The Irish Sea Shipping Archive

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




29 NOVEMBER 1999



Irish Sea ferry services have again been badly disrupted by adverse weather conditions. Forecasts saw a large number of services cancelled (including all high speed services) in advance for late on 27 November and all day on 28 November, and at the time of writing it seems that few passenger services (even those operated by conventional ferries) actually operated, at least during the earlier part of 28 November. A few days earlier, on the night of 25 November and morning of 26 November many ferry services were seriously disrupted.

On 26 November Seacat Scotland cancelled the SEACAT DANMARK's 07.00 Belfast - Heysham sailing and 12.00 return and the SEACAT SCOTLAND 08.00 sailing to Troon and 11.15 return. It is assumed traffic was transferred to Stena Line's 08.00 conventional STENA CALEDONIA Belfast - Stranraer sailing as at 08.20 the Seacat Belfast terminal was deserted of passenger traffic despite the cancelled sailings. At around 16.00 the SEACAT SCOTLAND moved off the berth at Belfast to allow the SEACAT DANMARK to move onto the berth (the 'Danmark having been laid up at the company's Belfast port since her evening roundtrip to Troon on 22 November). The SEACAT DANMARK was seen loading with cars and passengers at around 16.30, it is not clear as to where and when she sailed. However, one of the two vessels was observed arriving back in Belfast at around 21.10 (it is possible that a shuttle service had been offered on the Stranraer route using both craft).

All P&O JETLINER sailings were cancelled until the afternoon of 26 November (the JETLINER is understood to have re-entered service with her 16.15 sailing ex Larne). Meanwhile P&O conventional sailings were severely disrupted when the PRIDE OF RATHLIN was unable to leave the berth at Cairnryan on her 04.00 sailing to Larne. The ferry is understood to have eventually sailed at around 10.00, her 08.00 sailing from Larne departing around 13.30. It appears P&O's difficulties regarding the operation of their conventional vessels at Cairnryan in severe conditions this winter are a result of work taking place to improve the quayside for the new ro-pax ferry. Again one would wonder what had happened to forward planning and why the improvements to the berth did not commence at a time of year less likely to suffer from high winds. Poor weather also saw significant delays on P&O's Fleetwood - Larne route.

PRIDE OF RATHLIN sailings were disrupted last week due to engine problems.

Stena Line's Belfast - Stranraer conventional ferries, STENA CALEDONIA and STENA GALLOWAY sailed with only minimal delays. However, the HSS STENA VOYAGER was unable to operate her 05.15 sailing ex Stranraer and 07.40 sailing ex Belfast.

Brian Chambers reports that on 26 November the KONINGIN BEATRIX's 21.50 sailing from Rosslare departed at 21.00 in a bid to avoid worsening conditions at Fishguard. Her subsequent roundtrip from Fishguard on 27 November was cancelled. Visit Brian Chamber's Rosslare Europort website at

Irish Ferries cancelled all JONATHAN SWIFT Holyhead - Dublin sailings from the evening of 25 November to 29 November. Sea Containers' SUPERSEACAT THREE services were also subject to cancellations on 25 and 26 November. All Douglas sailings were disrupted on the morning of 26 November with the LADY OF MANN being the only vessel "brave enough" to face very severe conditions to operate a sailing to Liverpool.


A more complete sailing plan has now been released for Sea Containers' Irish Sea services for next year.

Heysham - Belfast.

The Heysham - Belfast route timetable is almost identical to that of 1999. No confirmation has yet been issued that the SUPERSEACAT TWO will replace the SEACAT DANMARK. However, given that Sea Containers has announced that their much hyped Brindisi - Cesme route is to be postponed (again!) there seems little doubt that the SUPERSEACAT FOUR will definitely operate the Newhaven - Dieppe service, leaving the SUPERSEACAT TWO available for
Heysham - Belfast. The schedule is as follows:

Ex Heysham:

16 March - 30 March 2000 - 12.00 Daily.
31 March - 30 September 2000 - 12.00 and 22.15 Daily (Not Tuesdays 4 April - 27 June).
1 October - 31 October 2000 - 12.00 Daily.
1 November 2000 - 6 January 2001 12.00 Friday - Monday.

Ex Belfast:

16 March - 30 March 2000 - 07.00 Daily.
31 March - 30 September 2000 - 07.00 Daily and 1730 Daily. (Not Tuesdays 4 April - 27 June).
1 October - 31 October 2000 - 07.00 Daily.
1 November 2000 - 6 June 2001 - 07.00 Friday - Monday.

Stranraer - Belfast.

As previously reported, Dumfries and Galloway Council has refused to re-new Sea Containers' lease on their port at Stranraer, leaving the firm without a berth or terminal from 1 April 2000 (unless a legal appeal succeeds). However, this has not stopped the firm issuing a schedule lasting until
January 2001. As with the Heysham route, sailings are broadly as in 1999 (the minor change being that the 14.00 and 16.15 sailings will operate instead of 14.15 and 16.30 departures). The Stranraer and Troon services (as with the Stranraer route last year) will not close in January for vessel refit suggesting that the SEACAT DANMARK and SEACAT SCOTLAND will cover the routes in turn whilst the other vessel is at overhaul. The schedule is as follows:

Ex Stranraer:

2 January - 30 September 2000 - 16.15 Daily.
1 October 2000 - 6 January 2001 -16.15 Tuesday - Thursday, 18.30 Friday -
Monday, 05.30 Saturday - Tuesday.

Ex Belfast:
2 January 2000 - 6 January 2001 - 14.00 Daily.
1 October 2000 - 6 January 2001 - 20.30 Friday - Monday.

Troon - Belfast.

Once again there are few changes to sailings except that the morning roundtrip will depart both Belfast and Troon 15 minutes earlier than in 1999 (i.e. 07.45 and 11.00 instead of 08.00 and 11.15) and the evening roundtrip will depart both Belfast and Troon 15 minutes later than in 1999 (i.e. 18.30
and 21.45 instead of 18.15 and 21.30). The schedule is as follows:

Ex Troon:

2 January 2000 - 6 January 2001 - 11.00 Daily, 21.45 Daily.

Ex Belfast:

2 January 2000 - 6 January 2001 - 07.45 Daily, 18.30 Daily.

Douglas - Belfast.

The SEACAT ISLE OF MAN (which operated the midweek sailing this year) will operate this service and offers improved timings over 1999. As well as the published sailings there will be "additional summer sailings" - quite what these will involve is unclear. The schedule is as follows:

Ex Douglas:

21 April - 24 September 2000 - 16.00 Sundays and Wednesdays (Plus additional summer sailing).

Ex Belfast:

21 April - 24 September 2000 - 19.30 Sundays and Wednesdays. (Plus additional summer sailing)

Liverpool - Dublin.

As revealed last week, there will be a significant reduction in the number of sailings on the Liverpool - Dublin route in 2000 with no more than one roundtrip per day. The reduction in sailings is reported to be due to falling traffic levels caused by the abolition of duty free and increased

Ex Liverpool:

24 February - 11 March 2000 - 10.30 Daily.
12 March - 31 October 2000 - 08.00 Daily.
1 November - 31 December 2000 - 10.30 Daily.

Ex Dublin:

24 February - 11 March 2000 - 15.30 Daily.
12 March - 31 October 2000 - 13.00 Daily.
1 November - 31 December 2000 - 15.30 Daily.

Douglas - Dublin.

Sensibly Sea Containers have decided to offer Dublin - Isle Of Man sailings on different days to those offered to / from Belfast allowing Irish passengers more choice in sailing days/times. The schedule is as follows:

Ex Douglas:

30 March - 2 October 2000 - 14.00 (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays).

Ex Dublin:

30 March - 2 October 2000 - 18.00 (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays).

Meanwhile the timetable for Liverpool/Heysham - Douglas services has also been published. In peak season the morning Liverpool - Douglas sailing will be operated by the SEACAT ISLE OF MAN whilst the SUPERSEACAT THREE (now only required for one daily roundtrip to Dublin) will be used on the evening service, ex Liverpool at 18.00 and ex Douglas at 20.15 representing a substantial capacity increase.

On the Heysham - Douglas route there are few changes with the BEN MY CHREE operating as currently except the Saturday 19.45 sailing ex Douglas being re-timed to 20.00 from Saturday 5 February. There are no changes to the timetable which suggest the BEN will be at refit for longer than previously scheduled, suggesting rumours of accommodation additions etc are untrue at
the present time. From 5 February to 5 March the BEN MY CHREE will only operate her night sailings on Saturdays and Sundays.

The SEACAT ISLE OF MAN on Fridays (from 16 June), Saturdays (from 22 July) and Mondays (from 3 July) will operate on the Douglas - Heysham service, ex Douglas at 14.00 returning at 16.45. The use of the fast ferry will help to relieve pressure on the passenger capacity of the BEN MY CHREE.

Whilst there seems to be fairly little work scheduled for her this year (with no post TT sailings planned) it is anticipated that around TT time the LADY OF MANN will operate a few more "specials" of the type offered from Llandudno and Fleetwood this year. Details of ports and dates have yet to be revealed.

Plans for the Isle of Man TT look similar to 1999 with the BEN MY CHREE and the LADY OF MANN on the Heysham route (with a few exceptions) and the fast craft on the Liverpool route. There is no indication on the schedule that the CLAYMORE will operate during the TT period. Despite the fact 2000 timetables have now been published for all of Sea Containers' UK ferry operations there has still been no timetable published for the threatened Campbeltown - Ballycastle route.

However, hopes were raised this week that Sea Containers may not withdraw from the service after all. Representatives of the company met Brian Wilson, Minister of State at the Scotland Office, in London this week to discuss the future of the service. The Minister later told the Scottish press:

"It was an extremely useful meeting and the parameters within which we can look for a solution are now much clearer. Sea Containers are not committed to withdrawing from the route so long as they feel there are reasonable prospects of its successful operation. I stressed that the Government is
very anxious to see this link between Scotland and Northern Ireland retained and I hope that we can have further discussions in the very near future about the conditions on which Sea Containers would again operate the service next year."


Merchant Ferries have again chartered the Estonian Shipping Company owned VARBOLA for their Heysham - Dublin route. As with the period in mid October, when she operated on the service for around 10 days, she is operating the schedule of the SAGA MOON (the morning (06.30) sailing ex Heysham and evening (19.00) sailing ex Dublin). The SAGA MOON is currently operating on the Norse Irish Liverpool - Belfast route in place of the LAGAN VIKING, as with the period in October, when the SAGA MOON replaced the MERSEY VIKING, obviously there is only a capacity for 12 drivers on her sailings. The VARBOLA is understood to have arrived at Dublin in the early hours of the morning on 22 November, taking up service with the evening sailing to Heysham that day.

