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Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond



27 February 2000


Though I have only been away for four days I returned to the usual bursting mailbox, and with much material for future updates. Despite plodding on with things time is catching up and once again  some things will have to be held over. For example I can't provide the review of the new Merchant Navy "Lifelines" gallery at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. 

Patrick Taylor was the first visitor to correctly associate the front page tune - Johnny Todd with "Z Cars" which was what I was looking for. Though apparently its also the Everton FC football club theme. That was something I didn't know!  

Finally on the subject of updates, I am considering the possibility of making a mid week update to take the pressure off weekends. From time to time I have made updates mid-week -especially when there have been important news stories to cover. However, these updates have usually been confined to just news bulletins. I may in future provide more general updates mid week. - Probably late Wednesday or Thursday evening. The only problem with mid week updates is that I am concerned that some site visitors might miss some material. Anyway I will look at this over the next week or two.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Gary Andrews, Brain Chambers, Sara Cass,  and "others"

John Luxton, February 27, 2000


SUPERSEACAT TWO: Remains in Cammell Laird. It is understood that her "T" foil will now be fitted this coming week.

SUPERSEACAT THREE: Re-entered service on Thursday February 24, with the re commencement of the Liverpool to Dublin service. She had been noted undertaking trial runs on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings out into Liverpool Bay departing just prior to the LADY OF MANN's arrival from Douglas.

On Sunday February 27, SSC3 did not sail to Dublin due to adverse weather conditions.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN: A correspondent reports that SEACAT ISLE OF MAN was noted heading outbound passing C12 buoy on February 25. The vessel was noted in bound again at 13.30. Presumably she had been out into Liverpool Bay for trails.

PONTUS -Last week it was noted that the former Silja line floating terminal to be employed at Liverpool's Pier Head is named PONTUS. This week a copy of the publicity photograph which appeared in the public exhibition was reproduced in the Manx Independent. The part of the  photograph which depicts the terminal is reproduced here. As can be seen it will be secured at the northern end of the Prince's Landing Stage. One hopes that PONTUS is up to the rigours of the Mersey tides. It certainly appears to be quite an impressive structure.


Sea Containers has reported its highest ever passenger and vehicle carrying figures, carrying in excess of 9 million passengers and almost 1.5 million vehicles for the first time during 1999. The dramatic increase is in no small part due to the purchase of a number of ferry interests and the addition of a number of new services.

The purchase by Sea Containers of 50% of Neptun Maritime, which owns Silja Line, in April, doubled ferry passenger carrying figures. Silja Line, which operates the routes Helsinki - Stockholm; Turku - Stockholm (with calls to the Åland Islands); Helsinki - Tallinn; Helsinki -Tallinn - Rostock and Vaasa ferries, carried 3,727,000 passengers and 247,000 vehicles. In addition, 80,000 freight units were carried.

Sea Containers will operate a new SuperSeaCat fast ferry service between Tallinn, Estonia, and Helsinki, Finland, starting in April 2000 and using the SUPERSEACAT FOUR. Sea Containers is establishing a company in Estonia to manage the ship whilst Silja Line in Helsinki will be the general sales and marketing agents and the service will carry the Silja brand.

SeaCat AB, which operates between Frederikshavn, Denmark, and Gothenburg, Sweden, carried 491,000 passengers and 105,000 vehicles. From 30 March, the SEACAT DANMARK will operate the service, together with the service between Gothenburg and Langesund, Norway, under the new name Silja Line SeaCat.

Hoverspeed, which operates cross-Channel fast ferry services on Dover - Calais, Dover - Ostend, Folkestone - Boulogne and Newhaven - Dieppe is upbeat about the 2000 season despite reporting a small fall in passenger numbers in 1999. In 1999 the firm carried 3,468,000 passengers down from 3.9 million passengers in 1998. However the firm saw an increase in vehicle carryings from 706,000 in 1998 to 722,000 in 1999.

Hoverspeed Managing Director, Geoffrey Ede, said that improvements in vehicle carryings showed that the underlying trend was positive and attributed the fall in passenger numbers to the abolition of duty-free in June 1999. He said: "The cross-Channel market has undergone some fundamental changes since the abolition of duty-free. All the evidence points to passengers taking advantage of the higher purchasing limits for duty-paid shopping on the Continent, albeit at the expense of the frequency at which they now cross the Channel."

Dover - Calais carried 1,543,048 passengers and 346,591 vehicles, Dover - Ostend carried 969,307 passengers and 201,961 vehicles, Folkestone - Boulogne carried 630,258 passengers and 98,165 vehicles whilst the Newhaven- Dieppe carried 325,200 passengers and 75,220 vehicles.

Mr. Ede was also encouraged by increases in ticket yield and forward bookings for 2000, whilst new retail initiatives such as pre-ordering and home delivery (see story below - Gary Andrews) were helping reinforce the message of the continued benefits of duty-paid shopping on the Continent.

Sea Containers Irish Sea Operations had an interesting year that included the introduction of two new routes out of Belfast.

During 1999 carryings on Belfast - Stranraer were 172,000 passengers and 53,000 vehicles, Belfast - Troon carryings were 202,000 passengers and 44,000 vehicles and Belfast - Heysham carryings were 143,000 passengers and 40,000 vehicles.

The total figures for Belfast - Scotland services reached 374,000 passengers, 97,000 vehicles. This compares negatively to recent years when only Belfast - Stranraer was offered. In 1998 403,000 passengers, 109,000 vehicles were carried on the Belfast - Stranraer route, with an even more impressive 440,000 passengers, 126,000 vehicles carried in 1997.

Whilst one must allow for new routes to develop, the figures are certainly not very impressive and given that even including the Heysham service in the total Belfast routes figure, the total is still only 517,000 passengers and 137,000 vehicles. Given that two craft and four ports were required to achieve this figure, which is only 77,000 passengers and 11,000 cars more than the 1997 single craft Belfast - Stranraer figure, one must question the logic of the cutbacks on the Stranraer route.

(Also worth noting is that in 1999 the Belfast - Stranraer did not take the six week break it had done in previous years in January/early February to allow for vessel refit. Therefore all passengers carried during this period were additional to those carried in previous years).

Isle of Man Steam Packet Company services carried 549,000 passengers and 148,000 vehicles to and from the Isle of Man. On the Liverpool - Dublin route, SuperSeaCat carried 252,000 passengers and 50,000 vehicles, whilst the now abandoned seasonal Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company service on the Campbeltown - Ballycastle route carried 24,000 passengers and 6,000 vehicles.

Sea Containers' new US ferry venture SeaStreak America Inc. enjoyed an excellent first year of operation carrying 348,000 passengers on commuter services between Manhattan and New Jersey and Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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

"It is quite incredible that we carried more passengers on our ferries in 1999 than the entire populations of New York City and Dublin put together. The Millennium will open up many opportunities and Sea Containers looks forward to ensuring high standards of passenger service are maintained on all its routes."


Sea Containers' subsidiary Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company (also known as AA Line) finally confirmed on 21 February that it was to cease operating the Ballycastle - Campbeltown route and that the seasonal service would not return this year.

The route was established in 1997 under agreements with Argyll and Islands Enterprise and Argyll and Bute Council in Scotland together with Moyle District Council in Northern Ireland. Sea Containers had announced a review of the route following completing its initial three-year commitment to operate the seasonal service.

The move follows extensive talks between Sea Containers and the Scotland Office, the Scottish and Northern Ireland executives, councils and tourist boards in an effort to find a means of continuing and developing the route.

Hamish Ross, Sea Containers Irish Sea Managing Director said: "We have delayed making this decision and announcement until we were certain we had explored every conceivable possible opportunity. We particularly appreciate the efforts of the Minister Of State at the Scotland Office, Mr. Brian Wilson MP over the last few weeks in formulating a proposed package of support but it was insufficient to cover estimated losses."

"However it should be remembered that, apart from assistance last year with marketing costs, AA Line received no funding or subsidy for the service or for the purchase of the vessel MV CLAYMORE. We have operated the route on a strictly commercial basis and the losses incurred cannot justify continuing."

"We spent a great deal of time marketing the route alongside our network of other services on the Irish Sea at travel exhibitions and road shows as well as the sales effort of our business development managers. However, there have been factors which influenced its commercial performance including the uncertainty of the Northern Ireland peace process and its effect on inward tourism over the last three years".

Sea Containers has said the vessel used on the service, the CLAYMORE, will be available for sale or charter to any party wishing to operate the route. There are reports that other firms are interested in the service and whilst it is unlikely to run this year, Ballycastle - Campbeltown could be back on offer by next summer.

Scotland Office Minister Brian Wilson said that he was disappointed about the decision but that efforts to maintain the service would continue. Mr. Wilson said: "I am very disappointed that Sea Containers has decided to withdraw.

However, the effort to maintain the service will continue with a renewed sense of purpose.

"Everyone involved recognises that we went as far as possible, within legal constraints, to put together a package of support for the service. This included an undertaking to seek EU approval for direct operating subsidy. This package can now be made available to another operator and there have been several indications of interest. The commitment by Sea Containers to make the CLAYMORE available for charter may be helpful."

"I remain hopeful that the ferry will operate on the route this season although time is now short. The basic problem was that this small, niche service did not fit in with the scale or structure of Sea Containers' business. This inevitably raises again the question of why their involvement was sought in the first place."

Outrage was expressed in Kintyre that the government offer of £250,000 financial support had been turned down by Sea Containers. However, it is understood that Sea Containers had estimated their losses at £500,000.

(One wonders quite what losses Sea Containers are willing to accept on some of their high-speed services though? - Gary Andrews).

All development bodies and local authorities on both sides of the North Channel have pledged to work to save the service and are hopeful of a successful return. Argyll and Bute MSP George Lyon, meanwhile, has already been in discussion with other parties interested in taking over the service. He told the Herald:

"It is important that we move fast to explore all the options for this summer. In the longer term, however, I believe the route's future lies as part of CalMac."

Caledonian MacBrayne's Managing Director John Simpkins, however, said:

"We understand the route would have to be tendered if subsidised and we could only operate the route if asked to do so by Government. CalMac has currently no plans to operate this route."

HOVERSPEED by Gary Andrews

Hoverspeed's recently launched home delivery service for wine purchased at its Hoverstores in Calais and Ostend has fallen foul of HM Customs and Excise.

HM Customs and Excise revealed on 24 February that they have written to Hoverspeed explaining that wine transported under the company's new home delivery service is liable to UK duty and to forfeiture, with immediate effect.

The company has been advised to withdraw the scheme. However no action will be taken against consignments already delivered.

Customs stated that they had taken the move to help protect UK businesses from unfair competition.

Hoverspeed recently announced the launch of a home delivery service for wine purchased by its passengers at its Hoverstores in France and Belgium, charging a fee for the service.

Travellers may obtain wine duty and VAT paid in another member State and transport their purchases back to the UK, provided it is for their personal use. They must accompany their purchases and must not use them for any commercial purpose. If these requirements are met they will not have to pay UK taxes.

However the wine may be seized by Customs if it is held for a commercial purpose. It does not matter whether the wine is held by the traveller who imported it or by someone else. Wine is regarded as being held for a commercial purpose if it is delivered or held for delivery by a trader. The Hoverspeed scheme involves the company, or its agent, holding the wine for delivery in the UK. This is a commercial purpose. The wine is therefore liable to forfeiture and UK tax is payable.

