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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



30th January 2000


Welcome to January's final bulletin. For those readers who last visited the site on Sunday 23rd January you should be aware that two substantial news updates were added on Monday 24th and Tuesday 25th January. These updates immediately precede this update. There are a number of new updates this week which include pictures of the BEN-MY-CHREE and STENA INVICTA at DUBLIN during December 1999 plus GOLDEN CROSS at Liverpool and "Alfred Arrivals" the latter gallery update being posted Monday evening, thus some readers may have missed this gallery page recording the day time arrivals at Albert Lock, Birkenhead on 22nd and 23rd January.

There is also a new feature giving information on SEATRUCK FERRIES based on material forwarded by the company's sales director Alistair Eagles. 

The latest edition of the Liverpool Nautical Research Society's Bulletin has been published and details are posted on the LNRS information page. All new additions are accessed via "What's New".

Finally an anniversary this week prompted me to finally get round to starting a new gallery section this week. "Maritime Memorials" will be a photographic survey of such memorials from around the Irish Sea. The aim is to remember the gallantry and tragedy that has always been a feature of seafaring communities as well as commemorating certain historic events. "Maritime Memorials" has been a long promised feature on M&ISS. Unfortunately as I collected more and more images the project never started. However, being reminded of the anniversary of the loss of the British Railways ship PRINCESS VICTORIA on 31st January 1953 led to the decision to start this section which will be built up gradually.

Recently I have tended to include a general acknowledgement for all contributions, as I know some contributors wish to remain anonymous. However, production of each week's update requires much more than my contribution and I think it is time that more detailed acknowledgements were given. Of course, those that have indicated in the past that they wish to remain anonymous will remain so. However, if you find your name posted and you wish to remain incognito please advise and it will be removed immediately.


Gary Andrews, Justin Merrigan, Stan Basnett, Alistair Eagles, John Shepherd George Robinson, Alan Lee and others.


SUPERSEACAT TW0 and SUPERSEACAT THREE - remain in Cammell Laird's yard at Birkenhead undergoing refit.

BEN-MY-CHREE refit work continues at Cammell Laird's newly acquired Bidston Dry Dock.

LADY OF MANN her departure for Liverpool on 28th January was reported delayed until 07.50 due to Police enquiries in relation to an overnight incident in Douglas not connected with shipping.

SEACAT SCOTLAND is expected to depart from Yarrow's on Clydeside on 1st February on completion of her refit. The vessel will then return to the Belfast - Stranraer and Belfast - Troon routes allowing the SEACAT DANMARK to sail for refit. From the end of March the SEACAT DANMARK is due to take up service on the Silja Line Seacat Gothenburg - Frederikshavn and Gothenburg - Langesund routes.

DART 1 which is operating under charter during the BEN-MY-CHREE's refit was reported running late on 28th January. She arrived at Douglas shortly before 08.00 and08.00 and requested tug assistance for berthing.

Laxey Towing company's tug WENDY ANN followed the vessel in from No.1 buoy and was used to push up on the port side to get the vessel onto the Edward Pier linkspan against a varying 30knot southerly wind. WENDY ANN was in assistance for 10 min. The DART 1 does present a high slab side, and with the accommodation aft, windage is likely to be a problem turning in Douglas outer harbour in certain wind directions. 


The floating crane, MERSEY MAMMOTH, left, left Canada Graving Dock this week after undergoing maintenance.


This week the Belfast ship yard of Harland & Wolff issued a statement indicating that it would be premature to assume that a multi-million pound order for the new Cunard QUEEN MARY 2 cruise liner was in the bag.

A H&W spokesman said: "We have been putting a lot of effort into securing this order but we are still just one of five yards bidding for the work." Cunard said it expected to make a decision in six weeks' time as to where the new £400m QUEEN MARY 2 will be built. The vessel, which will be the largest passenger ship ever, built, will have accommodation for 2,500for 2,500 passengers. QM2's maiden voyage is scheduled for 2003.

Cunard spokesman Michael Gallagher said: "We have narrowed it down to five shipyards and they are all equal at the moment. "Price will be a consideration but so too will be quality and the stability and viability of the yard."

Leading yards from Finland, Italy, France and Germany, all of which are finalising their bids at present, are also contenders for the contract.

A visit to Harland and Wolff's yard by executives from Cunard's parent company, Carnival Corporation, raised hopes that the company might be awarded the construction contract.

Michael Arison, the Carnival chairman and chief executive officer, said Harland's chances of securing the work were "excellent". Mr Arison, visited the yard this week. He met company officials and Ministers from the Northern Ireland Assembly, including David Trimble and Sir Reg Empey.

The Belfast visit was part of a programme of visits by the Carnival executives to each of the five yards under consideration. Brynjulv Mugaas, the H&W chief executive, said the Queen Mary was an order which any yard would be proud to secure. He said: "Although we face strong competition, we believe there is a real opportunity to win this work. "H&W's tender is a joint bid with Lloyd Werft of Germany.


Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has undertaken a cabinet reshuffle. This has resulted in Dr. Michael Woods TD, Minister for the Marine being moved from the Department of Marine to the position of Minister for Education. Frank Fahey TD from the Galway West constituency is the new Minister for the Marine.


The Port of Larne has reported a 5.6% year-on-year increase in the number of commercial vehicles handled by the harbour.

The figures for 1999 show that the port handled 321,907 commercial vehicles, an increase of 5.6% on 1998, whilst the number of tourist vehicles passing through the port in 1999 increased by 1% to 198,996.

The increase in freight traffic can be directly attributed to the increased number of sailings to and from the port in 1999.

At the current rate of growth it may not take too many years before freight at the Port of Larne matches the levels achieved when Stena's Northern Ireland - Stranraer route was based at the port. Despite having more freight sailings per day than Larne, Larne is quickly catching Belfast in terms of freight levels. Although Belfast Harbour Commissioners published passenger and tourist traffic figures for 1999 just before Christmas, the port has not yet issued freight figures - however, Belfast's recorded level of 330,000 freight units in 1998, would place Belfast and Larne ports almost equal in terms of freight units handled.

Facilities at the Port of Larne were further enhanced with the completion in November of a £2.2 million extension to the distribution centre. The new 5000 sq. metre extension has trebled the centre's capacity for high quality frozen, chilled and ambient storage, catering for up to 15,000 pallets and offering next day delivery, break bulk and order picking from stock.

Meanwhile, work has commenced in recent weeks to extend and develop vehicle-marshalling facilities at both the north and south end of the port to cater for growth in freight traffic. At the north end a significant land levelling exercise is taking place and at the south end land reclamation will significantly add to the vehicle marshalling area.

Denis Galway, General Manager, of the Port of Larne said:

"The continuing growth in traffic and the accompanying development and expansion of facilities is an indication that the Port Of Larne is determined to maintain its position as the best equipped and most efficient ferry port on the Irish Sea efficiently serving all our customers and contributing to the region's economy."


NEW GENERATION (ex KINGSNORTH FISHER) 1966/2330gt Fisher's ro/ro heavy lift ship is reported to be currently lying in the James Watt Dock on Clydeside.


BHP's DOUGLAS PLATFORM is a familiar feature for anyone who has sailed in or out of the Mersey in recent years. However, on 27th January the rig support vessel HIGHLAND PIONEER put out a mayday stating that she had been in collision with the Douglas Platform, 15 nautical miles west of Formby.

Liverpool Coastguard immediately scrambled Rescue Helicopter R122 from RAF Valley and requested the launch of the Hoylake RNLI lifeboat. Rhyl and Llandudno lifeboats were placed on immediate readiness.

HIGHLAND PIONEER, with 13 persons on board, reported it had a hole above the water line, but was in no danger. Douglas Platform, with 79 persons on board, reported slight damage but causing no threat to the installation. There was no risk of pollution from either unit and with confirmation of no risk to personnel the search and rescue units were released from the operation.

Donald McDonald, District Controller at Liverpool Coastguard said:

"The incident this morning has proved the value of the continuous liaison and exercise that go on between BHP, the operators of the installation, and the shore based emergency services. Initial information was passed to the emergency services and the action taken, followed by prompt assessments offshore, brought the incident
to a successful conclusion."

Some of the rig's crew were taken off whilst the damage was examined.
The Search and Rescue operation was stood down at 9.30am.


On 25th January the Isle of Man Government approved proposals to raise the Solway Harvester, the scallop dredger, which sank earlier this month with the loss of its seven crew.

Following the Tynwald decision to meet the estimated £1m cost, it was hoped to get the operation underway by the weekend.

Donald Gelling MHK, chief minister, stated that the priority was to recover the bodies of the crewmen.

The Isle of Man Department of Home Affairs has awarded the recovery contract to Coflexip Stena Offshore Ltd. [COSL]

COSL will use the WELLSERVICER [9158 grt] to undertake the salvage operation. WELLSERVICER, which is believed to be chartered at the rate of £60,000 per day, remained in Barrow on Saturday due to adverse weather conditions where it had put in to collect additional diving gear on Friday. By Sunday afternoon [30th January] WELLSERVICER was reported to be at work on the site.

Last week an underwater camera located one body and it is believed that the six others are still on board.

Once the vessel - which is lying in 100ft of water 11 miles from the Manx coast - is raised, investigators will try to establish what caused it to sink in conditions it had faced many times before.

Meanwhile press speculation continues as to the cause of the tragedy. The Scottish Daily Record claims that the Vanguard Class ballistic missile submarine HMS VIGILANT [S30] returned to Faslane Naval base for emergency repairs to its radar. The Sunday Herald newspaper claims that the SOLWAY HARVESTER may have hit an old mine.

Once the vessel - which is lying in 100ft of water 11 miles from the Manx coast - is raised, investigators will try to establish what caused it to sink in conditions it had faced many times before.

The seven 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.


An Irish Government cabinet meeting in Cork this week agreed to rename the Irish Marine Emergency Service as the Irish Coast Guard. Ireland has been without a Coast Guard since the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922 when the British administered Coast Guard service was disbanded.

IRISH FERRIES by Gary Andrews

Irish Ferries has won the Irish Travel Trade's 'Best Ferry Company' Award for 1999, making it a unique three times in succession.

