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MERSEY & IRISH SEA NEWS BULLETIN

DECEMBER 1999

31st DECEMBER 1999

NOTES & NEWS

Welcome to the last news bulletin of 1999. As is fitting for this time of year I have included a Review of the Year for 1999. However, it grew rather larger than I anticipated and is now a full article in its own right. It appears in the Maritime Features section and can also be accessed from the "What's New" page. I have tried to write it in a slightly more light-hearted manner as befits the time of year.

At present I am not certain if there will be a news update on Sunday 2nd January. That will depend on any available news stories. However, if there is an update it will be posted around 23.00 on Sunday.

You may have noticed that the live Maritime Forum and Maritime Queries interactive pages have reappeared. Front Page 2000 has made integrating these features into the main web much more straightforward. Please try out these interactive features. Access is from the contents bars etc.

On a further administrative note you may discover that the Voyage Reports for 1999 have been removed from the main site. They are now available on the Mersey and Irish Sea Archive site. This has been done to prepare for a new batch of reports, which will appear during 2000. Additionally readers should be aware that the 1999 News Bulletins would be removed from the main site on Sunday 9th January. Once again you will still be able to access them via the Archives and Back up Site http://www.cybase.co.uk/jhluxton

Finally may I take the opportunity of wishing all M&ISS readers a very Happy and Prosperous New Year?

SEA CONTAINERS

BEN-MY-CHREE - it appears that the BEN's refit has been delayed and that she is will operate throughout next week. On 8th January there will no day time round trip from Douglas to Heysham. On 8th January she will depart from Douglas at the new Saturday evening departure time of 20.00 which features throughout the new timetable.

It appears that the delay in dry-docking has been due to the lack of available dry docks on Merseyside. 

LADY OF MANN - The Lady will commence operation on the Liverpool to Douglas service in the coming week. She will run light from Liverpool to Douglas on Thursday evening to position for the Friday morning sailing.

MORE TRAINS TO HEYSHAM HARBOUR

Charlie Tennant writes that more passenger trains are to serve the Lancashire ferry port of Heysham. From next May, First North Western plans to run an extra train in and out of the port to connect with a new daily SeaCat sailing to Belfast.

The train operator had previously said that a service connecting with a 500 seat SeaCat would not be commercially worthwhile. But it reconsidered after Sea Containers announced the introduction of a SuperSeaCat on the Heysham to Belfast service.

MILLENNIUM BUG

Hopefully the much-hyped Millennium Bug will not have any affect on M&ISS or their computers. However, many ports were expected to close from the early evening on 31 December until at least 06.00 on 1 January as a safeguard against any Millennium related problems. Similarly most vessels will undergo extensive checks in the early hours of 1 January.

MERSEY INCIDENTS

Over the Christmas period two incidents were reported to have occurred on the River Mersey, which resulted in the emergency, services being called out: In the first incident A major air sea search was launched today after a man was reported to have leaped into the Mersey from a ferry at the Pier Head. A Liverpool inshore rescue service crewman saw the man, dressed in dark clothing, wandering around the landing stage at 3.30am.

The man raised the alarm and a four-hour search began. At the height of the operation Liverpool's inshore rescue team and New Brighton Lifeboat searched both sides of the river.

The Merseyside police helicopter, using its thermal imaging equipment, was joined by a search and rescue helicopter from RAF Valley.

However, no trace of the man has been reportedly found or any information concerning his identity.

Another incident in the early hours of Christmas morning was brought about as a result of storm force winds, which developed on Christmas Eve and did not subside until Christmas Day.

Both Hoylake and New Brighton Lifeboats were launched to come to the aid of a man who has been swept off a slipway at New Brighton promenade shortly before 01.00 after leaving a local nightclub. The man, Mr. Paul Stubbs from Cardiff was swept into the river. A friend dived into the River to assist Mr. Stubbs but was unable to reach him and had to be rescued by doormen from the nightclub.

Mr. Stubbs was found unconscious in the Mersey by lifeboat men from the New Brighton Lifeboat, assisted by the spotlights on the Merseyside Police Helicopter.

Conditions were reported to be so bad that the small New Brighton lifeboat, a rigid inflatable, could not return to its slipway but had to be brought ashore at the Egremont slipway further up river.

Mr. Stubbs and his friend were taken to Arrowe Park Hospital, unfortunately Mr. Stubbs who was suffering from severe hypothermia could not be revived and he was declared dead at 03.30. His friend was discharged from hospital later on Christmas Day.

 

DÚN LAOGHAIRE HARBOUR

The Irish Times reports that the development of a 680-berth marina facility at Dún Laoghaire Harbour is approaching its latest watershed following a delay to the commencement of construction work due to start at the beginning of last month.

Apparently a number of problems have threatened the project but local sources are optimistic that these have been resolved. The major cause for the delay is understood to have been the construction cost of the two breakwaters required to shelter the marina berths.

The first of the breakwaters, which extends west from the ferry car parking area was to have commenced by now with clearance of existing swing moorings to enable dredging work to be carried out. It had been hoped that this larger breakwater would have been completed in time for the 2000 season.

The second breakwater following during winter 2000/2001. The entire facility thus opens for business in spring 2001. During 1999, the contract for the management of the marina was awarded to Marina Marketing & Management, a company owned by yachtsmen John Bourke, Michael O'Leary and Tom Power. Following this, a tender process started to select the contractor for the breakwater construction.

Since the original estimates for the construction work were undertaken, there has been a substantial increase in costs and negotiations have been successful in bringing this to the point of signing. A second concern has been that of the foreshore licence to be issued by the

Department of the Marine to the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company. This company is a semi-state body recently created to manage the harbour. It reports directly to the Minister who also issues the licence. Apparently around 18 objections were registered with the Department last summer.

Conflicting reports suggest that the objections have either been satisfactorily accommodated or that conditions may be attached directly to the licence itself. Meanwhile, the Dun Laoghaire Combined Clubs (DLCC) grouping have rallied behind the Royal Irish Yacht Club, which is most directly affected by the development. The Minister for the Marine has been asked to allow a number of moorings to be retained directly in front of the club's slipway as all their existing swing moorings will be lost under current plans for the marina. During the autumn, fears were expressed for the future of small boats such that are unsuited to marina berths and have traditionally been moored just off the former Depot slipway. Following negotiations with harbour authorities, other clubs have been permitted to lay additional moorings in suitable areas.

Additional temporary facilities for larger keelboats will also be provided

during the construction phase. The entire project is now becoming extremely time-sensitive: further delays to construction may cause disruption to summer activities or push the schedule back. European Union funding is a pivotal element of the projects finances and deadlines for this support are also looming. JHL's COMMENT: I think I have made my opinion of Marinas located in attractive historic harbours quite clear in the past. From an aesthetic point of view they are as attractive as a seaside caravan site! Some locations are more suited to them than others. The Liverpool Marina is quite unobtrusive and makes good use of an otherwise abandoned south end dock. However, where the development is in an attractive harbour such as at Dún Laoghaire it is certainly to be regretted.]

STENA LINE

Stena Line's Belfast - Stranraer HSS STENA VOYAGER is due to be withdrawn for a 2-day refit on 5 and 6 January.

There are rumours circulating that the KONINGIN BEATRIX has been sold by Stena to Brittany Ferries for possible operation between Portsmouth and Caen.

FAIR FARES FOR A MILLENNIUM CRUISE by Gary Andrews

The extortionate prices for the now cancelled New Year cruise of the ROYAL DAFFODIL become apparent when the £200 charge is compared to TRIS's New Year cruise, seemingly in the ADMIRAL. The vessel left Genova on 27 December and returns on 3 January having gone from Genova to Napoli, Palermo, Valletta, Napoli (again) and Genova. The cheapest fare, in a 4-berth cabin with shower and toilet for seven nights, including three meals a day, was 1.1 million Lire - or £353.

DUBLIN PORT by Gary Andrews

RTÉ has reported that the Irish Minister for the Environment, Noel Dempsey, has approved the Dublin Port Tunnel. The tunnel project has been delayed for several years due to objections from residents in the North Dublin area. With almost two million trucks passing through the city every year, this project is expected to considerably alleviate Dublin traffic congestion. The tunnel will extend from the existing M1 Dublin-Belfast motorway at Coolock Lane in Santry. The three and a half-mile route will be mostly underground with a little over half a mile over ground. 

The tunnel will finish up at the East Wall Road beside Dublin Port. A tolling system will also be put into operation for private users. It will cost £3 at peak times and one pound during off peak periods, but private commuters will only have to pay travelling into the port, not from the port. Construction of the tunnel is due to begin at the end of 2000 and should take 3 and a half years to complete. It is estimated that the tunnel will cost £204 million.

ON-RIVER LINKSPANS - SOME NUMBER CRUCHING by John Shepherd

Here's a thought for the new millennium:

Without a Mersey river berth it takes upwards of one hour for, say, the DAWN MERCHANT to swing off the locks, enter the lock chamber, make fast, gates to close, water level to equalise, gates to open, let go, manoeuvre in dock system and make fast to berth. On sailing this process has to be reversed - another hour lost. Say, for argument's sake, this process happens on 300 days a year (allowance made for overhaul and days with single sails). That's 600 hours per year lost - absolute dead time - or 3.57 weeks per vessel in a year.

Multiply this by six : DAWN MERCHANT, BRAVE MERCHANT, MERSEY VIKING, LAGAN VIKING, EUROPEAN ENVOY and EUROPEAN LEADER and you have a massive 3,600 hours a year being lost through locking in and out at Liverpool - an aggregate total of 21.43 weeks or FIVE MONTHS a year.

And there's still no sign, or is there likely to be in my opinion, of any progress with river berths. I wonder just what this massive dead time equates to in terms of cash? It's not just a cost to the vessel herself, there's ropemen, boatmen and on occasions, tugs to be paid for.

Happy New Year - John S.

NATIONAL MARITIME COLLEGE FOR IRELAND

A 10-acre site which is worth IR£1m has been made available by the Department of Defence in Cork Harbour,. Located near the Ringaskiddy Ferryport, the site will provide a home for the new National Maritime College. expected that his will have been completed by the end of the month.

Recommended by the Task Force on Seafarer Training the new college will cater for both merchant marine and naval training.

Detailed proposals for the construction of the college with be finalised by an inter-departmental working group.

 

26 DECEMBER 1999

NOTES & NEWS

Apologies if anyone has had difficulty accessing the site in the early part of the week. There had been problems with the server. These have now been resolved and in addition M&ISS now has its own easy to remember web URL. The previous URL was hardly the easiest thing to remember. Please ensure you have read the second update dated 20 December which was not posted on the main site until 24. It can be found immediately below this news bulletin.

Please note that the new URL is http://www.merseyshipping.co.uk. Though there is currently a redirect on the old address, which takes you directly to the new address it is advisable to bookmark, the new one.

Once again there is quite a lot of news, despite it being the Christmas holiday period. Now we are on the run up to the New Year, it is a time when it is customary to review the year’s key events. I had hoped to do this for this update, but given the amount of material for the news alone I have decided to hold this over until later in the week. I will be making an additional update to the site on Friday 31st December around 15.00 hours or earlier which will contain the review of the year as well as any news to date.

Once again I have vented my feelings about the closing off of the Liverpool waterfront for the Millennium celebrations.

Also during the coming week you will notice changes being made to the M&ISS Archive site as well as the main site. Consequently there may be more than one or two maintenance updates.

Finally, whilst we enjoy ourselves over this extended holiday period, perhaps we should pause and spare a thought for those seafarers who have to work through the holiday period, be they carrying important cargoes or just getting passengers home to family and friends. Above all we should remember the gallant crews of our lifeboats, always ready to put to sea, whilst most other people are enjoying themselves. In this update you will read of nightlong rescue operation undertaken by the Kilmore and Rosslare Lifeboats in saving the crew and historic tug GOLDEN CROSS.

 

SEA CONTAINERS

During the past few days the prevailing poor weather conditions have had a noticeable effect on sailings. Some of the highlights include:

BEN-MY-CHREE made her pre Christmas voyage to Dublin on Tuesday 21st December. She sailed from Douglas with 250 passengers. Instead of berthing at berth 44, used by Sea Containers since June, she went to the main Dublin passenger terminal at berth 49. She is reported to have been turned round in 28 minutes, and departed with 48 passengers. Her next trip to Dublin will be on Tuesday 28th December.

On Thursday 23rd December the BEN-MY-CHREE crossed to Heysham, though the 14.15 sailing from Heysham and the 19.45 sailing from Douglas were cancelled.

LADY OF MANN – Operated 21.00 to Douglas on 20th, 21st and 23rd December and the 07.30 Douglas to Liverpool on 21st 22nd and 24th December. On 23rd December the 21.00 sailing was delayed for at least two hours according to transmissions to Mersey Radio.

On 24th December the LADY was noted arriving at Liverpool around 11.15. She berthed on the north berth whilst SUPERSEACAT THREE cruised the river. After a short spell on the stage, she departed for Langton Lock and her berth in Alexandra Dock.

On evening of 22nd the LADY OF MANN cancelled the 21.00 sailing for Douglas.

SUPERSEACAT THREE had several cancellations this week: on the Douglas – Liverpool route sailings were covered by the LADY OF MANN. However, no sailings operated to Dublin on 24thand 26th December.

SEACAT SCOTLAND obviously wasn't running to schedule on Christmas Eve when she was seen at the Belfast berth at 13.05 when she should have been en route from Troon. It appears she has spent Christmas at Stranraer with the SEACAT DANMARK occupying the Belfast berth.

HOVERSPEED LAUNCH DOVER 1ST LOUNGE by Gary Andrews

Premium-paying passengers crossing the Channel on Hoverspeed’s fast car ferry services to both Calais and Ostend can now relax in their very own airport-style executive lounge at Dover's International Hoverport.

The opening of the stylish new lounge is part of a major upgrade of Hoverspeed’s premium travel offer, which also includes fast-track check-in, priority loading, at-seat cabin service, and complimentary newspapers and refreshments (including meals on services to Ostend and Dieppe). The next phase of development sees the refurbishment of the firm’s hovercraft in January with a redesigned ‘1st’ class cabin.

Geoffrey Ede, Hoverspeed managing director, said: "Hoverspeed is the first ferry operator to offer pre-departure lounges for premium passengers, bringing a whole new dimension to cross-Channel travel. As well as the fastest Channel crossings, Hoverspeed passengers can now enjoy the most stylish way to travel to the near Continent."

‘1st' class upgrades cost £7.50 per person, per crossing on services from Dover to Calais and Folkestone to Boulogne; £15 from Dover to Ostend; and £20 from Newhaven to Dieppe.

HOVERSPEED – A YEAR IN REVIEW by GARY ANDREWS

This year was a year of much achievement for Hoverspeed. As a result the company has decided to document their year with the following review. (For the record, the bulk of this is taken directly from a press release from Hoverspeed – I felt it would provide a useful summary of Hoverspeed’s activities for the past year).

1999 got off to a flying start for Hoverspeed on 15 January, when the company announced that it was to take over the Newhaven - Dieppe service following the withdrawal of P&O Stena Line. The SUPERSEACAT TWO, which commenced services on 23 April, revived the fortunes of the cross-Channel service, carrying over 300,000 passengers and 70,000 vehicles.

Also in January, Hoverspeed celebrated another milestone as its Dover - Ostend service carried its one-millionth passenger, two months before the service celebrated its first anniversary. Later in the year Hoverspeed took full control of the Ostend route having purchased Holyman’s share in the service.

In March, Hoverspeed’s DIAMANT made a courtesy visit to the Pool of London, transiting both Tower Bridge and the Thames Flood Barrier. Onboard, Hoverspeed’s managing director, Geoffrey Ede, unveiled the company’s new corporate identity to guests from the travel trade and media.

In May, Hoverspeed hosted the cross-Channel leg of the Gumball Rally 3000. Recreating the classic Cannonball Run films of the 1970s, the participants included Jason Priestly, Danni Minogue, and Chris Eubank. Also in May, Hoverspeed became the first cross-Channel operator to receive the coveted Investors in People award, whilst the hovercraft, THE PRINCESS ANNE, returned to service for her thirtieth season on the Channel.

