The Irish Sea Shipping Archive

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


APRIL 1999



There appears to have been problems with the MSN site server again this week. Apologies for any inconvenience. One problem earlier in the week had rectified itself by the time I was alerted to it. The other became apparent Friday evening and unfortunately that’s the worst time for such problems to occur, as its unlikely the ISP will deal with it before Monday morning! However, as usual, the weekly news will be uploaded to the Emergency Site.

There are a number of new updates this week including the Maritime Queries and Liner Calls Directories. However, if you are reading this on the Emergency Site these updates are not available and will have to await the return of the main site. However, I have included a voyage report within the text of this news bulletin.

Hopefully by next week everything will be back to normal again and there should be some more photographic galleries.

Once again apologies and thanks to those who have forwarded information for this week's posting.

Please note that next week's posting will appear late on Saturday 1st May as I will be taking another trip on the BEN-MY-CHREE on Sunday.


LADY OF MANN – remains in Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock though still afloat which suggests any work below the waterline must have been undertaken when she was dry-docked after her fender problems at Dublin in December.

PEVERIL and PICASSO – remain laid up in Vittoria Dock

SUPERSEACAT THREE The new ship demonstrated her improved abilities over her predecessor on 20 April when she reached Dublin on schedule despite poor conditions. Though with rising southerly winds it was decided to in ballast from Dublin to Langton Lock, Liverpool where she entered the dock system for her scheduled Tuesday maintenance period.


With Hoverspeed’s two Dover – Calais hovercraft getting increasingly close to retirement speculation is growing in Kent as to what will replace them. One school of thought is suggesting that the DIAMANTE and RAPIDE from the Dover – Calais route may replace them in 2001 and in turn be replaced by two SuperSeaCat craft. I’m not sure if there would even be two SuperSeaCat vessels available by 2001 to operate Dover – Ostend but it is still an interesting thought.

What may be more attractive to maintain (or at least almost maintain) the high speed of the Hovercraft service would be two of the latest (very!) high-speed Incat vessels.



Sea Containers’ planned purchase of a significant shareholding in Neptun Maritime has now been completed. As previously discussed it remains to be seen if Sea Containers ultimately acquire the remaining shares in the firm and whether or not their massive high speed operation will begin to dominate the currently conventional fleet of Silja.

For sake of clarity the press release follows below to allow you to read the details for yourself:

News Release

Friday 23 April 1999 11:01 GMT


Hamilton, Bermuda - Sea Containers Ltd. received in recent days clearance from the competition authorities in Sweden and Finland to acquire a majority shareholding in Neptun Maritime Oyj, the leading cruise ferry operator in the Baltic. These approvals enabled the company to complete the acquisition on April 20th. The annual shareholders meeting of Neptun Maritime will be held in Helsinki on April 28, 1999 and James B. Sherwood, president of Sea Containers, will be proposed as the new chairman with David G. Benson and Daniel J. O'Sullivan of Sea Containers as directors. Eric D. Nilsson, honorary chairman of Gotland Shipping Co., will also be proposed for board membership plus Tommy Nilsson, president of NCC in Sweden and Erik Stadigh and Kari Toikka representing Finnish shareholders.

Mr James B. Sherwood, president of Sea Containers Ltd., said that studies in recent weeks had revealed a number of excellent opportunities for Silja Line and he expected them to be considered at the first meeting of the new board.

In 1998 Neptun Maritime had total revenue of 647 million U.S dollars and carried 5.8 million passengers, 347,000 cars, 13,000 coaches and 123,000 freight vehicles on its intra-Baltic services. In addition, it owns three pure cruise vessels, two of which are based in the Caribbean and the third in Hong Kong. These ships are on bareboat charter at profitable rates. Charters on two of the vessels have recently been extended for several years.



24 April 1999

Heysham to Belfast and return



I had been looking forward to undertaking this trip for sometime, my father, who also came along and myself, having never been   to Belfast before.

I arrived at Heysham around 11.00, the terminal was rather quiet, just a few people in the waiting room and a few cars in the vehicle waiting lanes.

SEACAT DANMARK arrived shortly after 11.30 and backed on to the linkspan. At around this time the security staff had opened the departure gate and some passengers walked through. At this stage there had been no boarding announcement and as SCD was still moving astern it became obvious when the passengers in front headed off in the direction of the linkspan that some alternative boarding arrangement was to take place, not surprising really when one looks at the state of the timber edging to the number 1 berth at Heysham! At present it wouldn't be possible to run a gangway from the quay side to the stern passenger entrance of SEACAT DANMARK!

Walking towards the landward end of the linkspan it became apparent that a few changes had taken place. Another smaller vehicle marshalling area had been created near the top of the span. This is obviously to allow more vehicles to be assembled and then brought forward separating Belfast bound traffic from that bound for Douglas as early arriving vehicles for the Ben's sailings would start gathering before SCD departs.

Parked in one of the vehicle lanes was a large coach, onto which passengers were directed. This won't get on board SCD I thought to myself. By now SCD was discharging cars, they were followed up the linkspan by the foot passengers. Car loading them commenced and finally when two of SCD's crew arrived the coach moved off turned onto the linkspan and stopped at the bottom, passengers then walking up the SeaCat "adaptor" ramp located at the bottom of the linkspan and then across the vessels ramp onto the vehicle deck.

Total distance from boarding coach to disembarkation as the "seagull flies" about 80 feet a couple of hundred feet longer when driving down the span! This does appear to be a strange arrangement as disembarking passengers walk off which appears reasonable.

However, thinking about it, I guess boarding is carried out in this at to speed up loading as passengers can check in their luggage and then wait on the coach which moves down to the bottom of the ramp just before departure time.

Another interesting feature I noted was that unlike on the Isle of Man routes and Liverpool – Dublin – luggage was carried aboard by a lorry rather than the "Thomas and the Troublesome Trucks" baggage train. One of these lorries displayed traces of a previous Stena Line ownership.

Once the foot passengers were on board departure followed quite swiftly at 12.16, one minute behind schedule. However, we didn't travel very far. The captain announced that we would have to put back into berth #3 to allow the BEN-MY-CHREE to enter. The BEN duly arrived and swung before backing onto berth #1 presenting excellent photo opportunities. Somehow, it appeared fitting that the small SeaCat should have to give way to the pride of Sea Containers Irish Sea fleet.

SCD moved off at 12.37, with the Heysham Pilot boat coming alongside at 12.48. As speed increased the Lune Buoy was passed at 13.03. Belfast Freight Ferries MERLE passed by bound for Heysham at 13.44 whilst SCD overtook MERCHANT BRILLIANT bound for Belfast at 14.08.

Weather had been particularly fine up to that point, however, approaching the Isle of Man it became more cloudy. The summit of Snaefell poked through the mist. South West of Ramsey, EUROPEAN PIONEER, heading for Fleetwood on its sailing from Larne passed by at 14.18.

Passing close to the Point of Ayre on the north west tip of The Isle of Man the captain announced that this was the halfway point of the journey. Shortly afterwards it clouded over still further and rained briefly, before the weather cleared once more and the fine afternoon continued around 15.00

MERCHANT BRAVERY had passed by heading for Heysham at 14.49, little more was seen until the entrance to Belfast Lough came into view. A head of SEACAT DANMARK could be seen HSS STENA VOYAGER on her sailing from Stranraer. Heading out from Belfast could be seen what is thought be STENA CALEDONIA but I was not able to positively identify it.

Running up Belfast Lough it was apparent that SCD was steadily gaining on HSS STENA VOYAGER which is forced to decelerate on entering the Lough due to the fact it generate a significant wash.

By the time SEACAT SCOTLAND passed outbound the gape between the HSS and SCD had closed considerably. At this point I was standing on the outside deck and some thoughtful Belfast citizen who, spotting my badges, must have guessed I was a shipping enthusiast came over. He too great pride in pointing out the Harland and Wolff cranes as the place where the TITANIC was built.

Belfast Freight Ferries SPHEROID was discharging at its berth. Other vessels noted berthed on the north side of the River Lagan further up stream were two bulk carriers, one of which appeared VERY rusty and appeared to confirm many of the rumours surrounding such vessels! Somehow I failed to note these vessels names. Being unfamiliar with the area there was just too much to look at and take in!

Approaching Harland's a large floating Crane the CLYDE could be seen in Dry Dock, whilst berthed nearby was a small coaster INGEBOURG. Whilst on the north side was another small vessel the JULIA ISABEL.

