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Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond



MARCH 1999



Welcome to this week's Mersey Shipping news update. First of all I would like to express my appreciation for all the additional news and information that I have received during the past week. I would like to point out that an additional news bulletin was posted during the week concerning the GLACIERE, details and a hyper link to the bulletin are below.

Please note that from around 10.00 on Sunday 27 March until around 21.00 on Sunday 4 April there will be no e-mail replies as I will be away on holiday in the Isles of Scilly.

I regret that it has not been possible to make any further progress with the MERSEY SHIPPING LIVE! site due to continuing problems with the FrontPage extensions. I hope to be able to chase this matter up after I return from holiday.

In the meantime I trust everyone will have a pleasant Easter. Please note that the next update of the Mersey Shipping site and news posting will be on Monday 5 April.


I am taking this most unusual step to advise enthusiasts visiting Merseyside  of a hazard to be aware of if viewing vessels in part of Birkenhead Docks.

The hazard is not of a maritime nature, rather that provided by some of the locals in the Beaufort Road area of Birkenhead. Beaufort Road runs along the south side of the West Float and passes the entrance to Wright and Beyer's ship yard. Since August last year this was a through route, however, due to sewer construction work the road has been blocked near Buccleuch Street near W&B's entrance.

This area of Birkenhead, is acknowledged by the local press, as being one of the most deprived areas of Merseyside. Glancing at the remaining housing and associated graffiti you realise its is not a place to linger.

Until the Beaufort Road was blocked last year I would drive along taking a quick glance at what was in Wright and Beyers, but have always avoided stopping. Some of the gangs of youths that hang around the area and bits of brick and other debris to be seen in the carriageway suggest that its best to keep going.

However, with the road blocked, one is forced to go in and then turn, shortly before the road block is a zigzag created by large concrete blocks.

On Saturday morning spotting a P&O funnel from the Dock Road on the north side of the West Float, I decided to venture round to see what was in W&B's yard. Passing through the zigzag a young lad was seen playing on the disused railway track, which runs down the north side of the road near the shipyard.

Next thing "bang" he threw a stone at the car. Given the nature of the area I thought retreat was better than remonstration, making a hasty U turn and approaching the concrete blocks I saw two more children climbing on to them. I don't know if they also carried stones or other missiles as part of some ambush game – I didn't intend waiting to find out. Driving round to the entrance of Bidston dock before I stopped and discovered that I'd been lucky and there was only a very small dent and scratch in the front nearside wing.

I would seriously urge any shipping enthusiasts to exercise caution if they find themselves in this area of Birkenhead – The ship, by the way, I think was EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR in future unless I can identify the ship in W&B from the Dock Road on the north side of West Float or from Mersey Radio broadcasts I will not be venturing into Beaufort Road again.



PEVERIL – Remains in Vittoria Dock. If you missed last week's bulletin. Just a reminder that following her visit to Cammell Laird, she retains essentially an IoMSPCo livery, though her funnels are SeaCo red with the new SeaCo "Legs of Man" logo.

PICASSO – has returned to keep PEVERIL company after her short charter to Falcon and her brief moment of fame on the TV news several weeks ago when she lost all power in a channel storm.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN: Departed from Alfred Lock, Birkenhead at 09.30. Mersey Radio reported her at Liverpool Landing Stage at 13.10 following trails on the river. Later she proceeded to Douglas for crew familiarisation and training prior to entering service on March 31.

SUPERSEACAT TWO: The 11.00 sailing from Liverpool to Dublin on 21 March was cancelled due to bad weather. However, she did sail light at 13.00 hoping to bring back a delayed 16.00 sailing from Dublin. However she turned back to Liverpool at around 14.45.

SUPERSEACAT THREE:  The new vessel sailed light for Dublin at 10.35 on Sunday 21 March arriving at Dublin at 15.00 for berthing trials, following a reasonable crossing in stormy conditions which had seen SSC2, also running light as noted above, turn back. Obviously the new vessel which is equipped with a "T" foil has already proved its is more capable of coping what the Irish Sea can throw at it.

After departure from Dublin she headed to Douglas, where she arrived at 18.30 for more trials. She was expected back at Liverpool at 22.30.

SUPERSEACAT THREE left Liverpool again on 22 March at 06.00 for further Dublin trials. On her return to the Mersey she proceeded to Bidston Dock [south] for final preparations before she enters service on 8 April. She requires work such as the cleaning out and sealing of her long-range delivery fuel tanks (which then become buoyancy tanks) and the connecting up/fitting the service fuel tanks (which will be bigger than those on SUPERSEACAT TWO).

There is also some interior work to be done with regard to seating and the fitting of the Little Chef Express facility.

On Saturday morning Wright and Beyer's staff could be see at work on the vessel at Bidston, she is berthed in the same position as SSC2 was prior to that vessel's re entry into service. Her port side is being repainted or at least touched up. – Her paint looked very streaky last week!]

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has reported increased carryings for February following a continuing upward trend for the carrier.

A passenger figure of 16,350 for February 1999 shows a 6.5% increase on the figure for the same period in 1998, which was 15,351. February vehicle carryings were equally impressive with a 4.6% increase from 4,887 to 5,111 for the same period. Year to date figures of 28,582 passengers show a 5.3% increase over the same period in 1998 of 27,139 and vehicle carryings a 3.6% increase from 8,844 to 9,158. Freight carryings also continue to increase. February commercial vehicle meterage showed a 10.5% increase from 23,046 metres to 25,467 metres.

The figures confirmed by the Isle of Man Government's Department of Transport are the second consecutive month of record increases in all areas of the Company's business.

Douglas Grant, Isle Of Man Steam Packet General Manager said:

"It's great news for everybody and a tremendous start to what we hope will be another successful year".


I have received the following notes concerning the allocation of linkspan berths at Sea Containers Heysham Port:

The new passenger gangway at No1 linkspan for the BEN-MY-CHREE has been completed and she now normally uses this berth, adjacent to the passenger terminal, which will be shared with the SEACAT DANMARK on the new Belfast service.

This berth will also be used by the two Seatruck vessels going to Warrenpoint. The LADY OF MANN will probably berth on the South Quay to seaward of the linkspan berth.

Belfast Freight Ferries now use No 2 linkspan for the four ships on their Belfast service. The two vessels running for Merchant Ferries to Dublin now use No 3 linkspan.


BBC Scotland news programme "Reporting Scotland" reported this week that Sea Containers have been advised by Dumfries and Galloway District Council that if Seacat Scotland do not maintain the current level of service from Stranraer throughout the year then their "operators licence" will be withdrawn when due for renewal this July. I understand the minimum expected is three daily round trips.

I haven’t yet been able to make contact with any of my sources involved in politics in the Stranraer area but from memory I think the threat stems from the fact that Sea Containers use (or at least part of their operation uses) Council owned facilities, in particular West Pier. I’m not sure of the extent legally to which the local Council can act in this manner and it seems a rather foolish attitude to me as Sea Containers could quite easily decide just to move their entire operation to Troon. Who will use the facilities at Stranraer if Sea Containers pull-out altogether? – answer: nobody!

The SEACAT DANMARK continued to maintain the Belfast – Stranraer route this week. It is understood there was refurbishment work being undertaken to the

SEACAT SCOTLAND to prepare her for the new Troon route whilst the SEACAT DANMARK was still available to cover. The Belfast – Heysham route commences on 31 March. Apparently all three Irish Sea Incats are supposed to be having an internal refurbishment for this season.


The following article appeared in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard:


ANOTHER jobs blow could be dealt to the region following a council ultimatum to ferry operators Sea Containers this week. They have told the company to return to at least three daily SeaCat crossings from Stranraer to Belfast this summer or get off their West Pier site. Councillors have been enraged by advertising from the company encouraging customers to cut out the long trip through the south west by using other routes. And with only one sailing a day planned for the summer they feel that Sea Containers have already decided to quit Stranraer.

Local councillor Brian Park urged Tuesday's environment and infrastructure committee to give the company until July 31 to return to a reasonable service. "If they don't show such a commitment the lease of the terminal should be terminated on July 31," he said. Angered Councillor Robert Higgins was also angered by the company's promotion of new routes from Belfast to Heysham and Belfast to Troon. "After the support SeaCat has had from this authority I think they are basically sticking two fingers in our eyes. "We have accepted year after year of delay for the relocation of their terminal building. "But if the other sailings work I think they will withdraw entirely from Stranraer," he said.

Earlier this year the company promised that around 30 shore jobs and 55 crew jobs based in Stranraer were safe. Now local councillors fear this is not the case and the withdrawal could have a major impact. "I am really concerned by this negative advertising campaign," he said Alex Sloan. "It affects the whole of Dumfries and Galloway. "It is time for us to tell them exactly what we want for a change," he added. "I find it offensive what they are trying to do to the port of Stranraer." The council is seeking an urgent meeting with the company to discuss their future commitment to the town. A spokesman for Sea Containers could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, there has been a reassuring message from another ferry operator at Stranraer. Stena Line have re-confirmed their commitment to the town following speculation they might move operations to Port Glasgow. "Stena Line has been wrongly linked to the Clydeport development plans on several occasions and I would like to set the record straight that we have no plans to move from Stranraer," said route director Alan Gordon. "Our customers tell us very clearly that they want shorter crossing times and a high frequency of service and that is what we will continue to provide," he added.


The MV OVERCHURCH is expected back in service in June, after a major internal refit. The vessel will have new engines, larger enclosed areas which will be carpeted with upholstered seating, and a much improved public address system which should ensure the commentary is heard loud and clear throughout the vessel.


Since the sale of Swansea Cork Ferries by Strintzis Lines to Briar Star Limited, there have been some crew changes aboard the SUPERFERRY. Greek officers plus some deck crew and engine room crew remain. However, the stewards are now Polish and there are more Irish people on he 'hotel' side and apparently they still have the system where a steward takes you down to your cabin when you check in.