On 3 June, Hoverspeed paid tribute to the hovercraft’s inventor, Sir Christopher Cockerell, who died at the age of 88. Flags were flown at half-mast at the hoverports in both Dover and Calais.

30 June saw the end of duty-free within the European Union. The day itself was a frenzy as thousands of cross-Channel shoppers took the last chance to stock up. Hoverspeed had to close it shops several times during the day to re-stock. Despite abolition, prices were frozen at duty-free levels, whilst shoppers can now buy as much as they want providing its for their own personal use. Hoverspeed continued to expand its Continental retail operation throughout the year with the opening of new stores in Ostend, Dieppe and Boulogne. Later research indicated that 56% of travellers still cited "shopping" as the main reason for their journey to the Continent.

Hoverspeed was breaking records in July when the SUPERSEACAT TWO made the fastest ever crossing from Newhaven to Dieppe, taking just 1 hour and 40 minutes. Also during July, Hoverspeed staff at Newhaven helped solve a feline mystery when a random security search discovered a cat under the bonnet of a car.

Hoverspeed’s Newhaven to Dieppe service also proved popular on 11 August as passengers flocked to France to view the total Eclipse. Also during August, Hoverspeed announced that the service – originally intended for the summer season only – would continue through to the end of the year.

The end of year saw the action continue, with Hoverspeed pioneering ticket-less cross-Channel travel in November and the December opening of Hoverspeed’s first airport-style executive lounge, part of a major upgrade of ‘1st’ class cross-Channel travel for the new Millennium.

HOVERSPEED APEX DEALS:

Hoverspeed are offering excellent prices with their Apex early booking offer for passengers booking and paying before 7 January. Apex fares are valid for travel throughout 2000, and can offer savings of as much as £211 on a standard return fare during peak periods. An APEX 5-day return (car + 9 passengers) costs; Folkestone to Boulogne - from £75; Dover to Calais - from £79; Dover to Ostend - from £79 and Newhaven to Dieppe - from £89. An APEX standard return (car + 9) passengers costs; Folkestone to Boulogne - from £109; Dover to Calais - from £119; Dover to Ostend - from £119 and Newhaven to Dieppe - from £139. To book, contact Hoverspeed on 08705 240241.

 

SEA CONTAINERS EXPECT DISAPPOINTING FOURTH QUARTER by Gary Andrews

James Sherwood, President of Sea Containers, has said that group results for the fourth quarter of 1999 were looking weaker than earlier forecast. He said that the enormous unexpected rise in fuel costs will cost the company’s passenger transport division $3 million more than forecast for the fourth quarter of the year and it had been impossible to adjust tariffs in time to compensate, although tariffs will be increased in 2000. He added that the UK has been subjected to a "conveyor belt" of storms in the quarter. Ferries were unable to operate and the overhead electric wires of GNER were repeatedly brought down, paralysing the network. Finally, Hurricane Lenny has forced the closure of the La Samanna resort for the holiday season, the main earnings period of the year. The resort will reopen in February 2000. Mr. Sherwood indicated that the impact of these events would mean that while net income for 1999 should still be ahead of 1998, it is now unlikely the mid year earnings forecast of a 20% increase over 1998 will be achieved.

Mr. Sherwood said that while this setback was disappointing, the fundamentals of the business hadn’t changed. GE SeaCo, the company’s joint venture with GE Capital, has taken delivery of more than $100 million of new containers this year and lease rates are finally rising, as is utilisation. In 2000 the ferry industry should have adjusted for loss of duty free and higher fuel prices. Forward bookings for the company’s leisure properties are strong and properties purchased in 1999 should stimulate 2000 and later year earnings.

Meanwhile Sea Containers has signed an agreement with Nara Corporation of Yokohama, Japan to acquire the 100 room Observatory Hotel in Sydney and the 86 room Lilianfels Hotel in the Blue Mountains 60 miles west of Sydney, Australia. The combined purchase price is approximately A$65 million (US$40 million). The Observatory was built in 1993 and Lilianfels in 1992. Orient-Express Hotels has managed the Observatory since its opening. Completion of the sale will take place in January 2000, placing Sea Containers in an excellent position for the 2000 Olympics to be held in Sydney. Upon completion of this transaction Orient-Express will own and/or operate 35 properties. Four are in the South Pacific, five in Southern Africa, two in Southeast Asia, four in South America, six in North America, eleven in Europe and three in the United Kingdom.

SEA CONTAINERS CONFIRM INTENTIONS FOR GOTHENBURG by Gary Andrews

SUPERSEACAT ONE made its final crossing between Gothenburg, Sweden, and Frederikshavn, Denmark, for the last time on 23 December.

From 30 March 2000 the 74-metre catamaran SEACAT DANMARK, currently operating on Sea Containers’ Heysham - Belfast service, will operate the service together with the service between Gothenburg and Langesund, Norway under the new name Silja Line SeaCat.

The change of name is part of a co-operation between Silja Line and SeaCat as a result of Sea Containers’ 50% acquisition of Silja Line’s parent company Neptun Maritime, in the spring of 1999.

Silja Line SeaCat and Silja Line will co-ordinate, and thereby strengthen their marketing, sales and purchasing departments. Silja Line SeaCat will be able to benefit from the strength of Silja Line’s field sales staff in Sweden. Silja Line’s Frequent Flyer deal will also become available on Silja Line SeaCat, and connecting bus services are also planned to Gothenburg.

Silja Line is the largest ferry company in the Baltic region and operates the routes Stockholm – Helsinki/Åbo via Åland as well as Umeå – Vasa and Helsinki – Tallin/Rostock. The company carried 5.8 million passengers and 123,000 freight units in 1998. The market share for the transport of passengers between the Finnish and Swedish mainland was 61%. Silja Line SeaCat will transport about 500,000 passengers and 115,000 cars during 1999, a market share of 16 and 20 per cent respectively.

 

RNLI – DÚN LAOGHAIRE LIFEBOAT

The crew of Dún Laoghaire Lifeboat kept with tradition on Christmas Eve when they put to sea in remembrance of past crewmembers who have given their lives so that others may be saved.

The loss in 1895 of the Dún Laoghaire Lifeboat and her crew of 15 local men is commemorated by the crew of the present Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat each Christmas Eve during a brief service in Dublin Bay. A wreath will be laid at the spot where the lifeboat CIVIL SERVICE NO. 7 was lost on Christmas Eve, 1895 while attempting to rescue the crew of the barque PALME. The lifeboat, rowed out by her crew into appalling conditions, was almost alongside the stricken ship when heavy seas overwhelmed her. There were no survivors. Ironically, the entire crew of the PALME were rescued on St Stephen’s Day.

Also remembered will be all seafarers lost around our coastline. Today’s lifeboats are a far cry from those of yesteryear. Dun Laoghaire’s usual boat, ANNA LIVIA, is a state-of-the-art Trent Class lifeboat with a top speed of 25 knots and a range of 250 nautical miles. The station also boasts a D-Class inshore lifeboat for work in and around the shoreline.

MD&HC RIVER TERMINALS – READING BETWEEN THE LINES

This week the Liverpool Daily Post carried a report concerning the infilling of the disused Waterloo Dock. Liverpool City Council has ordered Mersey Docks and Harbour Company to carry out remedial work to tidy up the site and remove debris from the dock. The council claims that the MD&HC was in breech of planning permission having originally being were granted permission to full in West Waterloo Dock, no longer used for operational purposes, on the condition that they left an average of 2 metres of water in the dock.

Needless to say the residents of the nearby Waterloo Warehouse apartments complained! However, what is of particular interest is the response of the MD&HC. To quote the newspaper: "The council dismissed claims by the MD&HC that the site should be left as it is until a decision is made regarding the relocation of the Isle of Man Ferry Terminal at the Pier Head. The council stated in the report "Whilst a decision on the final location of the Ferry Terminal cannot be prejudged, your officers do not consider that this is a reason for leaving the unsatisfactory situation at the West Waterloo Dock unresolved."

[JHL’s COMMENT: Of course this report is quite interesting as it suggests that options are probably being kept open for an alternative location for a Sea Containers terminal should the revised plans for the Pier Head terminal run into further difficulties.

Some time ago, there had been some speculation that the SeaCo terminal could relocate to the north end of Prince’s Parade, around the site of the in filled Waterloo River Entrance and the now demolished HMS EAGLET complex. Of course plans to locate one of the on-river linkspans on nearby land adjacent to the former B&I Line terminal were frustrated by residents of the Waterloo Apartments. However, one wonders if the company feels it might be able to develop a passenger only terminal in the area? This would leave the existing landing stage as a calling point for cruise ships. A facility, the MD&HC are keen to provide, obviating the need for most cruise ship passengers to be tendered ashore.

Recent comments from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool regarding extension of the Landing Stage at the time of the CARONIA naming ceremony could also tie into such an option. If anything what appeared to be a fairly mundane report on filling in a redundant dock has only added to the speculation concerning the future location of terminals!]

 

PIER HEAD – WHAT A MILLENNIUM SHAME!

Just over 10 years ago the world was relieved to hear that the "Iron Curtain" had collapsed and the division of Germany and Berlin had come to an end. Well now 10 years on you can see  to a partitioned city in Liverpool this winter!

On Christmas morning, I took a pre lunch drive around the docks and waterfront on both sides of the river and was totally appalled at what I saw. It appeared even worse than when I had viewed the area during a working day some days earlier. Basically the whole Pier Head area is cordoned off by massive fences around 10 feet in height. In most parts these fences are solid and form an impenetrable wall which commences opposite the Sea Terminal [and encloses the Monument to the Heroes of The Marine Engine Room]. The fencing continues to the Liver Buildings, seal the roads between the Liver Buildings and Cunard Building and between the Cunard Building the MD&HC Building before being continued as open mesh fencing round into Mann Island.

This fencing is to protect a massive covered temporary arena which extends from the Maritime Museum Car Park gates northwards to almost reach the floating roadway cut.

What is worse all the parking bays near the Pier Head are out of use including the one’s near the Sea Containers Terminal. [Any ship enthusiasts planning bank holiday trips and who are aware of the all day free parking on Bank Holidays at this location should bear this in mind!]

I wandered down to the Pier Head again on Boxing Day morning just to take another look at this monstrosity that has been dumped on our waterfront. This temporary construction has blighted the waterfront for several weeks now along with its associated fortifications.

Why wasn’t the arena constructed on the vast open wastes of the King’s Dock site adjacent to the Albert Dock? – A site which the council has been considering this week as an ideal location for a future public arena.

Why should the ordinary people of Liverpool, who have no interest in the Cream Millennium Concert be deprived access to a public open space just for the sake of several thousand Millennium Concert goers who could have been catered for adequately elsewhere?

Why didn’t the Millennium Walk Committee try and stop this event being held at the Pier Head? The committee were so vociferous and determined in getting the MD&HC/Sea Containers Sea Terminal scheme stopped, yet I have not seen a comment from this group in the local press about the present situation at the Pier Head. This is odd as the "Memorial" is now enclosed within the compound. The Sea Terminal would have been a benefit to Liverpool and from published artists impressions certainly would not have been an eyesore! This arena construction blights the waterfront even though it is on a temporary basis, and deprives access to a popular area of Liverpool during the extended holiday period, which is nothing short of a disgrace.

Finally, as part of the Millennium Celebrations readers might be interested to know that the Strand and other roads between the Albert Dock and the Royal Sun Alliance building will be closed to traffic between 28th December and 2nd January. Thus any enthusiasts planning a wander round the docks over the next few days – be warned.

I am no killjoy and do not begrudge organised celebrations, what I do question is the choice of location when better-suited alternatives are available. 

 

CHRISTMAS FERRY TRAVEL DISRUPTION by Gary Andrews

In what is becoming as normal a tradition as sub-standard seasonal television, Christmas ferry travellers have faced serious disruption this week.

As with other recent spells of poor weather there have simply been too many delayed and cancelled sailings to report and so I have simply decided to provide a few general descriptions and several notable changes.

High-speed services on the Irish Sea were cancelled on the night of 20 December and the early part of 21 December. The poor weather also led to delays on conventional services on 21 December.

Very severe weather on 23 December again saw all fast ferry sailings cancelled on the Irish Sea, with many English Channel services and conventional services also subject to delays or cancellation. Similar weather has been predicted for 24 December, raising concerns that some services may have to operate on Christmas Day to get passengers to their destinations.

The uncertain conditions of 22 December saw Stena Line cancel a children’s’ fun day aboard the Belfast – Stranraer HSS STENA VOYAGER (obviously luck was in for ordinary passengers on that occasion – G. Andrews!) Similarly on 23 December Stena cancelled all day trips on the Belfast – Stranraer route.

P&O showed remarkable foresight during the calmer weather of the night of 22/23 December. The JETLINER operated two additional Larne – Cairnryan trips – passengers due to travel on 23 December were re-booked onto these sailings to ensure they were able to get travelling. The sense of the move was shown when JETLINER sailings on 23 December were cancelled.

The LADY OF MANN was again brought out to keep Sea Containers’ services running. It appears she was mainly used on the Liverpool – Douglas route on this occasion.

On the evening of 22 December, accumulated delays were such that Police warned motorists to avoid Holyhead unless they were travelling. A tailback of traffic stretched for five miles along the A5.

The 13.30 CONDOR EXPRESS sailing from Weymouth – Channel Islands was cancelled on 22 December and replaced with a 06.30 sailing on 23 December.

GARY ANDREWS’ COMMENT: There seems some unfortunate irony that almost every Christmas seems to bring with it stormy weather given it is one of the busiest times for ferry operators, especially on the North Channel. For several years I went for a roundtrip on the STENA GALLOWAY on the Larne – Stranraer route on Christmas Eve – checking back on my notes every year my sailings ran late due to windy conditions!

PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY

PRIDE OF RATHLIN is currently in Belfast undergoing repairs after coming into contact with a mooring dolphin at Larne. This occurred during the high winds of Friday morning. She will be out of service for a few days for repairs. At the time of the incident she was laden with passengers and freight.

The incident occurred when the PRIDE OF RATHLIN was arriving at Larne from Cairnryan on the morning of Christmas Eve. She was caught by a freak gust of wind and onto a mooring dolphin

The PRIDE sustained some damage above the waterline but aided by a tug was able to berth safely with no injuries to anyone aboard. With temporary repairs carried out she was sent to Harland and Wolff for immediate dry-docking and

was observed by a correspondent at the yard at lunchtime on 26 December. Repairs are expected to take five days (whether this includes Christmas or not remains to be seen).

How this will affect sailings remains to be seen - on 24 December JETLINER sailings were cancelled and presumably besides the small amount of traffic carried on the freight ships most traffic was likely diverted to Stena.

Christmas at Larne saw the JETLINER, EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR (in place of the PRIDE OF RATHLIN), EUROPEAN PIONEER and EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR. It is understood the EUROPEAN TRADER had been due to spend Christmas at Ardrossan but in light of events it may have been kept at Cairnryan.

EUROPEAN PATHFINDER arrived at Cammell Laird on the evening tide of 20th December.

EUROPEAN SEAFARER is currently in Wright and Beyer’s Bidston Dry Dock.

EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER arrived at Birkenhead for lay-up in the West Float on Christmas Eve; she was accompanied by Cenargo’s MERCHANT VENTURE, which has been on charter to P&O.

NEW NAME FOR P&OEF (IRISH SEA)? by Gary Andrews

The Advance Edition of P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea)’s 2000 Larne – Cairnryan, Dublin – Liverpool and Rosslare – Cherbourg brochure carries the title "P&O Irish Sea" suggesting that it is highly likely that the operator may be about to change it’s trading name from "P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea)" to simply "P&O Irish Sea".

Such a move would bring the operation into line with other P&O ferry subsidiaries such as P&O Portsmouth which dropped the marketing name "P&O European Ferries" at the start of 1999. The re-branding would also be welcome in creating a more reflective title for the services operated by the company, especially in view of the expanded passenger services planned over the next few years.

The new brochure reveals that there will be no JETLINER sailings 6 January to 29 February 2000, leaving the PRIDE OF RATHLIN to cope alone during this period. With anticipation that the JETLINER’s four-year charter will not be re-newed in June, it means the craft could have only a very short period of service remaining on the route.