By now the HSS and SCD captains had exchanged radio messages and the HSS swung to port in front of SCD which passed to stern. The HSS then commenced to run up river stern first heading for the Stena Line Terminal behind SEACAT DANMARK.

Arrival at Belfast terminal at Donegal Quay was at 16.33 – 18 minutes behind schedule.

Being a long established SeaCat operating base the Belfast Terminal has proper foot passenger boarding arrangements with a moveable, covered gangway.

Before passengers disembarked the new crew came aboard and then within a few minutes I was checking in for the return journey. Unfortunately a lack of time prevented even just having a quick look around outside the terminal, though from what I can see, Belfast looks interesting enough even from just a Maritime point of view to have a more detailed look around later this year.

Re boarding SEACAT DANMARK departure was effected 4 minutes ahead of schedule at 17.11. Passing the Stena terminal, it was noted that the HSS had departed.

Norse Irish Ferries MERSEY VIKING passed inbound from Liverpool at 17.25, however, as we accelerated down the Lough it was apparent that we were gaining on HSS STENA VOYAGER between 17.36 and 17.40 the two ships ran side by side before the HSS opened up to full speed and began drawing ahead.

A few minutes later what is believed to be STENA GALLOWAY could be seen heading in bound from Stranraer.

Cory towing's ROWANGARTH passed north westwards at 17.58 whilst MERCHANT BRILLIANT, already overtaken earlier in the afternoon was seen heading towards BELFAST. Passing south of the Mull of Kintyre which was clearly visible at 18.24

SEACAT DANMARK passed Point of Ayre at 19.08. Once again the mountains of Man appeared to poke through a light mist which lay over the lower land.

There was little of note to be seen until the Heysham pilot was picked up at 20.51 for the run up to the channel to the port. Waiting off Heysham was MERCHANT BRAVERY. Just prior to entering Sea Truck Ferries RIVERDANCE passed outbound for Warrenpoint. Berthed in Heysham harbour was Belfast Freight Ferries RIVER LUNE.

Ropes were on at 21.11, however, careful manoeuvring appeared to be necessary to align SCD's stern ramp with the adaptor ramp on the linkspan which resulted in SCD being made fast at 21.19 – four minutes behind schedule. Vehicles were discharged first with passengers walking up the ramp. However, another coach was waiting for the next departure!

All in all I found the new service very interesting. However, loadings did appear rather light. I missed the transmissions with the pax loadings but I would guess they probably didn't reach 100 either way, with perhaps around 20 vehicles.

On board the crew appeared as pleasant and attentive as ever, my father and I being plied with drinks, a generous supply of biscuits and also crisps and peanuts in the Blue Riband lounge. Looking at the menu there were certainly some interesting items. I decided to try the smoked salmon fillet for a late lunch which was quite tasty. However, generally I think many of the refreshment prices appear slightly higher than those on the routes out of Liverpool.

The bridge crew of SCD must be rather shy. All but three of the bridge observation windows [starboard side] remained closed. There again, whilst its nice from a passenger's point of view to see forward, perhaps its not that much fun being peered at as though you were a goldfish in a bowl!

Both shops on board the vessel remained open. As the Belfast route is not a Duty Free route it was interesting to note that a small selection of spirits and perfume was available for sale along with a variety of other souvenirs including SeaCat models. However, quite a few items for sale still appeared to carry the older, and in my opinion better, SeaCat logo with the more slender slanting text.

Looking at SCD I think soon someone should consider improvements to the interior. Quite a lot of the panels need replacing, rather than just painting over. As they were originally bore a fine fabric coating, the painting over always tends to look rough. Perhaps its time soon for some serious work. The toilets too are starting to look rather "tired" and do not present in as good a fashion as those aboard the SuperSeaCat, BEN-MY-CHREE, or even the LADY OF MANN. Some dazzlingly bright orange pain on the panels does not help.

I certainly hope that the reopened Heysham – Belfast route is a success, it is certainly much more accessible than the routes out of Stranraer, however, one wonders what effect the ensuing fare wars this summer between airline operators EasyJet and British Regional Airlines trading as British Airways Express may have on carryings? Further more even more capacity on routes from the north west will appear next year when Merchant Ferries commence Liverpool – Belfast sailings.

Finally perhaps something more should be done to boost carryings on the Heysham – Belfast run during quiet periods. Though there is no duty free, perhaps "Irish Flyer" cheap day returns should be made available for passengers? The crossing is quite an interesting one from a scenic point of view and makes a good day out from Heysham. From, Belfast on certain days day trips to nearby Morecambe should prove popular.


The court case involving controversial plans to close off the public highway to allow development of a new MDHC/Sea Containers Terminal at the Pier Head has been adjourned until 28 June.

The decision was taken earlier this week when it became apparent that the hearing would run out of allocated court time.

Campaigners Patrick Moran of Southport and Loraine Mackarel of The Waterloo Warehouse Apartments, Liverpool are appealing against a magistrate's order which permits Liverpool City Council to "stop up the highway" in St. Nicholas Place.

Objectors claim the proposed plans for a vehicle marshalling area which would involve filling in the floating roadway cut and relocating the Grade II listed memorial to the men of the Marine Engine Room [The TITANIC memorial], will result in the loss of public recreation space.

Thomas Williams of the MDHC and John Burrows of Sea Containers Ltd gave evidence to the court.
Mr. Burrows is reported to have said that the proposals would make the present position "significantly better" and mean that Sea Containers would be able to handle vehicles more efficiently. Furthermore Mr. Burrows pointed out that he uses the Pier Head for lunchtime walks and did not think the proposed marshalling yard would make much difference.

It was revealed that accountants KPMG, tenants in the adjacent Princes Parade office block were very image conscious and were not happy with the present arrangements with cars being marshalled on the present site. Apparently MDHC have been under obligation to move the ferry company since last September and are already in breach of contract, according to Mr. Williams.

Mr Williams also added that there was no other side for the ferry company to park their cars other than the proposed marshalling yard and if the closure application was refused services may no longer be able to run from Liverpool.

Mr. Williams said he believed the proposals would create far less congestion and enable St. Nicholas Place to be brought up to an acceptable standard.

I think that obviously we are going to have to wait another two months before the outcome of this case is settled. For the sake of Liverpool, one must maintain the hope that sanity prevails and the terminal improvements can go ahead.



As I have said before the citizens of Liverpool should support the new terminal plans and not allow themselves to be manipulated by a few people who seek to prey on popular opinion through their emphasis on the relocation of a small number or maritime memorials which will be relocated close by. This is not an act of disrespect as those opposed to the plans have suggested. Liverpool was built on Maritime commerce. To hinder the development of the port a significantly more disrespectful act to those seafarers who gave their lives as a result of their service in peace or war.



The Annual Friends of the Ferries River and Dock Cruise will be held on Saturday 19 June 1999. The cruise departs for Seacombe at 12.25, Woodside at 12.35 and Liverpool at 12.50. Fares are 8.00 adults and 4.00 for children.

Tickets are available from Friends of the Ferries, 7 Foxcovers Road, Bebington, Merseyside, L63 3EQ or from the Seacombe Ferries terminal.


The 19th Mersey River Festival will be held between 18 and 21 June 1999. There will be a large number of visiting vessels the star of which is likely to be the sailing ship PHOENIX. The brigantine is operated by Square Sail of Charlestown, Cornwall; the vessel has appeared in a number of recent films and TV productions.

Built in Denmark as a mission ship in 1929, PHOENIX became a cargo ship in 1949 and continued to trade until 1972. She was acquired by Square Sail eleven years ago.

After the Mersey River Festival she will sail north for the Whitehaven Maritime Festival [see below]. Other visiting vessels will include ships from the German Navy, two Royal Navy mine hunters.

The maritime festival will also feature hot air balloons, which last year made a dramatic sight drifting across the Mersey. There will be a concert at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on June 19, a photographic exhibition in the Atrium of the Royal Liver Buildings as well as the cross-Mersey swim. There will also be various other displays and events in the Albert and Canning Dock areas.


After leaving Liverpool the PHOENIX sails for Whitehaven, Cumbria, to be a star attraction at the Whitehaven Maritime Festival on 26 and 27 June. Also visiting will be the Mersey Maritime Museum's tug BROCKLEBANK.

There will be model displays featuring Vickers built ships and models of the BNFL owned/James Fisher managed nuclear carriers.

The Royal Navy will be providing a submarine simulator, whilst actors will recreate quayside scenes from the past. The festival will also be supported by trade stands from local companies, music and entertainers.