It appears that management is drawing upon the popularity of the Polish crew aboard the CELTIC PRIDE (aka ROGALIN) which was used until 1992. The service will run until November this year and then close for the winter. In recent years under Strintzis management it had operated until January.

IRISH FERRIES by Gary Andrews

Eamonn Rothwell, Managing Director of Irish Ferries parent company Irish Continental Group (ICG) has said that passenger fares on Irish Ferries will have to go up between 5% and 10% if duty-free is abolished, but that the introduction of VAT (as proposed by Germany) could be absorbed. Mr Rothwell told the Irish Independent that the loss of duty free was a serious issue to an island state such as Ireland that was dependent on fares:

"We would prefer the half-way house (the imposition of VAT on duty-free) than to have no house. It is a tourist industry issue. We need margins to replace our assets."

Mr Rothwell also stated that there were no signs of any economic slowdown in its main foreign markets, France and the UK, even though these two economies are not buoyant.

More interestingly for the ferry enthusiast Mr Rothwell revealed that the Irish Continental Group was unsure whether P&O will continue leasing the PRIDE OF BILBAO from ICG after May. He added that if not, then ICG would seriously consider using it as a luxury overnight ferry on continental routes and that other operators had also shown interest in the vessel telling the Irish Independent:

"We have had a lot of requests from ferry operators interested in the PRIDE OF BILBAO".

Irish Ferries have stated it will take a few years following the introduction of the high-speed JONATHAN SWIFT onto the Irish Sea for demand to reach full capacity. The group also revealed that it currently has no plans to buy or build any further vessels, Mr Rothwell commenting:

"At a time when the abolition of duty-free may make some northern European ferry journeys uncommercial, you don't go out buying a vessel."

It is not clear what the situation is with the PRIDE OF BILBAO, it may be (and it is probably the case) that the paper work simply isn’t finalised, but it is still curious that the charter renewal hasn’t been finalised.

Additionally, with the re-birth of the Continental routes due to the use of the NORMANDY, Irish Ferries may be glad of the opportunity to use their own vessel. It is also rumoured that Irish Ferries are hoping to replace the NORMANDY with something bigger when her charter runs out at the end of this season.

As mentioned previously, Swansea Cork Ferries will need a replacement vessel for 2000. If Irish Ferries get the PRIDE OF BILBAO for their Continental services, the Normandy would be a suitable vessel for the Swansea route.

Below follows an extract from the "Operations and Financial Review – Ferries Division" of Irish Continental Group 1998 Annual Report to bring you up to date in the status of Irish Ferries operations.


Profit before interest in the Ferries Division rose by 14% to Euro28.4 million/IR22.4 million on turnover of Euro137 million/IR108 million. Irish Ferries continued to make excellent progress in developing its passenger and freight business throughout the year.

Recognising the increased demand for excellence in customer service and the changing expectations of the market, the company commenced a substantial initiative throughout all areas of the business known as Customer First. This initiative, which includes virtually all staff, will become the platform for the ongoing development of a customer driven business which will embrace the anticipated changes within the passenger and freight markets in the coming years. Towards the end of the year, a new route-based management structure was introduced with the aim of aligning our management processes more closely with the operational requirements of the business and the needs of our customers.


Overall passenger numbers grew by 3% to a record 1.60 million. On the Irish Sea passenger numbers were unchanged at 1.41 million. Volume gains on the Central Corridor were offset by a decline on the Southern Corridor from the record volumes achieved in 1997. On a two-year perspective, passenger carryings on the Southern Corridor have increased 53% from the level achieved in 1996 prior to the introduction of the ISLE OF INNISFREE.

On the Ireland/France route, where we introduced the m.v. NORMANDY in April, passenger numbers grew 23% to 186,000 vindicating our decision to upgrade capacity on the route.

Significant events included the winning of four awards for our passenger activities - the East Telecom/Dublin Tourism Business Through Tourism in Dublin Overall Award and Travel & Transport Award, the Irish Travel Trade Best Ferry Company Award and the Travel Bulletin Magazine (UK) Top Specialist Ferry Company Award. Irish Ferries also became one of the first in the industry to offer genuine on-line reservations through its Internet Site.

On the Ireland-France service, in another first in the Irish Ferry market, the company introduced a comprehensive on-board entertainment package, including the very successful "Normandy Nights" cabaret show, which was created especially for our customers. In seeking to listen and respond to customer needs, Irish Ferries has invested in the development of a number of market projects which are providing crucial insights into the nature of the Irish Ferry travel market whilst providing opportunities for new business.

The introduction of the company's new "Dublin Swift" fast ferry service on the Dublin-Holyhead route in June 1999 will allow the positioning of Irish Ferries in an alternative segment of the market. The continuing strengthening of the Irish Ferries brand already reflected in the travel awards achieved during the year will be further enhanced by this new service.

Roll-on Roll-off Freight

It was a record year for Roll-on Roll-off freight on both corridors of the Irish Sea with our total carryings up by 27% to 139,000 trucks. On Dublin-Holyhead, the full year capacity of the m.v. ISLE OF INISHMORE, resulted in an increase of 19% in freight units carried while the full year capacity of the m.v. ISLE OF INNISFREE on the Rosslare-Pembroke route enabled a 52% increase in freight units carried on that corridor. On the Ireland-France routes, freight carryings increased to 1,800 trucks from 1,000 the previous year.

Irish Ferries has now become the market leader on the Irish Sea short sea routes between the Republic of Ireland and Britain. The reliability and high standard of service provided by the company's Irish Sea vessels, the convenience of our sailing times and the planned completion of twin-tier shore ramp facilities at all of the company's operating ports in Ireland and Britain in 1999, give us confidence in continued growth in our freight business for the coming year.


Last week I reported on the sunken sailing vessel GLACIERE in Collingwood Dock, Liverpool.

On Monday  I received a message from the ship's owner Susan Hanley-Place which clarifies the position regarding this vessel.

This information was posted as part of a special update on 22 March. Please  to read the news item. Ms Hanley-Place has forwarded a picture of the vessel which is reproduced here.


The CELTIC STAR (11,086t, built 1991, 20.8k 0 Passengers – 64 Trailers) was built as the KOSEI MARU for Kanko Kisen KK Line of Japan for domestic services. In 1998 she was sold to Jay Management Corporation of Cyprus and renamed the IOLAOS. In November 1998 she was chartered to East Coast Ferries, renamed the LOON-PLAGE and placed on their Hull – Dunkerque service. The service ceased in January 1999 and after a brief charter to DFDS Tor Line, she was renamed the CELTIC STAR and will soon enter service on charter to P&OEF on the Liverpool - Dublin route. The vessel isn’t any bigger than the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR and has a smaller passenger capacity, so it seems that P&O’s emphasis must currently be on the Cairnryan route.

UPDATE: CELTIC STAR appears to have entered service between Liverpool and Dublin, however, Mersey Radio movements statements suggest that the vessel is still carrying the name LOON-PLAGE. EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR is now in Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock.

P&O 1998 RESULTS by Gary Andrews

P&O this week announced a 14% rise in profits and signalled plans for a major shake-up. Pre-tax profits rose to 415.9 million in 1998, compared with 363 million in the previous year. The group plans to sell its property, construction and exhibitions businesses to return to its seafaring heritage.

The group's building business Bovis will be floated on the stock market and its investment in Earls Court Olympia will be sold. It said that the planned disposals "will release a significant amount of cash" and it will monitor how best to benefit shareholders in the long-term with the proceeds. It has been indicated some of the proceeds will be used to fund new ships. The P&O Ferries division has already announced a number of new vessels and there are rumours of more new vessels for P&O Portsmouth, P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) and P&O Scottish Ferries.

Chairman Lord Sterling said cruises, ferries and ports will be P&O's core divisions, as they offer high growth and returns, and have "a strong position in key world markets". He said they were also the areas where the company had concentrated its investment in the last few years. Meanwhile, P&O will work with its joint venture partner to seek a listing for P&O Nedlloyd.

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

Stena Line has reaffirmed its intention to operate the Belfast – Stranraer route. There has been much speculation in the Scottish press linking Stena to the new Clydeport development. Alan Gordon, Stena’s Belfast – Stranraer Route Director said:

"Stena Line has been wrongly linked with the Clydeport development plans on several occasions and I would like to set the record straight that we have no plans to move from Stranraer."

I have not mentioned the link of Stena to the Port Glasgow development as I did not believe the rumour had any grain of truth. Stena may have to make certain considerations regarding their North Channel operation (such as the cost of operating the HSS) but it is unlikely they will be leaving Stranraer. Put simply, Stena cannot afford to move at the moment!

As said previously, I would suspect the operator that will operate a high-speed passenger service to Port Glasgow from Northern Ireland (Larne)will be P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea).


The Swansea Dry Docks company ceased trading this week following a decision by owner, the Cayman Islands-based Ugland International Holdings group. Ugland described the decision as "regrettable".

For 60 years ship repairing at the South Wales port had provided skilled and well paid employment, now 200 full and part-time staff have been made redundant. Ugland purchased the docks in 1993 increasing future hopes but foreign competition created losses of 482,000 in 1997 and 4.3 million in 1998. Both Stena and P&O have been frequent users of the yard in the past.

Ugland is hoping to sell the site as development land as much of the inner harbour at Swansea has already been turned into a yachting marina overlooked by flats and houses. There is hope the site could be transformed in the fashion of London and Liverpool Dockhands


Paddle Steamer WAVERLEY was due to leave her base at Glasgow Anderston Quay on Wednesday 17th March for annual dry-docking at Swansea where she was to  undergo significant hull replating around the machinery space and rudder repairs, this work being done to the standards of the ship's forthcoming rebuild which will take place in the winter of 1999-2000.