Whilst the Advance brochure is simply to allow passengers to forward plan holidays it appears that at this stage sailings will be little altered despite the arrival of new tonnage in summer. One would expect later editions of the brochure to give a better indication of any changes and to carry a detailed description of the Larne – Cairnryan route’s new ro-pax ferry.

However, unlike the recent brochure from Sea Containers for their Irish Sea routes, the brochure does give a full price list. (It is felt by this writer that Sea Containers have made a serious error of judgement by expecting passengers to telephone for prices.) One notable feature of the price list is that the Apex fare offers have now been made permanent, something that will no doubt prove popular with passengers.

Value route services on the Fleetwood – Larne, Liverpool – Dublin and Rosslare – Cherbourg routes appear almost identical to those offered in 1999, with exceptional value once again being a feature. Making these services even more attractive is the addition of "special offers" on all three routes such as a five-day single on the Fleetwood service at £99 for a car, driver and passenger Tuesday – Thursday anytime except June, July and August. Friday to Monday the same fare is £129.


P&O CADETS by Gary Andrews

P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) Limited has welcomed its first deck officer cadet into the ranks. Raymond Patterson, from Peterhead in Scotland, was sponsored through the trust operated by one of me largest seafarer recruitment and training agencies in the UK, Clyde Marine Training Ltd.

In September of this year, Raymond started his Nautical Studies course at Glasgow College. The course incorporates sea phases, the first of which began in early December aboard the EUROPEAN ENVOY. On the completion or his course, the young cadet will have gained an HND in Nautical Science and his first certificate of Competency as Officer of the Watch, allowing him to sail as a junior officer on board any vessel world wide.

This is just the first step towards achieving his Class I Certificate of Competence as a Master Mariner and command of a vessel. As part of the P&O Group P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) Ltd has an active policy of encouraging entry into the UK maritime industry.

 

STENA LINE

MILK TRIP by Gary Andrews

It is understood that one of Stena Line’s Belfast – Stranraer vessels has been chartered to operate a "milk run" on Christmas Day. It is not clear whether it is the STENA GALLOWAY or STENA CALEDONIA that is involved in working on 25 December.

FARE INCREASES

It is reported that Stena hope to see significant increases in passenger rates on their Belfast – Stranraer route in 2000. Stena are understood to still be making heavy losses on their STENA VOYAGER HSS service.

STENA CHRISTMAS LAY-UPS

STENA VOYAGER and STENA GALLOWAY spent Christmas at Belfast with the STENA CALEDONIA at Stranraer. The STENA CALEDONIA was understood to be operating a sailing at 14.45 ex Stranraer and 19.45 ex Belfast on 26th December.



CENARGO GROUP IRISH SEA FERRIES

It appears that the MERCHANT VENTURE is due to come off charter to P&O European Ferries on 24 December. She was seen entering the Birkenhead Dock system in the early afternoon of 24th December in company with P&O’s EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER presumably for Christmas lay-up. The MERCHANT VENTURE berthed close to the Duke Street Bridge in West Float, at the same berth she occupied before going on charter to P&O.

Gary Andrews writes that it is not clear how MERCHANT will be replaced at Larne. With the MERLE imminently due to be returned to Dart Line at the time of going to press (if she hasn’t already been) it may be possible that the MERCHANT VENTURE will see service on the Heysham – Dublin route. Meanwhile it appears Merchant Ferries have no plans to use the VARBOLA in the foreseeable future. The Estonian Shipping Company Website still states that the vessel is chartered for the Heysham – Dublin route and that the vessel remains at anchor off Heysham.

NORSE IRISH TERMINAL

It appear that the ‘B&I gangway’ at Norse Irish Ferries’ Liverpool terminal has not been completely demolished, just made safe. It seems that the internal telescopic section and some panelling have been removed. Reports suggest that a dented MERSEY VIKING may be responsible for the damage to the disused gangway.

WAVERLEY STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY

A proposed premium fare Millennium Cruise to be operated by the BALMORAL is reported by the CCA journal to have been cancelled. Last week it was reported that Mersey Ferries had also cancelled a premium fare Millennium Cruise due to lack of interest.

Stuart Cameron writes that P.S. WAVERLEY arrived at Great Yarmouth on 21stDecember to commence her major refit at the George Prior shipyard. She had left Avonmouth on Sunday 19th but only reached Ilfracombe before encountering significant swell. Captain Graham Gellatly decided to shelter at Swansea for some time before a lull in the almost continuous gales allowed the sea to calm sufficiently to enable WAVERLEY safe passage round Lands End.

She called at Southampton (QE2 berth) for bunkers before proceeding to Great Yarmouth where the yard is occupied this year by two Glasgow registered ships WAVERLEY and HEBRIDEAN PRINCESS. It is believed that Prior have already ordered the necessary steel to complete the work and the two new boilers have recently completed their pressure test at their manufacturer's - Cochran Boilers at Annan, Scotland

Of the five tender bids received for WAVERLEY's 'rebuild' there were two clear contenders - Prior and the other on the Clyde - but Prior won through on the basis of good reports on quality of work from prominent customers and the fact that most of the work is being done 'in-house'. This outweighed a preference to do the work on the Clyde thus preserving the vessel's heritage as the last in a very long line of Clyde built paddle steamers.

DRAMATIC NIGHT-LONG RESCUE OF HISTORIC TUG

Brian Chamber’s Rosslare Europort website mail list http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Set/2982 reported on the rescue of the historic tug GOLDEN GROSS and her crew off Rosslare on 20th December. The photographs below show the Cunard sponsored GOLDEN CROSS at PENZANCE on 29th October in the much calmer water’s of Penzance Dock, Cornwall. 

The GOLDEN CROSS is famous for handling the famous Cunard "Queens" and is often to be seen visiting ports around Britain and Ireland.

Rosslare Harbour Life Boat and the Kilmore Life Boat were in a all night long rescue operation off the South Coast, very brave men in both Life Boats had to contend 30ft waves and gale force 10 winds. The two lifeboats were called out at 22.30hrs to a stricken 90ft. Tug, the "GOLDEN CROSS", the tug got into difficulty about 12 miles off Tuskar Rock, on the South East Coast.

At about 22.30hrs the "GOLDEN CROSS", which was on passage to Liverpool, sent out a Mayday signal, which was picked up by the Rosslare R.N.L.I. Station, the life was launched immediately, and was joined also by the Irish Marine Emergency Service 116 Sikorsky rescue Helicopter from Dublin.

Other vessels involved in the rescue were the MIRACULOUS BAY, and Fishing Trawlers the COMMODITY, and the KATHLEEN KAY and the Irish Ferries, ISLE OF INNISFREE. The "ISLE OF INNISFREE" was on passage from Rosslare Europort to Pembroke Docks when it went to the rescue.

The "GOLDEN CROSS" lost her power after her engines stopped completely, the tug started to drift towards the land. On board the Tug were four men, a woman and a dog. After the 12 hour rescue, the tug was towed back to Rosslare Europort, and berthed at about 10.00hrs at the fisherman wall, on Tuesday morning, the crew on the Tug Boat observed a large rope was lodged in a propeller, which may have caused the engines to stop.

R.N.L.I Honorary Secretary with Rosslare Harbour Life Boat, Buddy Millar, who had been monitoring the rescue from the Life Boat Station said they were the worst conditions the Life Boat crew had encountered in the past 10 years. So bad were the conditions that the Irish Marine Emergency Service 116 Sikorsky rescue Helicopter from Dublin, could not get any of the people off the Tug. It was also too dangerous for the Life Boat to go alongside the vessel to take off the crew, as it was rolling violently because the tug had lost all of its power.

From over head the Helicopter monitored the situation, and made several attempts to get a line attach to the vessel, the Rosslare Harbour Lifeboat did secure a line, but because the seas were so bad it was forced to let it go.

The Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre at Irish Marine Emergency Service Headquarters in Dublin co-ordinated the rescue mission and remained in constant radio contact with the crew of the Tug Boat all night.
The Irish Ferries passenger ship the "ISLE OF INNISFREE" acted as On-Scene Commander, but because the seas conditions were so bad it couldn’t turn back to Rosslare Europort, the vessel sailed on to Pembroke Dock. The 30,000 tonne tanker the "MIRACULOUS BAY" then took over and also tried to turn back against the large waves, but had to abort after it got slightly damaged, after that, the large tanker sailed away from the Wexford south coast line.

The Lifeboat from Kilmore was also called in to assist in the rescue operation. At about 03.00hrs the Kilmore Lifeboat managed to secure a tow-line to the tug boat, the conditions did remain slightly stormy. Later in the morning the tug boat was towed back safety into Rosslare Europort, soon after that, the crew of the "GOLDEN CROSS" were treated to a big breakfast, in a local Hotel, courtesy of Devereux Hotel.



BRIAR STAR LTD

Strintzis Lines has confirmed that the SUPERFERRY has been chartered to Swansea – Cork Ferries for a further year. The service will resume in March 2000.

CAMMELL LAIRD

ISLE OF MULL departed on Thursday 23rd December. She had completed compass adjustments by 10.55 and put to sea. P&OSL PROVENCE remains in the yard, its lifeboats having been reattached some days ago.

Work is reported to have started on a new covered dock capable of building 40,000-tonne ships at Cammell Laird on Tyneside.

CHANGING FACE OF CLYDE SHIPPING by Stuart Cameron

Many units of the Caledonian MacBrayne fleet are also leaving Scottish waters for refit work in the Tyne and Mersey. This seems to be due to the fact that the value of the work requires it to go to competitive tender under EC rules. There is growing concern on the Clyde about the future of the local ship repair facilities in the current climate and on a more speculative note the availability of local dry-docking in unforeseen / emergency situations such as occurs from time to time.

On the shipbuilding front there is more activity on the Clyde in the four remaining shipbuilding yards. The highly successful and prosperous Ferguson Shipbuilders at Port Glasgow is well advanced on the construction of the new Uig - Tarbert - Lochmaddy ferry HEBRIDES which will enter service in 2000 (a close sister of the Appledore built CLANSMAN). The yard is currently fitting out the large anchor handling tug STIRLING IONA for the Glasgow-based Stirling Shipping (part of Harrison (Clyde) Ltd) the largest offshore service vessel company in the UK. It is the fourth vessel in recent years to be built by Ferguson for Stirling - the others being STIRLING CLYDE, STIRLING SPEY and STIRLING TAY. Ferguson's is also working on the construction of a new tender vessel for the Northern Lighthouse Board. It will replace the well known tender FINGAL which was the last ship to be built by the old Blythswood Shipbuilding Company at Glasgow (in 1961). Sadly the new vessel will not be a repeat of the Oban-based tender PHAROS which was built by Ferguson in the early 90s and which bore some of the classic lines of FINGAL and her contemporaries PHAROS (1955) and POLE STAR. The new vessel will be more utilitarian in appearance, somewhat resembling the ocean tug / offshore supply vessel profile.

Down in Ayrshire Ailsa Troon have made a strong return to shipbuilding after a gap of about a dozen years. After building a number of large seagoing trawlers they are now engaged in the construction of Caledonian MacBrayne's new ferry to serve the Small Isles from Mallaig. The LOCH NEVIS, which will enter service in the first half of 2000, bears some resemblance to the Armadale ferry LORD OF THE ISLES which she will join at Mallaig. However, she is much smaller than the 'Lord' perhaps more in line with the size of the four Clyde 'Maids' of the 1950s. She will displace the 20 year old LOCHMOR and there is some speculation that that vessel will see service on the Clyde route to Kilcreggan - currently under the auspices of Clyde Marine's 61 year old KENILWORTH, an ex Hythe ferry.

Ailsa Troon are also building 10 advanced amphibious landing vessels to be assigned to the two new assault ships (Bulwark and Hermes?) being built at BAE Systems, Barrow (ex VSEL) BAE Systems are also responsible for the operation of the other two Clyde shipyards - both on the Upper Clyde in Glasgow. The Scotstoun Shipyard (formerly Yarrows) is completing the last two type 23 frigates for RN - PORTLAND and ST ALBANS - and is also building 3 offshore patrol ships for the Royal Brunai Navy. It is believed that it recently lost work on ships for Chile due to the Pinochet affair. However, it has just been named as the lead yard in the design / construction of the new Type 45 destroyer which will start to replace the existing Type 42 destroyers from about 2007. BAE Systems have also just taken a 20 year lease on the Govan Shipyard (ex Kvaerner ex UCS ex Fairfield) following the Kvaerner Group's worldwide withdrawal from shipbuilding. In a fairly complex deal the 135 year old yard (extensively modernised by Kvaerner in its 10 year tenure) has been sold to port operator Clydeport plc who have leased it to BAE Systems. At present the last two Kvaerner ships - the wellhead test vessel CRYSTAL OCEAN and the Icebreaker BROVIG VIKING - are nearing completion and BAE Systems have transferred construction of one of two fleet oilers from their Barrow yard where it was behind schedule. The Govan yard has been short-listed for the construction of six large ferries for MOD to be placed next spring.

Like most of the offshore construction industry UIE Shipbuilding's two yards - at Clydebank (ex John Brown) and Port Glasgow (the latter on lease from Clydeport plc ) are closed and on a care and maintenance footing at present. Earlier this year they completed two very large contracts to modernise / convert two floating production units Bleoholm (at Clydebank) and Balder (at Port Glasgow).

Elsewhere on the Clyde there are new developments which are taking over derelict space previously utilised as port or shipbuilding areas. Extensions have been added to the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre which is built on the site of the in filled Queens Dock. A new National Science Centre and IMAX Cinema complex is being built on the former Princes Dock and they may be joined soon by a new headquarters for BBC Scotland.

A commercial leisure development has been built on the site of the former British Steel ore import facility at General Terminus in the heart of the city. In the Autumn a £260m shopping and retail complex opened at Braehead (opposite the Yarrow shipyard) on land once designated for an extension of the dock system but never utilised as such. The new complex incorporates a maritime heritage centre called 'Clydebuilt' which records some of the history of the Clyde and its 40 plus shipyards. Exhibits include the 127 year old coaster KYLES and the steam yacht CAROLA.

Clydeport plc and the Bank of Scotland have lodged plans for a massive commercial leisure, retail and residential development valued at £500m to stretch along the north bank of the river from Yorkhill Quay (one time base of the famous Anchor Line and now home of the recently restored 3 masted barque GLENLEE - built by Rodger in Port Glasgow in 1896) to the mainly defunct Meadowside Granary (the largest in Europe at its peak) The Granary building is one of the largest brick buildings in the UK and is visible for miles - impressive by its bulk rather than its architectural merits - and it is unclear if it will survive in the redevelopment.

The new development will be known as 'Glasgow Harbour' and aims to emulate some of the features of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf - presumably with adaptation to the Scottish climate. There are plans for at least 2 - possibly 3 - new bridges across the Clyde in Glasgow and this may eventually require WAVERLEY to move from her base at Anderson Quay to a more seaward location although I understand that imposing such restrictions on the Upper river will require an Act of Parliament. Downriver at Greenock the former Scotts shipyards at Cartsdyke and Cartsburn are now populated by commercial office developments. At Port Glasgow there are plans to develop the former Lithgow shipyards at Kingston, Glen and East for retail development although Clydeport plc also have plans to use part of the site for a large ferry terminal. (Incidentally Clydeport have also been linked to the provision of a new ferry harbour at Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye to try to tempt Caledonian MacBrayne away from the present facility at Uig.)

 

BELFAST HARBOUR COMMISSIONERS by Gary Andrews

The Port Of Belfast announced on Thursday (23 December) that 2 million passengers used its ferry services in 1999 (a bit of a strange declaration given the year has another week left to run). The port was expecting nearly 100,000 passengers to use the port over the Seasonal period and passenger totals for 1999 showed a 15% increase on 1998 totals.

The increase in passenger traffic was attributed to consolidation by Stena (i.e. not removing the HSS to other routes!), expansion by Seacat (though should such an expansion not have seen a greater increase in passenger numbers?) and growth in Norse Irish Ferries' overnight services.

A spokesman said that 1999 had seen an upgrade of Seacat's terminal and the completion of a new "meters and greeters lounge" for Stena. Further investment is planned for 2000 and the spokesman added: "From a standing start in 1991, Belfast has developed to become Ireland's major passenger gateway, now handling 250,000 more passengers than the second busiest passenger port, Dun Laoghaire, and 1.2 million passengers more than Larne, it's closest rival geographically"

(That gives P&O 800,000 passengers which is a massive growth since the days when Stena were at Larne..)