At the time of writing it was not clear how Hoverspeed would respond to the decision by HM Customs and Excise. However, there was a suggestion in one press report that the firm was set to pose a legal challenge to the Customs decision.

P&O IRISH SEA by Gary Andrews

A new safety system designed to protect Terminal Tractor Drivers who load and unload ro-ro ships has been introduced by P&O Irish Sea. The new system ensures that tug drivers have instant access to fresh air supplies and protective clothing in the event of an incident involving hazardous goods, enabling them to leave the area in complete safety.

Introducing the new system, Ray Dawson, P&O's Assistant Terminal Manager at Liverpool said:

"We carry a wide range of hazardous goods for our customers and we need to be prepared for any eventuality. We have worked closely with Sabre, manufacturers of the breathing equipment, to produce a special pack which we have named the "Cen-Paq" snatch bag that can be fitted into the limited space in the cabs of our Terminal Tractors.

"On every shift Cen-Paq snatch bags are issued to the drivers who will be moving the hazardous cargo and each of those drivers is required to sign and check the snatch bag at the start and end of each shift, returning it to the shift manager for storage."

The Company is now planning to install the new safety system in all of its operations both in the UK and Ireland. According to Ray Dawson this is the first time that a ferry company has introduced such technology to protect its employees working both on the ship and on the quayside.

"Having trained our own staff in the use of the new equipment we are already getting enquiries from other operators to discuss ways in which they can introduce similar systems to protect their Terminal Tractors who like our own staff move hundreds of trainers and containers containing hazardous cargo, every week."

STENA LINE by Gary Andrews

A decision by Stena Line to charge passengers £5 per day for using their long stay car park at Belfast has been slammed by travellers.

The charge comes into effect today (25 February) and has been described by Northern Ireland's General Consumer Council as "regrettable". The Consumer Council has added that Stena must publicise the charge in its brochures in order to ensure that customers don't have an unpleasant discovery on arrival at Belfast.

For passengers who are leaving their cars any longer than one day the cost of travelling Stena will vastly increase and one would almost think that Stena are trying to lose day trip and foot passenger business. Several years ago Stena introduced a charge for their formerly complimentary bus link service to their port from Belfast bus and rail stations - a move that also received much criticism.

A spokesman for Stena confirmed the charge saying: "It has always been our intention to introduce a charge at our terminal car park which provides our passengers with a convenient, secure and accessible location to leave their vehicles when travelling and we believe the fee charged is comparable with similar arrangements at airports."

The spokesman added that the charge was similar to fees operated by many airports and city centre car parks.

For passengers using P&O's Larne - Cairnryan route they will find virtually unlimited free long-term parking at Larne Harbour.

GARY ANDREWS' COMMENT: Recently in this journal I praised some improvements carried out by Stena to their Belfast port. One point I made, however, was that parking was a mess at the port and needed urgent attention. One of my comments in particular was that there was a complete lack of short term parking (possibly around 10 - 15 spaces maximum). Unless parking has been drastically altered within two weeks (and no work was apparent at the time of my visit on 11 February) - the situation is going to be little short of anarchy at peak periods as those that previously used the long-term car park for brief visits will now refuse to do so or face a £5 charge for a 10 or 15 minute visit. (It should also be said that there isn't even that many long-term parking spaces compared to Larne - at a rough estimate in terms of total parking spaces Larne possibly has at least 4 times the number of spaces).

One wonders whether firms such as Stena truly care about providing decent service for passengers or whether they are determined to get every last pound they can from them to partly make up for the cost of running a "fuel-aholic" vessel like the STENA VOYAGER!

It is up to those operators such as P&O to now stress that they do have free parking available. For those that wish to leave their cars at the port, in almost all cases travelling Stena will now prove much more expensive than any other operator will. One has little sympathy for operators that cry of poor passenger carryings but drive up costs to the point that the only sensible option is to use the airlines.


Hebridean Island Cruises, operator of the five-star HEBRIDEAN PRINCESS, is reported to be considering the purchase of a second ship. The Scottish company is looking for a vessel able to take up to 80 passengers.

The company would convert the vessel to give extensive public space. A former Cook Island supply ship, Monowai was reviewed but the cost of conversion ruled her out. HEBRIDEAN PRINCESS operates around the Western Isles of Scotland and the fjords of Norway and carries 49 passengers

JHL'S COMMENT: The HEBRIDEAN PRINCESS was once a Cal-Mac ferry and there is currently another former Cal-Mac ferry available for sale or charter as noted elsewhere in these pages. However, perhaps another candidate for conversion to a small high class cruise ship could be the GRANUAILE II - the former Commissioner's of The Irish Lights vessel. This attractive ship with notable "clipper " style bow is currently laid up at Carlisle Pier, Dún Laoghaire and is advertised for sale on the CIL web site. Though built as a service tender for CIL this attractive vessel has passenger ship lines and has been used on at least one occasion as a ferry by film makers.


On February 22 Cunard dismissed reports that the contract for its £400m QUEEN MARY 2 passenger ship would be awarded within a matter of days.

A Cunard spokesman said the decision would be taken at the headquarters in Miami of its parent company, Carnival Corporation. He said: "We have no indication that a decision is imminent and are not expecting an announcement until sometime in March."

There is speculation that the that the shortlist had now been reduced to two companies - Harland & Wolff in Belfast and Chantiers de l'Atlantique in France. However, Cunard and Harland & Wolf declined to comment, though it is reported that H&W executives travelled to Miami this week.


This week Belfast Harbour Commissioners called for the removal of the Treasury cap of £70m on the proceeds of any sell-off of the Port of Belfast.

The commissioners claimed that the retention of the cap by the Chancellor could adversely influence the formula decided upon for any flotation of the port.

Gordon Irwin, chief executive, said all the proceeds of any sale of the port should be used for the benefit of the Northern Ireland economy. He said: "We are extremely concerned that the decision on the way forward for the port could be influenced by an understandable desire to bring forward an option designed to ensure that the sale proceeds do not exceed the Treasury's £70m cap. "Inevitably, this would be an option which would be based on the sale of the port without any non-port land." The suspension of the Assembly means, however, that hopes of an early decision on the future of the port have receded.

The Assembly's regional development sub-committee had been due to discuss the issue, but this has now been shelved. Mr Irwin said the further postponement was a source of disappointment for the Commissioners. He said: "We had been looking forward to completing the exercise in the Assembly in the near future, but now that unfortunately looks unlikely. "This period of drift is not damaging the port in that the business is still performing and growing, but it creates uncertainty for port users and employees."

The idea of a sell-off emanated originally from the Harbour Commissioners who in December 1997 proposed a public-private partnership in which the Government would retain a golden share. A question-mark has now been placed on that proposal because of objections by the European Union to the principle of governments retaining golden shares in privatised companies.

A new report has claimed the creation of a public-private partnership (PPP) at the Port of Belfast would not damage the prospects for business at Larne, Londonderry or Warrenpoint.

MDS Transmodal, a Chester-based firm of shipping consultants and economic analysts, was commissioned by Belfast Harbour Commissioners to examine the PPP proposal.

It said the development of a PPP at the Port of Belfast would not in itself influence growth rates in trade through any of Northern Ireland's ports. The report added, however, that the trend towards a concentration of traffic at larger ports would continue irrespective of whether or not there was a PPP in existence. MDS Transmodal said there were adequate safeguards to protect the other ports against any anti-competitive behaviour by the Port of Belfast. Looking at each of the other ports in turn, the report concluded:

  • Larne should maintain market share and enjoy increasing traffic levels as the ro-ro market continues to grow.

  • Londonderry should maintain existing traffic levels and may enjoy an increase in business over the next five years.

  • Warrenpoint will continue to face pressure from ports in the Republic.

Mike Garratt, managing director of MDS, said: "We conclude that prospects for the ports of Larne, Londonderry and Warrenpoint will not be directly affected by the PPP proposal for the Port of Belfast."

The conclusion is in contrast to an earlier finding by ERM Economics, a company which has acted as advisor to the Department of the Environment and to Warrenpoint Harbour Authority on port improvement proposals.

According to ERM Economics, Warrenpoint would lose 25% of its trade to a privatised Port of Belfast over a 10-year period, while Derry was likely to lose 5% of its business.

But Belfast Harbour Commissioners said that 25% figure was not a reliable indicator because it was based on the potential loss of trade if improvements did not take place at Warrenpoint. In addition, the commissioners pointed out, 60% of the traffic handled at Warrenpoint was going to or from the Republic, reflecting the geographical advantage which Warrenpoint had over Belfast in attracting business from south of the border.


PACIFIC SANDPIPER had by Monday February 21, moved from Bidston Dock to Bidston Dry Dock, where she remained on Saturday February 26.


The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) published a Safety Bulletin this week following initial inquiries into the foundering of the scallop dredger SOLWAY HARVESTER 11 miles east of the Isle of Man with the loss of seven lives on 11 January 2000.

The bulletin, containing safety recommendations, has been produced for marine safety purposes only on the basis of information to date.

The Merchant Shipping (Accident Reporting and Investigation) Regulations 1999 provide for the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents to make recommendations at any stage of an investigation if, in his opinion, it is necessary or desirable to do so.

The MAIB is carrying out an investigation into the loss of the SOLWAY HARVESTER. A report will be published.

The MAIB's initial inquiries have revealed evidence of several safety shortcomings which give rise to serious concerns about the safety of all fishing vessels and, particularly, for the crews sailing on similar scallop dredgers and other trawlers operating out of Kirkcudbright.

These concerns relate to four aspects, which directly affect the safety of fishermen. They are:

* the watertight integrity of main decks[JS1];
* the regular servicing of liferafts;
* the correct installation of liferafts; and
* crews' completion of the mandatory basic safety training courses.


At about 17.45 on 11 January 2000, the Kirkcudbright registered SOLWAY HARVESTER sank with the loss of her seven man crew about 11 miles to the east of the Isle of Man. She was carrying about nine tonnes of shellfish and, because bad weather was forecast, was heading towards Ramsay to seek shelter. Reports of the weather conditions at the time she sank vary, but the wind was probably about force six from the south-west, with a moderate to rough sea running on her port quarter.

The first indication that she might have foundered was the detection of a transmission from her Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). An extensive search and rescue operation was mounted immediately but, apart from finding two uninflected liferafts and the beacon, nothing else was seen. There was no sign of either Solway Harvester or her crew.

An investigation into the circumstances of her loss was started immediately and, following the discovery of the wreck, has included an underwater survey of it.

The absence of a "Mayday" transmission or any other radio report of trouble, and the subsequent discovery by divers that all seven bodies of the crew were inside the vessel, indicates that whatever happened occurred very rapidly.

The underwater survey has revealed some hull damage which, on initial inspection, is consistent with SOLWAY HARVESTER having impacted the seabed stem first. The wreck will be raised and the hull will be examined more closely before this can be confirmed beyond doubt.

The loading scuttle to the fish hold on the port side of the main deck was found open. The opening, which was flush with the deck, did not appear to be fitted with a hatch cover and this is being investigated further.