The JONATHAN SWIFT, constructed by Austal Ships, is making good progress on her delivery voyage to Dublin and is now the star of a new TV advertisement which has been screened in a number of TV stations including Granada and RTE.

The ship has its own dedicated website at on which its delivery voyage progress can be charted. The captains also post the daily log and there is a facility for sending e-mails to the ship. Further more the site also has details of a competition whereby contestants will have a chance of winning a holiday worth 2000.


It seems like we are now witnessing the biggest fare battle ever on the Loch Ryan services. Last week you will recall I brought the news that P&O had unveiled a range of apex fares starting at just 45 single for a car and up to five passengers. Within a day of that news, Stena had matched P&O’s offer. P&O in turn lowered their apex fares by 10. Stena has again followed P&O’s lead. There is no word yet of a response from P&O to Stena’s response.

I don’t have the full range of P&O prices and sailings to hand but I suspect them to be broadly similar to Stena’s sailings and prices that are as follows.

Single Apex prices for a car + 5 adults.

30/4/99 – 7/7/99 and 26/8/99 – 31/12/99: Off peak 35 Shoulder 45 and Peak 55.
8/7/99 – 25/8/99: Off peak 85, Shoulder 95 and Peak 115.

Off peak

Ex Belfast: 0200,0250,0700,1030,1445/1630,1945 & 2200.
Ex Stranraer: 0025,0230,0515,0630,0800,1000,1200,1530 & 2030/2130.

Ex Belfast: Daily 0740 Mon. -Thu & Sat 1220 & 1710.
Ex Stranraer: Mon.-Thur. & Sat 1445 & 1935/2000.

Ex Belfast: Fri & Sat 1220 & 1710.
Ex Stranraer: Fri & Sat 1445 & 1935.

Trips must be booked and paid for 14 days prior to departure. No changes, no amendments, no refunds and all travel must be completed by 31/12/99 and booked by 30/6/99.

These specials offer fantastic value for money. Even the most expensive trip this summer will now only cost 230 when the brochure standard rate is likely twice that price. There never has been a better time to be a passenger with fares rivalling the best rates offered at Dover in recent years. Previous fare wars have involved fares such as 72-hour returns that are of only limited use. To my mind there are several reasons for the "Price War". The first is the most simple, traffic has been going downhill on Loch Ryan routes in recent times and this will hopefully encourage people to travel again and allow market growth to return. Additionally the competition has never been greater with Heysham and Troon (from 29 April) now on offer and the vast increase in Dublin tonnage. Therefore, there has got to be reason for people not to change from using the Loch Ryan routes in favour of the new services. It remains to be seen whose nerve cracks first - P&O or Stena. Price wars can prove very expensive and with P&O’s Larne freight business booming and able to subsidise cut-price passenger services, I suspect at least one operator is in a position to keep the war continuing.

It will be interesting to see whether Sea Containers cut fares on their Troon, Heysham and Stranraer services. Similar cuts in prices are unlikely (I don’t know for a fact but I would guess it would be almost impossible financially) but we may see a stack of new offers to persuade people away from Stranraer and Cairnryan and their special offers. I think that as people are not yet used to the timesaving of the new services, the special offers of P&O and Stena will make it more difficult for Sea Containers to tap into existing custom. The fare war is fantastic news for the consumer but I wonder what the long-term effects will be on the ferry operators. This subject will be with us for some time…


For sometime now, Mersey Shipping has been following the Condor Ferries INCAT CONDOR 10 in its migrations around the world, as she was often a familiar sight on Merseyside for her annual pre-winter season refits for Tranz-Rail.

Michael Pryce writes, "It appears that CONDOR 10's regular seasonal migrations might beat an end.

CONDOR 10 completed her scheduled charter to Tranz Rail as "The Lynx" on 18th April after her fifth southern-summer season crossing Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton. No northern-summer charter was forthcoming, and she was planned to sail to Hobart this week to lay up.

However, Tranz Rail have now renewed a charter and retained her for a reduced winter service across Cook Strait. Commencing on 7th May she will operate two return-crossings between Wellington and Picton on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, and at holiday "long weekends". During the rest of the week CONDOR 10 will lay up at Wellington.

CONDOR 10 will operate this service until November, when it is understood that Tranz Rail will likely charter an 86-metre Incat for the full southern-summer service of three return-crossings daily from November 1999. One reason for this change is the appearance of a new competitor across Cook Strait.

A new company, Fast Cat Ferries Ltd., Christchurch, has chartered the 96-metre Incat 050, to be renamed TOPCAT, to start a daily two return-crossings per day service between Wellington and Picton from 10th May 1999. The vessel has been operating across Bass Strait for the past four months as the second DEVIL CAT, but is presently at Incat, Hobart, being prepared for her new service.


The APOLLON [ex-EMPRESS OF CANADA], which was due to sail from Liverpool on 24 April, will commence next cruise from Southampton with passengers being bussed from Merseyside and offered what is rumoured to be 40 in compensation. Bad weather is blamed for the delay in the ship reaching Merseyside. The Southampton departure will enable the company to maintain the planned itinerary.

Incidentally an advertisement in the Liverpool Echo this week, placed a third party [not Direct Cruises], was advertising significantly reduced fares on all grades of cabin for the cruise advertised as departing 22 May. This may suggest that in the light of the last season's problems and the recent arrest and subsequent cancellation of the Lowline owned EDINBURGH CASTLE's cruises, that loadings are lower than expected.


MERCHANT VENTURE remains laid up in Bidston Dock, Birkenhead and is reported to be awaiting sale.


I understand that EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR paid a visit to Cammell Laird last weekend for renewal of her passenger certificate.

John Luxton

April 25, 1999


Back Home Up Next



There appeared to be some problem with the server and Mersey Shipping was unavailable from Wednesday until sometime on Thursday this week. However, everything now appears to have returned to normal. Once again I would like to thank the various contributors to Mersey Shipping.


BEN-MY-CHREE: The bad weather on Monday caused some disruption to schedules. 09.00 Douglas - Heysham was delayed to 12.00 and the return 14.15 was expected to sail at around 16.30

LADY OF MANN: After completing the student games special sailings, the Lady went off to Dublin on Tuesday operating the delayed 08.00 sailing. However, she is reported to have encountered very high winds of up to Force 11 off Anglesey and stayed in Dublin for the night. [Even the Lady has her limits!] She returned to Merseyside on Wednesday proceeding to Alfred Lock, Birkenhead and is currently in Wright and Bayer's yard. 

SUPERSEACAT THREE: Bad weather this week saw her Monday and Tuesday sailings cancelled.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN: The poor weather this week resulted in some disruption. The Monday afternoon Douglas – Liverpool sailing was cancelled, her passengers being diverted to the student special sailing. Passengers returning to the Isle of Man travelled via Heysham on the BEN-MY-CHREE.

Charlie Tennant has sent me details of an offer in the Scottish Sunday Mail promoting the new SEACAT SCOTLAND route from Troon to Belfast. The offer allows for half price travel until June 30. Fares are from 15 for a three day foot passenger ticket or 20 for a six day ticket. Motorists can travel for as little as 85 for a car and five passengers on a five day return or 109.50 for a six-day return. Children go free. The Troon – Belfast service commences on April 29. To take advantage of this offer Sunday Mail readers should phone SeaCo on 08705 525523 quoting EX/SM1. Tickets are offered on a firm sale basis, no changes or cancellations.

On Merseyside the following offers are advertised as being available on the Dublin route though they are not associated with any newspaper offer:

Liverpool - Dublin 4 day foot pax return 35, Seniors 25 and Children 17 -
basically the 2 day fare gives 4 days
Car and 4 for up to 4 days 125
Car and 4 for up to 8 days 169
Prices valid until 31 May.

Traffic figures for March from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company show some healthy increases:

Passengers: 24,458 = +12.5%
car traffic: 7,285 = + 8%
commercial= 31,680 metres = + 19%

Year to date
Passengers: 53,040 = +8.5%
Cars: 16,443 =+ 5.5%


Internally, the modifications carried out have improved her appearance greatly. The main cabin area has had the number of seats with tables increased. There is no queues anymore for food which was a common occurrence with SuperSeaCat Two and the outer deck has been improved as the location of the funnels have been extended back further providing more shelter from the wind. The internal layout of the ship is much more comfortable with 600 passengers on board as per my return journey than that of it's predecessor and of today's other vessels.