The steamer had just completed major repairs to the furnaces of her 19 year old boiler and was in steam and almost ready to leave the Clyde when a call from Swansea indicated that the dry-dock had closed.

The WAVERLEY's repair schedule has been rapidly rescheduled and it is now anticipated that she will enter the Garvel Drydock at Greenock when the present occupant CalMac's ISLE OF ARRAN leaves. It is anticipated that the work will be completed on time to allow the paddle steamer to take up her 1999 sailings at the end of April with the traditional May weekend visit to Oban and the Western Isles. Meanwhile work has started on the construction of two new boilers for   the paddler at the works of Cochran Boilers in Annan, Dumfriesshire.  They will be fitted next winter during the rebuild.


In the same week as the Swansea Dry Dock closure was announced, the Penzance Dry Dock and Engineering Company, announced that the historic Penzance Dry Dock was also closing.

The PD&E company, owned by tycoon Peter de Savery, had been put up for sale last October following the announcement of the decision by Isles of Scilly Steamship Company to undertake a 1.7 million major refit on RMV SCILLONIAN III at the DML operated Devonport Naval Base, Plymouth. When the loss of the contract was announced, most of the work force was made redundant. However, key staff and management were retained whilst a search was made for a buyer. The decision to close the yard was made when negotiations with a prospective purchaser collapsed.

The Penzance Dry Dock was operated until three years ago by the famous Cornish Engineering Firm of N. Holman & Sons whose history is traceable to the early days of the Industrial Revolution. However, un-competitive tendering for MoD contracts were blamed for Holman's demise. The yard was soon purchased from receivership by Mr. de Savery and reopened.

At present the yard looks like it will be mothballed, but given the owners interests in property development, the prospect of the most south westerly dry dock in Britain seeing another ship again is looking remote.


On Saturday 27 March, the newly refitted RMV SCILLONIAN III was due to re-enter service on the company's Penzance to St.Mary's, Isles of Scilly route.

Photographs published in this week's Cornishman Newspaper reveal the extent of the changes. The SCILLONIAN III has regained its buff funnel carried until 1992 when it was replaced by a blue/white funnel with house flag logo and for that season the hull was also painted blue. However, the repainted funnel is dominated by an even larger house flag logo in billowing flag stile. SCILLONIAN III's deck life raft and gangway cranes are buff once again but the cargo crane, remains blue though it was buff prior to 1992. The plastic seats on the open deck have been replaced by wooden seating.

The interior has also been significantly improved. The galley has been moved to the lower passenger deck, which is considered to offer less roll in rough seas. The old galley has been replaced by a proper shop [only a kiosk was available before]. The bar has been completely revamped with new seating and tables and wooden bar with brass trim. The company is also boasting that the toilets on board are "unrivalled in Penzance".

New bow thrusters and generators have also been fitted. She recommences service on 27 March with a sell out sailing offering day trip fares at the 1977 rate is being offered.

I will be on the Isles of Scilly from Monday to Friday next week, and should be able to get some pictures for the Mersey Shipping web site.


The MEDINA STAR, the former Irish Ferries vessel, SAINT KILLIAN II, purchased by Greek firm Cap Enterprises (Marintas) is lying at Perama, still in Irish Ferries livery. Although supposedly starting a Black Sea service between Georgia and the Ukraine, it is now reportedly to be chartered by Tunisian state operator COTUNAV. The SAINT KILLIAN II's former running mate, SAINT PATRICK II, now named EGNATIA II, is currently moored nearby. Anytime now, the EGNATIA II is due to start her second season for Hellenic Mediterranean Line between Patras and Brindisi. The former SAINT PATRICK II is on a 4.5 years bareboat charter from Irish Ferries, but it is expected her current operator will exercise their purchase option.

In June the EGNATIA II will be joined by the MEDIA II (ex-VIKING I/VIKING VICTORY of Thoresen Car Ferries/Townsend Thoresen). Hellenic Mediterranean Line still own the original EGNATIA of 1960 which is laid up in Elefsis Bay with the PANTHER and POSIDONIA, once the ULSTER PRINCE and ULSTER QUEEN of the Liverpool – Belfast route.


The Liverpool Echo reports that the medals belonging to Liverpool seaman Sir James Bisset, former second officer of the Cunard Line's CARPATHIA, are to be auctioned by Spinks of London.

Sir James, who assisted the TITANIC's survivors aboard the CARPATHIA was awarded the Titanic-Carpathia Medal on of only 14 struck. During the 1930s he received the American Legion of Merit for rescuing eight men from the SS UNSWORTH whilst master of the SS ASCANIA.

During the war he was master of the QUEEN MARY later being promoted to Commodore of the Cunard Line and master of the QUEEN ELIZABATH. He died in 1967.


The IRISH SEA PIONEER has returned to Cammell Laird. Though she looks like a rig she isn't!

Last year when I mentioned that she was in the yard for refit I received an e-mail from Jack Cook,, one of her designers which will be of interest to new MS readers:

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

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

John Luxton

March 27, 1999

Back Home Up Next


Following the report published on Mersey Shipping on March 21 concerning the sailing vessel GLACIERE I have received the following information from Susan Hanley-Place which clarifies the situation which was  reported in the local press.


Glaciere is a hundred-year-old Baltic galease of considerable historic significance. She was built in 1899 and traded under sail for over 60 years, then was adapted to Sail Training, in which she served for another 30 years.

She was brought to Liverpool in 1989 by a now-defunct local sail training organisation. When they went into liquidation I put up my home against a bridging loan to keep her on Merseyside. I then embarked on a very long path to identify the means to put her in trust. In the meantime I sold my house to repay the loan, and so became her owner pro tem.

Glaciere operated as a Sail Trainer under the aegis of the Tall Ships Haven, (a voluntary project consisting of people dedicated to maintaining traditional sail)  for the next few years, remaining active in local waters.

When the new certification for Small Commercial Vessels came in, we were permitted to lay her up  in MD&H Co's waterspace. Her antique structure had come to the stage at which quite considerable works were needed in order to enable her to sail again in a capacity which would enable her to support herself, and the prudent decision was to cease to take life out of the structure of the ship. Responsible  members of our volunteer team then took on a caretaking brief.

Co-incidentally, at the precise stage at which European sponsorship had opened up a firm future for Glaciere, she went down at her berth in the Collingwood Dock. Subsequent investigations, including examination by the Police Underwater Search Unit, have failed to reveal a cause. It could be that an old skinfitting (ie one not in use and hidden behind interior linings) has failed.

The fact that Glaciere was now impersonating a submarine closed off the original sponsorship door, and we then began a long negotiation with the Dock Company to bring her up and meet their strictures, which included her immediate removal from her waterspace. This in turn meant that we have had to find another source of sufficient funding to carry out remedial work straight after her raising in order to take her to a berth elsewhere. Not long after she went down, MD&HCo refused consent for the vessel to be raised by a volunteer team, though this  included ex navy and Police Salvage Divers, and said that they required a professional certificated diving company to take charge of the salvage. This was frustrating but we considered on reflection that they had a good point.

Funding to carry out works to the vessel has now been identified, and Rovtech Ltd, a national salvage company, have offered to bring her up.  This offer by Rovtech was first made in 1997 but we were informed that the MD&HCo did not wish us to proceed at that time, presumably because of concern that no future had at that time been identified for the ship and that she could remain a problem for them even if raised.

We regarded all this as a private matter between MDHCo and ourselves, but since they have "gone public" (without notifying us of their need for an immediate solution), and have made certain statements to the Press, we have ourselves now responded to Press enquiries in order to present (hopefully) a balanced picture, and issued the following statement:

"The owners of the vessel Glaciere do not deem her to be abandoned, and will legally defend their title to the vessel in order to place her in trust. Funding has now been identified and works to the vessel can proceed. The owners of Glaciere now await the consent of the MD&H Co in order for Rovtech Ltd. to proceed with raising her as previously arranged."

Susan Hanley-Place



Welcome again to another News Bulletin. This one has been put together rather hastily as I was out on SSC2 on Saturday whilst I spent much of Sunday morning down at the Pier Head taking photos of SUPERSEACAT THREE and waiting for her to move off the stage, then in the afternoon I took a wander over to take a look at the PEVERIL in Vittoria Dock.

Next week the news bulletin will be posted on SATURDAY 27 March, and the following bulletin on Easter MONDAY 5 April. The rescheduling is because I will be away in Devon/Cornwall/Isles of Scilly for a few days holiday.

At the moment the technical problems with the MERSEY SHIPPING LIVE site have still not been resolved. Once again the e-mail has been flowing in large quantities. As a said last week, if you don't get a reply within a week or so please mail again. 



LADY OF MANN is berthed at Alexandra Dock after completing her winter duties on the Liverpool – Douglas service.

PEVERIL – departed from Cammell Laird on Monday and returned to lay-up in Vittoria Dock. Whilst in Laird's dry dock it was not possible to see what colour her hull was being painted and it was easy to presume she would acquire Sea Co blue as her funnels had acquired SeaCo Red with new style legs of Man roundels. However, it is quite amazing to report that she still remains in basically Steam Packet livery. The buff on the masts may be of the lighter shade seen on the Lady but she sports white upper works, black hull, and a reddish boot topping and very smart she looked on Sunday afternoon in the sun.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN: Has moved astern to allow PEVERIL to berth again at her usual spot in Vittoria.

SUPERSEACAT TWO: The 11.00 sailing from Liverpool to Dublin on 21 March was cancelled due to bad weather. Though the 07.30 from Douglas operated.

SUPERSEACAT THREE: Arrived on Merseyside on Saturday 20 March. Mersey Radio had announced her arrival at Prince's Landing Stage at 18.00; however, she passed the outbound SUPERSEACAT TWO off Point Lynas at 12.35. SSC2 adjusting course allowing the vessels to pass fairly close together both ships exchanging whistle blasts.

