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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


MAY 1999


May 30, 1999


This week there are a number of major updates to the site in addition to the regular news bulletin. I have finally scanned the Belfast Lough material and provided several more galleries for you to peruse. Of course it has been necessary to prune older gallery material to avoid the site getting too large! Don't forget to visit the What's New page to see all the updates.

Please note that I will be going away for a few days to Dun Laoghaire and there will be no response to e-mail from Sunday afternoon until Friday evening. I will certainly try and get some photographs of the JONATHAN SWIFT this week and hopefully photos to construct a new gallery on Dublin Port.

I will be travelling to/from Dublin with Merchant Ferries [BRAVE MERCHANT] and hope to have a voyage report available next week.

The next Mersey Shipping News update will probably be on Sunday June 6. However, please be aware that from now on until the middle of July there may be some interruption to the regular update schedule.

Finally, I would like to than everyone who has provided material for this week's update, as always its much appreciated.


With the commencement of the 1999 Isle of Man TT Festival, the Irish Sea fleet will be looking forward to a busy two weeks work. The timetable highlights for next week shown below.

BEN-MY-CHREE - It appears that the vessel will gain "STEAM PACKET COMPANY" fleet names as applied to the LADY OF MANN with reference to the ISLE OF MAN being deleted. The BEN will operate as per her usual schedule during the TT being supplemented on the Heysham to Douglas route by CLAYMORE and LADY OF MANN.

LADY OF MANN - The Lady re-entered service this week after her refit at Wright and Beyer's yard on the special Llandudno - Douglas sailing on Wednesday May 26.

I am informed that she came alongside Llandudno Pier at 09.25 and managed to sail on time despite having to load almost 900 passengers via a single gangway at 10.00.

She arrived at Douglas at 13.05. To speed discharging of passengers a car gangway was also used.

The following day the LADY OF MANN operated a special excursion from Fleetwood to Douglas departing Fleetwood at 10.00 and returning from Douglas at 19.00.

The LADY OF MANN does not actually carry the words Isle of Man Steam Packet Company on her side. Only the words "Steam Packet Company" are carried towards the rear of the white superstructure. The "dance floor" provided for the Acor Line charter last year has been removed and all the high back seats in the forward passenger saloon are back in place. These have been reupholstered in blue.

Andrew King has forwarded two photographs of the LADY OF MANN running trials on the River Mersey last Saturday. To access these go to the What's New Menu or via the Sea Containers gallery menu.

The adoption of the title STEAM PACKET COMPANY and the dropping of the "ISLE OF MAN" brings up the Sea Co corporate image issue again. Could it be that Irish Sea Services are to be marketed as the "STEAM PACKET COMPANY"?

The LADY operated Douglas to Heysham sailings on May 28 08.30, Heysham to Douglas at 14.00 and Douglas to Liverpool at 18.45

Next Friday The LADY OF MANN sails Liverpool - Douglas at 01.00 then sailing light to Heysham for a 14.00 Heysham - Douglas sailing before returning back light ship for a Sunday Heysham to Douglas at 14.00.

This Monday the LADY is scheduled for a Douglas to Heysham sailing at 07.00 and 1900 and Heysham to Douglas sailing at 14.00. This, then, plus a 02.00 Heysham - Douglas becomes her schedule for the rest of the week - with occasional light sailings. She is berthing at Heysham on the south pier ahead of the BEN. Access will be between the sheds and the old check in portakabin and her ramps have been moved to this berth.

PEVERIL and PICASSO – remain laid up in Vittoria Dock

CLAYMORE with the TT festival getting underway the CLAYMORE will sail from Ballycastle to Heysham on Wednesday morning and will arrive at Heysham in time to take a 16.30 sailing to Douglas. For the rest of next week she sails from Heysham to Douglas at 04.30 and 16.30 returning light.

SEACAT SCOTLAND will operate a Belfast - Douglas sailing at 01.00 on Saturday June 5, returning light.

SEACAT DANMARK - The vessel missed two sailings on the Belfast - Heysham route due to "technical problems" on Friday May 28. During the TT she will operate Belfast - Douglas on Thursday June 3rd 1715 returning from Douglas at 2045.

On Friday she operates Belfast - Heysham and then Heysham - Douglas at 1300 returning light to Belfast followed by Belfast - Douglas at 20.00 and returning light before sailing Belfast - Douglas again at 09.00 before returning light to take Belfast to Heysham at 1715 before returning back to Douglas from Heysham at 22.30.

SUPERSEACAT THREE - Will operate a Liverpool - Douglas at 17.45 returning at 21.15 on Wednesday and Thursday [June 2,3]. On Friday June 4 she operates Liverpool to Douglas at 07.00, 14.30 and 22.00 and Douglas to Liverpool at 10.30 and 18.00. On Saturday June 5 she operates an 18.00 Liverpool - Douglas sailing returning light.

Sea Containers issued a press release this week stating that their  re-launch of the historic Heysham to Belfast ferry service in March has been a huge success with  carryings of more than 24,500 passengers and 6,900 vehicles on the route up to 15 May.

Commenting on the start of the new service Gordon Gare-Simmons, Manager of the Old Hall Inn pub and restaurant in Heysham, said: "It's been absolutely fantastic. We've had to take on new staff due to the increase in business we have had.

"The place has been full of customers with Irish accents having a drink or something to eat before their return on the ferry. I hope the SeaCat service continues to be a big success."

Nick Brooks-Sykes, the North West Tourist Board's Head of Marketing, said: "We are delighted to hear of the early success of the new Heysham to Belfast route. Ireland is the most important overseas market for the North West of England and SeaCat will be an added selling point when we undertake a promotional campaign in Ireland.

"We wish Sea Containers every success and look forward to working in partnership with them to increase tourism business from Ireland in to the region."

As a response to the route's success two additional sailings have been added to the weekly timetable on Tuesdays and Thursdays (Heysham-Belfast 22:00 and Belfast-Heysham 17:15).

Diane Poole, General Manager of SeaCat's Irish Sea Routes, said: "We are extremely pleased with the response to the service from both sides of the Irish Sea and were only too happy to extend our schedule to accommodate the needs of our passengers."

Recent fare offers on the Belfast Heysham route include £129 for a car plus two passengers on a three day return trip. Additional adults can travel for £10 each. Travel on Fridays and Sundays carries a supplement of £15.

This offer can be extended to an eight day return for £179. Both offers are available from 1 June to 7 July 1999 and must be booked before the end of June 1999.

As well as the above special offers, passengers can still book SeaCat's "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" Apex fare. From as little as £60 single a car plus five passengers can travel to Belfast for any duration. This fare is available from now to 5 January 2000 and must be booked by 30 June 1999.

The above special offers are subject to certain terms and conditions and offer availability.


Sea Containers  inaugurated the 1999 Regency Rail Cruises programme from Liverpool this week with an inaugural public run  from Liverpool to the Yorkshire Dales. The train was headed by former LMS "Black 5" 45407.

Future trips planned from Liverpool are :

"The Dalesman" departing Liverpool June 25, July 23, August 20. Fares from £95 - prices inclusive of four course lunch, wine and champagne followed by coffee and liqueurs.

"The Welsh Marches": July 7 and August 4. Fares from £105 - prices inclusive of brunch, 3 course dinner, with wine/champagne with a choice of three off train excursions.

A press run the previous week had a local newspaper's restaurant columnist showering praise on the excellent quality of the catering and surroundings. Sounds like a good trip for Sea Co Enthusiasts! - I'll have to check the piggy bank!

Bookings: 01706 240000


A new 48-hour return fare offer has been advertised for the Liverpool - Dublin route. Car and up to 4 passengers can travel for just £48 return. Offers are valid to 15 July.


Merchant Ferries also have a promotional weekend return fare on the Liverpool - Dublin route. A car and four passengers can travel outwards on the 11.00 or 22.30 departures from Liverpool on Friday returning from Dublin on the night sailing from Dublin on Sunday or Monday. Fare includes reserved recliner seats.


It is reported that Wednesday May 26th BALMORAL arrived late at Douglas from Whitehaven and her onward afternoon cruise to Port St. Mary and Calf of Man was not operated. BALMORAL will be operating from Liverpool next weekend June 5/6/7 to Llandudno and Anglesey.


