The Irish Sea Shipping Archive

About ISSContactContentVoyage ReportsISS Amazon Shop
PhotographsFeaturesShip AISShips on FilmNews
Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond



February 28, 1999


Welcome to yet another bumper news update! Thanks again to all the contributors who are making Mersey Shipping an almost complete review of each week's Irish Sea shipping scene. Things have certainly progressed since I started making a few notes of my observations of ships calling on Merseyside about four years ago.

As well as the major news update there are several new photo features, including another Philip Parker collection. Make sure you go to "What's New" to check these out.

My e-mail appears to grow by the week, however, I have noticed that I am receiving general enquiries from people trying to make contact with operators, museums or other maritime related groups. This usually results in me having to go through searching for the information. It certainly would make sense to have this information on line. I am, therefore, constructing a Maritime Directory. Initially, I intend it to cover Merseyside, though I will expand it to cover other principal Irish Sea Ports in due course. If you have an organisation which you would like including please e-mail details.


BEN-MY-CHREE – Company president James Sherwood was reported by the Manx press to have visited the BEN-MY-CHREE last Monday on visit to the Port of Heysham.

PEVERIL – Her starboard funnel has appeared in SeaCo red with the new style IoMSPCo roundel.

SEACAT DANMARK departed from Langton earlier this week.

SUPERSEACAT TWO still remains berthed on the south side of Bidston Dock still undergoing attention by Wright and Beyer. Her SUPERSEACAT logo has still not been replaced neither has the leaping cat logos. Work appears to be going on in her vehicle decks.

LADY OF MANN on Sunday 21 February rough weather resulted in the Lady having to be berthed by two tugs at Prince's Landing Stage. One of the tugs was reported to be Cory's recently acquired Japanese tug ASHGARTH. Her 18.45 sailing to Douglas was cancelled and Douglas bound passengers were diverted via the BEN-MY-CHREE from Heysham. Despite rumours to the contrary, last Sunday's cancellation was due entirely to the weather.

A correspondent reports that despite a force 7 wind the Lady took 4 hours and twenty minutes on the 18.45 departure from Liverpool on 27 February and reports that she is running well though her port clutch is not fully restored.

Booking for the Llandudno - Douglas day trip on Wednesday 26 May has now begun. The Lady of Mann will leave Llandudno at 10.00 and depart Douglas for the return trip at 19.00. The fare will be £18 per adult.

Bookings either through Steam Packet in Douglas (01624 661661) or Thomas Cook in Llandudno (01492 613900). If last year is anything to go by the trip will sell out very fast each office will having a block of tickets so if one says the trip is full try the other!

PICASSO –After spending a quiet year slumbering at the company's Vittoria Dock berth, Birkenhead, in company with PEVERIL, PICASSO appeared on the national TV news in dramatic style on Monday 22 February. PICASSO had returned to the English Channel a few weeks ago on charter to Sea Container's former freight partner Falcon Seafreight. Gary Andrews takes up the story:

The vessel got into difficulties having just left Boulogne at 0720 (0820 GMT) bound for Folkestone in Kent. The dropping of her anchors failed to stop the vessel drifting towards a sandy area and a French helicopter took all 12 drivers and five non-essential staff of the 22 crew off the ferry. Only a skeleton crew remained aboard. The first indications were that an electrical failure was responsible for the PICASSO's engine breakdown. An inquiry has begun into the incident.

A Dover coastguard said at the time: "A tug is on its way to try to get a line attached to the vessel to take the strain off the anchors, The vessel lost power in a north westerly gale and the two anchors went down into what can be described as 'bad holding ground'. It was decided to take the drivers and non-essential crew off as a precaution."

A British helicopter from Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire stood by to take off the 16 crew remaining on board should efforts to secure the vessel fail. The ship was not taking in water and was undamaged but there was concern that if the weather changed the PICASSO would have gone aground.

PICASSO eventually managed to get her engines running and escorted by a coastguard tug made her way to Folkestone.

Mark Pegrum, general manager of Folkestone-based Falcon, said the PICASSO had got into "technical difficulties".

The PICASSO had recently rejoined the service as a second vessel having earlier been displaced on the route in 1998 by the PURBECK after inaugurating the route in 1996 when it was operated jointly as Hoverspeed Falcon.

By the following day PICASSO was back in service, the problem had been caused by an interruption to the fuel supply.


There has been a fair amount of speculation in enthusiast circles of late concerning the development of a SeaCo corporate identity for ferry services. It is already known that consultants are looking at the Hoverspeed name with a view to developing a new brand. Interestingly the first of the new season's SUPERSEACAT adverts appeared in the Liverpool Echo this week. There were two adverts under the heading SUPERFAST SuperSeaCat - the emphasis was on SUPERFAST in larger letters. Could this be a new name for the SeaCat operation? Though I am sure there is another ferry-company which bears the name SUPERFAST!

I think there is a perfectly good name waiting to be used for the SeaCat operations. SEASPEED, which was developed by British Railways for the cross channel hovercraft operations would be ideal for the SeaCo ferry operation. I guess the problem might be who actually owns the rights to the name? SeaCo, Stena, Railtrack?


Whilst on board the LADY OF MANN last week a fellow enthusiast showed me the following poem. This week it appeared in the Manx Independent. Its composer is as yet unknown.

Yes, I suppose it's amusing depending on your perspective, BUT as someone who really likes the BEN-MY-CHREE I find it somewhat sad that such fun should be poked at this fine vessel.

"Lament for the Ben"

I'm lying here in Douglas, once again I did not sail,
The island has no papers and Marksies bread's gone stale,
I'm a brand new ship from Holland and Ben-My-Chree's my name.
I'm the slowest ship they ever built and I've other claims to fame.

I watch my little sister, The Lady pass me by.
She's on her way to Liverpool, so why the hell can't I?
She's 25 years my senior and only half my size,
But I mustn't go out there today, for fear I might capsize.

I see the yachts out in the bay, with their sails unfurled,
My chairman's told my passengers I can sail throughout the world.
To Tokyo or to Sydney or even Santa Fe,
But Liverpool or Heysham are just too far away.

I lie here in the harbour, feeling so uneasy,
My sailing's have been cancelled because it is too breezy.
I'm storm bound here in Douglas and on my berth I lie,
It really is embarrassing as a canoe goes paddling by.

I've got another sister, she's called a SuperCat,
She takes day-trippers to Liverpool, but does not bring them back.
The Lady comes to the rescue, she always is on call,
I avoid these situations by not leaving port at all!

Now we've got a little system, it really is unique,
It protects us from the elements when the weather is too bleak,
My captain lights a cancel and hangs it from my railings,
And if the wind doth blow it out he cancels all my sailings!


Emerald Airways announced on Friday that they will withdraw from scheduled passenger operations at the end of March - thus leaving the Liverpool/IOM route to Manx Airlines.

They will continue freight and charter passenger flights. A spokesman for Manx Airlines indicated that Emerald have caused them to loose money on the Liverpool route and that the Island cannot support two operators. – Sounds very much like the argument once used when two shipping services operated to the island!

It was only a few months ago that Sea Containers secured the Isle of Man newspaper contract from Emerald Airways. With the end of competition on Manx air routes there will probably be an increase in air fares which may very well benefit Sea Containers as some passengers switch to sea travel.


DAWN MERCHANT remains in Cammell Laird receiving attention for damage received in Langton Lock over a week ago. MERCHANT BRILLIANT remained in Bidston Dock during the week but was due to lock out on Sunday evening 28 February.


The OVERCHURCH is currently in Manchester being refitted. I have just head un confirmed reports that the refit is behind schedule. As part of the refit she is being fitted with a dance floor. Further rumours suggest she may assume the historic name ROYAL DAFFODIL.


The owners of the cruise ship T.S.S. EDINBURGH CASTLE that operated a program of cruises out of Liverpool during 1998 have called in the receivers. The ship was operated under charter to Direct Cruises and had been scheduled to operate out of Greenock this year with the Merseyside program being handled by T.S.S. APOLLON [Ex-Empress of Canada]. Local press reports indicate that DIRECT CRUISES have cancelled the Greenock cruises, The 2000 passengers with reservations will be offered places on the APOLLON's cruises out of Liverpool.

Direct Cruises have confirmed the company's contract with Lowline has been terminated. Direct Cruises have an information line on 0141-221-0033.

EDINBURGH CASTLE has been blighted with problems. A few months before her arrival on Merseyside crewmembers were almost drowned in New York harbour when a lifeboat malfunctioned and dropped into the water. On her first cruise from Liverpool in April 1998 cabins were reported flooded and dirty which resulted in a group of passengers refusing to sail. In May engine trouble caused the cancellation of a cruise. By June she had been caught up in a Legionnaire's Disease scare. Another trip was cancelled in June with passengers being flown home whilst in September her final cruise was cancelled.

Lowline had claimed that millions of pounds had been spent on the vessel to get it ready for the 1999 Season. In December she was arrested briefly over an unpaid bill for £75,000. However on 5 January the Edinburgh Castle was arrested over a disputed £400,000 debt owed ships suppliers Harding Brothers of Bristol.