"Permanent peace will allow Northern Ireland to realise its full tourism potential and the Port will contribute by ensuring through its modern passenger terminal facilities that the travel experience to and from Northern Ireland is a favourable one."

Totals for previous years are as follows:
1998: 1,783,000 passengers, 400,000 passenger cars, 1997: 1,856,000 passengers, 413,000 passenger cars.

GARY ANDREW’S COMMENT: One wonders why there is no mention of freight in the press release from the port? - It is understood the port's ro-ro trade has again fallen this year due to (1) Increased services from Larne to Fleetwood, Cairnryan and Ardrossan, (2) Seatruck can carry more traffic on their Warrenpoint - Heysham route since the vessels were upgraded this time last year and (3) Merchant Ferries Dublin - Liverpool route.

SCOTTISH MARINE SCENE NEW ONLINE WEB DISCUSSION FORUM from Colin Smith

Are you on the Internet? Are you interested in ships and shipping in and around Scotland?

If so, you’ll want to talk to fellow ship enthusiasts. You can now do so on the World Wide Web by visiting the newly launched Scottish Marine Scene discussion group at

www.egroups.com/group/scotships

The site is a discussion forum and will be of interest to anyone who follows Scottish shipping, including ferries, steamers, cargo ships, port movements, cruise ships, tall ships, maritime heritage, naval activities, shipbuilding and any other aspect of the maritime scene in Scottish waters. So get posting and let’s have your news, views, and comments. Just register you password on the homepage and you can get talking. And don’t forget to join in our online opinion polls.

 

20 DECEMBER 1999 SECOND NEWS UPDATE - FIRST UPDATE BELOW

NOTES & NEWS 

A number of new items arrived soon after the posting early this morning, in addition to the discovery of omitted material.

SEA CONTAINERS

LADY OF MANN - reported running down in Langton Lock Monday Evening 20 December. Liverpool Coastguard reports gales coming in. 

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN - On Monday 20th December the fire brigade were called at around 23.20 when a fire was reported to have broken out in the engine room. It is thought that heat from a welder's torch started the fire.

One man was rescued from the vessel and taken to Fazakerley Hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. Four fire crews and a aerial platform from Kirkdale and Canning Place stations attended the fire, confining the blaze to the engine space and jet propulsion room.

CAMMELL LAIRD

The company is reported to be bidding for a large multi-million pound contract for the construction of 10 ro/ro ferries for the Philippine Government.

The construction contract is worth £500 million. The vessels would be constructed at the company's Tyneside yard at Hebburn. Lairds comprise part of a UK consortium which is competing against French and Japanese companies.

The press reports that to help secure the deal, the company wants government support to guarantee a 20 year financing package.

Brett Martin, Cammell Laird deputy chief executive said it would need to offer the possibility of interest rate support so that a deal could be agreed with commercial banks.

BIBBY LINE

Bibby, the Liverpool based shipping company, in association with Securicor, the security company and prison contractor has responded to a Home Office request to provide accommodation for refugees.

A former prison ship which could accommodate unto 260 refugees could be brought to the Mersey. The vessel is one of several massive accommodation barges in the Bibby fleet.

Liverpool City Council has already opposed the plan objecting to the idea of keeping refugees in a separate community and drawing parallels to Victorian Prison hulks. Though it must be admitted the accommodation on board these accommodation barges is of good quality.

LIVERPOOL BOUND VESSEL BEACHES IN BELFAST HARBOUR

Belfast Coastguard was called by the Deputy Harbour Master on 18th December at 04.15 to report that a Dutch coaster, BERNICE, which had been travelling through the buoy channel, was about to beach on mud flats on Belfast shore. The Coastguard tasked the Bangor Inshore Lifeboat and Bangor Coastguard Rescue Team to the scene and also informed the police. Once on scene it was discovered that no further search and rescue action would be required and that the crew of six would stay on board for the foreseeable future. Ten minutes later it was reported that BERNICE, a 73-metre cargo vessel registered in Pijnaker, Holland, had grounded off the Royal North Yacht Club.

BERNICE had been on her way out of the harbour bound for Liverpool when she hit Grays Point whilst heading out to the Irish Sea. The captain immediately turned the vessel round and headed back into the harbour but then discovered that the engine room was starting to fill
up with water and therefore deliberately beached 'BERNICE' on mud flats, fearing that she may sink. The vessel had been  due to pick up a cargo of vegetable oil [presumably from Cargil's at Brocklebank Dock?] and was therefore in ballast, although she was carrying 37,000 litres of fuel oil in her bunkers.

The BERNICE has been holed below the engine room which contained  9 ft of water. Divers have been down to investigate the damage.  A boom  was placed around the vessel by the harbour authorities in order to contain any leakage of fuel oil, though the risk of pollution is thought to be minimal. The harbour has also supplied three extra pumps to the vessel and these are currently being used to keep the excess water pouring in to the engine room under control.

P&O IRISH SEA CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE from Gary Andrews

P&O CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR TIME TABLE.  (Liverpool, Fleetwood & Ardrossan).

 

Fleetwood - Larne.

 

No sailings 24 - 27 December.

28 - 30 December - 22.00 Sailing ex Fleetwood and Larne.

No sailings 31 December - 2 January.

3 January - 22.00 Sailing ex Fleetwood and Larne.

4 January - 10.00 and 22.00 sailings ex Fleetwood and Larne.

 

Ardrossan - Larne.

 

24 December - 02.30 ex Ardrossan, 09.00 ex Larne.

25 - 28 December - No sailings.

29 - 30 December - 02.30 ex Ardrossan, 19.00 ex Larne.

31 December - 4 January - No sailings.

5 January - 02.30 ex Ardrossan, 19.00 ex Larne.

 

Liverpool - Dublin.

 

24 - 28 December - No sailings.

29 - 30 December - 22.00 ex Liverpool and Dublin.

31 December - 3 January - No sailings.

4 January - 22.00 ex Liverpool, 16.00 and 22.00 ex Dublin.

5 January - 04.00, 10.00 and 22.00 ex Liverpool and 10.00, 16.00 and 22.00 ex Dublin.


20 DECEMBER 1999 [First Update]

NOTES & NEWS

First of all I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Now I would like to make some apologies. Over the last few weeks the Sunday update has been going up later than usual and often after 21.00 and this week will be no exception. Today’s update has been particularly large and has required much work as you can see. However, I am sure the material will be adequate compensation for the slight update delay. I have had so much material this week that several new gallery pages have had to be held over until next week which should ensure a large Christmas holiday update.

I am pleased to announce that Mersey & Irish Sea Shipping will be updated at the usual times during the holiday period. There may also be other updates, though these may be more along maintenance lines.

Finally I would like to thank the many people who have written in during the past week. If readers are wondering why I don't provide a list of acknowledgements each week, that is because some readers prefer anonymity and it is easier to ensure this by not mentioning names.

Once again I hope I have been able to respond to everyone who has e-mailed. But as I always say, if you have not heard from me after a few days, please e-mail again.

 

SEA CONTAINERS

SEACAT SCOTLAND: The Daily Record has reported that on 15 December the had to be towed back to Troon following the craft losing power on it's sailing to Belfast. It is unclear as to which sailing this involved, however it seems likely to have been the 11.15 sailing to Belfast. On 16 December all SeaCat sailings ex Belfast were operated to Stranraer, on what can be described as the "exceptional circumstances" timetable. This timetable appears to be used at times of technical breakdown, and when potentially poor weather dictates the need for a shorter crossing and appears to involve Belfast - Stranraer sailings at 08.00, 15.30 and (approximately) 20.00.

SUPERSEACAT THREE was involved in a rescue drama in the Irish Sea on 13th December when it went to the aid of a sinking yacht.

SSC3 is reported by the local press to have gone 20 miles off her normal route from the Isle of Man to Liverpool to answer a distress call from the four man crew of the steel sailing ketch EMMA LOUISE.

The SuperSeaCat arrived within seven minutes of receiving the call to discover that the EMMA LOUISE's engine had failed and that she was shipping water. A RAF helicopter from Anglesey and a lifeboat from Llandudno were also scrambled to assist in the rescue.

Simon Dey, spokesman for Sea Containers commented to the local press: "We left for Liverpool at 07.30 when we got the May Day call through from a yacht 20 miles from the coast of Douglas. It is usually a very busy sailing at this time of the morning with almost 500 people on board. We answered the distress call. When a boat is in trouble the first boat to get the signal will answer the call."

A spokesman for Holyhead Coastguard said, "At 07.52 this morning a 72ft steel sailing ketch called the Emma Louise called in reporting that they were taking in water and having problems steering so a rescue helicopter, 122 RAF Valley, was sent with a pump to the boat."

A Liverpool Coastguard spokesman said: "The SuperSeaCat waited while a lifeboat was sent out. None of the people on board were lifted from the boat. We managed to get enough water pumped out and get the steering back. The boat was then towed to Conwy."

SuperSeaCat, which has been due to arrive in Liverpool at 10.00 was delayed by around estimated 40 minutes.

This Wednesday saw a film crew on board working on a "fly on the wall" documentary "Ferry Tales" which is to be screened on BBC 1 in the summer. Produced by the same company responsible for the notorious "Nightclub" series featuring the Grafton Club in Liverpool, it should prove entertaining watching during the summer months.

On Thursday the prevailing weather gave SUPERSEACAT THREE a rather bumpy trip to Dublin, the vessel heading off in the direction of the Isle of Man to gain some shelter before changing course for Dublin. She did not operate the 21.00 sailing to Douglas. She resumed operations on Friday evening, taking out the 21.00 sailing to Douglas.

A trip on SUPERSEACAT THREE on Saturday revealed a complete lack of Christmas decorations. One of the pleasant things about ferry travel this time of year is seasonal decorations to be found in terminals and on board ship. Last year was no exception. However, SSC3's interior looked surprisingly bare for the time of year – presumably Christmas has been cancelled? At least my last trip on Merchant Ferries revealed a lot of effort being put into making the ship look seasonal back in November. The terminals at Liverpool and Dublin were of course suitably decorated.  

LADY OF MANN It had been the intention that the LADY would operate the 21.00 sailing from Liverpool to Douglas on Thursday evening due to deteriorating conditions. However, the sailing was cancelled, the LADY OF MANN operating the 11.00 sailing from Liverpool to Dublin and its return on Friday. The 07.30 sailing from Douglas on Friday being cancelled.


SEA CONTAINERS NEW IRISH SEA BROCHURE by Gary Andrews

Sea Containers Irish Sea 2000 brochure "Proud Of Our Routes" makes very interesting reading.

The brochure is quite unique in the UK ferry business in that whilst featuring timetables it does not feature any fares, even the special offers are merely described as opposed to detailed, the idea being for passengers to find out the best price at the time of booking. It remains to be seen how well this concept appeals to customers in the UK and Ireland. Also new is that the brochure is printed in two versions "UK departures" and "Ireland Departures". The "Ireland Departures" edition features details of attractions in Great Britain and vice versa. The "Ireland Departures" edition also features details of the Isle of Man Belfast and Dublin routes. Strangely the "UK Departures" edition does not feature Douglas - Heysham and Liverpool details, it seems rather a waste to require a separate brochure for these services.

A slight gripe with the brochure is that Page 2 features a large picture of the SEACAT DANMARK, complete with her old livery with a Danish flag on her bow. This picture is rather out-dated as the flag was removed after the vessel was replaced on the Göteborg - Frederikshavn route by the SUPERSEACAT ONE and aside from potential refit cover on the Belfast - Troon and Stranraer service in January/February the vessel isn't due to operate on the Irish Sea in 2000.

SEA CONTAINERS 2000 PLANS by Gary Andrews

Much is still to be confirmed regarding Sea Containers' plans for 2000, which differ from those of 1999. Although unconfirmed it now seems fairly certain that the SUPERSEACAT TWO will operate Belfast - Heysham, SUPERSEACAT FOUR operate Newhaven - Dieppe and SEACAT DANMARK operate Göteborg - Frederikshavn. However, several other issues remain unresolved.

The fate of the SUPERSEACAT ONE, due to be withdrawn from the Göteborg - Frederikshavn route, is unclear and it is thought that despite earlier reports the vessel will not operate on the Belfast - Heysham route.

Although written out of almost all publicity material and not featured in their Irish Sea routes 2000 brochure, Sea Containers have yet to make a decision on the future of their Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company Ballycastle - Campbeltown route as operated by the CLAYMORE. Discussions are still taking place at various levels of government regarding the future of the route. It is felt by this writer that the route is likely to be operated by Sea Containers in 2000, possibly with a subsidy, with a provision that the firm will withdraw at the end of the season - allowing sufficient time for a new operator to be found for the service. However, with no mention of the service in the current editions of Sea Containers' Irish Sea brochures it remains to be seen how the route can be effectively marketed.

To date there has been no indication as to whether or not the ATLANTIC II will be used on the Dover - Calais route in summer 2000.

Meanwhile Silja Line (owned by Neptun Maritime - a firm in which Sea Container's owns a majority shareholding) is understood to be still looking for a replacement vessel for the WASA QUEEN on the Helsinki - Tallinn route. WASA QUEEN was transferred to the Umeå-Vaasa route on 24 September, leaving only the FINNJET operating between Helsinki and Tallinn. Summer 2000 will see the FINNJET returning to the Helsinki - Rostock route, meaning a vessel will be required for the Estonian service at that stage. In September the Scandinavian Shipping Gazette reported that Silja Line had not yet decided which type of ship that will be obtained for the route, whether it will be a conventional ferry, cruise-ferry or a high-speed ferry. When Neptun Maritime-owned Wasa Line put WASA QUEEN in service between Umeå and Vaasa, the elderly FENNIA was laid up for sale.

HOVERSPEED CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR SCHEDULE by Gary Andrews

Dover - Calais route

Hoverspeed's last departure from Dover to Calais on Christmas Eve is the 16.00 hovercraft service, returning from Calais to Dover at 18.30. There are no services on Christmas Day. Services resume on Boxing Day with the 07.30 hovercraft from Dover to Calais. Departures are scheduled throughout the day at 08.00, 09.30, 11.30, 11.45, 13.30, 15.15, 16.00, 18.30, and 18.45.
Hoverspeed's last departure from Dover to Calais on New Year's Eve is the 16.00 hovercraft service, returning from Calais to Dover at 18.30. There are no services on New Year's Day.

Folkestone - Boulogne route

Hoverspeed's last departure from Folkestone to Boulogne on Christmas Eve is the 15.00 HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN Seacat service, returning from Boulogne at 17.45. The service will then take its winter break re-opening on 3 March 2000.

Dover - Ostend route.

Hoverspeed's last departure from Dover to Ostend on Christmas Eve is the 17.00 service. There are no services on Christmas Day. Services resume on Boxing Day with the 10.45 sailing from Dover to Ostend. Departures are also scheduled at 17.00 and 23.00. Hoverspeed's last departure from Dover to Ostend on New Year's Eve is the 17.00 service. There are no services on New Year's Day.

Newhaven - Dieppe route

SUPERSEACAT TWO departs Newhaven at 08.30 on both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve returning from Dieppe at 13.30. On Boxing Day there is a departure from Newhaven at 08.30, returning from Dieppe at 17.00. There are no services on Christmas Day or New Year's Day.

NEW HOVERSPEED GRAPE SHOP OPENS by Gary Andrews

Hoverspeed's has opened a second branch of its popular GrapeShop, selling goods free of UK duty and tax, at its Dieppe terminal. The new store is situated in the foot passenger terminal in Dieppe, and includes a range of over 100 wines from around the world. Hoverspeed is expecting the weekend of 17 - 19 December to be the busiest yet as cross-Channel bargain hunters head for France for the last weekend before Christmas.

The SUPERSEACAT TWO is currently operating on her winter schedule and crosses from Newhaven to Dieppe at 08.30 on Fridays - Mondays, returning from Dieppe at 17.00.

ELLAN VANNIN

The new book relating the loss of the Isle of Man Steam Packet ship ELLAN VANNIN, "THE ELLAN VANNIN STORY" is reported to have sold out its first print run after being published just two weeks ago. A reprint will be on sale in February.