It is understood that the LAGAN VIKING's last sailing prior to her replacement by the SAGA MOON was her evening sailing from Belfast on 22 November and John Luxton reports that the vessel could be seen berthed in the Mersey's Huskisson Dock on the morning of 23 November. On the morning of
26 November the LAGAN VIKING was in Canada Graving Dock. It is understood that the LAGAN VIKING, as with the MERSEY VIKING last month, is currently withdrawn simply for her routine annual overhaul.

PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL S. N. Co by Gary Andrews

FLAMING TORCH: Following last week's story regarding the Millennium Flame being carried from Northern Ireland to Fleetwood by the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR on 16 November, Clive Jackson reports that Granada TV news showed the Millennium Flame being paraded ashore by Captain Morris Austin from the EUROPEAN SEAFARER.

Given the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR's midnight arrival at Fleetwood clearly it was decided to hold the media aspect of the event later in the day. Further confusion to this story was provided by a further
conflicting media report that "Captain Bob Pinchen officially took charge of the flame and carried it on the bridge of the P&O ferry, as it sailed from Larne to Cairnryan"!

It is understood that the report carried last week contained the correct version of events - i.e. the flame was carried on the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR's 16.00 sailing ex Larne on 16 November, under the
command of Captain Bob Pinchen.

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

LYNX DELAYED: The STENA LYNX III will now not re-enter service on Stena Line's Fishguard - Rosslare route until 4 December. The vessel is currently undergoing annual refit at Wright and Beyer's, yard at Birkenhead.

28 NOVEMBER 1999


Welcome to this week's news bulletin. Readers will probably have already spotted the special notices placed on the Home, What's' New and Contents pages about a possible disruption to the Mersey & Irish Sea Shipping site over the next few weeks. However, in case you have not seen these, I would just like to point out that certain parts of the site, in particular the gallery pages, will not be available for a period of time due to the site being transferred to a new computer system. Please bear with me during the change-over, but I can't delay it much longer. Hopefully everything will be back to normal as soon as possible.

Also you will note that there are no news items from Gary Andrews in this update. Gary is running behind schedule with his material. This will be posted in an update later in the week.

Next week I should have another voyage report on line. As some of you will be aware I travelled to Ireland with a group of pupils from the school where I work using Merchant Ferries, and I'll produced a report with a slightly different focus.

Finally thanks for the all the news and correspondence sent during the past week.

finally thanks for the all the news and correspondence sent during the past week.



The main company's web site has been completely revamped with much improved presentation -, it even features the company's share price on the close of the previous day's trade.

Isle of Man Traffic Figures Increase Again

Sea Containers announced this week that passenger figures for October 1999 show a massive increase of almost 18% at 36,997 passengers over the 1998 figure of 31,399.

Car and motorcycle traffic carried by the Company also showed a startling increase of just over 13% from 8,423 vehicles in 1998 to 9,540 vehicles.

The year to date figures show a huge 10% increase over the same period last year whilst vehicles carried have increased by almost 5%.

The Company's freight division also achieved dramatic results as October commercial vehicle metreages increased by more than 11% to 31,492 metres.


LADY OF MANN: Bad weather has brought the Lady out again. She departed from Gladstone River Entrance at 18.00 on 25th November.

I understand that the Lady ran light to Douglas on the 25th as passengers for the 21.00 Liverpool to Douglas sailing were being diverted to the 02.15 departure from Heysham operated by the BEN-MY-CHREE. However, the LADY OF MANN was scheduled to operate the 07.30 Douglas to Liverpool sailing on the 26th November. She did not operate to Dublin on 26th November.

On Saturday 27th the Lady was noted heading for the landing stage at around 11.15. She was then due to depart from Liverpool with the 21.00 sailing to Douglas. From there she was expected to sail light to Dublin, arriving on Sunday morning. From Dublin she would work the Sunday afternoon 16.00 Dublin to Liverpool sailing.

SUPERSEACAT THREE: With bad weather forecast SSC3 headed for the calmer waters of West Langton and was noted laid up there early on 26th November. She was still there around mid-day on Saturday 27th November. With continuing high winds she remained out of service on 28th November.

SEACAT SCOTLAND Ramp problems on the 08.00 sailing yesterday on 24th November saw cars trapped on the SEACAT SCOTLAND at Troon for about an hour. She was running about 45 minutes late on subsequent sailings.


The Isle of Man schedules for 2000 have now been published and are available from the company.

Douglas to Heysham

BEN-MY-CHREE will operate as present except the Saturday 19.45 Douglas to Heysham sailing is retimed to 20.00 from Sat 5 Feb.

BEN-MY-CHREE will operate night sailings only on Saturdays and Sundays from 5th February to 5th March.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN operates a one off Heysham to Douglas on Wednesday 19th April at 16.45 (looks as if she runs in light) SCIOM then operates Fridays Douglas to Heysham at 14.00 and Heysham to Douglas at 16.45 from 16th June to 22nd September with Monday sailings at same times from 3rd July until 18th September. Saturday sailings on the route at the same times commence 22nd July and operate until 2nd September.

Douglas to Liverpool

SUPERSEACAT THREE resumes on the Liverpool weekend route on Thursday 24th February with Liverpool to Douglas at 20.30.

There are some changes in the LADY OF MANN's few midweek sailings mid February and obviously she will "retire" earlier than had been previously scheduled.

From Sunday 12th March SSC3 will leave Liverpool at 18.00 and return from Douglas at 21.15 instead of overnighting in IOM.

From Friday 24 March SSC3 will sail virtually DAILY at these times until the end of September.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN commences operations on the route on Thursday 24th March her normal timings being Douglas to Liverpool at 07.00 and Liverpool to Douglas at 10.30 (i.e. 30 mins earlier than previously).

SCIOM will then operate virtually daily (except Sundays) until 30 October. SCIOM will do Sunday morning sailings as well from June 15 onwards to end of Sept.

The basic October schedule has both SSC3 and SCIOM operating Friday / Saturday /Sunday /Monday whereas Tuesday / Wednesday /Thursday are SCIOM only EXCEPT that Fri 27th is SSC3 only and Monday 30th is SCIOM only.

In November the schedule reverts to SSC3 only departing Liverpool at 20.30 Thursday to Sunday returning next morning from Douglas at 07.00. This runs through to Jan 8 but with an extra trip on 20/21 Dec in lieu of 24/25.

Douglas to Dublin and Belfast

The basic timings will be Douglas to Dublin 14.00 and Dublin to Douglas at 16.45 on Tuesday / Thursday and Saturday from 30th March 2000.

On those Saturdays where SCIOM goes to Heysham in the afternoon the timings will be Douglas to Dublin at 19.30 returning at 23.00.

There are also a few Friday evening Douglas to Dublin rotations mid season on these timings and there will also be some Sunday IOM>Dub day trips early in the season - i.e. before the Sunday Belfast trips start late April.

Douglas to Belfast operates 16.00 and back at 19.30 Sundays and Wednesdays from late April with extras in the peak period.

TT Races

It looks as if the basic plot is as before: i.e. to run the BEN-MY-CHREE and the LADY OF MANN on the Heysham route and the fast craft on Liverpool. There is no sign on the schedule for an extra conventional vessel (e.g. CLAYMORE) to operate. There are only two fast craft workings out of Heysham in the TT period 12.15 on Fri 2nd June and 22.30 the following evening (which could possibly be worked by SUPERSEACAT TWO). There is also one Douglas to Heysham at 00.30 on Sunday 11th June.


Day excursion fares are reduced from £25 to £20 until 30th April and from 1st October.

Footloose fares remain at £16 single until the end of Mach but then increase to £19 for the remainder of the year.

Other special fares have changed a little - most short break ones are up £10 for car+2 - but some have not increased  at all.


Though the announcement of a reduction in sailings from Liverpool to Dublin has made time ashore day trips in the Irish capital  impossible in 2000, the much more imaginative timetable on the Isle of Man routes will open the island to day excursionists from Merseyside on almost every day of the week for almost eight months of the year. This move is something, which must surely be welcomed. If these day trip facilities are actively marketed it should be of immense benefit to the Manx tourist industry which has been for long bemoaning the decline not only of staying visitors but also the day excursionist. Let's hope its a success for all concerned.


SAGA MOON has been operating on the Liverpool to Belfast service in place of NORSE LAGAN. On Tuesday 23rd November, NORSE LAGAN was noted laid up out of service in Canada Dock. By Friday morning NORSE LAGAN was in Canada Graving Dock receiving attention from Wright and Beyers.

A visit to the dock on Saturday 27th November saw work underway on NORSE LAGAN's aft bow thruster, stern ramp, plus hull repairs and partial repainting and touching up. [Photographs will be on-line in the next few weeks.]

DAWN MERCHANT: It was noted when travelling on DAWN MERCHANT this week that outside park bench style seating has been fitted on decks 7 and 8 in the sheltered area to the rear of the accommodation block. This is a very welcome move, which I am sure, will be appreciated by passengers on fine days. Presumably similar seating has also been fitted to BRAVE MERCHANT.


Further details have emerged this week with regard to the renaming of the VISTAFIJORD. The vessel will arrive on the Mersey late on the evening of 9th December, direct from refit in Hamburg.

The vessel will be renamed CARONIA by the Deputy Prime Minister the Rt.Hon. John Prescott MP on Friday 10th December. The choice of Mr. Prescott appears appropriate as he began is working life as a Cunard steward.

The renaming is going to be a major public event with some famous names present from show business and the arts. Also present will be a choir and orchestra and the renaming ceremony will conclude with a firework display.

Though Cunard was based in Liverpool between 1840 and 1967, this is the first time a ship belonging to the company has been named here.

Mr. Prescott will be accompanied during the naming by Madeline Arison, wife of Mr. Michael Arison chairman of the parent company Carnival Cruise Lines.

Liverpool artist Ted Walker will present Mr. Prescott with a paining of the FRANCONIA. The renaming will take place at the Pier Head at 16.00. Notable guests at the renaming are expected to include Judith Chalmers, Beryl Bainbridge, Valerie Singleton, Peter Sissons, Terry Waite, Alan Whicker, Sir John Mills, and Sir Jimmy Saville. Lord Lichfield, P.D. James, Sir Bernard Ingham and Lorraine Kelly.

The ship will be blessed and dedicated by the Rt. Rev. James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, accompanied by a representative of the Archbishop of Liverpool, Patrick Kelly who is unable to attend.

It is reported that for the first time Cunard will use a bottle of British as opposed to Australian wine for the naming ceremony. AS the bottle is released against the ship's bow, the Cunard flag will fall away and the ship's new name CARONIA will be revealed. At the same time fireworks will be released from the liner's foredeck and the roof of the Cunard Building at the Pier Head.