I have now inserted the dates on which the APOLLON [Ex-Empress of Canada] will call at Liverpool in the Liner Calls Directory . The latest third edition of the Direct Cruises brochure still refers to her as the APOLLO, as did last year's brochure. With the demise of Lowline's EDINBURGH CASTLE I guess it will not be long before edition four of the 1999 brochure is published!


Survey vessel HMS ROEBUCK that arrived at Canada #1 Branch Dock on Friday morning, 20 February departed on Wednesday morning 24 February.

Minesweeper HMS CHIDDINGFOLD [M337] berthed at Canada Half-Tide basin opposite the Merseyside Maritime Museum on Thursday evening at 19.00. She will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday 27/28 February from 13.30 to 15.00. 


Charlie Tennant writes that the six strong NATO minesweeper flotilla which left Merseyside on 1st February have been berthed at Yorkhill Quay, Glasgow for most of the past week.


The JETLINER remains in Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock.

An additional bulletin was posted on Monday 22 February containing details of P&O's New building for Irish Sea service.  to jump to the information.


Tom Allison, Chief Executive of Clydeport has stated that the Scottish ports group will be announcing at least two major developments in the next few months. Whilst no further details were given, one of the developments due to be announced is expected to be that the rumoured "Glasgow" multi-million pound passenger and freight ferry terminal will actually be built. The new terminal is expected to be situated at the former Scott Lithgow Shipyard at Port Glasgow. P&O are believed to be joint venture partners and will also sign a long-term user agreement and run services from Port Glasgow to Northern Ireland.

There's no secret that the Ardrossan service would probably transfer if a new port were built. Ardrossan itself is part of the Clydeport group and currently there is a limit on what size of vessel can operate to the port so it would be only sensible for the service to re-locate. However, the "passenger" aspect is interesting.

With the plan to introduce a relatively fast conventional ferry onto the Cairnryan route, could the Cairnryan high-speed service re-locate to Port Glasgow? Could a new high-speed service to Port Glasgow operate alongside the current Cairnryan JETLINER? There is no doubt however that the announced new-build will operate to Cairnryan – the design of the vessel is very much a purpose build for the Cairnryan route as she is of the largest possible design for the port of Cairnryan.

At the moment any discussion on this issue is entirely speculative. At no stage has P&O indicated any plans for anything other than the new ferry to replace the PRIDE OF RATHLIN on the Cairnryan – Larne route.

Also interesting is that it is reported that P&O have options for a further three vessels from Mitsubishi in a deal potentially worth $200 million. The deadline for agreement on the first is believed to be the end of this year with a delivery date of 2001. If further orders are placed it is believed one would replace the EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR and EUROPEAN TRADER on the Cairnryan route whilst two larger versions would operate Dublin – Liverpool and Rosslare – Cherbourg. Again this is only speculation at this stage.

In case you haven’t seen plans for the new vessel, she doesn’t look unlike many of the ro-pax vessels built in recent years such as the Norse Irish Vessels, THE BEN-MY-CHREE or even the NORBAY and NORBANK.

I also understand that P&O have decided to take immediate action to remedy the current capacity problems on the Cairnryan service. At present there is simply insufficient freight space. Daytime sailings are usually at least two thirds full whilst night time sailings are almost always completely full. It is believed the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR will be transferred to the Larne – Cairnryan route in the near future. She will offer an additional night-time sailing (using the altered JETLINER berth at Cairnryan). It is also understood that she will release the EUROPEAN TRADER or EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR to operate a daytime sailing to Ardrossan (the ‘Navigator is too large for Ardrossan). At this stage there has been no announcement or word from P&O on the subject of additional sailings so again these issues are speculative. However, if transferred a chartered vessel will be placed on the Liverpool – Dublin route to replace the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR.

We are very much in a process of waiting and watching at the moment to see what will transpire – P&O European Ferries certainly seem to keeping their plans to themselves for the moment. However, it seems certain further expansion is on its way.

An indication of the growth of freight on the Cairnryan route in recent years can be seen in the planned new build having almost double the freight capacity of the PRIDE OF RATHLIN.

Meanwhile, P&O have been congratulated by local politicians for their decision to build a new vessel for the North Channel route. East Antrim MP, Roy Beggs said:

"The introduction of the new faster vessel to replace PRIDE OF RATHLIN will speed up the journey time of traditional ferry ships by half an hour which will prove popular with passengers and hauliers. The new ship will provide commercial drivers, passengers and families with the most modern facilities on this cross channel route and further secures Larne – Cairnryan as the shortest fastest route between Northern Ireland and Scotland."

"It’s disappointing that the new ship could not have been built at Harland and Wolff or another British shipyard and I sincerely hope P&O will seek to secure as many jobs as possible for British seafarers on this new ship when it starts to operate on the Larne – Cairnryan route."

"P&O must be congratulated on the investment for the future of the Larne –Cairnryan route."

Larne Councillor, Jack McKee said that the provision of the new ferry was to be welcomed and that the cut in crossing time would help to maintain Larne Harbour’s leading position. Mr McKee called on the government to provide a" level playing field" by upgrading and duelling the A8 road to Belfast and the motorway network.

One wonders whether if the PRIDE OF RATHLIN will leave the Cairnryan service before the new vessel enters service. There is no reason why she couldn’t be sold now and a vessel chartered until the entry into service of the new ferry. It would seem quite likely to me that she’ll be purchased by the same Egyptian firm that purchased the PRIDE OF AILSA in 1996 and if P&O get can an immediate sale and avoid further depreciation of the vessel it would make sense.

No operator has yet been identified for the fourth of the series of five 86 metre Austal Ships catamarans. I wonder if P&O may charter her at some stage for their Scottish operations – given the success of the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS at Portsmouth.


The whistles of the Liverpool registered liner RMS TITANIC were sounded for the first time since 1912 on February 20. Ian Turner of Wisconsin sent this item:

Excerpts from the Eau Claire, Wisconsin newspaper 2/21/99.

Yesterday, February 20 1999, the voice of the Titanic, silenced for nearly 87 years, boomed deep and steady as the ship's bronze whistles sounded twice.

Thousands of people standing in St. Paul city streets responded with cheers, applause and whistles after the 10 second blasts. A company in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, had checked the structural safety of a 750-pound set of three whistles recovered from the sea earlier this month.

Saturday's whistle sounding ceremony was outside the old Union Depot, where other exhibits from the Titanic are on display.

But the sound was not as impressive as some had expected. " It made a smooth, low roar that just kind of built. It wasn't as loud as I expected, but it was nice," said Dennis Horn of Eau Claire. His wife Helen said " I thought it sounded like a fog horn, I had hoped it would be more shrill and deafening."

To avoid damage, workers sent compressed air rather than steam through the whistle and used less pressure than it was designed to withstand.

Local promoter Erich Mische said his research showed that the last time one of the whistles was heard was 12:15 a.m. April 15, 1912.

The whistle, which had adorned the forward smokestack, was recovered from the wreck in 1993.


ISLE OF INISHMORE has returned to the Dublin - Holyhead route freeing up ISLE OF INNISFREE to return to the ROSSLARE – PEMBROKE route which was being operated by NORMANDY.


The Stena Line Port of Holyhead was brought to a standstill for nearly 3 hours on Wednesday 24 February. Police set up an exclusion zone around the port closing the rail/ferry terminal and evacuated fifty nearby homes. This caused traffic chaos on local roads and delays to train services in and out of Holyhead.

The alert began at 15.30 when sniffer dogs alerted Customs officers to a gas tanker, which had been, en-route from Dun Laoghaire. Fortunately loading of the ISLE OF INISHMORE more had been completed, and the vessel managed to leave. Vehicles waiting for departure in the terminal area were evacuated to Salt Island, whilst foot passengers were evacuated into the town.

Just after 18.00 bomb an army bomb disposal team gave the vehicle the all clear allowing the port to be reopened. HSS STENA EXPLORER's afternoon sailing from Dun Laoghaire was delayed by around 30 minutes as a result of the closure.


I now have an accurate picture of what happened when the HSS STENA VOYAGER arrived at Stranraer on 16 February. The ferry hit the pier (possibly the conventional berth) when she tried to berth in gale force winds. The damage to her starboard hull gave her a starboard list making her unable to land her cars and vehicles until she was back upon an even keel about 30 minutes later. The vessel had left Belfast at 1310 (50 minutes late) and was carrying 412 passengers, 94 cars and 25 lorries.

The STENA LYNX III was introduced on 20 February and has to date proved less than effective with many sailings cancelled due to poor weather. Additionally the replacement fast ferry is not operating the HSS sailings at 2200 and 0250 ex Belfast and at 0023 and 0515 ex Stranraer (i.e. she is only operating the three daytime roundtrips ex Belfast 0740, 1220, 1710 and ex Stranraer 1000, 1445 and 1935 (2000 Saturdays)). The STENA LYNX III is advertised as having a one hour 50 minute crossing time.

