29 March and 5 April starting and ending in Limassol. This is followed by a 7-night "Aegean Adventure" cruise also starting and ending in Limassol. A "10 Night Voyage of Discovery" is next on the agenda, departing Limassol on 12 April and ending in Palma on 22 April. A 7 night "Mediterranean Magic" cruise follows, starting and ending in Palma.

A "Splendours Of The Med" cruise commences at Palma on 29 April, visiting Livorno, Villefranche, Barcelona, Valencia, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Lisbon and La Coruna before passengers disembark at Liverpool on 11 May or Greenock on 12 May. The APOLLON is then UK based for the next few months beginning with her Greenock cruises.


CRUISING FROM GREENOCK.

The "Casablanca Et The Canaries" cruise departs Greenock on 13 May and returns on 27 May visiting Vigo, Funchal, Tenerife, Arrecife, Casablanca, Cadiz and Lisbon.

The "Mediterranean Medley" cruise departs Greenock on 27 May and returns on 10 June visiting Dublin, La Coruna, Gibraltar, Palma, Barcelona, Cadiz and Lisbon.

The "Norway Et North Cape" cruise departs Greenock on 10 June and returns on 24 June visiting Alesund, Honningsvag, Longyearbyen, Tromso, Trondheim, Hellesylt/Geiranger and Bergen.

The "Baltic Adventure" cruise departs Greenock on 24 June and returns on 8 July visiting Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn and Oslo.

The ship will then sail light to Dublin.


CRUISING FROM DUBLIN.

The "Continental Carousel" cruise departs Dublin on 9 July and returns on 22 July visiting La Coruna, Gibraltar, Barcelona, Palma, Cadiz and Lisbon.

The "Baltic Adventure" cruise departs Dublin on 22 July and returns on 5 August visiting Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg and Copenhagen.

The ship will then sail light to Liverpool.


CRUISING FROM LIVERPOOL.

The "Mediterranean Treasure" cruise departs Liverpool on 6 August and returns on 19 August visiting Vigo, Gibraltar, Villefranche, Barcelona, Ibiza and Lisbon.

The "Casablanca Et The Canaries" cruise departs Liverpool on 19 August and returns on 2 September visiting Vigo, Funchal, Tenerife, Arrecife, Casablanca, Cadiz and Lisbon.

The same cruise will again operate from Liverpool 2 - 16 September.

The ship will then sail light to Bristol.


CRUISING FROM BRISTOL.

The "Canary Island Connection" cruise departs Bristol on 17 September and returns on 1 October visiting La Coruna, Funchal, Tenerife, Arrecife, Casablanca, Cadiz and Lisbon.

The vessel will then begin her "Mediterranean Odyssey" cruise, departing in Bristol on 1 October, calling at Greenock on 2 October and Dublin on 3 October to collect further passengers. The cruise will take in La Coruna, Cadiz, Gibraltar, Almeria, Valencia, Barcelona and Villefranche. The cruise
ends in Palma on 14 October, passengers returning via aircraft.

The APOLLON will operate a further "Mediterranean Magic" cruise between 14 and 21 October starting and ending in Palma. A "9 Night Voyage Of Discovery" cruise in the Mediterranean follows starting in Palma and ending in Limassol on 30 October.

The final cruise of the season will be an "Egypt and The Holyland" cruise starting in Limassol on 30 October and arriving back in Limassol on 6 November.

For further details and a brochure call Direct Holidays on 0870 242 2404.

GARY ANDREWS' COMMENT: With such a tight schedule it is easy to see how any technical problems are going to have a serious effect on the cruise programme. One hopes an EDINBURGH CASTLE scenario does not arise.

JHL's COMMENT: It is interesting to note that a more widespread range of departure points has been selected for 2000, rather than the primary concentration of sailings on Liverpool. It has been noted through the summer that all grades of accommodation from budget to de-luxe have been subject to substantial discounting in the Merseyside press for many late summer cruises which would indicate much lower than anticipated bookings. The EDINBURGH CASTLE fiasco last year did a lot of harm to the company; however, APOLLON appears to have operated much more successfully.

Yesterday I was standing on New Brighton promenade and watched her arrive at Langton Lock the end of a Mediterranean Cruise. She certainly made a fine sight.

ROSSLARE PORT

Brian Chamber's Rosslare Europort, and Marine News service reports that a major emergency exercise named "Rossfire" was held at Rosslare Europort, beginning at 10.30 a.m. on 23 September and closing the port to the public for one hour.

The Emergency Exercise included a simulated fire in the Terminal Building, the establishment of a casualty information service, simulated injuries and subsequent treatment and an incident involving a truck carrying hazardous products. Students fulfilled the role of casualties and all members of the emergency services took part in the drill.

The exercise was publicised in the local papers, and on local radio, to prevent a repeat of what happened the last time an emergency exercise took place at the Port, when the general public telephoned newspapers and local radio stations in the belief that a real incident had taken place. The drill delayed some sailings. Visit Brian's Rosslare Europort website, which includes photos, information and details of how to join his mailing list.
.

CAMMELL LAIRD

PEREGINE VII left Cammell Laird on the evening tide of 24th September at around 23.00. The yard appeared strangely empty on Saturday with the departure of this long term resident, which had arrived, for a major rebuild and enlargement in early summer 1997. On Sunday 26 September she returned on the mid-day tide. Sailing slowly up river accompanied by a flotilla of Cory tugs led by NORTON CROSS who returned her to the wet basin.

The company has won what is claimed to be the world's largest ship conversion contract to lengthen and fit an additional deck to Costa Lines cruise ship COSTA CLASSICA in a deal worth £51m.

Work will commence shortly at the Birkenhead yard on the construction of a 44-metre hull section for the COSTA CLASSICA, which will be inserted into the ship at the end of the 2000. Completion is scheduled for March 2001.

The lengthening work will increase the COSTA CLASSICA's grt from 53,000 to 79,000 and increase the passenger capacity on the 1991 constructed ship to 2,500.

If the work is completed satisfactorily, Cammell Laird will be asked to undertake similar work on the COSTA ROMANTICA. Cammell Laird chairman Juan Kelly, said: "This is the world's largest cruise ship conversion and represents a significant contract for Cammell Laird. The deal follows on from the group's successful conversion of the mv SUNBIRD."

John Luxton

26 September 99

Back Home Up Next

19 September 1999

NOTES & NEWS

Welcome to this week's update. This week there is only a news update, but next week there will be an illustrated voyage report on Lady of Mann and more galleries.

SEA CONTAINERS FERRIES

SEACAT SCOTLAND: It appears that SEACAT SCOTLAND sailings to Troon and Stranraer were cancelled on 11 September. The SEACAT SCOTLAND was observed at Donegall Quay, Belfast at around 11.00 when she should have been at Troon. At 16.55 she was at the Belfast Terminal lay-by berth with her bow visor open. SEACAT DANMARK was seen at the berth as normal preparing to depart with a good load at 17.15 bound for Heysham.