This week the second Coxswain of the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat, Daniel Dwyer, became the first member of an Irish Lifeboat crew to be awarded the RNLI's bronze medal for 17 years and the first one to be awarded to the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat Station in West Cork.

Other members of the crew were awarded letters of thanks. The presentations were made at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's AGM held at the Barbican Centre, London. The awards were made following the rescuing of the crew of yacht SUPERTAFF that had been dismasted 25 miles west of the Head of Kinsale in a violent storm.


Fleet Air Arm Fairy Swordfish LS326 made a visit to Liverpool this week landing at Liverpool Airport after overflying the city. At the airport the bi-plane was named "City of Liverpool" at a ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor.


June 1st, 1999, marks the 60th Anniversary of the tragic loss of the Cammell Laird built submarine HMS THETIS. The new submarine sank in Liverpool Bay whilst undertaking trails.

Avid Publications, publishers of the recent reprint "Thetis - The Admiralty Regrets" , has just published a new book:


aftermath of a disaster

by David Roberts

After an exhaustive two-year search for the truth about the events and aftermath of this terrible Submarine disaster in Liverpool Bay, 1939, David Roberts has at last found some shocking hitherto unpublished details.

The sinking of Thetis costs 99 men their lives and is still today the worst submarine disaster in British History.

The book contains interviews with relatives of victims; sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and those very rare ladies, living widows.

Also here are never before seen documents from the time; Offers of outside help, Secret navy reports and even descriptions of bodies for identification.

Why did the Official Inquiry blame nobody, explaining it away as 'an unfortunate sequence of events'?

Why did the civil action on behalf of the widow's fail?

Did the Admiralty cover it up? How much did Churchill know?

How were those left behind treated?

A huge publicly subscribed disaster fund was collected for the relatives. How was this managed and distributed? Who got what and why? What ever happened to the money that was left?

In the last year of the millennium, on the 60th anniversary of Thetis, why do a handful of living widows still today get just £9.62 per month from the fund, in one case LESS TAX!

Whilst many thousands of pounds languishes as annuities in the coffers a well-known insurance company? Secrets and Scandal is a shocking revelation of the establishment, all the way up to Churchill, closing ranks whilst the ‘lower orders’ were treated in a manner that was simply unforgivable.

Total cost including p&p in UK is £10.50

For more information visit the Avid publications web site at:


Michael Pryce has forwarded more information on the commissioning of INCAT 045 into the Australian Navy:

HMAS JERVIS BAY has been approved by the Australian governor-general as the name for INCAT 045 chartered by the Australian Navy from International Catamaran Australia (INCAT) in Tasmania, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Senator Eric Abetz announced this week.

Senator Abetz announced that the formal naming and commissioning ceremony would take place in Hobart on Thursday, June 10, 1999.

The new JERVIS BAY is an 86 metre high-speed catamaran built and trailed in Tasmania. She is capable of carrying 500 fully equipped combat troops and a range of army vehicles and equipment at speeds in excess of 40 knots (nearly 80 km/h) over a considerable distance. Senator Abetz said there had been two previous naval ships named JERVIS BAY.

"The first ship to bear the name was a passenger cargo vessel built in 1922. She was built on order of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers and conducted an average of three round trips between Australia and the United Kingdom per year.

"During WWII, she was commissioned by the Royal Navy and converted into service as an armed merchant cruiser. In 1942, while acting as a convey escort in the Atlantic, HMS JERVIS BAY engaged the German pocket battleship ADMIRAL SCHEER and was sunk after a valiant battle," Senator Abetz said.

"Her commanding officer, Commander E.S.F. Fegan, was killed during the action with ADMIRAL SCHEER and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross," Senator Abetz said.

Senator Abetz said the second ship to bear the name was the Australian 'Roll On, Roll Off' Ferry formerly named MV AUSTRALIAN TRADER, which was built in the Newcastle State Dockyard. "She served in Bass Strait until she was commissioned into RAN service as HMAS JERVIS BAY on 25 August 1977. In addition to her primary role as the RAN training vessel, she was also used for military sea-lift tasks," Senator Abetz said.

Senator Abetz said JERVIS BAY will supplement the current amphibious force element group that comprises HMAS TOBRUK, the two amphibious transports (LPAS) and heavy landing craft (LCH).


A story which I have been sitting on for a few weeks until I could get hold of all the facts concerns the DART VALLEY RAILWAY COMPANY which owns and operates the Paignton - Kingswear railway in Devon. [Yes I know it’s a long way from the Mersey but I do like to cover something of the west-country shipping scene from time to time!]

The Dart Valley Railway Company plc has acquired Dart Pleasure Craft Ltd operators of the River Dart [Kingswear - Dartmouth] passenger ferry service, river and sea cruises and the Dartmouth - Totnes "River-Link" service.

The Kingswear - Dartmouth passenger ferry service was inaugurated by the Great Western Railway, passing to British Railways Western Region of Nationalisation and subsequently became Sealink's shortest shipping route, then operated by the two small ferries ADRIAN GILBERT & HUMPHREY GILBERT.

When British Railways sold the Paignton and Dartmouth line to the Dart Valley Railway Company in 1973 the ferry service was sold on to the local authority before being acquired by Dart Pleasure Craft Ltd. What is also fascinating about the Dartmouth - Kingswear passenger ferry is that it operates from Dartmouth "Station" which has never had a platform, though it boasts a classic GWR station building, now occupied by a restaurant. Passengers boarded ferries from an adjacent Landing Stage [since rebuilt and improved for the river cruise services] crossing the river to Kingswear Station to board the train.


Dart Pleasure Craft are the direct successors to the River Dart Steamboat Company operators of the famous paddle steamers KINGSWEAR CASTLE and COMPTON CASTLE.

What is pleasing to note about this deal is to see a former railway ferry-route return to railway ownership.

John Luxton

May 29, 1999

Back Home Up Next


May 23, 1999



The promised Belfast Lough shipping gallery has been delayed again. I did not have enough time to scan all the pictures. I will also hold over a voyage report on the BEN-MY-CHREE from May 22 due to a lack of time.

However,  there are features on the PEVERIL, which features her, post 1999-refit appearance and the liner APOLLON [ex-EMPRESS OF CANADA]. Martin Edmondston has sent some pictures of the LADY OF MANN in Wright and Beyer's yard, whilst Charlie Tennant has forwarded a Belfast - Troon Voyage report.

In the next few weeks I expect things to get a little hectic at work, therefore, updates might be a little delayed or rescheduled particularly between mid June and mid July. Next week's update will be uploaded on SATURDAY evening.


LADY OF MANN - Mike Edmonson has forwarded some photographs of the Lady in Wright and Beyers showing the new fleetname and logo roundels. The roundel is not quite in the same position as the Acor Line whale as suggested last week.

The LADY OF MANN departed from Wright and Bayers on Saturday afternoon. Sara Kesal, one of my correspondents saw her being moved out of Wright and Beyers at around 15.20 and she passed through the Birkenhead Docks system to pass out into the river at Alfred lock at 16.05. Apparently Sara reports that a convoy of cars followed the Lady's progress through the docks! The Lady then sailed up river towards Eastham before returning down stream. Mersey Radio announcing her arrival in the Liverpool Dock system via Gladstone Lock at around 17.00 on Saturday.

PEVERIL and PICASSO – remain laid up in Vittoria Dock

CLAYMORE participated in a mock emergency - "Exercise Phoenix" on May 22. This involved around 40 volunteers from St. John Ambulance Brigade. This involved adults and cadets from Antrim, Ballycastle, Ballymena, Ballymoney and Coleraine being rescued from the CLAYMORE in response to a reported "fire" on board. Rescue helicopters and lifeboats participated in the exercise, which was organised by Northern Ireland Coastguards. However, I have received a report from Gary Andrews, which suggests that poor conditions forced the exercise abandoned.

SUPERSEACAT THREE - Sailings were disrupted due to high winds on Friday May 21.

Mersey Radio reported her 12.45 sailing from Dublin on May 22 arriving at Liverpool at 17.30, 45 minutes behind schedule. New cat logos have reappeared on the ship's bows.


Special offers on Liverpool-Dublin service advertised in Liverpool Echo on 5 day returns this week:

Car & 2 pax: £99 return
Additional pax: £15 return
Foot pax: £20 return

A separate advertisement featured day trips at £10 this appears to include return on the 22.45 sailing hence offering £9 discount on the time ashore day return. Offers are valid to 15 July

On the Liverpool - Douglas route

Car + 2 Adults & 2 Nights B&B at Empress or Castle Mona Hotels [3 star/5 crown] £89 per person sharing.