The liferafts were examined at the premises of RFD (a liferaft manufacturer) in Birkenhead and were found to have last been serviced in September 1996, and should have been serviced annually. Both liferafts did, however, inflate satisfactorily during the examination and did not leak.

The ends of both painters were carefully examined and were found to be both unbroken and heat sealed. This indicates they were not attached to the vessel when she sank. They should have been.

Before sailing in a fishing vessel, fishermen are required to undergo basic safety training. Three of the seven crew are known to have done so, but there is no evidence to indicate the remaining four had.

Safety Recommendations

1. The owner or skipper of every fishing vessel registered in the United Kingdom is very strongly recommended to check that any liferaft carried is:

(i) in date for servicing
(ii) correctly attached.

2. It is recommended that the owners of every fishing vessel registered in the United Kingdom checks that anyone sailing in their vessels, who was born after 1 March 1954, has completed the mandatory safety training. If it is found that they have not, such training should be arranged as a matter of urgency.

3. It is further recommended that in the overriding interest of safety, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency:

(i) takes immediate action in its promotion of safe practice and its enforcement of safety requirements on the four areas of concern raised by the loss of SOLWAY HARVESTER:

* the watertight integrity of main decks;
* the service history of the liferafts;
* the correct installation of liferafts; and
* crews' completion of the mandatory basic safety training courses.

(ii) examines all vessels of similar design to SOLWAY HARVESTER to ensure the watertight integrity of the main deck.


The first-ever Inland Waterways Freight Facility Grant awarded by the Scottish Executive will go to Associated British Ports' Port of Ayr it was announced this week. Port of Ayr is to receive £4.4m, The grant will support a project to reduce traffic volumes radically on Scottish roads.

The project will involve the construction of a new timber-handling terminal at the Port of Ayr, which will be designed to handle logs transported by sea from the Argyll peninsula. Currently some 300,000 tonnes of logs are transported by road every year, with journeys of around 190 miles each way, from Argyll to destinations in Ayrshire. ABP will establish a regular shipping service between Ayr and Argyll, a distance by sea of only around 30 miles. Lorry journeys totalling 1.4 million lorry-miles annually will be removed from Scottish roads as a result of the scheme. The project was developed by ABP with the co-operation of Forest Enterprise, the agency which manages Forestry Commission land.

Budha Majumdar, Port Director for ABP's Shortsea Ports, said: "We are delighted that the scheme has received such significant support from the Scottish Executive. Projects of this kind are very important to us, as we seek to extend our activities into other elements of the logistics chain and to promote environmentally-helpful modes of transport. This scheme clearly demonstrates the considerable benefits to be gained from increasing use of water-borne transport."

The 2 hectare terminal will be located on the South side of the Griffin Dock. It will have both road and rail connections. The first shipment of logs is expected to be handled in April 2000. Several new jobs at the Port of Ayr will be created by this project.

Douglas Morrison, ABP's Port Manager for Ayr & Troon, said: "The project provides numerous environmental, social and economic benefits to the Scottish people, local councils, tourists and residents living adjacent to the busy road route between Argyll and Ayr. We are also pleased to be encouraging the increased use of one of Scotland's greatest natural sustainable resources."

Dr Bob McIntosh, Chief Executive, Forest Enterprise, said: "Movement of timber is an important concern for Forest Enterprise, particularly in remoter parts of rural Scotland where timber may have to travel well over 100 miles to the mill. We are also conscious of the impact of road and timber haulage on rural communities, rural roads and carbon-dioxide emissions. With the output of timber from Scotland's forests set to double over the next 20 years, it is important that we look for opportunities such as this scheme to minimise road transport of timber."


Brian Chambers reports that on February 24 the cable-laying vessel SEAWORKER arrived at Rosslare Europort and berthed at Fisherman's Wall.

The British company Global Crossing is building an undersea fibre cable systems that will link Ireland to the big cities of Europe and the World. The work is being carried out at Ballinesker, and Kilmore, in South Co. Wexford, Ballinesker Beach was the location where scenes from the movie "Saving Private Ryan" were filmed.

Accompanying the SEAWORKER are two large tugs IFON LES and AFON CEFNI.


Liverpool and Dublin were "twinned" some years back, and it looks as though Dublin is encountering planning problems in redeveloping some of its redundant docklands as is Liverpool. This week An Bord Pleanala has begun to hear an appeal in to the Spencer Dock Development. The hearing was told that a decision should not be made on the development until a study of high rise buildings is completed. Dublin Corporation claimed that the development would have a profound presence that would change the surrounding environment.


It appears that some "developments" have been noted by Clive Jackson which may, or may not be of any significance - but are worth reporting:

"The crane which had been used for the berth repairs was finally removed this week over 4 months after the work was completed. Scrapping on site of at least some of the laid up trailers has also begun. Work on the portakabin is continuing. New signage has appeared at the entrance to the terminal and the top sign is "Passenger Ferry". The impression is that "decks are being cleared" for something. Certainly the reference to "Passenger Ferry on the sign is interesting. I would have thought that "Car Ferry" would have been more appropriate but perhaps there has been a change of policy regarding foot passengers. I am also wondering if the portakabin is to be a passenger facility. There is certainly a lot of plumbing and it appears that ramps to the entrance have been constructed.

I also latched on to the comments by Hamish Ross when he referred to "a few Fleetwood sailings". I cannot see the Steam Packet keeping the Lady on stand by with even a skeleton crew from mid-June onwards. They might as well operate her on excursions mid week and have her ready to step in for SeaCats during the busy weekends if there is any disruption.

I guess Steam Packet and ABP are in negotiation with the most contentious issue being that of who pays for the dredging of the berth if a regular service is to be operated and not one that fits in with high tides. With P&O now occupying the former car park which was used for marshalling cars prior to loading perhaps cars will enter via the terminal entrance for marshalling and will then be routed via the gates in the north end of the compound perimeter fence to the IOM berth."


LE RÓISÍN - the new IR£20m vessel is reported to have experienced technical problems. The vessel had to return from a patrol earlier than planned following severe vibration being experienced whilst at sea.

Divers, examining the ship at the Haulbowline Naval Base in Cork Harbour discovered that a bilge keel stabiliser appears to have broken off.

The Appledore Shipyard, of North Devon has been called in to help rectify the problem.


North Wales Police have arrested five activists from the environmental group Greenpeace after the campaigners boarded and occupied U.S. ship carrying genetically modified soya off the coast of Wales.

The ship, carrying 60,000 tonnes of soya belonging to U.S. grain giant Cargill, was bound for the company's Liverpool processing plant.

The soya was to be processed into animal feed at the plant, Greenpeace claimed.

Cargill plc confirmed that the vessel, the IOLCOS GRACE, had a cargo of U.S. soybeans, some of which were genetically modified.

Police used bolt cutters to remove three activists who had chained themselves into the ship's anchor chamber and arrested them as well as two other campaigners who had been positioned on the anchor chain on the outside of the vessel. Police said there had been no struggle over the arrests.


The PEREGRINE VII departed from the wet basin on Friday and was noted passing C12 at around 15.45. KONINGIN BEATRIX remains in dry dock.


On Sunday March 5, between 10.00 and 17.00 there will be a Local History Societies Exhibition at St. Georges Hall, Liverpool. Local shipping interest will be provided exhibitors from the World Ship Society Merseyside Branch, The Liverpool Nautical Research Society and Ian Stockbridge's War Loss Project.


A new online shopping site for shipping enthusiasts is on-line at This is a development of the existing nautiek site. provides a extensive sites in both English and Dutch and provides much of maritime interest including on-line secure ordering of current and out of print books etc.

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Welcome to another large update of Mersey & Irish Sea Shipping as usual, the regular reminder to check the "What's New" page to ensure you do not miss anything. There are plenty of gallery updates etc with a strong historical theme. [For some photographs of the dramatic Christmas 1999 storm on the Mersey check out the Fort Perch Rock photo gallery.] This week's compilation has taken quite a few hours and it was a case of having to stop as update time approaches, some material for this week has had to be held over.

This morning clearing out some rubbish I came across an A4 ring binder which contains hundreds of negatives - mainly monochrome - dating from around 1980/81 a time when I was experimenting with my own photo processing. After trying negatives for a year in addition to the usual slides which I always had processed, I decided to try my own DIY slide processing. This wasn't that successful and I only ever processed a couple of rolls. However, these slides, still unmounted as I was rather concerned about the strange colour balance were put in the negative file. To my delight I discovered that one strip of slides included Liverpool Landing Stage with the MOUNTWOOD in the old PTE "green funnel" livery and the side loading TSS BEN-MY-CHREE [V]!

As I said, these slides do have a strange colour balance, however, with all this digital computer technology and armed with the appropriate software I think I should have a few classic photographs for your enjoyment next week. I just wish this file had contained more ships, unfortunately all I can find is lots of railway subjects and buses belonging to various bus companies in Devon and Cornwall!  

I find it very annoying now to realise that whilst I was very active with a Camera in the early 80s as I am now, I hardly ever pointed it at a ship. - What treasures I missed! However, I am hopeful, that as I clear out a more old junk perhaps some more "gems" from the past might come to light as whilst my main slide collection is fully catalogued my collection of negatives is not.

As usual I have enjoyed receiving your mail during the past week and the increasing number of queries which appear to arrive each week. [ Don't forget to check out the queries section!]

For some weeks now, visitors who enter via the front page will have been greeted by the tune of a traditional sea shanty "The Black Ball Line". I have now changed it for another nautical tune "Johnny Todd" which has strong Merseyside connections - However, I guess most visitors who are over 30 will probably associate the tune with something completely different - Guesses on an e-mail please!

This week I have added further information to the World Ship Society information page. As well as providing details of the Merseyside Branch Meetings, details of forthcoming meetings of the Manchester Branch are also now available. Just click on the WSS link at the top of this page.

Finally, please note that I will not be answering e-mails from Tuesday through to Saturday morning as I am off to Dún Laoghaire for a few days. Though I dare say next week there will be a Merchant Ferries voyage report and possibly new gallery pictures. 

John Luxton February 20, 2000

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Gary Andrews, Hans Mauritz, John Shepherd, Brian Chambers, Dave Worth, John Williams and "others".


PONTUS is the name of  the former Silja Line floating terminal facility which will be installed at the Pier Head. According to Hamish Ross [below] arrangements have been made for the tow to the Mersey.

SUPERSEACAT TWO It appears that the Heysham - Belfast service may not re-commence until April 18 according to a correspondent.  Apparently no reservations are being taken until then.  The advertised start date being March 16.  

SUPERSEACAT THREE The vessel returns to service on February 24th resuming the 3hrs 45minute crossing between Liverpool and Dublin which is the fastest direct route between England and Ireland by sea.

Commenting on the new season, Diane Poole, General Manager, Sales & Marketing for Sea Containers Irish Sea Operations said: 'This year there are some significant changes to the vessel and the route. In addition to the one round trip to Dublin, full day trips to the Isle of Man will be possible from Liverpool offering visitors up to 8 hours on this enchanting Isle thanks to the introduction of regular fast ferry sailings in both directions. SuperSeaCat Three has also benefited from her first refit. Half a million pounds has been spent at Birkenhead ship repairer Cammell Lairds upgrading and improving services for our passengers, most notably the on board catering facilities."