Bad weather on 18th September resulted in some changes and cancellations…

LADY OF MANN: The LADY was reported to have departed from Langton Lock on Friday evening proceeding to SeaCo's south berth at the Landing Stage for the night. On Saturday 18th September she was to operate the 08.00 sailing to Dublin and delayed 12.45 from Dublin. Higher sided vehicles being transferred to Merchant Ferries.

Very strong south-easterly winds resulted in outward and inward sailings being VERY lively between Skerries and Dublin Bay - though the remainder of the voyage was deceptively calm. On approach to Dublin - Dublin Radio was reporting winds of up to 45 to 50 knots. It was certainly a voyage for the Lady's fans of which I think I was the only one! Full voyage report and pictures next week. This was the LADY OF MANN's first call at the new South Wall terminal. Berthing proving to be rather a tight squeeze.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN sailed from Douglas at 07.30 and did not return during the day. When I arrived at the landing stage in the early hours only SSC3 could be seen, presumably she returned

BEN-MY-CHREE operated as normally though was forced to stand off Douglas for an hour until the tide ebbed. She was also reported running late inbound on Sunday 19th September resulting in the late arrival of the papers!

SEA CONTAINERS 2000 DEPLOYMENTS

Speculation from continental   source suggests  that the likely line up for next years deployment will be:

Newhaven - Dieppe: SSC 4
Liverpool - Dublin: SSC 3
Heysham - Belfast: SSC 2
Troon - Belfast: Seacat Scotland.
Stranraer - Belfast:  Atlantic II or possibly  Seacat Danmark.
Calais - Dover: Seacat Danmark or Atlantic II

It is assumed that SCIOM and HSGB will be deployed as last year along with RAPIDE and Diamant,

SEA CONTAINERS FLEET DEVELOPMENTS by Gary Andrews

It would appear that the redundancies on the Hoverspeed Ostend - Dover route will now only total 58, with one of the Ostend 81 metre Incat likely to operate on the Dover - Calais service during the winter with a Belgian crew. Some other staff will be temporarily out of work in January and February but will retain their wages during this period.

This would suggest that if another Incat is to be transferred to Sea Containers Belfast operations to allow the Dumfries and Galloway Council required increased number of sailings to Stranraer it is now unlikely to be the SEACAT DANMARK, which it was thought the released Ostend vessel may have replaced.

IRISH FERRIES

JONATHAN SWIFT and ISLE OF INISHMORE sailings were cancelled on 18th September due to adverse weather conditions.

LIVERPOOL SCORES IN ADVERSE WEATHER STAKES

As noted through this bulletin, gales at the weekend certainly caused some disruption to service. However it is very pleasing to note that though there were some delays the three Merseyside operators' routes to Dublin all operated unlike the short sea operations to and from Holyhead.

CHEAP DIESEL SMUGGLING RACKET

The owner of a Regent Road Haulage Company has been jailed for 21 months and banned from being a company director for 5 years by Liverpool Crown Court for fuel smuggling from Éire. The driver responsible for carrying the fuel received a 9-month gaol sentence.

Anthony Long had used Norse Irish ferries to convey green agri-diesel in tankers declared to be carrying cream or tallow. The fuel was purchased in Dundalk and driven to Belfast. Between August 1997 and April 1998 39 return trips were made. Various HGV tractor units were used to convey two silver bodied 5,000-gallon food tankers.

Long paid 16p per litre for the agri-diesel in Éire whereas in England it costs 60p. The fuel was used in his company's 25 vehicles.

STENA LINE

Stena Line Irish Sea passengers are currently experiencing a number of changes to sailing times for a variety of reasons. It would appear the STENA EXPLORER is continuing to suffer from technical problems. Due to "maintenance" on the STENA EXPLORER on 16 September Stena cancelled Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire sailings at 04.10, 08.55, 13.45 and 18.25 and Dun Laoghaire - Holyhead sailings at 06.40, 11.10, 16.05 and 21.45.

On 17 September the craft was experiencing 3 hour delays on all sailings. Meanwhile due to repairs to the STENA CHALLENGER's Dublin berth, Dublin - Holyhead sailing times have been adjusted for the period 19 - 22 September.

Additionally, due to an emergency procedure drill on 23 September, the 14.30 sailing Fishguard - Rosslare sailing of the KONINGIN BEATRIX will be delayed to 17.00.

On Saturday 18th September adverse weather conditions left the Stena Line vessels at Holyhead with all services cancelled. They were reported to be operational again on 19th September but with some delays. LYNX services between Fishguard and Rosslare were cancelled on 18th and 19th of September. Lynx passengers being transferred to the KONINGIN BEATRIX on 19th September.

BRIAR STAR LTD [SWANSEA CORK FERRIES]

Services were cancelled on 18th September due to adverse weather conditions.

PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL at LARNE by Gary Andrews

It has been a week of many interesting vessel movements for P&O European Ferries Larne based operations.

The EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR undertook an additional sailing on the Larne - Fleetwood route on the afternoon of 10 September arriving in Lancashire at around 23.30 (ultimately operating the new afternoon sailing from Larne).

The vessel was seen arriving in Larne from Fleetwood at around 10.00 on 11 September (broadly the new overnight sailing from Fleetwood). There have been unconfirmed reports that these sailings may have taken place daily from as early as 7 September. The 'Navigator was back at Fleetwood on the morning of 12 September, having operating the evening sailing ex Larne on 11 September instead of the EUROPEAN SEAFARER, which was probably given the trip "off" for scheduled maintenance. Clive Jackson reports that the Fleetwood trailer park appears to have been cleared of stored trailers to create extra space with the increase in sailings.

It is understood the MERCHANT VENTURE entered service on the Fleetwood - Larne route on 13 September. She was observed leaving Larne slightly early at around 15.50 on her 16.00 afternoon sailing to Fleetwood and arrived in Fleetwood around midnight. The MERCHANT VENTURE is currently operating in full Merchant Ferries livery, having begun her charter to P&O immediately following her release from Cenargo's Heysham - Belfast route where she was covering for the SPHEROID.

The EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR replaced the PRIDE OF RATHLIN on 12 September to allow the passenger vessel to sail to dry-dock at Birkenhead. [See last week's news bulletin - J.L.]

The fact that the PRIDE OF RATHLIN needed tugs on arrival at Birkenhead suggested that something was wrong in the propulsion/steering department. The same arrangement took place when the LADY OF MANN suffered problems in November 1997. Normally the LADY OF MANN can enter and manoeuvre at Birkenhead without assistance and undoubtedly the same would be the case for the PRIDE OF RATHLIN in normal conditions.