SSC3 does look different particularly around her stern quarters to SSCI/II. The upper deck saloon Blue Riband saloon extends back to the funnels, and has an awning over a small area of the open deck, which looks much more, sheltered. The funnels are larger, there are fewer slits in them at the forward end. In many ways they are reminiscent of the PEVERIL's funnels but with exhausts protruding and no streamlined top. – Below the funnels the side of the ship are built out which interrupts the smooth tapered side. First impressions are that she does not look quite so sleek as SSCI/II. There are changes in the main saloon window spacings. The fo'csle area is different with the crew doors being recessed. The vessel also has a more prominent [rubber coated?] rubbing strake rather than just the aluminium moulding on the earlier vessels. She is also equipped with twin bow thrusts and the position of the "T" foil is clearly marked on the hull.

Before SSC3 enters service between Liverpool and Dublin on 8 April various works will be undertaken to customise her for the route, including the fitting of a "Little Chef Express" probably along the lines of the facility offered at the Heysham Sea Terminal.

SUPERSEACAT THREE eventually sailed light for Dublin at 1035 on Sunday and is supposed to be returning via Douglas for docking trials there before returning to Liverpool and going into dock tomorrow.

SUPERSEACAT TWO also sailed light for Dublin but not until 1245 on Sunday – presumably to pick up passengers from a delayed 16.00 sailing.

Whilst I was at the Liverpool terminal I noticed the new Steam Packet flag. Many people will be aware of the distinctive red flag with IOM [Legs of Man] SPC in yellow. The new flag looks just like the flag of Japan with the Legs in the red spot. No lettering. The new IoMSPCo logo has also appeared in the Dublin Terminal at the ticket desk and check-in barrier beside the SUPERSEACAT logo. The twin Arrows Liverpool-Dublin Direct and previous IOMSPCO logo having been removed. I guess it won't be long before the remaining IoMSPCo style signs disappear from the Liverpool terminal.


Since the start of this year few weeks have gone by when I haven’t brought you news of Sea Containers expanding it’s empire further. Whether it’s been new routes, new vessels or acquisitions, Sea Containers have been busy with the chequebook. However, most of the news to date seems minor in comparison with this week’s news that the firm has acquired a 51% share of Neptun Maritime, better known as the owner of Baltic ferry giant Silja Line.

The news marks a much-increased presence in the Baltic and helps Sea Containers on its way towards becoming the first truly global ferry firm. With major restructuring now complete Silja is again a very attractive purchase and one would wonder whether in the longer term a complete take-over would take place. Perhaps we could see fast ferries introduced to many Silja routes?

Additionally, there are still rumours that Sea Containers are interested in acquiring the Holyman shares of the Dover – Ostend route, but these reports are completely unconfirmed. The SeaCo press release can be accessed on the Sea Containers web site.


Sea Containers Ltd had a good trading year in 1998 the company issued the following press release concerning the 1998 results.

Net income for the year was $58.7 million on revenue of $1.3 billion compared with 1997 net income of $42.0 million on revenue of $1.2 billion. For the quarter, net income was $15.9 million ($0.85 per share diluted) on revenue of $347.0 million compared with net income of $6.9 million ($0.25 per share diluted) on revenue of $316.2 million in the year earlier period. Earnings per common share in 1998 were $3.34 basic and $3.11 diluted compared with $2.07 basic and diluted in 1997.

Mr. James B. Sherwood, President, said that he was pleased with the results. Not only were diluted earnings per common share 4% higher than minimum forecast, for the first time in many years there were no significant exceptional gains, meaning that profits were generated from operations. Every division turned in a strong performance.

Marine container leasing improved its operating profits from $66.8 million in 1997 to $75.4 million in 1998 despite a poor market environment, passenger transport surged ahead to $61.9 million from $46.4 million and hotels, tourist trains and river cruising reported $49.5 million compared with $46.2 million in 1997 (1997 included an exceptional gain on sale of a property of $5 million).

Mr. Sherwood said that the improvement in container leasing results had been assisted by the merger of the company's container business with that of GE Capital in May, 1998.

Passenger transport results had been strengthened by expansion of English Channel ferry operations and greater traffic volumes on those routes plus good growth in GNER, the company's rail concession in Britain. In the hotel sector, North American, South American and Italian properties were especially strong, as was the record contribution from tourist trains.

He indicated that 1999 would also be a year of excellent promise. The company recently announced a major investment in Neptun Maritime in Finland with the acquisition of 50% of its common shares. Neptun's consolidated revenue in 1998 was $644 million. The Silja Line subsidiary of Neptun earned $28 million after taxes in 1998 and since Sea Containers will be completing its investment after the first quarter, which is a loss making period, its share of Neptun's 1999 profits will be much higher than if the transaction was completed at the beginning of the year. Neptun has a large reserve of ship depreciation, which can be applied against taxable profits for many years ahead. The company will retain duty free privileges for its passengers after July 1, 1999 when duty free terminates within the European Union, because Finland negotiated a duty free exemption for its Aland Islands where most of the Silja ships call. Other ships call at Estonian ports and Estonia is not a member of the European Union. A large new market will be attracted to the Baltic when duty-free terminates on most ships currently operating out of west and south Swedish ports and Danish ports. Sea Containers also reported in January its acquisition of Express Navigation, Inc., a ferry operator between New Jersey ports, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The government of the United Kingdom announced on February 25th that it had decided to re-negotiate existing rail franchises starting with GNER, the company's rail subsidiary. These negotiations are expected to start shortly and should be concluded by autumn. Broadly speaking the company will agree to make significant capital expenditure in new trains and parkway stations in return for an extension of its concession of approximately 10 years. The current franchise expires in April 2003.

The company's hotel division is in the letter of intent stage for investment in or acquisition of 6 existing hotel properties at a cost of $60 million and in addition expects to invest about $40 million in expansion of existing properties in 1999. The fruits of investment in Southern African, Portuguese and French properties in 1998 should begin to be realised in the current year. The new Great South Pacific Express tourist train will be inaugurated in Australia in April and further tourist train investments are currently under consideration.

The marine container leasing business continues to be profitable despite a difficult market environment. GE SeaCo SRL, the company's joint venture with General Electric Capital Corp., has now completed the renegotiation of master agreement leases to cope with container imbalances which have arisen in connection with recent currency devaluations in Asia, South America and Russia, and is embarked on a major equipment repositioning program. Disposals of surplus standard dry cargo containers, mainly 20' and 40' length standard height units, are being stepped up. Demand for refrigerated, tank and other specialised units has remained firm and rates are steady. A number of new long term leases of standard dry cargo containers built in China at very low prices have been concluded at satisfactory rates. Economies arising out of the joint venture are being achieved and these are lessening the impact of idle units out of position and lower rates for existing standard dry cargo containers on medium to long term leases. It is believed that the competitors have largely stopped ordering new standard dry cargo containers speculatively for operation on the "spot" (short-term) market and this should accelerate the move to equilibrium in demand and supply for such containers.

The Annual Meeting of Shareholders will be held at '21' Club in New York City at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, June 8th, 1999. The 1998 Annual Report and proxy materials will be mailed at the beginning of May.



BRAVE MERCHANT at her berth on Sunday afternoon with a rather large dent high on her port stern. Given the height of the dent I guess it would correct to assume she had a mishap in the lock!

MERCHANT VENTURE remains laid up in Bidston Dock, north, Birkenhead.




As revealed in this bulletin some weeks ago, P&O European Ferries are to move the Liverpool – Dublin vessel EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR to the Cairnryan – Larne service. The main aim of the move is to allow for an extra nightly round trip due to the current problem of all sailings from early evening to mid morning being fully booked. The day-time round trip to Ardrossan will also become daily, it is understood this trip will be operated by either the EUROPEAN TRADER or EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR which will in turn have one of her daytime roundtrips to Cairnryan replaced by the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR.

The EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR will be replaced on the Liverpool service with the CELTIC STAR; a vessel I have no information on, so if any you know of the vessel, please let me know.

P&O should be congratulated for the additional capacity being added to the Cairnryan route, it seems amazing that only four years ago there were only 6 daily round trips on the service. By this summer there will be 10 daily round trips for freight along with 6 round trips with the JETLINER (along with passengers on the PRIDE OF RATHLIN).

There is still no news from P&O to confirm whether the rumours of a new service from Larne to Port Glasgow will become a reality. (See Clydeport item from Gary Andrews below).

The press release on P&O’s vessel re-deployment follows.


P&O Trans European


P&O European Ferries' Scotland to Northern Ireland freight ferry services will be boosted from April 1999, with the provision of an additional ship and increased sailings on its routes. 

The introduction of the MV 'CELTIC STAR' on the Company's Liverpool/Dublin route will allow the transfer of the 'EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR' to the Larne/Cairnryan services, enhancing the Scotland/Northern Ireland freight route by giving ten sailings daily, in each direction, between the two ports. There are also additional peak sailings of 0330 hrs ex-Cairnryan and 2200 hrs ex-Larne.

Changes have also been made to the Company's Ardrossan/Larne services, bringing additional sailings to the route. From Ardrossan, a 0230 hrs service will run daily, except Sunday, and a 1615 hrs service will depart daily from Tuesday to Friday. Lame departures will be at 1145 hrs daily from Tuesday to Friday and 1900 hrs daily, Sunday to Friday. There is also a sailing at 1000 hrs on Saturday.

P&O European Ferries is set to make further improvements in services for its customers on the Irish Sea, with the recent order for a new, 21,000 tonnes, freight and passenger ferry, to be delivered in June 2000 for the Lame/Cairnryan route.


For further information contact: David Fawcett, Pearson Young Limited

Telephone: +44 (0)1892 542488

Fax: +44 (0)1892 542484




Clive Jackson writes that EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR operated an additional sailing into Fleetwood on Sunday Morning 14 March. He does not know if she had sailed from Dublin or Larne. On her top deck she was loaded with truck chassis. The EUROPEAN SEAFARER and EUROPEAN PIONEER are operating their normal schedules.