The STENA CALEDONIA had been on the Fishguard – Rosslare route operating in place of the KONIGIN BEATRIX. (Can’t help but feel that the STENA CALEDONIA would be a more suitable vessel for the route, after all she was built for the service). The STENA CALEDONIA returned to Belfast sometime between the 22 and 23 February. The STENA CALEDONIA together with the ever faithful STENA GALLOWAY are each offering three round trips per day, with a stated crossing time of 3 hours 15 minutes.

On 24 February the damaged HSS STENA VOYAGER was observed still at her Belfast berth, it is unclear whether she has at the time of writing been dry-docked at Harland & Wolff. It is understood a vessel already in the appropriate dock was holding up progress. Stena have stated that fast ferry services on the Rosslare route will now not recommence until the 19 March, instead of 11 March as planned. One may assume from this that the Stranraer HSS service will almost certainly not resume for at least two more weeks. It is understood the KONINGIN BEATRIX has now resumed operations at Rosslare. Following the withdrawal of the STENA CALEDONIA the Rosebay from Harwich kept the service operating for a few days. It seems by Stena’s actions that Fishguard is certainly low on their list of priorities – surely it would have been sensible to send the Rosebay to Belfast and allow the STENA CALEDONIA to allow some sort of passenger operation to continue.

Meanwhile there are reports that the Stena Challenger was involved in an incident with one of the pontoons while berthing at Holyhead and is now having to use the Irish Ferries berth, resulting in alterations to her sailing times.


The virtual loss of Sea Containers’ Stranraer – Belfast service to Troon and rumours of P&O European Ferries being linked to Port Glasgow have set alarm bells ringing with politicians in the Stranraer area. The following is largely an edited version of an article that appeared in the Wigtown Free Press And Stranraer Advertiser of 18 February 1999.

Liberal Democrat Councillor John Ross Scott has hit out at the lack of government assistance to the Stranraer ports at the ‘Rural Transport and the Scottish Parliament’ conference at Highland Council Headquarters, Inverness on 12 February.

Mr Scott slammed Scottish Transport Minister Calum MacDonald for ignoring the effect any downgrading of Stranraer would have on the Galloway area. He said: "The South of Scotland is crippled by job losses. While the Borders is firmly under the spotlight you need now to focus more attention on the plight of Stranraer as a ferry port and key route to Ireland."

"The port is losing Seacat and there is talk of a £100m new terminal for Port Glasgow at Clydeport. All this is going to have a severe effect on Stranraer. You must listen to what the local people are saying there and assist in improving the transport infrastructure to give the port a boost and a chance to compete."

Mr Scott suggested improved road links and a direct rail link from Stranraer to Lockerbie or Gretna would make the port more accessible to Europe.

Calum MacDonald said all new road building was being assessed for safety, economic importance, environmental benefit and cost. He revealed there were no bids pending for further work in the Galloway area.

Mr Scott replied by stating:

"This is a complete cop out. The government really doesn’t seem to understand what will happen to the Galloway area if Stranraer is downgraded as a port. I spoke to European Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock about the Port Glasgow bid in December and he assured me that Europe still recognised Stranraer."

IN MY VIEW: There will always be a role for Loch Ryan freight services. However, fast ferries now restrict the benefit of Loch Ryan to other services. With planned services closer to Glasgow and the new Belfast – Heysham route, along with superb links from the Republic Of Ireland to England/Wales, the role of Stranraer ports is no longer so vital. Recent years of static or declining passenger numbers for some operators would support this logic.

The demand for freight space to Loch Ryan, in particular via Cairnryan would show that the Stranraer ports will not die. Indeed P&O’s decision to build a new ferry for the Larne – Cairnryan route substantiates this. However, the future of passenger services may be very different, with ships of the type ordered by P&O becoming the norm. Fast ferries will operate on the longer crossings to Glasgow, Heysham, Birkenhead etc where they give significant savings on crossing times and allow passengers to join ports connected to the motorway network.


I would imagine many Mersey Shipping readers have been enjoying the ITV Hornblower TV movies of which to date three have now been shown. Apparently GRAND TURK which stars as the INDEFATIGABLE is to visit Merseyside in June 2000 for five days. This will be part of an 11 port voyage around the British Isles as part of the National Trust Coast show. She will arrive at Liverpool after display at Belfast.


The bitter Mersey Docks dispute, which ended in 1998, is to feature as part of a 1.5 million pound, two hour TV Movie. The film "Dockers" is co-written by Liverpool playwright Jimmy McGovern and will star Liverpool actor Ricky Tomlinson. Filming will commence on March 7; however, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company have refused to co-operate in the production of the film. Dublin Port will be used for the dockside locations.


The liner SUNBIRD, ex SONG OF Americas  due in Lairds circa March 27 for about 50 days.

John Luxton

February 28, 1999

Back Home Up Next


Special Update


by Gary Andrews

22 February 1999

P&O European Ferris is set to make further improvements in its ferry services on the Irish Sea with the signing of an order for a new 21,000 tonne passenger and freight ferry from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan, for delivery in June 2000.

The new vessel will operate on the Larne – Cairnryan route which, with a speed of 23 Knots, will reduce the conventional ferry journey time by a quarter to just 105 minutes and complements the one hour Jetliner fast ferry service on what is already the shortest, fastest crossing between Ireland and Great Britain.

With twin decks and drive through bow and stern loading, the new ship will be able to handle a mix of passenger and freight traffic with space for 375 cars or 107 commercial vehicles. She will replace the popular Pride Of Rathlin, which is to be sold.

On board facilities will include a restaurant, lounge / bar, video and quiet lounges all with ample comfortable seating, children’s play room, games room, parenting room, lift and shop for the 410 passengers. A separate customised area for commercial drivers will include a restaurant, lounge and showers.

Graeme Dunlop, Chairman of P&O Ferries said:

"Our new ferry will offer passengers the very latest facilities at the same time as giving them an even faster crossing. It will further strengthen P&O’s position as one of the leading operators on the Irish Sea."

John Kersey, Managing Director, P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) added:

"The Larne to Cairnryan route is a well established tourist route between Ireland and Scotland, and this vessel confirms our commitment to this popular crossing which last year showed a 7 percent growth against a decrease in the market."

James Esler, Passenger Sales & Marketing Manager, commented:

"Our 60 minute Jetliner service is already the quickest fast ferry crossing on the Irish Sea and with the new ferry capable of a 105 – minute crossing – well under the current 2 ¼ hours – puts P&O’s conventional ferry crossings on a par with fast ferry services from other ports."

Earlier this month, P&O announced an order for the world’s two largest cruise ferries for its North Sea operation.

Technical Data.

Building Yard: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Shimonoeki, Japan.

Delivery Date: June 2000

Flag: To be decided.

Gross Tonnage: 20,800 tonnes.

Dead-weight Tonnage: 4,335 tonnes.

Length: 156 metres.

Beam: 23.4 metres.

Draught: 5.5 metres.

Passenger Capacity: 410

Cargo: 375 cars or 107 x 13.5 freight units (1,750 lane metres)

Engine power: 31,680 kilowatt.

Service Speed: 23 Knots.

Stabilisers: 2.

Crew: 55.

Technical Consultant: Three Quays Marine Services, London.

Interior Designer: Pelmatic Knud E Hansen A/S, Copenhagen.


The statistics are very impressive. By my estimations the new ferry will increase capacity over the Pride Of Rathlin by almost 1,000 lane metres (or around 50 x 13.5m freight units). This is very necessary – the past week has illustrated the fact that the current Cairnryan fleet can have problems coping with demand. In recent months the European Highlander has been forced to operate additional sailings to Cairnryan on occasions to simply help clear backlogs. Meanwhile the Jetliner berths at Larne and Cairnryan are currently receiving minor alterations to accommodate conventional ferries likely to facilitate any necessary additional sailings. There are also alterations being made to the Jetliner’s stern door whilst she is at Wright and Beyer to allow her to fit the altered Cairnryan berth.

Whilst it is very sad that the twenty six year old Pride Of Rathlin is to be withdrawn one can safely say the Cairnryan service has a promising future. The withdrawal of the ‘Rathlin will see the end of the Free Enterprise class ships that revolutionised the British ferry industry (and arguably world ferry industry). For an analysis of the Pride Of Rathlin and a report of my recent round trip on the vessel see the "Voyage Report" that follows the news section of this bulletin. I suspect the Egyptians who purchased the Pride Of Ailsa will be banging at the door of P&O today asking if they can buy the ‘Rathlin. I can remember speaking to some of the ‘Ailsa’s buyers at the time she was sold and they told me they’d also love to get the ‘Rathlin for their trade carrying Pilgrims and sheep (obviously at different times of the year!).

There remains a certain degree of speculation regarding the future of the Jetliner when she reaches the end of her charter next June with suggestions she may be replaced by an Austal type craft (although these claims are purely speculative at this time). There is speculation regarding a potential P&O service to a "Clydeport", though I suspect if this occurs it will merely involve a transfer of the existing Ardrossan route. However, today’s news should leave nobody in any doubt about P&O’s commitment to their Northern Ireland services.