Given the PRIDE OF RATHLIN is due to be sold by P&O in June next year it would make sense if P&O had done a hull inspection etc at dry-dock to keep her in service for the next year to avoid the need for the normal January refit.

John Shepherd reports that the PRIDE OF RATHLIN left the Mersey on the afternoon of 15 September and passed the Rock, New Brighton at 14.30 and Q.2 at 15.15. The vessel is understood to have re-entered service sometime on 16 September and was seen leaving on the 15.30 sailing ex Larne.

Meanwhile following her recent spell relieving on a variety of P&O services, the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR re-entered service on the Larne - Cairnryan route on 13 September. The vessel was witnessed arriving at Larne around 16.00 on 17 September, it is not clear why this was as she would normally be at Cairnryan having operated the 1330 Larne - Cairnryan sailing. Also observed at Larne on the same afternoon was the JETLINER departing late at 16.50 on
her 16.15 sailing to Cairnryan.

With the PRIDE OF RATHLIN returned to service, an unprecedented number of vessels are operating on P&O Larne services, with a total of nine ferries based at the port. They are - JETLINER, PRIDE OF RATHLIN, EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR, EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR, EUROPEAN TRADER, EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER, EUROPEAN PIONEER, EUROPEAN SEAFARER and MERCHANT VENTURE.

P&O REFLAGGING by Gary Andrews

On 16 September the Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon John Prescott, re-flagged P&O Nedlloyd's PENINSULAR BAY with the Red Ensign. The move marks the return after 10 years to the UK register of the 4,400 teu container ship which operates on P&O Nedlloyd's Europe/Far East service. The ceremony, hosted by P&O Chairman Lord Sterling, took place at Southampton. The re-flagging decision follows the Government's announcement on 12 August 1999 that it will introduce a tonnage tax for British shipping, at the time of the announcement Lord Sterling promised to bring at least 50 ships onto the UK register, the PENINSULAR BAY being the first. There is a hope that the new vessels currently being built by P&O Ferries will also be UK registered. When invited to re-flag the PENINSULAR BAY, Mr Prescott said:

"I am delighted by P&O's commitment to the British maritime industry, and this speedy demonstration of their faith in the Government's innovative change in shipping taxation heralds a new era in UK shipping. The return of ships to the UK register will create exciting career opportunities, especially for young people, leading to a regeneration of our maritime skills base."

PRINCESS VICTORIA DISASTER REMEMBERED by Gary Andrews

The town of Stranraer was presented with a George Cross on 14 September. In a poignant ceremony, the family of the PRINCESS VICTORIA's Radio Officer David Broadfoot handed the medal to Stranraer's museum.

The Stranraer - Larne ferry foundered in one of the century's worst storms on 31 January 1953. The stern load door burst open in heavy seas and the ship limped on towards Belfast before finally turning over with the loss of 133 lives, including that of 53-year-old Mr Broadfoot. However, ships and lifeboats saved 41 people from Belfast Lough mainly thanks to the efforts of the radio officer, who had remained on duty until the end.

David Broadford's son, Bill, then 13, travelled with his mother to Buckingham Palace where the Queen presented them with the highest civilian bravery award. The decision to award the George Cross to Mr Broadfoot - "for the greatest heroism or the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger" - was taken within days of the disaster, something unsurprising given that he his sacrifice had undoubtedly saved the lives of others.

Bill Broadfoot, now 60 and in poor health, has chosen to give the medal to Stranraer for display and safekeeping. Mr Broadfoot told the Glasgow Herald:

"It was a family decision. I was never quite sure whether to leave it one of my two sons or to both of them. My wife, Janet, and I sat down with them one night and explained the situation. Then someone, I'm not sure who, came up with the idea of presenting it to Stranraer, the town where my father was born and lived all his life. "I got in touch with the town and they agreed to take it and look after it. I do not remember a lot about being presented with the medal but I have learnt an awful lot about my father. He was an incredibly brave man whose courage became a legend around the world. His ship was slowly capsizing and he made no effort to save himself but stayed in his radio cabin, calmly sending SOS messages and reports on the ship's condition so that others could live. I have been told that his Morse code was immaculate until the very end."

 

CENARGO IRISH SEA FERRIES

SPHEROID re-entered service on the Belfast - Heysham route last week following refit. She has lost her Belfast Freight Ferries branding and now carries the Merchant Ferries logo on her funnel. With the take-over of Norse Irish Ferries due to be complete very soon, it looks increasingly likely that soon all Cenargo Irish Sea services will be known as Merchant Ferries.


MERSEY FERRIES

The old Seacombe Landing Stage was removed early in the week and towed into the East Float. Initially berthed to the new landing stage presumably for the transfer of fixtures and fittings, buy the end of the week it had been moved closer to Duke Street Bridge, Presumably for demolition. The local press stating it might be reused to reopen the New Brighton ferry service a plan rumoured for some time. However, anyone looking at the structure can tell from its appearance that it is only fit for the cutter's torch. It appears to sag noticeably in places.

Currently the stage bridges and the north side anchor boom are supported by temporary piers until the new stage is moved into place and present an unusual sight. [Photographs on-line soon]

MERSEY DOCKS & HARBOUR COMPANY

US based Independent Container Line has chosen the Port of Liverpool for a new service. Ships will call on Fridays before departing for Philadelphia and Richmond in the USA. On the return voyage the container vessels will call at Antwerp.

Liverpool already handles 25% of all UK-US container trade according to MD&HC's Managing Director - Trevor Furlong. He added:" the port's unparalleled central location for both exporters and receivers, plus its high quality performance, makes Liverpool the obvious choice for a container line like ICL. It plans to strengthen its position in the North Atlantic trade. We are delighted to have been recognised as the idea platform from which to launch their latest phase in the development of the service."

The first ICL vessel to call will be INDEPENDENT SPIRIT on 29 October.

Additionally a £20m development of the Seaforth Container terminal with increase capacity by 30%, this includes the installation of two Panamax quayside cranes as well as a computerised terminal gate and transfer area.

CAMMELL LAIRD

MERSEY MAMMOTH paid a visit to Cammell Laird wet basin on Friday to load two 125 tonne engines onto a ship.

The two engines, christened Rachael and Christine by Knowsley based engineers Clarke Energy were en-route to Le Havre for delivery to an industrial site in northern France.

Clarke Energy in the Marconi Marine erecting shop at the south yard had extensively modified the engines.

John Luxton

19 September 99

 

 

Back Home Up Next

12 September 1999

 

NOTES & NEWS

A bigger update this week as promised. First of all there is a good selection of photographs of ships at Dublin Port from Stephen Errity. One gallery featuring regular arrivals and departures the other two recent liners visits.  Hans Mauritz has sent a selection of views of the new COMMODORE CLIPPER underway at Rotterdam. These shots give good views of the stern and side of the vessel and are particularly useful for making comparisons with Sea Containers BEN-MY-CHREE to which COMMODORE CLIPPER is a similar, though not identical, sister.

