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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



JULY 1999

July 24, 1999



Welcome to this week's news update.


A few days ago I discovered that the Visitor's Book was "broken" and that if anyone had signed the book their entry would have been  lost! Apparently this problem dates back to when the site was suddenly moved a few weeks ago, thus any entries made since mid June have not been recorded.

Worse still, the ongoing log, which I should have downloaded and saved, just in case, has also been lost. This means that all entries from the end of March have gone. The problem has now been fixed but not before I had to create a new Visitors' Book, somehow it appeared impossible to fix the old one despite much fiddling.

Could I ask anyone who has signed the book from the last week in March to sign it again please? The Visitors' Book is a useful way of recording just where in the world callers are coming from and receiving valuable feedback.


I am pleased to announce that the Automated Contacts system appears to be functioning satisfactorily and is now open for use. There is now no need to send any more "Maritime Contacts" messages to me for posting - you can put them on-line yourself instantly. The old manually posted contacts messages will be maintained on line until the end of August and then removed. If anyone has a contacts message on line and they wish it to remain available they should repost the message. Please do not use the Contacts Section to post questions.


Unfortunately the automated Maritime Questions facility is not functioning properly. Please DO NOT use the automated questions facility until further notice.  The message files are not being saved. Questions will have to be e-mailed for the next couple of weeks until I get time to sort out the problem.


Onto this week's news update and I have broken with tradition and included two responses I have received in the light of my lengthy comments on the state of the Maritime Heritage in these islands and our attitudes to ship preservation.


This edition has been posted a day earlier than usual due to the fact that I am going away on Sunday for a few days and will return Friday night. The next update will be on Sunday August 1st. I am off to Devon and hope to check out the River Dart passenger services recently acquired by the Dart Valley Railway Company. I will also undertake my usual harbour cruise round the naval dockyard at Plymouth and I may try to go down to Torquay and see if I can see any sign of Channel Hoppers - I dislike Torquay so I might not get round to doing the latter. I do however, intend to locate the former car ferry SEVERN PRINCESS at Chepstow, which was mentioned in last week's M&ISS.

Whilst I am away, please keep sending the messages and news in, though obviously there will not be any replies.   



LADY OF MANN re-entered service for the summer holiday season with the 07.00 sailing from Liverpool on July 23. She was noted departing 10 minutes ahead of schedule with a light loading of 26 passengers. Readers are reminded that an additional day excursion is to be operated in from Fleetwood on Tuesday August 10th at 10.00 and returning from Douglas to Fleetwood at 19.00. If you can't find the phone number its 01624 661661. Her sailing from Llandudno on August 9th is already sold out.

With regard to the Llandudno - Douglas sailing Nigel Fitton is desperately seeking 2 tickets. If anyone can't go as planned he would be willing to purchase any spare/returns anybody may already have. You can contact Nigel on

SEACAT DANMARK missed its 17.15 Belfast - Heysham sailing on 21 July due to adverse weather conditions.

SUPERSEACAT FOUR is reported laid up at Fincantieri's yard at La Spetzia.

There was a short additional update earlier this week, posted on Monday July 19th concerning the future of the Stranraer - Belfast link. This update can be found after the present posting for those people who may have missed it.


Two Merseyside school boys aged 14 and 15 used credit card details to finance a trip to the Isle of Man. This occurred after they had visited the Liverpool Sea Terminal to cost out a trip to a football festival held on the island. However, one of the boys noticed a scrap of paper with credit card details written on it and made a note of them. The following day the boys booked their tickets by phone via the Douglas reservations office. They then made reservations at the Mount Murray Hotel.

The teenagers are then reported to have travelled in the Blue Riband Lounge on SEACAT ISLE OF MAN to Douglas. [There is supposed to be a minimum age of entry to the lounge of 16 - one presumes they must have looked older.] Isle of Man Magistrates heard how the two boys checked into the Mount Murray Hotel and went on a spending spree, charging meals telephone calls and over £1000 worth of designer sports gear to their room account.

The hotel's manager, Grant Ross, became suspicious, and demanded a fax from the boys' parents to confirm everything was in order. The boys then flew back to Liverpool with Manx Airlines, returned home, and after writing their own letter faxed it to the hotel from a local post office. The hotel manager then made a telephone call to confirm the fax. One of the boys then pretended to be his mother and confirmed that the boys were allowed to run up the bill.

On returning by plane to the Island later that day they were arrested. Magistrates gave the schoolboys a conditional discharge, but they were banned from entering the Isle of Man for three years.

The chairman of the Magistrates commented that the companies involved should look at "how they conduct things".

Sea Container's spokesman Geoff Corkish is reported as saying: "Credit Cards are a major part of our business and, while it is relatively easy to gain credit card details because of the frequency of their use, we regret that the boys used our premises to commit this misdemeanour".



This week Sea Containers announced that the company had led a consortium of investors to purchase a franchise to operate ENAFER - Peruvian State Railways. The deal is expected to be finalised on September 21.


The TSS MANXMAN is reported to be in dry-dock following her sinking in the River Wear last week. Meanwhile an investigation is underway to try and ascertain the reason for the sinking of the vessel.


Following several months of industry speculation, Cenargo, owner of Merchant Ferries and Belfast Freight Ferries, has announced that it is to acquire
Norse Irish Ferries.

A spokesman for the board of Norse Irish Ferries said: "The deal is in the best interests of the shareholders and employees. It will create a more viable freight business by bringing together the proven abilities of Belfast Freight Ferries, Merchant Ferries and Norse Irish Ferries and in doing so form a comprehensive Irish Sea network."

Norwegian controlled and backed by a consortium of road hauliers, Norse Irish Ferries re-established the Belfast - Liverpool route in 1991 as a freight service. Following the successful introduction of a passenger service, the newly built ro-pax ferries LAGAN VIKING and MERSEY VIKING were chartered in 1997.

The service has witnessed significant growth since it began and this has made it a very attractive candidate for take-over. In the past both Stena and P&O have been linked as potential buyers of the service. There were suggestions that Stena would have introduced an HSS alongside the ro-pax vessels, a service that could have been very successful.

It would appear that the decision by Merchant Ferries to start an almost identical Belfast - Liverpool service forced the issue at all levels. The service was planned to begin next year when two sister vessels to the Merchant Ferries Dublin - Liverpool ro-pax ferries DAWN MERCHANT and BRAVE MERCHANT are scheduled to be delivered. It was widely agreed there was not sufficient business for two almost identical operations.

Given that the current Norse Irish vessels are on charter one would expect them to be replaced by the newbuilds originally earmarked for the independent Merchant Ferries Belfast - Liverpool route. The Norse ships have a passenger capacity of 340 (frequently reached, especially on weekend sailings), whereas the sisters to the Dublin ro-pax vessels are expected to have a capacity for 250 passengers, potentially causing a drop in passenger capacity. However, it is envisaged the two Cenargo newbuilds could be altered to provide additional capacity.

One result of the take-over means that there will be two excellent ro-pax vessels available for sale or charter (most likely the Norse vessels but possibly the new Merchant Ferries ships). These will no doubt be snapped up very quickly. They would be ideal for P&O (though being Merchant Ferries
main competitor one would doubt such a sale) or perhaps Stena will take Dutch (or rather Hoek) courage and charter them for Belfast or Dublin to offer the style of service that will be offered on the Harwich service when the Seapacer vessels are introduced alongside the HSS.

There have been industry suggestions that the current Belfast - Liverpool vessels and Dublin - Liverpool vessels may be swapped. Quite what benefit this would bring remains to be seen. By all accounts passenger carryings on the Belfast route are considerably better than on the Dublin route and it would not make much sense to place additional passenger capacity on the
Southern service.

Another potential reason for the take-over would appear to be a lack of berths at Liverpool, which may have prevented Merchant Ferries from offering the type of service they wished to Belfast. Indeed perhaps now that Merchant Ferries will be such a significant operator at Liverpool pressure may be brought to help speed up the building of the new "River Berths", a development which would allow two roundtrips on the Belfast route every day.

Whether or not Cenargo decide to amalgamate all services into one company remains to be seen, but surely it would make sense to brand Belfast - Heysham, Belfast - Liverpool, Dublin - Heysham and Dublin - Liverpool as Merchant Ferries or simply Cenargo or Cenargo Ferries.

As is standard practice in such circumstances there are various "due diligence" procedures to be gone through which will take until the end of August. That being the case there will be legal gags on what either party may say until the agreement is finalised. The intention is that the agreement will be completed in September. Therefore, in the short-term there will be little to emerge of what the take-over means in reality. Apparently the agreement is for Cenargo to purchase about 99% of the Norse shares. This is a strange quirk that seems to occur in many of these situations where the
take-over excludes less than 1% of the shares.

GARY ANDREWS' COMMENT: One would welcome the news of the Cenargo take-over of Norse Irish Ferries. The news of Merchant Ferries planning a Belfast - Liverpool service had made many concerned about over capacity and the impact on the viability of ferry services. The news allows consolidation and will provide a secure future for the historic Belfast - Liverpool route. With the Irish Sea now dominated by the large ferry networks of operators such as Cenargo, P&O European Ferries and Stena Line, few small-scale operators are left. One would wonder for how much longer Warrenpoint - Heysham operator Seatruck remains independent - surely a possible take-over candidate for a firm like P&O?


It was reported on the RTÉ's excellent Seascapes programme that the company would like access to a second ramp at Dublin. Currently all Cenargo vessels have to use Ramp 7.


Problems with HSS STENA VOYAGER on the Belfast - Stranraer service appear to continue with the following sailings notified as cancelled for maintenance:

Saturday July 24th: 22:00 from Belfast. Sunday July 25th: 02:50, 07:40 from Belfast plus 00:25, 05:15 and 10:00 from Stranraer.

Further concerns have been raised this week over the wash created by HSS vessels following the drowning of an Essex angler, thrown out of a 33 foot boat which was hit by a 15 foot wave. The wave is believed to have been generated by HSS STENA DISCOVERY which passed around half a mile away whilst operating the Harwich - Hoek service.