Name The New Vessel!

To resurrect an item from Matthew Punters’ Ferry News Network Website of a couple of years ago I’m going to give you the chance to suggest a name for P&O’s new Larne – Cairnryan vessel. I challenge you to suggest a few names for the new vessel. Should it be given a "Pride Of" or a "European" prefix or something else entirely? Please e-mail your suggestions to and I’ll feature your suggestions in forthcoming weeks. All suggestions will be forwarded to P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) and if your suggestions is good enough perhaps it may be the name P&O will choose for the excellent new vessel!



Once again welcome to another Mersey Shipping update. As well as the usual news bulletins there is a superb selection of classic Mersey Shipping photographs from the camera of Philip Parker. The Web Links pages have been updated and a new gallery depicting the Mersey Sludge Boats is now on-line. Finally the liner calls directory has been updated. There are two sets of voyage reports this week as promised Irish Ferries and Sea Containers. Once again thanks for all the messages and information sent again this week. There is a possibility that there may be a major announcement concerning an Irish Sea operator during the nest few days. Should this arise I will make an additional posting as and when information is received.


PEVERIL moved from Vittoria Basin to Cammell Laird on Monday 15 February. There is a rumour of a charter. Presumably she will now loose her IoMSPCo livery.

SEACAT DANMARK was glimpsed afloat in Canada Graving Dock on Friday afternoon when I passed by on the LADY OF MANN. By Saturday morning she was berthed at West Langton.

SUPERSEACAT TWO remains berthed on the south side of Bidston Dock still undergoing attention by Wright and Beyer. Her SUPERSEACAT logo has still not been replaced neither has the leaping cat logos.

LADY OF MANN R Watson made the following interesting observation on 16 February:

"Just after the BRAVE MERCHANT left Langton on Tuesday (16th) around 1.10 she was soon overtaken by the much smaller Lady of Mann which, amusingly, seemed to be in pursuit of the larger vessel and determined to leave her as far behind as possible ...which indeed she succeeded in doing!" Good to hear that the old girl can still show all these flashy new vessels a thing or two!

On Sunday Dave Worth editor of Manxlink contacted me on his return from the Isle of Man on the Sunday afternoon Douglas to Liverpool sailing.   Apparently the return trip on the LADY OF MANN had been quite lively and two Cory tugs, one of which was the ASHGARTH, were required to assist berthing at the Landing Stage.

SEA CONTAINERS 1999 DEPLOYMENT PLANS: It appears that the deployment "if any" of Sea Containers’ Incat ATLANTIC II [SEACAT TASMANIA] has still not been decided. Meanwhile, the SUPERSECAT TWO will definitely be used on the Newhaven – Dieppe route, SUPERSEACAT THREE on the Liverpool – Dublin route and the SUPERSEACAT FOUR on the new Brindisi (Italy) - Patras (Greece) and Cesme(Turkey) services.

The IoMSPCo web site has been updated with the new timetables and redesigned to reflect the new image and logo. Surprisingly no SeaCo blue was to be seen.

Sea Containers has reported that it carried 5.7 million passengers and 1.1 million vehicles across all their ferry services in 1998. SEACAT SCOTLAND 403,000 passengers to and 109,000 vehicles to Stranraer in 1998. This compares with totals on the Stranraer service of 440,000 passengers and 126,000 vehicles in 1997.

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

Stena Line services were plunged into chaos when the HSS Stena Voyager suffered "structural damage" when arriving at Stranraer in stormy conditions on the afternoon of 16 February 1999. What exactly happened is unclear – Stena have certainly been saying very little about the actual incident.
However, as a result of the incident the HSS blocked the entire harbour – one source suggested her stern had caught the conventional ferry berth. The fast ferry certainly suffered significant damage with reports of a significant gash beneath the water line.

All sailings were cancelled immediately afterwards and remained so until 19 February with the Stena Galloway remaining at the Belfast berth and the damaged Stena Voyager at the Stranraer berth. The Stena Galloway resumed services with a 0700 sailing from Belfast on 19 February and 11.15 return from Stranraer.

With Stena Line services suspended chaos was created for P&O European Ferries. Whilst Seacat Scotland carried a considerable number of passengers to Belfast it was P&O that had to accommodate all freight. The Pride Of Rathlin also accommodated a significant number of tourist vehicles and their passengers, the absence of the in dry-dock Jetliner not making the situation
any easier.

Given that P&O’s Northern Ireland services are always very busy demand was unbelievable with the result that Cairnryan sailings were running up to three hours late with significant delays also apparent on the Ardrossan service. At one stage lorries had to be stacked some distance form Cairnryan (in a similar fashion to that which takes place in Kent at times of problems at Dover) and the queue stretched for three miles. Whilst I’m sure P&O were glad of the additional trade it got to a point where I’m sure they were quite glad to see the level of traffic fall as word spread of Stena’s
problems and some drivers used Holyhead, Liverpool, Heysham and Fleetwood instead of travelling to Stranraer.

With the Stena Caledonia currently off the Belfast route due to refits, Stena were forced to deploy the Stena Lynx 3 on the Stranraer service from 20 February. With a sailing time of 1-hour sand 50 minutes the craft has to date done very few sailings due to poor weather. It also appears the Stena
Lynx 3 is not operating the complete HSS schedule of five daily return sailings forcing the Stena Galloway to operate three round trips per day.

Meanwhile Sea Containers provided extra sailings on 19 and 20 February at 2300 ex Stranraer and 0100 ex Belfast to help carry passengers stranded by Stena’s problems.

The Stena Voyager was laid up at her Belfast berth on 20 February. I understand there is currently a vessel in the required dock at Harland & Wolff and to allow flooding the existing ship will need to be made watertight. With a formal inspection not having taken place yet, it seems possible the HSS could be missing from the Belfast – Stranraer route for some time. Stena have said they hope to have the fast ferry back within two weeks but one can’t help but feel this is rather optimistic. Some sources have suggested the vessel may need to return to her builders in Finland due to the extent of the damage.

I observed from the bridge of the Pride Of Rathlin the Stena Voyager enroute from Stranraer to Belfast. She appeared to be travelling at around 12 knots and taking a very northerly course to Larne – obviously due to the structural damage her crew did not wish to place too great stress on her temporary repairs. Would have made an interesting film though if I’d had a camcorder with me, a 26-year-old conventional ferry speeding past one of the world’s fastest ferries!

Rather humorously I’m told the rumour amongst freight drivers on hearing Stranraer – Belfast sailings were cancelled was that "Stena had gone bust". Just goes to show how rumours appear from nowhere!


On Saturday morning I was browsing round the shop at the Maritime Museum when I came across some interesting items for sale, some of which would be directly of interest to shipping enthusiasts.

Apparently a stock of old museum publications have come to light and are being sold off at just 50p each! One of the more interesting items was the "Handbook and Guide to the Shipping Gallery in the Public Museums Liverpool" This is a illustrated guide to the shipping gallery in the Liverpool Museum, William Brown Street. Much of the museum and some of the more valuable ship models being destroyed during an air raid. What is more remarkable about this guide book is that it is brand new, despite being published in 1932! The only hint of its age is a slightly musty smell! Also available are "Shipping Museums" a review of ship museums with particular reference to ship models, no publication date but I would guess around 1950 – 1960. Plus a report illustrated with real photos entitled "Maritime Museum Survey" which reviews principal European Maritime Museums. Again it looks to date from the 1950s to 1960s a period when Liverpool was considering the establishment of a Maritime Museum.

Also there are contemporary reports detailing the destruction of the Liverpool Museum and also issued to commemorate the reopening in 1963 after it's reconstruction. Quite a few other books and booklets are available covering non maritime items. I'd suggest that anyone interested gets down there quite quickly. The lady on the counter said they were amazed that the material was selling quite quickly. Not surprising really! If you can't get there you could call the museum on 0151 478 4499. The museum ship accepts credit cards so I dare say you could probably get them to post something off to you.



Merchant Ferries have confirmed a further two ro-pax vessels of the type now used on the Liverpool – Dublin route have been ordered which will be introduced on a new Liverpool – Belfast route next year. This development gives Northern Ireland three passenger routes to England with Merchant
Ferries joining Seacat Scotland to Heysham and Norse Irish Ferries on the Belfast – Liverpool route.

DAWN MERCHANT had an unfortunate mishap in Langton Lock on Thursday resulting in damage, which will see the vessel off service for at least a week. She was taken over to Cammell Laird for attention. Consequently BRAVE MERCHANT departing Liverpool 23.00 and Dublin 09.00 is working the still freight only service. Hopefully DAWN MERCHANT will be back in service for the inauguration of passenger services on March 1.

MERCHANT BRILLIANT remains on Merseyside, berthed at the north side of Bidston Dock, in the opposite corner to SUPERSEACAT TWO.