Once again I'd like to thank the many people who have e-mailed with news snippets, queries, pictures etc. Your contributions are as always valued and help to make M&ISS a success.

DÚN LAOGHAIRE LIFEBOAT NEWS

Dún Laoghaire Lifeboat RNLB ANNA LIVIA was launched on Sunday 12 September to render assistance to a dismasted yacht. Read all about it on the Dún Laoghaire Lifeboat Web Site.

SEA CONTAINERS FERRIES

SEACAT SCOTLAND - It appears as though SEACAT SCOTLAND sailings were suspended on Saturday 11 September. Gary Andrews noted SEACAT SCOTALND at Donegal Quay at around 11.00 when she should have been there. She was also noted there at 16.55 at the Belfast Terminal lay-by berth with her bow door open. SEACAT DANMARK was seen at the berth as normal preparing to depart with a good load at 17.15 bound for Heysham.

LADY OF MANN - This weekend sees the Lady's last scheduled outing this year. When she returns to Alexandra Dock, Liverpool on Monday she will then remain on standby. Her next scheduled sailing is on 6th January when she will operate both Heysham and Liverpool, routes during the BEN-MY-CHREE's refit. On the return of the BEN-MY-CHREE in February she will maintain the Liverpool to Douglas service until the reintroduction of the SeaCat in the Spring. Full details of the LADY OF MANN's schedule can be found elsewhere on the M&ISS site.

The former DoT owned KING ORRY gangway on the Victoria Pier at Douglas is reported now to be in several pieces.

Liverpool - Dublin fare offers

During September the following special offer single fares are available: Liverpool to Dublin Car & Driver £75 [£89 Friday to Sunday], Car plus up to 5 passengers £89 [£99 Friday to Sunday]. Return fares are double the above amounts. Fares must be booked a minimum of 24hrs in advance and travel must be completed by 30th September.

SEA CONTAINERS NORTH CHANNEL FARE OFFERS by Gary Andrews

SeaCat Scotland has combined low fares with added convenience this autumn. Passengers who decide to take a spur of the moment short break or day trip from Stranraer or Troon to Belfast can book and pay for their journey the day before they travel and also take advantage of the current extra low Apex fares. Diane Poole, General Manager of SeaCat said:

"Up until now, passengers wanting to travel on our Apex offers had to book and pay for their crossing two weeks in advance. Our new system will give much more flexibility to travel at some of the lowest ever fares. For example, a car and five passengers can travel to Belfast from either Stranraer or Troon from as little as £45 (single)."

To take advantage of SeaCat's "September Late" offer, bookings must be made and paid for by 30 September 1999 and travel completed by 4 January 2000.

SeaCat Scotland reveals new Rail & Sail packages.

Sea Containers subsidiary, SeaCat Scotland, has joined forces with ScotRail and Strathclyde Passenger Transport to introduce "Rail & Sail" package fares on it's Belfast - Troon route.

The Rail and Sail inclusive fares are available to and from any station in Scotland via Troon, where a free short interconnecting bus service will transport passengers between Troon station and the SeaCat terminal. With trains from Troon to Glasgow Central taking around 40 minutes, allowing for the SeaCat journey from Belfast of 2.5 hours, Northern Ireland people can be shopping in Glasgow in little over 3 hours making rail a very attractive option.

Examples of the fare include, passengers can travel by Day Return for £20 to and from Ayr or £24 to and from Glasgow provided bookings are made by 6 p.m. the day before travel. On the Low Saver deal, a £38 standard return fare is available on off peak days to/from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Stirling with a High Saver fare of £45 on offer any day to/from the same destinations. Fares are valid until 2 January 2000.

Commenting on the Rail and Sail Offer, Diane Poole, General Manager, Sea Containers Ferries Scotland, said:

"As the leading provider of fast ferry services on the Irish Sea, we're absolutely delighted that ScotRail and Strathclyde Passenger Transport have joined forces with us to put this Rail & Sail offer together. The benefits to customers are enormous as passengers can enjoy the benefits of great value ticket prices and convenient rail-to-sail travelling."

All offers are subject to terms, conditions and availability. Rail & Sail tickets can be bought at any principal station; rail appointed travel agent or ScotRail telesales (0345 550033).

MERSEY DOCKS & HARBOUR COMPANY

Demolition work has been underway for over a week on the Scherzer type rolling lift bascule bridge which spanned the opening between Salisbury Dock and Trafalgar Dock. This bridge has been in the open position for longer than I can remember. Demolition work is actually taking place with the bridge remaining in this position. By Saturday 11th September approximately half of the span had been removed.

Presumably the machinery has long since ceased to be operational. With the demise of this bridge only one rolling lift bridge remains on the Liverpool side of the river - that which carries Regent Road over the entrance to Stanley Dock. The one adjacent to the former Trafalgar Dock  B&I terminal disappeared some years ago.

On the Birkenhead side - two bridges of this type remain in everyday use - one at Duke Street and the sole remaining operational example of the Four Bridges. The Edgerton Bridge which spans the link between Morpeth and Egerton Docks is officially preserved, though no longer operative, as there is now no bridge linking Egerton Dock to the East Float which means that Egerton and the remaining part of Morpeth Dock is now land-locked.

MERSEY FERRIES

Seacombe Landing Stage will be closed from 11th to 25th September to enable old stage to be replaced by a new structure which is just completing fitting out at Mortar Mill Quay, East Float, Birkenhead. A shuttle bus will link the Seacombe terminal with Birkenhead Woodside Terminal during the duration of the work.

On Saturday 11th September workmen could be seen cutting away steelwork at the base of the linking bridges, whilst sections of mooring chain appear to have been replaced by wire hawsers, presumably to allow for quick releasing of the old stage.

Work was still on-going on the new stage and the Holyhead Towing Company tug/workboat AFON GOCH was noted moored close by.

On Sunday 12th September on the afternoon tide AFON GOCH was at work at the old stage. Work appeared to be concentrating on the northern link bridge. Which appeared to be resting onto a trestle structure as the tide ebbed, lifting it clear from the stage, the reason why the steel work was being cut away on Saturday was now apparent.

One presumes the other bridge and the two linking booms will be similarly treated. Temporary legs are now attached to the booms which will obviously support them, until the new stage is floated into place. If just one bridge is tackled on each day light high tide it looks as though it will be nearer the end of the week before the stage is actually removed.

ABP PORTS by Gary Andrews

Associated British Ports' (ABP) North -West ports enjoyed a successful first six months of 1999. ABP's Ports of Ayr & Troon, Barrow & Silloth, Garston and Fleetwood won a number of new trades and services.