The award is voted for by the Irish Travel Trade for performance throughout the year.

The runners-up were Stena Line, with SuperSeaCat, Swansea Cork Ferries and Brittany Ferries receiving honourable mentions.

The award is hardly a surprise in year that Irish Ferries launched a massive marketing campaign, developed their online booking service, introduced the JONATHAN SWIFT, announced the purchase of the NORMANDY and ordered their huge new Dublin - Holyhead cruise ferry.


Irish Continental Group Chief Executive Mr Eamonn Rothwell recently mounted a strong attack on Dublin Port's charging structure and has said that there is a strong argument for a regulator to be appointed for Ireland's government owned ports, just as the Irish Government has appointed a regulator to oversee airports.

Speaking after ICG reported strong full-year results, Mr Rothwell said that Dublin is the only one of the six ports used by the group which does not offer volume discount or volume rebates. Eamonn Rothwell commented:

"Whether it's one truck or a hundred thousand trucks, the charging system is the same."

Mr Rothwell added that Dublin Port's charging structure reflected its inefficiency:

"Belfast and Dublin have about the same annual tonnage, but Dublin employs 455 against 140 at Belfast and that's reflected in Dublin's charging structure."

The Chief Executive of Irish Ferries' parent company added that ICG is considering whether to take a case to Europe against what it claims are Dublin Port's anti-competitive practices.


The JONATHAN SWIFT will proceed to dry-dock on 28 February and is expected to return to service with the 06.15 sailing ex Dublin on 10 March. It is not known, as yet, as to where the vessel will be overhauled. (This updates information contained within the last bulletin).


A correspondent has commented with regard to the NORMANDY' s problems keeping to the published schedule whilst covering for the overhaul period on the Rosslare - Pembroke route. The correspondent writes that it should be remembered that the ferry was built for Sessan Linjen for a short sea route - Gothenburg - Frederikshavn - and did in fact operate on this route for a few months between 1982 and 1983. 

Since then she has operated on longer routes with less demanding schedules. The NORMANDY's nominal speed of 20.4 knots is not much less that the ISLE OF INNISFREE and is better than the CONNACHT and LEINSTER which seemed to have no problems with the route. 

It may be the case that having not been refurbished extensively for some years, though she is due to be next winter, the vessel is currently running at a little less than "100%" of her potential capabilities. This wouldn't be significantly noticed on her more leisurely trips between Ireland and France but is noticeable under the pressure of a shorter crossing.


The BBC this week reported on a Mersey based initiative (believed to include Liverpool City Council) which is aimed at persuading Irish Ferries to operate out of Liverpool. With suggestions that capacity on the Liverpool - Dublin route (which presumably is the route being suggested) has already exceeded demand (evidenced by the radical reduction in sailings this year on the Sea Containers service) it remains to be seen how interested Irish Ferries will be with this proposal.


Poor weather in recent days has seen most of the few Irish Sea fast ferry services currently scheduled to be operating subject to delays and cancellations with Stena reporting cancellations at Stranraer and Holyhead, Sea Containers at Stranraer and Troon and Irish Ferries at Holyhead.



The last sailing of the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS for P&O Portsmouth will be the 18.30 Cherbourg - Portsmouth sailing on 14 April. The PORTSMOUTH EXPRESS (currently the CATALONIA of Buquebus) will enter service with the 07.00 Portsmouth - Cherbourg sailing on 15 April. The last PORTSMOUTH EXPRESS sailing of the season will be the 18.30 Cherbourg - Portsmouth sailing on 30 September. There are no further fast ferry sailings on the Portsmouth - Cherbourg route scheduled for 2000.


The JETLINER is due to re-enter service on the Larne - Cairnryan route on 1 March for around 7 weeks. It is anticipated the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS will replace the JETLINER on the Larne - Cairnryan route around one week after the craft has completed service at Portsmouth (mid April). It is not clear whether or not the JETLINER will remain on stand-by at Larne for a period until her charter ends in June. It is understood that P&O will undo any alterations made by them to the JETLINER before returning her to her owners. (Some reports have suggested this is currently taking place whilst the ship is laid-up at Larne).


P&O Irish Sea's Larne - Cairnryan passenger ferry fleet is set to be transformed over the next six months with the JETLINER being replaced by the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS in April and the PRIDE OF RATHLIN being replaced by the new ro-pax ferry EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY in August. This will bring about numerous changes and developments.

The EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY will cut the PRIDE OF RATHLIN's advertised crossing time of 2 hours 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. (The SUPERSTAR EXPRESS will continue the JETLINER's one hour crossing time).

Both the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY and SUPERSTAR EXPRESS will largely operate to the schedule of the vessel each ferry is replacing. However, the peak period JETLINER roundtrip at 23.00 ex Larne and at 00.30 ex Cairnryan will not be offered by the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS. Additionally, the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS will only operate until 6 November. It would appear that the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS will operate a similar season to that which she operated at Portsmouth (i.e. approximately eight months of the year). With the exception of a period out of service at the beginning of the year, the JETLINER operated year round on the Larne - Cairnryan route.

This will leave the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY as the sole passenger vessel on the Larne - Cairnryan route during the winter period. One would suggest that ideally P&O would need to offer a second similar vessel in order to retain a reasonable number of daily passenger sailings when the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS is not sailing. If a second ro-pax ferry was ordered for the Cairnryan service she could replace both the EUROPEAN TRADER and EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR and along with the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY and SUPERSTAR EXPRESS would offer one of the most attractive ferry fleets on any Irish Sea route.

There are unconfirmed reports that alterations will be made to the fast ferry berths at both ports to accommodate the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS. The Cairnryan conventional ferry berth is in the process of being extended and improved in order to accommodate the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY.

For the record, despite the marketing name change from P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) to P&O Irish Sea, the firm itself remains P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea).


It appears that the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS and EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY will carry commonly branded facilities. Both vessels (and the new Cairnryan terminal - due to be open in April) will offer a "Fables Restaurant" and both the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS and EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY will offer a "Poets Bar".

(It is worth noting that the name "Poets Bar" owes it's origins to being an acronym of P&O European Transport Services (POETS)).

It would appear that Club Class will not be offered aboard the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY or the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS.


P&O Irish Sea's 2000 brochure inevitably makes much of the introduction of the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS and EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY (including artists impressions of facilities) and the re-vamping of the port of Cairnryan. Significant coverage is also given to the launch of the firm's new website at

The Value Routes of Larne - Fleetwood, Dublin - Liverpool and Rosslare - Cherbourg are included alongside the Larne - Cairnryan tariffs and schedule. The EUROPEAN PIONEER, EUROPEAN ENVOY and EUROPEAN PATHFINDER are all pictured along with the Cairnryan passenger vessels EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY, SUPERSTAR EXPRESS, JETLINER and PRIDE OF RATHLIN.

Once again meals are included in the fares of all Value Routes with cabins also included on the French service. Also, as with 1999, foot passengers are not carried on the Value Route services. Sailing times offered on the Value Route services are as they were in 1999 with the exception that on the Fleetwood service P&O states that "Night sailings may be available on other days - please ring for information." Previously P&O had made no brochure mention of anything but the morning sailings from both Fleetwood and Larne.

Through fares with P&O Portsmouth, P&O North Sea Ferries and P&O Stena Line are also advertised using the Cairnryan, Fleetwood and Liverpool routes. Similarly the combined P&O Irish Sea /Irish Ferries "Circuit Of Britain" fare deal now also includes the Fleetwood and Liverpool routes. Once again, full details of Irish Ferries Rosslare and Dublin routes are carried.


FLEETWOOD CONSTRUCTION: Clive Jackson reports that on 28 January P&O erected a two storey portakabin at their base in Fleetwood on the site of the old harbour control building adjacent to the berth. It appears the construction is probably to provide additional office space at the headquarters of P&O Irish Sea.


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


I have been forwarded information from the company's current newsletter from which this information is abstracted. It certainly gives a good impression of the size and diversity of the Cammell Laird group.

Work continues on the lengthening of the SEAWAY CONDOR for Stolt Comex and work is starting on the new build section for the COSTA CLASSICA cruise ship conversion.

At the Tyneside facility the first of three cable ship conversions for Global Marine Systems "WAVE MERCURY" has sailed from the yard and the second ship WAVE VENTURE is due to leave shortly. The third ship, ex CSO INSTALLER, arrived in the yard on 6th January for conversion.

Work continues on BIG RED BOAT II (EDINBURGH CASTLE which is scheduled to leave before the end of the month.

Meanwhile on Teeside TEES SIDE work continues on the ISLAND COMMODORE conversion for Global Marine and the ASTANA has recently arrived from this Far East for a cable outfit.

The year has also started with the stemming of two dredgers from ARC. Mr Paul Jacobs has recently joined the Management at the Teeside yard as Commercial Manager.

December saw the successful completion of the Gibraltar yard's most significant contract to date the refit of the cruise ship CAROUSEL for Airtours. The yard has resumed regular repair work and the SMIT ROTTERDAM is expected for a major refit at the end of January.

Work is nearing completion on the covering of No. 3 dock at Gibraltar, which will provide one of the world's largest covered docks for super yachts.

The coastal tanker PETRO AVON was docked at Wearside for Standard Marine Services in January. At Wear Engineering the pontoon for Aberdeen Harbour is nearing completion and work is starting on the fabrication of a giant gantry crane for Ingalls Shipyard in America. Meanwhile the only substantial part of the Millennium Eye Wheel made in the UK, the river landing pontoon, was fabricated in the Pallion and Hebburn Yards and was successfully installed.

At Gosport the latest new building, the Ed Dubois designed'120' Aluminium sailing yacht, OUR BLUE DREAM was successfully delivered to its new owners. Work continues on two major refits and a number of smaller repairs at the yard.

Cammell Laird owned D.G. Electrical Services are currently busy in support of the conversion work at the yards. They are also presently in discussions with clients in regard to a two-year contract for outfit on a new build of a Super yacht.