The fishing boat, skippered by the victim's friend, was almost swamped by the wave knocking out the electrics. Unfortunately the drowned man was not wearing a lifejacket and was not able to swim.

The victim's family are reported to be taking legal action against Stena Line.


The type   Broadsword Class Type 22 Frigate HMS Boxer [F92] visited Liverpool this weekend berthing at Canada #1 Branch North. On Saturday morning her crew were noted drilling on the quay side.


The new floating landing stage which was constructed in the Canada Graving Dock, Liverpool by Christiani and Nielsen has now been taken across the river and berthed in the East Float having spent a few weeks berthed at Canada #1 Branch Dock, North. Anyone viewing this structure would be forgiven for thinking that they were viewing a large skeletal "Toblerone" mounted on a large floating platform!

I have received two excellent photographs from Barry Graham of the former Wallasey Ferry EGREMONT which now serves as a sailing club HQ in Salcombe, Devon. She is well cared for, and though she has been modified somewhat she is still maintains her familiar lines. Check out the photographs in the Gallery Pages.


The new Port St. Mary Lifeboat, GOUGH RITCHIE II was officially named on Saturday July 17 by the Lieutenant Governor Sir Timothy Daunt and his wife Lady Daunt accompanied by RNLI officials.

The GOUGH RITCHIE II is a Trent Class boat with a range of 250 miles and a top speed of 25knots. She carries a crew of six. The vessel had entered service last May and has already rescued 12 people.


My "rant" last week provoked some response. I am attaching a letter received from Graham Latimer who has an encouraging answer to my speculation regarding the response from "Joe Public" to our Maritime Heritage:


"Dear John,

I am not your regular "Joe Public" as stated in your article on the Internet dated 18th July 1999. Quoting that many people just look and go away worrying about the change in weather etc. Because as luck has it, I work in an office, which owns a enthusiast (John Entwistle) whose interest, is the IOMSP Co. His collection is getting larger all the time, and he regularly goes on the web sites to keep in touch with the much-missed ferries, which for example are now owned by MOBY LINES.

He confides in me that there is an occasional sailing from Fleetwood midweek on the LADY OF MANN and does his utmost to be there. But by letting me know - I do not say " Oh that’s nice" -- This Mr Joe Public says "Can I come?"

The last trip that I went on was on 27th May 1999; meeting up with some very nice people who have know each other through just being there. No contact was made with each other beforehand but the attraction was magnetic, and gets these types of people to go on a day trip on a wonderful Lady for no other reason but as the old mountaineers say " Because its there. "

Whilst on the island, I was pleased to see the arrival of the BALMORAL on a day’s visit, I took some photographs of the LADY and the BALMORAL together.

My interest in these ferries were from being a very young child and passed on to me without knowing by my Father who didn’t think of them as historic, but as just a means of transport to get to the Isle of Man for a weeks holiday. Once it was such a rough crossing taking seven hours, that he said he would spend the whole of the holiday looking for a job so he didn’t have to come back and experience the same situation. Needless to say this was before stabilisers etc.

Many years went by and I never went on a ferry, instead we took a liking to Devon & Cornwall (possibly because of the lack of water we had to cross).

Twenty-four years ago I decided to return to the island on the MONA'S QUEEN for our honeymoon. My wife had never been before, and the crossing was rough, and I never thought about anybody being ill. Personally I love rough crossings and they don’t bother me. Since then over the years we have spent bringing up children and holidaying in every inch of England under canvas never leaving her shores.

Let’s get back to 1999 - After a few recent trips with the lad from the office using the Fleetwood Service of which the last two day visits have been on a sea flatter than our living room carpet, I have made a decision that this year to try and recreate some type of memory (without the rough crossings) for my wife and myself, and take the next Fleetwood Service to the island which is on the 10th August 1999. As you can see, I am a gambler because I have pre-booked our tickets, and I think my wife is looking forward to it.

The decision to do this trip is many fold The decision to do this trip is many fold: -

1. To rekindle memories for my wife and I

2. I would not like to see one of the last ferries not to be used.

3. I think that the Fleetwood base is one of the best to sail from.

4. I would like the Fleetwood base to be a continuous thing and be on a regular basis, instead of trying to guess when it sails from there.

5. After a conversation with my colleague in the office, I don’t think a ferry should be stood idle, when there are enthusiasts and islanders waiting to use the facility.

Being so close to Blackpool, a resort so full of holidaymakers in the summer months from all over the country, looking for an unusual trip to go on if the knew about it with good advertising.

I seem to have got myself all fired up, and I am looking forward to this trip. It also seems that I am not on the same side of the road as Mr. Joe Public.

Many thanks for John Entwistle (my contact) who passed on your article, and many thanks for comments put forward by yourself, they were very interesting and well worth reading.

Graham E. Latimer."


Another response came from Paul Heine a regular reader from the USA. He has awoken me to the presence of an interesting naval vessel which can be found in Belfast:

"I wholeheartedly agree with you on your recent thoughts regarding British ship preservation. Its a shame more ships couldn't be preserved. Here in the U.S. there are literally dozens of all types in various ports on every coast and on the Great Lakes.

Since my major interest is in naval vessels (I guess its only natural since I spent 24 years in the U.S. Navy!), might I add one ship to those you mentioned? I'm referring to R.N.R. training ship (nee light cruiser) HMS (?, not sure if the prefix is still used) CAROLINE at Belfast. She was ordered from Cammell Laird, Birkenhead in July 1913 and laid down as yard no. 803 in January 1914, launching on 29 September 1914 and completing that December!

She fought in the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 as part of the Fourth Light Cruiser Squadron under Commodore Le Mesurier, suffering no casualties, and is the last survivor of that battle which makes her eminently suitable for restoration and preservation. In April 1924 she became the drill ship for the Ulster Division of the RNVR is to my  knowledge is still there serving in that role after 85 years service! Although decked over with her guns and (probably) her engines and boilers have long gone, her hull is sound. She would make an excellent compliment to HMS BELFAST on the Thames.

I've been to HMS WARRIOR at Portsmouth so I know that would be feasible to rebuild her to her World War I appearance - if only the funding was available.

Thanks again for your continuing efforts with Mersey and Irish Sea Shipping!

Respectfully, Paul J. Heine, YNC(AW), USN (Ret.), B.Sc."


The decision to do this trip is many fold: -

1. To rekindle memories for my wife and I

2. I would not like to see one of the last ferries not to be used.

3. I think that the Fleetwood base is one of the best to sail from.

4. I would like the Fleetwood base to be a continuous thing and be on a regular basis, instead of trying to guess when it sails from there.

5. After a conversation with my colleague in the office, I don’t think a ferry should be stood idle, when there are enthusiasts and islanders waiting to use the facility.

Being so close to Blackpool, a resort so full of holidaymakers in the summer months from all over the country, looking for an unusual trip to go on if the knew about it with good advertising.

I seem to have got myself all fired up, and I am looking forward to this trip. It also seems that I am not on the same side of the road as Mr. Joe Public.

Many thanks for John Entwistle (my contact) who passed on your article, and many thanks for comments put forward by yourself, they were very interesting and well worth reading.

Graham E. Latimer."

Another response came from Paul Heine a regular reader from the USA. He has awoken me to the presence of an interesting naval vessel which can be found in Belfast:

"I wholeheartedly agree with you on your recent thoughts regarding British ship preservation. Its a shame more ships couldn't be preserved. Here in the U.S. there are literally dozens of all types in various ports on every coast and on the Great Lakes.

Since my major interest is in naval vessels (I guess its only natural since I spent 24 years in the U.S. Navy!), might I add one ship to those you mentioned? I'm referring to R.N.R. training ship (nee light cruiser) HMS (?, not sure if the prefix is still used) CAROLINE at Belfast. She was ordered from Cammell Laird, Birkenhead in July 1913 and laid down as yard no. 803 in January 1914, launching on 29 September 1914 and completing that December!

She fought in the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 as part of the Fourth Light Cruiser Squadron under Commodore Le Mesurier, suffering no casualties, and is the last survivor of that battle which makes her eminently suitable for restoration and preservation. In April 1924 she became the drill ship for the Ulster Division of the RNVR is to my  knowledge is still there serving in that role after 85 years service! Although decked over with her guns and (probably) her engines and boilers have long gone, her hull is sound. She would make an excellent compliment to HMS BELFAST on the Thames.

I've been to HMS WARRIOR at Portsmouth so I know that would be feasible to rebuild her to her World War I appearance - if only the funding was available.

Thanks again for your continuing efforts with Mersey and Irish Sea Shipping!

Respectfully, Paul J. Heine, YNC(AW), USN (Ret.), B.Sc."



The company has circulated shareholders with proposals to increase the share capital of the company by a 9 for 1 bonus issue of shares. With the company's shares priced currently in excess of £9.50 the directors believe that some investors would be more likely to deal in the company's shares if the price were more in line with the FTSE all-share average.

The bonus issue would have the initial effect of lowering the current trading price of the shares thus making them more appealing to prospective purchasers.

If approved at the company's AGM to be held in August, the new shares will commence trading on the London Stock Exchange on Monday August 23rd.



Seven Greenpeace protestors were arrested in Cumbria on July 19th. The protestors were part of a group of 12 on board two high-speed boats, which towed a banner showing a white elephant across the entrance to Barrow Docks. The group had been attempting to halt the departure of the recently armed nuclear fuel carriers PACIFIC TEAL and sister ship PACIFIC PINTAIL, owned by PNTL and managed by James Fisher & Sons of Barrow.

PACIFIC TEAL was bound for Cherbourg to load plutonium from the Cap de la Hague nuclear plant. PACIFIC PINTAIL had loaded nuclear fuel at Barrow from the Sellafield reprocessing plant in Cumbria. The departure of both vessels was delayed, but they were reported to have reported to have cleared at around 15.30.

BNFL, proprietors of PNTL are claiming damages of over £90,000 for the delayed departure from Greenpeace which has resulted in the environmental groups bank accounts being frozen.