Budha Majumdar, Regional Ports Manager for ABP's North -West ports, said:

"Recent developments in our North -West ports are highly encouraging, and should provide a solid base for growth in future years. Garston is satisfying a niche market in the agribulks industry, handling specialised grains used for human consumption. Ayr and Troon have extended the range of services offered to customers, attracting a number of new businesses."

At Troon, the new twice-daily SeaCat passenger service between the Port of Troon and Belfast has enjoyed considerable success since it started in April. At Fleetwood, P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea Ltd) recently announced plans to introduce a third vessel to the freight service between Fleetwood and Larne and there has been a significant increase in traffic over the first half of the year.

As reported last week the 50 unit MERCHANT VENTURE is due to enter service on the Fleetwood - Larne service in the middle of September to add a third daily departure from both ports. P&O have said that the additional capacity is due to recent increases in customer demand and with a view to expected pre-Millennium requirements of customers. It is said that the new 03.00 sailing from Fleetwood will fill a gap in the market for overnight next day deliveries to Northern Ireland. The MERCHANT VENTURE's sailing time from Larne will be at 1600.

SEATRUCK FERRIES by Gary Andrews

It is reported that Northern Ireland based ferry company Seatruck are set to be announced as the new operator of the Newhaven -Dieppe conventional freight and passenger service. It is understood that negotiations between the firm and Dieppe Chamber Of Commerce are at an advanced stage but contracts have not yet been signed. There are rumours that the LARKSPUR (ex EUROTRAVELLER, ex SALLY SKY), may be used on the route, however, one would suspect a vessel with a passenger capacity of around 200 passengers is more likely. One possibility suggested to the bulletin is the HAVELET, soon due to be replaced by the COMMODORE CLIPPER.

PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY by Gary Andrews

OUT OF SERVICE: A correspondent booked to travel on the PRIDE OF RATHLIN's 08.00 sailing ex Larne on 17 September was contacted this week and told that the EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR will be operating the sailing as the PRIDE OF RATHLIN will be going into dry-dock for a week. However, the Rathlin will be back in service for my correspondent's return sailing at 19.30 ex Cairnryan on 21 September. It is not clear when the 'Rathlin's period out of service begins but one would assume it will occur when the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR completes refit duties on the Liverpool - Dublin service and returns to Larne - Cairnryan service. It is understood the reason that P&O phone in such circumstances is because the 'Endeavour has no lift and cannot therefore accommodate those with disabilities. It is not clear why the 'Rathlin is out of service however recent observations of the vessel docking suggests that she may require bow thruster attention.

The EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR was observed at Larne Harbour on the afternoon of 10 September.

P&O LATE UPDATE

PRIDE OF RATHLIN arrived early on Sunday afternoon at the Albert entrance at Birkenhead prior to making her way through the East and West floats to Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock.

She was helped in by Howard Smith Towing tugs GLADSTONE [bow] and COLLINGWOOD [stern].

Photographs of the PRIDE OF RATHLIN's arrival at Birkenhead will appear on M&ISS shortly.

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

Stena's Belfast - Stranraer HSS, STENA VOYAGER, appears to have suffered technical problems in the last week. On 7 September and 9 September sailings were running approximately one hour late. Less significant delays were noted on 10 September.

With effect from 13 September Stena are adjusting the sailing schedule of some of their Belfast - Stranraer conventional ferry sailing times. Sailing times affected are (new times in brackets) ex Belfast 02.00 (02.20), 07.00 (08.00), 16.30 (17.45) and ex Stranraer 02.30 (03.00), 12.30 (12.00), 21.30 (22.10). One would suspect the altered sailing times are aimed at improving the attractiveness of Stena's freight service to hauliers.


NORTHERN IRELAND CRUISE NEWS by Gary Andrews

Direct Cruises exit.

Direct Holidays subsidiary, Direct Cruises have withdrawn from their Belfast based cruises after just one season. The APOLLON had operated a cruise from Belfast in 1998 and despite the company claiming the cruise was a sell out and an "overwhelming success" they have now withdrawn from Belfast based cruises stating that Northern Ireland cruises are "not economically viable."

Direct claims that by selling cruises directly they can offer prices 50% below their competitors and that by operating their vessels from regional ports they could reduce customer costs by avoiding the need to travel far to the port of embarkation.

Adam Morrison Of Direct Cruises was reported in the September 1999 edition of Northern Ireland Leisure Travel News that:

"The cruise from Northern Ireland sold out last year, but unfortunately even though we can sell all the seats it was not a viable option because of having to re-route the ship etc.

"We are working on new itineraries presently, but nothing has been finalised yet. But there is always a possibility of cruising from Belfast again at some stage in the future."

[JHL's COMMENT: One wonders what Direct Cruises plans are for Liverpool in 2000. Recently  the APOLLON's cruises from Liverpool have been advertised with substantial last minute discounts which suggests that the company has had difficulty filling the vessel. The various EDINBURGH CASTLE problems last year will not have enhanced the company's reputation.]


Derry cruise success.

The Londonderry Cruise Initiative has seen Northern Ireland's north-west area become a major player in the cruise scene. To date this year the Initiative has welcomed five cruise vessels with two more yet to arrive in 1999. Bookings for 2000 and 2001 are also said to be healthy. 1999 visits included three from operators new to Northern Ireland such as this month's visit of Cunard's ROYAL VIKING SUN. September will also see the return of Silversea's SILVER CLOUD.

An increased number of berths are now available in the city enabling the cruise initiative to work with all the cruise companies operating Northern Europe itineraries. Five of the seven vessels in 1999 have been booked to use the city centre, Queen's Quay berth. Stan McIlvenny from Londonderry port attributed the increased number of visits to the more focussed marketing activity undertaken in the current year. Meanwhile the Initiative has recently secured grant aid from the International Fund for Ireland to establish a professional tour guide course for the region. Aideen Corr, Cruise Development Officer said:

"With the success of Derry as a popular destination for the international cruise industry and land tourists, there is a growing need for qualified tour guides and we hope to have places on a part time course for 15 guides available this autumn.

"The city's cruise initiative will host a total of seven vessels this year. In July the SEABOURN LEGEND made its first call to the city centre and passengers enjoyed their city tour, along with visits to the Giant's Causeway and Baronscourt, Ballyliffin and Foyle Golf Club also received guests from the ship and the good weather ensured that many passengers were out and about in the city during the afternoon.

"The city's specialised shopping guide, designed specifically for the cruise industry, is getting great support from the passengers and the city retailers. It is a useful tool for the Cruise Initiative to get an idea of the economic benefits to the retail sector. We have already received bookings for next season and believe that we can encourage more and more vessels to use the city centre as a cruise berth."