For Isle of Man residents wishing to get away from the TT a TT Escape offer is available. A car plus 2 passengers can travel outwards from Douglas between May 27 and June 6 returning June 7 to 12 for just £132 return.

Comment: The Ireland fares are now the same as offered on the LADY OF MANN in early summer 97. Offering a car + 2 passengers is a much more reasonable option than the usual car + 4 [or 5 by some operators]. Individuals and small families must often feel cheated when having to pay the same as a larger group if they are taking a vehicle.

Sea Containers annual report came through the letterboxes of shareholders this week. Unlike many other company annual reports, this is quite an interesting document as it offers a full round up of the company's operations during the previous year and is well illustrated with photographs, route maps etc. The front cover features the SILJA SERENADE.

James Sherwood's letter to share holders contains the following comment concerning the company name which will be of interest to enthusiasts, "I want to mention that your board is considering a name change for the company to make it less container specific, reflecting the current nature of the business rather than its historic one. We think it is important for investors to view the company as being primarily engaged in the passenger transport and hotel sectors, rather than in marine container leasing".

There has been some speculation in enthusiast circles for some time as to alternative names following the announcement earlier in the year that consultants had been appointed to look into the Hoverspeed brand.

Of related interest is a photograph of one of the recently acquired New York harbour ferries. The vessel carries a variation of SeaCo SeaCat livery, blue hull; white upper works with grey window surrounds. The fleetname in the same lower case type style applied to the SeaCats is "Seastreak". This fleetname is all blue. Dark blue to the left changing to a lighter blue on the right. Might this possibly be the shape of things to come in terms of a corporate name?


The wife of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company managing director, Mrs. Tina Furlong named a new pilot launch on Wednesday.

Boghammar International constructed the 16-metre launch, PETREL in Sweden. The Rev. John Simmons blessed the vessel, chaplain to the Mersey Mission To Seamen at the ceremony held at Prince's Landing Stage.

PETREL replaces the KITTEWAKE and is due to be followed by two further vessels next year. One of which will be based at the Point Lynas pilot station, Anglesey.



The company has announced that following the "riot" aboard the HSS STENA VOYAGER on the Belfast - Stranraer route last weekend, there will be no further entertainment cruises at least until the end of the year


Minesweeper HMS BROCKLESBY was noted in Douglas Harbour on Saturday May 22


The Airtours Liner SUNBIRD was noted in the River Mersey on Friday evening [May 21] running trials. According to local press reports her refit has been completed within budget and on schedule. Both shipyard and operator are reported to be pleased with the project. SUNBIRD was noted by Mersey Radio as being at the river anchorage on May 23 at 07.30 with departure scheduled for 11.00

Cammell Laird has now become a ship owner, acquiring three vessels from the receivers of Lowline. The £17.5 million deal includes the liner EDINBURGH CASTLE, offshore supply vessel LOWLAND PIONEEER and offshore support vessel LOWLAND CAVALIER.

Cammell Laird chairman Juan Kelly said, "This is one more very important step in Cammell Laird's progress towards becoming an integrated marine service provider." Last year the EDINBURGH CASTLE operated under charter to Direct Cruises, though many technical problems caused delays, cancellations and customer complaints.

John Luxton

May 23, 1999


Back Home Up Next


May 16, 1999



The gremlins appear to have got at the website yet again this week, which resulted in it being unobtainable for a period again. I may very well publish the e-mail address of my ISP on the site so that any reader spotting that the site has gone down can e-mail them - that might just speed things up, especially if they receive quite a few e-mails! - I will think about this one.

Once again there is much to report and I would like to record my thanks to all those who have corresponded, providing news, views and information.

There are two new photographic selections this week. One features the BEN-MY-CHREE and the other is a record of Sea Containers Hoverspeed operations on the Channel this year provided by Raymond Goodfellow.

The Belfast Lough shipping gallery promised for this week is held over until next week as I am still awaiting the return of a film from the processors. First of all a reminder that last Bank Holiday weekend saw the Mersey Shipping site updated twice on Saturday and Bank Holiday Monday. If you missed Monday's additional news posting it appears immediately below this Bulletin.



LADY OF MANN On- It appears as though despite the narrowing of the black band on top of her dummy funnel the new Sea Containers Legs of Man symbol will be applied to her sides in similar positions to that occupied by the Whale logo carried on her return from the Acor Line charter last summer. The vessel is now carrying the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company fleetname towards the rear of the white upper works in the area of the cafeteria. It is understood that Captain Bridson will command the Lady during the TT period.

Friday the LADY OF MANN remained in Wright and Bayer's yard on the blocks. However, a fundamental change to her livery was noted. The black band at the top of her funnel is now much thinner, the rest of the funnel being of course Sea Containers red. The thinning of the band could have a more profound effect on the lady than painting her hull blue. After having an unfortunate encounter with the Beauford Road "hill billies" a few weeks ago I didn't venture too close, viewing from the north side of the East Float. Presumably she well be out docked shortly to enable the full effect to be studied!

ATLANTIC II - Entered service on 30 April between Dover and Calais. I am grateful to Raymond Goodfellow for forwarding photographs of ATLANTIC II in operation along with other photographs of the Sea Containers channel fleet, which are featured in the Mersey Shipping Gallery Section. Raymond reports that ATLANTIC II ran into technical problems on May 9th with her 08:00 sailing cancelled due to engine problems. For the rest of the day she was noted only running on three of her four Ruston engines - and even then she sounded very rough whilst leaving Dover, and at a very slow speed with black smoke spewing from her stern.

PEVERIL and PICASSO – remain laid up in Vittoria Dock

CLAYMORE - Sea Containers are reported have undertaken a promotional mail drop to most households in County Antrim to promote the seasonal Ballycastle to Campbeltown service which reopens on the 18 June and operates until 26 September

Last year operations on the route commenced earlier in the season, though were suspended whilst the CLAYMORE was away providing additional TT sailings out of Heysham.

Whilst at the Liverpool Terminal last week I picked up a new leaflet promoting the Belfast based [as opposed to Douglas based] Blue Riband Club. Apparently Blue Riband facilities are being advertised aboard the CLAYMORE for this season.

SUPERSEACAT THREE - The cat logos have failed to reappear.  - Bad weather in the Irish Sea disrupted sailings on the Liverpool - Dublin route on Sunday 9 March with both the 08.00 and 17.45 sailings from Liverpool being cancelled as well as the 12.45 and 22.45 return sailings from Dublin.

SUPERSEACAT FIVE & SIX These vessels will not be built. Hart, Fenton the Sea Co owned Naval Architects are reported to have closed their Italian office. SUPERSEACAT FOUR being the final member of the class. However, there appears to be a possibility that something bigger and faster may appear from Fincantieri for the Sea Containers fleet sometime in the future!

SEACAT SCOTLAND - Sea Containers has announced that since the new Troon - Belfast service was inaugurated on April 29 more than 3,000 passengers and 650 vehicles have been carried. General Manager, Diane Poole said: "We are delighted that the service has got off to such an excellent start and that forward bookings are also very encouraging. The new service has opened up a world of opportunity to travellers on both sides of the Irish Sea, providing easy access to Glasgow and Edinburgh on the Scottish side and the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland."

From 19 May a new schedule will operate on the route as follows:

Depart Belfast 0800 Arrive Troon 1030
Depart Troon 1115 Arrive Belfast 1345

Depart Belfast 1415 Arrive Stranraer 1545
Depart Stranraer 1615 Arrive Belfast 1745

Depart Belfast 1815 Arrive Troon 2045
Depart Troon 2130 Arrive Belfast 0001

The timetable for the service will operate seven days a week until 5 January 2000.

Sea Containers is offering a special 'SuperApex' fare to customers booking at least seven days before date of travel. A single crossing for a car plus five passengers costs as little as £50.

'Spring Specials' fares are now available up until 7 July. A four-day return for a car plus two passengers can cost as little as £119. An eight-day return for a car plus two costs from £169.

The Belfast to Douglas service has been revised from May 19, this has consequently had a knock on effect on the Liverpool - Douglas service.