On Tuesday John Prescott, the deputy Prime Minister, ordered Greenpeace to remove its ships from British waters for safety reasons - the first time such an order has been made under the 1995 Merchant Shipping Act. If the organisation's vessels enter UK waters the organisation would risk an unlimited fine.

This means if the organisation's ships enter British waters again Greenpeace would risk an unlimited fine.

PACIFIC TEAL is understood to have departed from Cherbourg and has joined her sister PACIFIC PINTAIL for the onward voyage from France, with French naval protection whilst in French waters.

John Luxton

July 24, 1999 

Back Home Up Next

July 20 - Extra Update


The dispute between the company and Dumfries and Galloway Council over the frequency of service on the Stranraer to Belfast route has come to a head.

The council has given the company until April next year to leave their Stranraer premises after SeaCat moved two return daily sailings to Belfast from Troon in Ayrshire.

Sea Containers is to make a legal appeal against the order.

The decision to move to Troon is reported to have dismayed politicians and the business community in Stranraer, from where SeaCat Scotland has operated since 1992.

At a meeting on Friday, the council told the company it wanted three daily sailings from Stranraer and a permanent commitment to the town by the end of this month.

John Burrows of Sea Containers  said two sailings a day would operate between now and September.

"The market on the routes between Scotland and Northern Ireland are not as buoyant as some people believe and we need the peace process to carry on.

"The council asked us to look at extra sailings and for a commitment on the route," he said.

"We have decided to operate an extra sailing on four days a week during the summer and looking at adding a second trip during the winter using another vessel."

Mr Burrows also said that last year Sea Containers  had spent some £2.7m in the Stranraer area.

"That sum would be sadly missed if we left. We are making a legal appeal against this order to vacate the premises and this shows our commitment to the route," he added.

Dumfries and Galloway's Environmental Health Director Roger Guy said: "The council is willing to work with all operators who show a commitment to the route and this is the issue at stake.

"The extra service until September 5 has not helped the position in itself.

"The decision today stemmed from the lease issue and we have left them the invitation to come forward with proposals between now and the end of April next year."

July 18, 1999



Update news: Next update Saturday July 24 at 21.00

Some months ago I indicated that I was examining ways of making the M&ISS web site more interactive, through making use of some free web space, which was available to me as a subscriber of Cybase. Unfortunately, continuing difficulties with FP98 extensions have frustrated this plan. Consequently I intend to install an automated Maritime Questions Section on the main site.

The automated contacts posting facility I made available last week appears to be functioning satisfactorily, I have made some modifications, however, if everything continues to work well I'll give it the all clear for use from next week. Please test it if you like.

The advantage of this facility will mean messages go on-line instantly and in the case of the Maritime Questions responses to Queries will be posted instantly too. This will reduce the amount of work involved on my part of laboriously cutting and pasting responses sent in by e-mail.

However, back to the Cybase web site. As you know with the exception of some galleries which I maintain for the longer term the shelf life of most material posted has been around 6 months. Last week I explained that to keep the main site down to a reasonable size the on-line period for most galleries would have to be reduced to around four months, with previous material archived to disk.

However, with the 10 Megabytes of free space available it is obvious that this could be used to keep some of the "archive" material on line.

This site will not be updated as regularly as the M&ISS site, probably once a month. Items will removed from the main site will not always be transferred to M&ISS Archives straight away. However, any historic material sent to me will be placed on this site - I have already transferred the "Archive Pictures" from the Main Site to the M&ISS Archives.

I hope this new arrangement means that much more material is available for visitors to M&ISS. Any comments and suggestions are very welcome.



Sea Containers announced on July 15 that due to increased passenger demand and additional sailing has been introduced between Stranraer and Belfast. Operating Friday to Sunday leaving Belfast at 00.30 and returning from Stranraer at 05.45.

Earlier this year the company transferred it's main Ireland - Scotland service to Troon, much to the dismay of councillors in Stranraer. It remains to be seen if this move will be sufficient appeasement.

Commenting on the move Sea Containers spokesperson Diane Poole said: "The first two months of the summer have been extremely busy for all our routes," "With an increasing number of daytime sailings becoming fully booked, we have listened to our customers and moved to introduce a late night sailing between Stranraer and Belfast. This certainly seems to have appealed with bookings looking very brisk for the remainder of the summer period."

Typical fares between Stranraer and Belfast range from £119 for a three day return for a car and five passengers, £144 for a six day return for a car and five passengers to £208 for a standard return for a car and five.

NAMES & THINGS by John Luxton

Visiting the Isle of Man Steam Packet website this week I discovered that it has been rebranded "Sea Containers - Irish Sea Ferries" which makes it obvious that the IoMSPCo branding is slowly being phased out. The LADY OF MANN now carries the fleetname STEAM PACKET COMPANY and I understand this will be applied to the BEN-MY-CHREE when refitted next year.

What is interesting is that according to the company's annual report issued earlier this year is the fact that company intends to change its name to reflect the fact that containers are no longer its primary business. [In the USA its ferry operation in New York is now marketed as SeaStreak]. It is surprising that the formal name change was not awaited before rebranding the site. Adverts appearing in the Manx Press now bear the anonymous Legs of Man with the words "Steam Packet Company". The trouble is with the new name - some section of the public will now be convinced that Sea Co owns Irish Ferries or vice versa!

Perhaps a better name would have been "The Irish Sea Packet Company" for such operations it has a semi-traditional ring about it without mentioning steam but is significantly unique to stand out against other operators - just a thought!


I received a copy of this document which makes very interesting reading. Some enthusiasts will be horrified at the "improvements" to the BEN-MY-CHREE suggested by Naval Architect John Brown! However, I can recommend it personally as an interesting read for anyone interested in Irish Sea ferries.

The report can be purchased for £9.25 (including postage) from  The Tynwald Library, Buck’s Road, Douglas, Isle of Man Tel: 01624 - 685520 fax 01624 - 685522


By the way, in case you are thinking of ordering a copy, they don't have credit card facilities - I asked. However, sending a letter last post on Tuesday, resulted on a Thursday delivery.


This week the former IoMSPCo vessel MANXMAN sank at her berth on the River Wear in Sunderland. The photographs on the front cover of the Manx Independent Newspaper revealed the extent of this sad sight.

I understand from John Shepherd that she was finally refloated on July 15th after being submerged for nine tides. Whilst I received much information about the MANXMAN from a number of contributors Gary Andrews beat me to it in terms of writing up the sad event I will let him take over the story. However, elsewhere in this week's update I have written my own thoughts on Maritime Preservation my own thoughts on the sad state of maritime heritage in these islands.

Fire-fighters have this week battled to save the classic Isle Of Man ferry MANXMAN from sinking when it began to severely list at its moorings at Pallion Shipyard, on the River Wear at Sunderland, where it is being turned into a floating night-club.

Deputy Harbour Master Captain Jim Smith said the vessel sprang a leak below the waterline and by the afternoon of 12 July was listing at 45 degrees. The Harbour Master gave an assurance that the vessel would not actually sink:
"When the tide goes out the vessel will rest on the bottom of the river. It will not submerge, the water is not deep enough."

It began to list badly after taking in water in its engine room. It is reported more than 5,000 gallons had already poured into the vessel by the time the rescue operation had got under way. The problem was so bad that at one stage the 75 fire fighters attempting to save the vessel were ordered off the vessel for safety reasons. However, a Tyne and Wear Fire Brigade spokesman said that despite the evacuation of all personnel no one had been injured. The spokesman revealed that pumps were being used to try to empty the vessel while high-pressure air was being forced into the hull to stop any further water from being taken on. When the fire brigade left the vessel the pumps were left onboard the vessel in a last ditch effort to try and stop any further list, though it is thought that a bulk head door was letting more water in.

Alan Dickenson, Chairman of Pallion Engineering who are currently responsible for the vessel, said he believed the problem was due to interference by trespassers. Tight security may have stopped vandals and thieves from boats being spotted. Ironically it would appear the tight security on land hindered regular inspections when it appears that any probable attack came from those on the sea. There had already been incidents of vandalism against the vessel and on one occasion the mooring ropes had been cut and the bow had swung into the river. Mr Dickenson denied reports that the vessel was a wreck and said several potential buyers are interested.

Police refused to comment on the cause and said they had had no reports of vandal attacks on the ship. Experts were due board the vessel on 13 July to find out what caused the vessel to start sinking in the River Wear. No further information was available on the cause of the incident at the time
of writing.

Officers attending the site reported diesel oil floating in the river. This prompted concerns over an oil spillage from the vessel and led environmental officials to deploy absorbency booms around the ferry.

A spokesman for Tyne & Wear fire brigade said after talks with port authorities the owners, said by one newspaper to be a firm based in Greece, were considering bringing in specialised pumping equipment to complete the

Divisional fire officer Kevin Heppell said: "We were faced with a race against time to save her. There was a danger that it would go over completely when the tide drops and if that had happened it would have blocked the channel. We have now managed to stabilise the ship and it's now up to the owners and the port authorities to take the next step."

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company put up the MANXMAN, built by Cammell Laird in 1955, for sale in 1982. It was bought by Lancashire-based Marda (Squash) Ltd in 1982 for £100,000 to become the centrepiece of their development at Preston's Albert Edward dock.

Greek shipping tycoon Capt. Michael Kollakis later bought the ship, spending £1.5 million turning her into a plush bar, restaurant and night-club. The ship later left Preston and was taken to Hull where it was docked and became a floating pub. Business suffered when an application for a night-club licence was refused and it was towed north by tugs. It has remained berthed on the Wear since its arrival in Sunderland in 1997. [I have heard it reported that she is Liberian owned - JL]

Martin Edmondson reports that he visited Pallion on the evening of 13 July. At the time of Martin's visit it was low tide and the MANXMAN was clearly sat on the bottom. Martin adds that: "The water line was still up to the belting though, and the pumps were still running. She did however look to be more or less upright again."

GA's COMMENT: What a sad fate to befall such a fine vessel, would it not have been better to have been sold for scrap in 1982 that be hitting the headlines today for such unfortunate reasons?