The group reports that at present some exciting new contracts are being pursued, particularly in the newbuilding sector. These include strategic Ro-Ro's for the MoD, Ferries for a number of operators and a new range of luxury Cruise Ships for Caribbean, Mediterranean and World services.

Home Up Next

25th January 2000


This is a second additional news bulletin for this week. Previous bulletins were posted on 24th and 23rd January respectively, and appear below this one. 

I have posted this news Bulletin update as I have received a substantial amount of material from Gary Andrews much of it relating to Irish Ferries. Please ensure you don't miss the two previous updates

SEA CONTAINERS by Gary Andrews

THE PRINCESS ANNE  has re-entered service on the Dover - Calais route following her annual refit with a stylish new '1st' class cabin. The number of seats in '1st', Hoverspeed's upgrade travel product, has been increased from just 14 to 54 as part of the company's strategy to corner the market for premium cross-Channel travel.

 The new look hovercraft enters service hot on the heels of the opening of Hoverspeed's first airport-style executive lounge at Dover's International Hoverport. Everything about the new look '1st' class cabin rivals that found on an airline, apart from the enviable amount of leg room afforded by the luxurious leather seating. 

Dedicated members of the cabin crew look after '1st' class passengers, with a new galley also having been installed, where the crew can prepare refreshments, served of course, on the finest bone china. For the first time ever, the hovercraft even has an oven used to heat the complimentary croissants served on morning departures! 

Geoffrey Ede, Hoverspeed managing director, said: "The hovercraft enters the new Millennium as the true 'Concorde of the Seas - not just the fastest but now also the most stylish way to cross the Channel." THE PRINCESS MARGARET, Hoverspeed's other hovercraft, is undergoing similar treatment and will enter service in March. 

IRISH FERRIES by Gary Andrews

The world's largest passenger car ferry, currently under construction for Irish Ferries' Dublin - Holyhead route, is 'on target' to begin services in Spring 2001. At a ceremony which took place at noon yesterday (24 January) in the shipyards of Aker Finnyards in Rauma, Finland, the giant keel section of the 50,000 tonnes vessel was laid. 

Costing approximately IR.£80million, the giant vessel will dwarf all other ferries operating into and out of Ireland. On board, it will have three miles of vehicle lane parking space - room enough to carry 1,300 cars or 260 articulated truck and trailer units per sailing. In its design, the vessel will be distinctly different setting new standards for the design of multi-purpose ferries for the 21st Century. It will carry 2,000 passengers/crew and operate two return sailings daily between Dublin Port and Holyhead. Because of its exceptional size, it will provide exceedingly high standards of stability and comfort, even in extreme weather conditions.

Building on the success of the company's existing cruise ferry ISLE OF INISHMORE - itself the largest passenger ferry in N. West Europe - it will take over services to Holyhead with a journey time of just over three hours. On board, it will bring new levels of interior spaciousness and 'cruise liner' luxury to travel between Ireland and Britain. 

Off a promenade walkway encircling the full interior of the vessel will be complex of restaurants, shopping mall, lounge bars and a traditional Irish-style pub as well as coffee shops and bistro-style food outlets. Leisure features will see latest state-of-the-art technology being used to screen latest Hollywood releases. Another 'spectacular' feature will be a top-deck Sky Lounge from which passengers will enjoy panoramic views to sea. 

Attending the official keel laying ceremony in Finland, Irish Ferries Marketing Director Tony Kelly said: "The big benefit which this mammoth new vessel will bring will be to enable Irish Ferries to double freight carryings at peak sailing times whilst still providing space for Summer tourist traffic. Its arrival will transform the standard of service which customers can expect and prove a boon to the Irish tourism and international haulage sectors." Via the Internet, the public is currently being invited to join with Irish Ferries in the process of choosing a name for the new vessel to be announced shortly. 

Meanwhile as from 24 January the new Domain Name (URL) for the Irish Ferries website is The firm's existing Irish domain at will be retained and will automatically point to the new URL. The Irish Ferries UK domain at is due to be transferred and will also point to the new URL. This change to a ".com" domain is to reflect a global presence on the Internet and is recognised and understood more clearly than specific country addresses. 

[GARY ANDREW'S COMMENT: You will no doubt be aware of the debate regarding the claims by Irish Ferries that their vessel will be the world's largest car ferry, particularly in light of the vessels currently on order for P&O North Sea Ferries. My personal reading of the situation is that the claim relates to the car carrying capacity of the vessel (and for that matter that of the ISLE OF INISHMORE) being the largest of any passenger ferry. - Gary Andrews]. 


 NORMANDY. With the NORMANDY's Continental services having come to their seasonal break on arrival of the vessel at Rosslare on 9 January the NORMANDY entered service in place of the ISLE OF INNISFREE on the Rosslare - Pembroke route with the 21.30 sailing ex Rosslare on 16 January. 

Following the ISLE OF INNISFREE's dry-dock and period of service on the Dublin - Holyhead route the NORMANDY is due to finish service on the Rosslare - Pembroke route around 15/16 February. The vessel will then sail for dry-dock in Poland arriving back at Rosslare around 9/10 March, the Continental service resuming with the 22.00 Rosslare - Cherbourg sailing on 10 March. As the NORMANDY, being a long haul ferry, can experience time keeping problems on short sea routes Irish Ferries has cancelled several sailings to maintain the schedule. The sailings ex Rosslare at 09.15 and ex Pembroke at 15.00 have been cancelled on 10, 16, 24 and 31 January and 7 February. (On 10 January a MES Drill was held). It remains to be seen if there will be other cancellations 

ISLE OF INNISFREE: The last sailing of the ISLE OF INNISFREE before dry-dock was the 03.15 ex Pembroke on 16 January. On arrival in Rosslare at 07.00 on 16 January she discharged and proceeded to dry-dock in Brest, arriving there at approximately 04.00 on 17 January. Refit is scheduled to take 13 full days after the day of arrival and the ISLE OF INNISFREE should depart from Brest on the evening of 30 January. She should arrive in Dublin on 31 January, with her first sailing operating in place of the ISLE OF INISHMORE at 21.45. 

ISLE OF INISHMORE: The ISLE OF INISHMORE's last sailing prior to dry-dock is scheduled to be ex Holyhead at 15.45 on 31 January. The vessel is due to return on 15 February, taking up service with the 09.45 sailing ex Dublin on 16 February. 

JONATHAN SWIFT: The JONATHAN SWIFT was due to have been dry-docked between 28 February and 14 March. This has been delayed with her overhaul now due to take place either immediately before or immediately after Easter. NOTE: The above dates are for general guidance only and as is always the case when dealing with vessel overhauls, changes are possible. 

PORT OF LARNE by Gary Andrews

During a visit to the Port of Larne on 19 January, Northern Ireland's Regional Development Minister, Peter Robinson said that Northern Ireland's ports must remain the vital transport links for business with the outside world and that the sea linkages were a key element in the move to ensure continued economic growth in Northern Ireland. 

The Minister commented: "The Port of Larne has the potential to contribute significantly to our economy. Our ports are gateways to Northern Ireland, facilitating tourism growth and offering major opportunities for job creation and further regional development. Modern efficient ports are vital to reduce our peripherality in relation to the main markets of Europe, and by constantly improving and integrating transport links we can ensure Northern Ireland is seen as a place with which to do business." 

Meanwhile the Mr Robinson is understood to still be considering plans for the privatisation of the Port of Belfast.

P&O IRISH SEA by Gary Andrews

Clive Jackson reports that the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR again stood in for the EUROPEAN PIONEER on 23 January on her Fleetwood - Larne sailings, having already done so on 22 January. The EUROPEAN PIONEER was back in service on 24 January, suggesting that the vessel had been allocated a maintenance weekend. The regular Fleetwood - Larne sailings of the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR do not operate at weekends. 

The new P&O North Sea Ferries brochure shows the Fleetwood - Larne and Liverpool - Dublin "Value Routes" of P&O Irish Sea. No doubt these routes will prove popular for passengers travelling via Hull from Ireland North and South.  


The Scotships Egroup reports that Western Ferries' SOUND OF SLEAT, joined by the Serco-Denholm operated Naval harbour tug NIMBLE (A222), entered the Garvel Dry-dock, Greenock, on 24 January replacing the former Glenlight Shipping timber barge SPRUCELIGHT which moved to the James Watt Dock. 


M&ISS readers will recall the NORASIA ships which briefly provided a trans-atlantic container service to Liverpool last year. Whilst the company made great fanfare about the start of the service its later termination went almost unannounced! However, the following news item came to my attention this week:

NORASIA'S next set of ships on the drawing board will boast service speeds of 32 knots thanks to the design for a trio of medium speed diesel vessels. The company has not yet selected a yard to build them, but the 2,000 teu ships will have the same length as the recent 242 m, 3,400 teu Fribourg Class from HDW. The length of both classes of ships promote a faster turnaround time, because the frigate-like hulls allow for three and a half container cranes to work the holds rather than the typical two cranes for ships of such teu capacity.

24th January


Please note this is an additional news bulletin posted on 24th January. The update for 23rd January follows below this update.

There has also been an additional gallery posted. Alfred Arrivals depicts the vessels arriving at Alfred Lock, Birkenhead on the afternoon tides of 22nd and 23rd January.

SEA CONTAINERS by Gary Andrews

SEACAT SCOTLAND: For the record, the SEACAT DANMARK continued to operate on the Belfast - Stranraer and Troon routes this week whilst the in Belfast from Troon at 14.15, around 30 minutes late, on 17 January.


Sea Containers Irish Sea new URL is now 'live' but at present only links to the Sea Containers homepage. According to the online booking.


P&O Ferries this week confirmed that it is to introduce larger fastcraft onto its routes across the English Channel and the North Channel to meet greater passenger demand.

The popularity and success of P&O Portsmouth's 82 metre SUPERSTAR EXPRESS has led to the company deciding to replace her with the 91 metre Buquebus half. She will begin service in mid April through until 30 September.

The SUPERSTAR EXPRESS carries 800 passengers and 175 cars and will transfer to P&O Irish Sea operating between Cairnryan and Larne from mid April. The compared to the JETLINER's operating restriction of 3 metres.