The biggest change that passengers will notice is that all the on board services is now in house. (Previously it was supplied by outside contractor - Granada). This new look is based around a simple premise "fast food on fast craft". This includes a brand new "Global Cafe" menu offering a wide selection of food from around the world, the "Bosuns Bar" and a "Cafe' Express" for speciality teas and coffee.

Blue Riband Lounge upgrades will be priced at £15 in each direction [£5 lower than last year, but no mention is made of an inclusive meal which was provided for much of the 1999 season following the upgrade price hike of £5 over that charged in 1998.]

SSC3 will provide the following schedule:

Liverpool Pier Head to Dublin Port/Dublin to Liverpool

24 February to 11 March

Liverpool to Dublin Departs 1030

Dublin to Liverpool Departs: 1530

12 March to 6 November

Liverpool to Dublin Departs 0800

Dublin to Liverpool Departs 1300

Best value fares: Foot pax single from £19 or Car + 4 APEX Special £85 single.

Timetable Liverpool-Isle of Man Day trips 30 March to 31 October:

Liverpool to Douglas Departs 1030 (SeaCat Isle of Man)

Liverpool to Douglas Departs 1800 (SuperSeaCat Three)

Douglas to Liverpool Departs 2115 (SuperSeaCat Three)

Best Value fares: Foot passenger from £25 day return or Car +2 from £99

JHL'S COMMENT: It is worth noting that Day Trips on the Isle of Man route with cars will be available from £99 - perhaps this price point is just a bit to high and something around the £79 mark for a car+2 would have been more appropriate? There is no mention in the press release as to whether any day trip fares will be available on the Liverpool to Dublin route. Though this years timetables do not allow for time ashore day trips to Dublin, the ability to go for a sail to Dublin at a reasonable price  would obviously be welcomed.

LADY OF MANN This season's programme of excursions is likely to be as follows:

Tuesday, June 13

Fleetwood - Douglas - Fleetwood

Wednesday, June 14

Llandudno - Douglas - Llandudno

Thursday, June 15

Douglas - Whitehaven - Douglas - Whitehaven - Douglas

Friday, June 16

Warrenpoint - Douglas - Warrenpoint

Saturday, June 17

Round the Island

At present these excursions are subject to confirmation and there is some doubt as to whether the Whitehaven excursion will operate. There is a possibility of a further two or three more additional Llandudno and Fleetwood sailings during the season.

JHL's COMMENT: Speaking from a personal point of view it is a pity that more trips cannot be organised for weekends. Not everyone can travel during the mid week, particularly outside of the main school holiday periods. 


MANNIN LINE – 14 Feb 2000

Guest: Hamish Ross - Managing Director - IOM Steam Packet

The Mannin Line is a phone in programme broadcast on Manx Radio. – The questions are shown underlined – and came both from the presenter and callers. The following is a summary rather than a transcript of questions put to Hamish Ross (HR) and his answers/comments.

HR - 1999 was a "good year for us" - breaking passenger records nearly every month – over 570,000 passengers – highest since 1985 – vehicles up 10%. Super SeaCat with us for Spring and Summer –together with SeaCat will provide two daily round trips to Liverpool. Peak summer SeaCat service between Douglas and Heysham.

Q -Has the furore regarding the Ben died down now?

HR - Yes it has died down – the BEN has settled in very well – we did listen to a lot of the comments and the constructive criticism we took on board – we changed seating in one of the lounges to reclined seats – we built a new observation deck. She is a very fine ship now. She’s had a very successful year – not just on freight side (for which she was designed) but two round trips a day off the Island daily for the first time in the company’s history. Over 30% of Ben’s customers are travelling on night sailings.

Q - Are more Llandudno excursions planned?

HR - These have been extremely popular and are scheduled in for this year. I think we’ve got two or three this year. It is great to restore that link again and its something we’d like to develop in the future, but I think it’s only two or three trips this year.

Q - Any chance of these being restored on a regular basis?

HR - I don’t think so at the moment but we have had tremendous support and we’d also like to develop it the other way. The old link coming back has excited quite a few people. We’ll use the Lady of Mann on that service again this year.

HR - Our job is to grow the business – and we have done that dramatically. We are 150,000 passengers ahead of 1996. Tourism still has a part to play – year round. We can develop it and make it 10 month rather than just 2/3 short months in the summer.

Q - Someone bringing a group was "horrified to find ferry prices had almost doubled since last year"

HR - I find that very strange – we’ve introduced a lot of special offers. Last year over 260,000 people travelled on special offers. Price increases have been limited to less than RPI. I’ve taken a note of that and I’ll follow it up because I don’t quite understand it.

Comment "you don’t half hide these special offers away"

HR -Quite the opposite – we push these special offers. Manx Radio – poster sites – local papers. They run right through the year. Those who travel a lot can have "sail and save". Lots of incentives to travel often.

Q – re BEN’s refit – was it first time she stood down?

We’ll refit her every two years – running maintenance for engine work and so on – engine surveys go over a 5 year period. Making sure passenger areas are up to scratch and so on. We own the PEVERIL still and have had her on stand-by in Liverpool but she no longer has the capacity so we chartered in a freight ship specially.

Q -Someone wanted to bring freight vehicle from Dublin to Douglas. Had to go via Heysham. Charges were Dublin to Heysham £21/metre (day) £26/metre(night) IOMSP charge £110 per metre (H>D). How is such a difference warranted?

HR - There is a lot of capacity on Dublin/Heysham and a lot of volume. We’ve invested a lot of money in a new ship to make sure service is up to scratch – so it is more expensive than Dublin/Heysham. The size of the two markets explains a lot of the price differential.

Q - Why are there no longer special fares for forces travel?

HR - On other routes reductions are against travel warrants – but most of the year we have good offers for the foot passenger market. Leave it with me to look into and if there is case for doing it we will.

Q- On SeaCat departure to Liverpool at 21.15 there is no onward transport available from Liverpool. How can people get to their destinations?

HR - We try to work with Express Coach and Railway Companies wherever possible – and we do that a lot anyway e.g. Rail and Sail offer £52 to London. – but there is a limit to what we can do. If Railway Co will not put on trains to connect with our ships we cannot do much about it. We have tried to get either coach or train connections and that applies to Heysham as well.

Q - Outlying parts of the Island are not able to get information about service changes/delays in time. The 07.20 Seawatch bulletin on Manx Radio is too late for people living in Ramsey etc who will already have had to leave home to catch the boat. Other operators put details on Teletext

HR - I take that point on board and see no reason why we should not make better use of Ceefax and Teletext. For people phoning in we should be able to put a recorded message on phones and should be doing that anyway – and I’m surprised if we are not.

Q - What is plan for Lady this year and future years?

HR - Very crucial role this year – stood in for BEN – back up for fast craft – can carry 530 motor cycles for TT – will also be doing quite a few special trips this year – Llandudno, "a few Fleetwood trips" and Whitehaven. Also looking at some round the Island but have not decided which ships to do them with.

We’d love to do something like Port St Mary trip again as well. She’s a fine looking ship and still playing a very important role for us.

[NB no comment about future years]

Boat times for travelling to NW 200 totally ridiculous this year – why?

I take the point and will look into it as I know a lot of people from IOM want to go to this event.

Why no day trips to Dublin this year?

Trying to operate fast ferries to markets where there is most demand = Heysham/Liverpool. If SeaCat has any spare time before the core season we might try and put in one or two Dublin day trips.

Prices – caller claims std A fare up 17%(+£5) and B up 11%(+£3)

You have to take full basket of fares. Average yield per car has dropped. Fewer different fares (as suggested by caller) would reduce flexibility to encourage more frequent travel.

[NB caller had got his facts the wrong way round – these fares had dropped not increased]

Q - What does the Board of Sea Containers think of the Steam Packet?

HR -They’ve had a great respect for the SP for a long time and that is reflected in decision to buy it totally. They see way SP is going as very positive. We have a very strong local board here – more local than off Island – a lot of autonomy – we have been allowed to get on with it. I can assure you SP is a very important part of Sea Containers.

Q - Why were the NEWSPAPERS late on the Dart 1?

HR -The reliability of BEN since we took over contract has been excellent despite occasional disruptions due to weather but as the Dart was quite a bit slower the papers were late fairly regularly during the two weeks she was on ….. but the weather over the last couple of months has been absolutely awful ... we do get in touch with the shippers and there is a stand by arrangement by air. With the BEN the arrangement has worked very well.

Q - I travel 12 times a year and cannot speak too highly of SP – enormous improvements have been made – but what can you do about delays on return trips from Liverpool due to Dublin boat still at stage.

HR - Thanks for compliments – much appreciated. Problem should not arise this year as SSC will provide evening service to IOM.

Q - Ferry terminal at Liverpool

HR - Most frustrating – not what we want. New plans to solve car marshalling should be in place late this year/early next. Looking at building a new passenger terminal in Liverpool long term but short term looking at floating terminal from Helsinki to be used this year and integrated into landing stage. It is now in Gothenburg and arrangements for the tow have been made.


The Scottish and Northern Ireland governments have agreed to share the cost of keeping the Ballycastle to Campbeltown ferry afloat for another year. If the proposal comes to pass it will be the first time an Irish Sea ferry service has received support from the British taxpayer since the privatisation of Sealink services.

The Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet service of Sea Containers has been in place for three summers but has struggled to attract passengers or make a profit forcing the firm to "review" the route. Talks about its future have involved Hoverspeed, tourist chiefs, Moyle and Argyll councils and the relevant Scottish and Northern Ireland government representatives.

The then Northern Ireland Trade Minister Sir Reg Empey said on 11 February that it would be "tragic" if the service was to shut down and that he was prepared to provide cash support. Sir Reg, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph said: "Following discussions with the Scotland Minister Brian Wilson, I am prepared to match funding now being offered by his department to ensure the service can continue this year."

Christopher McCaughan, an Independent member of Moyle Council who has been campaigning for retention of the ferry link, welcomed the minister’s announcement. He is reported as saying: "The Ballycastle - Campbeltown ferry is a vital link for this part of County Antrim and for the Mull of Kintyre, both from the economic and tourist points of view. Routes like this take time to establish and as yet it has not realised its full potential. I welcome this decision to provide matching funding and hope this service will now become a permanent fixture."

It is not yet clear whether Sea Containers will accept the offer of government support for the service. The service has much to contend with this year if it does operate, not least the fact that the route is not mentioned in any of the current Sea Containers brochures. Though obviously it could be added to later editions.

Despite the suspension of the Northern Ireland executive and the return of powers to Westminster, it is understood that the decision by Sir Reg Empey to jointly fund the service with the Scottish Minister remains and will be executed by the Northern Ireland Office, if required.

HOVERSPEED by Gary Andrews

The Ostend Ferry Page reports that Hoverspeed management has stated that despite rumours they will not operate a freight service on the Dover – Ostend route, claiming that there is too much competition to make such a venture viable.


On Wednesday February 16, a new gallery opened at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. "Lifelines: A Story of Merchant Ships and Seafarers" was opened by actor and former seaman Anthony Booth. 

I paid a visit to the gallery on Saturday February 19. My impressions will appear in next week's news update.


Mersey Docks and Harbour Company announced record profits this week. The company is the UK's second largest port operator behind Associated British Ports.