The catering leaves a lot to be desired. A sausage barm cost me 3.50, however if I had bacon and egg on it as well, it would have only cost me 4.95. With my sausage barm, I could have an egg omelette for free, however on the outward crossing, the staff were giving two sausages on each barm and on the return, three! A large coke cost 99p in the bar and 1.35 in the new Little Chef Express (which is correct I don't know), a Cajun chicken barm cost 5.75.

As per my experiences last year, the food was served cold. The prices for hot food didn't go down too well with a large number of passengers, but it has to be said that cold food such as sandwiches were much more reasonably priced.

The staff appear to be still settling down into their new ship and the transfer of duty-free stock was still taking place as most items were un priced and causing the staff a few problems with the numerous requests for prices. There also appeared to be a lack of duty free items and food on board as the ship was virtually empty only 2 and a half hours into the return journey.

The last thing that annoyed a lot of people was the fact that the ship didn't sell crisps or chocolates (other than the chocolate sold in duty free). Needless to say, this didn't go down to well with the children on board.

The ride quality is much improved following the fitting of the T-Foil. The vessel did however vibrate quite considerably during the cruise up the Mersey and a number of technical staff were seen on the bridge.

All in all, the ship is much better than it's predecessor. However, the staff need to do some homework on the prices on board, more stock needs to be kept on board and some form of improvement to the Little Chef Express is needed to keep food more warm than at present.


Following sea trials off Perth, Irish Ferries' new Austal catamaran JONATHAN SWIFT left Freemantle (Australia) for Dublin on Sunday April 11. When the craft arrives in Dublin next month it will undergo berthing trials at Dublin and Holyhead, plus crew training and familiarisation, before entering service in June. It will complete the Dublin – Holyhead sailing in as little as 1 hour and 49 minutes.

She is similar in design to P&O Portsmouth’s Superstar Express, but the Swift has a bow door so as to speed up loading/unloading. She is expected to be a great success and will provide high-speed opposition to Stena’s Dun Laoghaire – Holyhead HSS service. The new service will operate alongside the cruise ferry service already offered on the route.

An excellent website has now been established for the JONATHAN SWIFT

Irish Ferries have a new advertising campaign starting on both UK independent TV and Irish TV. The first showing in the UK will be on 19 April at 1915, during the break of "Wish You Were Here", on the Central, Granada and Meridian ITV regions. If you are in Ireland you will see it on RTE or Network2. The first Irish showing will be on 19 April at 1957 - Just after Coronation Street on RTE1.

P&O NEWS by Gary Andrews

FLEET CHANGES COME INTO EFFECT: P&O’s new look Larne – Scotland services still appear to be settling down. Whilst all vessels are now in service, it appears the new timetable has still to come into full effect. I spotted the former Dublin vessel, EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR loading at Larne on the evening of 14 April although I understand she arrived as expected around 12 April. Meanwhile the EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR departed from Cammell Laird on the morning of 12 April, it is not clear why she had the brief dry-docking.

As mentioned above, I am busy at the moment at other things and have been unable to check full details of the timetable situation with P&OEF (Irish Sea). My apologies, but with no printed timetable currently available it takes considerable efforts to get a reliable list of ships and sailing times. Incidentally, with five ships now sailing to Cairnryan, there are few other routes aside from Dover - Calais to boast so many ferries.

P&O TO THE RESCUE: At teatime on 12 April three P&O vessels were observed assisting the Larne lifeboat in the rescue of a troubled pleasure craft. The P&O vessels were almost certainly the EUROPEAN TRADER, European Seafarer and European Highlander. I have not yet heard any further details of the incident.

JET PROBLEMS?: P&O’s Jetliner appears to be taking around 75 minutes to complete the Cairnryan – Larne crossing in recent weeks. Previously when there have been problems with one of the craft’s engines it has been normal for such an extended crossing. The Jetliner missed a considerable number of sailings over the past week due to the adverse weather conditions.

FARE DEALS FROM P&O by Gary Andrews

The first press release is on the welcome decision by P&O to introduce Apex fares on the Larne – Cairnryan route. There is little more I can say that I didn’t in the main update but to say that I’m delighted with the deal as it finally offers North Channel travellers the bargains long offered on other ferry services. Let us hope Stena and Sea Containers follow P&O’s excellent lead. I’m sure P&O’s great offer will not go unnoticed by the travelling public and they can expect good increases in traffic.

Below is the press release;


16 April 1999


P&O European Ferries, operator of the record-breaking one hour Jetliner service between Larne and Cairnryan, is breaking records again with the introduction of Apex fares for motorists on the shortest and fastest Irish Sea crossing – with fares as low as 9 per person.

Available on the one hour Jetliner or the conventional ferry, the PRIDE OF RATHLIN, which does the crossing in just over two hours, P&O’s Apex Fares start from as little as 45 Single for a car and five passengers for travel up to 31 December 1999. Bookings must be made by 30 June 1999. Strictly 14 days advance booking requirement.

James Esler, Sales & Marketing Manager, comments; "Up to now, Apex Fares have usually been associated with airlines. However, our market research indicates that our customers would welcome a similar system on our ferries
with the added advantage of being able to take their car as well."

Full details of the new Apex Fares are available from local travel agents or from P&O European Ferries at 0870 24 24 277.




Although, it may not be news to readers of the bulletin, P&O have issued a press release to announce the introduction of the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR to the Larne – Cairnryan route. It is worth re-printing to give you the official news. It appears the original sailing times given for the Larne – Ardrossan service were correct (and not the 0800 departure from Larne I mentioned last week). To fully understand and explain the new timetable I’d need to work on a list of ships and sailing times which I haven’t had time to compile, but will do so at the earliest opportunity.

As a Larne resident I’d like to congratulate P&O on their vote of confidence in the local port and by making the Larne – Cairnryan route, undoubtedly the biggest freight route in the Irish Sea.
Below is the press release;


17 April 1999


P&O European Ferries has further strengthened its Northern Ireland to Scotland freight services with the introduction of an additional vessel and increased sailings from the Port of Larne.

The EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR commenced operating on the Larne – Cairnryan service on 13 April 1999, which together with the regular vessels – EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR, EUROPEAN TRADER and PRIDE OF RATHLIN, now offers up to ten freight sailings daily in each direction. This is in addition to the Jetliner which provides up to six return crossings daily on the shortest and fastest Irish Sea crossing.

Changes have also been made to the Company’s Larne – Ardrossan service which introduce additional freight sailings to the route. From Larne there will be a departure at 11:45 hours from Tuesday to Friday and from 19:00 hours from
Sunday to Friday. From Ardrossan a 02:30 hours sailing will operate daily, except Sunday, and a 16:15 hours sailing will depart daily from Tuesday to Friday.

John Kersey, Managing Director of P&O Ferries (Irish Sea) comments: "This latest development follows February’s signing of an order for a new 21,000 tonne passenger and freight ferry for the Larne – Cairnryan route to be delivered in June 2000. It further underlines our strong commitment, not only to this route, but also to keeping P&O European Ferries as the customers’ first choice on the Irish Sea."

- ENDS -


Ten years ago the Larne – Cairnryan route operated a maximum of six daily return sailings using the ageing IONIC FERRY and EUROPIC FERRY. What a change ten years makes!


The Sheffield Class Type 42 Destroyer HMS Cardiff departed on Wednesday morning, though original Mersey Radio broadcasts suggested that she would sail on Tuesday.


MERCHANT VENTURE remains laid up in Bidston Dock, Birkenhead and is reported to be awaiting sale.


On Saturday the local press reported that Cammell Laird's deputy chief executive is leaving to return to the Isle of Man. Brett Martin, formerly finance director of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company prior to the Sea Containers take over is returning to the Isle of Man. He will remain in office until a new finance director has been appointed. Though after the move back to his homeland he will maintain a strategic role in the company's management. The company has also announced the appointment to the board of Andrew Boardman, financial and commercial director at the company's Gibraltar yard.

John Luxton

April 18, 1999

Back Home Up Next




Hello Everyone. Last week's e-mail problems have been sorted out. Apparently the local ISP had problem with their mail alias. Therefore messages addressed could not get through though any addressed to did get through. My ISP informs me that it is now best to drop the mail alias and consequently e-mail should be sent to All mailing points on the site have been modified to allow for this.

The high spot of this week had to be the maiden commercial voyage of SUPERSEACAT THREE on the Liverpool - Dublin route. Though belonging to the same MDV1200 class as the previous SuperSeaCats this vessel has many refinements.



BEN-MY-CHREE: It is reported that on 5 April the BEN, had to circle until the SEACAT DANMARK departed Heysham for Belfast on her 12.15 sailing.