TYNWALD 

Geoff Hamer reports that Linee Lauro (www.lauro.it) are planning to operate a new route next year. This winter, the LAURO EXPRESS (ex ANTRIM PRINCESS, ex TYNWALD) runs one sailing a week from Napoli to Tunis (taking 19 hours) and one a week from Trapani in Sicily to Tunis (8 hours). From 1 June, there will be a new weekly sailing from La Spezia to Tunis, taking 25 hours, in addition to Napoli-Tunis, Trapani-Tunis and summer-only sailings from Napoli to Palau, Sardinia, and Porto Vecchio, Corsica; the summer services are shared with the smaller ex-Japanese ANNA MARIA LAURO. It is assumed that the former Sealink LAURO EXPRESS will operate the longer run to La Spezia, unless Linee Lauro is buying a bigger ship. The 1967-built, LAURO EXPRESS has a 1,000-passenger capacity and has had cabins added by Lauro, however, the firm's vessels are generally regarded as inferior to those operated by others in the Bay of Naples and it remains to be seen how successful the new 25 hour route will be.

ESTONIAN SHIPPING COMPANY by Gary Andrews

At the time of writing the use of the Estonian Shipping Company's VARBOLA remained unclear. The Estonian Shipping Company website indicates that the vessel is still on charter to Merchant Ferries, however, the freight ferry appears to have been at anchor off the Lancashire coast since the SAGA MOON re-entered service on the Heysham - Dublin route on 4 December. It had been expected the ship was to have "received orders" on 13 December (not 13 November as stated last week), however as at 17 December there was no indication a new deployment for the VARBOLA.

VAN DER GEISSEN DE NOORD

Enthusiasts who follow the products of the Netherland's ship builder will be interested to view the pictures of the BLUE STAR 1 which was launched on Saturday 18th December. I am indebted to Hans Mauritz for these pictures.

 

WAVERLEY STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY

Stuart Cameron wrote this week that P.S. WAVERLEY left Avonmouth at 2100 on Tuesday for Great Yarmouth where she is to be refitted. However, she encountered poor conditions and had to return to Avonmouth on Wednesday 15 December. Apparently another attempt is to be made on the weekend 18/19th December.

MANXLINK MAGAZINE

Adrian Sweeney informs me that there is a delay in the publication of the next Isle of Man Steam Packet Enthusiast’s MANXLINK MAGAZINE. The Magazine should have been published in November; however, it will now appear during January.

MERSEY FERRIES

John Shepherd reports that the £200 per head Mersey Ferries Millennium Cruise on the ROYAL DAFFODIL has been cancelled due to lack of bookings. What was it I said last week about Millennium Events being cancelled?

MERSEY DOCKS & HARBOUR COMPANY

Mersey Docks & Harbour Company has again revealed plans for new Irish Sea ferry terminals at Twelve Quays on the Birkenhead Dock estate.

The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company is investing £27 million in the terminal development. An artist's impression, which has appeared in the local press, shows the Wallasey Dock filled in and used as a trailer marshalling yard.

Work is expected to commence after an Environmental Impact Assessment has been undertaken and the terminal should be completed in around 15 months. It is hoped that it could be operational in 2001. Of course both the Birkenhead and Liverpool ro/ro terminals have been promised as being imminent for many years. One wonders if this time something will materialise. Irish Sea ferry operators desperately need such facilities.

The Birkenhead Twelve Quays site will be used by Cenargo [Merchant Ferries and Norse Irish Ferries] services to Dublin and Belfast.

P&O services will be handled on the Liverpool side of the river by a new ro/ro terminal in the river off Langton Dock.

JHL’S COMMENT: The new terminal developments might be good for freight and private vehicle traffic, they are certainly not ideal for foot passengers (particularly with all the operators concerned moving in the direction of carrying increased numbers of passengers.) An efficient bus link needs to be provided to the main railway and coach station at Liverpool for the benefit of foot passengers arriving by public transport. One hopes that adequate parking facilities are also available at the terminals to facilitate parking for those passengers who do not wish to take their vehicles.

STENA LINE

STENA LYNX III managed to get away from Wright and Bayer’s on Wednesday evening and return to Fishguard – Rossalare route in time for the Christmas rush.


HSS STENA DISCOVERY FIRE by Gary Andrews

On 7 December, a fire broke in one of the HSS STENA DISCOVERY's four gas turbines. The fire broke out as the craft was entering the New Waterway at around 15.00 CET nearing the end of her crossing from Harwich. The crew initially fought the fire and after the arrival of the craft at the Hoek van Holland berth, the fire brigade took over and reported the fire extinguished
at around 15.30. The fire is understood to have been localised and there was no danger to anyone onboard. After arrival at 15.20 all passengers had to leave the ship via the foot-passenger gangway, drivers re-boarding to collect their vehicles after the fire had been extinguished. The 16.05 sailing to Harwich and the return sailing to Hoek van Holland were cancelled.

The first sailing after the fire was the 07.30 sailing ex Hoek van Holland on 8 December. Subsequently the craft was forced to operate on three engines (and with freight restrictions) which combined with severe weather conditions led to severe disruption. In a bid to get repairs carried out to the HSS the 07.30 sailing ex Hoek van Holland and 10.50 sailing ex Harwich were cancelled from 12 to 15 December. Repairs were expected to be completed by 18 December when freight allocations aboard the STENA DISCOVERY were expected to return to normal and the craft return to full speed.


NEW IRELAND – FRANCE SERVICE

Brian Chambers reports that an unidentified French Company is expected to start a Rosslare - Brest service in February 2000. Sailings from Ireland will be on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays with the unidentified vessel due for berthing trials in January. Visit Brian Chambers' Rosslare Europort website at http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Set/2982.


PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY 

by Gary Andrews

Despite an expectation of a visit to the Mersey on 5 December possibly spelling the end of her charter, it appears that the MERCHANT VENTURE is continuing to operate on P&O European Ferries' services from Larne. The EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER paid a brief visit to Belfast's Harland & Wolff shipyard this week, possibly in connection with her recent grounding. It is unknown when the vessel arrived at the yard but she was seen leaving at 10.00 on 15 December, reaching Larne at around 11.20.

CAMMELL LAIRD

P&OSL PROVENCE, PEREGRINE VII and ISLE OF MULL were in the Birkenhead yard on Saturday 18th December.

This week it was announced that the company has sold one of the offshore vessels acquired earlier this year from the receivers of British shipowner Lowline as part of a package of assets, which included the passenger ship EDINBURGH CASTLE. The charter of the latter vessel being announced recently.

JAMES FISHER / PACIFIC NUCLEAR TRANSPORT

Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd, the company whose nuclear transport vessels are managed by James Fisher and Sons plc, the Barrow and Liverpool ship owners stands to lose up a to a third of its business after Japan announced this week that it will no longer accept plutonium mixed oxide fuel consignments from Britain.

The industry ministry in Japan took the decision after revelations that quality assurance data from British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) have been falsified. Separately, utility company Kansai Electric said that it would abandon plans to use mixed oxide fuel from BNFL. Mixed oxide fuel shipments to Japan typically make up two of between six to eight consignments moved by Pacific Nuclear - the world's only dedicated nuclear carrier - each year.

Fortunately Pacific Nuclear, a subsidiary of BNFL, has other business on the cards. Earlier in the year there was controversy when PNTL became the first Merchant Navy vessels to be armed since the end of WWII.

C.TOMS & SONS – BODINNICK to FOWEY FERRY

On 17 December a car rolled off the C. Toms & Son operated Bodinnick - Fowey ferry at Fowey in Cornwall. The incident occurred after the car's handbrake failed, and it is believed that the car ended up floating in the water. Fortunately no one was injured in the potentially fatal occurrence.

ISLES OF SCILLY STEAMSHIP COMPANY

The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company's Penzance to St. Mary's service - which has an excellent track record on safety - will have to register by computer, names, gender and ages of all passengers from January 1.

And this, it warned, could result in chaos on the quayside at both Penzance and St. Mary's.

The company is one of the ferry companies which will have to implement Merchant Shipping Notice 1729 by the new year and this had led to St.Ives MP Andrew George, to challenge the new passenger registration regulations which would, he says, tie up small passenger ferry companies in yet more red tape." I agree that we should always be looking at ways of improving safety, but this will only increase bureaucracy," he said this week.

"The Maine and Coastguard Agency's requirement that small ferry companies as well as large ones implement the full passenger registration scheme, is inflexible and potentially unworkable."

"The Steamship Company is already conscientious in its safety arrangements. Its current boarding card system means that the on-shore offices in Penzance and St. Mary’s know exactly how many people are on board," he explained.

"The new regulations could mean that, for small ferry companies, instead of increased safety the effect will be chaos on the quayside."

"There is potential for passenger delays as Penzance and St.Mary's quays could not support the necessary registration infrastructure and because transfers from the helicopter service would slow up the embarkation process considerably."

Mr. George says that the new regulations appeared to make overly heavy demands on small ferry companies for no obvious safety benefit.

"The company has an excellent track record on safety." added the MP, who has tabled questions to the deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott to pursue the question of exemption from these regulations.

He remarked: Train operators would not be expected to implement the procedures, which are outside of their capability.

"I believe that the Government must be pragmatic and flexible on this issue, given the high standards of safety which already exist on the Scillonian."

JHL’S COMMENT: When I last travelled from Penzance in 1997 they used a Psion organiser to issue tickets on the quayside. A laptop carried by the purser appears to be used at St.Mary's; they possibly use that at Penzance now too.

I can't see how on the odd occasion that the helicopter cancels [the Steamship Company's planes cancel much more often as their Land's End airport is more weather vulnerable than the Penzance heliport] there is a problem with passenger details. British International always keep a full record of passenger information anyway. Surely its just a case of faxing/emailing it through? Besides ISSCO have the capability for advanced reservations to record all relevant data.

12 DECEMBER 1999

NOTES & NEWS

This has been a notable week for anyone interested in maritime affairs on Merseyside. The high spot of the week and possibly the year was the renaming and re-flagging of the VISTAFJORD as CARONIA at Liverpool’s Prince’s Landing Stage on Friday. The ceremony was a polished and well-organised event, which attracted a lot of, interest both locally and further a field. The event made the front page of at least one quality daily newspaper on Saturday morning.

I have also written this week on a couple of matters of a more controversial nature: The installation of a large statue of Christ in the centre of the Albert Dock and the decision to close off a large part of the Pier Head in preparation for the Millennium Celebrations.

Once again there was an additional new update on Monday 6th December, therefore, if you visited the site last Sunday, you will have missed this news posting which mainly contained articles from Gary Andrews. You will find this below this present bulletin.

Users may also like to know that the technical difficulties concerning the update of the M&ISS Archive and Back-Up news site have been resolved and back up copies of the weekly news bulletins will be available on there from Monday 13th December.

From January 2000 all of the 1999 news and voyage reports will be transferred to the backup site. On the subject of Voyage Reports, once again I must disappoint on my recent Merchant Ferries trip with pupils from school. Whilst the report is now written I thought a few photographs of the group on board would make the article more interesting. Unfortunately the negatives taken on board are in school and this means it will not appear until next week.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all correspondents again this week. Thanks for the input.

SEA CONTAINERS

The continuing bad weather caused further disruption this week and saw the LADY OF MANN in action again; here are some of the highlights:

BEN-MY-CHREE – All sailings were cancelled on 8th December.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN – Moved from Vittoria Dock to Canada Dry Dock for refit work by Wright and Beyer.

SUPERSEACAT THREE – Was out of service until the 21.00 sailing to Douglas on Thursday due to adverse weather conditions in the early part of the week.

SEACAT DANMARK – an observer reports that SCD did not operate her Belfast to Heysham roundtrip on 6th December and did not appear to be operating her 18.15 sailing to Troon on the same date.

LADY OF MANN – The LADY covered Liverpool to Dublin sailings at the start of the week and finally stood down after returning from Dublin in the early hours of Friday 10th December. She re-entered the Liverpool Dock via Langton lock at 03.00.

SEACAT AB CHANGES by Gary Andrews

 It is understood Sea Containers subsidiary SeaCat AB will cease operating the SUPERSEACAT ONE on the Göteborg and Frederikshavn route on 23 December 1999. Sailings will resume on 13 March 2000 with a smaller vessel, believed to be the SEACAT DANMARK. 

It is not clear what use will be made of the SUPERSEACAT ONE but with Sea Containers' 2000 vessel deployment unconfirmed it is possible that the vessel could be used on the Heysham - Belfast route as a direct swap with the SEACAT DANMARK, instead of the SUPERSEACAT TWO operating the route as previously expected.

SEA CONTAINERS PLAY HOST TO CUNARD

This week the Sea Containers  issued a press release commenting on their involvement with the "relaunch" of Cunard’s CARONIA [ex-Vistafjord]:

Cruise Ship CARONIA Launch

On Friday 10th December Cunard re-name the ship Vistafjord the CARONIA in a special renaming ceremony in the heart of Liverpool. The launch will take place on the SeaCat Landing Stage and will use the SeaCat Terminal.

Sea Containers Irish Sea Operations has the sold user agreement for the SeaCat landing stage and are pleased to welcome the CARONIA and Cunard.

The terminal normally handles around half a million passengers a year bound for the Isle of Man and Dublin through services operated by the fast ferries SuperSeaCat Three and SeaCat Isle of Man as the conventional vessel Lady of
Mann.

For the past week the area around the SeaCat Landing Stage has been dredged to accommodate the CARONIA. From Tuesday 7th December a purpose built stage is being created on the SeaCat Landing Stage.

Marine Operations Manager Simon Mills said:

"This has been a highly complex technical operation because our SeaCat Landing Stage of course is floating and is therefore subject to movement depending on the weather and tides. We have also had to ensure that our normal sailing schedule to Dublin and the Isle of Man remains unaffected by the launch of the CARONIA. The SeaCat Landing Stage is a designated part of an international terminal and as such is a restricted zone, so we have had to pull out all the stops to make sure everything is in place."

Meanwhile SeaCat Terminal Manager, Janice Mc. Dowall added: "Cunard are using our terminal facilities to accommodate 600 passengers who will travel on the CARONIA. Its the first time I have been involved in such a high profile launch involving the co-operation of two well established maritime companies. Our 160 employees are very much looking forward to being part of such a big event. As far as we are concerned it'll be a normal check in, however, this time with a host of rather special guests. Obviously we consider all our passengers to be special! This day will be particularly busy as we will be handling up to two thousand people on that morning alone when you include the disembarkation of people from the Isle of Man, the 11.00 departure to Dublin and of course the CARONIA and associated passengers and VIPS"

SEA CONTAINERS BID TO RENEW ECML FRANCHISE

Sea Containers Ltd.’s wholly owned railway subsidiary, GNER Holdings Ltd., has been selected by the Strategic Rail Authority as one of three rail franchises with which it will enter into negotiations for the replacement of its existing franchise which expires in April, 2003.

The new franchise is expected to be for a 20-year period. GNER Holdings Ltd was awarded its existing franchise in April 1996, as the British Railways network was being privatised.

As the UK government has failed to provide enough new road capacity to meet demand resulting in serious road congestion, this has encouraging drivers to leave their cars at home or at railway stations and travel instead to and from London by rail.

GNER has encouraged the switch from road to rail by expanding its station car parks, making tickets easier to buy through telesales and ticket machines and making the travel experience more enjoyable through construction of better station lounges and improvement of on board services, in particular food.

The company states that all trains are outside washed daily which was not a practice of the state-owned railways. GNER has sought to spread train loadings by offering bargain fares in off-peak periods while raising fares in peak periods. As a result of both the strategic and operational considerations demand for the company’s trains now greatly exceeds supply and overcrowding has become a serious problem.

GNER carried 13 million passengers in 1997 and will carry 14.7 million passengers in 1999, a growth of 13%. Its 9 diesel train sets and 30 electric train sets now operate 112 trips per day when in 1997 they operated only 100 trips. Annual mileage per train set has risen from 254,000 in 1997 to 277,000 in 1999. This extra mileage puts an increasing strain on train maintenance.