Pre-tax profits rose to £51.96m against £47.6m in the year ended December 31, while turnover increased 5.7%. An increase in the amount of fruit traffic handled at Sheerness and rise in Irish Sea traffic boosted earnings. Trevor Furlong, chief executive, said: "The Irish economy is growing at around 7 per cent a year but we expect double digit growth in volumes in the Irish market. We're in an ideal position geographically." Ro-ro cargo volumes for shipping services to the Irish market rose by 32 per cent and cargoes of grain and animal feed stuffs increased by 4.8 per cent to 2.6m tonnes. Passenger departures on Irish Sea services numbers rose by 15 per cent to 668,000.

MD&HC also announced that Trevor Furlong would retire as chief executive in April and would be replaced by the present deputy chief executive Peter Jones.


Apparently development of the Twelve Quays ro/ro terminal at Birkenhead has received another setback. It had been hoped that construction work on the planned terminal would commence soon, though this week another one-year delay has been announced. The Twelve Quays facility would provide on-river facilities for the Cenargo group's Merchant and Norse Irish Ferries.

The delay centres around a dispute over the future of a grade II listed pumping station, which occupies part of the proposed development site. The building is now owned by the North West Development Agency, which inherited it from English Partnerships. The delay has been caused due to the fact that the building occupies part of the site that is subject to the planning application for the terminal.

The North West Development Agency is reported to be working with Wirral Borough Council, English Heritage and the MD&HC to find a solution to the problem.


The Mersey Docks & Harbour Company announced an ambitious £200 million plan this week to turn 70 acres of dockland into a quality residential, recreational and commercial area.

MD&HC is to apply for outline planning consent for the development which will stretch north wards from the present Waterloo Dock apartments to Bramley-Moore Dock.

Chief Executive Trevor Furlong, said the mixed residential, leisure and commercial development would aim to meet rising demand in the area for luxury waterside housing. Apartments will be priced at up to £250,000

When outline-planning consent is obtained the company will then approach developers to draw up detailed proposals. Marina Facilities will be included in the development, which also aims to provide facilities for water sports, plus pub and restaurant facilities. The latter may be provided on board a permanently berthed ship. [Ghost of Manxman?]

Some existing warehouses will be converted into residential use, whilst new residential and office buildings will be constructed in a style sympathetic to existing features. The famous six-sided Victoria Clock Tower at the former Salisbury Half-Tide river entrance is to be restored.


On Wednesday February 16th, the first of two new ship to shore container cranes were gently moved into place at the Seaforth Container Terminal. These were ordered in November 1998 as part of a £10 million investment in The Royal Seaforth Container Terminal. Constructed by Liebherr Container Cranes of Killarney, Country Kerry, Ireland. The cranes were transported to Liverpool in dismantled form during autumn 1999. Assembly of the 845 tonne cranes has taken place at the east side of the Seaforth terminal around 200 metres from their quayside track. The crane was moved from their point of construction by two 96 wheeled trolleys, operated by remote control. The second crane is due to be moved next month. The photograph shows assembly of the cranes underway in early January 2000.


Brian Chambers reported that the new tender constructed for the Commissioners of the Irish Lights GRANUAILE arrived in Ireland for the on February 14. GRANUAILE arrived at Rosslare Europort at 13.45 hrs.

The GRANUAILE arrived at Dún Laoghaire on February 17. Built in the Netherlands at a cost of IR£17.6m this ship is the most advanced vessel of its kind in the World. The GRANUAILE was built in Holland and financed through a 15-year lease arranged with AIB.

The General Lighthouse Fund which draws its financing from 'light dues' is funding the lease of the ship, with additional grants provided by the Minister for the Marine and the European Union.

This is the third ship to bear the name GRANUAILE . She replaces the present GRANUAILE, renamed GRANUAILE II last autumn to free up the name, which has worked around the Irish coast for the past 30 years. The new vessel was constructed by Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands, with the hull being built in Rumania, she is 79.7m long, with a beam of 16 metres and draught of 4.5 metres. Speed is 13.1 knots and is designed to operate in difficult conditions.

GRANUAILE is equipped with dynamic positioning linked to the satellite DGPS sustem. As with her predecessor the vessel main work will be to place and service the 150 offshore buoys which warn mariners of offshore hazards near shipping routes, act a helicopter platform for servicing offshore lighthouses and she will also be available to assist State agencies in search and rescue, emergency towing, oil pollution, surveying and offshore data collection. She is the most advanced ship of her type in the world.

Meanwhile GRANUAILE II is being offered for sale. There is an advertisement on the Commissioners of Irish Lights web site at Three ship brokers are handling the sale - S.C. Chambers of Liverpool, Damen Trading of the Netherlands and George Morrison of Leith, Scotland.


Brian Chambers reports that the ISLE OF INNISFREE returned to Irish Ferries’ Pembroke – Rosslare route on the evening of 15 February. The return of the ISLE OF INNISFREE allowed the NORMANDY to sail to dry-dock in Poland on 16 February, a journey that was due to takes 3 days, 8 hours. To date it appears that Irish Ferries’ overhaul programme has run according to schedule. Following her dry-dock in Brest the ISLE OF INISHMORE called at Pembroke for berthing trials whilst enroute to Dublin to return to her Holyhead service.


The three Fisher vessels have laid up on the north side of Bidston Dock since May 1999, BRIARTHORN, REDTHORN and SOLENT FISHER departed a couple of weeks ago. On Friday evening another Fisher vessel appeared at the same location, the spent nuclear fuel carrier PACIFIC SANDPIPER [5,600grt, built 1985].

PACIFIC SANDPIPER is one of a fleet of fuel carriers; they are rare visitors to Merseyside usually operating out of their homeport of Barrow carrying nuclear fuel for processing at the BNFL's Sellafield Plant. From time to time they have also attracted the attention of the so-called "Eco-Warriors"

On Saturday morning, February 19, maintenance work appeared to be going on board the vessel.


The RMA passenger tender OBAN finally departed from the McTay fitting out berth in the East Float, Birkenhead, this week. The departure of this little vessel had been delayed due to prolonged periods of adverse weather.


The Daily Record newspaper, quotes a source close to the investigation into the sinking of the Solway Harvester, saying the deck was severely damaged and that its hull had a "concertina-style" bump on the starboard side.

Though it was possible for divers to retrieve the bodies of the crew, attempts to salvage the wreck from the Irish Sea have been repeatedly prevented by poor weather conditions. The British Marine Accident Investigation Branch, which is reviewing videotape shot by divers, plans to issue an interim report within a month. Its final report is expected later in the year

The Department of Transport is reported to be playing down reports that the Solway Harvester was involved with a collision with a container or another vessel. A spokesman said that video footage had confirmed that the hull has signs of damage on the starboard side, but said there is "no strong evidence" that the fishing boat had been involved in a "surface collision".


A reminder about some shipping programmes which are on the radio:


RTÉ's weekly Maritime programme broadcast on Thursday evenings at 21.30  is presented by Tom MacSweeney, RTÉ's marine correspondent. More information about Seascapes can be found at  For listeners in the UK good reception can be had at 567khz on Medium Wave. Whilst the programme does look at things from and Irish perspective, relevant material from the UK is also included.


BBC Radio Merseyside Maritime programme is broadcast between 13.10 and 14.30 on Sunday afternoons. Presented by Linda Mac Dermott with contributions from local maritime Historian and Publisher David Roberts, this programme promotes Merseyside's Maritime Heritage and features interviews with seafarers, discusses historical topics etc. This coming week 27 February Isle of Man Steam Packet enthusiasts will be interested to know that there will be an interview with John Shepherd who served as purser aboard the TSS KING ORRY.

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February 13, 2000


First of all a reminder that an additional news posting was uploaded on Monday evening. Don't forget to check out the What's News page to ensure you have not missed any new updates. There are a number of interesting contributions this week, as well as a number of new queries in the Maritime Queries section.


Once again I have received many messages, news items and other material for inclusion. This week I would like to thank Gary Andrews, Kevin Bennett, Justin Merrigan, Don Burgess, Charlie Tennant, Stan Basnett and "others".


SEACAT SCOTLAND the extended refit visit by SEACAT SCOTLAND to the Clyde yard of Yarrows continued further. She was originally expected to depart on 1 February but was still in the partially flooded dry dock on 6 February. On the afternoon of 7 February she was manoeuvred, with tug assistance provided by Clambay of Renfrew, to an adjacent berth immediately in front of the still fitting out HMS PORTLAND (F79). At around midday on 8 February she was seen loading fuel for her anticipated 15.00 departure weather permitting. She was noted still berthed alongside Yarrows at 16.30 obviously further delayed by the same weather conditions causing disruption and cancellations down river and in the Irish Sea.

On the afternoon of 10 February it was noted that the SEACAT DANMARK was sitting at the Belfast berth indicating that the SEACAT SCOTLAND had still not returned. (However, due to the poor weather I don't believe that many SeaCat sailings operated from Belfast all week). However, on the afternoon of 11 February the SEACAT SCOTLAND was noted at the Belfast berth and around 23.30 on the same day both she and the SEACAT DANMARK were noted at Sea Containers' Belfast port. SEACAT DANMARK was also expected to visit Yarrows for refit but it is almost certain Harland and Wolff, Belfast will now carry out the work.

CLAYMORE arrived off Alfred Lock shortly before midnight on February 11. She then proceeded to Vittoria Dock to join SEACAT ISLE OF MAN, PEVERIL and PICASSO. There are now four Sea Containers ships laid up at Vittoria. Its all rather reminiscent of the days when most of the Isle of Man Steam Packet fleet would lay up for the winter in the nearby Morpeth Dock. Unfortunately, with the exception of the SEACAT ISLE OF MAN which will return to service in a few weeks time, there is little indication of when the PEVERIL, PICASSO or CLAYMORE may see some gainful employment.


The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company have announced the results of their public consultation exercise concerning the alternative proposals for the joint MD&HC/Sea Containers Terminal at the Pier Head.

Overwhelming support for the terminal plans has been claimed. In a consultation exercise  over 77% of those questioned were in favour of the scheme for a car-holding area and new terminal facilities. Twelve percent were recorded as being against the scheme whilst there were 11% don't knows. This was based on a total of 131 returned comment cards.

However, further trouble looks to be brewing from the Millennium Walk Committee.  Lorraine Mackarel speaking for the MWC said: "We have not yet given our verdict on the new plans and neither have the Civic Society so I do not see how a consultation exercise can be regarded as complete." 

Pat Moran, chairman of MWC has been reported by the local press as having written to the MD&HC commenting "We believe that the area is far too small, and that the proposals will not cope with traffic build up. There are no passenger facilities shown on the scheme literature and we felt the proposal for a floating terminal is not suitable. We do not believe that a port operation should be placed on land dedicated to the public. 

Canon Freyling, Rector of Liverpool criticised the consultation process and proposals claiming that as just 131 comment cards were returned public opinion was judges from a "fatally flawed, minute census". 

However, MD&HC claim support from English Heritage and the Mersey Partnership whose regional spokesman said, "The revised scheme appears to address concerns raised by the objectors and would in our view not adversely affect the setting of the historic buildings."