LADY OF MANN: The Lady has been out and about this week providing extra capacity on the Isle of Man routes for the annual student games. Her schedule being:

Thursday 8 April

Overnight: Liverpool - Douglas [LADY OF MANN] light
08.15 Douglas - Heysham, 12.15 Heysham – Douglas,  18.00 Douglas - Liverpool

Friday 9 April

01.00 Liverpool - Douglas
am Douglas - Liverpool light or standby
12.30 Liverpool – Douglas.

Sunday 11 April

Douglas - Heysham at 0800 and 1800

Monday 12 April

Douglas – Liverpool at 0800 and 1800 with light return sailings in each case this leaves her in Douglas on Saturday

Once the games are out of the way she is expected to take her turn for refit.

SUPERSEACAT TWO: Completed her duties on the Liverpool – Dublin route on Wednesday 7 April. After destoring she sailed for Newhaven to take over the Newhaven – Dieppe route at 06.30 on April 8, 1999.

SUPERSEACAT THREE: Mersey Radio reported her departing from Princes Landing Stage for trails at 02.15 on April 8 whilst she made her passenger debut on the 08.00 sailing from Liverpool on April 8, 1999. 


Sea Containers is expecting the 20 million SUPERSEACAT THREE to help boost the number of passengers it carries on the Liverpool - Dublin route by 25% by next year. Like the SUPERSEACAT TWO before it will operate an up to twice-daily service between the two cities, taking three hours and 45 minutes. John Burrows, General Manager of the Dublin to Liverpool service, told the Irish Independent that the new ferry includes 256 improvements. He said:

"One of the improvements is the craft's new t-foil, which provides a 60% improvement in ride quality."

Mechanically she also differs from the SUPERSEACAT TWO in having two bow thrusts instead of one. Additionally, she has substantially larger diameter exhausts that result in considerably lower engine temperatures.

Mr Burrows also said that the new ferry is part of an overall approach by the company to provide new reasons to travel, especially with the imminent removal of duty-free shopping:

"We are always looking to put new regimes in place, as duty-free accounts for 35% of our revenues".

Mr Burrows also revealed to the Irish Independent that Sea Containers is already in negotiations with partners to bring in an alternative to duty-free.

"We would be looking to have a range of goods in our shops with similar prices to duty-free, although this would not include alcohol and tobacco. The range would include electrical goods and giftware. And although we won't be able to maintain current margins in terms of profits, we are already talking to our sister companies and Granada Retail Catering."

To mark the ferry's introduction, the company is offering several special fares on the service. Adult foot passengers can take a four-day return from 35, senior citizens for 25 and children for 17.

The 3 hours 45 minutes Liverpool - Dublin service is one of thirteen routes that Sea Containers will operate around the British Isles this summer.

SUPERSEACAT FOUR: The ship is likely to carry out berthing trials in Italy and Turkey before coming to northern Europe. It is not clear what will happen then. Current rumour suggests one of the following: Laying up in Birkenhead until work is found for her, operating on Newhaven - Dieppe instead of SSC2 or providing additional capacity on Liverpool – Dublin route.

According to a report in Coastal Cruising Magazine it looks as though Dun Laoghaire was being considered as an alternative to Dublin as the Ireland Terminal for Sea Containers services. Personally I must admit that Dun Laoghaire is a better port for foot passengers than Dublin given the easy access to the town centre and just a few yards walk and the excellent DART railway system.  Dun Laoghaire also forms a destination in its own right offering a wide range of shops, a superb shopping centre and a lot of charm of a Victorian seaside resort, as well as being home to the excellent National Maritime Museum of Ireland. It’s a shame that this change did not come to pass.


The terminal is now taking shape [10 April] behind and adjacent to the outer harbour wall. The concrete base and plinths to accommodate the linkspan are in position while the terminal building of portakabin style units similar to Liverpool is complete. The building is surrounded by a large tarmac area obviously for marshalling and parking although no fencing or markings at present


Dublin Port is providing a multi-user back up facility on the south side of the river in order to ease the pressure on the main terminal. Its likely that Sea Containers will be the main user until a new ramp is provided nearer the main passenger terminal on berth 49. Irish Ferries' JONATHAN SWIFT will also use the new terminal should she clash with the ISLE OF INISHMORE.

P&O NEWS by Gary Andrews

It doesn’t look like P&OEF’s new Northern Ireland – Scotland timetable will come into force as thought on 12 April. At the time of writing the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR is imminently due at Cairnryan to carry out berthing trials at the modified JETLINER berth and is scheduled to take up sailings from Larne on Monday 12 April (those sailings operated by the EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR in recent times). The EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR will in turn take over the sailings of the EUROPEAN TRADER, the EUROPEAN TRADER operating the new 22.00 ex Larne and 03.30 ex Cairnryan sailings. However, one of the two existing Cairnryan freight ships is currently off the route, the EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR was reported entering Cammell Laird #7 Dry Dock on Friday 9 April (almost certainly for annual dry-docking) meaning the four ship conventional service cannot begin just yet. The European Trader was unusually observed at Larne Harbour during the afternoon of 9 April either re-entering service on the 1930 sailing ex Larne following dry-dock or simply preparing to sail in place of the EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR.. The EUROPEAN TRADER sailings to Ardrossan are expected to be made available to passengers within a few months as a "value route" service. I have not been able to get it confirmed but it would seem that the vessel will depart Larne at 08.00 (not 11.45 as previously stated) and return from Ardrossan at1615. The originally stated timetable would have given an unworkably short turnaround time at Ardrossan.


JONATHAN SWIFT is believed to have been undergoing sea trials off Perth, Australia this week. She is expected to depart for Dublin on Sunday April 11.


The Sheffield Class Type 42 Destroyer HMS Cardiff arrived in Canada #1 Branch Dock [north] on Friday morning 9 April.


MERCHANT VENTURE remains laid up in Bidston Dock, Birkenhead. Coastal Cruising Association magazine reports that she is for sale.

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

Stena have stated that during the withdrawal of the KONINGIN BEATRIX from Stena’s Fishguard – Rosslare route from the evening of 13 April to the evening of 15 April there will be no replacement tonnage.

The route will be left in the hands of the high-speed catamaran STENA LYNX III.

On the 12th April 1999, Stena Line will be opening a dedicated reservations office in Dun Laoghaire where Irish freight customers will be able to book space on any Stena Line route by calling just one number + 353 (0) 1 204 77 22. This new enhancement complements the firm’s existing reservations contact numbers, which remain unchanged.


A former Naval diver has located 2million in gold bullion on board a sunken White Star Line vessel.

Ray Cossum is reported to have spent 30 years looking for the lost treasure of the LAURENTIC which sank of County Donegal after striking a German mine in 1917.

The LAURENTIC had sailed from Liverpool bound for Nova Scotia and was carrying the bullion to pay for war supplies from Canada and USA. Most of the gold has already been salvaged, though Mr. Cossum of Derry believes he has located a missing portion of the cargo. He acquired the salvage rights to the vessel in 1969 and has spent years diving on the wreck searching for the missing gold


The local press report that Cammell Laird have bought 11.5 acres of land which include 170,000 square feet of fabrication sheds and machine shops from GEC Marconi who retained ownership of the southern part of the Cammell Laird site.

John Syvret managing director of Cammell Lairds Merseyside is said, "The extra facilities now available to us will substantially increase our capacity to undertake large conversion and refit projects. Our capability to undertake cruise ship refit work will be greatly enhanced by the major increase in joinery workshop capacity and will be using the newly acquired capabilities with immediate effect on our cruise ship contract for Airtours. Beyond this newly acquired fabrication capabilities will be invaluable in our drive for more off-shore projects such as the deep water drill ship contract currently completing at the yard."

GEC Marconi retain ownership of the large grey erecting shop which may be used by high speed ferry builders FBM Marine of Cowes, Isle of Wight for the construction of fast ferries.


This is the time of year when the SUNDAY TIMES publishes the annual "Rich List". Looking through the list the following "local" shipping personalities feature:

Michael Hendry a former Sealink deck hand and owner of Cenargo with assets of 80million is in 291st position.

James Sherwood president of Sea Containers with 50 million is in equal 471st ranking with John Stafford Chief Executive of Cammell Laird plc

John Luxton

April 05, 1999

Back Home Up Next



BEN-MY-CHREE: The new passenger walkway constructed to give access to the Edward Pier berth used by the BEN-MY-CHREE was commissioned on Tuesday 30 March on the BEN's evening arrival from Heysham.