With the start of the new Liverpool – Dublin service various changes have taken place to the fleet allocations of Belfast Freight Ferry/Merchant Ferries. The MERCHANT BRILLIANT and MERCHANT BRAVERY are going to Belfast Freight Ferries, in return for the RIVER LUNE (and the SAGA MOON, which was transferred last year). The MERCHANT VENTURE is currently available for charter, and not currently used by either company. But given that Merchant Ferries have also revealed that a third vessel will be added to the Heysham – Dublin service as soon as additional berthing is made available at the Irish port it is possible that the MERCHANT VENTURE will re-enter service with the company. Merchant Ferries' Heysham - Dublin service will operate with two ferries and be reduced in frequency - Heysham ex 06.30, 24.00 and Dublin ex 12.00, 19.00. Though of course, with the new Liverpool service there will, overall, be a large increase in capacity.

Belfast Freight Ferries get two ferries in return for one and so will end the charter DART 4 at the end of February. The other ships on the Belfast route are the SPHEROID and RIVER LUNE.


This week the company reported that pre-tax profits had increased by £13 million to £47.6 million on a turnover just up £11 million to £180 million.

The port also reported a 54.4% increase in passenger numbers mainly as a result of the Superseacat service between Liverpool and Dublin with further increases are expected this year thanks to the new Merchant Ferries service and increased sailings to the Isle of Man. Ro-ro traffic is also expected to increase this year.

Eleven people were arrested for aggravated trespass on Thursday night during an attempt by Greenpeace to stop the import of genetically modified soya which was due to arrive at Seaforth from the USA.

The protestors climbed to the top of a grain discharge facility and deployed a banner reading Ban Gene Food. Earlier on Thursday police officers confiscated four inflatable dinghies at a service station in Cheshire.


The JETLINER remains in Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock.


I have still not found any more information about the proposed operation of the former German ferry HABICHT II for coastal cruises during 1999.


Graham K Mackenzie. [] writes:

In my spare time, I am the chairman of The Solent Steam Packet Ltd; a charity that owns and operates the steam ship "SHIELDHALL" in Southampton.

We had hoped to attend the Mersey River festival this year, but it looks as if funding to bring the ship round will be a problem.

Your readers may be interested in making an excursion on "SHIELDHALL" during the summer months and I have attached a copy of this year's programme for those that may be interested. There are discounts of 10% available for parties of 10 or more full fare paying adults.


17th July: Cruise to Swanage, Swanage Rly & coach £24
18th July: Coastguard and/or RNLI exercise £22.50
31st July: Cruise to Swanage, Swanage Rly & coach £24
1st August: Solent cruise and view Cowes Regatta £22.50
6th August: Cowes Fireworks, includes supper and Jazz Band £25
7th August: Start of Fastnet Race £22.50
8th August: Passage to Weymouth, return to Southampton by coach £25
11th August: From Weymouth to mid Channel, Total Eclipse £40
15th August: From Weymouth to Swanage Bay and Poole. Return to Weymouth by coach £22.50
22nd August: From Poole to Southampton. Return to Poole by coach. £22.50
28th August: Cruise to Swanage, Swanage Rly & coach £24
29th August: IOW Coastal Cruise and Bournemouth Bay £22.50
11th September: Cruise to Swanage, Swanage Rly & coach £24
12th September: IOW Coastal Cruise £22.50

All excursions depart from Southampton, berth to be decided, unless indicated otherwise. With the exception of the Swanage excursions, departure is 10:00 and returns approx. 17:30 Swanage excursions depart at 08:30 sharp, returning approx. 20:00 Landing fees for Swanage Pier are included in the ticket price.

The Captain's decision on cancellation or modification to the sailing programme as a result of bad weather or other causes is final.

Refreshments are available.

Please Note: The sailing on the 11th August is fully booked.

Bookings in advance can be made to the ship, at Ocean Village, Southampton. SO1 1JS, or by phone to Mike King on 01703 225853. Major credit cards are accepted.

If your readers wish to find out more details of "SHIELDHALL", a search on "SHIELDHALL" will yield a few sites. Warsash Maritime Bookshop and King Edwards VI School sites are worthy of a second look as they contain photographs of the ship and a graphic of a triple expansion engine.

Of more local interest may be that back in November, one of our Chief Engineers and myself journeyed to Millom in Cumbria to salvage some parts (with the owners agreement) from the "ROBERT WEIR" another Lobnitz built steamship that is slowly being dismantled. Close by were the grab dredger "CLEARWATER" and tug "CHIPCHASE". All important relics from the past awaiting the ship breakers torch.

Your readers may like to know that we have many copies of the book commissioned by Alexandra Towing to celebrate their centenary back in 1990. The author is J.Nicholson and the hard back book originally retailed for over £20. We are selling them for £5 each plus postage. All proceeds go towards the continued upkeep of "SHIELDHALL". If anyone is interested, they can email me or contact me by phone on 01962 865132, evenings and weekends."


Operational problems on the Rosslare – Pembroke route currently being operated by NORMANDY whilst ISLE OF INNISFREE is operating HOLYHEAD – DUBLIN is resulting in delays of two to three hours this weekend.

The Irish Continental Group has reported a record year in financial, passenger and freight terms. Pre-tax profit increased by 21% to IR£17 million for the year to 31 October 1998 whilst turnover for the same period increased by 21% to IR£168 million. The increased profits were put down to natural growth along with the acquisition of Eurofeeders, which contributed sales of IR£5 million. Irish Ferries offer sailings between Dublin and Holyhead and from Rosslare to Pembroke. The Eurofeeders service operates from Belfast whilst its Eurocon division operates from Warrenpoint.

Group Chairman, Thomas G Toner said:

"During this year we invested heavily in training and development of our people with the aim of increasing our customer focus. We are also investing considerably in enhancing our marketing effort through maximum use of technology.

We have also taken the initiative of extending our share options to all our permanent employees aligning their interests with that of the shareholders".

With all three Irish Ferries’ vessels currently carrying record loads the signs would appear to be good for the introduction of the new high speed catamaran Jonathan Swift on the Dublin service later in the year. It is fascinating to see how significant a ferry firm’s fortunes can be turned around by intelligent and innovative allocation of tonnage.


Survey vessel HMS ROEBUCK arrived at Canada #1 Branch Dock on Friday morning, 20 February.


A new IR£2.9 million galley and dining complex was opened by the Irish Minister for Defence at the Haulbowline Naval HQ at Cobh, County Cork on Friday 19 February.

The new facility is dedicated to Leading-Seaman Michael Quinn DSM, serving aboard LE DEIREDRE, who died when he and AB Paul Kellett went to answer a distress call from the Spanish owned, but British flagged, trawler NEUSTRA SENORA DE GARDOTZA. The vessel, which had grounded in Bantry Bay during a gale in January 1990, had misreported its position.
Both men were flung into the sea when the Gemini inflatable capsized. Seaman Kellett managed to reach shore and raise the alarm. The body of LS Quinn was recovered by the Irish Air Corps the following day whilst the trawler's crew were rescued by the RAF.

The Spanish Cross of Naval Merit was awarded to both men by the King of Spain, whilst the then Minister for Defence John Wilson, awarded the men the Distinguished Service Medal [with Merit]


Ships currently undergoing work in Cammell Lairds are: PEREGRINE VII, the dredger NORSTAR, PEVERIL and DAWN MERCHANT. The crane barge BALDUR is also present as are the laid up Fisher tankers.

A new ship simulator facility is to be built and operated on part of the Cammell Laird site by John Moores University. The ship simulator centre will cost £1.6 million and will open in 2000.

Whilst ship simulators have been used for training for many years, this new facility will have wrap around displays which will provide a more realistic bridge experience. Over 500 hundred trainees are expected to use the facility in its first three years.

John Luxton

February 21, 1999

Back Home Up Next



This week things have been a little quieter on the news front. However, there are several additions to the Maritime Queries section both as queries and answers. There are more Irish Sea Ferry photographs from Philip Parker and I have posted my first batch of Merchant Ferries pictures depicting DAWN MERCHANT shortly after her arrival on Merseyside in January. I went down to the MF terminal again yesterday and took further photographs this time of both DAWN MERCHANT and BRAVE MERCHANT side by side – these should be on –line in the next couple of weeks. Towering above the Dock Road, bow inwards they make an impressive site and I guess the passing drivers slowing or stopping to take a look were not all enthusiasts! Finally there are pictures of SEACAT DANMARK as she arrived in Canada Graving Dock for refit on 23 January.

Next week I should have an Irish Ferries and Sea Containers voyage report. Yes its half term and I can go wandering. I am off to Ireland tomorrow with IF until Thursday then off for a day trip on the LADY OF MANN to Douglas on Friday. Consequently, there will be no e-mail replies from early Monday morning until Thursday evening.