JHL'S COMMENT: It looks as though the saga of the Sea Terminal could continue if the protestors continue their objections when the plans are submitted for planning consent. Whilst I accept Pat Moran's comments about the fact that no illustration of the floating terminal was included in the public brochure, anyone viewing the public display board at any of the locations where it was displayed would have seen a picture of the floating structure. The floating terminal is a redundant Silja Line facility which will be berthed at the north end of the Landing Stage. However, if the MWC does not wish to see terminal buildings constructed at the Pier Head, why should they oppose a floating  facility? They can't claim the river as a public open space.

The Reverend Freyling's claim that the consultation process was flawed is not reasonable. The proposals were well publicised in the local press, and they were on public view at several key locations. If more people had been opposed to the plans surely they would have made a greater effort get their opinions heard?  

It is about time that these misguided people stopped jeopardising the future. Liverpool needs a Sea Terminal for Irish Sea services at the Pier Head.


Passenger figures for the Harbours Division for January 2000 show a 22.8% increase on the same period last year. January 2000 recording a total of 15,018 compared to 12,232 in January 1999.

Car traffic in January showed an increase of 15.8% from 4,047 in 1999 to 4,687 in January 2000.

Passenger figure breakdown by route is as follows:




plus 71%




minus 1%



Freight traffic metreage increased by 8.1% from 23,394 top 25,280 over when compared to January 1999.

Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew, commented: "An excellent start to the new year with record passenger figures for any January. Heysham traffic has been effected by the reduction in passenger sailings due to the BEN-MY-CHREE overhaul, with weekend services only being available to Liverpool. The return of the BEN-MY-CHREE in early February has seen the normal level of choice resume, with Liverpool services being operated by the LADY OF MANN pending the return of the SuperSeaCat fast craft service on 24 February."

IRISH FERRIES by Gary Andrews

After many weeks of deliberation, including two competitions for both Irish Ferries' staff and the public in Ireland and UK, a name has been chosen for the 50,000-gt ferry that is presently being built in Finland for Irish Ferries.

Not for the first time, the name chosen by Irish Ferries for the new vessel will have an Irish literary connection. The name will be ULYSSES. Like James Joyce's work, which is known throughout the world as a masterpiece in English literature, Irish Ferries hope that their latest fleet addition will be recognised as a masterpiece of shipbuilding. (The JONATHAN SWIFT of last year being the first Irish Ferries vessel to have a literary connection, being named after the author of "Gulliver's Travels").

The response to the competition was as follows. The number of staff responses was 25, offering 74 name suggestions. The number of public responses was 2,296, offering 1,252 name suggestions. This offered a total of 2,321 responses and 1,326 names!

The name was officially announced at the Dublin headquarters of the James Joyce Centre museum on 9 February and the winner of the competition will be announced early next week.

The building of the new ferry is currently on schedule with the launch planned for September, delivery in February 2001 and the vessel entering service on the Dublin - Holyhead route next Spring.

Publicity material from Irish Ferries states:

"To the Greeks Ulysses was known as Odysseus. A hero who undertook epic travels across the seas. To the Irish, the name conjures up thoughts of Leopold Bloom and his own epic journey on 16 June 1904. What is common to both was their burning desire to experience a life led to the full, to enjoy and explore its possibilities. This was the inspiration for naming this state of the art vessel, the newest additional to our fleet."

"Ulysses" by Irish novelist James Joyce was published 1922. Using the basic plot of the Odyssey, Joyce matches equivalent episodes to a day in the life of characters in Dublin in 1904. Using careful literary technique, Joyce transforms the smallest and most sordid details of everyday life. It was first published in Paris but, because of obscenity prosecutions, was not published in the UK until 1936. It was burned for obscenity in New York in 1922, but later became acknowledged as one of the most significant novels of the 20th century.

ST KILLIAN II - The MEDIANA STAR, formerly Irish Ferries ST KILLIAN II has been reported to have departed from Piraeus on January 24, bound for Limassol. This is her first movement since arrival in Greece.  It isn't known where she has gone or what for.


Adverse weather conditions on February 8 appear to have had an adverse effect on the new Seacombe Landing Stage. This led to ferry services between Liverpool and Seacombe being cancelled whilst engineers undertook repairs.



P&O Irish Sea has warned that jobs could be lost on its Larne - Cairnryan operation. A spokesman for the company has said that negotiations have been opened with trade union and staff representatives.

The reductions are a primarily a result of the firm's decision to only operate a fast ferry service for eight months of the year, March - November, when the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS replaces the JETLINER, which operated an all-year service (except for refit periods).

P&O's passenger North Channel passenger business only witnessed a 1% growth last year and arguably (especially with the new EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY able to operate the crossing in 105 minutes) it makes much economic sense to avoid a high speed service during the extremely slack winter months (when fast ferry sailings are often disrupted anyhow).

The nature of the reduction in labour has yet to be confirmed and it seems unlikely that enforced job losses will be required. It appears that primarily the company is looking at the possibility of voluntary redundancies and shorter contracts.

GARY ANDREWS' COMMENT: Whilst any news of a reduction in labour is unwelcome given the current lack of quality jobs available, it would appear that P&O are taking the correct decision in restricting their high speed service to the busier part of the year. With the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY P&O will still be able to offer a most attractive crossing time on the Larne - Cairnryan route (and one would still hope that a second such vessel will be built for the route sooner or later). Certain other operators may currently be claiming vast increases in passenger traffic but in my opinion they usually ignores the fact that the revenue charged far from covers charges. One North Channel operator in particular possibly shipped a large percentage of its entire increase in passenger traffic last year on £5 daytrips. Even on one cold mid-October weekday six busloads of such passengers were observed. The plain truth of the matter is that - both in hard financial terms and the number of passengers travelling on full price tickets - none of the North Channel operators had a particularly good 1999.

One would hope that P&O's new vessel line-up for the Larne - Cairnryan route, combined with the planned new terminal at Cairnryan, brings the firm suitable success and that before too long the firm is again looking to increase their sailing numbers.

P&O WEBSITE: P&O Irish Sea has now launched its full website at The site is of a high standard offering information on just about every aspect of the firm's routes (freight information is not yet available but will be soon). Especially of interest for the ferry enthusiast is a section with full details of the entire fleet and a history of the firm. An online booking service is also available and P&O gave the first 10 people to book through the web site a free bottle of champagne. The new site at is highly recommended.


The RMA passenger tender OBAN remains at the McTay fitting out berth in the East Float. Radio messages received on Saturday February 5, suggested that this attractive little vessel might have departed for Greenock on Sunday February 6. However, it is presumed that adverse weather conditions have prevented her departure.

ST MALO - CORK FERRIES by Gary Andrews

In response to a query, Swansea Cork Ferries (who acted as agents for the St. Malo Cork Ferries service during its brief operation) has said that the Cork - St. Malo service was "terminated" in November and that as agents they have not been informed when or if it will recommence.

However, Swansea-Cork Ferries say that the route is "unlikely" to return. Following this correspondence with Swansea Cork Ferries one is left in no doubt as to why there has been such widespread confusion about the future of this service and it remains to be seen quite why the service "disappeared" so suddenly with no genuine explanation given for its ending. 

The explanation of the VENUS being forced into dry-dock was quite obviously false given the vessel was in service for Ventouris within a few weeks of finishing on the Cork service. (St Malo Cork Ferries is (was?) owned by French and Irish road transport and livestock interests).



On 11 February I visited Stena's Belfast port to collect relatives from the afternoon HSS sailing from Stranraer.

It has been several months since I visited the terminal (something rather ironic given I've been working next door to the port at various points over the past few months!) and on my last visit in October I reported upon the upgrading work then taking place to create a new arrivals/ "meet and greet" area.

This area has now been open a few months and it is with pleasure that I say that it is a 100% improvement on the box previously allocated. A new entrance/exit to the area ensures that arrivals and departures are completely separate within the building and a bright and pleasant new seating/waiting area has been created for those collecting foot passengers from Stranraer. Also included are full toilet facilities and vending facilities. One slight oversight is that it appears that the firm has still not provided any kind of information facility such as the monitors found at Larne Harbour or virtually all airports to inform those awaiting passengers of the status of a particular service. (Or if such a facility is available it clearly can't be too effective as I never noticed it).

Newly arrived passengers enter the area directly after baggage reclaim and given the "after thought" design of the area there are a few potential "bottlenecks". It must be said that this flaw was probably unavoidable unless the area had have been created at the time the rest of the terminal was built. However, the area is certainly an unbelievable improvement on the
old area that could only comfortably accommodate around 30 - 40 people when maybe 500 foot passengers were being met!

It is rather interesting that since moving from Larne to Belfast in 1995 Stena has been forced to make various changes to their port, such as building separate motorist facilities beside the vehicle check-in lanes and providing a proper tea bar in the foot passenger departure lounge. Whilst these changes are usually dressed up in the media blurb of "improvements" the simple fact is that the terminal was seriously flawed in the first place. It is good to see that after 4 and a half years that the terminal is finally becoming a very acceptable facility indeed.

One area still badly needing resolved are the car park and access arrangements for those collecting passengers. The short stay car park is far too small, being only able to accommodate perhaps 10 or 15 cars. With space in the long stay car park limited - it being used by passengers travelling but leaving their car at the port - congestion can become a serious problem with many "abandoned" cars and no port staff available to take control. In
many other ports, security would ask passengers not to park in such a way. Also a flaw (though more from Stena's point of view than Joe Public's) is that there appears to have been no attempt to resolve the problem of the lack of space for freight to "park up". Such a situation cannot help Stena's freight business.

However, Stena should be congratulated for finally bringing their Belfast port up to a generally high level. I will be travelling via Stena's Stranraer port next month and it will be interesting to see how it compares which despite some upgrades it is reported that the port has still not been brought into the 1980s!


On Tuesday February 8, just after 21.00, Liverpool Coastguard was alerted to a general cargo vessel JUPITER which was adrift north-west of the North-Morecambe gas field with a crew of six on board.

The Antiguan registered 1800 gross tonne (gt) vessel carrying 400 tonnes of cargo was in bound to Vickers shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness when she suffered main engine failure 5 miles north-west of the North Morecambe gas field. Coastguards were immediately alerted to her rapid drift in poor weather conditions towards an unmanned rig and without delay scrambled a rescue helicopter R 122 from RAF Valley and requested the launch of the Barrow all weather lifeboat to the scene.

Hydrocarbon Resources Ltd shut down production on the rig and a pan broadcast by the Coastguard brought offers of assistance from several merchant vessels in the area. Two rig support  vessels CLYWD SUPPORTER and the Morecambe Bay support vessel BLUE FLAME ONE escorted the JUPITER to a deep water anchorage in Lancaster Sound. 


On Wednesday February 16, a new gallery will open at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. "Lifelines: A Story of Merchant Ships and Seafarers" will be opened by Cherie Blair's father, actor and former seaman Anthony Booth. Centre piece of the new gallery will be an 18ft model of the Cunard liner BERENGARIA. 


Square Sail's KASKELOT will visit Liverpool to take part in this year's Mersey River Festival which takes place between 16 and 23 June. The square rigged brigantine has visited Merseyside on previous occasions and is based at the historic port of Charlestown, near St. Austell, Cornwall. She has appeared in numerous films for cinema and TV, such as "Longitude" and "A Respectable Trade". 