P&O Portsmouth's Managing Director, Captain Jim Davenport, says: "A record number of holidaymakers took the fast route to Western France in P&O Portsmouth can offer both to exceptionally high standards".

Meanwhile P&O has confirmed that P&O European Ferries (Irish Sea) has chosen the new brand name of P&O Irish Sea, "to reflect the Company's wider appeal.

John Kersey, Managing Director of P&O Irish Sea says:

"The SUPERSTAR EXPRESS is an excellent replacement for the JETLINER, maintaining the one hour crossing while offering a wider range of onboard none".

JETLINER: It is understood that the JETLINER will be dry-docked within the next few weeks - the vessel has remained at her Larne berth since early January.

EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR: Clive Jackson reports that the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR operated the sailings of the EUROPEAN PIONEER on the Fleetwood - Larne route on 23 January.


The Preliminary Announcement of Results for the Irish Continental Group for the year ended 31 October 1999 has revealed that the firm experienced a 20% confidence in the future for the Group".

Some highlights of the Preliminary Statement follow below.


The Board of Irish Continental Group, plc announced profit before tax of EURO 26.8 million for the year to 31 October 1999, an increase of 20% on the year grew by 17% to EURO 249.4 million (14% excluding acquisitions).

Operating profit rose by 14% to EURO 35.4 million reflecting organic growth in all divisions of the Group and the benefits of the additional capacity by 2%, despite the abolition of duty free sales on 1 July 1999.


Profit before interest in the Ferries Division rose by 13% to EURO 32.3 million on turnover of EURO 146.6 million, 6.7% higher than the previous year.


Despite the abolition of Duty Free from 1 July 1999, record passenger carryings were achieved with overall growth of 5.8% to 1,694,000 passengers. 5.7% to 196,000.

The price increases introduced in the second half to compensate for duty free abolition had some impact on volumes with growth in passenger numbers approximately 8% over the year as a whole.

Car carryings were helped by a substantial investment in a new marketing campaign, including increased use of the Internet (Irish Ferries online), key European markets of France and Germany proved to be difficult.

Roll-on Roll-off Freight.

It was a record year for Roll-on Roll-off freight on both corridors of the Irish Sea with total carryings up by 11% to 154,000 trucks. Despite the 1,800 the previous year.


In the Container and Terminal Division with the full year inclusion of Eurofeeders turnover grew by a substantial 24% to EURO 101 million, while operating profit was up 15% to EURO 4.96 million.

Container Freight.

There was continued volume growth on Eucon's services between Ireland and the UK and the Continent, and Feederlink's dedicated feeder service in the North West Europe.

Total container freight volumes on all routes rose 43% to 371,000 twenty-foot equivalent units ("teu"). (The increase, excluding Eurofeeders, acquired in 1998, was 13%)

During the year ICG continued to invest in their fleet of equipment with the addition of 45 foot long and 9'6" high containers as well as equipment for their growing intermodal service between the Continent and the UK.


During the year the firm benefited from the previous year's redevelopment of Dublin Ferryport Terminal and achieved record volume throughput during the year, with an increase of 16% in units handled to 199,000 teu.


In July Irish Ferries announced that they were to build the "World's largest" cruise ferry to be introduced on the Dublin - Holyhead route in is EURO 98 million making it the Group's single largest investment to date.

In August Irish Continental completed the Stg£4 million acquisition of two travel agency chains in the United Kingdom with branches in the Greater operating profit before amortisation of goodwill amounted to EURO 149,000.

In October Irish Continental concluded an agreement to purchase the NORMANDY, which had operated on bareboat charter since January 1998, for a introduced.

Together with ongoing capital expenditure programme in containers and handling equipment in Eucon and Dublin Ferryport Terminals the total capital million.


Cash flow from operating activities increased by 19% to EURO 49.3 million while total investment in the year amounted to EURO 45.3 million, comprising EURO 62 million.


The abolition of intra-European duty free sales in July 1999 continues to pose a challenge to sea, air and airport operators in relation to intra-EU at their historically high levels.

In the car passenger market, trading in the first 2 months of this year has been encouraging with good volume and yield trends. However, given the year that its impact can be assessed.

In the freight market, continued economic growth in Ireland and consequent increases in external trade provides a favourable backdrop for RoRo and LoLo route.

The report ends by stating ICG as being "fully committed to successfully meeting the challenges facing us in the current financial year".

NORMANDY has, to date, again found it difficult to keep to the demanding schedule of the shorter crossing with many delays reported. vessel.


Brittany Ferries Cork - Roscoff service will re-open with the 23.59 Roscoff - Cork sailing on 31 March. Sailings will be offered by the VAL DE before the service closes for the season on 30 September.


The vessel that is to operate the new Rosslare - Brestservice of Mortimer European Services Limited, is apparently named FRANCOISE.


LE AISLING, is reported to have been stepped down from the site of an oil spill off the east or Ireland coast and as a result the oil slick is not now expected to hit land. According to a spokesperson for the naval service, the oil slick was made up of diesel oil and not heavy fuel oil. It is thought the oil would evaporate.

23rd January 2000



Welcome to this week's update. 

Updates this week include details of cruise ship calls to Irish Sea and adjacent area ports for 2000. The opening of a new section Mersey Maritime Heritage which will contain occasional illustrated articles on Merseyside's maritime past. This week the section is inaugurated by a feature on Fraser, Trenholm and Co. - Ensure you sound is turned up before going to the page!

Another new feature this week is Lamb Banana's Rumour and Humour page. This will be updated on an occasional basis featuring some of the more fanciful rumours which circulate and reports of amusing happenings!

Some readers may also wonder what the "4 Shamrock Doras" label refers to. Doras is a directory of Web Sites with an Irish content. Unlike most web directory services, submitting a site to Doras isn't just an admission to a list - it also involves a review and grading. Sites being awarded Shamrocks on a scale of 1 to 5. I decided to submit Mersey and Irish Sea Shipping and was pleased to find the site awarded 4 Shamrocks.

Click Here to read the Doras review. 

Finally I would like to thank all the correspondents this week for your invaluable help in providing additional material for the site.


SUPERSEACAT TW0 and SUPERSEACAT THREE - both vessels are undergoing refit at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead.

BEN-MY-CHREE arrived at Bidston Dry Dock on 19th January for refit, being the first vessel to arrive there since acquisition of Wright and Beyer by Cammell Laird on Monday.

LADY OF MANN after her arrival from Liverpool on the 16th January, the LADY remained in Douglas until the BEN-MY-CHREE stood down for refit and then commenced service on the Douglas - Heysham route [Mondays to Thursdays] with the 09.00 sailing from Douglas. Friday to Sunday she operates on the Douglas - Liverpool route.

DART 1 - a member of the Romanian built BAZIAS class of ro/ro vessels arrived in Douglas about 14.45 on Wednesday afternoon (19th January). She had travelled via Heysham where berthing trials had been undertaken. It is reported that she was obviously straight out of dry dock with spotless paintwork and no Dart Line fleet names.

DART 1's  first 17.00 sailing from Douglas to Heysham was about 30 minutes late - a pretty creditable achievement considering her arrival at Douglas had been 18 hours late.

SUPERSEACAT FOUR the Company announced that SS4 will inaugurate a new fast ferry service between Tallinn, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland commencing April, 2000. The 100 metre long vessel with capacity for 752 passengers, 164 cars and 4 coaches will provide three sailings a day (four in the peak season) until the end of the year. As with the previous SuperSeaCats the ship carries the Italian flag.

Sea Containers is establishing a company in Estonia to manage the ship. Silja Line in Helsinki will be the general sales and marketing agents and the service will carry the Silja brand name.

SS4 will cross between Tallinn and Helsinki in 90 minutes at an average speed of 37.8 knots, about 42 miles an hour.

President of Sea Containers Ltd, Mr James B. Sherwood said: "Silja and we are confident that passenger numbers on the route, which enjoys duty free shopping and excellent passenger facilities, will increase during the forthcoming season as a result of the speed, timetable frequency and quality of passenger service.

"The 6 million-passenger market has been growing by 300,000 - 400,000 passengers annually and the share of fast ferries is expected to continue to grow even more aggressively," he added.

As with sister vessel SS3 she has been constructed with a T-foil. The increased stability the T-foil provides means that high speeds linked with a comfortable ride for passengers across the Baltic Sea can be maintained on a regular basis.

The on board facilities on SuperSeaCat Four include seating for 752 passengers on two decks, a 50 seat Business Class lounge, amusement area, cafeteria and bars, a duty and tax free shop and a mother and baby room.


The floating crane, MERSEY MAMMOTH, is remains in Canada Graving Dock undergoing maintenance.


NORTHERN MERCHANT - the first of the two new-builds for Merchant Ferries is expected to be delivered in February 2000 and chartered to Norfolkline for that company's new Dover to Dunkerque service.

The overall length of the NORTHERN MERCHANT is 180 meters and she has a dead weight of 7300 tonnes. The capacity of the NORTHERN MERCHANT will be 115 x 16.5 m. accompanied trailers and she has stern and bow door access (drive through) to facilitate fast turnaround times in the Ports. The vessel will provide comfortable accommodation for 300 passengers. The NORTHERN MERCHANT will have a speed in excess of 23 knots, which will enable a crossing time of two hours on the Dover - Dunkerque route


It appears that the former liner EMPRESS OF CANADA, now APOLLON, will not now be visiting the UK this year. The six scheduled cruises from the Greenock Ocean Terminal have been cancelled, as have the few departures from Liverpool. Passengers have been offered alternative packages from the cruise programme run by Airtours-who now own Direct Cruises-although the nearest sailing point is Southampton.

JHL's COMMENT: Just two years ago there was impressive talk of Direct Cruises operating three vessels out of the River Mersey by 2000. Now there are going to be no cruises!

The writing was on the wall shortly after operations began, with the EDINBURGH CASTLE being bedevilled by all sorts of problems. With the liquidation of her owners and the subsequent acquisition of the ship by Cammell Laird, Direct Cruises operated from Liverpool with just the APOLLON during the 1999 season.