Britain, Ireland and the Isle of Man by their Geography easily lay claim to being Maritime Nations. However, the countries comprising the British Isles have a shameful track record when it comes to ship preservation. There are some notable exceptions such as WAVERLEY, BALMORAL, KINGSWEAR CASTLE and SHIELDHALL, but there are many historic vessels struggling to survive, some supported by enthusiasts with more dedication than cash.

Throughout these islands there are hundreds of miles of railway track operated by various preservation societies and companies, most of whom, barring a few minor failures operate very successfully. In addition there are preserved locomotives which run regularly on the main line tracks of the UK and Ireland hauling excursions.

The railway preservation movement has been hugely successful, so successful that as there are no new steam locomotives to be saved from the scrap yard attention is being turned to construction of new locomotives representing classes which failed to escaped the cutter's torch. A brand new Peppercorn Pacific will grace the East Coast Mainline in the not too distant future. Construction of one of locomotives is not a cheap task; it involves the spending of serious money.

The Ffestiniog Railway has built two new locomotives, one a replica of a Lynton & Barnstaple engine, the other TALIESIN - a single Fairlie type - which managed to use a few components saved when its predecessor was scrapped. Serious money is also being invested in the reopening of the Welsh Highland Railway.

However, in contrast the preservation of ships and our maritime heritage struggles in comparison to railway and aviation preservation. In the last 30 years many notable and popular ships have been destroyed, even some that had been preserved: JEANIE DEANS, WESTWARD HO!, CARDIFF / BRISTOL QUEENs, Manx Turbines. Presently the fate of many popular vessels remains in the balance: SOUTHSEA, ROYAL IRIS, MANXMAN, MEDWAY QUEEN immediately come to mind.

We consider ourselves to Maritime Nations? - Rubbish! For some reason "Joe Public" finds it difficult to put heart and sole into supporting our historic vessels. Part of the problem is participation in ship preservation, especially for the average citizen requires greater commitment than railway, aviation or bus preservation.

Lets look at a scenario: If its family decision to "go to a steam railway" chances are providing they arrive by say 14.00 they'll be able to get a ride. If there are young children in the family there might be a bonus of a "Thomas the Tank Engine Weekend" at a local preserved line.

However, if the same family has taken a day trip to say Clevedon and they are standing at the end the Pier and see WAVERLEY or BALMORAL arrive they probably wouldn't join the vessel as a spare of the moment decision.

Quite often I have heard the skippers of these ships explain over the "PA" to the audience where the ship is going, when it will return etc, but I have noted very few casual observers deciding join in the light of such explanations. Why?

Perhaps this is where the commitment element comes in. "Joe Public" and his family might not be sure they will get back at a reasonable time [don't have timetable], may think they will get bored on a slow ship, get too close to the elements - its sunny now but what happens if it rains/gets windy/gets rough?

Instead Joe Public and family would probably make some comment - "must go on that sometime" and turn away - and probably never gets round to going.

Then again there are peoples perceptions of ships often fuelled by hearsay rather than hard facts. I was given two separate accounts recently of a trip on the BALMORAL from Liverpool to North Wales. On one account I was told that it was a fine day out with light loads, whilst another person informed me that the sailing was full, uncomfortable and everyone was seasick. One account came from an enthusiast another from someone with a more passing interest in ships but by no means no interest at all.

Finally of course money raises its ugly head - doesn't it always? Cheap trips on scheduled services offered in recent years, partly to promote duty free sales have distorted people's perceptions of value for money.

Why spend £25 for a trip on a classic preserved ship when you can get a day trip to Dublin for £10, Calais for a £5 on a modern state of the art ship with all sorts of on board entertainment's, eating and drinking opportunities, cinema, TV, and theme nights [Complete with riots the occasional riot!]?

As far as the poor old MANXMAN is concerned she is a mutilated shell of her former self. If she had been a horse she would have been put out of her misery sometime ago. The kindest thing now would be to scrap her and perhaps present some relics of her to the Manx Museum, Merseyside Maritime Museum and Irish Maritime Museum as a reminder to future generations from the Isle of Man, UK and Ireland of a classic Irish Sea ferry.

The nations of these isles need to motivate themselves and do something to secure our Maritime Heritage, with government involvement if necessary. The public need to have greater awareness of the sea and its role in our every day lives. Ireland is to be congratulated in the excellent and long running Seascapes programme broadcast weekly on RTÉ Radio 1. [Its downloadable from the RTÉ web site though readers on the west coast of the UK should be able to receive it with a decent radio set on Medium Wave. The programme, presented by Tom Mc.Sweeney, RTÉ marine correspondent, is broadcast at 21.30 on Thursday evenings and is highly recommended. ]. Unfortunately, though there are some local radio stations with Maritime slots on BBC Radio 4.

I believe that given more regular public exposure to maritime matters  there is o reason why "Joe Public" should not develop a greater interest to our maritime heritage as is shown to other forms of transport preservation.

What of the future? At present there is one very last original Isle of Man Steam Packet ship still in service. She might not have the glamour of the steamers, but her hull profile is unmistakable. At present Sea Containers appear committed to retaining the LADY OF MANN in service. But this grand old Lady is getting on and will not remain in operational forever. Could it not be possible now, for people to be thinking about her preservation?

How it could be achieved - I don't really have a clue! - It would be very expensive for certain! Coastal Day cruises of the intensity of those provided by WAVERLEY would probably be a non-starter [the failure of the SOUTHSEA venture comes to mind]. However, more limited operation as a museum [good use of the car-deck] with a number of trips to sea each year as per SHIELDHALL and provision of conference/reception facilities could be a way forward? Taking steps further what about converting her into a cruise ship offering extended coastal cruises around the British Isles and Western Europe - HEBRIDEAN PRINCESS style? Car decks converted to cabins and the stern ramp area an open sun deck?

These are just some thoughts, which are probably more well meaning than financially viable, BUT I would certainly be interested in hearing comments.


After putting my thoughts into print here is some very heartening news, which I discovered via the uk.transport.ferry newsgroup. Apparently the very last of the River Severn Car Ferries operated by Enoch Williams, prior to the opening of the Severn Road bridge has been rescued after years of abandonment at Kilkiron, County Galway and returned home to Chepstow, Wales from where she once operated.

A preservation group has been formed and it hoped to either effect a cosmetic restoration or hopefully a restoration to operational condition. She was purchased for a nominal fee of £1.05 and through the generosity of a Welsh businessman who financed a £15,000 towage bill. The full story, with pictures. can be found at

Apparently the preservation plan has met with an enthusiastic local response - lets hope this little car ferry, whilst not typical of large seagoing car ferries does have a future. Good Luck to all those involved!


The interesting former Yugoslav ferry PRINCE ALBERT was headline news in Saturday's Liverpool Echo. The vessel is currently berthed in the Albert Dock whilst permission is sought to open it at as restaurant. It has attracted attention from the International Transport Worker's Federation, which claims that the 14 Ukrainian members of crew have not been paid since April and questions the use of non - local labour.

Captain Kahnenko director of Merseyside Maritime Ltd, the vessels owner, says that competitors are trying to make trouble and that the crew will be replaced by local staff once conversion work is completed.


This week the local Liverpool Echo newspaper decided to express its support for the Liverpool Terminal proposals, which have so far been frustrated by the actions of the Millennium Walk Committee. In the Echo Comment column it summed up with the comment "The River Mersey is the very reason for Liverpool's existence. We believe the majority of people want a lively and bustling waterfront - not a no-entry museum piece". It is a pity that the paper waited so long to declare in favour of the terminal. Of course I suppose its all a matter of not wanting to offend the readership, if they thought the majority had supported the objectors!


As noted last week, the SUPER LAMB BANANA has returned to the waterfront outside of Joseph P. Lamb - the ships' chandlers. Last week it wore a battleship grey coat of paint. This turned out to be primer and the Lamb Banana has reverted to its customary yellow.


An observer reports that HSS STENA EXPLORER operating the Dun Laoghaire - Holyhead route is still running on three engines. Her 15.25 arrival at Dun Laoghaire being noted as arriving at 17.10 on July 14th.

JL's COMMENT: Perhaps its time that Stena replaced or supported the HSS STENA EXPLORER with the new Sea Pacer class of conventional vessel due to enter service on the Harwich - Hoek route to support the HSS operating there. With Irish Ferries introducing their new cruise ferry in 2001 and the JONATHAN SWIFT now offering a high-speed alternative, together with the latest news concerning P&O's plans for a fast conventional vessel operating from Liverpool, Stena Line will find themselves in serious trouble soon, unless they do something now.

This Friday advertisements in the Liverpool Echo were advertising day trips to Dun Laoghaire and Dublin from £10. The offer is as follows:

Sunday - Friday - Early Bird [out 04.10 return 20:45]: Adult £10, Child £5, Family £26. On Saturdays the individual fares increase by £2 with the family ticket increased by £6.

Ordinary day return to Dublin inclusive of train fare: Adult: £26 [£29 Sat.], Child £13 [£14 Sat.] Family £65 [£72 Sat.].

Ordinary day return to Dun Laoghaire only: £24.00 [£27 Sat.], Child £12 [£13 Sat.] Family £60 [£68 Sat.]

With no Duty Free as a carrot passengers are invited to "enjoy a full range of on-board facilities en route with a choice of four restaurants, three bars, shopping and summer entertainment. All to make your journey as pleasurable as it is quick …….. with prices starting at £10 it's no wonder that the Stena HSS leaves the competition in its wake."

JL's Comment: One could be unkind and consider that it is the competition that is leaving Stena in its wake! Sorry Stena, but how much longer can you claim to be the world's leading Ferry Company? You have several competitors on the Irish Sea, which could easily be claiming that title soon!

Whilst HSS STENA EXPLORER has continued to experience problems on the Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire route, HSS STENA VOYAGER has been experiencing difficulties this week on the Stranraer - Belfast service. Gary Andrews reports that on 14 July due to a "technical fault" with the HSS STENA VOYAGER arrived 15 minutes late on her 10.00 sailing ex Stranraer arriving in Belfast at 12.05. The 12.20 sailing from Belfast departed at 13.53 and major delays were experienced on later sailings with the 00.25 ex Belfast and 02.50 sailing ex Stranraer cancelled.