SEACAT DANMARK's 17.15 sailing from Belfast to Douglas and the 21.15 Douglas to Belfast sailing has been replaced by a Wednesday sailing operated by SEACAT ISLE OF MAN. SEACAT ISLE OF MAN will depart from Douglas at 17.15 for Belfast. The return departure for Douglas leaves Belfast at 22.00.

Consequently SEACAT ISLE OF MAN returns to Douglas at 11.00 on Wednesdays instead of 19.00 as originally advertised. These changes mean that SEACAT DANMARK between Heysham and Belfast will operate two return trips each day except Sunday when the vessel operates the Douglas sailing. It is not yet clear if the peak summer Tuesday sailings on the Belfast - Douglas route will be operated or if the new Wednesday arrangements are replacements for both Tuesday and Thursday sailings.

There is still no news as to how Sea Containers plan to placate Dumfries and Galloway Council who have demanded that the Belfast - Stranraer service is restored to at least three daily roundtrips or the firm will not have their lease of Stranraer's West Pier re-newed.

Sea Containers have published their first quarter results for 1999. These may be viewed on the Press Release section of their website:

At Liverpool the south facing vehicle ramp on the linkspan pontoon is now almost complete. 


Sea Containers seem to have made 1999 the year for spending their hard-earned cash buying more business interests. In the past week Sea Containers Ltd continued its rapid expansion in luxury hotels around the world, by announcing that its Orient-Express Hotels Inc. subsidiary had acquired Keswick Hall at Monticello, Virginia and The Inn at Perry Cabin in historic St. Michael's, Maryland on Chesapeake Bay from Ashley Hotels, owned by Sir Bernard Ashley, co-founder with his wife of the Laura Ashley retail group. The hotels have been decorated in Laura Ashley style.

Both properties are five star deluxe, and although relatively small they include substantial development land on which it is intended to add rooms. The Keswick Hall estate includes 240 acres for development while the Inn at Perry Cabin has 25 acres available. Mr. Simon M.C. Sherwood, President of Orient-Express Hotels, said that the Ashley hotels now bring hotel investments in 1999 to four. Another two in Europe are planned later in the year. Orient-Express Hotels now has 29 properties of which 21 are hotels, 2 are restaurants, 5 tourist trains and one is a river cruise ship in Asia.

The Leisure Division of Sea Containers Ltd. had operating income of $49.5 million in 1998, up 7.2% from $46.2 million in 1997 (1997 results included a $5 million gain on sale of a hotel).

Whilst the above may not directly relate to the ferry world, I think it is an interesting sign of the expansive nature of the Sea Containers empire. How long before another ferry service falls to the control of Sea Containers? 


It is rumoured that Sea Containers are interested in acquiring the Estonian ferry company EstLine. The owners of EstLine, ESCO, want to sell the company and it will be made official who the new owner is at the end of May.


Irish Continental Group have announced that, in accordance with the terms of its charter agreement in relation to the PRIDE OF BILBAO, the charterers, P&O, have exercised their option to extend the charter for a three year period from October 1999 to October 2002.

During an interview on RTÉ's Seascapes programme this week, Captain Tony Canavan stated that the new Austal built JONATHAN SWIFT would have a wave height operating limit of 3.5 metres though the bow of the vessel designed cope with a 4 metre sea. SUPERSEACAT THREE has a 3-metre wave height limit. An engineer from the engine manufacturers, Caterpillar, will be resident in Dublin for two year to monitor the engine performance.


Briar Star which purchased the Strintzis Lines Swansea-Cork ferries earlier this year is reported to be considering a Cork - France freight route with passenger capacity.


On Saturday May 15, it was noted that the new gangway structure is now in place on its tracks at berth 49. Engineers appeared to be carrying out adjustments to the gangway which was elevated slightly whilst I was watching from the departure lounge. Work still continues over on the southside of the river preparing the new facilities.


The last time I mentioned one of the Norwegian KOSAN GAS LPG Tankers in the news pages was last August when the LINDA KOSAN caught fire off Plymouth whilst bound for the Isle of Man.

Once again a KOSAN GAS tanker features in the report this week as the result of a minor mishap which caused a major scare in Douglas harbour.

On this occasion the FENJA KOSAN which was carrying 950 tonnes of LPG lost control whilst berthing at the Battery Pier in Douglas Harbour on Tuesday afternoon.

She collided with two yachts - LOGICA and HEATH INSURED II which were moored at the nearby pontoon, used by small craft, to promote the BT Global Challenge yacht race. Fortunately the damage was minor. Three other vessels were also reported to be involved: the fishing boat MARIDA, pilot launch GIRL MARY and visiting yacht NA MARA.

Given the nature of the vessel's cargo a full emergency was declared and the harbour area cordoned off until it was established that there was no gas leak. The incident was featured in the Manx Independent this week, though it was emphasised that these ships' hulls are suitably reinforced to protect them against minor collisions.


The leader of Fingall Council is to unveil a memorial at Portrane this Sunday to the 375 passengers and crew of the White Star Line managed clipper TAYLEUR which was wrecked on the shores of Lambay Island north of Dublin on its maiden voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne, Australia in 21 January 1854. The ship was carrying 600 passengers and 4000 tons of cargo.

The TAYLEUR, constructed by Tayleur's of Bank Quay, Warrington on the River Mersey, was a fully rigged ship of 1,997 tons built for Liverpool ship owner Charles A. Moore and managed by White Star Line. The White Star line was predecessor to the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company acquired by Thomas Ismay for £1,000 in 1869. She cost £34,000 and was the largest ship at that time to have been built in England.

A few years ago I recall an audience being held fascinated for over two hours at a Merseyside WSS Branch Meeting in which the story of the TAYLEUR was related. A few relics from the wreck are on display in the National Maritime Museum or Ireland at Haigh Terrace, Dun Laoghaire.


THV MERMAID the Trinity House tender was undertaking work at the Bar Light Float on Sunday May 16.

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

Stena Line has recorded impressive figures for Easter 1999 travel on the Belfast - Stranraer route.
Over the 12-day period from April 1 to April 12, more than 60,000 travelled on the North Channel route, 7,500 crossing to Northern Ireland on one day alone. The figures follow the firm's 1999 first quarter report showing a 16% increase in passenger volumes and a 16.5% increase in car volumes.

Stena's Northern Ireland Head of Sales and Marketing stressed that taking the car avoided the hassles of airport baggage transfers and offered greater flexibility. He added that: "Despite the increased promotional activity of the airlines, ferry travel between Belfast and Scotland continues to increase in popularity. The overall market has increased by about seven per cent for passengers and nine per cent for cars, and the fact that our figures are up by more than 16 per cent shows that the Stena HSS is by far the preferred mode of transport."

"Our Belfast - Stranraer route, with its fast and frequent services, means that motorists can travel easily to all parts of Britain. The shorter crossing increases the number of trips we can make, thus giving our customers a wider choice of sailings throughout the day."

I think it goes without saying that the final comment is aimed at the new Sea Containers services from Belfast - Troon and Heysham! It should also be pointed out, good though Stena's traffic figures are, they must be taken in context. The HSS Stena Voyager was off the Belfast - Stranraer route for
almost all of the period between January and May 1998 when she covered for the Stena Discovery at Harwich (and also including her own refit period). The 'Voyager was also off the route at Easter 1997 to cover for the refit of Dun Laoghaire's Stena Explorer. Therefore, in some respects Stena have more made up for lost ground than actually made the gains that first appear.

However, it is still good to see Stena's situation improving.

Stena's Northern Ireland Travel Initiatives.

Stena's year old campaign to develop Belfast as a tourist destination for Scottish travellers appears to be succeeding. So far 25,000 Scottish day-trippers have been brought to Belfast by the scheme putting an estimated £1.4 million into the Northern Ireland economy.

The initiative works via newspaper promotions offering Scottish shoppers combined coach and ferry travel from several points in Scotland direct to Belfast City centre from only £9. In the first week of April Stena brought more than 1,000 shoppers to Belfast with thousands more expected this
summer. After passengers arrive in Belfast, Northern Ireland's public transport firm Translink buses them to the city centre to go on their spending sprees. Paul Grant Stena's Northern Ireland Head of Sales and Marketing said:

"The campaign is aimed at people who haven't been to the Province before and it offers them the chance to sample what we have to offer with the hope that they'll like what they see and come back for a longer stay."