NATO

This week ten ships of NATO member countries visited Liverpool. The ships are part of the STANAVFORLANT - Standing Naval Force Atlantic.

The first four vessels to arrive entered the Port of Liverpool on Monday 6th September and berthed at Canada Dock - FGS RHEINLAND PFALZ [Germany], HDMS PETER TORDENSKIOLD [Denmark], HNOMS NARVIK [Norway] and HMCS IROQUOIS [Canada].

The remaining ships arrived on Tuesday 7th September:

NRP CORTREAL [Portugal], HDMS TUMLEREN [Denmark], HNLMS Philip Van Almonde [Netherlands], SPS ANDALUCIA [Spain], USS STEPHEN W GROVES [USA] and HMS COVENTRY [UK].

The ships were open to visitors on Sunday, September 12 between 13.00 and 17.00 for viewing.

 

IRISH NAVAL SERVICE

A ceremony was held on Thursday at the Appledore Shipyard in north Devon for the naming of the first new vessel to be built for the Irish Naval Service since the LE EITHNE in 1984.

The wife of the Minister for Defence, Mrs Mary Smith, named the new IR£20m ship LE RÓISÍN. Senior officers from the Irish Defence forces being present at the ceremony. The Rev. John Newington Vicar of Appledore and the Naval Service Chaplain Fr. Des Campion blessed the vessel.

LE RÓISÍN is expected to arrive at the Haulbowline Naval base, Cobh in mid October.

The Irish Naval Service is now reported to be considering the construction of another new vessel.

CAMMELL LAIRD

Cammell Lairds has entered a partnership with Warbreck Engineering and taken over the lease of the Clarence Dry-docks in Liverpool, which were formerly operated by Mannings Marine. The company has also acquired the Ellesmere Port based hydraulic engineering company M&R.

Cenargo's SPHEROID sailed this week. She has lost her Belfast Freight Ferries branding and now carries the MF logo on her funnel. [Last week the RIVER LUNE was observed at Dublin she had lost her B but had then not acquired an M!]

P&O 's EUROPEAN LEANDER has left and the laid up James Fisher vessel WESTGATE has also departed. Finally IRISH SEA PIONEER departed on 9th September.

SUN PEGASUS is currently in #7 dry dock whilst PEREGRINE VII may leave the yard towards the end of September for sea trials. PEREGRINE VII has become something of a landmark on Merseyside over the past two years or so. She arrived at Cammell Laird early in summer 1997. When she eventually goes, her distinctive shape crowned by her drilling tower for much of this year will be missed.

OTHER NEWS

CONDOR 10 - Ever since she appeared on Merseyside, Michael Pryce has kept M&ISS posted with CONDOR 10's wanderings down under. Here is the latest news of this much-travelled Incat.

The 74-metre fast ferry CONDOR 10 is to leave Wellington to take up a 14-day charter to replace a broken-down ferry on service between Melbourne and Tasmania.

Tranz Rail said that CONDOR 10 would leave Wellington by the end of the week. It would be crewed by an Australian team.

Reports in the Tasmanian newspaper "The Mercury" say that CONDOR 10 has been chartered for $23,500 a day to TT-Line and will arrive in Melbourne tomorrow. For 14-days it will replace the stricken SPIRIT OF TASMANIA, which was forced to abort a crossing on Saturday because of engine trouble.

"The Mercury" quoted the Tasmanian Deputy Premier as saying TT-Line staff were in Wellington to check that CONDOR 10 was seaworthy and met Australian maritime regulations.

John Luxton

12 September 99

 

Back Home Up Next

05 September 1999

NOTES & NEWS

Welcome to this week's update. Once again a short spell away from home has produced a bulging e-mail bag again and I have not even managed to respond to all the mail which arrived when I was away in Devon at the end of August. With the Summer Holidays at an end and work recommencing this week it will be some time before I manage to catch up with everything.

I WILL get round to answering everyone in due course BUT if you have not heard from me yet - you will in due course!

Once again I would like to thank everyone who has sent messages, news and comments. It's wonderful to have so much feedback.

This week the weekly update just comprises the news bulletin with a few additions to the  to the links directories.

Next week, there will be a Merchant Ferries Voyage report and some new galleries. However, I must over the next couple of weeks file my growing collection of slides which have been building up since my last cataloguing session last Christmas. This is really imperative as I really need to use my cataloguing system to identify images used on the site. Recently, to ensure images go up quickly filenames have not followed the cataloguing system which really is not good practice should I need to find the original image again!

SEA CONTAINERS FERRIES

SUPERSEACAT THREE - "Its All Down to a T!!!!"

Since its maiden voyage on the 8th April 1999 the brand new SUPERSEACAT THREE has performed way beyond expectations. The vessel has been 100% technically reliable.

SUPERSEACAT THREE has carried 174,616 passengers and 33,219 vehicles between its launch in April and the end of August. All of these passengers and drivers have benefited from the smoother ride and better onboard facilities.

The company puts this success down to the "T" Foil. This is a hydrodynamic innovation costing $2m, which acts as a stabiliser. It improves the ride by 60% because it works like an aerofoil keeping SSC3's bow connected to the water, thus stopping the vessel from moving about. It has much the same effect, states the company, as the tail fin on a Formula One racing car - creating a down force on the ship ensuring that the bow remains in contact with the water.

Peter Reeman Technical Manager of SSC3 said:

"Combination of good weather and 100% technical reliability have meant that SSC3's performance has more than exceeded expectations. Last year we experienced some problems but thanks to the improved ride control provided by the T-Foil system on the new vessel SUPERSEACAT THREE has been excellent. It has also meant that we've often managed to beat the advertised sailing time of just three hours and forty-five minutes. On several occasions SSC3 has slipped into Liverpool and Dublin in less than three and a half hours - in fact the record at the moment is 3 hours and twenty five minutes."

Captain Simon Mills, Marine Operations Manager added:

"The T-Foil is an underwater wing that gives stability and at ten feet is similar in size and shape to the tailfin of a Blue Whale - the largest whale in the world. The increased stability also means that high speeds across the Irish Sea have been maintained on a regular basis. In fact SUPERSEACAT THREE is regularly hitting 50mph [80kmh] on its journey to or from Liverpool.


SEACAT DANMARK: The 17.15 Belfast - Heysham and 22.00 Heysham - Belfast sailings on 31 August were cancelled. It is unclear why this occurred as when she was observed in Belfast Lough nearing completion of her 12.15 sailing ex Heysham she appeared to be running normally. Therefore one would expect it was a result of planned maintenance or just a planned cancellation of some other description.


ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET CARRYINGS

Figures released this week give IoMSPCo passenger carryings as: July 78,525 (up 7.5% on previous year). Jan-July 332,835 (up 10.7%)
July vehicles (cars+motor bikes) up 9% to 15,539 but year to date only up % to 90,339

Freight is up 9% to 30,671 metres


 ADDITIONAL SEA CONTAINERS NEWS by Gary Andrews

Sea Containers, operator of the Dublin - Liverpool SuperSeaCat Three service, have spoken about post duty free onboard sales. The firm believe that they are the only ferry service operating from Dublin to offer a full range of discounted duty paid goods and has reported that cigarettes are proving to be a big seller at duty paid prices, especially with no restrictions on how much customers can buy.

Jim Sheppard (once Senior Hotel Manager on the Stena Galloway), On-board Services Manager for Sea Containers, has been coming up with new and innovative methods to increase the on-board spend and said:

"UK excise duty has proved so high that it hasn't been feasible to try and sell beer and spirits at high volume like we did during the duty free era. However, we have been able to find niche areas where there is definitely a demand. Most notably, in a new line of flavoured speciality vodkas and presentation packs of Irish spirits. These appeal to passengers buying on impulse for those special occasions. The fact that we can offer cheaper cigarettes than found on the High Street is also significant and they're proving to be, as in the days of duty free, the best sellers by far."

SeaCat Scotland reveals new Rail & Sail packages.

Sea Containers subsidiary, SeaCat Scotland, has joined forces with ScotRail and Strathclyde Passenger Transport to introduce "Rail & Sail" package fares on it's Belfast - Troon route.

The Rail and Sail inclusive fares are available to and from any station in Scotland via Troon, where a free short interconnecting bus service will transport passengers between Troon station and the SeaCat terminal. With trains from Troon to Glasgow Central taking around 40 minutes, allowing for the SeaCat journey from Belfast of 2.5 hours, Northern Ireland people can be shopping in Glasgow in little over 3 hours making rail a very attractive option.

Examples of the fare include, passengers can travel by Day Return for £20 to and from Ayr or £24 to and from Glasgow provided bookings are made by 6 p.m. the day before travel. On the Low Saver deal, a £38 standard return fare is available on off peak days to/from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Stirling with a High Saver fare of £45 on offer any day to/from the same destinations. Fares are valid until 2 January 2000.

Commenting on the Rail and Sail Offer, Diane Poole, General Manager, Sea Containers Ferries Scotland, said:

"As the leading provider of fast ferry services on the Irish Sea, we're absolutely delighted that ScotRail and Strathclyde Passenger Transport have joined forces with us to put this Rail & Sail offer together. The benefits to customers are enormous as passengers can enjoy the benefits of great value ticket prices and convenient rail-to-sail travelling."

All offers are subject to terms, conditions and availability. Rail & Sail tickets can be bought at any principal station, rail appointed travel agent or ScotRail telesales (0345 550033).

 IRISH FERRIES

JONATHAN SWIFT 23.30 ex Dublin and 02.30 ex Holyhead on Friday 3rd September were cancelled.

CENARGO IRISH SEA FERRIES

Gary Andrews writes: Last week it was reported that the MERCHANT VENTURE had departed Merseyside on 23 August after spending several months laid up first in the Bidston Dock, but more recently in the West Float next to the Duke Street Bridge. With the SPHEROID currently in dry dock at Cammell Laird it seemed likely the MERCHANT VENTURE had been put back into service, operating the Belfast - Heysham service of Cenargo firm, Belfast Freight Ferries. I observed a vessel in Belfast Lough around 15.45 on 31 August that appeared to be the MERCHANT VENTURE (probably operating the 06.30 sailing ex Heysham). Raymond Burrows has confirmed my sighting telling me that he has noted the 1979 built vessel in Belfast Lough several times over the course of the last few days.

RIVER LUNE - was noted at the company's Dublin ro/ro ramp 7 on 4th September with the "B" of the Belfast Freight Ferries logo painted out. One wonders if all Irish Sea operations are to be branded Merchant Ferries? Such a move would make sense.

CELTIC SEA CHARTERS

THRAKI II. The saga of the would be Whitehaven - Douglas service continues. The Greek owners tried to recover the vessel claiming Captain Hope had breached his contract with them. The Greek skipper is thought to have recruited a local crew to help him sail the ship back to Greece and she had been refuelled for the voyage. In turn the ship was apparently seized at the instigation of Captain Hope to prevent her being sailed back to Greece.

Meanwhile Captain Hope has issued a counter claim against the owners for failure to provide accurate papers for the ship, which now cannot sail anywhere for anyone. NUMAST is also thought to be supporting further legal action by Whitehaven crewmen for money still owed to them. Captain Hope was quoted as saying:" We will demand our money back and search for another vessel. I am not giving up."

PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY by Gary Andrews

Following much speculation over the past month it would appear that the mystery concerning P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) adding a third vessel to its Fleetwood service is over.

This week it was confirmed by Associated British Ports (ABP), operator of the port of Fleetwood, that P&O are to add a third ship to their Fleetwood service. Russell Plummer reports that the MERCHANT VENTURE will enter service with P&O European Ferries from mid-September and become the third ship on the Fleetwood - Larne service. The vessel will sail at 0300 ex-Fleetwood and 1600 ex-Larne. Capacity is given as 50 freight units and 12 drivers. This further investment in Larne operations brings the total number of P&O Larne based vessels to nine.

The MERCHANT VENTURE has been used on the Fleetwood - Larne link in the past to cover refit periods (for example, in summer 1992).

Observations from both ports suggest that the Value Route service is almost always at capacity in terms of passengers and it appears that the European Seafarer and European Pioneer never sail with anything less than a healthy load of freight. Observations in recent weeks of both vessels have suggested capacity or near capacity loads on every witnessed sailing making the additional capacity unsurprising.

GARY ANDREW'S COMMENT: The additional capacity on the Fleetwood service is most welcome and would again suggest that P&O are currently experiencing something of an upward trend in traffic. This development will mean that Larne Harbour's berths will be under further pressure and undoubtedly vessels will no longer be able to have lengthy lay-ups in the port, instead anchoring off the port will become a daily occurrence for vessels such as the European Highlander which have lengthy spells between sailings. With this further increase in capacity it is looking increasingly likely that another berth may soon have to be built at Larne Harbour.


SHIP DEPLOYMENT: Recent months have seen the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER back on her old schedule of two round trips on the Larne - Ardrossan route on Tuesdays and Thursdays and normal sailings other days. The EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR and EUROPEAN TRADER usually operate the daytime sailing Tuesdays to Fridays, however, the refit duties of the Cairnryan based EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR have seen the EUROPEAN TRADER and EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR operate exclusively on the Larne - Cairnryan service.