GNER Holdings’ 20 year franchise replacement proposal will involve an investment of £1.2 billion ($2 billion) in new trains, track and signalling, station improvements, three new parkway stations, more car parking, improved security, automatic train protection systems and internet booking facilities. The majority of this investment will be made in track, signalling and stations which are owned by Railtrack plc, and recovery of its investment will be made through access and usage charges made by it to GNER.

Sea Containers will acquire alone or in conjunction with other financial groups 25 new tilt train sets and 10 new diesel locomotives costing about £400 million ($640 million). It will also own the reservations and new ticketing systems and other internet applications as it does today, as well as car parks which are not owned by Railtrack. Three new parkway stations will be fully or majority owned by Sea Containers. The existing 9 diesel train sets will be life expired by 2007 at which time they will be replaced with 9 other sets powered by the new diesel locomotives which will also be owned by Sea Containers alone or together with other financial interests.

The new tilt train sets will be constructed in Italy and then assembled and tested in the UK by Fiat Alstom. The first wave of new train sets will be introduced in the spring of 2004 and the second wave in 2007. The tilt trains will operate on the London/Scotland routes, enabling reductions in travel times, and increases in frequency while the existing trains will be operated with greater frequency on the London/Leeds route, which is shorter.

Two of the three parkway stations should become operational by time of introduction of the first wave of tilt trains. However, the third, at the junction of the railway line and the M25 London ring road, will be resisted by environmental groups and will require Department of Environment approval after lengthy hearings.

GNER hopes to provide some extra capacity between now and 2004 by leasing in some Eurostar train sets which would be returned to the owners when the new tilt trains come into service.

HOVERSPEED by Gary Andrews

HOVERSPEED PRE-CHRISTMAS TEMPTATIONS: Next Sunday (19 December) Hoverspeed are offering trips from Folkestone for just £35 for a car and up to nine passengers, to encourage passengers to visit Boulogne's traditional Christmas market. Held in the historic old town of Boulogne, regional and gastronomic products will be on sale, along with gift ideas and craft ware. Street entertainers will complete the festive line up. It's also the last Sunday before Christmas, and all the major hypermarkets will be open, including Auchan in Boulogne from 08.30 to 20.00. Hoverspeed are also inviting passengers to use the Dover - Ostend route to visit Ostend's Christmas market which started on 10 December and is open daily from 10.00 to 22.00 until 9 January 2000. Day trips to Belgium with Hoverspeed start from just £49 for a car and up to nine passengers or £8 for foot passengers. Belgium is famous for its speciality beers - more than 800 different brands - and Hoverspeed's Hoverstore in the Ostend terminal includes a
selection of white, raspberry and cherry flavoured varieties!

Hoverspeed has swapped the routes of the DIAMANT and RAPIDE, with the RAPIDE on the Calais route and the DIAMANT on the Ostend route. Meanwhile on 7 December the Dover - Ostend route operated from Folkestone to allow for maintenance to the Seacat linkspan at Dover.



 

 

ELLAN VANNIN

Last week it was remarked how similar the prevailing weather was on Friday 3rd December to that encountered on the day of the ELLAN VANNIN disaster.

To commemorate the disaster a memorial plaque was unveiled at Ramsey Harbour last week.

Meanwhile the Manx Heritage Foundation has published a new book "The Ellan Vannin Story – An Account of The Loss of the SS Ellan Vannin" by Richard Stafford - ISBN 0952 401964. Price £12.99

The book is in A4 format with 103 pages. The foreword is by Hamish Ross, present managing director of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. The book is a thorough piece of work, including not only full details of the disaster, but also provides for a snapshot of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company during the early part of the 20th Century, as well as the subsequent Public Inquiry. What makes the book even more interesting is that short biographies of each of the passengers and crew are included. In addition there is information on the wreck site and technical details of the vessel. To complement an informative and well written text are numerous photographs and documents.

This book will surely find its way on to the book-shelves of every Steam Packet enthusiast. Though given the nature of the book one wonders if it will ever find its way into the on-board shops? Perhaps it would not the most comfortable reading for passengers on a stormy winter’s night!

If you wish to obtain a copy quickly may I suggest you give the Lexicon Bookshop at Douglas a call. Their phone number is 01624 673004 and they will take credit card orders. Postage is around £2.00. I phoned around on Friday and the book was with me on Saturday morning, impressive service!

CENARGO: MERCHANT FERRIES by Gary Andrews

The SAGA MOON is believed to have returned to the Merchant Ferries Heysham - Dublin route on 4 December, replacing the Estonian Shipping Company owned VARBOLA. According to the Estonian Shipping Company website the VARBOLA has since been located at Laxey Bay "awaiting orders" with a suggestion that she is due to depart on 13 December.

CUNARD

The maritime highlight of the week was the formal naming and reflagging of the former Cunard passenger ship VISTAFJORD at the Pier Head on Friday 10th December. Despite the poor prevailing weather conditions over the past few weeks the day chosen for the event could not have been better as window of good weather passed over and held for much of the vessel’s visit and the ceremony.

The CARONIA arrived on Merseyside on Thursday evening and was heard to report to Mersey Radio that she was passing Brazil buoy [off New Brighton] at 20.48.

On arrival she anchored in the river with the Mersey Ferry WOODCHURCH acting as tender on the Thursday evening.

Also arriving on Thursday was the deputy prime minister and probably Cunard’s most famous former steward, Rt. Hon. John Prescott, MP. On Thursday evening Mr. Prescott attended a reunion of former Cunard-White Star employees who had served on the BRITANNIC employees before taking part in the renaming ceremony on Friday afternoon.

The master of ceremonies for the event was BBC Newsreader Michael Buerk.

Unfortunately Mr. Prescott made something of a blunder during his speech confusing the president of Carnival Cruise Lines, Cunard’s parent company Larry Pimental, with the Scarlet Pimpernel! Mr. Prescott saying: "The CARONIA is a great Cunard name, returned to a great historic British ensign. This is about British skills, British Excellence and British Professionalism and it is those qualities that Mr. Pimpernel wants to see associated with Cunard." Music accompanying the event, provided by an orchestra and choir, included "Rule Britannia" and "Land of Hope and Glory". With onlookers at the Pier Head being equipped with English and Union Jack Flags –it was very much a jingoistic British affair!

Ms. Pamela Conover, Cunard Line’s chief operating officer, released the bottle of English wine, which was smashed on the ship’s bow. She wished "CARONIA and all she carries fair weather and following seas. May God bless her and all who sail in her."

Speaking at the ceremony Larry Pimental said: "We are here to rename a great vessel and revive a legendary name in Cunard’s history. It was important we did it here in this great port of Liverpool and the magnificent Cunard building here is a testament to the company’s great origins. When Cunard decided to rename the cruise ship VISTAFJORD and repaint it in the company livery it was decided that Liverpool was the place to be – the city where the line was founded."

After the ceremony the CARONIA moved off the stage to make way for the returning SUPERSEACAT THREE and she anchored in the river where she made a fine sight. She departed at midnight to the accompaniment of another firework display. She was bound for Southampton with 600 passengers on board.

A PERSONAL VIEW OF THE CARONIA CEREMONY

On a personal note I had something of a dilemma as to where best to view the event. It was tempting to go to the Pier Head, but it would not be possible to capture the entire event on a single photograph. In the end I opted to go to Alfred Lock at Seacombe.

One cannot say that illness can be fortuitous but in my case this week it was! Having suffered a dreadful cold all week, my voice finally gave up on Thursday and consequently I went off work on Thursday. Being off gave me the opportunity to get into a suitable position to record the event. If I had had to come from work, the Pier Head would have been the only option due to time considerations. I am just wondering if the hour spent shivering at Alfred could end up putting me back to square one, but frankly for this event it was worth it.

When I arrived at Alfred Lock at around 15.20, the late afternoon sun still illuminated the CARONIA, looking for the entire world like an enlarged Isle of Man Steam Packet ship. [It being part of maritime folklore that Samuel Cunard was so impressed by the IoMSPCo livery of red, white and black that he adopted it for the Cunard vessels.] She was berthed at the Landing Stage with her bow facing up river. This was to allow a stage to be constructed near her bow for the renaming ceremony. The Howard Smith tug COLLINGWOOD was on standby. I did note that her starboard side appeared to have already acquired a few knocks and abrasions, which had defaced her paintwork.

From the roof of the nearby Cunard building the company’s flags flew one fore one aft.

Unfortunately by the time that the renaming took place at 16.25 twilight was well advanced and my camera shutter speed had fallen significantly. I had managed to mislay my tripod and was having to rest the camera on the railings to avoid camera shake.

When the renaming took place maroons were fired from the roof of the Cunard building heralding the start of a spectacular firework display on both the fo’csle of the ship and from the roof of the Cunard building. The ship’s siren sounding repeatedly during the display. Meanwhile, the bells of the Liverpool Parish Church of Our Lady and St. Nicholas rang out and an orchestra and choir struck up. I basically just shot away with the camera trying several different exposures and hopefully will have captured least a few useful shots for the web site.

At the end of the firework display I drove back through the Queensway tunnel and parked up at the Sea Terminal. This gave me the opportunity to take some more photographs of the ship at the Landing Stage.

Shortly after I left, the CARONIA moved back into the river and anchored. Later that evening I returned to take some more photos of her anchored in the river, fortunately the tripod had been located by then!

Whilst I didn’t see the CARONIA depart for Southampton at 00.00 I certainly heard her departure as I am sure did most of Merseyside! At exactly midnight the sound of fireworks could be heard and faint sound of the ship’s whistle. The fireworks continuing for almost 10 minutes. Local press reports indicate that her noisy departure resulted in enquiries being made by worried citizens as to the nature of the noise!

All in all it was a wonderful public event which hopefully will increase the maritime awareness of people in the area and perhaps pave the way to further appearances of Cunard and Carnival vessels on Merseyside in the future.

LIVERPOOL PRINCE’S LANDING STAGE

During the CARONIA’s visit the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Joe Devaney commented during the ceremony at the Pier Head that he had just received news from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company that it would like other liners to dock there. "Mersey Docks is preparing a bid to get an extension to this stage so that large liners can berth here regularly."

Mersey Docks and Harbour Company confirmed to the local press that they were looking into the possibility of cruise ships berthing regularly at the Landing Stage on a regular basis. A MD&HC spokesman said:" The renaming ceremony is a very positive recognition of Cunard of Liverpool’s contribution to their history and future. We hope Liverpool will see more of Cunard’s ships in the future. In fact we are presently looking at the possibility of cruise ships berthing at the Pier Head on a regular basis. I cannot comment further on our plans but we certainly have big hopes for the use of the Pier Head as a landing stage."

JHL’S COMMENT: It is more than likely that any plans for the extension of the landing stage will be integral with the revised plans for the Sea Terminal. It had been the intention that the aborted proposals for improvements at Prince’s Landing Stage would be to permit joint facilities for Sea Containers services and the reception of visiting cruise ships by MD&HC.


STENA LINE

STENA LYNX has again failed to recommence sailings on the Fishguard – Rosslare route. Originally due to be back in service by the end of December, the vessel’s return to service was first postponed until the past week and was further postponed until the 12th December. By Saturday the date had been put back to 14th December.

ALBERT DOCK

Regular M&ISS readers will recall the less than warm welcome given to the former Yugoslav passenger/cargo vessel PRINCE ALBERT when she was brought to the adjacent Canning Dock by her owner Captain Kahnenko during June 1999. Two weeks ago it was announced that this interesting little vessel had been given notice to quit by the company, which runs the Albert Dock. This is despite the fact that PRINCE ALBERT certainly adds something visually interesting to the usually almost empty Canning Dock.

However, there is to be a new addition to the "craft" afloat in the Albert Dock itself - a large floating statue of Jesus Christ. It has been placed in the Dock as part of an exhibition in the Tate Gallery, which is housed in one of the Albert Dock Warehouses.

The exhibition "Heaven – An Exhibition That Will Break Your Heart" is a collection of work by international artists working in fashion, video, paint, sculpture and photography. The aim of the exhibition is to show how religious and spiritual experience has changed at the end of the 20th Century and explore how pop stars, models and celebrities are replacing traditional subjects of worship.

Local church leaders appear somewhat resigned to the exhibition with the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rev. James Jones commenting that "This controversial exhibition is a sign of our times."

Other outspoken critics of the exhibition include Lord Alton, professor of citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University and author Alice Thomas Ellis who described it as "mildly blasphemous".

JHL’s COMMENT: It is not the first time that the Albert Dock has been used for floating platforms carrying displays etc. For some years a hideous monstrosity known as "Fred’s Weather Map" has defaced the south-east corner of the dock, though at least it has promoted the dock in popular culture.

The statue of Christ is certainly not appropriate to the area and given the response to the whole exhibition from the church and other critics there should be some question as to whether it was appropriate to hold it in the first place.

The Tate has been home to many weird and controversial exhibitions in the past. Only once have I entered the building, and that was to support a colleague’s school trip some years ago. I can’t say I was impressed with some people’s idea of art!

It appears that the large floating statue of Christ which forms part of an controversial exhibition is deemed to be suitable for mooring in the dock whilst PRINCE ALBERT, an interesting little ship which adds to the dock complex, has been served with notice to quit. It certainly is a strange world! Though I am sure most enthusiasts would agree that religious statues have their place in church whilst ships have their place in dock!

PIER HEAD

Preparations are now well underway the Liverpool’s famous Pier Head for the Cream Millennium Concert. Paying a visit to the piazza area to photograph the CARONIA on 10th December, I found large areas of the Pier Head fences off by security fencing and temporary buildings in course of erection. Apparently lighting columns, waste bins and seats have been removed from the area and through access to the ferry terminal is only possible from either the Mann Island or Sea Terminal ends, thus inconveniencing commuters.

Frankly such a situation is very unsatisfactory especially as it is being undertaken for an event which is due to take place for just one night only. One wonders where the vociferous protestors are that complained about the proposal to modify the Pier Head and move the "Memorial to the Heroes of the Marine Engine Room" are?

Frankly the mess down at the Pier Head is a plain disgrace, which is disfiguring the waterfront. Would it not have been better to have held this Millennium event on the vast space at King’s Dock which is successfully used for temporary buildings during the summer Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s Summer Concerts?

When the Millennium event is in progress access to the Pier Head will be restricted to ticket holders only. Surely the Pier Head Piazza should have been left open access so that Merseysiders could have gathered in front of the Liver Building’s famous clock to welcome in the new Millennium?

On a final note one wonders just how many special millennium events will turn out to be profitable? Already local press reports suggest that a number of proposed events and functions have either been cancelled, scaled down or have had their ticket prices reduced due to a lack of interest. One gets the feeling that Millennium hype will leave some businesses with a lot of financial egg on their face, as happened in Cornwall during the over hyped 1999 Eclipse.

CAMMELL LAIRD

P&OSL PROVENCE and remained in dry dock as did Caledonian Mac Brayne’s ISLE OF MULL. Returning to the wet basin this week was Falcon Drilling’s PEREGRINE VII. It had been though that this vessel which has been completely rebuilt over the last two and a half years had departed for good.

DUBLIN PORT

The Irish Independent has reported on growing discontent among hauliers regarding facilities at Dublin Port.

Irish road hauliers met on 12 December to demand a radical overhaul of facilities at Dublin Port. Irish Road Hauliers Association president Gerry McMahon said that they have major problems with working times within the port, delays at terminals, harmonisation of paper work and inadequate toilet and washroom facilities.

The booming Irish economy has meant that more trucks are using the port than ever before, but the facilities aren't there to meet their demands. Now angry hauliers say urgent action must be taken to solve the problem. The IRHA intervened last weekend when they learned that Dublin hauliers were threatening to withdraw their services, an action that would have caused major disruption at Ireland's busiest port.

This new dispute follows a blockade at the port by hauliers in 1997 to highlight their grievances. Most of those grievances still have to be resolved and now the IRHA is hoping that serious negotiations can start to address their problems. Gerry McMahon was reported in the Irish Independent as saying:

"The association does not want to see a work stoppage, We don't feel that that will resolve any issue because ultimately, at the end of the day, people are going to have to sit down across the table and sort their problems out. We feel it is time the port users faced up to their
responsibilities. The problems are not caused by the hauliers and somebody has to accept responsibility for the problems."