As predicted Scottish ports company Clydeport has unveiled plans to build a new ro-ro terminal at the former Scott Lithgow site at Port Glasgow on the Clyde. The firm already operates ports in Ayrshire, Glasgow and Greenock.

Tom Allison, Chief Executive of Clydeport, said he wanted to build a new roll-on/roll-off ferry terminal in Glasgow to capitalise on the growing trade with Ireland. Mr Allison said the creation of the new two-berth ferry port could be completed by the middle of next year. An initial investment of 5m is planned, although a total of 50m could be spent if the facility is successful.

The Scottish press in December had clearly linked P&O to Clydeport’s planned development of a site at Port Glasgow to handle freight and passenger ferries to and from Larne. At the time it was described as a joint venture with a contract date of January or February 1999. I would believe it is highly likely that P&O will operate a service to the new development.

A high-speed service, possibly with an Austal craft would take little over two hours from Larne (occupying one berth at the new port) and the existing Ardrossan freight service could move north using the second berth. Port Glasgow’s proximity to Glasgow and the road network of the North of Scotland would be of great use to passengers and freight. The recent decision to increase capacity on the Larne – Ardrossan service would indicate the freight market to Scotland is growing. The high-speed service to Port Glasgow would probably be at the expense of the Jetliner Larne – Cairnryan service, although it is possible (as with Sea Containers’ Belfast – Troon service) that there could continue a restricted high-speed service to Loch Ryan.

However, if P&O decide to build and introduce to the Cairnryan service one or two sister ships to the already announced replacement of the PRIDE OF RATHLIN a high-speed service to Loch Ryan will become much less relevant. The already planned new conventional ferry will have a crossing time of 105 minutes (5 minutes less than Stena’s Belfast – Stranraer HSS service) and Seacat Scotland has dramatically cut the level of service on the Belfast – Stranraer route. In the event of the fast ferry Port Glasgow service being cancelled (due to bad weather) passengers diverted via Cairnryan would not be significantly inconvenienced.

Clydeport bought the near 100-acre Scott Lithgow site from Trafalgar House for 1.95 million in 1996. It has let 27 acres to French engineering group UIE with several much smaller tenants also using the site.

The announcement of the new ferry port on 17 March coincided with the announcement of record profits for Clydeport and ambitious plans for another significant project. The firm is planning a 250 million to 300 million entertainment and leisure development on the city's waterfront. The group is in talks with a leading financial institution over funding the Meadowside leisure development in Glasgow.

Mr Allison was appointed 18 months ago to shake up the former port authority that was privatised in 1992. The Chief Executive has clearly been successful with annual pre-tax profits rising 40.4% to 11.02 million. The results were ahead of City expectations and the shares, which had run up sharply ahead of the results, fell 2p to 224p. Profits were lifted by demand for imported coal, which is 10% cent cheaper than domestic coal. Hunterston, the deep-water specialist port bought for 5.6m at the end of 1993, saw total tonnage increase 80.1% to 2.9m tonnes. Clydeport supplies coal to the generators Nigen, Eastern Group and Scottish Power. Euan Davidson, port operations director, said imported coal was low- sulphur, so generators could meet targets to cut emissions without expensive modifications to their plant. The coal, which is imported from South Africa and South America, costs about 110p a gigajoule, against 124p for UK coal.

However, the group warned that growth this year would not be at the same level as 1998 as the contracts between English generators and domestic coal producers would postpone a further "steep uplift" for about two years.

Mr Allison said he had finished a nine month review of the business and had decided to step up the process of ‘vertical integration’ - moving into shipping and road haulage - which he started with the acquisition of a transport company at the end of last year. The group will concentrate investment in the ports business, with the 15.7 million in cash currently held and further cash flow being ploughed back in to the business.

Turnover in the year to December 31 rose 27.5% to 26.29m. Operating profit was 10.31m against 7.45m. The final dividend, up 18.4% at 4.5p, takes the total for the year to 6.5p (5.525p) and is payable from earnings per share of 20.15p (18.95p).


NEW MANX ROUTE? By Gary Andrews

The Strangford Ulster Unionist MP John Taylor is advocating the setting up of a working party to study the viability of a regular ferry service between Portavogie (Northern Ireland) and Peel, Isle Of Man. Mr Taylor said the common links between the two areas should be strengthened. He wants to see the Isle Of Man government and the new Executive at Stormont give priority to the development of the tourist industry in both areas. The story has also been receiving much coverage in the Manx press recently with some suggestions that a service along the lines of Sea Containers’ Ballycastle – Campbeltown route could be offered if the right vessel was found.

The Belfast – Douglas service is being increased this year due to Sea Containers basing the SEACAT DANMARK in Belfast. However, it would be surprising if the current capacity was not adequate for demand for the foreseeable future so a new route may be optimistic in the extreme. Portavogie is a small fishing village on the Ards Peninsula and although only 20 miles from Belfast it is a long drive over country roads and fairly inaccessible, few people would sail from Portavogie over Belfast. Additionally it lacks any real ferry facilities (such as a linkspan or terminal).

Peel currently lacks a linkspan. However, the Lady Of Mann, being a sideloader has used the port of Peel before when used as a diversionary or excursion port. However, I cannot see that Sea Containers would find it viable to operate her on such a service. This leaves the question over who would want to operate such a service.

Basically this suggested service is a "pipe-dream" – like the Dumfries – Ramsey Hovercraft rumour of previous years, a nice idea with no place in the real world. However, a Peel – Portavogie route would be good as a once a year excursion trip. Indeed Peel does have a tradition of being a day excursion port for Ireland, but nothing has run to there in recent years and I understand any excursions were to Belfast.


The Barrow and Liverpool ship owners has announced that it is seeking to buy suitable maritime businesses as part of its expansion plans.

This week the company announced a 25% increase in operating profits, however, overall profits were reduced from 8.78 million in 1997 to 3.85 million due to costs incurred in winding up operations at Heysham and Newhaven.

The company announced an increased dividend of 3.75p per share compared to 3.20p in 1997.


It looks as though the prospects of saving the Liverpool Coastguard Station at Crosby from closure are becoming more remote. This week transport minister Glenda Jackson MP confirmed that the closure would go ahead in 2002 but there would be no compulsory redundancies. The Liverpool operation is due to transfer to Holyhead. MPs from all parties have pledged to fight the closure and are to appeal to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott MP who is himself a former seafarer.


KONINGIN BEATRIX made a brief visit to Cammell Laird on Monday 15 March for attention to her bow thrusters, she had departed by lunch time on Tuesday.


A 50,000 square feet warehouse will be added to the existing warehouses at the Stanton Grove operated Forest Products Terminal.


HMS BRAVE [F94], Broadsword Class 22 Frigate, built Yarrow 1985 departed from Langton Lock at 13.00 on Tuesday after her weekend visit.


According to a report in Sea Breezes Magazine United Utilities propose to dispose of their two redundant sludge boats CONSORTIUM I and GILBERT J FOWLER. It is hoped that CONSORTIUM I will be sold for further use as a hydrographic or diving support ship. However, GILBERT J. FOWLER, which has been laid up for many years and cannibalised to provide a source of spares for CONSORTIUM I, will be sold for scrap.


Some time ago in the news bulletins I mentioned that plans were in hand to restore the historic #4 dry dock at Cammell Laird. This week the local press reports that the restoration of the dock will form the centrepiece of a 1.5 million heritage project. Part of the original caisson gate will be put on display as an example of innovative Victorian engineering.

John Luxton

March 21, 1999

Back Home Up Next





First of all two technical problems concerning the Mersey Shipping site:

The MERSEY SHIPPING LIVE! site is not yet on-line as there appears to be some problem getting the Front Page extensions to function. These are required for a live chat type site. I have exchanged messages with Cybase but as yet the problem has not yet been resolved out.

Following a request, I have decided to cease including Voyage Reports within the usual news pages. This is due to the ever growing size of the news pages and to speed up the download of these pages. Voyage reports will now be accessed from a separate menu which will list the most recent report first. This arrangement will also make the reports much more easier to find.

Philip Parker has submitted some more great container ship photos whilst Stephen Ings forwarded two very interesting pictures of the FREDERICK CARTER which was to become Norse Mersey Ferries NORSE LAGAN and is now MOBY RIDER. These views show her in origina condition in service in Canada. She certainly looked a different vessel then!

One again, thanks for all the news, queries and feedback this week. I hope I have managed to get back to everyone. If you are still awaiting a reply - apologies - please send again in case I have overlooked you .

& Finally:.............

Happy  St. Patrick's Day on 17th March!


LADY OF MANN – The Llandudno – Douglas excursion for 26 May is now reported to be sold out with 900 tickets being sold in 3 weeks.

PEVERIL – Remains in Cammell Laird.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN: The vessel has now been turned round again and is berthed bow in at the company's Vittoria Dock berth in the location previously operated by the PEVERIL.

SEACAT DANMARK – Gary Andrews observed that the vessel returned to Belfast at around 12.10 on 8 March. She will be inaugurating the reopened Belfast – Heysham service next month.

SUPERSEACAT TWO: Mersey Radio reported that SSC2 would leave Alfred Lock, Birkenhead for trails on the 8 March. However, a subsequent movement's statement revealed that there had been technical problems. This was apparently due to the picking up of a car tyre in her intakes. She was on form to reopen the Liverpool-Dublin service on Thursday. The floating linkspan at the landing stage was reinstated on 9 March.