The bells of Our Lady and St. Nicholas, the Liverpool Parish Church, will peal whilst a 20 piece Philharmonic Concert Orchestra will accompany a choir of 20 singers to perform Beethoven's Choral Symphony "Ode to Joy". This will be followed by other music including "Land of Hope and Glory", "Rule Britannia", as well as seasonal music and carols.

The CARONIA will then depart on a coastal cruise to Southampton, where on her arrival the next day, passengers will transfer to the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 for dinner.

VISTAFJORD will become the third vessel to carry the name CARONIA. .


Local press reports suggest that the former Yugoslav passenger and cargo ship PRINCE ALBERT has been given its marching orders from Canning Dock adjacent to the Albert Dock complex. It is suggested that the vessel will be given until the New Year to leave the berth she has occupied since June. A Ukrainian, Captain George Kahnenko owns the ship. He had hoped to open the vessel as a restaurant/bar during the late summer. Work was being undertaken on the vessel by a number of Ukrainians, however, these were deported some months ago.

JHL'S COMMENT: The presence of the PRINCE ALBERT has certainly added to the maritime flavour of Canning Dock. Apart from the preserved Mersey flat and a few small boats all from the Merseyside Maritime Museum collection the dock basin remains empty for much of the year; with just the occasional visiting vessel being berthed there for a few days. The PRINCE ALBERT is an attractive looking vessel and really should be allowed to stay in the dock. As she was brought to Merseyside under tow, it is presumed that she cannot operate under her own power.


The Wirral based ship builder McTay Marine launched the first of three Royal Navy ferries it is building on Thursday this week.

Bromborough-based McTay Marine launched the 28-metre MV OBAN into the Mersey. The vessel, to be used to transfer personnel and equipment from naval bases to ships, was then towed to Birkenhead's Vittoria Dock for completion.

The OBAN enters Navy service on the Clyde in July 2000. McTay Marine, saved from closure by a management take-over in 1994, earlier secured a contract with Serco Denholm Shipping who operate RMA vessels on behalf of the MoD to build three craft.

The OBAN is the ninth new vessel to be constructed at the yard, where more than 100 people are now employed.

McTay boss Mike Brodie said the firm was confident of securing more orders. He said: "We class ourselves as a small to medium shipyard. We are limited in the size of vessels we can build, because of the size of our yard. "We look to specialised contracts and we have our own departments to handle every part of construction from design to fitting out."


The EDINBURGH CASTLE, acquired by Cammell Laird from the liquidators of Lowline, is to be chartered to Premier Cruises of the USA. The vessel is currently being refitted at Cammell Laird's Tyneside yard. EDINBURGH CASTLE will be renamed BIG RED BOAT II in April 2000, with its first cruises departing in May. Commenting on the charter, Jon Schofield, finance director of Cammell Laird said: "The charter is part of the group's strategy to offer fully integrated marine services from sourcing though to sale and charter.

The Cammell Laird site has been identified as one of two shipyards short listed to construct the next generation of aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy. Due to enter service in 2012, the new 40,000 tonne warships will be twice the size of the present invincible class carriers. Cammell Laird's partner in the bid is the French company Thompson CSF. Each of the short listed yards can bid to build one or both of the carriers. Jon Schofield Cammell Laird's finance directory said: "It's absolutely great news. It’s a very sizeable project and we're very pleased. Inevitably jobs would follow from this project."

Drilling vessel PEREGRINE VII has finally left the yard after a major two and a half-year rebuilt. P&OSL PROVENCE remains in dry dock.


On Monday 29th November LE AOIFE [P22] celebrates 20 years in service with the INS having been commissioned on 29th November 1979.

The vessel is the third of the Cork-Verolme built Deirdre class off shore patrol vessels.

During her career to date she has made 1675 boardings and detained 219 vessels for illegal fishing. In 1997 Waterford City Council adopted her.

28 November 1999

Back Home Up Next

21 NOVEMBER 1999


Welcome again to the latest M&ISS update. As well as the news bulletins, don't forget to check out the What's New page to ensure you don't miss any of the other updates which include several more gallery pages. 

Last week I mentioned that I would probably be upgrading computers in the near further. This may possibly have the effect of causing the main site to shrink for a week or two. I expect delivery of the new machine in 8 to 12 days, thus any disruption is likely to occur in around two weeks time, though I may undertake some site pruning next weekend. This is likely to effect mainly the older gallery pages.

The new machine will enable be to explore the benefits of a CD-Writer. This combined with the planned acquisition of a good quality digital camera [probably in the new year sales!] plus my extensive collection of transparency and Photo-CD images will enable me to make available compilations of very high resolution images of Irish Sea shipping at a modest cost. - Please watch this space for further announcements regarding this during the next few months.

If you wish to contact me by e-mail please note that I will be away from Tuesday until Friday early evening, as I will be running the annual school trip to Ireland. This year we will be travelling with Merchant Ferries out Tuesday morning returning overnight Thursday- there is a possibility of a voyage report - but as I have found in previous years [when travelling with Irish Ferries] one's attention is often needed in other departments!

Finally I would like to thank the correspondents who have forwarded information for inclusion in this week's update.


LADY OF MANN: The Lady is believed to have spent a few days in dry dock during the past week. Next summer, apart from her TT schedules and a number of special excursions, it is understood that she will only be on stand by, with additional services between Heysham and Douglas provided by a SeaCat.


The linkspan pontoon has been relocated to its original more southerly position this week. It had been moved further north this year to allow two vessels to berth at the stage. However, on Friday 10th December the Cunard Line's VISTAFIJORD will berth at the Landing Stage to be renamed CARONIA consequently additional berthing space will be required necessitating the repositioning of the linkspan.

ARGYLL & ANTRIM by Gary Andrews

Fears concerning the future of the Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company's Campbeltown - Ballycastle service have been increased following a series of revelations by the Herald that parent company Sea Containers has already "sold" the route's ferry, the CLAYMORE.

Sea Containers is currently reviewing the Campbeltown - Ballycastle service which only began on 30 June 1997 and an announcement is already overdue as to whether it will continue to run it. Minister of State at the Scottish Office Brian Wilson is due to meet Sea Containers soon and he was reported as saying on 18 November:

"The basic question for Sea Containers is whether they intend to continue with the route or not."

A spokesman for Sea Containers said:

"As a commercial company ourselves, we are empathetic to the fact that people wish to hear a decision soon. We will make an announcement when our present discussions have been concluded."

Former Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Forsyth forced Caledonian MacBrayne to sell the CLAYMORE to Sea Containers to ensure that the new service was a private sector operation, despite more than £8m worth of public money being invested in it. The ferry was sold again last December to a leasing company for an undisclosed sum, and is now being leased back.

Sea Containers' London office initially denied to the Herald that there had been any sale of the CLAYMORE, but a spokeswoman for the Shipping Registry in Cardiff confirmed to the newspaper:

"Since 21 December 1998, the registered owner of the CLAYMORE has been ING Lease, a London-based company. Caledonian MacBrayne had sold it to another subsidiary of Sea Containers on 1 May 1997."

As suggested by the above quote (and subsequently probed by the Herald) it has emerged that it was not Sea Containers which became registered owner of the vessel on 1 May 1997, nor any of its better known subsidiaries, but a company called Blue Grove. A spokesman for Sea Containers confirmed that Blue Grove had been a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands on 23 April 1997.

The Scottish Executive answering for the previous Scottish Office refused to comment on the sale, apart from saying:

"The CLAYMORE was sold to Blue Grove at the request of Sea Containers. Questions over the ownership are a matter for the operators to answer."

Returning to the issue of the sale to ING Lease, a spokesman for Sea Containers subsequently agreed with the newspaper that the CLAYMORE had indeed been sold to a leasing company but insisted:

"You can't read anything into this, or the timing of it. It is a normal commercial arrangement, which is comparable to you getting a mortgage on your house. It does not only apply to the CLAYMORE. There are other vessels of ours subject to the same arrangement."

The spokesman declined to say how many other vessels had been sold or what Sea Containers had received from ING for the CLAYMORE. ING, in turn, referred all enquiries to Sea Containers.

Bruce Urquhart of the Kintyre Marketing Group, which represents over 100 small businesses on the peninsula, said on the issue:

"It may very well be that this is a normal commercial arrangement for shipping companies but it also could make it easier for the company to withdraw from the route if it wants to do so. The news certainly heightens our fears. We are desperately seeking an answer from the company as to whether they are going to continue or not. Planning for the next season is simply impossible at present. The World Travel Fair has just ended in London, the biggest such event in the UK. All the ferry companies would have been there, but there would have been no promotion of Kintyre because nobody knows whether there will be a ferry service at all, and if there is, what it will be."

The enforced sale of the CLAYMORE was highly controversial at the time. She was Caledonian MacBrayne's main backup vessel and the company had just spent £250,000 on her refit, but was told to sell her for what was seen as a knockdown price of £750,000. This despite CalMac having been particularly keen to run the new Irish service itself, insisting it could do so at no extra cost to the taxpayer. Indeed it claimed it would have helped reduce the company's dependence on their Scottish Office grant. This was the first time in CalMac's history the board had been instructed to do something against its collective will by its sole shareholder, the Secretary of State.

The episode had infuriated opposition MPs and Brian Wilson, now Minister of State at the Scotland Office had reported the matter to the Public Accounts Committee, asking it to investigate the manner in which this public sector asset had been transferred to the private sector. The National Audit Office made inquiries, but the matter was never taken any further.

Argyll and Bute MSP George Lyon, however, believes the Scottish Office should have taken a closer interest in who would actually own the vessel, telling the Herald:

"I find it quite offensive that a public asset like the CLAYMORE was sold, at what I understand was a ridiculously reduced price, to a private concern which has been registered on the other side of the world to avoid paying tax to the British public. I do not, however, blame Sea Containers. They were not breaking any law and flagging out is a perfectly common, if regrettable, commercial practice. It is quite extraordinary, however, that the Scottish Office did not insist that the new owners of the vessel should be registered in the UK and that any profit from the vessel's subsequent sale would be returned to the Exchequer."

Mr Lyon said he was also calling on the Scottish Executive to instruct CalMac to investigate the feasibility of running the Campbeltown - Ballycastle service should Sea Containers withdraw. But he said he was still deeply troubled by the fact that CalMac's present chairman Harold Mills was the same man whose department was responsible for the sale of the CLAYMORE in 1997. Mr Lyon said:

"Did he support CalMac's ferry being sold to a flag of convenience? Did he support the blocking of CalMac's interest in the service? I have tabled questions, but have yet to receive a reply."