SUPERSEACAT TWO has vacated Wright and Beyer's yard to allow P&O's JETLINER to enter earlier in the week. She is now berthed at the south side of Bidston Dock looking quite fresh in her new paint. However, the SUPERSEACAT logo is missing from the side. This was the case when she first arrived on Merseyside in January 1998. Also there are no sign of the "Bagpus" cat logos. There does not appear to have been any noticeable exterior changes. Work was still underway on board, access being gained via her port vehicle ramp which was suspended above the quay wall with a gangway leading to it. Sea Containers issued a press release this week announcing a the Wright and Beyer refit under the heading "Sea Containers – Investing In Merseyside. Though this appeared rather late as SSC2 has been at W&B's since the Liverpool to Dublin service ended for the refit period in January!

SEACAT DANMARK remains in Canada Graving Dock, Liverpool.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN remains in Vittoria Dock, keeping PEVERIL company.

CHANGE IN LIVERY: Gary Andrews reports that the Holyman Hoverspeed Dover – Ostend vessels, have had another slight change in livery. The RAPIDE has re-entered service at Dover following a four week refit at Portsmouth with a small "Hoverspeed" logo near the bow and with "Oostende – Dover" and "Seacat" also appearing on the superstructure. The DIAMANT is currently receiving the same treatment at Falmouth. It was announced recently in the shipping press that Sea Containers had appointed consultants to revamp the Hoverspeed brand. Perhaps we are seeing preparations for a Sea Co corporate identity to be unveiled later in the year?

NEW GENERAL MANAGER: Sea Containers has appointed a General Manager for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Douglas Grant was previously company secretary and financial controller. Prior to that he was general manager of SeaCat Scotland. It is many years since the IoMSPCo has had a post of general manager. The last holder of the position being Mr. S.R. Shimmin who was invited to join the board as Managing Director in 1972.


I now have more information on the ANNIE II, which has been reported to be the vessel considered for a possible Whitehaven – Douglas passenger service. Geoffrey Hamer forwarded the following information:

"If the ship [ANNIE II] has a swimming pool, that suggests something in the Mediterranean, and there happens to be a Greek day cruise ship named IFIGENEIA ANNA II which was for sale last autumn; the "II" on the end of the name gives this some credibility. She is 688 grt, 62.0 m long, and was built in 1962 as one of a pair of passenger and cargo ships for the service to the Lipari Islands north of Sicily.

She was sold in 1983, having been replaced by a car ferry, and went to A & G Kyrtatas (Cycladic Cruises) who renamed her CITY OF POROS and rebuilt her for day cruises in Greece. She joined the CITY OF PIRAEUS (the MAID OF ARGYLL from the Clyde) and CITY OF HYDRA (MacBrayne's CLAYMORE of 1955) on the one-day cruise from Pireas to Aiyina, Poros and Idra. The CITY OF POROS was in the news in July 1988 when she was attacked by terrorists and nine passengers were killed. She was repaired and returned to service, but Kyrtatas got into financial difficulties and the ships were laid-up.

The 'POROS was sold and renamed IFIGENEIA ANNA II in 1997. Last autumn, she was advertised for sale at $1.5 million (probably an inflated price) by Turkish brokers. The ad said that she had 32 berths. I don't know her day capacity, but 600 would be about right".


On Saturday BRAVE MERCHANT and DAWN MERCHANT were at the Liverpool Terminal, both facing inwards to the Dock [Regent] Road. A new fleet of trailer tugs has arrived and stand beneath the former transit shed on the north side of the dock. As does a small bus presumably to be used for boarding foot passengers. BRAVE MERCHANT has now been re-registered in Douglas. Everything looks ready for operations to commence. Freight traffic should commence on Monday 15th February with passenger services now due to start on Monday 1st March.

The Liverpool Echo reports that two further vessels have been ordered from Spain and will be delivered next year. Another Liverpool – Belfast service being suggested!

MERCHANT BRILLIANT is now berthed at the north side of Bidston Dock, Birkenhead at the former Iron Ore Terminal berth.  

P&O NEWS by Gary Andrews

An announcement from P&O European Ferries is expected within the next month concerning the firm’s new Irish Sea vessels. It is understood Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has beaten the Dutch yard of Van Der Geissen De Noord for the deal and that work is about the commence. The first vessel will almost certainly replace the Pride Of Rathlin on the Larne – Cairnryan route in 2000 (the date is unclear with reports varying between Christmas 1999 (!) and summer 2001). The initial ship will cost somewhere in the region of $50 - $60 million and at such a competitive price it is understood a major series of vessels could be built to replace much of the P&O Irish Sea fleet. The new ship will be around 19,000 grt, sail at 22-knots and have a capacity of 410 passengers and 1,700 lane metres.

It is understood a second vessel is very likely with some sources suggesting she will replace the European Navigator on the Dublin – Liverpool route. It is suggested the second vessel will be slightly longer but with a similar passenger capacity to the Larne vessel. If it comes to pass this would be a significant development of the new "Value route" concept.

Whilst I would confidently assume the information regarding the first vessel, details regarding further vessels seem to very speculative at this stage with some suggestions that every P&O vessel at Larne will be replaced by newly built vessels within the next few years. There are wider considerations; for example it’s still widely believed the Ardrossan service will be moved to a new base being built by Clydeport. In such an event it would seem an ideal time to replace the European Highlander. Additionally there is speculation P&O will offer a high-speed service to such a "Glasgow" port. If such an event takes place it is likely to dramatically change passenger operations to Cairnryan with the Jetliner service ceasing.

At the same time there is speculation that a larger high-speed catamaran will replace the Jetliner next summer, possibly from Incat or Austal. (Rumours that she will be replaced this year are almost certain to be unfounded). Local rumours that the ‘Rathlin will be replaced this year also seem a bit far fetched as to the best of my knowledge there are no suitable replacement vessels available for this summer.

The situation regarding P&OEF’s new build programme will only become clear in the weeks and months ahead but I would suspect that the eventual results will be very significant. At this stage all I would be fairly certain of is that a new ro-pax vessel will replace the Pride Of Rathlin in the next few years. It also seems probable the Jetliner’s charter will not be renewed when it expires next year, as does the likelihood of the Ardrossan service moving to a new base. However, at this stage any rumours regarding the exact deployment of vessels is pure speculation given it is believed the ships are being built on the basis that one vessel is being built with an option for a second.

Let us not forget when speculation began some time ago that new vessels were to be built for P&OEF the second vessel was rumoured to be for the Portsmouth services!

The Jetliner ceased operations on the evening of 8 February for annual refit. She was observed on the morning of 9 February stern in at Larne (she usually berths bow in) and later she was observed bow in. I cannot be sure but I think her marine evacuation system was undergoing tests and I think her "evacuation chutes" were tested at Larne Harbour.

The Jetliner left Larne at 2330 on 9 February for Birkenhead for her Wright and Beyer refit. She is due to stay on the Mersey yard for five weeks. I observed the European Trader laid up at the Jetliner berth on the afternoon of 13 February. It is fairly normal that when the Jetliner is off the route, the berth is used as a lay-up berth for freight vessels to save them lying off the port.


Survey vessels HMS ROEBUCK [H130] and HMS BULLDOG [H317] noted in Canada #1 Branch Dock last weekend, departed on Monday 7 February.

John Luxton

February 14, 1999

Back Home Up Next



First of all I wish to announce that Mersey Shipping has joined the Maritime Ring of Web sites which will increase its exposure further and provide instant links to a wide variety of other elated sites. Details of the Maritime Ring can be found at the bottom of the front page.

As well as the usual news up dates there are a number of other additions: Philip Parker has supplied me with a number of nostalgic images of the British & Irish Steam Packet Company's vessels on Merseyside during the 1980s – CONNACHT, LEINSTER, TIPPARARY, INNISFALLEN and MUNSTER. Do check them out – several pictures were taken at the B&I terminal the remains of which I featured a few weeks ago. The bow view of CONNACHT at the linkspan makes an interesting comparison with one of my recent photographs taken from almost the same position in January.

I have also inserted a major Photographic Feature depicting the Prince's Dock, Princes Half Tide, Waterloo Dock and Waterloo River Entrance photographed in 1994 and 1999. I decided it was time to capture the current scene before the remains of the maritime heritage in that area disappears beneath even more commercial and residential developments!

From Justin Merrigan is an article on the HIBERNIA – a classic British Railways ferry from the Dun Laoghaire – Holyhead route.

Within the News Bulletin itself there is additional material from Gary Andrews,  R. Watson and Graham Johnston.

As new pages are posted it is time to review older material – as a result the old gallery pages featuring Dublin Port and the new passenger terminal have now gone. These have been around for some time. Overall a photo feature gallery has an on-line life of around 6 to 8 months. Incidentally when material is removed it does not go into the "recycle bin" but is archived; therefore the material can be posted in full or in part at a later date on request.

Once again I'd like to thank everyone who has made a contribution to this week's update.



There has been quite a bit of news this week much of it emanating from a press release issued on 29th January but which missed last Sunday's News Update.