SUPERSEACAT THREE update from Gary Andrews

It would appear that Sea Container’s decision to delay the start of the Newhaven – Dieppe service with the SUPERSEACAT TWO is most likely to be logistical as opposed to there being delay to the new Liverpool vessel, SUPERSEACAT THREE & SUPERSEACAT FOUR by Gary Andrews

Both the SUPERSEACAT THREE and SUPERSEACAT FOUR are now completed. Both vessels have improved ride control systems and Skegs and T-Foils fitted. Also, the vessels have the latest modified Ruston main propulsion engines and extensive improvements to the passenger accommodation. The SUPERSEACAT FOUR was built at Fincantieri's yard at Riva Trigoso and SUPERSEACAT THREE at Muggiano. Both ships are at Muggiano for trials - both vessels are understood to have performed extremely well.

SUPERSEACAT THREE is due to leave Fincantieri's Shipyard, Muggiano, Italy, early during this week (w/c 15 March). The Irish Sea ferry will sail direct to Liverpool without stopping on her 3 - 4 day delivery voyage. She is due in the UK around 20 March, on schedule. Her Italian master is Captain G. Padovan. The craft will take up service on April 8 and allow the SuperSeaCat Two to be released for preparations prior to the commencement of the new Dieppe route (berthing trials etc). At the time of writing final preparations were being made for the delivery voyage of the SUPERSEACAT THREE with the loading of lube oil, food etc. Bunkering of fuel oil is due to take place on Monday.

Sea Containers announced in February that the other newbuild, SUPERSEACAT FOUR, would "likely" be operated between Brindisi, Italy, Patras, Greece and Cesme, Turkey on a new 15-hour Mediterranean service.


A public notice appearing in the Manx press has announced that The Select Committee has arranged to take oral evidence from Captain Corrin, Marine Operations Manager and Captain Crellin, Master of the BEN-MY-CHREE in public on Wednesday 24 March 1999 at 10.00 in the Millennium Conference Room, Tynwald Precincts, Government Offices, Douglas.


The Manx Independent reported that a mishap occurred to an IoMSPCo forklift truck which had been at work on the Victoria Pier linkspan at Douglas this week. Apparently the unattended truck rolled over the end of the span and into the harbour. Divers and an IoM Department of Transport Crane where called in to rescue the errant vehicle


Various berth changes appear to be in progress at Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool. Gary Andrews reports that work appears to be going on at the Belfast SeaCat Terminal. I think they may be planning to use the old Belfast Ferries/ Belfast Freight Ferries Berth, as they appear to be removing the old walkway for the Liverpool ferry.

I noted at Dublin construction work is underway on berth 49 used by Sea Containers and Irish Ferries. Two parallel tracks are being laid for a moveable gangway to service JONATHAN SWIFT and SUPERSEACAT THREE to avoid a walk around to the linkspan.

More interestingly at Liverpool I notice that some major changes are underway on Prince's Landing Stage.

The high-level gangway tower used to access the KING ORRY has been cut down to the height used by the LADY OF MANN. I understand the removed upper portion will be repositioned to give access to the SuperSeaCats avoiding the need for passengers to use the link span. The linkspan itself has been positioned further north. The SeaCats now using the LADY OF MANN's berth. The south end of the linkspan is being built out to provide a berth for another SeaCat. However, the added metal work is causing the linkspan to sit lower in the water which has caused the linking plates not to sit properly on the stage as the new angle is wrong. A sort of temporary modification has been created, [Presumably until the other two plates are modified?]


Peel Holdings plc, owners of the Manchester Ship Canal have been reported in the press this week to be considering taking the company private and off the London Stock Exchange. This resulted in a large boost to the share price.


HMS BRAVE [F94], Broadsword Class 22 Frigate, built Yarrow 1995 was a visitor this weekend, berthing in Canada #1 Branch Dock, north.

It looks as though a memorial to the 99 victims of the HMS THETIS submarine disaster will be remembered in a new memorial proposed for St. Mary's Church, Birkenhead.

Wirral Council has established a working party to draw up a suitable memorial to mark the 60th Anniversary of the disaster.

St.Mary's Church, part of Birkenhead Priory, overlooks the Cammell Laird ship yard from where the then new THETIS departed on sea-trials. Each step of the stairway leading up the church tower will carry plaques bearing the names of the 99 sailors, observers and Cammell Laird staff who died in the tragedy, when the submarine sank off Anglesey in 1939.


The Jetliner arrived back in Larne around 11 p.m. on 9 March from refit at Wright and Beyer, Birkenhead. It is understood she re-entered service with the 06.00 sailing ex Larne on 10 March, as stated last week. There are reports she suffered minor damage entering dry-dock in February. This is unconfirmed and if it did occur it was obviously completely repaired in dry-dock.

It is rumoured locally that the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR is due to join the Larne - Cairnryan route on 12 April to provide additional night-time sailings. It is not clear how tonnage will be allocated on daytime sailings though is possible the European Trader will be replaced on a daytime Larne - Cairnryan roundtrip to allow her to in turn offer a roundtrip to Ardrossan. However, given P&O have yet to confirm the introduction of the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR to the Larne fleet, details are still speculative. Also interesting is the current speculation in Fleetwood that additional tonnage will be placed on the Larne – Fleetwood service.

For the record, despite intense speculation regarding P&O involvement in a new ferry terminal at Port Glasgow (including a high-speed ferry and freight ferry service to Larne) there has still been absolutely no indication from P&O that this is accurate.


Gary Andrews has forwarded the following:


"P&O European Ferries' Scotland to Northern Ireland freight ferry services will be boosted from April 1999, with the provision of an additional ship and increased sailings on its routes.

The introduction of the MV 'CELTIC STAR' on the Company's Liverpool/Dublin route will allow the transfer of the 'EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR' to the Larne/Cairnryan services, enhancing the Scotland/Northern Ireland freight route by giving ten sailings daily, in each direction, between the two ports. There are also additional peak sailings of 0330 hrs ex-Cairnryan and 2200 hrs ex-Larne.

Changes have also been made to the Company's Ardrossan/Larne services, bringing additional sailings to the route. From Ardrossan, a 0230 hrs service will run daily, except Sunday, and a 1615 hrs service will depart daily from Tuesday to Friday. Lame departures will be at 1145 hrs daily from Tuesday to Friday and 1900 hrs daily, Sunday to Friday. There is also a sailing at 1000 hrs on Saturday.

P&O European Ferries is set to make further improvements in services for its customers on the Irish Sea, with the recent order for a new, 21,000 tonnes, freight and passenger ferry, to be delivered in June 2000 for the Larne/Cairnryan route."


STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

Following her structural damage on 16 February the STENA VOYAGER returned to service on the Belfast – Stranraer route with her 07.40 sailing ex. Belfast on 11 March. (She was due to re-enter service one round-trip later with the 12.20 ex Belfast). The STENA LYNX III had ceased operation with her 19.35 sailing ex Stranraer on 10 March. With the HSS sailings back to normal, the conventional ferries, Stena Galloway and Stena Caledonia reverted to their normal, primarily freight, schedule.

Meanwhile the KONINGIN BEATRIX returned to the Fishguard – Rosslare service with the 21.50 departure from Rosslare on Friday 12th March, replacing the ROSEBAY. However the return of the KONINGIN BEATRIX will be brief as she will be withdrawn from service on 14th March after her 03.15 sailing from Fishguard to complete the overhaul cut short for her stand-in duties at Holyhead. The ‘KB will re-enter service on 16 March with her 14.30 sailing ex Fishguard. During this period the STENA LYNX III will operate the usual conventional ferry schedule. The fast ferry sailings on the route will resume on 22 March. I observed the STENA LYNX III in Belfast and noticed she was operating without any livery or visible Stena markings. On the same visit to Belfast work was ongoing with the HSS. She appeared to be ballasted down and work appeared to be going on at her "bow end" from a barge.

For the record during the suspension of the Holyhead HSS service, the KONINGIN BEATRIX operated alongside the STENA CHALLENGER, which operated to its normal timetable on the Dublin – Holyhead route.

The release of the KONINGIN BEATRIX is facilitated by the return to service of the STENA EXPLORER, expected to commence operation with the 0410 ex Holyhead on 13 March. That Stena have been able to get the fast ferry back into service so quickly after the incident at Dun Laoghaire on 4 March is something of an achievement. Indeed an even greater achievement is the fact that Stena have managed to repair both recently damaged HSS craft without having to dry-dock the vessels, something that is costly in both time and monetary terms. I must stress however, so that there is no understanding that the repairs obviously meet all with the approval of all relevant safety bodies.

Meanwhile, the ROSEBAY is scheduled to re-enter service on the Harwich – Hook route on 13 March. The ROSEBAY’s sailings will again be cancelled when she takes over the sailings of the STENA SEARIDER with the 1230 ex Hook on 15 March. The STENA SEARIDER will be going for a week long scheduled overhaul.


The honourable Justice Colman has been appointed to preside over the new enquiry into the loss of the Bibby Line bulk carrier DERBYSHIRE [ex LIVERPOOL BRIDGE]. Local press reports suggest that the enquiry will be the largest ever forensic investigation into the loss of a merchant ship.

The Liverpool registered Bibby Line vessel sank during a typhoon in 1980 with the loss of 44 crew, seventeen of whom came from Merseyside.

Andrew Moran QC will head the public enquiry, which opens on Tuesday.


Some months ago I mentioned in Mersey Shipping that plans to employ this former German ferry for coastal cruising from the Mersey had been announced at a World Ship Society Merseyside Branch Meeting.

First of all I would like to point out that whilst plans for the vessel were announced at the meeting there is absolutely no connection between the venture and the World Ship Society!

Wandering up to the PRINCESS ROYAL's berth at Huskisson Dock last week. She has certainly deteriorated considerably since I last viewed her close up last year. Two cars were parked beside her and some machinery on board was running as wisps of exhaust were being emitted from her funnel. However, there is no sign of any care and maintenance having taken place.