LADY OF MANN will be providing additional sailings for the IoM Student Games, details below. It is almost two years ago the LADY inaugurated the Liverpool – Dublin service. Some MS readers may recall that prior to the regular service commencing a special trip was operated from Liverpool to Dublin which was promoted via the Liverpool Echo. This coincided with the need for the Lady to be in Dublin for the filming of the movie the "Boxer" starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Whilst wandering round the local branch of WH Smith the other week I noticed that this film has been released on video. Some of it appears to have been filmed in and around Dublin's dockland [deputising for Belfast] The Lady makes a brief appearance sailing past in the background. I had hoped that perhaps the Lady would have featured a little more – but anyway to a "must have" Lady fan its another item for the collection! Its not the first time IoMSPCo vessels have starred in films. During the late 1970s the MANXMAN featured in scenes from one of the numerous "Titanic" TV Movies and also in "Chariots of Fire" and "Yentl". 

SEACAT DANMARK reopened the Heysham to Belfast service after a break of 25 years with 12.15 sailing from Heysham to Belfast.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN: Re-entered service on 31 March on the Liverpool – Douglas route. On Easter Sunday 4 April she operated a round the island cruise departing from Douglas at 12.00 and returning at 14.00. The fare was 10.

SUPERSEACAT TWO: Bad weather on 28 March delayed the 21.00 departure from Liverpool to Douglas until 03.00.

SUPERSEACAT THREE is due to commence operations on the Liverpool – Dublin route on 8 April she was noted in Bidston Dock on 5 April looking very smart. Her white paint has been touched up, though no cat logo was visible.

Isle of Man Student Games – additional sailings:

The following additional sailings (which do not appear in the published timetable brochure) will be operated to carry students from the annual student games which are due to be held in the Isle of Man next week

Monday 5 April

02.15 Heysham – Douglas [BEN-MY-CHREE]

Tuesday 6 April

02.15 Heysham - Douglas [BEN-MY-CHREE] 11.00 Liverpool - Douglas [SEACAT ISLE OF MANN]

Thursday 8 April

Overnight: Liverpool - Douglas [LADY OF MANN] light
08.15 Douglas - Heysham [LADY OF MANN]
12.15 Heysham – Douglas [LADY OF MANN]
18.00 Douglas - Liverpool [LADY OF MANN]

Friday 9 April

01.00 Liverpool - Douglas [LADY OF MANN]
am Douglas - Liverpool [LADY OF MANN] - light or standby
1230 Liverpool - Douglas [LADY OF MANN]
14.15 Heysham - Douglas [BEN-MY-CHREE]


Wednesday 31 March saw the historic re-opening of the Belfast – Heysham route with the 07.30 sailing of the SEACAT DANMARK from Belfast.

The Lancashire Evening Post stated that tourism chiefs in the area are viewing the service as a major step in the region’s economic progress and added that "hoteliers, small business owners and entrepreneurs have been preparing for today for months. They have been primed to cash in on the massive influx of people who will be passing through the port". The paper added that Ron Sands, Head of tourism services in North Lancashire, expects thousands of people will use the service opposed to the "less accessible ferry service which operates out of Stranraer in Scotland".

Geraldine Smith, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, was quoted as saying: "The fast SeaCat service which commences today is just what the area needs".

Not unsurprisingly the Heysham route is still settling down. I saw the SEACAT DANMARK arrive in Belfast around 17.05 (due 16.15) on 2 April at the end of her 12.15 ex Heysham. Obviously the 45-minute turnarounds will take a little perfection. However, the amount of traffic waiting to sail on the 17.15 to Heysham was quite phenomenal and by all accounts forward bookings are heavy. It is good to see the venture succeed. Indeed, with such success could we perhaps soon see a year round operation with a SuperSeaCat? (See below story: "Sea Containers Fleet Update").

Clive Jackson reports that the SEACAT DANMARK sailed on time at 1215 on 4 April but the Ben-My-Chree had to circle in the bay whilst waiting for the Heysham berth to become available. It is believed that the ‘Ben was running early due to a light loading of freight due to the Easter holidays and a flood tide allowing maximum speeds to be achieved.

I personally think they should re-name the SEACAT DANMARK something more locally relevant, something like SEACAT ENGLAND, SEACAT BELFAST, SEACAT LANCASHIRE or SEACAT HEYSHAM. (SEACAT IRELAND or SEACAT ULSTER could open a can of worms given our 'sensitive' population in Northern Ireland!)

Below is Sea Containers press release on the re-opening of the Heysham route.


Mar 31 1999


The historic Heysham to Belfast ferry service was restored today (Wed 31 March) after nearly quarter of a century.

Sea Containers' fast ferry SeaCat left the Port of Heysham at 12:15pm on its inaugural journey to Northern Ireland.

The 20 million wave piercing craft 'SeaCat Danmark' is capable of speeds of 36 knots and can carry 80 cars and 500 passengers. It takes just under four hours to the heart of Belfast.

The schedule is:

Depart Belfast: 07.30 (daily) Arrive Heysham: 11.30

Depart Heysham: 12.15 (daily) Arrive Belfast: 16.15

Depart Belfast: 17.15 (Mon,Wed,Fri,Sat) Arrive Heysham: 21.15

Depart Heysham: 22.00 (Mon,Wed,Fri,Sat) Arrive Belfast: 02.00

Passengers enjoy a guaranteed seat, airline-style service, cafe with hot and cold food and drink, on board shop selling souvenirs, magazines and sweets, separate non-smoking and smoking areas, customer information bureau, complimentary children's packs, bridge viewing area, outside deck and Blue Riband business lounge.

Diane Poole, General Manager of SeaCat, said: "The response to the new service from both sides of the Irish Sea has been tremendous. It's offering a direct route to the heart of Belfast, and access to the Port of Heysham is easy thanks to excellent road and rail links, saving on driving time and fuel.

"With a special opening offer of just 129 for a three day trip for a car and two passengers* bookings are extremely brisk from both tourist and business travellers. We're expecting a very busy Easter period and forward bookings for the remainder of the spring and summer are looking good.

"The new service will be great for tourism on both sides of the Irish Sea. There is great potential to develop tourism in Northern Ireland with the beautiful Antrim Coast so close to Belfast. The service will also give excellent access to the Lake District, Blackpool and the Lancaster/Morecambe areas, which are all popular destinations for holidaymakers."

Heysham Port, which is owned by Sea Containers, is one of the busiest ports in the North West. Last year 30,000 freight vehicles and 200,000 passengers passed through the port.

The new ferry service will run until 27 September. Reservations and ticket prices are available by calling 08705 523523.

*Valid until 31 May. Additional passengers 15 each.


For further information please call:

Steve Lawrence or Matt Graydon at Sea Containers Corporate Communications on

0171 805 5830. E-mail:



The ATLANTIC II (ex-SeaCat Calais, ex-SeaCat Tasmania) is currently in Falmouth having returned from Argentina. Hoverspeed plan to operate the craft alongside the hovercraft on the Dover – Calais route. It is not clear whether the craft will be upgraded to the standards of her UK based sister craft or whether she will be re-named before entering service on 30 April.

The Seacat service to Calais hadn’t been expected this summer and Sea Containers are certainly operating their most extensive route network this year since selling Sealink in 1990.

The SUPERSEACAT THREE is due to enter service on the Liverpool – Dublin route on 8 April, releasing the SUPERSEACAT TWO. Meanwhile, Sea Containers have stated that the Italy – Turkey service with the SUPERSEACAT FOUR is to be postponed. (There was never any real announcement that the route would definitely begin this year).

This means that it is possible that the superior SUPERSEACAT FOUR could open the Newhaven – Dieppe route on 23 April instead of the SUPERSEACAT TWO as previously stated. If this happens it is not clear what would happen the SUPERSEACAT TWO. The vessel could be returned to the Dover – Calais route and used instead of the ATLANTIC II which could in turn be used as a relief vessel for other routes. Alternatively, the SUPERSEACAT TWO could be simply chartered out, or possibly be used on a route currently due to be operated by an InCat vessel such as Belfast – Heysham. (Though for any of these options one should also consider the SUPERSEACAT FOUR).

The move of the SUPERSEACAT TWO (or SUPERSEACAT FOUR) to operate Belfast – Heysham would help offer increased capacity to cope with reported demand and also offer the possibility of winter sailings. The SUPERSEACAT TWO has certainly performed well on Liverpool- Dublin since refit only missing two sailings during March, not bad when you consider the winds that March can bring whilst technically she has been perfect.