At the time of writing the Daily Record is currently engaged in such schemes.


I have heard from Gary Andrews that the HSS STENA VOYAGER sailing from Stranraer to Belfast in the early hours of 15 May was somewhat riotous!

Six passengers will appear in court on June 9 following disturbances on board the vessel. Charges include assault, resisting arrest and disorderly behaviour.

Fighting apparently began on the outward sailing from Belfast to Stranraer and flared again more seriously on the return sailing. It appears that the sailing had been promoted as an entertainment cruise with a Freddie Mercury Tribute band on board.

Around 70 were involved in the fighting, which resulted in significant damage to the HSS and there are conflicting reports concerning damage to Stena Line's Belfast terminal. Some passengers were also reported injured.

A spokeswoman for Stena Line said that the company was very concerned at the incident and that an internal inquiry would be launched as to why some people were allowed to become so drunk and how events got so out of hand.

The spokeswoman added that the entertainment cruises had been successful in the past and without incident but that a review would now be made of the nights.

P&O NEWS ROUND UP Compiled by Gary Andrews

Clive Jackson reports that on the morning of 13 May the Larne - Cairnryan vessel EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR arrived in Fleetwood having operated the previous evening's sailing from Larne instead of the European Seafarer. It is not clear why this was the case. But at about 13.45 on the same day I noticed the EUROPEAN TRADER was operating the 13.30 sailing from Larne to Cairnryan instead of the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR (the EUROPEAN TRADER having earlier been supposed to sail to Ardrossan). The EUROPEAN TRADER operated the return teatime sailing from Cairnryan on 13 May. At the time of writing I cannot firm the vessel arrangements past this point.

The recent transfer of the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR to Larne does give P&OEF enormous flexibility with adequate tonnage to provide reasonable capacity even when a vessel is off service. Additionally, having operated the Larne - Fleetwood service for many years as the VIKING TRADER the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR is more than suitable for the crossing.

RIVAL TRAVELLING: Clive Jackson also reports that he has noticed Pandoro trailers (now P&O Ferrymasters but many trailers still display the Pandoro name) are regularly being shipped through Heysham on the Seatruck vessels. This may possibly be due to a particular contract - Warrenpoint is an excellent access point to the Irish Midlands and if there are certain delivery schedules, it may prove more suitable than Larne or Dublin. Additionally since the separation of Pandoro into P&OEF operating the ferries and Ferrymasters operating the haulage business I think more 'Pandoro' units have been shipped via other routes.

OLD TRAILERS: A further observation from Clive is that a large number of P&O trailers are stored at various locations on ABP land at Fleetwood. Many are obviously damaged but as many have now been stored for many months rather than repaired or disposed of, he wonders if they are being retained for possible future use if trade increases require. I could be wrong but I think I've also seen some damaged P&O trailers being stored at Larne (on the Redlands Estate beside the Ferrymasters site), unfortunately I don't know why this is so.


The future of the ROYAL IRIS is looking extremely doubtful according to local press reports this week. The vessel is being offered for sale for just £65,000. Or her once state of the art diesel-electric engine system will be sold separately and the vessel scrapped.

Since withdrawal from service she has spent time at Stanley Dock, Liverpool where a proposed night-club venture failed, then at Cardiff Docks and latterly on the River Thames where once again night club/pub ventures failed to materialise.

A spokeswoman from the Mersey Ferries support group "Friends of the Ferries" this week stated that the ROYAL IRIS had, "been left to deteriorate and in my opinion should be scrapped."

In many ways it is a great shame that the ROYAL IRIS beloved by so many Merseysiders will probably end her life in a scrap yard. However, she follows many other popular Mersey passenger vessels into oblivion.

The MOUNTWOOD operated the Manchester Ship Canal Cruises on Saturday 15/16 May.


The MERCHANT VENTURE, which had been laid up in Bidston Dock for some months, has been moved to a new berth near the Duke Street Bridge.


Three Fisher vessels have laid up on the north side of Bidston Dock, obviously accounting for the move of the MERCHANT VENTURE. The vessels are BRIARTHORN, REDTHORN and SOLENT FISHER. REDTHORN still carries the funnel markings of Coe-Metcalf Motor Coasters.


Further to last week's report on illegal diving and souvenir on the wreck of the submarine RESURGAM off Rhyl, Apparently local press reports indicate that the North Wales Police helicopter will overfly the site when it is operational.


The Liner SUNBIRD remains in the yard. During the week Putford Enterprises safety standby vessel BLUE FLAME I paid a short visit to the yard. PEREGRINE VII still remains in the wet basin. Her large drilling tower is ensuring she is becoming as familiar a Mersey landmark as the Liver Buildings or the Birkenhead Tunnel ventilation tower. When she does eventually leave the skyline will not be the same again. It is almost two years since she arrived at Cammell Laird.


This is the new trading name of the FBM Marine venture on Merseyside. The new company, FBM Lairdside, will unveil details of plans to construct two high-speed ferries for a Greek operator next week. Construction of the vessels will take place on the part of the Cammell Laird site, which was retained by Marconi [Formerly VSEL/GEC] when the rest of the Cammell Lairds yard was sold to the new Cammell Laird Group plc.

FBM Lairdside is a joint venture between fast ferry builders FBM Marine of Cowes, Isle of Wight and Marconi. Marconi will lease the yard to FBM Lairdside as well as providing marketing and sales expertise to the new company.

The plans, originally rumoured some months ago and mentioned on Mersey Shipping, follow the decision by the government to make available grants for ship building projects at the yard. It is hoped that the venture will create a large number of jobs both directly and indirectly.

John Luxton

May 16, 1999


Back Home Up Next


May 9, 1999


First of all a reminder that last Bank Holiday weekend saw the Mersey Shipping site updated twice on Saturday and Bank Holiday Monday. If you missed Monday's additional news posting it appears immediately below this Bulletin.

I have pruned the Gallery areas this week, mainly some older Sea Containers material plus a couple of other areas. Next week I hope to have new photographs of the APOLLON running down Crosby Channel taken on May 8, also my first selection of Photographs taken on the River Lagan, Belfast.

Thanks again for all the news, views and e-mail received again this week. As usually I spotted a few e-mails later in the week which had become overlooked. I think I have now caught up with everything but if you have not received a reply please send again.


LADY OF MANN on Friday the LADY OF MANN remained in Wright and Bayer's yard on the blocks. However, a fundamental change to her livery was noted. The black band at the top of her dummy funnel is now much thinner, the rest of the funnel being of course Sea Containers red. The thinning of the band could have a more profound effect on the lady than painting her hull blue. Her real funnel is now red after losing the buff colour applied last year and reminiscent of the colour carried on her delivery. After having an unfortunate encounter with the Beauford Road "hill billies" a few weeks ago I didn't venture too close, viewing from the north side of the East Float. Presumably she well be out docked shortly to enable the full effect to be studied!

There is still reported to be quite a lot of space available on the Fleetwood - Douglas excursion on the 27 May, though the August trip from Llandudno is reported more than half full. The May excursion is already full. Perhaps, there might just be some market in a limited reintroduction of a Llandudno - Douglas service - perhaps one day per week June to September?

ATLANTIC II - Entered service on 30 April between Dover and Calais.

PEVERIL and PICASSO – remain laid up in Vittoria Dock

SUPERSEACAT TWO - Gary Andrews reports that in the first week the SUPERSEACAT TWO operated on the Newhaven - Dieppe service she has proved to be extremely reliable with no cancellations despite at times choppy conditions. Additionally the vessel carried excellent loads with good forward bookings. Hoverspeed Public Relations Manager Kevin Charles, speaking to the Mid Sussex press, said: "We have had a good local response for the start of the service. There is every sign we will have a good summer."

SUPERSEACAT THREE - The cat logos have disappeared again. It also looks as though the railed off area of the open deck is to be closed to passengers as a "Crew Only" notice now appears on the gate. This is a great shame as SSCIII's open  deck area is very sheltered, even in the railed off area, when compared to SSC2. For ship photographers there is too little space from which to point a camera with the present arrangements if interesting vessels are encountered - which is often the case on the Dublin route. Why not allow access to this area in good weather and close it off in less favourable conditions?