Some time ago Sea Containers announced that the company was in negotiations to purchase another ferry operator. For several months I dare say enthusiasts have considered just about every option. It came as something of a surprise to find out that the company concerned was a Holyman subsidiary Express Navigation Inc. that provides ferry services in New York, purchased for $5 million

"Express Navigation provides services with three passenger ferries between Wall Street's Pier 11 on Manhattan's East Side to Highlands and Atlantic Highlands in New Jersey and Pier 4 in Brooklyn. The three ferries are owned by subsidiaries of Hydrolines, Inc. a Delaware company which has time chartered them to Express Navigation on long term charters.

The profitable services of Express Navigation have been capacity constrained and the company's main terminal in Highlands, New Jersey needs to be expanded to allow for greater car parking. Holyman Ltd. decided to exit the business rather than make additional capital investment so it agreed to sell Express Navigation to Sea Containers. Sea Containers and Holyman own the successful Hoverspeed Holyman fast ferry service, which operates between Dover, England and Ostend, Belgium.

Mr. James B. Sherwood, President of Sea Containers Ltd., said that Express Navigation was the company's first passenger transport investment in the United States and will form a part of a group of U.S. based ferry services which the company would seek to acquire or initiate in the coming years. More, larger and faster vessels will be introduced on Express Navigation's routes as soon as they can be obtained."

The acquisition of a commuter ferry service was certainly a surprise. The last operation of this kind was "Wightlink" which the company disposed of some months before buying out IoMSPCo. Perhaps Sea Co might one day consider buying the Mersey Ferries?

However, the press release did not just concern the new American operation. Something even more interesting was revealed the introduction of a SuperSeaCat service "between Brindisi, Italy, Patras, Greece and Cesme, Turkey starting in the summer of 1999. James Sherwood said the company had been in discussion with the Turkish government for many months about acquiring their Italy - Turkey ferry business but the ruling coalition had collapsed over allegations of malpractice involving another privatisation, and it is not expected that discussions will resume until after the new elections in April, 1999.

In the meantime the ships operated on the route provide a very poor service so Sea Containers has decided to implement independently its plans for the route. The service will take 15 hours between Brindisi and Cesme compared with two days today for the Turkish ships."

At present it is not clear which SUPERSEACAT will be deployed on the Italy – Turkey route, though one would guess that for such a long route significant modifications in terms of accommodation would be required to that provided on the present vessels.

SUPERSEACAT TWO remains in Wright and Bayer's dry dock.

SEACAT DANMARK is undergoing refit at Canada Graving Dock, Liverpool.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN returned to Merseyside after over a year's absence arriving at Alfred Lock on Wednesday morning. She then proceeded to Vittoria Dock berthing bow to bow with PEVERIL. It was noted that since her last appearance on the Mersey all traces of the escape walkways, which ran along the main cabin roof to moveable stairs, have been removed. Their presence made her look somewhat ugly compared to the other Incat vessels. When I visited Vittoria Dock on Saturday she looked very smart and was flying the Hoverspeed SeaCat pennant from her jack-staff.

PEVERIL remains laid up in Vittoria Dock, visiting the dock on Saturday 6th February; it was noted that the white paintwork has been redone; though no work has been done on the hull or funnels.


Speaking to Dave Worth, editor of Manxlink Magazine, a few days ago he informed me that a contact in the Isle of Man had heard mention on Manx Radio information concerning a proposed seasonal passenger service from Whitehaven, Cumbria to Douglas using a passenger only vessel. It would have a capacity of around 600 passengers with 30 or so cabins and – a swimming pool! Further enquiries have so far revealed that this vessel bears the name ANNIE II. I have checked out the Ship Watch Directory and can find no matching passenger ship of this name.

Interestingly though if one takes away the swimming pool, and I am not certain about if she has any cabins, the capacity would match that probably available on PRINCESS ROYAL formerly the little German ferry HABICHT II which still lies laid up in Liverpool. As the title PRINCESS ROYAL is that held by HRH Princess Anne – well perhaps there might just be a connection – given that it has been announced that it is the intention to return this vessel to service this year operating a coastal cruise programme? If anyone has any more information please let me know.


BRAVE MERCHANT arrived on Sunday evening 31 January. On Friday 5th February she was blown off her berth across Canning #3 Branch Dock by gales. Apparently her stern ramp was deployed on the quayside. This appears to have caught an Armco barrier beside the ramp, which was ripped, out of the quay. The Liverpool Echo had the story as headline news on Friday and a photograph showed Howard Smith tugs CANADA and COLLINGWOOD pulling the vessel back onto her berth. According to the paper her ramp was reported to be badly twisted. When viewed on Saturday morning the ramp was marked but still looked okay again being open on the quayside.

DAWN MERCHANT – with the arrival of BRAVE MERCHANT, the other ship was noted to be at the West Langton Liner Terminal on Saturday 6th February.

The vessels have also been out on trial voyages this week.


In addition to the problems experienced by BRAVE MERCHANT on Friday 6 February another ship ran into difficulties during Friday's gales. The POL DAISY [13000 grt] carrying steel coils from India ran into difficulties on the approach to Eastham Lock, entrance to the Manchester Ship Canal. She ended up on a sandbank and was forced to wait until high tide to float off.


Survey vessels HMS ROEBUCK [H130] and HMS BULLDOG [H317] arrived at Langton Lock and berthed at Canada #1 Branch Dock [North] on Friday morning 5 February. It looks as though this berth will become the regular one used by visiting warships given the opening of the Merchant Ferries Terminal at Canada #3 Branch Dock.


The flotilla of small minesweepers from Norway, Germany, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands which comprised: VIDAR and RAUMA [M352], of Norway; DORDRECHT [M852] of the Netherlands; CROCUS [M917] of Belgium and FRANKENTHAL [M1066] of Germany and SANDOWN [M101] of UK departed on Monday 1st February.

NEW BRIGHTON OBSERVATIONS – 31st January by R Watson

"What a treat we had this morning! I think we missed an ACL in earlier, but we saw the STOLT TERN heading out around 10.30. Then the very large BONA FULMAR, with Tugs in attendance, was manoeuvred towards Gladstone where she waited just outside for the KIMBERLEY, with her cargo of scrap iron, to emerge.

Meanwhile the LADY OF MANN slipped elegantly past on her way to the Landing Stage followed by the large tanker MANHATTAN bound for Tranmere. Then the main act (11.45 approx.)... The NATO flotilla. A couple of other enthusiasts had arrived by this time and together "we counted them out"...all six of them with the RUAMA bringing up the rear in fine style. Passing them on the way in the PORT JONVILLE, AMETTE THERESA (?), ARKLOW FORTUNE, CLWYD SUPPORTER, BRODOSPAS MOON... Saturation point had been reached in just over two hours so it was time to head for our "home port"."


The ISLE OF INNISFREE is to be refitted by A&P of Falmouth. The Rosslare – Pembroke route being operated by NORMANDY during her absence.


A new container service was launched this week linking the Clyde and Mersey. The new service operated by MDHC owned Coastal Container Line is aimed at providing a cost effective and environmentally friendly link between Clydeport and Liverpool removing many lorries from the roads.

The principal cargos at present at wood pulp and whisky conveyed by three return sailings each week. The link will give Scottish exporters easier access to international shipping services operated from Merseyside.


Over the years Pandoro carried a certain amount of tourist traffic, many sailings having a few cars and their passengers aboard. This was a relatively low-key affair and to some extent was mainly used by those "in the know". One of the main reasons for the lack of publicity for the service was said to be that Pandoro did not have the infrastructure to cope with taking passenger bookings and given the relatively low number of passengers involved the cost of doing so would prove prohibitive.

With the creation of P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) this meant that the Larne – Cairnryan passenger service was now fully integrated with the Irish Sea Freight operations. With a call centre at Larne for the Cairnryan operation, from late 1998 the Fleetwood service was advertised to a limited extent. Due to exceptional demand P&O European Ferries have now branded certain sailings on the Fleetwood – Larne, Liverpool – Dublin and Rosslare – Cherbourg services "Value routes" and they are advertised to the general public in the firm’s main ferry guide. Therefore making these sailings basically mainstream passenger sailings, albeit still to a limited extent as there is bound to be a cap on the number of passengers accepted for each trip to allow the remaining capacity to be taken by accompanied freight drivers.

P&O is keen to promote the service, stating that they are offering "More Choice, More routes and More Value to motorists." Sales and Marketing Manager James Esler commented:

"Although primarily for freight, for some time now we have been carrying a few motorists on these routes on the occasional basis and subject to availability of space. The response, however, has encouraged the company to include these additional "Value Routes" as part of our 1999 programme."

P&O are keen to stress the "new services" will not lead to any reduction in service on the Cairnryan service (a comment possibly aimed at SeaCat Scotland’s reduced service to Stranraer in favour of Troon). Last year the Cairnryan service recorded a 7.5% increase in tourist vehicles compared to an overall decrease of 2% in the Loch Ryan market (put down to poor Summer weather and the unsettled political climate).

P&O currently have a New Year sale promotional fare on the Larne – Cairnryan service starting at £99 for a car and two persons.