The use of the ATLANTIC II as a relief vessel is also a welcome possibility given the extensive network of services being offered. If demand is sufficient she could even operate the Belfast – Douglas sailings due to be operated by the SEACAT DANMARK to allow an extra three round trips on the Heysham service each week in the peak season.

However, the one certain thing is uncertainty until the Newhaven service starts on 23 April and Seacat Dover – Calais service starts on 30 April and we can see for ourselves which vessels appear on which routes. If ever there was a case of "wait and see" this was it!



You may recall last week I mentioned that Dumfries and Galloway District Council is attempting to stop Sea Containers from cutting the number of Belfast - Stranraer sailings in favour of Troon. I have since read a report that appeared in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard and have the following additional information to hand.

Dumfries And Galloway District Council has told Sea Containers to return to at least three daily SeaCat crossings from Stranraer to Belfast this summer or get off the Council owned West Pier site. Councillors have been enraged by the advertising of the company, encouraging customers to cut out the long drive from Loch Ryan ports by using their new Troon and Heysham services. Councillors argued that with only one sailing a day planned for the summer they felt that Sea Containers have already decided to quit Stranraer. (There is a mention in the firm’s brochure of another late night sailing but as it is not formally timetabled it may not happen).

Local councillor Brian Park urged Dumfries and Galloway District Council’s

Environment and Infrastructure committee on 23 March to give the company until July 31 to return to a reasonable service. He is reported in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard as saying:

"If they don't show such a commitment the lease of the terminal should be terminated on July 31."

Councillor Robert Higgins was reported to be furious at Seacat Scotland’s promotion of new routes from Belfast to Heysham and Belfast to Troon at the expense of Stranraer routes:

"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."

At the time of the announcement of the change to Scottish services Sea Containers promised that around 30 shore jobs and 55 crew jobs based in Stranraer were safe. However, many of the crew decided not transfer to Belfast and there are fears the shore jobs may soon be lost having a bad impact on the area. Councillor Alex Sloan said: "I am really concerned by this negative advertising campaign. It affects the whole of Dumfries and Galloway. It is time for us to tell them exactly what we want for a change, I find it offensive what they are trying to do to the port of Stranraer."

The newspaper article also stated that the council is seeking an urgent meeting with the company to discuss their future commitment to the town.

Sea Containers policy behind the Troon and Heysham services is quite simple. Traffic on Loch Ryan ferry services has not been growing at the same rate as capacity and by offering longer sea journeys but taking passengers closer to where they want to go new markets are being tapped into. Meanwhile, the retention of Stranraer not only provides a safeguard if Troon goes badly but also allows a shorter route in winter. I would suspect though that if Troon works, Stranraer will be abandoned (to save in the cost of keeping two ports in operation.).


Not ferries but worth mentioning to illustrate the continuing expansive nature of Sea Containers.

In the day the new Heysham – Belfast service was opened (31 March), Sea Containers’ Mr Sherwood was announcing further acquisitions. Sea Containers Ltd.'s Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. subsidiary has joined with Peru Hotel S.A. to acquire Peru's leading tourist centre hotels, the Hotel Monasterio del Cusco in Cusco, and The Machu Picchu Ruinas Hotel at the Machu Picchu Inca sanctuary. In addition to these properties, the 50/50 joint venture company acquiring these properties, has also acquired the Nazerenas Convent which adjoins the Monasterio Hotel.

This 1.3-acre site has recently been vacated by a school and will be transformed into additional rooms, gardens and pool for the combined properties. Both the Monasterio and Nazerenas sites are leased for long periods from the Catholic Church. Furthermore, the joint venture has acquired at Machu Picchu, also on long lease, a 7.5 acre site in the valley floor next to the river, on which it intends to build a number of 5 star quality additional hotel rooms to supplement the Ruinas Hotel which is today fully booked, year round. Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. will manage all these properties.

Mr James B. Sherwood, President of Sea Containers Ltd., said that the Peruvian investment was the company's second in South America, the first being the highly successful Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro. Other hotel and restaurant investments in South America are currently under consideration. Mr Sherwood said that the Peruvian investment met Sea Containers criteria in that growth in tourism to Peru should increase enormously in the years ahead and the Monasterio and Ruinas properties hold considerable scope for expansion. He said that Sea Containers is also looking at rail opportunities in Peru. Mr Sherwood said:

"Sea Containers has for 35 years now been primarily a marine container leasing business but in the early 1990s the board decided to build marine and rail passenger transport and hotel, restaurant and river cruising into its major activities. In 1999 approximately two thirds of the group's profits will come from passenger transport and hotels. Through astute purchasing of leisure properties over the years, the current market value of our leisure assets now substantially exceeds book value".


The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company floating crane MERSEY MAMMOTH was reported at work on 30 March erecting the new cross-harbour road bridge.


Fishery protection vessel HMS LINDISFARNE was a noted in Canada #1 Branch [north] on Easter Monday.

The local press report that HMS DROXFORD, which was constructed in Northwich during the 1950s, may be returned home to Northwich for preservation. DROXFORD was one of three sister vessels, of a class of 11, which were constructed by the Northwich based Pimblett's yard. Naval Historian Paul Gwilliam is reported to be in negotiation with the MoD to secure the vessel and return her to the River Weaver.

The vessel is weighs in at 110 tons, is 120ft long and 20ft wide and had a top speed of 18 knots. It had been intended to deploy her for service in the Korean War. However with the end of the conflict she became a training vessel on Merseyside and Clydeside. In more recent times she was used for target practice and is currently laid up in Scotland.


A refrigerated trailer containing pig carcasses was lost overboard in the Irish Sea from the RIVER LUNE on Sunday 28 June. The Peel lifeboat was launched on Tuesday to investigate the wreckage, first thought to be that of a fishing boat. The remains of the trailer were brought to Peel harbour with the assistance of the Laxey Towing Company's tug WENDY ANN

MERCHANT VENTURE remains laid up in Bidston Dock, Birkenhead.


The 1999 Timetables are now available and copies are available from the company at Waverley Excursions Ltd, Gwalia Buildings, Barry Docks, Wales, CF62 5QR. On-line timetables can be found on the official Waverley web site:

However, when I checked this out information on sailings from the North West, North Wales and Ireland does not appear to be available.

Ireland/Isle of Man/SW Scotland and Cumbria sailings are as follows - all sailings operated by M.V. BALMORAL.

Wednesday May 19: Douglas 09.30, Whitehaven 13.00, Cruise St.Bees Head and Cumbrian Coast., Whitehaven 16.30, Douglas 20.00

Thursday May 20: Douglas 10.00, Port St. Mary 11.15, Peel 13.00, Ramsey 15.30, Douglas 16.45, Peel 18.00 [coach]

Friday May 21: Donaghadee 19.00, Bangor 19.45, Cruise Belfast Lough, Donaghadee 21.45, Bangor 22.30 [Showboat cruise]

Saturday May 22: Bangor 09.00, Donaghadee 09.45, Peel 13.00, Cruise Calf of Man, Port St.Mary arr 14.30/dep15.30, Peel 17.30, Donaghadee 20.45, Bangor 21.30

Sunday May 23: Bangor 09.30, Peel 13.15, Cruise Calf or Man, Port St. Mary arr 14.45/dep 15.30, Peel 17.30, Bangor 21.15.

Tuesday May 25: Garlieston 10.00, Douglas 13.30, Douglas 16.15, Garlieston 19.45

Wednesday May 26: Garlieston 10.00, Douglas 13.30, Cruise Calf of Man, Port St.Mary 16.30, Douglas 18.00, Garlieston 21.30.

Thursday May 27: Whitehaven 10.00, Douglas 13.30, Cruise Calf of Man, Port St.Mary 16.30, Douglas 18.00, Whitehaven 21.00.

Saturday & Sunday May 28/29: Whitehaven depart 10.00 / 10.30, Ramsey 12.30 / 13.00, Douglas 13.45 / 14.15, Cruise to Calf of Man, Port St. Mary 16.30 / 17.00, Douglas 18.00 / 19.00, Whitehaven 21.30 /22.30 [Later times apply 30 May]

Monday May 31 [Bank Holiday]: Workington depart 09.00, Ramsey 12.00, Douglas arr 13.15 dep 14.00, Cruise to Calf of Man, Port St. Mary 16.30, Douglas 18.00, Whitehaven 22.00.

Various options including travel on the Isle of Man Railway are available on sailings to the  Isle of Man.