However, with advertisements in the local press for cruises at substantial discounts during the 1999 season it was apparent that the company was having problems attracting custom.


The new IOM Fisheries Protection vessel BARRULE arrived in Douglas this week after being delivered from her builders in the Isle of Wight where she was built at a cost of £700,000

Her master Mike Bevan and a three-man crew delivered the vessel. The 20-metre vessel has an operational crew of 7 and carries a slipway launched RIB - the slipway going through the transom at water level.

There is a substantial steel gate in the transom, which would appear to be lowered to form a recovery platform onto which the bow of the RIB would be driven, and the winch cable hitched on.

Lady Kerruish, wife of the President of Tynwald Sir Charles Kerruish officially renamed the BARRULE, on Saturday 22 January at a ceremony in Douglas. During the ceremony the vessel will be blessed by the Bishop of Sodor and Man - Noel James.

The BARRULE replaces the current Isle of Man Fisheries Protection Vessel ENBARR. The IoM Fisheries Protection vessels given their battleship grey livery have been dubbed the Manx Navy by some shipping enthusiasts!


Passenger figures compiled by the Department of Transport for Douglas Harbour in December 1999 have been released.

The figures for December 1999 stand at 20,293 and increase of 5.6% on the 19,216 recorded in December 1998.

Car traffic through Douglas Harbour showed a 3.8% increase from 5,770 in December 1998 to 5,988 in December 1999.

Total figures for 1999 show an overall 4.8% increase for the year at 148,939 in 1999 compared to 142,130 in 1998.

Scheduled routes operating in December showed the following increased in passengers:


Up 37%






Up 2%






Up 12%






Overall Douglas Harbour Passenger Figures for 1999


minus 0.5%






Up 37%






Up 9%






Up 9%





Fleetwood **

Up 94%





Llandudno **

Up 193%





** Seasonal excursion sailings by Lady of Mann

Commercial vehicle metreage for December showed an increase of 10.2% from 27,329 to 30,122 metres

Total figure for commercial vehicle metreage for 1999 355,514 which shows a 9% increase over the total for 1998 which was 426,193.

Captain Michael Brew, Director of Harbours, commented on the figures: "Passenger traffic during 1999 at 571,290 in the highest since 1985 with an increase in passengers numbers being recorded every month during the year.

December traffic is also a record for any December. This highlights that sea travel is becoming more popular on a year round basis as a result of high frequency of service and the availability of competitive fares. The outlook for 2000 is for on-going growth in passenger traffic. The introduction during 2000 of SeaCat and SuperSeaCat services opens up opportunities for increased day trip traffic as well as providing a substantial increase in fast craft capacity"


The Ramsey shipyard operating company Booth W Kelly has been sold (the yard itself being Manx Government owned). The company has been bought by the Barrett family proprietors of Ramsey based Mezeron Shipping.

Guy Barrett is now chairman of both companies but his son James Barrett, an engineer who has recently moved back to the Island after working in Malaysia and Australia, will run the yard. The yard has done repair work and general engineering since building its last boat over 30 years ago. The new owners have signed a contract to build a 10-metre scallop boat for a Peel fisherman and hope to develop the building side of the yard.

Some years ago it was thought Sea Containers had considered buying the yard as a maintenance base for its Irish Sea fast craft fleet but the previous owners were keen to ensure continuity of employment for their existing workforce and declined to pursue the matter. The Kneale Brothers acquired the business in 1951 and the surviving brother is now in his mid eighties so the sale has not come as any surprise.


The survey ship MANSAL 18 with remote operated underwater vehicle (ROV), chartered by the MAIB visited the Isle of Man this week to undertake a survey on the wreck of the SOLWAY HARVESTER as part of the investigation into the sudden sinking of the scalloper with all hands.

It has been announced that the SOLWAY HARVESTER is to be raised to recover the bodies of the seven crewmen, the Isle of Man government announced on 21 January.

The Isle of Man Government is currently seeking a contractor to bring up the scallop dredger, which has been lying about 11 miles east of the island since January 12.

Donald Gelling, Isle of Man Chief Minister said: "We can understand the feelings of the families and their desire to have their menfolk back. If we can give the families the comfort of returning the crew members for burial, then we will do so."

The move to raise the boat was agreed by the island's council of ministers and is subject to approval by Tynwald, its parliament, which will sit on Tuesday.

Approval for funding is unlikely to be withheld. Mr Gelling said: "This stance was adopted on humanitarian grounds and because the Isle of Man has a maritime and fishing tradition which it shares with the people of Whithorn." The seven men who died all came from the Machars area of Galloway in Scotland, which includes the villages of the Isle of Whithorn - Whithorn and Garlieston.

The operation will start next Friday at the earliest, subject to weather conditions. Whithorn councillor Alistair Geddes said the community was grateful for the Manx government's pledge to raise the wreck. "The community is totally behind the families in their endeavours to bring the boys home," he said. "The quicker the boat is raised and the quicker the crew is recovered the better for the families and the community."

Among the contractors bidding to raise the wreck is Smit, Dutch owner of the Tak Lift 7, the recovery vessel that raised the wreck of the Sapphire, which sank off Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, in 1997 with the loss of four men's lives. It was retrieved only after hundreds of thousands of pounds was raised through an appeal by the widows after the UK government refused to help.

One body among the Solway Harvester crew was located this week by video cameras surveying the wreck, but has not yet been identified.

Any bodies recovered will be returned to the families after an inquest has been opened on the Isle of Man. The seven were the skipper, Andrew Craig Mills, 29, his brother Robin Mills, 33, their cousin David Mills, 17, Martin Milligan, 26, John Murphy, 22, David Lyons, 18, and Wesley Jolly, 17.

"The Solway Harvester Appeal" has been set up by the Scallop Association to raise money for the families of the bereaved.

Donations can be sent to account 00410061 at the Clydesdale Bank in Kenmay, Aberdeenshire - sort code 82-65-26 or via Post Offices on the Isle of Man.


It is reported that work is well underway on the P.S. WAVERLEY rebuild. Both paddle drums have been opened up. Funnels removed and the dining saloon gutted. Further news on the progress of the refit can be found at


Following the recent news item concerning the visit of SEACAT SCOTLAND to Yarrow Dry Docks for refit, Stuart Cameron wrote with the following information:

"Just a minor comment on the article about the changed use of 'Yarrow's' dry-docks for commercial ship-repair as per the current visit of the SEACAT SCOTLAND

This is the reversal of an event that occurred in the mid-1970s. At that time the docks were owned and operated by Barclay, Curle & Company, and the renowned builder of ships for the City Line and the British India Steam Navigation Company. The Barclay Curle name disappeared from shipbuilding in the mid 1960s but continued as engine builders and ship repairers (the latter at the 3 'Yarrow' dry-docks which was then known as the Elderslie Dockyard.)

When Barclay Curle ceased ship repairing about 1975 Yarrow took over the docks. There are three dry-docks in the complex the oldest dating from the early part of last (i.e. the 20th) century, the second from the thirties when Barclay Curle expanded their ship repair activities at the time of the great Depression in shipbuilding and the third dock dates from the 1960s when they shifted entirely to ship repair.

The details of the docks are



Original Operator

Current Owner

Length (feet)

Breadth (feet)

Depth at Sill [ft]

Elderslie No1


J Shearer & Company





Elderslie No2


Barclay, Curle & Co





Elderslie No3


Barclay, Curle & Co





* as BAE Systems plc

Yarrow invested quite a bit in the 1970s building a bay over the oldest dock creating a totally enclosed refit / fitting out facility

Point of interest is that No 3 dock inherited some fairly new craneage (in the mid 60s) from the recently closed Denny shipyard at Dumbarton

Perhaps the Elderslie Dockyard is heading back to its roots."


ISLE OF INNISFREE departed Rosslare Europort on 17th January and 13.20, bound for dry dock. NORMANDY will take her place on the Rosslare to Pembroke service.

ISLE OF INISHMORE will call at Rosslare Europort when en-route to dry dock to undertake berthing trials on ro/ro ramps 1, 2 and 3. This suggests that given the delivery of the new build for the Dublin to Holyhead service, INISHMORE may be redeployed to the ROSSLARE - PEMBROKE service.


Last week I reported that the historic tug GOLDEN CROSS was likely to leave Rosslare, bound for Liverpool, last weekend. Apparently she didn't leave until Tuesday. Brian Chambers' reporting that she finally departed Rosslare in the afternoon of 18th January.

She was reported at Liverpool Bar at 16.30 on 19th January where she awaited a pilot. She then proceeded, picking her way through the thick fog, which hung over the Mersey, to Woodside Landing Stage. GOLDEN CROSS entered Canning Half-Tide basin at high water later on Wednesday evening.

This little vessel has had a very distinguished career:

GOLDEN CROSS was official Escort to HM Yacht Britannia on her first overseas departure  1956 and her final voyage in 1997. In addition she has escorted some of the finest naval and merchant vessels afloat HMS KING GEORGE V, HMS VANGUARD, HMS ARK ROYAL, RMS QUEEN MARY, SS UNITED STATES and SS FRANCE. In her role as a rescue tug she has saved 307 lives. Powered by the last working example of a Crossley 4 cylinder marine diesel engine she was Britain's first geared diesel tug. Today she continues to act as an escort for Cunard Line and HM Ships.

GOLDEN CROSS is expected to remain on Merseyside for two or three weeks.


On Monday 17th January Cammell Laird announced that they had acquired 59% of Wright and Beyer Ltd which operated the competing Bidston Dry Dock facility on the West Float, Birkenhead.

The £1m cash deal also includes an option to purchase the remaining Wright and Beyer shares from April 2000.

Commenting on the deal Jon Schofield, Cammell Laird finance director, said: "This acquisition is an important addition to our operations on the Mersey as it adds capacity to the group's existing facilities at Birkenhead, and the recently acquired Clarence Dry Docks. Wright and Beyer also brings with it an experienced management team and workforce which will enable us to grow our business on the Mersey, underpinned by a healthy order book."

The Bidston [or Manor] Dry Dock is leased from the Mersey Docks & Harbour Company. Located on the West Float, Birkenhead, it has around 100 employees. In addition to providing ship repair work, the company also provides engineering facilities for other non-nautical customers.