The Scottish Executive, however, has told the "Herald" that officials' advice remains confidential.

GARY ANDREWS' COMMENT: What a mess! Whilst there are a considerable number of vessels affected by arrangements such as that exercised by Sea Containers with regard to the CLAYMORE one can imagine that such a situation gives little confidence to those relying on the threatened service. Additionally, Sea Containers failure to even provisionally announce sailings for 2000 on the Campbeltown - Ballycastle route certainly does not bode well. If Sea Containers do plan to abandon the service they have got to say so NOW to allow the process of finding a replacement operator to begin.


Sea Containers has announced carryings of 125,000 passengers and 34,000 vehicles in the first six months of its Heysham to Belfast service following the launch of the route in March this year. The SEACAT DANMARK has operated the four-hour crossing this year and it seems very likely the SUPERSEACAT TWO for the 2000 season will replace her.

Diane Poole, General Manager Northern Ireland Services, said:

"These latest carrying figures exceed all expectations. We are delighted to see the success of this service, which is so important to the economies of both Northern Ireland and the North West of England."

Meanwhile Sea Containers' new ferry service between Belfast and Troon carried 168,000 passengers and 36,000 vehicles in the six months following its launch on 29 April. Up to 30 June 1999 Sea Containers reported that the Belfast - Heysham service had carried 48,000 passengers and 14,000 vehicles, whilst the Belfast - Troon route, had carried 56,000 passengers and 12,000 vehicles. The Belfast-Stranraer service carried 124,000 passengers and 36,000 vehicles during the six-month period.

It remains to be seen quite how the figures for Troon (when combined with Belfast - Stranraer sailings in the same period) compare with Sea Containers Scottish carryings in previous years. Sea Containers reported that in the first six months of 1998 the Stranraer - Belfast service carried 178,000 passengers and 51,000 vehicles. Whilst more than 371,000 passengers and 104,500 cars used the service in the first nine months of 1997.

The end of year figures will no doubt illustrate the real level of success of the Troon service.

Diane Poole, General Manager Northern Ireland Services, said:

"We always knew this service would be a success and these figures prove it. Tourism into both Northern Ireland and Scotland continues to grow, and the ports of Belfast and Troon are ideally located for both tourists and business people."

Meanwhile Sea Containers has announced 2000 schedules for most of its Irish Sea fast ferry services.

Diane Poole, Commercial Manager Irish Sea, said:

"By the end of October this year 772,000 passengers and 178,000 vehicles had been carried by our SeaCat and SuperSeaCat services in and out of Belfast and Dublin. We believe we're giving our passengers a truly great service and offering them an unprecedented choice of travel options. As the Millennium approaches our services are set to get even better and a range of special offer fares are already being planned."

On-line details of the new schedule appear to be rather incomplete and no details have been given of fleet deployment, as a result it is inappropriate to comment at great length. Of details given the only significant change would appear to be that there would be only one daily roundtrip on the
Liverpool - Dublin route even at peak in 2000. Although Sea Containers has not revealed 2000 fleet deployment one would speculate that the SUPERSEACAT THREE will be used for additional duties, it seems rather obvious the state of the art craft would not be given as limited use as one daily round trip on the Dublin service. However, the nature of these duties remains to be seen. There are also reports that the LADY OF MANN will only see service during the busy TT period.

No schedule details were given for the Campbeltown - Ballycastle route, a service usually covered alongside the fast ferry services, further suggesting Sea Containers will not operate the service in 2000.

GARY ANDREWS' COMMENT: Given the lack of REAL detail given in Sea Containers' 2000 sailing plans one would speculate about the firm's motives.

It does not go without notice that Sea Containers' sailing schedule for Stranraer extends to January 2001. Dumfries and Galloway Council has already informed the company that it will not renew it's lease on their council owned port at Stranraer when it expires in April due to the firm's failure to comply with the council's demand of a minimum of three round trips to Belfast per day.

Whilst Sea Containers are currently appealing against this decision (more information in a forthcoming bulletin) the sequence of events does appear to be rather interesting.


The luxury yacht BOADICEA noted arriving in the Mersey last Saturday  departed from her berth at Vittoria Dock on 21st November, For more information of this interesting vessel please check out the WHAT'S NEW section.


QUEEN MARY 2: Cunard  is set to reveal details of the much anticipated Project Queen Mary, a classic new ocean liner. The company expects to name the vessel and builder by year's end. She is expected to be the largest passenger vessel ever built at around 1,100ft. The ship's classic style will be reminiscent of the grand and glamorous golden age of sea travel. An artist's impression appeared in the Liverpool Echo on 20th November, which indicated she would have an, appearance not unlike QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 with a similar, though somewhat squatter funnel.

CARONIA/VISTAFIJORD: Will be renamed CARONIA at Liverpool Landing Stage on Friday 10th December 1999.


I received the following message in my mailbox this week from Rich Rabbett concerning an attempt to save the transatlantic liner UNITED STATES:

"All ship and ocean liner lovers are needed to save an American treasure--the SS United States-the largest ocean liner ever built in the U.S. and the fastest to ever sail the North Atlantic. This former greyhound of the Atlantic sits alone, rusting and forgotten in Philadelphia. The SS United States Foundation, a non-profit organisation, was set up in 1998 to help spread awareness of the liner's current condition and to help chart a new future for it. If you love ships, please take a moment to check out the Foundation's website at It features pictures past and present and up to date information on all attempts being made to rescue this American icon. Thank you!"


EUROPEAN TRADER visited Harland and Wolff, Belfast on the weekend of 13 - 14 November to get her "cow-catcher" raised to allow her to dock at the Number 2 (JETLINER) berth at Cairnryan. The vessel is understood to have re-entered service on the Larne - Cairnryan route with her 13.30 sailing ex Larne on 15 November. 


The shell of the new P&O terminal at Cairnryan is pretty much complete and it looks impressive. The process of "building" the inside is expected to begin soon with the terminal due to open in spring 2000. Meanwhile, the main conventional ferry berth (Number 1 berth) is currently being lengthened to accommodate P&O's new ro-pax ferry due to enter service next summer. As a result of the work at the berth it would appear that ferries docking at the berth will have to take extreme care and it seems likely that this could lead to additional disruption in poor weather conditions. (One wonders why this work was not carried out during the more favourable conditions of spring and summer, instead of it commencing in September).

JETLINER CREW: P&O European Ferries has recently been advertising for "Cabin" crew for the JETLINER. Those successful will be employed by P&O subsidiary "Pentmarine (1982) Ltd."


On 14 November the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR operated the schedule of the EUROPEAN PIONEER. It appears to have become a regular pattern that the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR will be used to give the EUROPEAN PIONEER and EUROPEAN SEAFARER a day off the Fleetwood - Larne route every other weekend, presumably to allow for maintenance.

EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR: On her 16.00 sailing ex Larne on 16 November under the command of Captain Bob Pinchen, carried the "Beacon Millennium Flame" to Fleetwood on the next stage of the journey around every UK city. The flame, carried in a modified miner's lamp, was subsequently passed to British Gas at Fleetwood and will be kept alight to be used to fire Beacon Millennium beacons across the British Isles on 31 December 1999.



Stena Line this week released third quarter results with a forecast that management expects that the net loss for 1999 could exceed the net loss in 1998. EBITDA for 1999 is currently forecast to be approximately SEK 650 million. However, Stena's finances do show evidence of recovery with the news that the loss before income taxes improved to SEK 18 million from a loss of SEK 115 million. The loss for the 12-month period, ending September 30, 1999, amounts to SEK 227 million.

Results for the third quarter are as follows.

Revenue fell by SEK 432 million or 16%, to SEK 2,275 million compared to SEK 2,707 million for the same period in 1998. The fall in revenue in the third quarter is mainly due to the reduction in onboard retail sales following the abolition of tax and duty free retail sales within the EU. Exchange rate fluctuations had a negative impact of SEK 6 million.

Revenue in Scandinavia dropped by SEK 188 million to SEK 1,061 million compared to SEK 1,249 million in the same period in 1998. Revenue in the UK fell by SEK 244 million to SEK 1,214 million compared to SEK 1,458 million in 1998.

Freight/Port revenue increased by 1% to SEK 522 million from SEK 515 million in 1998. Average freight rates rose 13% in Scandinavia and 5% in the UK. Freight volumes fell 8% in Scandinavia and 5% in the UK.

Onboard revenue fell by SEK 352 million or 39% to SEK 552 million from SEK 904 million in 1998. The abolition of tax and duty free retail sales significantly impacted passenger spending. Average retail spending per passenger fell to SEK 136 from SEK 216 in Scandinavia and to SEK 48 from SEK 148 in the UK. In addition other onboard revenue declined as a result of lower passenger volumes.

Passenger revenue decreased by SEK 87 million or 7% to SEK 1,201 million from SEK 1,288 million in 1998. Average passenger ticket rates increased by 19% in Scandinavia, due to a combination of increased prices and a change in passenger mix. Average increase in ticket rates in the UK was 2%. The lower rate of increase in the UK was due to severe competition on the Irish Sea.

Volumes fell 12% for passengers and 3% for private cars during the third quarter compared to the third quarter 1998, excluding the closed Halmstad-Grenaa route. Passenger volumes fell by 17% in Scandinavia and 8% in the UK. Stena's Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire route has been particularly badly affected by a decline in passenger numbers with 1,132,000 passengers carried January - September 1999 compared to 1,399,000 January - September 1998.

Operating expenses fell by SEK 161 million or 8%, to SEK 1,871 million from SEK 2,032 million, primarily as a result of the reduction in retails goods sold following the abolition of tax and duty free retail sales within the EU. Exchange rate fluctuations had a positive impact of SEK 3 million.

Income from associated companies amounted to SEK 74 million compared to SEK 81 million in 1998. Stena Line's 40% share of P&O Stena Line's income was SEK 73 million compared to SEK 80 million in 1998. No dividends were received from P&O Stena Line in either period.

Income from operations totalled SEK 332 million compared to SEK 546 million in 1998.



There is growing that Stena may move their Belfast - Stranraer HSS service to the new Port Glasgow development by Clydeport. Rumours of a Holyhead shift have also resumed in recent months as has speculation of the company moving it's conventional ferries from Belfast to Larne.

HARLAND & WOLFF by Gary Andrews

Raymond Burrows reports that the Semi-submersible Oil Rig, BORGLAND DOLPHIN departed Harland & Wolff on the late afternoon of 12 November. As it was of course dark at that time of the day, observations were limited to the customary illumination display as the rig proceeded down the Lough. Mooring at mouth of the Lough by mid-evening, it was then observed during the 13 and 14 November as various manoeuvres were carried out. By 16.35 on 14 November the rig was not readily visible and may well have finally left Belfast Lough for good.