On the 6.5-hour Larne – Fleetwood route, the sailings offered to motorists are the morning sailings from both ports. The EUROPEAN PIONEER normally leaves Larne at 1000, the EUROPEAN SEAFARER leaving Fleetwood at the same time. Fares start at £49.50 return per person (based on a car + 2 passengers), compared with £37.50 with Norse Irish on similar sailings on the Belfast - Liverpool route. (Based on a car + 4 passengers). Therefore, P&O are very competitive by comparison if any less than 4 passengers wish to travel. Additionally the Liverpool route is two hours longer even if the vessels offer a much wider range of facilities and can cater for foot passengers unlike the Larne based route.

Basically, I would argue both routes offer exceptional value for money (both providing free meals and excellent fares.) The choice between them would depend entirely upon personal circumstances.

It also must be said, in P&O’s favour, that on the Larne route one can choose any day of the week whilst daytime sailings on the Belfast service are only available Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Conversely, no night sailings are offered on the Fleetwood – Larne crossing.

The Dublin – Liverpool "Value Route" applies to the 0930 sailing ex Dublin Tuesday to Saturday (operated by the EUROPEAN ENVOY) and 2200 sailing on Sundays. From Liverpool the sailings involved are the 1000 Tuesday to Saturday (operated by the EUROPEAN LEADER) and the 2200 on Sundays. With a sailing time of 8 hours prices start from £60 return per person (based on a car plus two passengers). I do not have prices for the new Merchant Ferries operation to offer a fair comparison. Needless to say the prices for the SuperSeaCat Liverpool – Dublin service cannot really be used as a comparison, being on a high-speed car ferry and taking half the time. However, the price with P&O would be £270 for an open return in the peak season for a car, driver and four passengers. A similar price for the SuperSeaCat service would be £518 but I stress that this is not a truly fair comparison.

LATE UPDATE: From information just received, prices on the Merchant Ferries Liverpool – Dublin service would appear to be fairly similar to those of P&O on the same route. The two big advantages being the larger vessels and the choice of day or evening sailings each day of the week.

The 18 hour Rosslare – Cherbourg route operated by the EUROPEAN PATHFINDER is offered from Rosslare on Tuesdays at 2200, Thursdays at 2100 and Saturdays at 1600. Sailings from Cherbourg are Wednesdays at 2100, Fridays at 1900 and Sundays at 1400. Prices start at £150 per person, based on a car (plus two passengers). At certain times the service is directly against the Rosslare - Cherbourg service offered by Irish Ferries with the NORMANDY. Again, direct comparisons are unfair given that one vessel is a "Cruiseferry", the other being essentially a freight ferry. However, a similar price for the Irish Ferries route (with a similar cabin to the free 2-berth cabin offered on the EUROPEAN PATHFINDER) would be £145. But given the free meals offered by P&O the total price for Irish Ferries would ultimately be slightly more and the cabin would be on a lower deck on the NORMANDY.

As with the other services, the biggest savings by travelling on the "Value Routes" come in peak periods. Aside from the actual prices the other attractions of the "new" services are the free meals, free cabin on the Cherbourg route and for shipping enthusiasts the sense of a true trip at sea (with absolutely no children’s entertainers or pathetic live singers).

P&O are keen to point out that these services are not ideal for disabled passengers. The routes are also not available for foot passengers. I would generally add they might not be completely ideal for families. One must also remember these are essentially freight ships, not even ro-pax vessels and facilities are very limited. But without a doubt these routes offer terrific value and having experienced the Larne – Fleetwood route (and the freight vessels of the Larne – Cairnryan route) on a number of occasions I can truly recommend the services.

If at some stage, as has long been rumoured, the EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR is transferred to the Larne- Ardrossan route we can expect the "Value Route" concept to also be applied to a further service. The current Ardrossan vessel, the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER has a capacity for only 12 drivers and this is almost always reached with demand stripping out supply. Across the value routes, currently most peak sailings are unavailable to tourist traffic due to the demand on capacity by the drivers of accompanied units. However, one would suggest that if the operations are a success (which I suspect they will be) the long-term possibility of replacing the existing freight ships with ro-pax vessels of the type used by Norse Irish could not be ruled out.

To book any of the "Value routes" or the normal Larne – Cairnryan route phone P&O European Ferries on 0870 24 24 777 (within the UK). Reservations for the Fleetwood service have been available since autumn 1998, have become available today (1 February) for the Liverpool – Dublin route and will be available from 1 March for the Rosslare – Cherbourg route.

With a publicly declared intention to build new vessels for it’s Irish Sea operations P&O could clearly have some more exciting news to come. The plan is order the tonnage this year for delivery by the end of next year. At the moment it would appear that P&O could viably build two vessels of a similar nature to the BEN-MY-CHREE for the Cairnryan – Larne service to operate alongside a large high-speed catamaran. The Ardrossan based EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER needs replaced in the long-term as does the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR on the Liverpool – Dublin operation. It is suspected the firm may also upgrade the Fleetwood based vessel EUROPEAN SEAFARER to the standards of near sisters EUROPEAN PIONEER and EUROPEAN LEADER.

P&O NEWS by Gary Andrews

The PRIDE OF RATHLIN is back in service on the Larne – Cairnryan route. The JETLINER is due to be withdrawn between 8 February and 4 March for refit at Swansea.

P&O are reported to be very close to ordering two new ships for the services of P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea). The firm is said to have been talking to shipyards about 19,000 gt 22-knot vessels with a capacity of 410passengers and 1,700 lane metres. Either Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries or Van Der Geissen De Noord are thought to be the likely winners of the deal for the ferries costing $50 - $60 million each. The most likely route for the vessels is likely to be Larne – Cairnryan (in particular replacing the PRIDE OF RATHLIN) but Dublin – Liverpool and a new service to a Clydeport are also possible (though less likely) candidates. P&O is not commenting on the reports.

However, Managing Director of P&OEF (Irish Sea) John Kersey said at the time the European Leader returned to service in the autumn:

"Although the European Leader is now an excellent ship, we do have some older vessels on the Irish Sea and we must address the situation. As the economic forecast suggests further substantial growth for trade in Ireland, we will ensure that we are well equipped to sustain our position in providing the most versatile freight ferry services in the Irish Sea".

In the same statement the company said that it:

"Is planning to embark on a plan of re-tonnaging on its Irish Sea services with orders placed next year [1999] for delivery in 2000."


It is unclear if SUPERFERRY will operate on the Strintzis Lines route between Cork and Swansea this year. Apparently, Having sold the IONIAN STAR Strintzis Lines are a ship short for their Mediterranean services and have decided to use the SUPERFERRY there. Local management is supposed to be looking for a replacement. It is understand that the VANA TALLIN (EX DANA REGINA) and the KING OF SCANDINAVIA were considered but neither are available (the later being used to operate between Newcastle and Ijmuiden this year). It is however, understood that if no vessel is found (as seems likely) the SUPERFERRY will definitely return for the commencement of the service 15th March.


Local press reports continue to suggest that Cammell Laird may be involved in the construction of the new Royal Navy aircraft carriers.

Cammell Laird published significantly improved interim results on Thursday. During the past six-month's turnover has quadrupled. In the six months to 31st October turnover increased to £41.7 million compared to just £10.5 million in the same period the previous year. In doing so it has already passed the company's turnover for the whole of the previous financial year which stood at £31.7 million. The company now employs 2,300 workers with almost 1,000 at Birkenhead.

The company stated that the expansion of facilities would help it exploit rising demand for work on conversions, military ships, and vessels involved in deep water oil drilling.

The £33m acquisition of two groups in north-east England last September contributed £9m to a rise in turnover for the six months to October 31 from £10.5m to £41.8m.

Brett Martin, finance director, said the group now had the capacity to cater for many different sizes of ship. While its Jarrow yard was equipped for the largest vessels, its South Shields operation was suitable for rapid turnover contracts.

Mr. Martin said the group hoped to take advantage of deep-water oil drilling in places such as the Gulf of Mexico, the West Coast of Africa and the area west of Shetland. The steep increase in the amount of work in those areas meant Cammell would not suffer as a result of the low oil price.

Beeson Gregory, the company's broker, raised its full-year pre-tax profit forecast from £8.5m to £9.7m, compared with £4.2m last time. Its upgraded earnings per share forecast of 32.1p puts Cammell on a prospective multiple of 21.8.

The company will pay an interim dividend of 2p per share compared to 1.4p per share last year.


Listening to the Mersey Radio movements statement on Saturday the Belgian trawler DE ZEEMOUW was reported inbound at Langton. This little vessel, one of several trawlers operating out of Liverpool, was the centre of a major rescue operation after she caught fire in Liverpool Bay and was gutted in February 1998. Her crew being rescued by an offshore support vessel. Another trawler towed DE ZEEMOUW back to Belgium for repairs in March 1998.

7 February 1999


Visit for Transport, Industrial Heritage & Regional Digital Photographs and Growing Online 35mm Archive

Irish Sea Shipping - What's New July 2008Irish Sea Shipping - What's New August 2009Back Home Up Next 

Irish Sea Shipping © John H. Luxton 1995-2018. Content © John H. Luxton and Contributors