However, the cancelled roundtrip appeared to allow necessary repairs and on 15 July sailings were running normally with the 12.20 sailing ex Belfast departing close to schedule at 12.26.


Animal welfare campaigners demonstrated at Ringaskiddy port, Cork on 7 July in protest at a decision by Swansea Cork Ferries to allow live animal shipping service on their new St. Malo Cork Ferries service. The protestors from Compassion In World Farming (CIWF) have threatened to increase their campaign by urging passengers to boycott the operations of Swansea - Cork Ferries. Compassion In World Farming's campaign officer Aoife Ní Fhearghail was quoted in the Irish Press as saying: "This new shipping service is a major step backwards for animal welfare. Despite new legislation, serious animal welfare problems continue on the continent. We are appalled at the prospect of a new service taking animals to the continent where journeys are long and welfare rules are flouted."

In line with most operators, in 1994 Swansea Cork Ferries confirmed they would not carry live animals for slaughter. CIWF has said that the ferry firm wished them well in their campaign at that time. However Swansea Cork Ferries do not believe the new service is a reversal of its policy. Swansea Cork's Managing Director, Thomas Hunter McGowan stressed that the firm remains against cruelty:

"We made it quite clear that we didn't approve of any animal cruelty. We are not in the cruelty business."

Livestock are still not carried on the SUPERFERRY on the Swansea - Cork service. However, the Venus has been fully cleared to carry livestock. An article in the Irish press has indicated that the ferry company is only handling bookings for passengers, freight bookings being handled by a separate company, RA Burke.

P&O's European Pathfinder and Irish Ferries' Normandy already have a Department Of Agriculture licence to carry livestock to the continent. Cattle exports have seriously increased in recent times, this year the number of cattle exported has trebled from 14,00 to 46,000.


Following a similar announcement regarding their English Channel services Brittany Ferries has announced that savings of up to 25% on Irish high street prices are still available on on-board ferry purchases on their Cork - Roscoff route following the end of the duty free regime. Brittany Ferries has confirmed that its goods are being sold inclusive of French rather than higher Irish duty and there is no limit on the quantity purchased.

The French owned company intends to sell the widest possible range of products, fine wines, spirits and tobacco through it on board retail outlets. Ian Carruthers, the company's UK Managing Director, confirmed that the prices of these products would include French duty and would still offer considerable savings on Irish High Street prices. Mr Carruthers said:

"As long as it is for home consumption there will now be no limit on the quantity purchased so our passengers will still enjoy considerable savings."

He also said that the existing range of popular brands would be further expanded thus giving customers unbeatable choice.

From 1 July on ex-Ireland sailings, on board shops have opened as soon as the ship has passed the 12-mile Irish waters point and remained open until passengers disembark in France. On ex-France services the shops open as soon as passengers come on board and close when the ship reaches the 12-mile Irish waters limit.

Mr Carruthers said Brittany Ferries was actively looking at expanding the range of goods sold on board including perfume, gifts, luxury items, and clothing. He also stressed that passengers would continue to benefit from duty free prices in on board restaurants and bars. He emphasised:

"We will still be able to offer our passengers significant savings and value for money on all purchases, whether for on board consumption or to take away."


Further information has come to light concerning this vessel, published in Fred Kissak's excellent weekly column in the Manx Independent. The vessel is owned by Celtic Sea Charters Ltd and will be renamed CELTIC PRINCESS. Apparently it is planned to operate a passenger service to Douglas along with sailings to south west Scotland, Ireland and also undertake coastal cruises. She paid a brief visit to Douglas last Saturday.


On the heels of last week's announcement by Irish Ferries of substantial investment in the Dublin - Holyhead route came the announcement this week that P&O European Ferries has ordered a second ro-pax ferry from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the Dublin - Liverpool route. Costing £33m the 24,000 grt vessel will operate a single round trip per day and will be delivered in January 2001.

The vessel is reported to have a high service speed of 25knots being powered by four engines, which deliver an output of 39,000kW. This will enable the company to offer a Liverpool - Dublin crossing time of just 6 hours.

The vessel will be Bahamian Flagged, have 2000 lane metres and load and discharge by both bow and stern doors. Length will be 170m, breadth 24m and draught 6m. Passenger accommodation will be provided for 405 with 82 cabins offering 222 berths and 74 reclining seats.

The new vessel will replace EUROPEAN LEADER [ex-BUFFALO], which will be released for further service between Fleetwood and Larne. P&O still retains two further build options with Mitsubishi.

JL's Comment: It is certainly good to see more major investment in the Liverpool to Dublin link with a vessel of considerable speed and size. However, one is beginning to wonder how much longer the central corridor expansion can continue. There already appears to be an excess of passenger capacity. Earlier this week, whilst monitoring transmissions I noted that on the July 14th the Merchant Ferries sailing to Dublin carried only SIX passengers! Of course P&O's new vessel which offers conventional vessel reliability but with a higher speed has it's own niche. Faster than Merchant Ferries, and offering berth to times of 6 hours not that far behind a SuperSeaCat. If that 6 hours includes time spent navigating out of the Gladstone Lock then P&O will certainly have a formidable vessel, which may make other operators take note.


On Friday Greenpeace challenged the right of Pacific Nuclear Transport [PNTL], whose vessels are managed by James Fisher, to use armed vessels for the transport of nuclear fuel to Japan from the UK and France. To transport nuclear fuel from Britain and France to Japan PACIFIC TEAL and PACIFIC PINTAIL, have been armed with three 30 mm cannon each and will carry a detachment of officers from the AEA Constabulary.

Greenpeace spokesman Damon Moglen said that the two specialist nuclear carrier ships, had not been armed previously. The fact that PACIFIC TEAL and PACIFIC PINTAIL were merchant rather than naval ships raised major questions, he said, most notably, who would give them authority to use their weapons.

"We've asked maritime lawyers in what circumstances you can arm a civil freighter, " he said. "It's an interesting point of law. It's just not done " He added that it could not be said that the two vessels were on government service and claimed that the Japanese and British governments had "lied" to the US administration on this point.

He said that a Japanese-US nuclear co-operation agreement provided that the transport of nuclear fuel for which US technology had been used required the use of dedicated ships "on government service"

This was not the case for the PACIFIC TEAL and PACIFIC PINTAIL, which were the property of Pacific Nuclear Transport, two thirds owned by British Nuclear Fuels, with the remaining third shared by France's Cogema and Japanese utilities, and which had no contract or charter agreement with any government.

Both ships are currently in the British port of Barrow, not far from the Sellafield's nuclear fuel plant in Cumbria, but one of them is expected in the French port of Cherbourg to pick up fuel produced by Cogema.

Last week Greenpeace had originally predicted that the vessel would leave Cherbourg yesterday but claimed that the operation had been delayed as a result of adverse publicity. "We are now estimating that she will leave at the beginning or in the middle of next week," said Damon Moglen.

The two ships are expected to rendezvous in the Atlantic before proceeding on their journey to Japan. Greenpeace claim each ship will be carrying a quarter of a tonne of weapons-grade plutonium, as well as seven tonnes of ammunition for their cannons.

In a move to halt one of the shipments, Greenpeace has launched a legal bid to stop the 400 kg cargo of mixed oxide nuclear fuel rods from being shipped from a Belgian plant to Japan via Cherbourg. The environmentalists are also seeking to stop nuclear fuel rod assembly at the plant, which it claims is operating illegally.

JL's COMMENT: Whatever the rights and wrongs of nuclear shipments and the nuclear industry in general is disconcerting to see a shipping company's attempts to operate a legitimate business be frustrated by protestors. This is certainly one for the politicians of the nations concerned to thrash out. In the meantime let these UK flagged ships go about their business.

This week James Fisher's share price increased around 10p this week, closing at 81.5p on Friday. There were reports of a take-over bid, which according to reports in the Daily Mail were being made by Cammell Laird. James Fisher directors, who claimed that no take-over approach had been made, denied the rumours.  

John Luxton

July 18, 1999


Back Home Up Next

July 11, 1999


Its nice to be back after the hassles of the past couple of weeks both at work and with the web site.

First of all I would like to apologies for the sudden change in URL brought about by the host ISP towards the end of June. 

I will post any notices and the current week's bulletin on this site should there be any further problems. Any notices concerning the M&ISS site will also be posted on the following news groups: uk.transport.ferry and misc.transport.marine.

There have been some noticeable changes to the site this week including a change of name. Originally begun as Mersey Shipping News, the title was shortened to Mersey Shipping as I considered there to be much more than just news in the postings. For sometime readers may have noticed that the news bulletins have been headed Merseyside & Irish Sea Shipping News to reflect the greater coverage of the site. This was done to pave the way for the next change in the site's title to "Mersey & Irish Sea Shipping - The online shipping magazine"  now effected which I think is a much better reflection of the coverage offered.

This week there are a number of major new photographic features in addition to the news posting. Also to keep the size of the site manageable there have been some prunings and also changes within some of the longer term galleries. I am actually aiming to keep the site to around 30 megabytes. Imposing this limit will mean that some galleries will have a shorter "shelf life" probably three to four months rather than six as at present. But, remember everything is archived and can be posted by e-mail on request.

Furthermore I am experimenting with auto-posting contact messages. Visit the Maritime Contacts page to find out more - but please don't post queries there - only contacts. If you do perform a test post, please be aware that this is only a test area and messages posted may disappear. I will confirm when the area is up and running.

On the subject of the Maritime Questions section, this area continues to grow. I have taken the decision to delete many of the old queries which have not been answered from the past couple of years. Those that have been answered have been moved to the Query Archives along with the replies. A new section has been set up to cover questions for 1999. These are accessed from the original queries page.

Once again I would like to thank the growing numbers of correspondents who have supplied information, photographs etc., and hope that I have not omitted anything, during the past fortnight and would like to apologies for the break in service.