Harland and Wolff has won a reprieve from its financial difficulties after a campaign to save it including the personal intervention of Northern Ireland talks chairman George Mitchell. Problems at the shipyard arose following a dispute over who should pay for £130m of extra work on two oil drilling ships ordered by the Texan company Global Marine. As negotiations got under way between the US firm and the yard's financial backers, a political campaign was mounted to save Harland and Wolff, led by senior politicians. It has now emerged that this campaign at one point involved former US senator George Mitchell, who had been chairing talks on Northern Ireland's political future.

It is not known how important the political pressure was but the shipyard has now said that it has reached an agreement with Global Marine that should secure its immediate future. In a joint statement Harland and Wolff, Global Marine and the shipyard unions said a deal had been struck to complete the two drill ships at the centre of the dispute. The statement says that all parties will now work together to ensure the timely and efficient completion of the vessels. The yard will now have breathing space whilst it searches for work to fill its empty order book.


The LNRS December Bulletin has been published. The leading article in this edition is "The Loss of the ELLAN VANNIN" by Ron Evans. The article coincides with the 90th Anniversary of the loss of the IoMSPCo ELLAN VANNIN near the Mersey Bar in a violent storm on 3rd December 1909. The vessel being en-route to Liverpool from Ramsey.

Other articles in the latest edition include:

The Story of the Clipper Ship LIGHT OF THE AGE [part 2] by Cam Ford

Forgotten Liners of Liverpool - The HILARY of 1931.

"Huff Duff" - Britain's Secret Weapon by Ray Pugh

The Scarweather Lightship and Magnetic Mines by Alfred Locke

A Century of Staff Socials by T.D. Tozer

To receive further details of the LNRS and a specimen copy of "The Bulletin" please contact the editor, John Shepherd, at



LE CIARA was involved in a major drugs seizure 6 miles off Fastnet Rock on Wednesday 17th November. An armed boarding part seized the converted 70-ft trawler POSIDONIA and arrested Britons. The former trawler was then taken to Schull, west Cork where it was subject to a detailed search by GardaŪ and the Customs National Drugs Team.

The POSIDONIA is believed to have sailed from North Africa. She was carrying a cargo of £15million worth of cannabis resin.

The coastline of West Cork is a known drop off point for international drugs traffickers.

LE ROISIN Reports on RT…'s Seascapes programme suggest that the vessel will be commissioned in mid December. She is currently being armed with a 76mm Otto Melara Gun of similar design to that fitted to LE CIARA and LE ORLA.

21 November 1999

Back Home Up Next

14 NOVEMBER 1999


This week things have been much quieter on the news front, rather like the weather! However, I would like to thank the various correspondents for forwarding additional material which had provided the usual diverse range of news reports from both the Mersey and Irish Sea as well as further a field.

In the next few weeks the size of the main M&ISS site may shrink somewhat for a short period of time. As I explained a few weeks ago I anticipate upgrading my computer in the near future. Consequently to make the switch over easier, some areas of W&ISS may go off line for a period of time. As a result you may find yourself temporarily unable to access all areas whilst I effect the change over.

Finally as I compile this bulletin on Remembrance Sunday, here in the UK, perhaps we should all take a few moments to remember all the Naval and Merchant seamen who have given their lives in conflicts around the world. 


SEACAT SCOTLAND On 6 November SeaCat Scotland cancelled the 07.00 Belfast - Heysham sailing and 08.00 sailing to Troon and replaced both sailings with a sailing at 08.00 to Stranraer. The SEACAT SCOTLAND was observed at SeaCat's Belfast lay-by berth with maintenance ongoing and it would appear that the Stranraer sailings were an attempt to get all passengers moving. SEACAT DANMARK arrived back in Belfast from Stranraer at around 11.45 and then operated a further roundtrip to Stranraer before being seen on the berth at 17.50 preparing to operate her 18.15 ex Belfast roundtrip to Troon. It is understood the SEACAT SCOTLAND sailed as scheduled to Stranraer at 18.30. During the past week SeaCat Belfast sailings appear to be running to schedule with many sailings departing and arriving earlier than published times. However loadings appear to have been relatively light of late.


Hoverspeed has released results for the first six months of operation of its Newhaven to Dieppe SUPERSEACAT TWO service.

Since the service was launched on 23 April this year, Hoverspeed has carried 285,000 passengers and 70,000 vehicles between the East Sussex port and Dieppe in Normandy. The service continues to the end of the year, with daily departures on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

David Stafford, Hoverspeed's Newhaven-based route manager, said: "These figures are tremendous news for the ferry service from Newhaven and confirm the continuing popularity of this route with cross-Channel travellers. Hoverspeed has demonstrated that by operating a reliable fast car ferry, with high levels of customer service, the route can compete
effectively with the short sea crossings."

Hoverspeed is pledging further new investments for the 2000 season, including a new 1st class lounge onboard, which will double capacity. It is understood the SUPERSEACAT TWO will be transferred to the Heysham - Belfast route in spring 2000 and will be replaced at Newhaven with the SUPERSEACAT FOUR. Work will be undertaken during the SUPERSEACAT Two's annual refit early in the New Year to fit a new computerised ride control system.

It is rumoured that the SEACAT DANMARK will be used on the Dover - Calais route next summer, to allow the charter or sale of the ATLANTIC II.


Sea Containers this week announced its results for the third quarter and nine months ended 30 September 1999. For the quarter net income was up 24% over the year earlier period to $25.8 million. For the nine months net income was up 36% to $52.6 million (excluding the effect of a compulsory accounting rule change amounting to a non-recurring charge of $12.3 million in the first quarter). Revenue was up 8% to $989 million.

Mr James B. Sherwood, President, said that the passenger transport division (ferries, rail and ports) operating income in the third quarter had increased 35% over the year earlier period to $37.2 million. The improvement came primarily from ferries and in particular from the company's 50% shareholding in Neptun Maritime Oyj. Earnings from rail were flat compared with 1998 due to the large subsidy reduction in the current year.

Mr Sherwood indicated that the cessation of duty free sales on Anglo-Republic of Ireland, Anglo-French, Anglo-Belgian and Swedish-Danish routes effective 1 July resulted in a significant drop in profitability in the month of July, implying that day trippers had stocked up the previous month. Day-trippers returned to the company's ferries on the Anglo-French and Anglo-Belgian routes in August and September. The company has expanded its shore side shops in Belgium and France and passenger fares were increased to cover the reduction in profits from on-board duty free sales. On the Liverpool - Dublin route sailing frequencies have been reduced and on the Sweden-Denmark route midweek sailings have been introduced on Sweden-Norway where duty free sales are still permitted. Also, capacity will be reduced in 2000.

The company's Seastreak services between Manhattan and the north shore of New Jersey were at capacity and additional ships will shortly be ordered for these routes.

Neptun Maritime has withdrawn an old vessel on its Gulf of Bothnia route (the FENNIA) and replaced her with a larger ship (the WASA QUEEN) which is being subsidised by the Swedish and Finnish governments to recover loss of profits due to withdrawal of duty free. All of Neptun Maritime's other routes which are its core business still enjoy duty free privileges. Neptun has re-chartered this year two of its three cruise vessels on satisfactory terms and expects to sell one of these to the charterer at book value. The third and smallest cruise vessel continues on profitable charter as before. Neptun's subsidiary, Silja Line, has assumed responsibility for Sea Containers' Sweden-Denmark-Norway services. A strategic plan for the long-term development of Neptun and Silja is being finalised.

The company has submitted a rail franchise extension request to the Strategic Rail Authority in the UK for a new franchise extending to 2020. The plan calls for the introduction of 25 new tilt trains over the next 8 years and the retirement of 9 overage trains. The Authority will announce its decision before Christmas whether to negotiate the extension. Although the company had submitted an earlier extension request, it was for a shorter period and the Authority asked that it be resubmitted on the basis of the longer period. The plan also envisions substantial station upgrades and development of three new parkway stations.

Mr Sherwood said that the third quarter operating profits of the company's leisure division (which includes PeruRail) increased 52% to $17.2 million. Italian hotels, North American hotels and restaurants, Portuguese hotels, African hotels and South American hotels were all ahead of the same period in 1998 while trains and cruises were down.

In September the company's wholly owned subsidiary in Italy, Alberghiera Fiesolana SpA, acquired the Hotel Caruso in Ravello on the Amalfi Drive. This property will be closed at the end of this year for complete renovation and is expected to re-open in 2001. The Caruso is the 5th hotel acquired this year.

PeruRail, taken over in September, is off to a good start with earnings ahead of forecast. Because the main profit centre of PeruRail is its tourist train operations it was felt appropriate to include this business in the company's leisure division.

Marine container asset leasing continues to underperform 1998. Third quarter 1999 operating profits were $13.8 million compared with $19.6 million in the same period of 1998. Lease rates appear to have stabilised and utilisation is inching upwards. Demand is strong for long-term leases of new equipment at satisfactory rates. Both Sea Containers and GE Capital, the partners in GE SeaCo SRL, are accelerating sales of older equipment. New container prices quoted in China for 2000 deliveries have risen by 10% over 1999 prices. The company's Charleston container factory now has a full order book for several years ahead within its existing capacity. It is hoped that capacity can be increased in order to accept further orders. South America and the Mediterranean have swung from being net container surplus areas to being net demand areas. A good perishable shipping season is expected this winter and both seasonal demand and long term lease demand for refrigerated containers appears to be strong. At September 30, 1999 GE SeaCo had acquired $73 million of new containers in the current year.

On October 18, 1999 the company sold $115 million of 7-year notes (redeemable without premium after 6 years) priced to yield 11% interest p.a. The proceeds were used to retire the bridging loan used to acquire the 50% shareholding in Neptun Maritime earlier in the year. Because Neptun Maritime is a Finnish company within the Euro bloc, the note obligations were swapped into Euros so the net interest cost is approximately 8.3% p.a.

The Sea Containers board sought professional advice on a new company name, however, it decided at its 11 October meeting not for the time being to propose to shareholders a name change for Sea Containers Ltd. Instead, it intends to form a new wholly owned subsidiary in Bermuda, which will carry the new name. This subsidiary will embrace all the company's passenger transport and leisure businesses. As soon as the new name is registered in all relevant jurisdictions it will be announced. The new name does not carry any connotation of containers and instead is evocative of only the company's passenger transport and leisure activities.


JONATHAN SWIFT has returned to service between Dublin and Holyhead, having departed from Canada Dry Dock, Liverpool during the week. The photographs of the JONATHAN SWIFT in dry dock should be available on M&ISS next weekend. 


EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR substituted for the EUROPEAN SEAFARER on the Fleetwood - Larne route on the morning of 7 September.


On Saturday 13 November an interesting vessel entered the Mersey. She passed the Crosby bend at around 11.25.

The BODICEA is a passenger vessel, blue hull, white upper works. Three radomes on the bridge and a very prominent radome on the mast. UK Register. Looking quite modern and in excellent condition she certainly made and interesting sight. On Sunday 14 November she was noted in Vittoria Dock, berthed just astern of SEACAT ISLE OF MAN.

All I have been able to ascertain so far is that she is a private yacht belonging to an Australian millionaire. BODICEA is certainly an impressive vessel for a yacht. If anyone has any further information I would be pleased to receive it.



PHILIP shipyard, up stream from Dartmouth closed on 1st October 1999. The yard has been birthplace to a number of well-known vessels including the Mersey Ferries WOODCHURCH and MOUNTWOOD. The company are also operators of the Diesel Paddle Vessel PHILIP that runs the Dartmouth Higher Vehicle Ferry. The company has not ceased trading and may develop the shipyard site as part of an adjacent Marina.


Once again TranzRail is chartering a Condor vessel for the summer season. In the past the vessel concerned was CONDOR 10, which on a number of occasions was given a pre-charter refit on Merseyside. This year CONDOR VITESSE was chartered. However, the vessel was refitted at A&P's Falmouth Yard prior to charter.

Michael Pryce has forwarded details of CONDOR VITESSE's passage from Falmouth to New Zealand. Her passage details are expected to be as follows:

Malta 12/11, Port Said 13/11, Djibouti 16/11, Colombo 19/11, Darwin 25/11, Cairns 27/11, Wellington 30/11.

The vessel returns to the Channel Islands routes on May 26th, 2000.


Geoff. Hamer writes that the former Liverpool Pilot Cutter ARNET ROBINSON is still in existence. She now operates as a passenger vessel the FATIH in Turkey.

The FATIH (ex ARNET ROBINSON) runs from Tasucu, southern Turkey, to Girne, Northern Cyprus, for FergŁn Denizcilik. Girne is also known as Kyrenia in Greek. The Rough Guide to Cyprus (1996 edition) says "FergŁn’s broken-down tub the FATIH (cars carried) is worth avoiding if you have the choice; it leaves Tasucu Sunday through Thursday at midnight, arriving in Kyrenia the next morning…" An overnight crossing in a ship not built for passengers could hardly be comfortable, but the daylight trip back might be pleasant in fine weather.

Geoff isn't sure where they put the cars - and presumes on deck. FergŁn also runs fast catamarans on the route. The FATIH was reported in ‘Lloyd’s List’ leaving Iskenderun on 9 February this year for Tasucu – presumably after refit.


The Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire Link group this week outlined its plans to match the skills of Wales' unemployed to the thousands of vacancies in Ireland at a meeting in Dublin, with the intention that Welsh workers would commute to Ireland daily by ferry. Talks are understood to have taken place with Stena Line for cut-price commuter fares on its HSS service.


The blue and white Finnish rock laying ship VILLE was a familiar sight on the River Mersey during the first half of 1998 when she was engaged in the construction of new groynes along the Wallasey side of the river.

She is now at work at the mouth of the River Liffey engaged in maintenance work on the Great South Wall which guard's the Liffey channel between Poolbeg Light and Pigeon House at the entrance to the Port of Dublin.


A news item which was overlooked a couple of months ago has just surfaced:

The Commissioners of Irish Lights new vessel was launched on the 14th August at the Galatz shipyard in Romania.

The champagne bottle was broken over the bow by Mrs Pippa Maclaran, wife of the Irish Lights chairman. She named the new ship GRANUAILE, a traditional name in Irish Lights and the third ship to carry the name.

In Dublin Port on August 13th, the present active service vessel GRANUAILE, which is now 30 years old, had her name changed to GRANUAILE II so that the name could be transferred to the new vessel.

GRANUAILE was then towed from Romania to Holland. She arrived on 9th September at Harlingen in Holland where final fitting out of the vessel will be completed by Damen Shipyards.

GRANUAILE's Sea Trials are expected to commence on 2nd January 2000 and the Granuaile is expected to be handed over to Irish Lights on or about 28th January 2000.


The Herald has reported that a study by leading academic Neil Kay, Professor of Business Economics at Strathclyde University, claims that the forthcoming Government decision on the future of the troubled Gourock-Dunoon service
will be a defining moment for all ferry services on the Clyde and beyond. Professor Kay says that the loss of the Dunoon service:

"Would set in train a chain of events which would fundamentally and adversely affect the transport system in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. It really is that important."

In his study, commissioned by the Dunoon Observer, he argues that withdrawal of Caledonian MacBrayne's Gourock-Dunoon service, leaving Western Ferries with a monopoly of the service to Cowal, would have a major detrimental and social effect on dependent communities, especially Dunoon. It would also have an adverse effect on the Wemyss Bay-Rothesay run, which shares the three vessels providing the present Dunoon and Rothesay services.

In his opinion, there would be a strong possibility of Western Ferries pushing CalMac out of Bute as well as Cowal. Loss of the Dunoon run would adversely affect operating costs or frequency of service on the Rothesay run, creating an opportunity for Western Ferries to open up a cheaper Bute service via Hunter's Quay and Ardyne Point with a relatively short crossing to Port Bannatyne, on Bute. This could also wipe out CalMac's Colintraive service.

Professor Kay speculates that, with CalMac ousted from Cowal and Bute, Western Ferries would have the funds to expand further and could pick off any markets in the Highlands and Islands where it could break up an integrated transport system by introducing a short, low cost frequent service for drive-through car users.

In his view, the end result would be considerable private profit to Western; considerably increased public subsidy because CalMac would have to deal with the loss-making rump that the private operator was not interested in; significantly increased prices and reduced services to ferry users; considerable damage to the economic, social and regional development of the Highlands and Islands; and an end to any hope of creating an integrated transport system for the Highlands and Islands.

MSPs for the Highlands and Islands are alarmed by the report. It is understood that the Scottish Executive is poised to engage in a consultation exercise based on a consultant's study commissioned by the former Conservative Government and carried out in 1997. The Conservatives had explored ways of privatising CalMac, without success. There are major issues involved, not least the dilapidated state of Dunoon pier, which requires regular and considerable investment by Argyll and Bute Council after the winter storms. Professor Kay says:

"My personal opinion is that the report and its terms of reference should have been seen as reflecting the political agenda of the previous administration, and should have been treated as such by a new government committed to a policy of integrated public transport."

He argues that, if CalMac withdraws from the Dunoon run, it would not represent a stable outcome, but would trigger a new phase in a process of "side-door privatisation of ferry services in Scotland".

At present, Dunoon and Rothesay CalMac services share three ferries, known as streakers, plus a relief ferry, PIONEER, due to go out of service next year. The removal of the streakers on the Dunoon run, he claims, would mean that Wemyss Bay-Rothesay would have to bear all the operating costs of the vessels.

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

Due to technical problems with the conventional ferry berth at Stranraer, Stena have been forced to make some alterations to conventional ferry sailing times to allow for maintenance. It is anticipated that the required maintenance will take approximately 2 weeks. During this period ex Stranraer the 12.30 sailing will depart at 12.00 and the 22.10 at 21.30, ex Belfast the 17.45 departure becomes a 16.30 departure and the 02.20 is departing at 02.00. On 11 November the STENA GALLOWAY's 08.00 sailing from Belfast and 12.00 sailing from Stranraer were cancelled. There seemed to be little freight 'stranded' by the cancellation - obviously most being accommodated on the 07.40 STENA VOYAGER sailing to Stranraer. It is not clear of the reason for the STENA GALLOWAY's cancellations.


Submarines are infrequent visitors to Merseyside, so it was interesting to hear from Sara Cass that a submarine had been seen making its way up Crosby Channel on Friday Morning.

The boat berthed in Canada #1 Branch [North], the regular quay for visiting naval craft since Merchant Ferries took over Canada #3 Branch Dock late in 1998.

The vessel is S803 ZEELEEUW of the Royal Netherlands Navy. A member of the diesel-electric Walrus SSK class her are some of her vital statistics taken from JANES WARSHIP RECOGNITION GUIDE

Standard Displacement: 1,900 tonnes

Surfaced Displacement: 2,465 tonnes

Dived Displacement: 2,900 tonnes

Length: 67.7 metres

Beam: 8.4 metres

Draught: 7 metres

Surface Speed: 12 knots

Dived Speed: 20 knots

Range 10,000 miles at 9 knots using snorkel

Armament: SSM - McDonnell Douglas Sub-Harpoon

Torpedo Tubes: 4 533mm tubes firing Honeywell mk48 Model 4 and Honeywell NT 37 D torpedoes.


NUMAST is pressing for new employment opportunities for UK officers following Cenargo International's acquisition last month of Norse Irish Ferries.

Cenargo - which already owns Merchant Ferries and Belfast Ferries - was given the 'green light' for the deal when the Department of Trade and Industry said it would not refer it to the competition authorities. No price was given for the take-over, which involves a twice-daily passenger/freight ferry service between Liverpool and Belfast. NUMAST has spent several years trying to secure UK officer jobs on the two Italian-crewed chartered-in ferries running the service.

Cenargo says these vessels will be replaced in 2001 by two new Spanish-built ferries. Industrial Officer Stuart Barry commented: 'Now the deal has been agreed, we shall be increasing our push for UK officer employment and for greater opportunities to move about within the company's Irish Sea fleet.' Cenargo chairman Michael Hendry said the deal would ultimately result in rationalisation. 'Clearly it does not make sense to have three brands competing against each other', he added. 'We have already taken the decision to phase out the name Belfast Freight Ferries in favour of Merchant Ferries . . . and we may well operate all of our services under the combined name of
Norse Merchant at some time in the future.'


There will be a change of venue for WSS Merseyside Branch meetings as from the next meeting due to be held on 14th December.

All meetings will now be held at the James Parsons Lecture Theatre, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom Street, Liverpool 3 at 19.30. Car parking facilities are available on site. [This location is just a few yards from the Merseyside Museum in William Brown Street where meetings were held until early summer this year.]

There will be an admission charge of £1.00 per head for visitors and members alike to defray the cost of the room hire. However, unlike at the Royal Sun Alliance Building, used for the previous four meetings there is no need to inform the Hon. Secretary in advance if a visitor wishes to attend.



P&OSL PROVENCE arrived on the Mersey early on Tuesday evening, 9th November. She waited off Cammell Laird for the tide before entering dry dock shortly before midnight.