Home Up Next

16th January 2000


It has come to my attention this week that the redirect from the old web site address might not work for everyone. When the site address was changed on 23rd December I did endeavour to mass e-mail as many people as I could with details of the new URL. Unfortunately not everyone received the e-mail either because the mail server would not deliver all the messages - ] I had several bounced back as failed mail - even though it transpires that the addressees still use the address] or that I was unaware of their address in the first place. If I try to access the old URL from home I find myself sent immediately to the new URL of however when I tried the old URL at work I discovered myself in the old site, which appears not to have been updated since just before Christmas.

Unfortunately as I cannot access the old site to upload a manual redirect notice to the new URL. If you know of anyone having difficulties accessing the site because they are still using the old URL please inform them of the change.

Once again there is a large update for you with plenty of hard news as well as the rumours! As is usual at this time of year, the rumour mill is working overtime as is always the case only time will finally tell.

Don't forget to check out the What's New page to ensure you don't miss any of the numerous other updates this week.

Finally thanks to all correspondents and contributors for helping to make another major update.

John H. Luxton


SUPERSEACAT TW0 and SUPERSEACAT THREE - both vessels now in dry dock undergoing refit at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead.

SEACAT DANMARK the vessel's final Belfast – Heysham roundtrip on 3 January may have operated after all, despite earlier reports to the contrary. It is unclear as to whether the SEACAT DANMARK, which is currently maintaining Sea Containers’ Troon and Stranraer routes, will also be dry-docked at Yarrow. With the SEACAT DANMARK due to be used by Silja Line SeaCat this year, it is possible that the craft may be dry-docked somewhere closer to her new Gothenburg - Frederikshavn route.

BEN-MY-CHREE played a leading role in the search for a missing Scottish scalloper SOLWAY HARVESTER [see below] on 12th January. She was 45 minutes into her Tuesday evening passage from Douglas to Heysham when around 20.30 she was asked to join in the search.

She was released from the search after 6 hours but having lost her slot on the Heysham linkspan, returned to Douglas. There were 98 passengers on board who were offered the shared use of cabins and were given free phone calls to relatives and friends. The captain kept them updated every 15/20 minutes on the progress of the search.

The BEN-MY-CHREE is expected to be released for refit on 19th January. She is expected to be off service for around two weeks.

DART 1 - a member of the Romanian built BAZIAS class, of similar design to the MERLE (now DART 3) and RIVER LUNE has been chartered to cover freight sailings between Douglas and Heysham whilst the BEN-MY-CHREE is absent for around refit.

DART 1 is due to arrive at Douglas around 20.30 on Tuesday evening with her first sailing at 17.00. She returns from Heysham at 02.00 on Thursday morning. She will follow these times on subsequent days.

PICASSO and PEVERIL - there appears to be a speculation circulating that these two vessels which are currently laid up in Birkenhead Docks may operate a new cross-channel service - Gary Andrews takes up the story:


It is understood that Sea Containers’ subsidiary, Hoverspeed are considering opening a Dover – Ostend freight service. With the ro-ro ferries, PICASSO and PEVERIL still laid up on the Mersey both would surely be under consideration. Additionally, the current charter of the DART 1 for Sea Containers’ Douglas freight services could be extended and the vessel used at Dover.

The news follows an expectation that TransEuropa Line will finally commence their Ramsgate – Ostend passenger service at the end of April and it appears that Hoverspeed may be considering a freight service in a bid to protect their passenger service from competition from TransEuropa. Meanwhile, the LARKSPUR is finally expected to enter service at the end of this month or the beginning of February.

However, the Ramsgate – Ostend service will gain a third vessel prior to the entry into service of the former SALLY SKY. On 17 January the 60-trailer ROSEANNE will enter service on a 23.00 sailing ex Ostend, and is likely to operate sailings ex Ostend at 05.00 and 17.45 and ex Ramsgate at 10.00 and 22.00 from 18 January. The vessel will sail with a capacity for 12 drivers and it is understood that if traffic is sufficient she may remain in service following the entry into service of the LARKSPUR.

The Port of Ostend, which had a dismal year in 1999, will welcome the additional capacity. Passenger figures were down by 14% and the number of freight units was down by 40% compared to 1998. Hoverspeed and TransEuropa Lines (freight drivers only) carried 980,845 passengers and 179,285 cars (Hoverspeed only) in 1999. The traffic downturn is, according to the port, the result of the abolition of duty-free and the loss of the Sally-Direct passenger service. The port also claimed that other ports lost passenger traffic, stating that Calais lost 16% and Boulogne 25% of passengers. TransEuropa Lines carried 60,000 trailers in 1999, compared to Sally Freight’s 102,000 trailers in 1998. The fall in freight was said to be due to the insufficient freight capacity of TransEuropa Lines. Ramsgate – Ostend used to have 60% unaccompanied freight and 40% accompanied; now it is 90% accompanied and only 10% unaccompanied. The Ostend routes have now only 4% of the Cross Channel market, in 1995 it was 10% (RMT/Sally pool) and 15 years ago it was 25% of the market.


Recent weeks have seen Sea Containers advertising heavily for onboard staff for their operations. Customer service assistants have been sought for the English Channel vessels, along with the Irish Sea based SEACAT ISLE OF MAN and SUPERSEACAT THREE. Meanwhile a large range of customer service posts have been advertised for the SUPERSEACAT TWO for the Heysham – Belfast route (it appears that unlike the Liverpool – Dublin SUPERSEACAT THREE onboard services will be run internally and not by Granada). Also advertised for the SUPERSEACAT TWO has been a range of sea going posts, covering most ranks except Master. The SUPERSEACAT vessels having been built with an Italian government subsidy with the result that they must be Italian flagged and commanded for the first three years.


This week the company announced that all sailings to Douglas from Heysham and Liverpool to the Isle of Man between 31st May 2000 and 3rd June 2000 is fully booked for motorcycle space. Sailings from Douglas to Heysham and Liverpool between 9th June 2000 and 11th June 2000 are also fully booked for motorcycle space. Limited space for cars and vans on the above dates is available.


Officers’ union, NUMAST is continuing to press Sea Containers for an agreement to cover the terms and conditions of its members serving on fast ferries operating in the Irish Sea and the Channel. The Union says the company would benefit from reaching a constructive agreement on recognition ahead of forthcoming legislation on workplace rights.


Despite the Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company being removed from virtually all Sea Containers publicity material (including the removal of the company’s logo from some pages of the Sea Containers Irish Sea website in recent weeks) it appears no decision has yet been reached on the future of the Ballycastle – Campbeltown route.

On 13 January Scotland Office Minister, Brian Wilson was due to meet Northern Ireland Executive Enterprise Minister Sir Reg Empey in London to try and see if there is anything they can do to help ensure the Ballycastle - Campbeltown ferry service continues. However, the meeting had to be cancelled as Sir Reg was recuperating after suffering an injury to his knee in a fall that happened at home.

Sea Containers state that they are still considering its commitment to the service. They had originally hoped to announce the results of their review of the service in the autumn, but since then the company has been involved in talks with the Scottish Executive, the Scotland Office and the Northern Ireland Office. These discussions had raised hopes that the company would continue to operate the service, but since then there has been no further comment.

The £7 million project was seen as a lifeline to the economically troubled Kintyre peninsula, but now just a few months from the beginning of the tourism season, businesses in Kintyre still do not know whether to market the Northern Irish connection for this year. It appears they will have to wait a while yet. A spokesman for Sea Containers told the Herald:

"We still have no idea of timescale for an announcement. We have just met Sir Reg Empey and I understand that after Brian Wilson meets him, Mr Wilson will also be meeting the shipping Minister Keith Hill. When all these meetings are completed we would hope to meet with the Ministers again."

The company has refused to be drawn on rumours that they will receive Government assistance to continue with the service. The spokesman said: "All I would say is that we have laid our cards on the table as regards passenger numbers and our commitment. It is no secret that the service has not been an overwhelming success so far. But we will wait to see what the Ministers’ response is."

Mr Wilson, is determined to do all he could to save the service saying: "As part of the ongoing effort to secure the Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry service it is essential to establish the level of support that exists for it in Northern Ireland. I believe it would be very unfortunate if this service connecting two relatively rural areas was to be lost. In the current climate we should be looking at strengthening connections rather than losing services which already exist. I believe that this service has good prospects, especially in the light of the changes that have taken place in Northern Ireland."


The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company announced plans for the alternative proposals for the Pier Head joint MD&HC / Sea Containers terminal this week. 

The new £2.5m proposals feature a car marshalling area  with a capacity of 140 cars] constructed partly on the site of the present bus lay-by and pay and display parking spaces in St. Nicholas' Place and partially on a decked over floating roadway cut. Pedestrian access along the river wall will be maintained by a pedestrian crossing over the marshalling area on the same site as the present footbridge over the floating roadway cut.

Passenger facilities will be relocated to the landing stage, which will be extended by the provision of a floating terminal, berthed at the north end of the stage, presently occupied by the Pilotage Service. This terminal has the appearance of the forward end of a ship and is not unlike a modern river cruise ship in design. It is understood that this floating terminal may already be in existence and surplus to requirements overseas.

Commenting at the unveiling of plans MD&HC Chief Executive Peter Jones said: "We feel we have addressed the substantial issues. We hope we have enhanced the existing setting of the Titanic Memorial. We have not gone onto the Pier Head proper, and we have retained the right of way which were the points raised in opposition to the previous scheme."

Mr. Jones further commented that the plan is the forerunner of proposals to further extend the landing stage to handle cruise ships. This extension to the stage is expected to cost a further £2.5million.

An "exhibition" of the proposals is currently on tour of waterfront locations:

Mersey Ferries Terminal: 18th to 19th January.

Liver Building: 20th to 21st January

Sea Containers Sea Terminal: 22nd to 23rd January

KPMG Princes Dock, 24th to 26th January

Port of Liverpool Building: 27th to 28th January.

The public are being invited to make comment on the proposals via a response card.