LADY OF MANN - In the last news update I indicated that the Lady would certainly be having a busier season in home waters this year. Just added to her increasingly busy schedule is the news that she will be operating a special memorial cruise dedicated to the memory of the popular Isle of Man Steam Packet Company skipper Captain Vernon Kinley who died suddenly in July 1998.

The LADY OF MANN will be under the command of Captain Peter Corrin, last master of TSS MANXMAN and now IoMSPCo Marine Operations Manger, and life long friend of Captain Kinley.

The LADY will depart from Douglas at around 20.15 on Saturday July 24 after completing her afternoon Heysham - Douglas voyage and then proceed to Port St. Mary, Captain Kinley's home town, before returning to Douglas at 23.00.

The fare will be £10 and may include buffet refreshments - though this is subject to confirmation.

JL's COMMENT: This cruise is a really nice gesture towards the memory of a very popular Captain whose sudden death last summer came as a severe shock to many enthusiasts. Captain Kinley had provided many "value added" touches to voyages which enthusiasts and the general public appreciated.

Unfortunately, a pre-booked holiday in Devon precludes my participation on this trip; however, it would be nice if it could be a regular feature in future? Perhaps even an extension to the Anglesey coast and "Middle Mouse" could be considered - just for old time's sake?


Since the last edition of Mersey Shipping, the much-debated travellers' perk - Duty Free has finally come to an end on the Irish Sea. The local press on Merseyside report that Sea Containers is considering the sale of "white goods" on its services to Dublin as they can offer prices much lower than those available in Éire. The company is also said to be considering the provision of on-board casinos, night-clubs, theme nights and the retailing of cheap designer goods.

Sea Container's spokesman Simon Dey said; "The time has come when we have to rethink out customer strategy." There are 30,000 UK jobs at stake due to the end of duty free and we have to do everything we can to maintain our business. As far as other goods are concerned were basically offering a high street store at sea with cut-price deals. Everyone needs mod cons. We just offer a cheaper and more fun way of buying them."

JL's COMMENT: One hopes that the company find's a satisfactory way of recouping the lost revenue. Though in the light of recently reported events on board the HSS STENA VOYAGER operating on the Belfast to Stranraer during a "Freddie Mercury Tribute Night" I would imagine some careful thought might be required before "theme-nights" are considered.

Also needing to be taken into the account is the small size of the passenger accommodation on board the SUPERSEACAT vessels. Would noisy entertainment drive away passengers? The best solution could be the family style music and entertainment which was provided on board the LADY OF MANN when she reopened the Liverpool - Dublin service in 1997. It always appeared to go down well with the passengers.


The Tynwald select committee report into the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has now been published and will be debated by Tynwald during July 1999. A correspondent has forwarded a synopsis:

Compiled by a 6 member select committee who examined 300 items of written evidence submitted by nearly 100 people and organisations. Oral evidence was also taken from the Chairman, Managing Director and Marine Operations Manager of the Steam Packet as well as the senior master of the "Ben my Chree", Mr J G Brown (Naval Architect) of Seaform Design, and officials of the IOM Marine Administration and the IOM Department of Tourism and Leisure. Informal discussions were also held with the Secretary of the Rail Users’ Consultative Committee for Scotland and the Commercial Director of Caledonian MacBrayne.

The Select Committee investigated the following areas of concern:

Booking systems - including timetable availability

Fares and Charges - where the conclusion was that to the extent that they are not regulated by the Linkspan User Agreement (which limits rises to half a percent less than Manx RPI) they should be left to the commercial judgement of the Company.

On-shore Passenger Services - this covers both terminal and information to passenger provision.

BEN MY CHREE - where there is a clear statement "At the outset of our consideration of the BEN-MY-CHREE we consider it important to emphasise that, in the light of this and other evidence which we have received, we are entirely satisfied that the vessel, as licensed by the IOM Marine Administration, meets all existing contemporary international safety standards".

The select committee reached the following general conclusions:

The IoMSPCo lacks customer awareness - although it is reactive after events.

The Linkspan User Agreement provides no public sector mechanism to determine customer needs.

The Committee made the following suggestions as regards examples of best practice which should be followed by all carriers to the Isle of Man:

The establishment of a Customers’ Charter - Caledonian MacBrayne's being given as an example.

The establishment of Customer Services Committees - to include customers in England and Ireland as well as IOM again following the CalMac practice. Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Open Forums

The Select Committee Recommendations:

After reviewing various models of public sector regulation of services, which includes the Linkspan User Agreement and the (UK) Rail Users Consultative Committees (the Scottish one is responsible also for Caledonian MacBrayne) the following recommendations are made:

Legislation be introduced to establish a Manx Transport Users’ Consultative Committee (which would cover all passenger and freight carriers to the Island). It’s responsibilities to include:

Timetabling; fare structures and special fares; provision of information services - including cancellations, delays or alterations; fare structures and special fares; reliability and punctuality; the number and nature of customer complaints and the degree of compliance with best practice proposals.

The Appendices make fascinating reading for the enthusiast. They include full transcripts (50 pages) of all the Oral evidence, the Steam Packet submissions (24 pages), and 26 pages of documentation from Jack Brown (Naval Architect) on Ro-Ro ship design - including radical suggestions for the rebuilding of the BEN MY CHREE.

The report can be purchased for £7.50 (plus postage) from

The Tynwald Library, Buck’s Road, Douglas, Isle of Man

Tel: 01624 - 685520 fax 01624 - 685522




Unfortunately a vocal minority of protestors have gained victory over the joint Sea Containers and MD&HC proposals to develop a car marshalling areas and new terminal facilities at the Pier Head. A Liverpool Crown Court judge ruled in favour of the campaigners who argues that the development would blight a vital open public space on the waterfront.

Campaigner Pat Moran, from Southport, said "It's a victory for common-sense and common values over corporate greed." Alec Don, MDHC director of planning said: "It is sad than an exciting development creating jobs and wealth should have been frustrated by a minority."

On Monday July 5th representatives of Sea Containers and Mersey Docks and Harbour Company met to consider their next move. This meeting included the viewing of alternative sites on the waterfront and dockland areas. The companies are also reported to be considering a possible appeal.

JL's COMMENT: This decision is a VERY sad day for Liverpool. In response to this decision I e-mailed the following letter to both the Liverpool Daily Post and Liverpool Echo which has so far failed to appear:

"July 2nd, 1999

Re: Pier Head Terminal

As a regular passenger on Sea Containers services to Douglas and Dublin I am writing to express my dismay at the Crown Court's short sighted decision effectively preventing Sea Containers and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company developing proposals for new terminal facilities at the Pier Head.

The Millennium Walk Committee are pleased with the outcome - but perhaps they don't use the services from Liverpool? Mr. Moran lives in Southport; does he think it is correct to interfere in the business of the Port of Liverpool? Why should it bother him if the Monument to the Heroes of The Marine Engine Room, please give it its correct title, is moved a few yards to a better site and a vehicle marshalling area created?

The terminal development presented the opportunity for the in filling of the floating roadway cut, which presents a most unattractive appearance. The Pier Head has always been a traditional departure point for shipping services from Liverpool and is easily accessible for both foot passengers and vehicle drivers. Any alternative proposals would surely involve a less convenient site further down river.

In the 1980s Liverpool lost virtually all its Irish Sea passenger services, fortunately due to the endeavour of Sea Containers and other operators we have regained what was lost and more besides in terms of more frequent

I hope the objectors who have now frustrated both the proposals for the Pier Head Terminal and the on-river ro/ro Terminal at Trafalgar Dock are pleased with their endeavours, they have seriously hindered the development
of shipping services from our "Maritime" city. Would the Heroes of the Marine Engine Room have desired that? I think not."

To many it looked as though the proposals would easily win through. Who in their right mind would want to preserve the muddy floating road cut which is littered with various junk - scaffold poles, traffic cones etc?

Perhaps if any there is any fault on the SeaCo / MD&HC side it was the companies' failure to muster public opinion. On each sailing, there would have been a captive audience for a petition supporting the terminal proposals - why wasn't such a petition organised? That could really have demonstrated the public support for the new terminal. Comment in the local press appears fairly evenly divided which suggests that the companies should have targeted  public opinion more to ensure victory.

Now the convenience of the many along with the future of services from the Pier Head have been jeopardised by a small vocal minority of people who wish to fossilise our waterfront and some of which do not even live in Liverpool.

It would not be right to post here words, which accurately reflect the malevolence that I feel towards the Millennium Walk Committee and its representatives.


The big news on the Irish Sea comes this week from Irish Ferries:

A contract to build the world's largest cruise ferry - a vessel large enough to double Irish Ferries' freight carrying capacity on their prime Dublin/ Holyhead route - was signed on July 8th by shipping and transportation group Irish Continental Group Plc.

With a gross tonnage of 50,000, the vessel will be built at an approximate cost of EUR100 million by Aker Finnyards Oy at their shipyard in Rauma, Finland. It will be launched in Autumn 2000 and will enter service on Irish Ferries' Dublin/Holyhead route in Spring 2001, replacing the present cruise ferry m.v. "ISLE OF INISHMORE" which will be chartered out or transferred to another route.

The new vessel will be a model for multipurpose ferries for the 21st century. It will marry state of the art technology and engineering with a quality of design and interior spaciousness never before seen in a vessel of this kind.

Compared with any passenger ferry currently in existence, including the m.v. "ISLE OF INISHMORE" - itself the largest ferry in North West Europe - the new vessel will have a vastly larger vehicle carrying capacity and passenger facilities offering 'cruise liner' standards of luxury and comfort.

Vehicle deck capacity will comprise 4,100 running metres of vehicle lane space, providing room for a combination of 260 articulated truck and trailer units or over 1,300 passenger cars. This effectively doubles the freight/car carrying capacity currently provided by the m.v. "ISLE OF INISHMORE". Passenger capacity will be 2,000 passengers/crew.

Inside, the new vessel will exude 'cruise liner' standards of luxury and facilities. High ceilings throughout the passenger areas will give the vessel an air of spaciousness and comfort. Furnishings and fittings will reflect the excellence of Irish design and Scandinavian craftsmanship to create an ambience of richness and elegance. In this respect, particular attention will be paid to the spacious arrangement of passenger seating areas.