Fifty members of the RMT Union will travel to London on Tuesday February 15 as part of a protest which will involve seamen from around the UK. A petition is to be presented at 10 Downing Street. The union is calling for improved training and employment opportunities for British seafarers and the end to the employment of cheap foreign labour.


Tourism in the southeast of Ireland has been dealt a blow with the news that the Dunbrody project is being scaled down. The planned voyage to Boston from New Ross of the replica famine ship, the DUNBRODY, has been cancelled. The DUNBRODY's projected building cost was just over IR£1.6, but over IR£3 million has now been spent on construction and the project is still £1.7 million short. However, it is still hoped that the DUNBRODY can become a regular tourist attraction in New Ross, County Wexford.  A second consultancy report on the future of the project has been completed and a decision in expected from the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources in the next few weeks.


An Irish fishing vessel that is the largest of its kind in the world was launched in Norway on February 12 by the Minister for the Marine, Frank Fahey. The 145-metre vessel, ATLANTIC DAWN, has cost £50m to build. It is owned by a Killybegs skipper, Kevin McHugh, and will have a crew of 100. The ship will spend most of its time working in waters off the coast of Africa. It can hold enough stocks to feed 14 million people for a day. It has a gross tonnage of 14,000 tons. The ship will be registered in Sligo. It is expected to be completed in July when it will sail for Dublin.


Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Frank Fahey, has announced that the National Marine Research Laboratory will be moved to Galway. The staff of 60, based at the existing lab in Abbotstown,  west Dublin are understood to have entered talks about the move. The laboratory provides marine research, fisheries and environmental services for the Government and private industry. According to the Minister, Galway is the logical home for the lab given that most of the work will be done in the Atlantic.


The Nautical Institute has strongly criticised the draft White Paper on the Defence Forces which is due to go before the Irish Government in the near future. 

The Institute claims that the white paper fails on a number of issues and will result in the State abdicating its responsibility to maintain a policing capacity in the territorial seas of the State and in the sea areas where the State exercises sovereign right. 

The policy fails on a number of other aspects, according to the Institute :

  • No policy relating to the big increase in commercial maritime traffic.

  • No policy relating to the increase in clandestine migration by sea.

  • No policy relating to environmental degradation of the seas around Ireland and the need to police and monitor this.

"The document is a failure on the part of the State and will reduce the strategic capacity to respond to and deter narcotics trafficking at sea and is designed to mislead the public by suggesting that the Naval Service is larger than at any time in the history of the State. In personnel terms this is inaccurate and is also inaccurate in terms of seagoing units."

February 7, 2000


This is a short supplemental News Update to that issued on February 6 which appears immediately below.

John Luxton.


After arriving at Rosslare at 18.00 on Sunday evening KONINGIN BEATRIX departed at 18.45 bound for Cammell Laird, Birkenhead. She was noted in Dry Dock at Cammell Laird on the evening of February 7.


The Yellow Submarine which was a feature of the Festival Gardens site has been removed by Liverpool City Council. The 20ton submarine constructed by Cammell Laird apprentices for the 1984 Garden Festival it has been removed for restoration and further public display at a location to be decided.



With Dunoon's Victorian Pier quickly crumbling away and commercial developments being held back by a lack of certainty over transport links, it appears that the Scottish Executive's proposals for Calmac's Dunoon and Rothesay services have been further delayed. The late January publication of proposals has been delayed to allow further investigations into plans.


There are reports that the European Union plans to force the Scottish Executive to consider the privatisation of the state-owned Caledonian MacBrayne. It appears European regulations demand that publicly owned firms that receive state aid be opened up to competitive tender every five years. There have long been fears that a privatised Calmac would seriously affect
the essential nature of the company forcing it to consider profits instead of providing vital links to remote communities.

Scottish Transport Minister Sarah Boyack has categorically denied that there are plans to privatise Cal Mac. When questioned in the Scottish Parliament she responded by saying:

"I absolutely recognise the commitment in the Highlands and Islands and off the west coast of Scotland to ensuring that CalMac provides the best possible services. We have absolutely no intention of privatising CalMac. However, we have to comply with European state aids and I have asked my officials to examine the matter urgently. Other European countries have had
to investigate the issue of ferries and state aids and we will do that as soon as possible to ensure that we retain our lifeline services and that CalMac operates to the highest possible standards."

CalMac management has shrugged off suggestions that its services could be privatised. But the company has agreed to provide information on the implications of a European Commission inquiry into state support for ferry operations.


Caledonian MacBrayne is facing the possibility of industrial action by NUMAST members serving in the Clyde and Western Isles divisions. Meetings have been arranged to discuss the best way of responding to what the officers' union sees as the company's failure to address serious concerns among officers serving in the Clyde division. 

Members on the Western Isles services have been voting on whether to accept the company's 2.75% per cent pay offer or to proceed to a formal ballot for industrial action. Industrial officer Stuart Barry said the Union was meeting Clyde division members to determine the level of support for various options. He said: "The company has been treating officers with contempt, and unrest among members has now reached such a level that action is a real fear."

February 6, 2000



Once again there was a mid-week update on 2 February with additional news bulletins and galleries added. Please check "What's New" page to ensure you have not missed anything.


Unfortunately due to an error on my part this week the two interactive forums had their message contents erased. Apologies for this. At present I am still monitoring the effectiveness of them and if there are any more technical glitches I may make some changes.


Gary Andrews, Hans Mauritz, Don Burgess, Justin Merrigan, John Shepherd, Charlie Tennant, Ray Burrows, Stan Basnett and others.

John Luxton, February 6, 2000


BEN-MY-CHREE departed from Birkenhead this week somewhat later than expected. Interestingly she has returned to service bearing the full Isle of Man Steam Packet fleet name - not the truncated name as applied to the LADY OF MANN. It had been suggested that the shorter version would be applied to the BEN-MY-CHREE - but probably the presence of the raised lettering would have made it look rather strange if only "Steam Packet Company" had been painted in red! 

She had been due to return to service on the 09.00 Douglas to Heysham following her refit. However, she was still at Birkenhead, Alfred Basin around 21.00 on Friday, some 12 hours later. [Photos are available on the site.]

At 18.40 on Thursday evening the Ben had called up Mersey Radio advising of a 19.00 departure from Bidston Dry Dock. At 19.20 she called back again to advise that she had missed her slot in the lock and that departure from Bidston Dry Dock would be at 20.00, with departure from Alfred Lock at 21.00. This didn't come to pass, and she remained at Birkenhead some 24 hours later.

Her departure from Birkenhead had been rescheduled Friday morning but this did not occur either. A correspondent over heard the BEN-MY-CHREE call up the Lady of Mann on Channel 12. The Ben's skipper spoke to Captain Corrin aboard the LADY OF MANN. He said that on steaming down the West Float heading for the Alfred entrance he had a problem, believed to be the port side gearbox.

There already had one tug giving assistance to help through the narrow Four Bridges, but another came to help following his difficulty - he told Captain Corrin he didn't think he would have to pay for this! The BEN-MY-CHREE then berthed in the Albert Basin. 

During the afternoon the ship's ramp was lowered, over the water, and a mobile crane had been used to lift a passenger gangway onto the ramp linking it to the shore. Apparently this was to enable the cabin crew to board who would probably have crossed from Douglas on the afternoon LADY O F MANN sailing from Douglas to Liverpool.

Later in the evening the gangway had been removed and the ramp noted closed. The BEN-MY-CHREE was still in Alfred at around 20:45 on Thursday evening.

On Sunday 6th February the evening sailing to Heysham was delayed due to adverse weather conditions.

DART 1 which was chartered to cover for the BEN-MY-CHREE was reported to still be at Douglas on the evening of February 6.

SUPERSEACAT TWO remains in Cammell Laird.

SUPERSEACAT THREE departed from Cammell Laird on Saturday 5th February in the company of two Howard Smith tugs, bound for Langton Lock, Liverpool. She arrived off the lock as DAWN MERCHANT was preparing to enter the river. SSC3 entered the lock at around 12.20. She is due to recommence operations on the Liverpool to Dublin route on 24th February.

SUPERSEACAT FOUR was at the Port of Dover on the afternoon of 4 February. The vessel stopped for refuelling en route from Italy to the Baltic where in April she is due to enter service on the Helsinki – Tallin route of Silja Line. The SUPERSEACAT FOUR entered Dover through the Eastern entrance at about 16.30 and sailed across the harbour to the Admiralty Pier where she moored at 16.50.

SEACAT SCOTLAND remained in a partially flooded Yarrows Dry Dock. My correspondent was informed that she will now depart on Tuesday February, 8.

CLAYMORE is expected to arrive on Merseyside this coming week to join the growing collection of laid up Sea Co vessels at Vittoria Dock, Birkenhead. 

This week's "Campbeltown Courier" reports that Sea Containers are  moving the CLAYMORE to Liverpool for the remaining part of the winter lay-up, because, a spokesman for the Company said, it was 'more cost effective'.  He added that it makes sense to transfer CLAYMORE to where they have other vessels laid up.

The move does not mean, however, that Sea Containers is giving up on the Ballycastle service he stressed. 

A Kintyre councillor Baldy McCallum is reported as being worried.  He commented that as Sea Containers was getting free berthing and did not have to pay harbour dues at Campbeltown, 'what costs would they have to  save?'


Sea Containers, has announced a series of new staff appointments. Diane Poole, previously General Manager Northern Ireland Services, has been made General Manager Sales and Marketing and now has overall responsibility for all sales and marketing initiatives on the Irish Sea. Diane joined SeaCat as Customer Services Manager for Belfast in 1993, following 17 years with Northern Ireland Railways. In 1995 she was promoted to Commercial Manager for Sea Containers Irish Sea routes, before becoming General Manager of Sea Containers Ferries Scotland Ltd. in 1998. She is married with one son and lives in Carrickfergus.

John Watt, previously General Manager Marketing and Strategy has been made General Manager Strategy and Planning. John joined the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company as Business Development Manager in 1995 and was then promoted to General Manager Marketing and Strategy in 1998. He is married and lives on the Isle of Man.

John Burrows, previously General Manager of the Liverpool-Dublin SuperSeaCat service has been made General Manager Marine Operations Irish Sea. He has overall responsibility for the running of Sea Containers' craft operating on the Irish Sea with the exception of those operating Isle of Man services. John joined SeaCat Scotland in 1991 as Customer Services Manager becoming Route General Manager two years later. After a three-year secondment to Q Ships in Qatar, John returned to head the AA Line service before becoming General Manager Liverpool-Dublin in 1998. He is married with one son and lives on the Wirral.

Mark Woodward, previously Operations and Customer Services Manager, has been made General Manager Marine Operations for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, with overall responsibility for craft operating to and from the Isle of Man. Mark started at the Steam Packet as Management Accountant in 1989. In 1995 he became Passenger Services Manager then Operations and Customer Services Manager in 1997. He is married with two children and lives on the Isle of Man.

Hamish Ross, Managing Director of Sea Containers Irish Sea Operations, said: "All these changes have been made to benefit our passengers. The staff concerned all have tremendous experience to bring to their new roles."