Liverpool & North Wales Sailings

Tuesday June 1: Llandudno 14.30, Menai Bridge 15.45, Cruise Menai Straits and Puffin Island, Llandudno 17.30, Menai Bridge 18.45

Wednesday June 2: Llandudno 10.30, Menai Bridge 12.00, Caernarfon 12.30, Cruise Around Anglesey,  Llandudno 18.00, Menai Bridge 19.15, Caernarfon 19.45 [coach]

Thursday June 3: Llandudno 11.00, Menai Bridge 12.15, Cruise Menai Straits under bridges, Llandudno 14.30, Round Puffin Island and Red Wharf Bay, Llandudno 17.00, Menai Bridge 18.15, Cruise Menai Straits under bridges, Caernarfon 19.15, Menai Bridge 19.45 [coach], Llandudno 20.15 [coach]

Friday June 4: Caernarfon 12.30, Menai Bridge 13.30, Llandudno 14.45, Liverpool 18.00, Llandudno 19.30 [coach], Menai Bridge 20.00 [coach], Caernarfon 20.30 [coach].

Saturday June 5: Liverpool 10.00, Llandudno 13.15 /14.00, Cruise to Menai Straits via Puffin Island, Llandudno 17.00, Liverpool 20.15

Sunday June 6: Liverpool 09.30, Llandudno 12.45, Cruise to Caernarfon Castle, Llandudno 17.00 .Liverpool 20.15

Monday June 7: Liverpool 08.00, Llandudno 11.00, Cruise round Anglesey, Caernarfon 15.45, Llandudno 18.00, Liverpool 19.30 [coach], Caernarfon 22.00 [coach]

These times are posted for information only. If you intend to travel ensure that you contact Waverley Excursions on 01466 720656 to confirm times etc.

P&O IRISH SEA UPDATE by Gary Andrews

The EUROPEAN TRADER will be operating to Ardrossan with the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER when the new P&OEF Scottish routes timetable comes into force on 12 April (I wonder about the possibility of "value route" sailings for tourist passengers on the EUROPEAN TRADER?). It is understood the EUROPEAN TRADER will operate the 11.45 ex Larne and 16.15 ex Ardrossan (this time is possibly wrong as the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER currently takes 4 hours 15 minutes and even allowing for the increased speed of the EUROPEAN TRADER it seems an incredibly short turnaround time). The EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER will continue to operate the 19.00 ex Larne and 02.30 return, she may also put in appearances on other routes with her schedule being lighter than her fleetmates.

In compiling the new schedule I’ve worked on the logic that with the EUROPEAN TRADER sailing to Ardrossan during the day, the EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR will operate the EUROPEAN TRADER’s sailings to Cairnryan. In turn the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR will operate the EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR’s sailings whilst the EUROPEAN TRADER will operate the new 22.00 ex Larne and 03.30 return. The new sailing times from

Larne to Cairnryan are as follows. (If vessel unconfirmed it is in brackets).

Larne to Cairnryan



05.00 (was 0530) - (EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR).

06.00 – JETLINER.


09.15 – JETLINER.


12.45 – JETLINER.

13.00 (was 1330) - (EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR).


16.15 – JETLINER.


19.45 - JETLINER.


22.00 - (during peak season probably won't depart until 2215 as JETLINER will

require Cairnryan berth) (EUROPEAN TRADER).

23.00 – JETLINER.

The above is the peak sailing schedule. I will endeavour to provide the same for Cairnryan to Larne as soon as possible. I would also suggest you seek confirmation of the above before relying upon it.

Clive Jackson reports that the latest P&O local newspaper adverts for the Fleetwood – Larne ‘Value Route’ is offering half price cabin berths except Saturday nights if booked before the end of April. An advert in another local paper states that Saturday night sailings are now on offer for passengers and cars. This suggests that with fewer drivers aboard P&O are now accepting "Value Route" customers on Saturday evening sailings along with the daily daytime sailings from both ports. It is not clear if evening sailings are available on other days.

Clive reports that he saw around 20 cars drive off the European Pioneer on arrival at Fleetwood following her morning sailing from Larne on 2 April. With heavy demand for the Value Route services surely in the long-term P&O should consider placing ro-pax vessels of the type ordered to replace the PRIDE OF RATHLIN on the Larne – Fleetwood and Liverpool – Dublin routes.


Mersey Ferry fares are to be increased in line with inflation. Peak service commuter shuttle fares will rise by 5p whilst the cruise fare will increase by 20p. The company is also increasing admission charges to the Seacombe Aquarium by 5p.


I was able to go aboard the RMV SCILLONIAN III whilst she was laying over between trips at St.Mary's on Wednesday and photograph the internal and external changes. Hopefully these pictures should have been received from the processors and will be on-line next week.


The company announced that it is to close the yard at South Shields, which was acquired recently. The yard employs 80 full time staff, however, the company announced that it would transfer all apprentices to other operations and find work for the other employees. The need for millions of pounds of renovation work was cited as being the reason for closure. The company has concluded that future investment in its east coast yards should be focussed on Tyneside and Teeside.

The Airtours liner SUNBIRD has arrived in the Birkenhead yard for refit.


Scandlines (Denmark) have sold the 2280 passenger, 1980 built train and car ferry DRONNING INGRID to become a hospital ship. The vessel was withdrawn from service in 1997 and has been sold to Mercy Ships who made the purchase with a 4 million donation.

The donation from Ann Gloag of Stagecoach is thought to be one of the largest single gifts given to a Christian charity in the UK and will create what will be the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship.

Mercy Ships is an international Christian humanitarian aid organisation which at present operates three ocean-going vessels as hospitals and to assist with relief and development. It works with local organisations to help make a long-term difference to some of the poorest countries in the world. The three existing

Mercy Ships are the ANASTASIS, CARIBBEAN MERCY and ISLAND MERCY. ANASTASIS serves Guinea and Senegal in West Africa; CARIBBEAN MERCY calls at El Salvador, Nicaragua and Mexico; and the ISLAND MERCY’s next call will be at Manila in the Philippines. The DRONNING INGRID, at 16,071 tonnes, will be the largest of the four and is required due to increasing demand for such assistance to serve in various hotspots around the world such as the Adriatic Sea, where the Kosovo crisis is deepening.

The 10 million order to turn the train and car ferry into a floating hospital has been won by Cammell Laird, at Hebburn on South Tyneside. The yard will undertake the two-year contract to completely refit the ferry for Mercy Ships.

Cammell Laird’s Managing Director, Chris Millman, said that it was a welcome boost to the business, which opened its Tyneside operation last year at the site that was previously part of the Wear Dockyard Group. Mr Millman said:

"It is excellent news. It is a great chance to show what the area can do with such a high profile project. Despite the state of the market we have continued to attract these major conversion jobs."

Work will begin in around two months after designs have been drawn up by Cammell Laird experts in conjunction with the owners.

The DRONNING INGRID was bought with a 4 million personal donation from Ann

Gloag, Executive Director of one of Britain’s largest transport firm Stagecoach Holdings plc. Generous Ann Gloag, from Perth, has often been described as the richest woman in Scotland and is worth a reported 500 million. Basically, with the ship purchased, the charity only (!) needed to raise the 10 million conversion cost.

The DRONNING INGRID, has been laid up in Denmark since 1997 and has now been temporarily renamed Ingrid for the voyage to the River Tyne. Speaking from the ship to the Tyneside press, Captain Brian Sloan, a veteran of past Mercy Ship missions to West Africa, said:

"It is exciting to be collecting this new ship and be bringing her to the River Tyne. As an ex-Royal Free Auxiliary Officer myself, and having completed five or six refits locally, I am delighted that the work will be undertaken on the Tyne. The local workforce have an excellent international reputation for their ship repair skills."

The Ingrid was expected to sail on trials last week (having been out of service for 18 months) and is due to arrive on the Tyne within the next few days.

The ferry, when converted, will have four operating theatres and 80 beds. The volunteer crew of 450, mainly British volunteers, will be recruited in about 18 months time to sail the ship to Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Balkans. The ship's specialist medical facilities will enable them to provide free facial, eye and dental surgery to the poor. Most surgery carried out is on cleft lips, benign head tumours and eye cataracts and crew also treat patients in temporary clinics ashore.

Isn’t it great to hear one of the many redundant train ferries being put to such worthwhile use? We so often hear of "fatcat" directors it’s nice to see such a person making such a kind gesture, Ann Gloag who is a former nurse, even hopes to offer some assistance on the ship herself. Three cheers for her!

John Luxton

April 05, 1999


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

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

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