Later in the week the Millennium Walk Committee announced that they would study the proposals very carefully and would take action if the development encroached upon on inch of the Pier Head.

JHL'S COMMENT: The new proposals are something of a compromise, and are in my personal opinion, inferior to what had previously been proposed.

Some questions immediately spring to mind when looking at the new proposals:

  • Where is the pilot service going to relocate to?

  • A terminal on the stage is going to be less foot passenger friendly especially if passengers have to negotiate the steep gangway with luggage at low water. [An elderly lady who went head first down the linking bridge in 1994 with her bags remains fresh in one's memory as does the large pool of blood at the bottom.] Having the terminal ashore obviates the problem of foot passengers having to carry heavy luggage down to the stage. The original proposals showed a terminal on the Pier Head piazza itself.

  • The vehicle bridge depicted in the artist's impression would retain a very steep gradient at low water with a very sharp turn onto the stage. One imagines in reality that the new vehicle bridge will have to commence immediately after the foot crossing to ensure a reasonable gradient at low water and plenty of manoeuvring space on the stage.

  • The new plans see a reduction in the number of pay and display parking spaces in St. Nicholas Place.

  • With booking facilities on the stage, passengers wishing to book tickets in person will have quite a long walk to the terminal. [Pay and Display by the NW Water pumping house] I may be wrong but I imagine no short stay parking will be allowed on the stage by the new floating terminal despite cars being shown parked there.

  • There is still no long-term parking - i.e. 24/48 hrs for day and short
    breaks which most other ports offer. The new arrangements leave the
    unlandscaped northern part of the Pier Head unused. It would make a splendid
    car park for passengers!

  • The original scheme envisaged the filling in of the floating roadway cut, in the new scheme it will be covered over - will this not add to maintenance costs? The disputed Memorial to the Heroes of the Marine Engine Room - now looks isolated - rather than enjoying a more prominent location closer to the river wall. Will the complaints of the Millennium Walk Committee be heard all over again?

However, despite the points made above, whatever form the terminal eventually takes it is important that it its supported by the citizen's of Liverpool.

The Pier Head became so famous because for decades it was a point of departure not just for Irish Sea journeys, but also voyages to so many far flung destinations. It was the pre W.W.II equivalent of Manchester Airport.

The "Luddites" of the Millennium Walk Committee appear obsessed by the desire to locate the facility within the Princes Dock Development. This is wholly in appropriate, as it would take the terminal facilities further away from the City Centre.


The floating crane, MERSEY MAMMOTH, is currently undergoing maintenance in Canada Graving Dock.

I am informed that on 11th January the River Mersey Situation Report was not broadcast by Mersey Radio as the staff had been stricken by the 'flu bug and to compound matters, all their computers crashed.

Enthusiasts living a little further away from the River would like to see the power of the Mersey Radio transmissions increased. Until summer last year the channel 9 broadcasts were receivable over a wide area. Unfortunately I find it virtually impossible to receive transmissions even though I live only about 2 miles from the River. Most of the ships working on the River Mersey appear to have much more powerful transmissions.


Manx Government Minister - Tony Brown, opened the new Douglas Harbour Bridge at noon on 12th January.


On the evening of 11th January seven Scottish fishermen died when their scallop dredger SOLWAY HARVESTER foundered 11 miles south east of Douglas.

The 21 metre modern vessel was operated by Jack Robinson Trawlers of Kirkcudbright having been constructed in Yorkshire eight years ago. The SOLWAY HARVESTER had been operating alongside sister vessel TOBRACHAN and were both heading for home when they ran into Force 9 gales on Tuesday evening.

A massive search operation commenced at 18.15 hours after the vessel's emergency radio beacon was activated. Liverpool Coastguard called out Port St. Mary, Peel, Douglas and Ramsey Lifeboats. The lifeboats being supported by Royal Navy, Royal Airforce and Irish Air Corps Rescue Helicopters along with a Royal Ulster Constabulary spotter plane. The BEN-MY-CHREE, which had been operating the 19.45 sailing from Douglas to Heysham, joined the search, as did LE CIARA of the Irish Naval service and Royal Fleet Auxiliary BAYLEAF.

At 21.00 on Tuesday one of the SOLWAY HARVESTER's liferafts were located, the second was found at 07.30 on Wednesday morning. Both liferafts were unopened suggesting that the fishing vessel had foundered so quickly as to prevent the crew from launching them.

On Wednesday afternoon the commander of the LE CIARA, Lieutenant Commander Martin McGrath said that a sonar search had located a wreck on the seabed near where the emergency radio beacon was set off. Lt. Comdr. McGrath explained that there was no previous wreck charted in that area.

It is not yet clear if it was simply the prevailing conditions, which were responsible for the vessel sinking or that it had been in collision with floating debris or possibly an errant freight container.

The seven men who died were Craig Mills [skipper], his brother Robin Mills and his cousin David Mills; the other crewmen were Wesley Jolly, John Murphy, Martin Milligan and David Lyons. James Gorman, an eighth member of the crew had missed the voyage due to illness.

JHL'S COMMENT: The sad events of this week are a reminder of just how inhospitable the Irish Sea can be. I wonder if the general public really appreciated the work done by the fishermen of these isles when they visit their local supermarket or "chippy"?


The Ocean Group has agreed to sell its marine services business, Cory Towage, to Wijsmuller Group for a cash consideration of £81.8m subject to adjustment for actual working capital at completion.

In addition, there is provision for a deferred contingent payment of up to £5m. Agreement is contingent upon an inspection of the vessel fleet by Wijsmuller and certain overseas regulatory approvals. Completion is targeted before the end of February 2000 with £80m payable at that time and the balance later in the year.

Cory Towage operates a fleet of over 60 tugs, in the UK, Eire, Canada, Venezuela, Oman and Lithuania.

The company reported an annual turnover in 1998 of £32.8m and an operating profit of £11.7m with year-end net assets of £55.5m.

Wijsmuller, one of the world's leading marine service companies, will integrate the Cory into its existing operation.


In local press adverts the company is offering a 10% discount on all advanced bookings made before 29th February for travel up to the end of September. Payment of deposit only is required when the booking is made. Discount only applies to bookings made directly with the company.


Following the return of the MERLE to Dart Line, Merchant Ferries has replaced her on the Heysham – Belfast route with Bazias fleet companion, RIVER LUNE from the Heysham – Dublin route. The RIVER LUNE has been replaced at Dublin with the VARBOLA, which has again been chartered from the Estonian Shipping Company by Merchant Ferries. The VARBOLA appears to have entered service around 9 January.

Meanwhile the SPHEROID has been withdrawn from the Heysham – Belfast route and has been laid up at Birkenhead since 3 January. Her place has been taken by the MERCHANT VENTURE, which completed her charter to P&O at Larne on 24 December. Completing the Belfast line-up are the MERCHANT BRILLIANT and MERCHANT BRAVERY.

In the long term one may speculate that Merchant Ferries should consider replacing the MERCHANT VENTURE and SAGA MOON with the DART 1 and DART 5, to offer a very balanced range of tonnage on both Heysham routes.

BRAVE MERCHANT was out of service from 6 to 10 January due to rudder problems. The vessel resumed service on the evening of 10 January following a brief visit to Canada Graving Dock. During the BRAVE MERCHANT’s absence from the Liverpool – Dublin route her place was taken by the Heysham – Dublin ro-ro ferry, SAGA MOON.

Meanwhile due to the LAGAN VIKING and BRAVE MERCHANT not sailing on 6 January – that evening saw the four passenger ships of Cenargo’s Irish Sea operations together at Liverpool as the DAWN MERCHANT and MERSEY VIKING arrived from Dublin and Belfast respectively.


Merchant Ferries and Norse Irish Ferries have released a joint brochure with it seeming that for the time being Cenargo are referring to the passenger services as "Merchant Ferries/Norse Irish Ferries".

The brochure is clearly modelled on and produced by the same people as last year’s Norse Irish Ferries brochure. The front is similar to before apart from the fact that the starboard side of the ship is now black and named DAWN MERCHANT whereas the port remains red and named LAGAN VIKING. There is a page showing simply what on board facilities are offered on each route and a double page spread for each with timetable and fare information - including special offer fares. Belfast services still include food in the price whereas Dublin ones do not. There is also IRISH EXPLORER fares whereby you can go out on one route and back on the other and through ticketing for Irish motorists to also use Le Shuttle to France.

They have not set up a joint booking system and in Liverpool there are different booking numbers to ring for the two services. Despite this slight flaw the brochure is colourful and practical to read and understand – rather different than the awful Proud of Our Routes brochure recently issued by Sea Containers.

Merchant Ferries next two ro-pax ferries, currently under construction in Spain, are still expected to be introduced onto the Belfast – Liverpool route to replace the MERSEY VIKING and LAGAN VIKING next year, though there has been no confirmation of this plan as yet. The two new ferries to be named MIDNIGHT MERCHANT and NORTHERN MERCHANT and with completion expected this year, they are initially expected to be chartered to other operators.

Meanwhile, Merchant Ferries Managing Director is now Phillip Shepherd, formerly Managing Director of Norse Irish Ferries. Former Managing Director, Simon Taylor would appear to have left the company, having only joined the firm in autumn 1999.


It is understood that the Austal 82-metre SUPERSTAR EXPRESS will enter service on the Portsmouth – Cherbourg route on 18 March 2000 and will be displaced in early April by the 91-metre Incat built CATALONIA, currently operating for Buquebus on their Barcelona – Mallorca service. The SUPERSTAR EXPRESS, as long rumoured, will then displace the JETLINER on the Larne – Cairnryan route.

The Easter timing of the switch, is probably far from ideal in terms of the operational changes required in introducing a new vessel, however the timing is necessary due to the JETLINER’s charter coming to an end. The JETLINER is due to re-open the Larne – Cairnryan high-speed service on 1 March and it is anticipated that the vessel will be kept on stand-by until the vessel’s charter ends in June and the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS has settled into her new route.

The JETLINER’s sister craft GOMERA JET is due to end its charter to Trasarmas in April and will then be handed back to her Norwegian owners who are understood to have sold her to a Greek operator believed to be GA Ferries. It is therefore possible that the JETLINER may join her sister.