"There are so many groups at the port that the problem is quite diverse. We need a focal point or a representative body on the other side where we can sit down and channel the problems. One of the reasons that this has dragged on so long is that there is no one specific body that the hauliers can approach."

November and December are the two busiest times of the year at the port, so any disruption would be a major cause of concern. A planned work stoppage has been postponed until December 16 to allow talks to go ahead.

The Assistant Chief Executive at Dublin Port, Joe Jones told the Irish press that each of the terminal operators including Irish Ferries, Merchant Ferries and P&O European Ferries have reasonably good facilities but the Port itself does not provide a central facility for all users:

"We had a facility in operation for about two years but we charged for it and nobody used it, so we withdrew it in 1998. We allocated about seven acres of land, we put in temporary buildings with washrooms, shower units, waiting rooms with telephone facilities and rest areas and we had a reasonably small charge for leaving vehicles there overnight or during the day. The simple fact of the matter is that nobody would pay. People want the service for nothing, but we can't supply it for nothing."

Even if hauliers are now prepared to pay for the facility, the seven-acre site originally set aside by Dublin Port in 1996 is now being used for imported cars and a Revenue Commissioners office.

Speaking of the ferry operators, Joe Jones said that they all provide basic facilities such as toilets and are looking at ways of improving basic facilities but that a quality rest area with parking space is not feasible at the moment. Mr Jones added:

"Most of the terminal operators have limited space. They are tenants of Dublin Port and we rent or lease the space to them. We encourage them to put in facilities but they are private operators and if they want to get the business, they will have to put the facilities in themselves."

Jones says there is no one single solution to resolve the port hauliers' grievances but there are certain things that can be done.

"We operate a 24-hour port, but it's not really 24 hours. The gates are open 24 hours, police are on duty 24 hours and so are the tugs and the pilots. But a number of the private operators within the port don't operate these hours. It would help if the operational hours were extended. Oil companies, for example, do most of their distribution out of the port during night time hours so they don't get involved in the congestion and they get much better efficiency out of their trucks. We would like to see a number of the terminal operators stretching their day to help relieve congestion at peak times from eight in the morning until ten and then from four to seven in the evening."

Jones says a better information flow would also lead to a significant improvement in operations at the Port.

"A truck is sent in by a factory or a ship's agent to collect a box. The information about that has to be correct in the docket so we know which terminal it's in, which ship it has come off, when it can be collected. There is a need for an integrated information system that is common in big international ports. We have grown so fast here that there isn't a common information system where you could go on a website, find your container and determine exactly which terminal it is in. We are working on this ourselves here to try and get a cargo community system in operation and we have made some good progress on that but it's going to be a couple of years before there is a really effective system working."

PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL STEAM NAVIGATION CO 

EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER GROUNDING by Gary Andrews

P&O European Ferries' EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER hit the headlines when she ran aground whilst arriving at Ardrossan from Larne in high winds at around 00.30 on 8 November. The vessel was blown on to a sandbank inside the breakwater at Ardrossan harbour. The vessel had 18 crew and passengers aboard along with her normal cargo of unaccompanied freight units and was carrying 51 tonnes of diesel oil, though there was no pollution risk at any time. A tug was sent to aid the stricken vessel and she was pulled free at around midday. The vessel appeared to have returned to Larne by the evening of 8 November.

P&O END OF YEAR TRADING UPDATE by Gary Andrews

P&O this week issued a year-end update on current trading and progress with its corporate strategy.

P&O's Cruises division is continuing to experience excellent trading conditions. The division's total capacity has increased by 14% this year. It is fully booked at yields consistent on a like for like basis with the high levels achieved last year. For 2000, capacity will increase by 21%. Bookings are strong with the first half year already 70% full. Yields are again good. The overall outlook for the division is highly positive.

The Ports and logistics division is doing particularly well. Following recent investment and strong trading conditions, its worldwide container terminal throughput this year will approach 6 million teus compared to 4 million last year. A further 2-million teu increase is anticipated for 2000; container volumes and rates at P&O Nedlloyd have shown a further improvement since the end of Q3. The industry's supply/demand balance is set to improve for 2000 and 2001 during which time P&O Nedlloyd will be pressing ahead with its extensive cost reduction programme.

Since March 1999, P&O has agreed property sales comfortably in excess of £500 million. Most of the Group's remaining investment property will be sold in the first half of 2000, well ahead of the original timetable. Meanwhile plans are well advanced for P&O's US listing next year.

Commenting on the current position, P&O Chairman Lord Sterling said:

"We are ending the year on a positive note with all of our core divisions performing well. We are pressing ahead strongly with our strategy of greater focus and increasing shareholder value. We expect to achieve further significant progress in the first half of 2000."

There was no express reference made in the statement to P&O's ferry operations.

ASGARD [I]

The historic ASGARD [I], which was involved in the gunrunning to the Irish Volunteers at Howth in 1914, is to be restored after a long controversy. The vessel has been stored in Kilmainham Gaol for many years and there has been an intense controversy over whether it should be housed in a museum or restored to sea going condition.

The ASGARD [I] entered Irish history when she was used to land 9,000 rifles and 26,000 rounds of ammunition from Germany at Howth on July 26, 1914 for the Irish Volunteers. She was owned by the author and politician Erskine Childers, who was later executed by the Free State authorities for possession of a handgun.

The ASGARD later went on to become Ireland's first national sailing training vessel. However, she was withdrawn from service in the 1970s and her place was taken by the fine ASGARD II constructed in the 1980s.

She has held the distinction of been being possibly the only vessel in the world to be sent to gaol and has languished in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin for many years.

A voluntary committee has campaigned for her to go to sea once more and says it has raised over £200,000 with help from American supporters.

The Department of Defence and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht have been considering the future of the vessel, with varying opinions. Now the voluntary committee says it has been given a licence to go ahead with the restoration to full sea-going capability.

Restoration is expected to take some considerable time, and there is some argument as to how much of the original vessel can be maintained. Though it looks as though this famous little ship may put to sea again one day.

BRIAR STAR LTD

Swansea Cork Ferries' 2000 Brochure indicates that the SUPERFERRY will operate the Swansea - Cork route again next year, despite indications earlier in the year that an alternative vessel would be used next season.
 

06 DECEMBER 1999

NOTES & NEWS

This is an additional news bulletin to that posted on Sunday 05 December which is below.

Further more, whilst I remarked that the change over of computers had gone well, there were a couple of slight technical problems.

First of all I omitted to backup the Guest Book Log before swapping machines. Thus all entries in the guest book since the summer have been lost! It has always been interesting to read visitors' comments and plot their locations.

Could I make a request that even if you have recently completed the guest book you sign in again.

The second technical problem concerned the live-chat feature. There was some danger that the existing navigation structure of the main site could have been compromised if this had been transferred. Consequently I decided to delete this feature for the present time. I will be investigating the potential of the new FP2000 software to ascertain if the interactive chat feature can be retained.

SEA CONTAINERS by Gary Andrews

HEYSHAM SUPERSEACAT CONFIRMED

On 3 December Sea Containers confirmed that in 2000 the Heysham - Belfast route will be operated by a SuperSeaCat. No confirmation was given of the vessel to be used, however it would seem likely to be the Newhaven based SUPERSEACAT TWO, which in turn will likely be replaced by the SUPERSEACAT FOUR now that Sea Containers' planned Brindisi - Cesme route has again been postponed.

Quite what the future holds for the SEACAT DANMARK remains to be seen.

Although Sea Containers' recently published Irish Sea routes 2000 brochure had already confirmed speculation that the Heysham route would be operated by a SuperSeaCat, the company made the official announcement to over 150 members of Northern Ireland travel trade at its annual Travel Trade Awards event.

The new-look SuperSeaCat service will start on 16 March 2000, and cut the crossing time by 15 minutes to 3 hours 45 minutes. Sailing times are as
detailed for the route in last week's bulletin. Hamish Ross, Managing Director of Sea Containers Irish Sea Operations, said:

"The arrival of SuperSeaCat in Belfast shows our commitment to improving services for customers through investment in the latest technology. The Belfast to Heysham service has carried 140,000 passengers and 40,000 vehicles since it began in March this year. The route has been an outstanding success and SuperSeaCat will enable us to grow the market even further. The announcement earlier this week of developments in the Northern Ireland peace process is good news for the route and for both economies."

Sea Containers has said that they have invested heavily in research and development of the craft and believes it will be well suited to the North Channel. The craft gives a smooth ride as a result of an underwater wing called a T-Foil. This hydrodynamic innovation acts as a stabiliser for the vessel and improves the ride by 60 per cent, working like an aerofoil. At 10 by 6 feet, it is about the same size and shape as the tail fin of a Blue Whale. The increased stability the T-Foil provides means that high speeds across the Irish Sea can be maintained on a regular basis.

The introduction of SuperSeaCat has also prompted a significant investment in berthing and harbour facilities in Belfast by Belfast Harbour Commissioners. Ian Watson, Port Operations & Development Manager, Belfast Harbour Commissioners, said:

"We are delighted with this further commitment by Sea Containers to this expanding fast ferry route network out of the Port of Belfast. The timing of the introduction of this new vessel, with its larger carrying capacity, augers well for the future of our tourist industry which has been boosted by the recent significant progress in the peace process."

The press release on the investment details the company's Irish Sea network but makes no reference to the Ballycastle - Campbeltown route stating:

"The arrival of SuperSeaCat reinforces Sea Container's position as the leading fast and conventional ferry operator on the Irish Sea. With a total of eight different routes, the fleet includes SeaCat services between Belfast and Stranraer / Belfast and Troon / Belfast and the Isle of Man / Dublin and the Isle of Man / Isle of Man and Liverpool. It also operates the
SuperSeaCat between Liverpool and Dublin."

The firm's 2000 brochure also makes no reference to the Ballycastle - Campbeltown route. Interestingly the new brochure doesn't detail fares (except for a few special offers), and only gives sailing details, suggesting passengers phone up for a quote and to find out what offers are running. It is unclear as to whether later editions will feature fare details.

Meanwhile Sea Containers has laid claim to the title of the world's largest fast ferry operator. This is a claim surely disputable by a number of other operators - not least Minoan Flying Dolphins which has a fleet of 68 vessels including 34 hydrofoils and fast catamarans, 30 conventional car ferries and four ro-ro cargo vessels.

The company, which pioneered fast ferry travel in the UK in 1990 with the introduction of the world's first car and passenger carrying high-speed catamaran, says it is ahead of its rivals in terms of the number of fast craft operating on routes worldwide. A fleet of 16 fast ferries (including two Hovercraft) is now operated on the Irish Sea, the English Channel, in
Northern Europe and the United States. The fleet also includes 11 conventional ferries and 3 cruise ships.

Senior Vice President of Sea Containers' Passenger Transport Division, David G. Benson, said:

"We have come a long way since our first high-speed catamaran, SeaCat
HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN, transformed ferry travel a decade ago. We continue to be at the forefront of the industry in terms of high speed craft operations and passenger service and as the Millennium approaches we feel we can claim the title of the world's largest fast ferry operator."

"In 1998 we carried nearly six million passengers and one million vehicles for the first time in our history. Following our acquisition of Neptun Maritime's Silja Line in April 1999 - which alone carried nearly six million passengers on its routes in the Baltic Sea during 1998 - these combined figures will significantly increase by the end of 1999. It will be a great
start to a new century."

On this occasion Sea Containers didn't mind mentioning the CLAYMORE (and indeed the LADY OF MANN) to state that in the Irish Sea, Sea Containers operated:

"A network of nine routes linking Scotland and Northern Ireland; the Isle of Man with England, Northern Ireland and Ireland; Northern Ireland and
England; England and Ireland by four fast ferries and three conventional
ferries. (Sea Containers Ferries Scotland Ltd.; the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. Ltd and the Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Co. Ltd.

GARY ANDREWS

WEBSITE PLANNED

Sea Containers have announced that a new website is to be set up for their Irish Sea ferry operations at www.seacat.co.uk. The site will be launched in the spring and will include an online booking service.

WEATHER DISRUPTION by Gary Andrews

Continuing what has been one of the most consecutively stormy periods for some years, this week saw the strong winds continue, brining more chaos to ferry operations. Very few Irish Sea operations were unaffected by the severe weather conditions with most fast ferries cancelled at various times and almost all conventional ferries also subject to delays and cancellations. Some English Channel and North Sea sailings were also subject to similar disruption. It would be impossible to accurately detail every disruption over the past week but a few of the problems included.

On P&O's Fleetwood - Larne route accumulated delays and disruption mean that at the time of writing (5 December) the vessels are now operating on the sailing previous to what they are scheduled to operate (i.e. each vessel is operating two sailings later than it should). For example, the EUROPEAN PIONEER which usually operates the evening sailing ex Fleetwood is now operating the morning sailing ex Fleetwood normally operated by the EUROPEAN SEAFARER which in turn is now operating the late evening/early morning departure of the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR which in turn is operating the evening sailing normally operated by the EUROPEAN PIONEER.

Seacat Scotland sailings have been very disrupted by poor weather. Only on 29 November did sailings operate to normal (with afternoon arrivals from both Troon and Heysham arriving only 15 minutes late). On 30 November, the SEACAT SCOTLAND operated her 08.00 sailing to Troon as normal, despite relatively stormy conditions. The vessel arrived back at Belfast one hour late at around 14.45 and since a previous observation of the craft 24 hours earlier had managed to get a "dent" on her bow, just below the visor. Given that the craft sailed since with the "dent", one would assume the damage is cosmetic. The afternoon roundtrip to Stranraer was cancelled and it appears the evening sailing to Troon was also cancelled with passengers being diverted to the STENA CALEDONIA (along with passengers from the cancelled 17.10 STENA VOYAGER sailing to Stranraer).

The 11.15 sailing SEACAT SCOTLAND sailing ex Troon arrived 1 hour late on 1 and 2 December, leading to similar delays on the 14.15 sailing to Stranraer. On 2 December (and possibly 1 December), it appears the 18.15 sailing from Belfast to Troon was replaced by a sailing (probably around 20.30) to Stranraer to save on sailing times given the delays.

All Seacat sailings to Troon, Stranraer and Heysham were cancelled on 3 and 4 December.

[See 05th December Bulletin for details of other weather disruptions.]

DART LINE CHANGES AFFECT MERCHANT FERRIES

Nick Widdows reports that the DART 1 is to be replaced by the Jacobs/Romline owned MERLE and be re-named DART 3 (as she has always been known within Jacobs) due to the ending of the charter of the former vessel. It is intended that the DART 3 will operate on the Vlissingen service and the DART 2 will replace the DART 1 as third ship on the Zeebrugge route. This is because the DART 3 is slightly faster and the Vlissingen route is rather more demanding in this respect being longer and having the slow spell up the Scheldte.

The 1999 edition of Nick Widdows' publication "Ferries Of The British Isles & Northern Europe" contains a detailed history of Dart Line - visit his website at http://homepages.enterprise.net/nickw00000
for details of how to order.

It is unclear as to what will replace the MERLE used on the Heysham -Belfast route. It is possible that they may simply charter the DART 1. Alsopossible is that the SAGA MOON could return to her old Heysham - Belfast route and be permanently replaced on the Heysham - Dublin route by the Estonian Shipping Company owned VARBOLA which has been used on a number of occasions recently when the SAGA MOON has operated on the Norse Irish Liverpool - Belfast route to allow the LAGAN VIKING and MERSEY VIKING to undergo overhaul.


BRIAR STAR  by Gary Andrews

Swansea Cork Ferries are advertising a schedule for next year from 15 March to 8 November, a very similar sailing pattern to that offered in 1999. It is unclear which vessel will be used given earlier reports that the SUPERFERRY would not be returning to the service.

Geoff Hamer reports that the SUPERFERRY has been running on the Adriatic, understood to be her first Mediterranean sailings since the winter of 1993/94. Strintzis Lines' winter schedule from Ancona and Venezia requires three ships; in November, the IONIAN ISLAND, IONIAN VICTORY and SUPERFERRY HELLAS (all ex-Japanese ferries) were scheduled to offer three sailings weekly from Venezia and four from Ancona. However, the IONIAN ISLAND has been running from Bari instead of the SUPERFAST II which has replaced the fire-damaged SUPERFAST III at Ancona - this is the first sign of joint working since Attica and Strintzis became linked financially. The SUPERFERRY is taking sailings scheduled for the IONIAN ISLAND, and made her first call at Venezia on 18 November following the ending of her duties on the Swansea - Cork route - probably her first-ever visit to Venezia as Strintzis hadn't started a service there in 1994.