A couple of shreds of cloth remain of her Jamaican ensign, whilst the tattered remains of the UK courtesy flag still fly from the mast. Obviously when she arrived no one bothered to take the flags down. Her windows are filthy and she has a noticeable list to port

She is obviously going to need a lot of cash spending on her and I doubt she will see service this year unless something is done very soon.


Geoffrey Hamer writes that there is some news of the INNISFALLEN (1969-1980), B&I's first Swansea-Cork ferry. She is now the HAPPY DOLPHIN and is due to start a summer service next month from La Spezia to Bastia for a new company, Happy Lines. They have a web site ( with pictures and deck plans.


The large tanker PETRO TROLL was due to leave #5 Dry Dock on Sunday morning 14 March. Local press reports have confirmed the news revealed in MS the other week that the Airtours liner SUNBIRD will be arriving at the yard shortly for refit. The last liner to be seen in the yard was CTC's SOUTHERN CROSS a few years ago.

According to Mersey Radio on Saturday evening, the arrival of STENA LYNX III had been reported on the evening at Lairds. However this was not confirmed and she was not present in the yard on Sunday afternoon.


A couple of months ago I reported on the plans for a well known die-cast model bus and truck manufacturer to enter the field of maritime models with the issuing of a model of the TITANIC.

Now, in the latest edition of Model Collector Magazine, Exclusive First Editions [EFE] have announced details of models of the other members of the OLYMPIC class BRITANNIC and OLYMPIC herself. Olympic will appear in traditional White Star livery whilst BRITANNIC will wear hospital ship livery. The latter ship never entering passenger service being requisitioned for military hospital ship duties and sinking on 21 November 1916 after striking a mine in the Mediterranean.

John Luxton

March 14, 1999


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Welcome to a slightly smaller update this week. First of all I would like to announce a planned improvement to Mersey Shipping. I have decided to expand the Live chat facility by the creation of a new site provided located on my other Internet ISP's server.

This new site will be known as MERSEY SHIPPING LIVE! I had hoped to have it operational this weekend, however, the ISP has not installed the FrontPage extensions, which are required for a live chat site. They did inform me that this could be done so I guess everything will be sorted out by next weekend.

I aim to provide four chat forums: General Maritime, Maritime Questions & Answers, Maritime Contacts and Coming Events. The provision of a Questions and Answers and Contacts section should reduce the amount of work required updating the present Questions and Contacts pages on the main site. These two, however, will be maintained for the time being for e-mail messages, however, on the new site messages posted will go live immediately rather than having to await the weekly upload.

Mersey Shipping Live! Will also act as the Mersey Shipping Emergency Site, this will enable me to withdraw from CompuServe. I actually have three ISP's at present – not financially sensible!

Make sure you check out the "What's New Page" this week as there are several updates including an illustrated onboard visit to the New Amsterdam by Mark Johnson.

Since starting Mersey Shipping I often get regular requests from people for contact phone numbers, addresses of shipping companies, museums etc. I have therefore started to construct a directory covering Merseyside. I know it is not yet complete and there are many omissions, however, I will be working on it over the next few weeks. If you would like to have your company/organisation included please e-mail details. This directory is only for addresses and telephone numbers – its not intended to be a WWW Link listing and at present is confined to Merseyside only, though once I feel it is reasonably complete I will extend it.

Finally a note on updates. Whilst I quite often manage to get the weekly update posted much earlier than the 21.00 Sunday deadline, it has been necessary to make the occasional addition and correction on Sunday evening. Therefore, the definitive posting will be available by 21.00, earlier postings may be subject to alteration and addition!


LADY OF MANN - Within days of sales opening for the Llandudno – Douglas sailing on 26 May over 700 tickets had been sold. This has resulted in another trip being planned for Monday 9 August, with timings the same as the May sailing. Silting at the IoMSPCo berth at Douglas, has prevented the May 27 Fleetwood – Douglas trip from being confirmed as yet.

PEVERIL – Remains in Cammell Laird. Both funnels are now painted SeaCo style.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN has been turned round in Vittoria Dock and was seen on 06 March to be occupying the berth previously occupied by PEVERIL. Engineers were at work with a crane repositioning the stern ramp.

SUPERSEACAT TWO has also turned round at Bidston Dock south quay. Her leaping "Bagpus" logos have been replaced, however, to my eyes they appeared darker than those carried last year. Perhaps it was the rain. Surprisingly still no SUPERSEACAT logo has appeared on the sides.

SUPERSEACAT TWO – additional news by Gary Andrews

The launch of a new ferry service on the troubled Newhaven to Dieppe route is to be delayed. Hoverspeed has confirmed it will not be operating out of Newhaven Port until April 23. The company, owned by Newhaven port owners Sea Containers, aimed to take over the route on April 10. It plans to run a summer service until October 31 and is already taking bookings for the planned SUPERSEACAT TWO route. P&O Stena quit the port on 31 January after claims that the service was losing the company 8 million a year. The new operator has recruited about 80 P&O Stena workers.

Hoverspeed spokesman Kevin Charles said: "The ferry is being used in the Irish Sea and cannot be released in time for April 10. It is obviously disappointing but we are still committed to the route."

Hoverspeed believe the route can be turned into a success with the faster, two-hour crossing of the SuperSeaCat. The company has promised to look into the possibility of running a year-round service from Newhaven before October.

It is not clear whether the news from Hoverspeed means that the SUPERSEACAT THREE, due to enter service on the Liverpool – Dublin route around 7 April, has now been delayed.


The "Liverpool Mud Pie Preservation Society" otherwise the anti-Pier Head Sea Terminal group, have welcomed a decision by the UK government to increase the listing grade on a Pier Head memorial.

The memorial to the "Hero's of the Marine Engine Room" is now a grade II listed structure. Christopher Smith, Culture Secretary agreed to the increase in listing grade saying "The Memorial had a considerable influence on the design of post 1919 war memorials, particularly in respect of the portrayal of the ordinary man or woman rather than members of the social or military elite's. It is thought to be one of the most significant memorials to the Titanic disaster on either side of the Atlantic."

It had been proposed that development of new MDHC/Sea Containers terminal facilities at the Pier Head, which would have led to the in-filling of the muddy floating roadway cut, would see the memorial moved a few yards. The objectors hope that the re-grading of the memorial may influence the High Court decision on the plans for the Sea Terminal.

Those of us who want to see shipping services prosper from Liverpool and see the muddy eyesore filled in will obviously hope that the High Court realise that relocation is not the same as demolition and that wise judgement prevails allowing the terminal plans to go ahead. Liverpool deserves decent terminal facilities in a convenient location NOW!


New Brighton has for sometime been a popular location from which Jet Ski owners can launch their craft. In recent years, some irresponsible jet-ski owners have become a menace to themselves and shipping operators. In 1997 a jet-skier was seen to pass between the twin hulls of SEACAT ISLE OF MAN.

Wirral Borough Council is starting a registration scheme for jet-skiers wishing to launch their craft from any of the council's slipways. Registration will cost 80 per year and owners will also have to hold third party insurance cover.

Local lifeguards will be issued with radar guns to enforce in-shore speed limits. The guns will be financed out of the cost of permits. Offenders will have their council jet-ski permits revoked thus preventing them from launching from council owned slips.


The floating restaurant and bar, which arrived in Liverpool's Albert Dock during autumn 1997, is up for sale.

BARCA BARGE, a former Dutch coal barge, is owned by Hale Leisure who blame poor weather on the barge's failure to attract custom. This is despite the success of a number of other restaurants and bars in the Albert Dock complex.


DAWN MERCHANT departed from Cammell Laird on Sunday evening [28 February] following repairs to accident damage. The timetabled two-ship service appears to have commenced from Tuesday 2 March. BRAVE MERCHANT operating the Dublin – Liverpool – night service and Liverpool – Dublin day service whilst DAWN MERCHANT operates the Liverpool – Dublin night service and Dublin – Liverpool day service.

MERCHANT BRILLIANT departed from Bidston Dock [north quay] and was replaced this week by MERCHANT VENTURE.


A gathering of members of the RMT and NUMAST was held on Merseyside on Monday March 1 to call for the Chancellor to impose a "tonnage tax" in the forthcoming budget on foreign flagged vessels. The Jimmy Knapp and Brain Orrell, leaders of the two unions released hundreds of balloons on the Mersey to represent the hundreds of British seafarers that are unemployed as a result of the employment of cheap foreign crews.


Thursday 4 March marked the 175 Anniversary of the founding of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution with various events organised around the British Isles.

On Merseyside special anniversary flags were hoisted at the Hoylake, West Kirby and New Brighton Stations and flares fired.

The three Merseyside lifeboats were then launched and sailed together up the River Mersey.


Survey vessel HMS ROEBUCK [H130] returned on Friday 5 March to Canada #1 Branch Dock [north] and was joined by Netherlands minesweepers SCHEDAM [M860], [M856] the Belgian minesweeper LOBELIA [M921].


Strintzis Lines has sold the Swansea Cork Ferries operation to Briar Star Limited, a consortium of Irish and overseas interests. (Basically a management buyout with assistance from ABP and Cork Harbour Commissioners).

Athens based Strintzis took over the Swansea – Cork route in 1993 and have sold it to the new owner for IR2.1 million ($2.94 million). Strintzis gave four main reasons for the sale. (I) The abolition of duty-free this summer would have hit revenues. (II) Increased competition. (III) A good price being obtained despite limited potential for expansion – Strintzis say they made IR1.1 million profit on the deal (IV) A desire to concentrate on their tradition Adriatic and Greek domestic markets.

Strintzis added that the route had remained static at 160,000 passengers per year and with margins shrinking due to competition and the loss of duty free it could not justify spending on the required new tonnage especially when compared to their other interests. In a deal worth $300 million Strintzis is due to take delivery of four ro-pax ferries next year for its Mediterranean operations with a potential of two further vessels.