Facilities on board will include a grand entrance hall and reception area, a traditionally appointed Irish pub, and four lounges including one exclusively for car accompanied passengers and a forward-facing, top deck Sky Lounge with panoramic 'bridge eye' views to sea. Other amenities will include a restaurant and shopping complex comprising three food outlets and five retail units, two cinemas, the latest in children's entertainment, and a dining room exclusively reserved for freight drivers.

The new vessel has been designed to deliver the highest levels of reliability and performance which passengers and freight customers have come to expect since Irish Ferries began cruise ferry operations on the Dublin/Holyhead route in 1995.

Because of its exceptional size, the vessel will provide exceedingly high standards of stability and comfort, even in extreme weather conditions.

Operationally, it will have a speed of 22 knots driven by 4 engines delivering a total power output of 31,200 kW to give a sailing time of just over 3 hours between Dublin and Holyhead. In overall dimensions, it will be significantly larger than the m.v. "ISLE OF INISHMORE" with a length of 208 metres (682 ft) and a beam of 31.2 metres (102 ft). The height from keel to masthead will be 41.5 metres (136 ft).

When delivered, the new vessel will bring Irish Continental Group's investment in new passenger ferries and facilities to over £300 million over the past six years. To finance construction of the new vessel, Irish Continental Group will utilise a combination of existing cash resources and loan facilities.

Irish Continental Group describes their decision to order the new vessel as an initiative designed to capitalise on the growing demand for reliability and cruise ferry standards and to provide extra freight capacity on the Dublin/Holyhead route.

With the Dublin/Holyhead route now established as the preferred ro-ro route to/from Dublin city - allied to its status as a vital artery on the main Euro route network between Ireland, Britain and Continental Europe - it is expected that its introduction will help the company to further increase its growing share of passenger/freight traffic on the Central Corridor route to Britain.

The arrival of the vessel will coincide with completion of the new A5 dual carriageway across the island of Anglesey in Wales, which will bring Britain's main motorway network 30 minutes closer to the port of Holyhead.

Marketing significance Commenting on the significance of this new development, Irish Ferries Marketing Director, Tony Kelly said, "Operating in tandem with our new 'Dublin Swift' service, the new vessel will strengthen Irish Ferries position as the short sea freight market leader on the Irish Sea and will build upon our growing share of the passenger car market.

We are extremely proud that our parent company, Irish Continental Group, has the confidence to make such a significant investment, which will result in the world's largest ferry flying the Irish Ferries flag.

In marketing terms, this decision will result in an effective five fold increase in the freight capacity on the Irish Sea since the commencement of the cruise ferry investment programme in 1995.

In terms of tourism, the attraction to passengers of travelling on the world's largest and most luxurious ferry operating into Dublin City at the start of the new Millennium will have unique appeal."


The Irish Continental Group published their interim results to 30 April 1999 on 8 July. The report is innovative in that finances are given in Euros instead of punts. Extracts from the results reveal the following.

The Board of Irish Continental Group, plc reported that in the six months to 30 April 1999 the Group recorded an increase of e3.2m in operating profits to e6.5 million. The interest charge fell to e3.9 million from e4.6 million in 1998. Profit before tax was e2.6 million compared with a previous year loss of e1.3 million. Earnings per share rose by 14.7 cents to 9.7 cents.

Turnover for the half-year grew by 23% to e94.5 million reflecting strong growth in car and passenger traffic, roll-on roll-off freight, and lift-on lift-off freight.

Turnover in the Ferries Division was e50.2 million, a 15% increase on 1998's e43.5 million. Operating profit rose to e4.6 million (1998: profit of e1.8 million). Passenger numbers on the Irish Sea grew by 9% to 518,000 while passenger numbers on the French route grew 55% to 35,000. RoRo freight volumes were up 20% to 80,000 units compared with the same period in 1998.

The ferries, PRIDE OF BILBAO and EGNATIA II (formerly SAINT PATRICK II) continued on bareboat charter to P&O European Ferries and Hellenic Mediterranean Lines, respectively, during the period.

In the Container and Terminal Division turnover on a like for like basis grew 5% from e33.6 million to e35.3 million while acquisitions contributed a further e9.6 million. Operating profits rose from e2.4 million to e2.8 million. On a like for like basis, there was a 4% increase in the volume of containers carried to 109,000 twenty-foot equivalents ("teu"). The total carryings, including acquisitions, rose to 160,000 teu. Containers handled at the DFT terminal in Dublin rose 19% to 103,000 teu reflecting the
additional capacity as a result of the introduction of a second crane to the terminal.

During the period the Group invested e27.3 million, the bulk of which, e25.2 million, was invested in the new fast ferry JONATHAN SWIFT. As a result of the investment programme, seasonal trading patterns, and exchange rate movements, net debt at the half-year was e128.2 million, e11 million higher than at the same date in 1998. Liquidity remained strong with period end cash of e46.7million.

In April Dublin Ferryport Terminals ("DFT") announced a substantial investment package in the Dublin Port LoLo terminal designed to increase further the effective capacity of the terminal by increasing the height to which containers can be stacked. The investment includes the installation of three 100 tonne RTG type gantry cranes at a cost of e4 million approximately.

In May 1999 P&O European Ferries exercised their option to extend the charter of the PRIDE OF BILBAO for the period October 1999 to October 2002.

Irish Ferries has this week announced that they have entered into a e98.5 million contract with Aker Finnyards, the Finnish shipbuilder, for the construction of a 4,100 lane metre cruise ferry for the
Dublin-Holyhead route for delivery in early 2001. This 50,000 tonne ferry will have the capacity to carry a mixture of 260 articulated trucks and trailers or 1,356 cars and 2,000 passengers and crew and will more than double Irish Ferries freight capacity on the key Dublin-Holyhead route. This
contract is subject to shareholder approval.

The Group's programme to deal with the Electronic Data Recognition issue, or the Year 2000 issue, continued during the period. With regard to the Group's financial and information systems the programme is now substantially complete. With regard to equipment and facilities, including vessels, the Group is working with suppliers and other business partners to minimise any
threat to operations arising from the new millennium. We are also in dialogue with our key customers in order to identify threats to a smooth transition to the new millennium. The costs of compliance to date have not been material.

With regard to the future outlook, the report said:

"The abolition of duty free sales has taken place with effect from 1 July in respect of goods to be taken ashore although goods for consumption on board remain tax and duty free. This industry wide abolition will undoubtedly affect the dynamics of the travel business generally. We will be adding
other retail opportunities on our vessels although such sales will be at lower margins than duty free sales. We have therefore taken action to increase our fares to compensate. In our view similar rate increases will be required in the airline and airport businesses which will mitigate any loss of competitiveness for sea travel.

The introduction this week of our Dublin Swift fast ferry service will enhance our service offering by providing up to four additional round trips per day and a wider range of departure and arrival times. It will also free space on the cruise ferries for freight.

Today's announcement of the new 50,000 tonne cruise ferry will provide a further platform for growth, particularly in freight, from 2001 onwards.

Based on the carryings to date and in the absence of material adverse events outside the Group's control, the Group is confident of a satisfactory outcome for the full year."

GARY ANDREWS' COMMENT: The above figures would indicate current investment plans are justified. However the 55% increase on the French services would indicate that a decision must soon be taken to invest in long-term tonnage for these routes. The figures also reveal a highly dynamic and exciting future for the ferry firm.



After being berthed at the Alexandra Quay, Dublin since it was brought to Dublin last month for Irish Sea service, Irish Ferries' JONATHAN SWIFT finally entered service on 3 July, around three weeks late. The craft made her maiden voyage from Dublin to Holyhead on the 1215 sailing, which left at 12.26 under the command of Captain Colm Clare.

On 25 June Irish Ferries issued written disciplinary notices to seven SIPTU ships' officers employed on the JONATHAN SWIFT who had been transferred from conventional ferries to the new fast ferry and refused to operate it with lower staffing levels agreed in talks at the Labour Court. Irish Ferries Human resources manager Brendan McCarthy stated that the warnings to the seven officers were the "start of a disciplinary process" and dismissal was a possibility.

Irish Ferries had already stated that it would have cancelled the summer sailing schedule of the Swift from 2 July if the dispute were not to be resolved by then. As a result eleven other officers, specially recruited for the fast ferry, would have faced redundancy. SIPTU in turn revealed that all union members employed by the company would take industrial action from 3 July if the seven members on the JONATHAN SWIFT were disciplined. At one point in the week Irish Ferries was expected to issue protective notice to 1,400 employees on its Irish Sea routes warning they could be laid off if the dispute over the JONATHAN SWIFT escalated to the company's conventional vessels. However Irish Ferries' continental service, employing 200 people, would not have been affected, as employees are unemployed under alternative arrangements.

With a deadline approaching intensive discussions took place on 29 and 30 June between IBEC director Turlough O'Sullivan and SIPTU regional secretary Jack Nash to find a settlement formula. They met separately with members of the company's management and representatives of the 18 ships' officers at the centre of the dispute. The company and the officers met on Thursday to consider the settlement proposals, Mr O'Sullivan and Mr Nash recommending the terms to both parties.

The SIPTU section committee at Irish Ferries decided unanimously to recommend the package at their meeting on 1 July. SIPTU branch secretary Brian Fitzgerald said he believed members would vote for the proposals, which protected their working conditions. On the new fast ferry the seven former conventional ferry staff are be required to accept a 2.16 staffing ratio, compared with 2.6 on the older vessels. This lower ratio requires them to work 28 extra days a year.

Under the peace deal brokered by Jack Nash and Turlough O'Sullivan, the officers are to accept the 2.16 ratio but will be entitled to take leave at the 2.6 rate. This means they will be required to work longer hours during the peak holiday season but will be able to claw back time later in the year. There is also a provision for the officers to be paid for leave that they do not take and some of them will receive a £1,000-a-year pay rise, due to an adjustment in scales. They currently earn between £27,000 and £40,000.