The bodies of the seven crewmen of the Kirkcudbright registered scallop dredger SOLWAY HARVESTER were landed at Douglas on Friday evening 4th February by the supply ship SCOTIA SHORE watched by the crew's families.

The crew was returned in a large container draped by Scottish and Manx flags. A lone piper played Flower of Scotland and Amazing Grace as the bodies were brought.

On Saturday 5th February, inquests into the deaths of the crew were opened and adjourned by coroner Michael Moyle thus enabling the bodies to be released to relatives.

Mr. Moyle offered condolences to the families before praising the Manx Government for acting quickly to recover the fishermen's bodies. Mr Moyle said: "I would like to officially record that the government acted with speed and commendable decisiveness." Mr Moyle also condemned governments, which had refused to raise the bodies of lost fishermen from the sea for financial reasons. The recovery operation had cost the Manx Government £1m.

The seven crew men were the skipper, Andrew Craig Mills, 29; his brother, Robin Mills, 33; their cousin, David Mills, 18; John Murphy, 22; Martin Milligan, 26; David Lyons, 17; and Wesley Jolly, 17.


Ray Burrows reports that he observed the BERNICE being towed out from Belfast Harbour mid morning February 2.  It was being towed by the SOLIMAN REYS and had the tug COLERAINE at the stern until it reached a point off Carrickfergus. Ray thinks she might be on the way to the breakers. The BERNICE, owned by Paul Hase of Germany had been enroute to Liverpool when it grounded in Belfast Lough in Autumn 1999.


A service was held on 31 January at the Princess Victoria Memorial, Larne to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the PRINCESS VICTORIA disaster.

 A short religious service was held, conducted by the Rev Lambert McAdoo, and wreaths were laid by the organisers, the RAOB, the RNLI, the Royal Irish Rangers and several who had lost loved ones in the disaster.

 On 31 January 1953 the car ferry had departed Stranraer for Larne as normal but was met by the force of severe gales leaving Loch Ryan and was subsequently lost along with 133 lives.


The Scottish press has this week resurrected rumours of a return for the "Derry boat". For around the past 14 months there has been much speculation of a new service between Glasgow and the Port of Londonderry. 

The rumours began following a November 1998 announcement by the Londonderry Port and Harbour Authority and Derry City Council that they were examining the possibility of a Glasgow ferry service that would carry passengers and freight. 

With an anticipated crossing time of seven hours it is virtually impossible to see how such a service could succeed - allowing for driving times a journey between the two cities via the Belfast – Troon route would still offer a significantly shorter travelling time. 

Additionally, it is difficult to see, in terms of population and industry density, that there is even sufficient local trade to support such a service even if it were freight-only.


Clive Jackson reports that a major dredging operation took place at Fleetwood between 30 January and 4 February, quite possibly the most intensive spell of dredging at the ABP port since about 1987. Usually the WD SEVERN spends about a week at the port every month but this week the much larger WD MEDWAY 2 started dredging on 30 January and was then joined on 1 February by the WD SEVERN. Such extensive dredging should certainly reduce the tidal constraints on P&O’s Fleetwood – Larne service and may also raise the possibility of larger tonnage being introduced.



NUMAST has agreed a 3% pay offer and has begun talks with management on outstanding leave and a new document covering issues such as alcohol and sickness policies.


Caledonian MacBrayne is facing the possibility of industrial action by NUMAST members serving in the Clyde and Western Isles divisions. Meetings were being arranged to discuss the best way of responding to the company's failure to address serious concerns among officers serving in the Clyde division. And members on the Western Isles services were voting on whether to accept the company's 2.75% per cent pay offer or to proceed to a formal ballot for industrial action. Industrial officer Stuart Barry said the Union was meeting Clyde division members to determine the level of support for various options. "The company has been treating officers with contempt, and unrest among members has now reached such a level that action is a real fear," he added. CalMac management has shrugged off suggestions that its services could be privatised. But the company has agreed to provide information on the implications of a European Commission inquiry into state support for ferry operations.


LE DEIRDRE came to the rescue of the trawler MILFORD EAGLE a Spanish owned but UK registered vessel. The Irish Coastguard Service rescued her crew of 16 when the vessel caught fire off the West Coast of Ireland. LE DEIRDRE towed the damaged vessel to Killybegs.

There is a certain irony in this story as it was only last month that the Irish Naval Service arrested the vessel and escorted it to Castletownbere where the skipper was fined IR£150 for failing to report entry into Irish waters and not having licenses on board.

LE CIARA, noted as being the first INS vessel ever to visit Liverpool back in 1997FERRIES, was one of the vessels summoned to the aid of the ASIAN PARADE following the vessel's grounding on the Codling Bank.


I had been tempted to break with the usual M&ISS tradition of listing news by operator title as opposed to the use of more topical "headlines". However, I resisted. Otherwise I would be tempted to head this one "High and Dry with a Hyundai" it has a sort of catchy ring to it!

In the early hours of 3rd February the car carrier ASIAN PARADE [55,680grt; built 1996] became stranded on the Codling Bank, about 6 miles east of Greystones, County Wicklow. The Panamanian registered vessel was carrying 1,700 cars on a voyage from Dublin to Rotterdam and has a crew of 20.

Concern was shown for the 154,000 gallons of fuel on board the large vessel, though the Department of the Marine claims that this presented no real danger. 

On Friday a tanker was brought along side to remove most of the fuel oil, whilst four tugs were dispatched to help pull the vessel free. Officers of the Irish Coastguard and marine surveyors are reported to have boarded the vessel to supervise the removal of the fuel oil. It was hoped that removing the oil would lighten the ship and make it easier for the tugs to move.

The first two attempts to move the vessel failed though the third attempt around midnight on Saturday February 5 proved to be successful. The vessel was then taken to Dublin Bay where she was anchored pending an inspection.


This week the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company announced that it intends to demerge the Group's cruises business to form a separate company. The ongoing Group will continue to focus increasingly on its high return logistics businesses. A listing will be sought for the new cruise company in both London and New York. Its headquarters will be in London.

The decision to demerge cruises follows the Group's progress in focusing on its three core businesses - cruises, ferries and ports - particularly since its strategic announcement in March 1999. With the exception of cruises, these are now heavily concentrated on logistics and transport businesses where P&O have a strong position and can achieve high returns. In 1999 the ferries and ports divisions made excellent progress, with a return on capital approaching 15%. Ports, ferries and logistics will be the core businesses for P&O in future and the key areas for further investment.

Commenting on the announcement, P&O Chairman Lord Sterling said: "Over the last few years our strategy has focused on increasing shareholder value through investing in rapidly growing businesses offering high returns and moving out of other areas. We have achieved our targets ahead of schedule. The demerger we are announcing today is the next logical step. It will enable both businesses to pursue the strategies that best meet their long-term objectives and to accelerate their future growth. It is strongly in the interests of our stockholders, customers and employees."

The demerger will be subject to certain approvals and good progress is being made in securing these. It will then be put to stockholders. It is hoped to conclude the demerger in the fourth quarter of 2000. Deferred stockholders will receive shares in a new company which will hold P&O's cruise interests as well as retaining existing stock in The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which will hold the other P&O businesses.


Remains at Canning Half Tide basin, opposite the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Back Home Up Next

February 2, 2000


Welcome to this additional mid week update. As well as the news bulletin update, there are several other updates. Make sure you check out the "What's New" page. For those interested in historic photographs there is a treat in store with a collection submitted by Don Burgess - North West Shipping in the 1960s.


BEN-MY-CHREE is expected to be back in service by Friday morning following refit by Cammell Laird at the company's newly acquired Bidston Dry Dock, Birkenhead.


SPHEROID: It is understood that the 1971 built vessel has been sold to Mykonos ANE of Greece. Mykonos ANE operate a daily freight service between Rafina and the island of Mykonos in the Aegean using the 1972 built, 40 trailer vessel MYKONOS II. SPHEROID has been laid up at Birkenhead since she was replaced on the Belfast to Heysham route by MERCHANT VENTURE.


Those visitors to the site who enjoyed the series of TV movies starring Ioan Gruffudd as Horatio Hornblower will probably already know from earlier news postings that GRAND TURK [HMS INDEFATIGABLE in the series] will be visiting Liverpool in June 2000.

The dates of calls at other ports around the British Isles can now be found on the site. Go to the Enthusiasts' Information index to access the information.


The first of 24 new fishing trawlers has begun operating in West Cork. The trawler jointed the Irish fishing fleet over the weekend and forms part of a œ70 million fishing scheme being run through Bord Iascaigh Mhara. The aim is to make the Irish whitefish fleet safer and more efficient.


Adverse weather conditions continue to prevent the raising of the SOLWAY HARVESTER and the recovery of the bodies of her seven-man crew. A specialist six-man team from the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service is standing by after flying out to the WELLSERVICER

The fire fighters, will be the first on board the vessel once she is lifted to the surface. They will search for and retrieve the bodies of those who died. The bodies of at least three crewmen are known to be still within the wreck of the Kirkcudbright-registered fishing boat, which was lost on January 11.


On 1st February Belfast Harbour announced a record year for the port in the 1999 annual report. The Belfast Harbour Commissioners report that passenger volumes have been in excess of 2 million and freight volumes have also risen to 340,000 units which now gives the port the commanding edge to
officially call itself the busiest port in Ireland  eating their closest rivals Dublin Port.

Trade in the dry bulk sector also increased 13% on the previous year. There are now over 100 ferry crossings each week at Belfast.

Chief Executive of the port, Gordon Irwin said: "Extensive port development in recent years has ensured that the port is fully equipped for world-wide trade"


On January 31st, Cammell Laird reported a 72% profits as the company confirmed that in addition to the lengthening and refit of the COSTA CLASSICA for œ70m the company has now secured agreement in principle to convert sister ship the COSTA ROMANTICA.

Costa Crociere, the Italian cruise line, said the second contract would be awarded in September as long as the cruise market continues to be buoyant.

The news came as Laird's unveiled half-year pre-tax profits of œ8.1m, an increase of 72% on the same period in 1998. Group turnover increased by 47% to œ61.7m. There is to be a small increase in dividend to 0.26p per share.

Cammell Laird chairman Juan Kelly said: "It is my pleasure to report yet another strong financial performance. The group continues to be firmly focused on a growth strategy and consequently the majority of earnings will be retained within the business."

Jon Schofield, finance director, said: "There has been a significant number of enquiries, which are progressing, but there is nothing firm to report at the moment. It is only a matter of time before shipbuilding returns to Cammell Laird. The reputation of the business has grown substantially and that's a virtuous circle in terms of our marketing."

Meanwhile further expansion is on the cards with the company looking to make further acquisitions during the coming year and find a joint venture partner to establish a marine leasing business. Mr Schofield stated that the company was looking to acquire an overseas shipyard, possibly in Poland, Portugal or Spain in the near future, whilst in the longer term a yard in the United States may be acquired.

On the same day as the half-year results were announced, chairman Juan Kelly was at 10 Downing Street with leaders of the AEEU and GMB unions to sign a recognition agreement. Mr Kelly commented: "I am confident that the modern approach of both unions sits well with out stakeholder culture and their powerful political lobby will help the group nurture its relationship with the Government.

Cammell Laird is reported to be in talks with a leading marine company keen to own and manage vessels on behalf of customers through a separate company.


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