Norman Patterson has sent me details of another SeaCo fare offer: "For the last two weeks there have been SeaCat ads in the Lancaster Citizen (local free rag) promoting their "super, dooper, trooper, whooper Apex" (their words, not mine!) Prices start from 60 pounds for a car+five, one way on off peak sailings 30/04/99 to 07/07/99 and 26/08/99 to 25/10/99. Somewhat cheaper than the 153 pounds (including Early Bird Discount - real prince is 204) that he had already paid for in June!


Some news from outside the area which will be of interest for fans of the BEN-MY-CHREE: The COMMODORE CLIPPER which is essentially the BEN-MY-CHREE's sister ship was reported in the uk.transport.ferry newsgroup to have been launched on the May 8th at Van-der-Geissen's yard near Rotterdam. Construction is reported to have taken 14 months.

Even further a field Michael Pryce has sent the following information concerning CONDOR 10 which is currently based in New Zealand.

"CONDOR 10's published Wellington to Picton winter weekend service timetable runs from 7th May to 30 November 1999. Tranz Rail said today it was set to sign a lease for the 86-metre CONDOR VITESSE (Incat 044) to operate the usual Wellington to Picton summer service from December 1999.

It is presumed that CONDOR VITESSE will also operate under the trading name of "The Lynx". The future employment of CONDOR 10 after the end of November 1999 is unknown."

Perhaps CONDOR 10 may just return to the UK? Will we see her again on Merseyside for refits?


The JONATHAN SWIFT arrived in Dublin on Wednesday after her voyage from Australia. In understand her interior creates a very favourable impression - the comment I received from a very respected authority on ferries was that the vessel offers "the quality of a conventional ferry on a fast craft. Interior is very ISLE OF INISHMORE."

An interview with Captain Canavan of Irish Ferries one of the masters in command of the vessel on its delivery voyage will be broadcast on the RTÉ maritime magazine programme "Seascapes" next week. [See below].


The new passenger Gangway for Berth 49 designed to link the terminal with Irish Ferries JONATHAN SWIFT appeared to be en-route for Dublin on Saturday 8 May. SUPERSEACAT THREE passed a small tug pulling a dummy barge loaded with a gangway. On the quay at 49 was a large mobile crane, which I guess would be used to unload the gangway.


HMS CORNWALL [F99] Broadsword Class Type 22 [batch 3] Frigate departed from Canada Dock on Tuesday 4 May after her visit last weekend in support of the Battle of the Atlantic Comemorations.

HMS LONDON [F95] another Broadsword Class frigate [batch 2] will be making her last visit to Liverpool on Monday 10 May as part of a three day recruitment visit. This will be HMS LONDON's final visit to Liverpool before paying off on June 11. The vessel, launched in 1986 saw service in the Gulf and Adriatic in recent years.


Further to last week's report on illegal diving and souvenir on the wreck of the submarine RESURGAM off Rhyl, Apparently local press reports indicate that the North Wales Police helicopter will overfly the site when it is operational.

The latest edition of the P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) Car Ferry Guide reveals that the Apex fares are now a permanent offer, though the conditions of 14 days advance booking and no changes and no refunds still apply. Prices are the same as those previously quoted for Stena Line. With huge savings over brochure fares, these excellent rates will either result in financial disaster for all involved or huge traffic increases that compensate for the loss in revenue per booking. It appears at this stage that traffic is rocketing on all routes involved in the battle.

SeaCat has also become involved in the price war with a range of special offers on the Belfast - Heysham and Belfast - Troon routes. Additionally on the Belfast - Stranraer and Ballycastle - Campbeltown routes a "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" Apex fare starting at £45 for a car and five passengers is offered. However, SeaCat's General Manager, Diane Poole, stressed that SeaCat were only getting involved in the price war "very reluctantly" and that: "We are offering customers our lowest fares ever for summer 1999 covering all our routes from Northern Ireland".

Interestingly P&O's new brochure no longer advertises the Rosslare - Cherbourg European Pathfinder Value Route - perhaps it wasn't a success? The Fleetwood and Liverpool Value Routes continue to be advertised.


On Bank Holiday Monday I posted a brief news item concerning a fire on board the HSS STENA EXPLORER. Reports were rather confusing to say the least. Gary Andrews has, however, assembled the details below:


After the headline-grabbing pier collision incident in March, I'm sure the crew of the HSS STENA EXPLORER couldn't believe their bad luck when the vessel was involved in a fire drama this week.

On Monday 3 May a fire was detected at 05.40 in the HSS STENA EXPLORER's starboard funnel casing astern, it is understood the likeliest cause was smouldering lagging on the turbine exhaust. The engine was shut down and the Dun Laoghaire fire brigade service called to the harbour with the vessel berthing under own power at 06.00.

When the fire was discovered the ferry was on her 04.10 sailing from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire and she about 12 miles (20 minutes) from Dun Laoghaire. The HSS STENA EXPLORER had 224 people on board (174 passengers and 50 crew) along with 25 cars and 9 pieces of freight.

Stena Line said the blaze in the engine room was "small and localised" and no one on board had been in any danger. A Company spokesman, Eamonn Hewitt said the fire had been contained "almost immediately". He added: "There was never any danger to life and limb. None of the passengers would even have known there was a fire." Stena were also keen to stress that all procedures had been followed such as the advance notification of the fire brigade.

Passengers became aware of the emergency when alarm whistles were sounded. People were initially told to take their seats before being moved to one side of the vessel away from the fire until the vessel had docked at Dun Laoghaire 20 minutes after the alarm was raised. The passengers and 50 crew disembarked by foot and those with cars and luggage still on board waited in the departure lounge of the Stena terminal unable to collect their vehicles until the fire brigade and marine inspectors had given the all clear. The all clear was given shortly before 09.00 for the 25 cars and nine lorries to be driven off.

Some passengers told the Irish press that there was some confusion onboard saying:

"We were told there was a problem with the engine, nobody mentioned a fire"

Another passenger said he was concerned because the warning seven bells sounded but were immediately dismissed as a false alarm over the public address system. However he spotted black smoke billowing out and pointed this out to the purser, after which the captain's voice could be heard saying "condition red". The man added: "Why didn't he call a condition red immediately? They possibly only realised it was a real fire after I alerted the purser."

However, Seamus McLoughlin an Investigator of the Marine Survey Office said he checked the alarm systems and they were working properly. The Investigator, called out immediately the emergency was made known, gave the HSS the all clear after checking its four engines and said he was satisfied those onboard were never in danger (if he had not been satisfied he had the power to prevent further sailings). Mr McLoughlin, Deputy Chief Surveyor in the Marine Survey Office said that a report would be compiled for Marine Minister Michael Woods and he told the Irish press that:

"It was not a serious fire. Each engine is contained in a fire-tight enclosure and that box has its own fire extinguishing system. One of these boxes got an alarm and when that happens it shuts the engine down and injects CO2 gas to put the fire out. No-one was at risk."

Six units of Dublin Fire Brigade dealt with the blaze. The fire engines were waiting to assess the situation and because of the heat from the engine room turbine they alternated in crews, using 15 sets of breathing apparatus. Fire fighter, Gerard Mahoney said: "When we arrived the main fire was actually out but there were little spots of fire and we were dealing with those for three hours."

Meanwhile, Stena's communications manager Eamonn Hewitt denied the passenger allegations that the incident had been downplayed during the emergency, insisting that Stena "wouldn't compromise passenger safety". He said the ship was only delayed an hour in port and would subsequently sail on three engines and that it would not need to be taken out of service for repairs. However he admitted that an alarm button had inadvertently been left pressed in, which might explain the confusion.

Some passengers complained of chaos at Dun Laoghaire with reports of passengers being left behind when the bus left to take passengers to Dublin Port for the STENA CHALLANGER's 3.5 hour sailing to Holyhead. Foot passengers and those with vehicles arriving for the sailing to Holyhead at 11.10 were initially diverted to Dublin Port but at 1050 Stena announced that boarding of the now-declared safe HSS could begin for a sailing at 12.30. In all only one round trip was cancelled (the 06.40 to Holyhead and return, passengers being transferred via Dublin port).

COMMENT: The Stena HSS craft have had more than their fair share of incidents, isn't it a great pity that a ferry concept so attractive in principle has had so many problems? It also makes us realise the small faults and problems of many other operators are fairly insignificant.