The drill ship PEREGRINE VII has been renamed. A few weeks ago it was suggested in M&ISS that she would be named DEEPSEA NAVIGATOR [Her name on arrival was DEEPSEA WORKER]. Apparently her new name is DEEPWATER NAVIGATOR. She may leave the yard for good on 21st November.

John Luxton

14 November 1999

Back Home Up Next

07 NOVEMBER 1999


Welcome to another week's News Bulletin which comprises just part of a major update to the site. Please ensure you check out the "What's New" section to  ensure you do not miss any of the numerous additions and updates. I have also  included an illustrated account of my trip to the Isles of Scilly, which is of course a location of great nautical interest. Next week I will also have an illustrated voyage report from a trip on board the Scillonian sailing vessel PETTIFOX. I had intended to have this ready as well for this update but there was just insufficient time.

Again I have received many contributions from readers, of particular interest is Adrian Sweeney's P&O Liverpool - Dublin - Liverpool voyage report and also material from Barto Arnold of the USA on an interesting John Laird built Liverpool - Rhyl steamer PS DENBIGH which went on to serve as a CSA blockade-runner. Don't forget to visit DENBIGH website, details can be found in this Bulletin. There are also contributions from Philip Parker {Manxman and B&I Jet Foil] along with new gallery pages from  myself featuring the PRIDE OF RATHLIN at Birkenhead and the Douglas lifeboat RNLB Sir William Hillary.

I am also grateful for the readers who spotted a couple of errors made in last week's bulletin, which have now been corrected. Sometimes, one works at such a  speed it isn't always possible to catch the odd glitch or piece of mis- information, especially that extracted from the mainstream press, who appear to have little appreciation of shipping matters!


Once again weather disrupted sailings amongst some of the changes on 5th and 6th November:

At Belfast the 07.00 to Heysham and 08.00 to Troon were cancelled and replaced by a 0800 sailing to Stranraer.

SEACAT SCOTLAND was seen at the lay-by berth at Belfast with work obviously taking place - suggesting that with her gone technical it made sense to send the SEACAT DANMARK to Stranraer.

SEACAT DANMARK arrived in Belfast around 11.45 and probably did a roundtrip to Stranraer being back on the berth when Gary Andrews passed by at 17.50 when She was noted being loaded to presumably operate her scheduled Troon roundtrip.

LADY OF MANN operated the 21.00 Liverpool to Douglas sailing on Friday 5th November, the 07.30 Douglas to Liverpool sailing on Saturday 6th November, before sailing again at 13.00 to Dublin with the delayed SUPERSEACAT THREE 11.00 sailing. The Lady also operated the return working from Dublin. After discharging she headed back to her berth at Alexandra Dock, Liverpool to
await her next spell of bad weather duty.

SUPERSEACAT THREE spent most of Saturday 6th November at Prince's Landing Stage, though with an improvement in weather conditions she was able to sail on the 21.00 to Douglas.

SUPERSEACAT THREE the ship is to be turned into a floating VIP lounge for Liverpool's Millennium night celebrations.

The ship will become an annexe the Cream celebration at the Pier Head, doubling as a back stage area for performers and special guests.

On the rear deck of the SuperSeaCat, it is expected that BBC Radio One will broadcast a live show, while events will also be filmed by Sky TV .

Celebrities will include Zoe Ball, Pete Tong, Fat Boy Slim, The Stereophonics and the Lightning Seeds.

SuperSeaCat communications manager Simon Dey said: "We are providing the main hospitality area along side the landing stage for what promises to be a star-studded event. One of the bars is being turned into  a special champagne bar just for the night. The radio people are keen to broadcast from the deck and we expect TV  cameras too."

"It will be the hottest ticket around"

SSC3 will be making a round trip to Dublin on 31st December. It will not be in use on New Year's day, with sailings recommencing on 2nd January.

DIAMANT was out of service from the Dover - Calais route between 1 and 3  November whilst the craft underwent maintenance work at Ostend. (Vans were seen  near the craft belonging to engineering companies Burgess and Ruston). ATLANTIC  II operated in place of the DIAMANT on the Dover - Calais route.

BELARD: Though it is almost two years since the former Isle of Man Steam Packet  vessel was sold, it is reported that she has now commenced a bareboat charter  to Bergen Trailer Line on their Stavanger - Bergen route. The vessel departed  on 18 October having been laid up in the Danishport of Sonderborg since June having previously operated between Aabenraa, Denmark and Klaipeda, Lithuania.


Hoverspeed is to pioneer ticket-less travel from 14 November on its cross-Channel services from Dover to Calais and Ostend, Folkestone to Boulogne and Newhaven to Dieppe. Hoverspeed is the first ferry operator in the UK to introduce ticket-less travel, which the operator claims will speed up check-in procedures.

From 14 November, Hoverspeed passengers booking direct with the operator by telephone will receive an invoice that will also act as their travel itinerary/confirmation document. Passengers booking with travel agents, or at the port on the day of travel, will be given a booking reference to quote at check-in.

At the same time, Hoverspeed is also introducing a new design of boarding card to meet new passenger registration requirements that come into force on 1 January 2000. This requires the name, address, and sex of all passengers to be recorded. Geoffrey Ede, Hoverspeed Managing director, said:

"From the passengers' perspective, ticket-less travel means less paperwork to worry about and faster check-in procedures. Together with recent investments in new check-in facilities at the International Hoverport in Dover, and the fastest crossing times on the Channel, Hoverspeed is set to enter the new Millennium well and truly in the fast lane."

ARGYLL & ANTRIM by Gary Andrews


On 2 November the Member of Parliament for Argyll and Bute (the constituency which includes Campbeltown), Mrs Ray Michie, outlined to the House of Commons the question mark hanging over the Campbeltown - Ballycastle route. The debate had to be held at Westminster, as ferry services are a reserved matter outside the remit of the Scottish Parliament.

Sea Containers are reviewing their involvement in the route causing much worry on both sides of the North Channel. Sea Containers believe that without some kind of state subsidy the service has no long-term future. The firm has held talks with the Scottish Executive and is expected to have talks with the Northern Ireland Office soon prior to making an announcement.

Scotland Office Minister Brian Wilson gave a personal commitment to do all he could to save the threatened ferry service between Campbeltown and Ballycastle. During the Commons debate, Mr Wilson told MPs that if the Scotland Office could play a part in finding a solution it would be more than willing to do so and added: "I offer a personal commitment to work towards the successful outcome that we all want."

Mr Wilson asserted that for the service to finish after receiving œ8 million of investment would not be sound finance, and that it needed to be considered that it was a niche service.

Liberal Democrat, Ray Michie, who secured the debate, argued that the service was vital and argued that the withdrawal of the service to two such economically fragile communities would be "indefensible". She suggested the Government should look at the possibility of Caledonian MacBrayne providing the service, should the Sea Containers pull out

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

STENA AWARDS: At the recent Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards Stena Line has been awarded the accolade of "Best Ferry/Shipping Company". This is the seventh time Stena has won the award in the eight years of the event, P&O European Ferries having won the award in 1996. Stena also picked up the award for the "Best Northern Ireland Marketing Initiative" for their Inbound Belfast day trips. The awards, mainly voted for by travel agents, are organised by travel newspaper Northern Ireland Travel and Leisure News which now has a website at

CALEDONIA PROBLEMS: The STENA CALEDONIA suffered technical problems this week.  On 3 November the vessel's 06.30 sailing ex Stranraer and 02.20 and 10.30 sailings ex Belfast were cancelled (there may have been other sailings cancelled on 2 November). The vessel was seen at Stena's Belfast lay-by berth at around 10.20 however she had sailed by around 14.00 suggesting that her 10.30 sailing operated delayed or light.


STENA LYNX III arrived at Alfred Lock, Birkenhead on Sunday 7th November and proceeded to a berth on the north side of the West Float, near to Wright and Beyer's Bidston Dry Dock. Fast craft sailings between Fishguard and Rosslare will resume on 28th November after the completion of the annual refit.


HEBRIDEAN PRINCESS - the small cruise ship arrived at Liverpool on Friday and berthed at the south berth on Prince's Landing Stage, which has been used this year by the LADY OF MANN and also SEACAT ISLE OF MAN. The HEBRIDEAN PRINCESS was formerly Cal-Macs COLUMBA. The vessel is currently en-route for her annual refit at Great Yarmouth, calling at Liverpool, Poole, Dover and London for travel agents visits. She had been scheduled to sail at 07.00 on 6th November, however, this was delayed until later in the morning due to the adverse weather conditions.


On Monday night 1st November, a Coastal Container Line vessel sailing from Liverpool to Dublin, lost four 30ft containers overboard. Whilst three containers are still missing, one container has washed up at Bradda Head, Port Erin, Isle of Man. The container has been breached and its contents washed up on beaches.

The contents are a consignment of Ambrosia Creamed Rice! The coastguard has advised the public that taking goods from the container was illegal and anything removed should be handed to the police. Similar warnings were issued on the Isles of Scilly when the container vessel CITA grounded and lost its entire load of containers. The diverse contents of CITA's containers where greatly appreciated by the Scillonians!

The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, proprietors of the Coastal Container Line said that the containers removal would be organised as soon as possible, though they were not aware of the number of cans were in the container of their value.


Two of this company's vessels have undertaken service on Irish Sea routes in 1998 and 1999. In 1998 LEMBITU operated under charter to P&O on the Dublin to Liverpool service whilst for a brief spell this autumn VARBOLA operated on Merchant Ferries Dublin to Heysham service.

The LEMBITU is now operating alongside another sister vessel LEHOLA, on a route between Marseilles and Tunis. The move to the Mediterranean of the LEMBITU follows the closure of the short-lived Southampton - Bayonne service that appears to have ended in Mid October. It is understood that at least one Southampton - Bayonne trip saw the LEMBITU sailing with a completely empty vehicle deck. Meanwhile the VARBOLA remains at Vlissingen awaiting charter


The JONATHAN SWIFT was observed by a correspondent in Crosby Channel at C12 buoy at 07.30 on Tuesday 2nd November. The vessel was enroute to Canada Dry Dock, Liverpool for maintenance by Wright and Beyers. JONATHAN SWIFT is expected to remain in Canada Dry Dock until sometime this coming week.

The JONATHAN SWIFT'S arrival on Merseyside has enabled me to obtain my first close up pictures of the vessel including the parts normally below the water! The pictures should be on line within the next couple of weeks.



P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) Limited is to move its twice-daily freight service between Ardrossan and Larne to the Port of Troon, following an agreement with the port's owner Associated British Ports (ABP). The move will see a return of freight services to Troon for the first time in 100 years and will help establish Troon as a major ferry port, the SeaCat Scotland high-speed service to Belfast having commenced earlier this year.