Briar Star, an 80% Irish consortium, will charter the SUPERFERRY from Strintzis this summer but have plans to expand capacity next season. Indeed it is understood the SUPERFERRY won’t be available to Swansea-Cork Ferries after November 1999. The new firm is spearheaded by a number of key figures from SCF – Chairman, Denis Murphy, Managing Director, Thomas Hunter McGowan and Director, Des Morrisey. The group first expressed their interest two years ago but an opportunity only arose at Christmas.

The recent speculation that the SUPERFERRY wouldn’t be returning to the Irish Sea this year is bound to stem from these behind the scenes motions. I wish the new venture well. However, Strintzis is a hugely successful ferry firm and I suspect their given reasons for leaving the Irish Sea are genuine. I would worry that the future of the route may not be as secure as one would hope.


JETLINER was still to be seen in Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock on Saturday morning 6 March. She is expected to return to service on the 06.00 sailing from Larne on March 10, however, it had originally been planned to have JETLINER back in service from March 4.

Clive Jackson writes with some P&O notes from Fleetwood: the former harbour control building has been demolished and the extended compound is being mainly used for transferring containers to "mafi" type trailers for shipment. The new dredging contract with Westminster Dredging has not had any effect yet as at low water on spring tides the ships are aground on the berth. I feel that an increase in capacity at Fleetwood does appear to be on the cards but as P&O are keeping their plans close to their chests we will have to wait and see.

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

As if it wasn’t bad enough that the HSS STENA VOYAGER is still out of service following her "incident" at Stranraer two weeks ago, further problems have struck…

The HSS STENA EXPLORER will be out of action indefinitely after it was seriously holed while attempting to berth in Dun Laoghaire on 4 March. The vessel struck one of three mooring dolphins when it was hit by a gust of wind. As a result of one of the fenders breaking a number of brackets were exposed and it was these that holed the craft. Five holes were ripped in the starboard hull of the high-speed craft as she arrived from Holyhead shortly after 11.00 (her 08.55 service). Three small holes were made below the water line whilst two larger holes above the water line can be seen in the pictures. The largest hole measures 8 feet by 4 feet.

However, Stena have been keen to stress that no water reached the vehicle or passengers decks and at no time were passengers in danger. It has been reported that at one stage the front of the vessel dipped by around 15ft. She listed very rapidly after taking the water which made berthing very difficult but once that was achieved she was ballasted back to an even keel and the holes were thus brought clear of the water. A Stena spokesman stated to the Irish press:

"There was never any danger to life, as the vessel is equipped with buoyancy berths."

The second incident in just over two weeks of an HSS craft getting holed beneath the water line whilst berthing raises serious design questions over Stena’s dream ferry. The HSS craft berth using the Global Positioning System (GPS) of navigation which is believed to be affected by certain conditions at Dun Laoghaire, and the north-north-easterly of 4 March, gusting 40 knots in the harbour, caused a considerable swell. One would wonder whether the GPS system is actually trustworthy given recent events.

Eamonn Hewitt, Stena Line Communications Manager is reported to have said, "In normal circumstances the fenders on the mooring dolphins are able to withstand the force of a ferry coming in to berth, but for some reason, on this occasion, the fender broke off and fell, causing the damage to the boat"

The Chief Executive of Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, Michael Hanahoe, said he could not comment on whether the mooring dolphins were at fault, simply saying: "We have our own marine engineers carrying out an investigation at the moment. The mooring dolphins were put in at Stena Line's request for safety in berthing. They were built to Stena Line's design."

Thankfully, though no one was hurt in the incident, but rescue teams and fire and ambulance crews were on standby anyhow. Within two minutes of the accident (understood to be around 1115) the Department of the Marine was notified, Dun Laoghaire lifeboat alerted (under the command of coxswain Ken Robertson) and an IMES medium-range Sikorski rescue helicopter sent to the scene. A lifeboat in Howth was also put on standby. (The Royal National Lifeboat Institution was at the time holding a ceremony to celebrate the institution’s 175th birthday allowing an incredibly prompt response).

However, thanks to the calmness of the master of the vessel, Capt. Hugh Farrell, the vessel berthed without assistance.

Justin Merrigan of the RNLI was quoted in the Irish News as saying:

"We simply stood by and relayed information on the extent of the damage to the hull above and below the waterline."

Mr Merrigan added that given the conditions, the Stena master used considerable skill to negotiate the berth. After the collision the vessel docked to the nearby berth, where the 322 passengers, the 70 crew, together with the cars and freight disembarked normally. (There are conflicting reports as to whether the HSS STENA EXPLORER docked with or without assistance but I understand she actually docked under her own power).

I thank Justin Merrigan for helping me fill in some of the details of the events of 4 March. In addition to the above Justin has revealed that the Dun Laoghaire lifeboat stood by and at one stage offered to take a line and hold the HSS's bow to the west to assist in berthing. This was not required although the volunteers remained on scene to report information from the waterline to the bridge.

Stena has stated that the 99-minute HSS service from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead is cancelled indefinitely and has replaced the craft on the Holyhead route with the Fishguard conventional ferry KONINGIN BEATRIX that had to be brought from refit to enter service. The ‘KB will operate from Dublin Port as the terminal in Dun Laoghaire was altered for the HSS and cannot accommodate a conventional ship. The KONINGIN BEATRIX will also only be able to operate two round trips instead of the four of the HSS STENA EXPLORER. However, with a capacity for 1800 passengers and 500 cars the vessel should generally provide adequate capacity at this point in the year. Passenger and tourist vehicle traffic on the Fishguard – Rosslare service would appear to be currently transferred to Irish Ferries at Pembroke.

There is speculation the HSS will be sent to Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast for repairs. However, given that the HSS STENA VOYAGER has still not been dry-docked for her inspection and possibly further repair (due to other H & W commitments) it seems likely that it may be some time before the Holyhead vessel is dry-docked.

The Fine Gael spokesman on Marine and Natural Resources, Michael Finucane, was quoted in the Irish Independent as saying: "It would appear that as a result of the vessel bumping off the side of a fender the metal framing underneath the rubber broke away and caused the damage. It raises the question of the suitability of the dolphin, which has been operational since December 1998, especially as it happened in a force six wind.''

Irish Marine Minister Michael Woods has insisted that the vessel will not be allowed to sail again until the Department of Marine Inspectors were satisfied it was safe. An inquiry into the incident has begun and is expected to be completed within a week of the accident.

Passengers have been quoted as speaking of calm onboard during the incident as people didn’t really know what was happening except that the vessel had obviously been in collision. Indeed there was criticism of the lack of information – passengers only being told that disembarkation would have to be structured as the vessel was listing and "had a slight problem".

I would suspect that if the Holyhead HSS were to be out of service for some time Stena would move the STENA LYNX 3 to the Dun Laoghaire route. The STENA CHALLENGER would offer support on the Holyhead – Dublin service with the KONINGIN BEATRIX returning to Rosslare. Meanwhile there would likely be a suspension of the fast ferry service on the Stranraer – Belfast route with the STENA GALLOWAY and STENA CALEDONIA maintaining the schedule.

COMMENT: The Stena Line hard sell of the HSS (circa 1993 – 1995) suggested that their unique design would have an effect on the ferry industry akin to that of the discovery of electricity on the modern world. The striking (possibly the wrong word?) HSS craft have several advantages over other vessels. They have better sea-keeping qualities than virtually any other high-speed vessels; they are able to carry HGVs unlike most fast ferries and yet operate at substantially higher speeds than conventional ferries.

However, they are hugely expensive to operate. The resultant wash from their speed and size has lead to speed restrictions that have minimised reductions on crossing times. They operate from such specific facilities that a breakdown of linkspans or port problems result in an operational headache. More seriously, the craft have suffered more structural problems than any other series of high-speed ferries. This week’s incident with the HSS STENA EXPLORER almost mirrors that of the HSS STENA VOYAGER two weeks ago. Every mishap is an economic disaster – the effect of the damage to the HSS STENA DISCOVERY in January 1998 had an adverse effect on the entire year’s performance of the firm.

Has the Stena dream become a nightmare and how much longer can Stena leave their UK operations at the mercy of these vessels?

The HSS STENA EXPLORER’s problems also remind us how much we would rely on the services of the RNLI. I know there is a collection box in the ferry terminal at Larne Harbour but surely there should be collection boxes on all ferries and I sincerely hope that shipping firms make annual donations to the charity, one which is surely one of the worthiest of all charities.


The HSS STENA EXPLORER was due to leave Dun Laoghaire tonight (6 March) for Holyhead. She had been patched up at Dun Laoghaire whilst a permanent repair was being spoken of alongside in Holyhead. Stena have stated that it will be Thursday at least before the HSS re-enters service. In the meantime the KONINGIN BEATRIX will operate Dublin – Holyhead running to the Irish Ferries berth in Holyhead. At the time of writing I cannot confirm whether it is the STENA CHALLENGER or ROSEBAY that is operating on the Fishguard service.

Stena Line (speaking to the Irish press) said that they could cope with the demand with passengers travelling across the Irish Sea for the Ireland vs. England match in Lansdowne Road on 6 March, despite the loss of the services of the HSS.

Stena Irish Sea Fleet Deployments as at 6 March:

Fishguard - Rosslare: ROSEBAY.


Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire: Suspended



The local press reports that Marconi Naval Systems successors to VSEL/GEC and owners of part of the Cammell Laird shipyard site have been in discussions with FBM Marine of Cowes, Isle of Wight.

FBM Marine which has supplied high speed craft to Red Funnel Line, the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service and other operators is looking for DTI financial assistance from the ship building intervention fund to build high speed catamarans at Birkenhead.

The Marconi site at Birkenhead has also been mentioned as a possible site for construction of one of the new Royal Navy aircraft carriers.


On Saturday afternoon the large tanker PETRO TROLL transported to #5 Dry Dock from the Tranmere Oil Terminal.

John Luxton

March 7, 1999


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