P&O NEWS by Gary Andrews

For the second time in recent weeks, P&OEF is offering an extra JETLINER sailing from Cairnryan at 2359 on 9 May (the first having been offered on 2 May). The additional one-hour crossing is aimed at football fans heading home from Scotland. James Esler, Passenger Sales and Marketing Manager said:

"We have introduced additional sailings in response to requests from our regular customers who find it difficult, especially with re-scheduled kick off times to catch the last regular departure time."

IDEA: Incidentally if demand for freight continues to grow on the Larne - Cairnryan route, if she can be accommodated for berthing, why don't P&O operate the otherwise daytime idle European Highlander on an additional sailing to Cairnryan say at 09.30 or 10.00 ex Larne 13.30 or 14.00 ex Cairnryan. With a capacity for only 12 drivers, most of the vehicle drivers could travel on the Jetliner with sailings close to the departure times.


A new feasibility study is to be carried out into a new foot passenger ferry service across Belfast Lough between Carrick and Bangor. Carrick Council has been approached by Belfast based North Star Industries to consider the venture, an idea mooted in the past but never acted upon. The Council's development committee is to meet with North Star to establish facts before considering the project. North Star believes they could run hourly services between the two towns during summer weekends to cater for the shopper and tourist market. The firm is so optimistic that support exists it would like to market test the concept this summer.


The Liner SUNBIRD remains in the yard whilst on Saturday 8 May James Fisher's ROSETHORN departed from #6 dry dock bound for Eastham.


Paul Mason has recently brought to my attention the Thames Ship Society web site. This long established group organises a wide range of excursions and facilities for enthusiasts which should be of interest to those based in south-east England in particular. You are recommended to visit the TSS pages at:

John Luxton


May 9, 1999

Back Home Up Next


May 3, 1999


Taking a trip to Douglas on Sunday  I noted that further evidence of the creeping SeaCo corporate image in evidence. On my visit two weeks ago I noted that most of the gangways in the harbour had been repainted SeaCo blue [incidentally an almost identical shade to the IoM Department of Transport blue which adorns the walkway and D.O.T. Edward Pier linkspan]. Also the gangways have the names of the vessels which use them affixed on white boards. Inside the terminal wet paint notices in the booking office revealed that the finishing touches had only just been applied. The counter is now SeaCo red complete with new style "anonymous"  SeaCo Legs of Man roundels. The original chrome IoMSPCo roundel remains in the office window however.

Elsewhere the old style roundels have been replaced behind the check in and even on the short-lived and long abandoned self service check in facility  [Wonder if they have thought about selling the old ones off to enthusiasts?]  Imperial Buildings still flies the traditional IoMSPCo house flag though I wonder how long it will be before the new anonymous "Japanese" flag appears which flies at Liverpool? The new roundel appears above the Imperial Buildings entrance door also.

Back in the terminal the white/yellow/red IoMSPCo signs have been modified with a the narrow yellow area replaced with what looks like SeaCo blue coloured tape. Thus creating the white/red/blue SeaCo colours. As Dublin was already treated to the new signs prior to the start of the season and Douglas has already been changed over, I guess it will only be a short period of time before Liverpool and Heysham get the Sea Co full corporate image treatment. The Lady's vehicle gangway, along with the vehicle gangway at Dublin and the passenger gangways at Liverpool and Dublin used by the Lady and SCIOM have also received SeaCo blue paint. Perhaps they may even be able to persuade the MD&HC to allow them to repaint the fixtures and fittings on the Prince's Landing Stage blue?!

SUPERSEACAT TWO. This week saw the inauguration of SSC2 on the Newhaven - Dieppe service following her redeployment from duties on the Irish Sea. The route had previously been abandoned by P&O Stena Line in January.

Apparently the inaugural   sailing was accompanied by marginal conditions with winds gusting between force 6 and 7.  Captain Peter Gibb said: "These are not ideal conditions for our first run. But this vessel can easily cope."

David Benson, senior vice president of port owners Sea Containers, said: "It was the company's intention to ensure the success of the service. "We share the main objectives of the town of Newhaven. We want the port and this service to be successful. I say to the people of Sussex, use it or lose it."

Lewes MP Norman Baker presented Mr Benson with a 5,000-signature petition from the people of Newhaven urging the company to invest more in the port to secure its long term future The MP said: "I am pleased to see the link restored but this is just a sticking plaster solution for the summer. We need a commitment from Sea Containers for long-term investment in the service."

Gary Andrews has forwarded some press reports which generally paint a very optimistic picture and reveal that whilst the first trip was rather bumpy there was favourable comment on how the vessel coped with the prevailing conditions. These appear  to contrast to the very unkind comments in the Merseyside Press last year which dubbed SSC2 the "Vomit Comet". However, it is interesting to note the "Use it or Lose it" comment of David Benson. I imagine that most enthusiasts hope that latest addition to the fast growing Sea Containers empire proves to be yet another resounding success.


A fire broke in the starboard funnel casing of the HSS STENA EXPLORER which had 224 people on board at 05.40 hours on May 3 whilst the vessel was enroute from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire. The vessel berthed at Dun Laoghaire under her own power at 06.00. The local fire brigade spent three hours fighting the blaze. The vessel re-entered service with the delayed late morning departure from Dun Laoghaire at 12.30 pm


The Cammell Laird built MV OVERCHURCH, currently undergoing an extensive refit in Manchester, and due to re-enter service in July is to be renamed ROYAL DAFFODIL. She will be the fourth vessel to carry the name. The prefix ROYAL being originally granted in recognition of the distinguished service at Zeebrugge during WWI of the original Wallasey Ferries IRIS and DAFFODIL. 


The sail training vessel WINSTON CHURCHILL paid a visit to Ellesmere Port this weekend and was reported leaving the Mersey on the afternoon tide of May 3.


The LOCH FISHER departed from the wet basin on Monday May 3.


May 1, 1999



First of all apologies! Mersey Shipping has been unavailable from Friday 23 April until Friday April 30 due to server problems, though I note from the page count log a few people managed to get on mid week. The April 25 update did not get on line until around 18.30 on April 30. The ISP apologised and blamed the fact that there had been a delay in rectification due to the fact that they had been "stretched" due to having to update their network.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that Mersey Shipping does not fall over again! I would like to thank the usual contributors and in particular Gary Andrews and Charlie Tennant for information on SeaCat Scotland operations and Michael Pryce for the Incat news. Elsewhere on the site is an interesting photograph of the Manxman during her period of residence in Hull forwarded by George Robinson.

Finally, I would like to point out that there will be an additional update with more photographs on MONDAY May 3 at around 21.00 as I have basically run out of time!


LADY OF MANN On Friday April 30, the Lady was noted to be in Wright and Beyer's yard and out of the water.

PEVERIL and PICASSO – remain laid up in Vittoria Dock

SUPERSEACAT THREE was noted arriving at Prince's Landing Stage at 19.10 somewhat behind schedule on Friday April 30. Apparently the ship had experienced technical problems on the first round trip of the day which had resulted in late running. On arrival back at Liverpool SEACAT ISLE OF MAN was allowed to berth first so as to maintain her schedules, which resulted in SUPERSEACAT THREE not berthing until after 19.00. Her late departure from Liverpool, meant that she was not back on Merseyside until shortly before 05.00 according to Mersey Radio.

However, by Saturday May 1, SSC3 appeared quite healthy again!

SEACAT SCOTLAND the vessel inaugurated the new Belfast - Troon link on Thursday, April 29 under the command of Captain David McMillan. Sea Containers had originally planned to operate the service on a seasonal basis until the end of September but have now announced plans to operate the route until January 2000.

The opening of the Belfast – Troon route has been somewhat controversial and has provoked Dumfries and Galloway councillors into voting unanimously not to renew Sea Container's lease on the Stranraer Port facilities in protest at the decision to reduce the frequency of sailings between Stranraer and Belfast.

Stranraer Scottish National Party councillor, Robert Higgins, is quoted by the local press as saying: "We are extremely angry at the way we feel SeaCat has treated us. We have bent over backwards to try and accommodate them since they moved in to Stranraer and this is like sticking two fingers in our eyes."

Mr Higgins added that the council had turned down a recommendation from its own environment and infrastructure department to renew the lease and has demanded urgent meetings with Sea Containers senior management.

Sea Containers would have to come up with a package of commitments to Stranraer, including the realistic opportunity of day trips to Ireland, before the council would extend the lease.