The SUPERFAST III arrived at the Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg on 3
December for repairs after her fire last month.

Meanwhile the St. Malo - Cork Ferries service has been suspended following an inspection of the VENUS by the French authorities on 25 November who ordered the operators to put the vessel into dry-dock for overhaul. (One can only assume it was found various certificates needed re-newed). The ferry's first cancelled sailing ex Cork was on 27 November with the firm claiming that the service had been "temporarily suspended" due to "mechanical failure". The operator has also said that efforts to find a replacement vessel approved to carry livestock had not been successful and that since the introduction of the service in July freight and passenger figures have exceeded projections.

The ship had been carrying over 3,000 cattle each week to the Continent, (around one third of all live cattle exports from Ireland) and its removal from service means that buyers for the live export trade have pulled out of the market resulting in the price of weanlings at the marts dropping dramatically by £50 per head.

Irish Farmers' representative, Raymond O'Malley has called on the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Joe Walsh to make urgent contact with the French Government to resolve the problems which have arisen regarding the operation of the ship and stated:

"If the French authorities have their way it effectively puts an end to the crucial roll on/roll off service from Cork to Europe for the Irish live cattle export trade"

CAMMELL LAIRD

The Caledonian Mc. Brayne vessel ISLE OF MULL is currently in the Birkenhead yard undergoing work on the bow visor, stern ramp and generators. She will be in for about two weeks.


05 DECEMBER 1999

NOTES & NEWS

First of all, in the event that anyone missed it that logged on to the site on Sunday or Monday last week, there was a further additional update on Monday 28th November, following Sunday’s postings.

PLEASE NOTE THERE WILL BE A FURTHER UPDATE ON MONDAY 6th DECEMBER at 21.00

This week the weather has had a profound effect on Irish Sea services, and it has not been possible to gain a full picture of the alterations and cancellations of the operators

Also week saw the arrival of a new computer amidst much anxiety as to what transferring the site would involve. On taking delivery I thought it would be the best time to upgrade to FrontPage 2000. All I can say is that the transfer of the site has gone well, and certain sections of the site will not now be going off line. However, early indications are that there is a problem getting FP2000 to upload to the Cybase Archive and Emergency back up site, though I think this has more to do the Cybase site, than this end. I’ll try and resolve this as soon as possible.

Apologies if any e-mail has gone unacknowledged or I have missed any submitted reports. As you can imagine I have been rather busy getting everything on the new machine. If you are still awaiting a reply, or any material sent for inclusion has not appeared please let me know.

Further apologies that the promised Merchant Ferries voyage report has not materialised. I'll see if I can get it ready for next week.  

SEA CONTAINERS

LADY OF MANN – Last Sunday the Lady did not venture to Dublin after working the Saturday 21.00 from Liverpool, instead she remained at Douglas until around 20.00 on Sunday before returning to Liverpool. Dublin – Liverpool passengers travelling via Irish Ferries through Holyhead. [The Liverpool Daily Post and Echo managed to get their facts wrong AGAIN – suggesting that the Dublin to Liverpool sailing had diverted to Holyhead!]

The LADY operated the 16.00 Dublin to Liverpool on 29th November.

The Lady has certainly been in the news this week. On Tuesday 30th November she covered for SUPERSEACAT THREE on the 11.00 Liverpool to Dublin sailing. She is reported to have arrived at Dublin at 18.11 and departed again at 18.27. Must be a record for a turnaround. However, John Shepherd noted from the TR broadcast that she had left Liverpool with just 44 passengers.

On 1st December it wasn’t records that were being broken as the Lady disgraced herself with a small engine room fire. Featuring in the local press with fire appliances alongside the Liverpool Echo proclaimed "Crew saves ferry from Mersey Fire". Of course the Echo managed to get quite a few facts wrong, including the fact that they thought she was covering for an IoM sailing at 11.00 rather than going to Dublin. They also managed to get some information on an emergency drill with SSC3 mixed in. To my knowledge the LADY OF MANN is not equipped with emergency escape chutes! However, the LADY was soon back in service, which was just as well given the weather experiences this week.

[JHL’s COMMENT: This is just an off the cuff observation, but here goes: Since Sea Containers took over the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and stopped the Lady having her usual winter hibernation in Vittoria Dock she has disgraced herself each autumn/winter. 1997 – engine failure, 1998 tangled a Yokohama fender on Berth 49 at Dublin and now in 1999 has a fire in her engine room.

It’s as though the LADY resents having to at this time of year when she has normally been hibernating!]

On Saturday 4th she operated the 07.30 from Douglas to Liverpool, but was delayed from berthing at Liverpool by SSC3 [below] she also worked the 21.00 Liverpool to Douglas and the return working on Sunday 5th December. Comms. traffic with Mersey Radio around mid day on Sunday suggested that she would work the 21.00 Sunday sailing to Douglas as well.

[JHL’s COMMENT: Once again the LADY OF MANN is proving her worth in saving many sailings that would have had to be cancelled due to adverse weather. Hopefully this coming Year Sea Containers will decide to retain her and upgrade her to the new SOLAS specification. It is difficult to see how they could operate without her. Perhaps even a modern equivalent should be considered with say a speed of 25knots before any more fast craft are contemplated?]

SUPERSEACAT THREE This week the weather disrupted sailings on 29th November 3rd and 4th December. On Tuesday 30th November SSC3 undertook a major evacuation exercise in conjunction with the UK and Irish authorities in Langton Dock.

On Friday SSC3 remained in Liverpool, she was forced to run up and down the river during the early evening whilst the LADY OF MANN boarded at the Landing Stage with the 21.00 sailing to Douglas.

On Saturday she ended up pinned to the Landing Stage by the strong winds and was unable to clear the berth [Only one berth is currently available due to the repositioning of the linkspan for the visit of Cunard’s CARONIA next week.] to allow the LADY OF MANN to come alongside with the 07.30 sailing from Douglas. The LADY OF MANN spent sometime waiting up river off Cammell Laird.

Around despite calling for tugs earlier, it wasn’t until around 12.30 that the Howard Smith Towing Company’s tug COLLINGWOOD was able to approach the stage due to other jobs in hand. Observing the proceedings from Monk’s Ferry car park, it was interesting to note the first officer asking the tug skipper to remember that SSC3 was made of aluminium and that the tug should not be allowed to touch the hull. Also when pulling the COLLINGWOOD should "pull gently".

Within minutes, SSC3 was off the stage allowing the LADY OF MANN to berth, the tow being dropped of Seacombe stage. The plan had been for SSC3 to move off to allow the LADY OF MANN on the stage. The Lady would then move off to allow the SSC3 back on. However, I am informed that this did not materialise and that the Lady remained on the stage all day forcing the SSC3 to cruise up and down the river until 21.00 when the LADY OF MANN departed for Douglas!

On Sunday, comms. suggested that SSC3 was back in service on the 11.00 sailing. However, it looks as though the LADY OF MANN will cover the 21.00 to Dublin on Sunday evening.

Sea Containers’ SUPERSEACAT THREE has recently come in for praise from the shipping world after trade magazine Ships Monthly [November 1999] declared SUPERSEACAT THREE "the clear winner in the reliability stakes as far as Irish Sea Fast Ferries are concerned. The Dublin to Liverpool route’s monohull fast craft did not suffer a single peak season cancellation for mechanical reasons.

[JHL’s COMMENT: It is a pity that SSC3 had not opened the Liverpool to Dublin high-speed service this year and given the LADY OF MANN an extra year on the route in 1998. The unreliability of SSC2 did undermine customer confidence in the route last year, which may have had something do with the fall off in passengers in 1999, which cannot just be attributed to the end of duty free sales.]

BEN-MY-CHREE - Stan Basnett noted the BEN-MY-CHREE arriving at Douglas during the gales of 3rd December and made the following observation as the Ben passed "…through the harbour entrance at 0800 she took 30 mins to get on to the berth. Berthing assisted by Laxey Towing Co. tug Wendy Ann. Wind at harbour entrance 16 to 18 knots gusting 38 and backed from SW to WNW from 0700, so it was whistling down the harbour by the time of arrival. No big seas off the entrance but lots of windage just where they didn't want it. Superb bit of seamanship don't know who the skipper was at present but he kept the bow as near into wind as he could and held it just off the end of the Edward Pier and started his swing with the main engines and pushed his bow into the wind with the thrusters and let the wind assist. Only needed assistance from the tug to get the bulk of the vessel round onto the berth once it was broadside to the wind."

SANTA SPECIALS TO IRELAND

Sea Containers announced some new offers for the Liverpool to Dublin route, which are valid from December to January 5th 2000.

Car and up to 5 passengers: single: £109.00

Car and up to 5 passengers: return: £218.00

Car and up to 5 passengers: four day return: £149.00

Additional passengers are £20 per person.

All offers are subject to availability and no changes or refunds are allowed once booked.

Passengers should call 08705 523523 [UK] or 1 800 55 17 43 [EIRE] to book or see their travel agent.

ELLAN VANNIN WEATHER?

John Shepherd made an interesting observation about the prevailing weather conditions on Friday 3rd December. John wrote:

"Here on Merseyside we have had repeat of the ELLAN VANNIN weather of Friday 3rd December 1909, almost to the minute:

The wind was south-westerly, force 9 - 10, and the cold front passed through the area at 07.15 this morning, producing 'line-squall' conditions, just 30 minutes later than the ELLAN VANNIN encountered exactly similar conditions
ninety years ago."

The ELLAN VANNIN owned by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company foundered close to the Mersey Bar on 3rd December 1909 whilst on a sailing from Ramsey to Liverpool and was lost with all hands and passengers.

The Liverpool Nautical Research Society publication "The Bulletin" has a detailed account of the disaster in the December 1999 edition.

STENA LINE

STENA LYNX III was still in Wright and Beyer’s Bidston yard on Saturday 4th December. Lynx Sailings on the Fishguard to Rosslare route are now suspended until 8th December.

 

CENARGO IRISH SEA FERRIES

On Saturday 4th December, engineers were noted demolishing the old B&I Line passenger gangway at Brocklebank Dock, which has lain unused for many years. [The Norse Irish Belfast services use a passenger boarding bus.]. The structure appears to have suffered some severe damage, which suggests an impact from a vessel, rather than from the recent almost storm force winds.

The weather appears to have caused disruption to sailings. Events, which I noted were DAWN MERCHANT waiting off Langton Lock at least until 07.00 on Friday 3rd December before tugs, were available to assist her into the berth.

On Friday DAWN MERCHANT departed rather late on her 11.00 sailing. I am not sure just how late, but it could have been several hours. BRAVE MERCHANT was noted arriving at Langton on Friday evening at around 19.30 with her obviously much delayed 09.00 sailing from Dublin.

BRAVE MERCHANT sailed again early on Saturday morning, but DAWN MERCHANT was not back at Liverpool when I passed the terminal at 11.00. Last night I picked up a TR from DAWN MERCHANT outbound on the 23.00 sailing from Liverpool at around 23.30 which suggests that the 11.00 was cancelled and that she was working the 23.00 that on Saturdays is normally the preserve of BRAVE MERCHANT.

MERCHANT VENTURE – Mersey Radio reported that she was due to arrive at Gladstone Lock at 01.30 on Sunday 5th December.

CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR WEEKEND BREAKS TO IRELAND

The Liverpool Echo is promoting weekend breaks to Ireland with Merchant Ferries for readers who collect tokens published in the paper. For a price of £75 per person based on four people travelling with a car, passengers travel out on the Friday evening sailing from Liverpool with cabin accommodation, then spend Saturday night at the Mount Herbert Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin returning on the Sunday evening sailing from Dublin again with ensuite cabin accommodation. To take advantage of the offer, passengers must collect tokens published in the Liverpool Echo.

WAVERLEY STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY

The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society has announced that there is an urgent need for further funding for the Waverley rebuild due to commence this winter.

The rebuild work is about to start at the George Prior shipyard at Great Yarmouth [Pity she didn’t come to Cammell Laird!]. However, due to a lack of funding the rebuild will be much more limited than originally planned. A combination of external factors has meant a large escalation in costs, the exact amount of which could not be confirmed until the preferred ship yard was selected last week.

The reasons cited being:

New safety regulations, which emerged after the Lottery grant was awarded, has had to be incorporated at an additional cost of £575,000.

After the Lottery grant was awarded, the Heritage Lottery Fund made a special contract condition that the rebuilt ship’s outfit should be based upon the WAVERLEY "as fitted" in 1947. Achieving this, and blending in the alterations made necessary by the new regulations will cost another £430,000.

The rates per ton for steel work repairs quoted by ship yards have escalated by 54% since the original costings were made adding £315,000.

Changes in market conditions, coupled with increased complexity and quality, have added £580,000.

The next result is that the sum required to complete the full rebuild, making allowance for all the emergent work and contingencies, is £1.9 million higher than the current budget allows.

The rebuild is now going to process on a reduced scope of work so as to allow an immediate start. At the same time, the Lottery Fund is considering allocating further funding so that the full works can be carried out. Their initial response has been encouraging. Their rules do not allow them to give more than 75% of project costs; to meet the full escalation of £1.9 million would imply a Lottery contribution of £1,425,000 which would have to be matched by partnership funding of £475,000. Almost half of this amount is currently available from uncommitted reserves. On the recommendation of the Lottery Fund PSPS is also urgently seeking support from the European Regional Development Fund and other potential sources. Initial reaction is reported to be encouraging.

Consequently the PSPS has circulated members to ascertain in the next few days just how much funding the society can make available so that the WAVERLEY can re-enter service in a fully rebuilt form in 2000.

If the work has to proceed on a more limited basis due to the lack of funding the likely consequences are reported to be:

While the ship’s main machinery and basic structure will be fully rebuilt, a considerable amount of superstructure, decks and accommodation would remain as it is. This would be a major disappointment, and could have a damaging effect on WAVERLEY’s ability to attract passengers and therefore revenue compared to what could have been achieved following the full rebuild.

Some of the work required to comply with the new regulations would be postponed to a later date and completed at considerable cost. It would also disturb some of the rebuild work already carried out.

The ship would only be "half new" requiring considerable capital expenditure in the short to medium term, thereby potentially predjucing her long-term future, especially if we miss the opportunity to achieve more lottery funding.

All donations or pledges should be sent to Martin Longhurst, Hon Treasurer PSPS, "Mayfield", Hoe Lane, Abinger Hammer, Dorking, RH5 6RS.

[JHL’s COMMENT: It is rather unfortunate that such a shortfall should have occurred and I am certain that many enthusiasts who enjoy travelling on the WAVERLEY will make a donation either large or small. It is also illustrative of just how much money is involved in ship preservation. Interestingly the total sum involved is very similar to that required to ensure that another much loved Irish Sea vessel manages to meet the new safety requirements.]

HISTORIC WARSHIPS

I recently received an e-mail from Brain Cavanagh the shop manager for the Historic Warships at Birkenhead concerning an their web site which covers all the vessels at Birkenhead.

The Historic Warships web site can be found at http://www.warships.freeserve.co.uk

Email address: manager@warships.freeserve.co.uk 

ROYAL NAVY VISITOR

This week the Island Class patrol vessel HMS SHETLAND paid a visit to Liverpool, berthing at Canada Dock Branch 1 North. She is engaged in fishery protection duties. 

MCTAY MARINE

Anyone wishing to view the latest McTay Marine new build MV OBAN, constructed for the Royal Maritime Auxiliary, which is operated under contract by Serco-Denholm can view the vessel from "Four Bridges". It is berthed at the McTay fitting out berth in East Float, near Vittoria Dock.

OTHER NEWS

CONDOR VITESSE

Michael Pryce writes: "The 86-metre CONDOR VITESSE sailed from Falmouth on 9th November and arrived at Wellington on 2nd December 1999. Chartered by Tranz Rail, she will operate across Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton from 8th December to 26 April 2000.

05 December 1999

 

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