Operating out of Troon will make it possible for P&O to use larger vessels than the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER, EUROPEAN TRADER and EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR which are currently being used on the existing route, enabling it to meet the growing demands of the robust Irish economy. To accommodate the new service, scheduled to commence in January 2001, ABP will construct a œ4.5 million ro-ro terminal at the port's east pier. The quay will be resurfaced and a linkspan and bridge
for the ro-ro vessels will also be provided.

John Kersey, Managing Director of P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) Limited commented:

"P&O has operated a service between Ardrossan and Northern Ireland for over 30 years. Unfortunately, we have outgrown Ardrossan Port but are delighted to remain in Ayrshire with our new service to Larne operating from the Port of Troon."

Budha Majumdar, ABP Port Director, Short-Sea Ports said:

"This is tremendous news for Troon. The port's location on the west coast of Scotland combined with excellent transport links to the central belt of Scotland, make it ideally placed to serve Northern Ireland."

John Baillie, leader of the South Ayrshire Council added:

"We welcome this excellent news which should be a significant boost for the local economy. The Council looks forward to working in partnership not only with ABP, but also with local people, to make sure that the local infrastructure is developed to allow the Port of Troon to reach its full

The agreement between ABP and P&O European Ferries is subject to all the necessary consents being in place, and the terminal being ready for operation by 1 January 2001.

Douglas Morrison, port manager for Troon and Ayr, said:

"This is an exciting development for us and, I believe, for the economy of Ayrshire and Scotland. We have been working for some time to attract P&O to Troon and are pleased that the decision has now been confirmed. We will be working closely with South Ayrshire Council to ensure that the development works smoothly and that, once the terminal is fully operational by the beginning of 2001, there is minimum disruption to local people." The council will now press ahead with plans to provide a relief road to take traffic away from the congested centre of Troon, and there is confidence that the new road will be in operation in time for the freight sailings to begin.

The tonnage to be used on the new service has not yet been revealed and obviously at this stage any comments regarding the fine detail of the new route are speculative. However, with P&O's new Liverpool - Dublin ro-pax ferry due in service in December 2000 scheduled to release the EUROPEAN LEADER to the Fleetwood - Larne service, it would seem possible that the EUROPEAN SEAFARER or
EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR could be used on the new Troon - Larne service. Due to the higher speed of such tonnage over the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER it would seem one vessel could maintain two daily roundtrips on the route, ending the necessity of using a second vessel on the route.

The chance to win a Hyundai Atoz is just one of the attractions on offer for commercial vehicle drivers on the Irish Sea with P&O European Ferries' new look Drivers Club.

The Drivers Club operates as a loyalty scheme whereby every time a driver uses one of P&O European Ferries' 35 sailings a day between the UK and Northern and Southern Ireland, he or she is given stamps which can be exchanged for vouchers from a variety of high street stores.

On 1 November the current scheme was improved dramatically. There is a change of image with redesigned wallets, cards and stamps and the range of vouchers available has also been widened. Under the revised scheme drivers will now not only be able to choose from Argos and Marks and Spencer, but also Quinnsworth and High Street Vouchers, which can be redeemed at an even wider range of stores including Woolworth, H Samuel, Next, Sports Division, Olympus Sport, Index, Iceland, Mothercare, Bhs, Littlewoods and What everyone Wants.

P&O European Ferries is also going to make it easier for drivers to get extra stamps. In future, certain sailings will be designated as double stamp sailings. Details of these opportunities will be clearly posted in ports and onboard vessels well in advance. Inevitably such a scheme will act as an
incentive for drivers to use less popular sailings.

To coincide with the relaunch and the upcoming new Millennium celebrations, P&O European Ferries on the Irish Sea is introducing the Drivers Club Millennium Draw. From 1 November, every driver as well as earning his stamps will be given a ticket and entered into the Prize Draw. Then, at the end of each month from 30 November 1999 through to 31 December 2000, there will be a draw to win one of many prizes. These include a Sony Playstation, a holiday voucher for œ2000,
a microwave oven, Nicam video recorder, television, mountain bike and of course the aforementioned Hyundai Atoz.

All these changes and other improvements, such as the redeveloped freight customer magazine (Report), are highlighted as further proof of P&O European Ferries' commitment to its freight customers on the Irish Sea.

PRIDE OF RATHLIN JOB LOSSES: Maritime union, the RMT, has said that P&O European Ferries  are seeking 22 redundancies as a result of the PRIDE OF RATHLIN being replaced by the new ro-pax ferry currently being built in Japan for the Larne - Cairnryan route. The RMT is opposed to the redundancies they claim to include 2-engine room crew and 17 members of the catering crew. It has also been claimed by the RMT that P&O plan to bring in contract catering services (currently catering is only "managed" by contract catering services). The changes to crewing were reportedly revealed at a meeting between unions and P&O on 19 October. However, given the new ferry has been mentioned from it's construction was first announced as having a crew of 55 and the 'Rathlin has a crew of 80 it was inevitable there would be some job losses. A spokesman for P&O said that no deck ratings were involved and any redundancies would be in the onboard services department. P&O also said that transfers to other vessels might be possible.

NAVIGATOR STAND-IN: The EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR operated the morning sailing from Larne to Fleetwood on 31 October instead of the EUROPEAN PIONEER, the EUROPEAN PIONEER returning to her usual schedule the following day. It is not clear why this occurred - the EUROPEAN PIONEER may have simply been behind schedule because of the poor weather or it may have been due to tidal conditions or scheduled maintenance.


Gary Andrews writes that it is understood that prior to Cenargo International completing its take-over of Norse Irish Ferries last month they had to first obtain agreement from bond holders to allow use of funds generated from earlier ship sales to buy the company from the Grover Star Shipping Corporation. It is understood the Norse Irish Ferries brand name is being retained for the time being although in the not too distant future a combined name of Norse Merchant is likely for all Cenargo's Irish Sea services. However, it is believed that no attempt will be made to combine the separate Liverpool terminals for Merchant Ferries and Norse Irish until they move to the long awaited dedicated river berth in the Mersey, whenever that should occur.

BRAVE MERCHANT: On Friday evening the vessel was noted running rather late and was seen entering Langton Lock at around 19.30. Radio traffic early on Sunday morning between BRAVE MERCHANT and Mersey Radio revealed she was again running late. Mersey Radio was advised at 01.50 that she was running down at Langton with the 23.00 sailing to Dublin with a Dublin ETA of 09.30 she declared an engine defect and was running on three, rather than four engines.


Radio traffic on Sunday, revealed that Carmet's Tug Vanguard was outward bound from Vittoria Dock, heading for Bromborough, before she was due to head off to Drogheda. 


The latest vessel to be acquired by the company called at her homeport of RAMSEY on Friday 30th October. The BEN VARREY [Mermaid] arrived at Ramsey with a cargo of 900 tonnes of cement at the town's west quay.

Whilst at Ramsey the BEN VARREY [4] was officially named. The vessel joins the existing fleet of BEN ELLAN, BEN VANE and BEN MAYE. At 997grt she is the largest vessel owned by the company. BEN VARREY was originally constructed in 1986 for Beck's Shipping of Netherlands. She has an overall length of 63.7 metres, a beam of 11.6 metres and has a carrying capacity of 1,500 tonnes. She has a crew complement of six commanded by Captain Joe McCelland.

Given the vessel's size it is unlikely that she will be a regular caller at Ramsey, her main trade will be the conveyance of Blue Circle Cement from Merseyside to Belfast.


Work has commenced on establishing a public Millennium Garden to be located in the Tivoli Industrial and Dock Estate. The port authorities say that the development of the garden will protect the quality of the environment and encourage the public appreciation of the role of the Port of Cork in the economic life of the area.


Dublin Port plans for the reclamation of 50 acres of foreshore for the development of new port facilities has resulted in 400 objections being sent to the Department of the Marine.

Dublin Port requires the land on the north side of the port to provide for additional berthing facilities.

The majority of objections appear to have come from residents in the Clontarf area who have also gained support from the Green Party which claims to have collected 200 signatures against the proposals.

The Green Party has said that it was not against the expansion of the port and recognised the need to provide additional facilities, however, the plans needed radical revision because of the possible impact on traffic, loss of view for residents, substantial habitat loss and encroachment on leisure facilities.

A Department of the Marine spokesman said that the port company would be asked to respond to the issues raised. There is no indication when a decision will be taken on whether to grant a licence to the company to carry out the reclamation work.


The Naval Headquarters administration of the Irish Naval Service has been transferred to Haulbowline Island, Cobh.

Flag Officer Commanding INS Commodore John Kavanagh and his Headquarters Staff have transferred to Haulbowline from Defence Forces HQ in Dublin.

Though Haulbowline has always been the operational HQ of the Irish Naval Service, the administrative headquarters had, until the transfer, been located in Dublin.

HARLAND & WOLFF NEWS by Gary Andrews

Harland and Wolff and Global Marine appear to have come to an agreement regarding the completion of two œ200 million drillships.

As previously reported there has been a disagreement between the two parties that was threatening the future of the Belfast shipyard. Harland and Wolff was seeking compensation for a œ10 million overspend on building the vessels, which H&W argue is the result of additional work demanded by Global Marine. However, Global Marine claimed that they ordered no extra work and owe no more than the contract price saying that changes were the decision of Harland & Wolff. However, it now appears the matter will be resolved. Brynjulv Mugaas, Chief Executive of Harland & Wolff said last week:

"Our recent discussions with Global Marine have resulted in positive steps towards securing the funding needed to complete construction of the drillships in a timely manner."

Global Marine executive, Jon Marshall added:

"We will be working together to determine completion costs for the drillships and the amount of funding needed. We will then work together with Harland and Wolff and other interested parties on the development of suitable guarantees and funding that Global Marine will offer to Harland and Wolff to ensure completion of the vessels and contribute to the long-term viability of the shipyard."

There are various reports on what arrangement has been reached between the two parties with a suggestion that Global will pay wages, equipment etc to ensure the project is completed.

The news is seen as a reprieve as opposed to a long-term solution as the yard has nothing on its order books once current projects are completed.

Politicians, trade unions and local businesses have thrown their weight behind a campaign to secure the future of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, Belfast. Their "Save Our Yard" campaign aims to attract new orders from home and abroad and are particularly targeting the offshore marine industry where lucrative contracts are waiting to be snapped up.


P&OSL PROVENCE is expected to arrive at the yard this coming week. Her a delay in her arrival being caused by the delay in P&OSL AQUITANE taking up service as replacement for PROVENCE.

On Saturday 6th November SEAWAY CONDOR moved from the wet basin to dry dock ready for splitting.

John Luxton

07 November 1999


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

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

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