Steve Lawrence of Sea Containers claimed that the move had been made for commercial reasons commenting that "We are in discussions with the council and have said as far as our commitment to Stranraer is concerned, the town figures very much in our future plans."

Whilst I am not familiar with the routes out of Stranraer [yet!] I feel as though I must make the following observations. The councillors certainly appear to be over reacting. It is not as if there would be no services from the port to Belfast. Stena operating both HSS and conventional services – or are the councillors concerned at the precarious nature of Stena's finances and their long term commitment to the Stranraer – Belfast link. Even if Stena were to withdraw, there would still be the services of P&O operated between Cairnryan and Larne. The area is not likely to loose all links. Perhaps the councillors may have realised that Stranraer is not as convenient for passengers from the main conurbation of Scotland as is Troon and England as is Heysham. Using either of these ports will save a lot of driving or fares payable to land transport operators.

One only has to look at the success of the Liverpool – Dublin route to realise that there is great potential to operate services from more accessible ports rather than remoter locations such as Stranraer and Holyhead.

It is interesting to speculate on Mr. Lawrence's statement that Stranraer figures very much in the company's future plans. Perhaps a Stranraer – Douglas and/or Stranraer Dublin/Dun Laoghaire service? One couldn't really think of any other possibilities apart from Stranraer - Ballycastle or Stranraer – Campbeltown! With a surplus of vessels at present - SSCIV and ATLANTIC II – perhaps anything is possible?

SEA CO  TERMINAL TROON - May 1st  by Charlie Tennant

Further to my visit some 3 weeks ago the terminal is now complete and after the inaugural crossing last Thursday fully operational. Another 2 Portakabin units have been added for staff accommodation and the whole area is now fenced.

The long stay car park seemed inadequate, as it was full and overflowing at 09.00 some 75 minutes prior to the advertised departure.

SEACAT SCOTLAND arrived from Belfast at 09.34 only a few minutes late but took almost 35 minutes to off load the 30/40 vehicles and 250 plus foot passengers. The loading for the return of again 30/40 vehicles and 160 plus foot passengers was only marginally quicker. Departure was at 10.32 some 17 minutes late.  The Terminal Building is fairly spartan inside but in time will have the usual pictures and posters etc. added.

A flyer was available advertising a "Day Trip Special" (Troon - Belfast) for foot passengers - Adults £19.00, Seniors £15.00, Children £10.00 and a Family £49.00. Valid from 29th April to 30th June 1999. DT Product Code: DEX. The advert also states that the sailing times change after 19th May 1999 to 11.15 ex Troon and 18.15 ex Belfast. This change is not shown in either the Fast Ferry Guide Edition One UK or the Internet timetables.



May 1, 1999 by Charlie Tennant

HSS STENA VOYAGER arrived in the early afternoon at Greenock Ocean Terminal on the Firth of Clyde and although I did not witness I was reliably informed by the pilot later that she was made fast at around 14.00 and is due to depart 12 hours later at 02.00 (2nd May).

Stena have invited Travel Agents and Tour Operators from across Scotland and Northern England to view the craft then enjoy hospitality and a disco party on board until 01.00.  This is obviously part of Stena's effort to ensure they retain and possibly increase their market share as competition on the Irish Sea North Channel hots up.

HSS STENA VOYAGER was off roster after the 07.40 sailing ex Belfast and will resume with the 05.15 sailing ex Stranraer. Meanwhile the poor passengers had make do with the conventional service on a Bank Holiday Saturday.


The JONATHAN SWIFT continues her journey to Dublin. You should visit the Irish Ferries Jonathan Swift website where you can follow the remaining leg of her voyage and catch up on the captains' logs since she departed from Australia.


On Saturday I noted that has started on preparing the new terminal facility on the southside of the River Liffey. This is being constructed to ease pressure on the main terminal beside berth 49 on the north side of the river. Sea Containers are likely to be the main user of the new terminal. Irish Ferries JONATHAN SWIFT may also use the facility if arrival and departure should clash with the ISLE OF INISHMORE on berth 49.


HMS CORNWALL berthed at Canada #1 Branch Dock on Thursday April 29 to participate in the 1999 Battle of the Atlantic Commemorations. HMS CORNWALL is due to remain on Merseyside until Tuesday 4 May.


North Wales Police are investigating reports that pirate divers have been raiding the wreck of the historic submarine RESURGAM, which lies off Rhyl on the north Wales Coast.

The charitable trust formed to raise the pioneering vessel, which sank in 1880, is concerned that corrosion and souvenir hunters are damaging the wreck.

The wreck of the submarine, was located in 1995 enjoys legal protection as an archaeological treasure.


Readers may recall that about a year ago I requested information on the SARSIA, which now lies partially submerged in the East Float at Birkenhead. At the time I received some information from John Williamson concerning the vessels recent history. This appears in the Maritime Queries section. However, George Robinson has forwarded some more information concerning this vessel:

"I was sad to find her there last November, as I had first come across her at Plymouth in July 1976. She was built by Philip of Dartmouth (same yard as several Mersey ferries), completed in November 1953, yard number 1244, 319grt, 120'0" x 28'1", diesel engines. The 1963 register shows her as a 'research trawler' owned by the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, and she carried the fishing number PH6. Her ON was 184137. I have always assumed she was purpose-built for them, but haven't checked this in the earlier registers.


Many Mersey Shipping readers will have made journeys across the Irish Sea on board the vessels constructed by International Catamarans of Tasmania. Apparently the Australian Government has decided that these vessels could have military uses. I am grateful to Michael Pryce for forwarding the following information, which though not of local news, should prove interesting to enthusiasts.

Incat is developing the specification of yard number 045 to meet Australian Defence Department requirements to have a vessel ready to cope with the deteriorating military situation in neighbouring Indonesia.

Incat 045's range will be increased to 1,600 miles enabling the 86m vessel to carry 500 troops plus vehicles and stores from Darwin to the Indonesian province of East Timor in less than one day. The government refit and charter, at a cost of A$38m, is InCat's first military contract after several years of trying to enter the sector.

The Australian Defence Minister's Press Release Concerning Incat 045 is reproduced below:

Defence Capability Boosted by new High Speed Catamaran

The Minister for Defence, John Moore, today announced that Australia's Defence Force capability will be boosted by the introduction of a locally built, high-speed catamaran to provide additional sea transport support for ADF activities in northern Australia.

"This kind of vessel has significant advantages in terms of its capabilities and flexibility," Mr Moore said. "With a top speed of around 40 knots, the catamaran can carry up to 500 fully equipped troops plus stores and vehicles.

"The introduction of a high speed catamaran will complement Australia's ability to move troops and equipment in the most effective manner and will support the increased levels of preparedness recently announced by the Federal Government."

The new vessel will participate in a range of ADF exercises including 'Crocodile 99' later this year. There is also scope to use it in the provision of support for disaster relief operations within Australia. The Department of Defence has commenced negotiations with International Catamarans (INCAT), the builder and supplier of the vessel, to charter the catamaran for a two-year period.

It will be based in Darwin from the end of June this year and commissioned into naval service, with two crews of 20 Navy and Army personnel. Training of the crews will be conducted at the Australian Maritime College, Launceston. Additional, onboard training will take place under the supervision of an experienced check captain. "This charter represents a further investment by Defence in Australian industry and technology," said Mr Moore. "It increases the operational effectiveness of the ADF and boosts linkages between the Defence Force and local industry."

"It also provides the ADF with an opportunity to trial and evaluate high speed, multi-hull technology for a range of military applications, in a realistic operating environment."

The United States Navy and Royal Navy are also considering the multi-hull concept for sea transport operations and have expressed interest in Australian catamaran designs.

"Australia is internationally renowned for advances in the development of this type of vessel which offers an innovative solution to current Defence requirements," Mr Moore said.


There are concerns that over 160 jobs at Marconi Marine [formerly VSEL] of Barrow-in-Furness could be in jeopardy following the completion of the final member of the Trident Class of submarines HMS VENGEANCE. Unions are reported to be in negotiations with the company to avoid compulsory redundancies.


This week Cammell Laird announced that a multi-million pound contract to upgrade the pipe laying ship SEAWAY CONDOR which belongs to the Stolt Comex group.

The ship will be lengthened as well as being fitted with new engine equipment, switchboard and generators. The work on the ship should be completed by January 2000.

John Luxton

May 1, 1999


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