NEW FAST FERRIES FOR N. IRELAND OPERATORS by Gary Andrews

The September edition of Northern Ireland Leisure Travel News reports that: "Two of the existing carriers are preparing to introduce new fast ferries between the Province and the UK Mainland".

The article progresses by reporting that SeaCat: "boosted by the success of the new Heysham route, are planning on introducing one of their bigger and faster SuperSeaCat vessels to serve on the north Irish Sea for the first time". The article adds that the "600 passenger" (Sea Containers literature states 700 passenger) SuperSeaCat will "replace one of the current two SeaCats, likely to be the one operating on the Heysham route."

Meanwhile P&O are said to be "planning to replace the existing Jetliner with another fast ferry, thought to be with a twin-hulled vessel, on the shortest Irish Sea route between Larne and Cairnryan. The mono-hulled Jetliner has been operating for some three years now on the Cairnryan service with a one-hour crossing time, but has now come to the end of its lease period. It' s believed P&O are hoping to acquire a twin-hulled "Cat-type" craft for the route"

GARY ANDREWS' COMMENT: The article above is quite remarkable in that it is quoting common current ferry industry speculation in quite a factual manner, frequently something that leads to announcements sooner than would have otherwise been scheduled. It is understood that Sea Containers are considering using a SuperSeaCat (possibly the SuperSeaCat Four) on the Belfast - Heysham route, however, to date there has been no confirmation. Similarly, it is well known that the four-year charter of the Jetliner expires in June 2000 and there has been frequent speculation that she will be replaced by an Austal fast craft, possibly even the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS from P&O Portsmouth. However, again it is "business as usual" at P&O and nothing has been announced as yet.

MERSEY FERRIES

ROYAL IRIS: A report in Wednesday's Edition of the Liverpool Echo suggests that the former Mersey Ferry, ROYAL IRIS, now languishing close to the site of the Millennium Dome on the River Thames has attracted the attention of a mystery buyer.

Apparently Friends of the Ferries have been trying to track down the new owner. Organiser Joan Roberts said: "I have been told by the former owners that they have now managed to sell the Royal Iris. At the moment we have been given someone's name and that of a company that does not exist - its all a but mysterious. A telephone number I have has also been ringing out for days, so we don't really know what is going on. We may be able to find out more if the ferry is registered as having changed hands."


IMPRESSIONS OF ROYAL DAFFODIL by John Shepherd

I took the 10.20am Mersey Heritage cruise on the Royal Daffodil this morning. Having parked at Seacombe at 10.05, I took some photographs of her from the river wall as she approached Seacombe stage, ebbway. I feel the blocking in of so many windows, especially on the starboard side where the buffet/bars are located has spoiled her appearance. It was dead low water and there was some 'tinkering' going on with the old stage booms.

Buying a ticket for the cruise was something of a fiasco. The ticket office was closed, and on enquiring I was directed to the souvenir shop where one very elderly lady was trying to sell newspapers, sweets, souvenirs and, as a secondary consideration, it appeared, tickets for the ferry.

I boarded the Royal Daffodil just in time - not my fault I was late! My first impression was of insufficient deck space. This morning the weather was fine, hot and calm - just the day for sitting on deck. All the available space was taken and it was irritating to find the stern section of the main deck now closed to passengers. I really can't see why 30 or 40 passengers couldn't be allowed on the section of raised deck immediately abaft the wheelhouse- surely this wouldn't affect stability. There is an additional barrier to prevent them straying into the wheelhouse itself. I thought the open plan lounge / bar / buffet areas were pleasant, but that's about it. There was certainly no 'charisma' - one could have been just about anywhere, rather than on board a Mersey ferry.

What about some photographs / relics of the old boats, or maybe that is not, in 1999, politically correct?

I certainly wouldn't want to spend £200 for the privilege of sailing on the Royal Daffodil on New Year's Eve.

The cruise seemed to get well ahead of the re-vamped commentary. We were alongside Liverpool landing stage at 10.44 (is this really getting one's moneysworth?) and the commentary was still telling us about the Albert Dock and hadn't even started on the Pier Head buildings. SeaCat Isle of Man was running late and didn't start loading until 10.55.

I note that the Royal Daffodil can carry 396 passengers as far as the Crosby Light Float, from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. She can carry 860 on heritage cruise sailings. I think she could be a success based on Llandudno Pier given good weather next summer, but I feel the Liverpool / Llandudno run could be uncomfortable, given the 'deep-sea' conditions so often encountered at the Mersey Bar. All those new carpets and 300 seasick passengers!

ROYAL NAVY

The first ever Royal Navy vessels visited Kilmore Quay, County Wexford on Monday. The RN fast training vessels berthed at the new Marina. After a one-night stay the vessels moved on to Waterford.

IRISH PORT PROPOSALS

Major changes in the administration of Ireland s smaller regional ports and the establishment of a national dredging programme have been recommended in a Department of the Marine report, which calls for more investment in the ports and suggests that to deal with silting problems in ports around the country, the Department should underwrite or part-fund those ports which require regular maintenance dredging.

Irish ports and harbours are effectively, in two divisions, the premier of which includes the major ports, Dublin, Cork, those on the Shannon, Waterford, New Ross, Foynes and others.

There are sixteen ports in the second division, the smaller regional locations, ranging from Wicklow to Arklow, Kinsale, Bantry, Sligo and others.

These were examined in the review carried out by KPMG Consulting, which suggests major changes in their methods of operation.

The ports concerned are run by harbour commissioners and local Councils and need, in general, a considerable amount of investment, but are considered important to their local areas.

The main findings of the review suggest a range of new administrative arrangements, that development plans should be prepared in each port, with more funding to help their development which would come from the Regional Operational Programme.

The establishment of User Forums is recommended in each port, together with a review of port charges

It is suggested that a number of the ports have not been sufficiently active in preparing development plans. Some were not enthusiastic about making changes to their existing administrative arrangements and seemed more prepared to continue major involvement in fishing, or to hope that leisure activities and marinas would prove more supportive in future development.

In the dredging programme, the consultants suggested that, in addition to the Department establishing a national dredging programme, ports close to each other should consider sharing dredging costs.

Amongst the administrative changes suggested are: Dundalk and Drogheda should merge to become a new North/East Port Company Wicklow and Arklow should merge with Dublin and could be relief ports for Dublin in the event of ship diversions or cargo overflow. The Port of Cork should take over responsibility for Bantry Bay, but Kinsale and Baltimore should be managed by Cork County Council Shannon Estuary Ports should take responsibility for Feint, Youghal and Kilrush should be managed by the local urban councils. Donegal County Council should take responsibility for Ballyshannon and Buncrana harbours Louth County Council to take responsibility for Annagassan, Mayo for Westport and Ballina, Wexford County Council to be responsible for Wexford and Sligo County Council for Sligo

John Luxton

5 September 99

 

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