The formula enables SIPTU to protect the basic working week it has for members, while giving the company the flexibility it needs on the new service between Dublin and Holyhead. Irish Ferries carries about 40% of traffic on the Irish Sea and resolution of the dispute will avert the threat of disruption at the busiest time of the year.

Mr O'Sullivan said that was: "Delighted the union committee and ships' officers concerned have agreed to recommend the proposals unanimously for acceptance. It shows that we can conduct difficult negotiations and resolve disputes without going over the brink".

Irish Ferries' human resources manager, Mr Brendan McCarthy, also welcomed the outcome of the meeting by the officers. He thanked Mr Nash, Mr O'Sullivan and Mr Fitzgerald for their efforts in resolving the dispute.

The ballot concluded on Saturday 3 July at midday and, if the 85 officers vote in favour, the company and union were so sure of a positive outcome plans were put in place to operated the first sailing from Dublin to Holyhead at 1215 p.m. on the same day.

GARY ANDREW'S COMMENT: After a few rather worrying weeks it is fantastic that the crewing dispute affecting the JONATHAN SWIFT has been resolved. One would hope that Irish Ferries have the success they deserve with their new vessel, I'm sure it will show just how good a fast ferry can be.

JL's COMMENT: It is certainly good to seen another new vessel enter service on the Irish Sea. The JONATHAN SWIFT's appearance will certainly cause some concern for Stena with the HSS STENA EXPLORER still reported as running on three engines last week. This vessel still failing to return to full operating speed since the on-board fire in early May. Though the early part of the JONATHAN SWIFT's season has been tarnished it will be interesting to see what her [his?!] appearance into service will have on loadings on the central corridor routes.


The Super Lamb Banana has reappeared on the Mersey Waterfront after its tour of various city locations. Last Summer, when the Lamb Banana made its first appearance opposite the Port of Liverpool Building, it was met with general approval.

The sculpture is of a large lamb with a banana shaped rear.

Now the amusing and popular sculpture has reappeared out side of ships' chandlers Joseph P. Lamb at Wapping opposite the Albert Dock complex. Interestingly it has gained a new colour scheme. Formerly bright yellow the Lamb Banana is now battleship grey.


With the summer holiday period upon us in Northern Ireland and the Republic Of Ireland, English and Scottish holiday periods to follow P&O are using the time of slightly slacker freight levels to carry out annual overhauls of their freight vessels.

The Cairnryan based EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR will be used first to cover on the Fleetwood service (8 July? onwards), then for the EUROPEAN TRADER and finally covering for the Dublin vessels. It is understood that Larne services to Ardrossan and Cairnryan will only be marginally affected with, where possible, the EUROPEAN TRADER, EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR and EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER providing additional sailings where required.

One would suspect the schedule operated prior to the introduction of the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR will be applied with the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER operating morning sailings to Ardrossan on Tuesdays and Thursdays and no morning sailings on Wednesdays and Fridays and the EUROPEAN TRADER and EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR operating up to three daily roundtrips to Cairnryan.

NIGHT STAND-BY: It is understood the previously mentioned evening value route sailings to/from Fleetwood are offered only on a standby basis. As is well known by now, daytime sailings are booked in essentially the same way
as the Cairnryan route. 


Alan Lee kindly forwarded a photograph of the THRAKI II, which was on display at the recent Whitehaven Maritime Festival. She was built in 1994, by Ilichyovskiy Sudoremontnyy Zavod, Ilichyovsk. She weighs in at 222grt length 35.06m beam. 6.90m She is propelled by twin screws with each 8 Cyl vee MWM diesels giving a speed of 16knots. Apparently this is the vessel which may operate cruise sailings to the Isle of Man from Whitehaven. - Somehow or other I don't think she will give Jim Sherwood any sleepless nights!


Summer Holidays approaching - looking for some day trips afloat? The latest edition of Geoffrey Hamer's enthusiasts' guide "Trip Out" is now available. This excellent guide lists ALL the operators of ferries, coastal cruise vessels, canal, lake and river boat operators in the UK and Éire.

From the small inter-island launches operating between  the Isles of Scilly to the massive ISLE OF INISHMORE everything is listed including  build dates, grt, etc.

Details are given of operators' contact addresses/phone numbers, routes operated [the book is grouped into Geographical areas], on board refreshments facilities and of course details of each of the vessels operated. 


The Irish Minister for the Marine, Dr. Michael Woods, has announced an IR£3m funding package for Ireland's only privately owned port, at Greenore in County Louth. Funding has been granted by the European Union to enable the port to compete with the state-owned harbours. IR£3m will be spent on developing the port in an effort to reduce the cost to farmers of cattle shipments and animal feedstuffs. Work will include refurbishing the quay wall to provide 3 berths accommodating vessels of up to 25,000.

JL's COMMENT: It was rather strange and coincidental that this should have been announced just as I completed a small photo feature on this interesting little port.  


This recently formed company which acquired the Strintzis Lines owned ferry service from Cork to Swansea has announced the introduction of an all year round service between Cork and St. Malo commencing with a 20.00 departure on July 7th. The service, which will be marketed as St Malo - Cork Ferries will offer three round trips per week.

The Cypriot owned VENUS [14,000 grt] of 1976 will operate the service having been chartered for three years from Mediterranean owners Ventouris Ferries. According to a report on RTÉ's "Seascapes" programme last Thursday the vessel will operate with Greek deck and engine crew but Irish on-board services personnel. The VENUS has a capacity of 1,420 lane metres, providing space for 72 freight units or 350 cars. Accommodation comprises 170 Pullman seats and 55 four berth cabins. Though primarily aimed at the freight transport market ordinary passengers and cars will be conveyed.

Development of the service is reported to be causing concern up the coast at Rosslare Europort from where existing Ireland - France routes are operated by P&O, Irish Ferries and Brittany Ferries. There is concern that the new route might not actually generate new traffic but extract traffic from these existing routes.


The MV OVERCHURCH now MV ROYAL DAFFODIL has returned to Merseyside following its rebuild in Manchester. She is currently berthed at the Mersey Ferries lay-up berth near Duke Street Bridge. However, it will be a while before the vessel re-enters service as work on its interior is still on-going. Her official launch will be on July 26th with a special cruise for dignitaries.

The profile of the vessel has changed. Her forward gangway opening has been plated in to create a much larger enclosed passenger area. With a single gangway area she is now bears resemblance to the two Dartmouth built Wallasey Ferries' twins EGREMONT and LEASOWE which operated the Seacombe and New Brighton services into the 1970s. Her funnel has also been moved aft a few feet and the raised deck area around the bridge and funnel extended sideways and aft. This deck area is not unlike that provided on the BALMORAL. [Could this be used for putting gangways ashore at tidal Piers at low water?]

The strange construction with white superstructure, which has been taking shape in the Canada Dry Dock during the past couple of months, was floated out into Canada #1 Branch some time ago. I had presumed it to be some construction on a floating barge for the offshore industry in Liverpool Bay. Apparently this is not so - it’s the new Seacombe Landing Stage!


The company revealed its annual results this week and has indicated that further expansion is planned possibly into the United States and may spend £30 million on a Gulf of Mexico dockyard.

Company chief executive, John Stafford, stated that Cammell Laird was attracted to the USA because the ship repair marker is highly fragmented and most dockyards privately owned. A presence in the Gulf of Mexico would allow the company to convert and repair cruise liners and ships serving the offshore oil industry. Mr. Stafford stated, "We are looking to extend our business, but we won't be adding much more capacity in the UK," he stated the company was interested in tendering for further work from the Ministry of Defence.

As well as expanding in the USA the company is also likely to look at dockyards in southern Spain - Cammell Laird already has a presence in leased facilities in Gibraltar.

Pre-tax profits for 1998 more than doubled from £4.18m in 1997 to £10.4m to the year ending in April. Turnover increased from £37.7m to £106.3m. The Wear dockyard on the East Coast made a contribution to profits of £2.12m. Shareholders will receive final dividend of 4p per share up from 3p last year. This brings the total dividend for the year to 6p per share.

The Cammell Laird site has always been a prominent feature on the Wirral shoreline of the Mersey. In recent years its has been dominated by the huge grey construction sheds which remain on the part of the site retained by Marconi Marine and which look set to become part of a northern operation by FBM of Cowes.

However, the second most prominent building is the long black machine shop which carries the title "Cammell Laird - Shipbuilders, Engineers & Repairers" painted in white. This building which has appeared in many photos of the yard and its ships for much of this century is no longer black. It is now light grey, matching other more recent buildings on the site with the lettering being reapplied in black.

Cammell Laird is to refit some former ro/ro ferries as cable laying ships at its Tyneside yard. These are the KRAKA and LODBROG of Scandlines and the ISLAND COMMODORE of Commodore Ferries. The latter vessel being made redundant later this year with the introduction of the COMMODORE CLIPPER - a sister ship to Sea

P&O's EUROPEAN TRADER is currently in dry dock. PEREGRINE VII remains in the wet basin.

On Saturday July 10, EUROPEAN PIONEER arrived at Lairds.


A confrontation between the MV GREENPEACE and the James Fisher managed / BNFL owned nuclear carriers is likely in the coming week. MV GREENPEACE is reported to be sailing from Dublin for Barrow whilst the RAINBOW WARRIOR is sailing for Cherbourg.

The nuclear fuel carriers PACIFIC PINTAIL and PACIFIC TEAL are due to carry fuel from Barrow and Cherbourg to Japan. The vessels will rendezvous off the French coast for the onward voyage to Japan.

As reported earlier this year the nuclear carriers have now been armed with three 30mm naval cannon for defence against potential attack. The first British Merchant Navy ships to be armed for many years. The ships will carry an on board security force comprising officers of the AEA Constabulary.

JL's COMMENT: I don't wish to get into the debate concerning the carriage nuclear fuel as its a potential "hot potato" but should Greenpeace cause problems it now looks as though the PACIFIC PINTAIL and PACIFIC TEAL are well equipped to look after themselves. Is the Battle of Morecambe Bay imminent?! :-)

John Luxton

July 11, 1999


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