It is not clear as to how or whether Buquebus will replace the CATALONIA on the 3.5 hour Barcelona - Palma (Mallorca) route. It is possible that with the huge 96-metre Incat AVEMAR in service on the route carrying 1,200 passengers and 300 cars, no replacement may be required.

For both P&O Portsmouth and P&O Irish Sea, the new ferries represent a significant improvement in tonnage.

On the Larne – Cairnryan route, the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS will be capable of carrying 900 passengers and 175 cars, compared to the 600 passengers and 160 cars of the JETLINER. The higher service speed of the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS is also expected to be a bonus, possibly reducing the JETLINER’s crossing time of around 60 minutes.

The SUPERSTAR EXPRESS also has a higher service operating restriction to the JETLINER meaning fewer sailings will be lost due to adverse weather conditions, similarly the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS has an unrivalled technical record since entering service with P&O Portsmouth in 1998. Additionally the standard of accommodation aboard the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS is reported to be far higher than that of the mono-hulled JETLINER.

With P&O’s Larne – Cairnryan route also due to receive a new ro-pax ferry in the summer, offering a crossing time of around 105 minutes and a new look port at Cairnryan due to be completed for the summer, 2000 will see the battle for the North Channel enter a new phase with undoubtedly P&O offering a quality of service far above that of Stena Line or SeaCat Scotland.

It is unclear as to whether, as at Portsmouth, the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS will operate Larne – Cairnryan March – October only. With the improved crossing time of the new conventional ferry, and the potential of a second ro-pax ferry being ordered for the Cairnryan route, this would not prove too important as even with no fast ferry in the winter period, a crossing time would be maintained that compares favourably with Belfast based high speed ferries.

Whilst for P&O Portsmouth, the CATALONIA does not represent any increase in passenger capacity, it does represent a significant increase in car carrying capacity. The CATALONIA can carry 225 cars compared to the 175 cars of the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS. The CATALONIA will also offer an increased service speed at 43 knots, compared to the 37 knots of the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS.

During her delivery voyage from Incat, Australia to Barcelona, in June 1998 the CATALONIA won the prestigious Hales Trophy [Blue Riband] for the fastest average crossing of the Atlantic in a passenger vessel and became the first vessel to sail more than 1000 nautical miles (1852 km) in a day.

During the non-stop journey from New York to Tarifa, Spain, the CATALONIA travelled an unofficial 2,972 nautical miles at an average speed of 38.85 knots (71.95 km/h). The previous transatlantic record of 36.65 knots (67.88 km/h) was established in 1990 by another Incat built vessel, the HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN. The CATALONIA also became the first commercial vessel to sail more than 1000 nautical miles in a 24-hour period, covering 1015 nautical miles (1879.8 km) at an average of 42.3 knots (78.3 km/h). The previous record is understood to be 868 nautical miles set by the SS UNITED STATES over the period 6 –7 July 1952.

It is unclear as to whether the CATALONIA will be re-named for operation at Portsmouth. Meanwhile it is rumoured that P&O Portsmouth and Brittany Ferries are looking to apply for permission, later this year, to merge their services. Earlier talks between the two firms saw nothing emerging however the current signs seem familiar to the P&O Stena Line events with market shares changing, marketing being reduced by one company and increased by the other, noises about new ships being required, route consolidation linked with redundancy threats, increased losses etc. Another rumour is that Sea Containers has bought or will buy a share of Commodore/Condor. This competition could also be used as fuel for justifying the merger.

P&O will not replace the MERCHANT VENTURE in the short-term with the sailing schedule reverting to the pre-April 1999 schedule.

This means that a maximum of 9 daily round trips for freight are again being offered on the Cairnryan service with the EUROPEAN TRADER, EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR and PRIDE OF RATHLIN. (10 round trips had been offered prior to loss of the services of the MERCHANT VENTURE).

Meanwhile, with the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER no longer having the backup of the EUROPEAN TRADER and EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR on the Larne – Ardrossan route, the daytime roundtrip introduced last April has been lost. However, one would anticipate that, as prior to April 1999, the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER is offering a daytime roundtrip on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The EUROPEAN PATHFINDER returned to service with her 22.00 Rosslare – Cherbourg sailing on the evening of 12 January following her recent overhaul at Cammell Laird. Meanwhile the Dublin based EUROPEAN LEADER operated a roundtrip to France on 9 January, returning 11 January to bring circus vehicles to Ireland.


Irish Ferries’ NORMANDY arrived at Rosslare on the afternoon of 9 January closing the French service until March. On the afternoon of 13 January the NORMANDY sailed from Rosslare to operate a special new car delivery from Pembroke Dock, arriving back at Rosslare the following afternoon. 

The NORMANDY was expected to take up the Pembroke – Rosslare service on 16 January when the ISLE OF INNISFREE went to dry-dock. It is envisaged that the ISLE OF INNISFREE would also cover the refit period of the Dublin based ISLE OF INISHMORE. Upon the return of the ISLE OF INNISFREE to Rosslare the NORMANDY is expected to sail for an extended dry dock in Poland prior to re-opening her French services. 

On 10 January the ISLE OF INNISFREE did not operate a morning sailing to Pembroke. Instead the vessel’s passenger evacuation equipment was tested and the passenger evacuation shoots removed for annual overhaul.

For all you need to know about the port of Rosslare and to subscribe to his mailing list, visit Brian Chambers’ Rosslare Europort website:

JONATHAN SWIFT - sailings this week have been subject to delays and cancellations due to adverse weather conditions.


Stena Line are carrying out their Irish Sea HSS refits at Harland & Wolff, Belfast. The STENA VOYAGER is currently in dry-dock with the STENA EXPLORER expected to follow in the next week or so. The STENA EXPLORER appears to be performing reasonably well on the Belfast – Stranraer route, though the vessel missed a number of overnight sailings on 13 January.

STENA LYNX III sailings from Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire are reported to have been subject to delays and cancellations during the past week due to adverse weather conditions. The Lynx is currently covering the route whilst HSS STENA EXPLORER is being refitted.


The historic tug GOLDEN CROSS was due to resume its journey to Liverpool this weekend according to the RTÉ Seascapes programme broadcast on Thursday 13th January.

The little tug, famous for handling the Royal Yacht and the Cunard "Queen's", had been on a voyage from Penzance to Liverpool when she got into difficulties following an engine failure off Rosslare. GOLDEN CROSS had to be towed into the port in December by the Rosslare life following a rescue operation, which also involved the Kilmore Quay lifeboat, the ISLE OF INNISFREE and other merchant vessels. In the interview between RTÉ's Marine Correspondent, Tom McSweeney and the GOLDEN CROSS's owner/skipper it became apparent that the tug had found itself in difficulties as a result of responding to a distress call from a yacht.

After steaming towards the yacht for some time, the May Day call was cancelled and the GOLDEN CROSS found itself in deteriorating weather conditions.


The QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 is due to call at Liverpool whilst undertaking a round Britain cruise on Thursday 13th July 2000.


Sheffield Class Type 42 Destroyer HMS Liverpool is due to visit her home port between 10th and 16th March 2000. The ship was built in 1982 by Cammell Laird.


The Birkenhead MP, Frank Field has stated that the moves to close the Bidston Observatory should be investigated.

Over 25 jobs are at risk if it is decided to move the observatory from historic Bidston Hill to a site at Liverpool University.

The move is part of a recovery package to save the Centre for Coastal and Marine Sciences, which is responsible for the Bidston centre and two others at Oban and Plymouth.

Mr Field fears the transfer could end up costing millions because of the poor financial track record of the National Environmental Research Council, which is responsible for CCMS.

The Bidston Observatory, which is officially known as the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, is a world-renowned ocean data centre. It researches climate and sea level changes, predicts tides and looks at coastal erosion. Mr Field said: "The Bidston Observatory is known around the world and I fear it is being moved for the wrong reasons. Moving the centre brings obvious cost savings, but I fear the actual move itself could be very expensive."

Mr Field is concerned because the construction of a new oceanography centre in Southampton ran £2.7 million over budget and 22 months over schedule. He wants the National Audit Office to ensure similar problems do not occur in the relocation of the Bidston Observatory. He added: "The Natural Environmental Research Council is responsible for the decision, but it was also responsible for the project in Southampton. That was later investigated by the National Audit Office, which discovered hidden costs and project difficulties. Given the budgetary problems the Centre for Coastal and Marine Sciences has had in the past, I think it would be sensible for the NAO to call the plans in for inspection."

Home Up Next

9th January - Extra Evening Update


Charlie Tennant writes: "As reported earlier this week by Graeme Kirkwood in SEACAT SCOTLAND was visible today in the open dry dock at Yarrow Shipbuilders, Glasgow. Also present and berthed side by side on the Clyde were recently built but still fitting out Duke Class (Type 23) Frigates HMS KENT (F78) and HMS PORTLAND (F79). On making enquiries at the main offices I was informed that work on SEACAT SCOTLAND is expected take around 3 weeks. This dry dock is in a part of the yard now separated and fenced off from the main warship building (MOD) facilities. This area is now used for ship repair only and available for hire which is the case in this instance with the refit work on SEACAT SCOTLAND being carried out by Garvel and Turner Diesel."


P&O Stena Line's  PROVENCE departed Cammell Laird on the tide early on the morning of 9th January. She had been due to sail on 8th, but this was postponed. Unfortunately she managed to evade my camera.

9th January 2000


Welcome to the second News Bulletin of 2000 which happens to be a little earlier than usual this week. I am pleased to announce that Mersey & Irish Sea Shipping now has quality digital photography capability and you can expect to find news bulletins containing an increasing number of digital photographs illustrating the week's news!

As well as improving visuals, readers who enter the site via the front page and who have their computer speakers on will notice that the "ship's horn" has been replaced by a rendition of the sea shanty "The Black Ball Line". This has originated from the excellent Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales & America website which is run by Lesley Nelson. This site a wide range of nautical tunes which are available for use by web authors. Whilst I am not intending to add music to all pages, I thought it would an improvement to make use of the steadily improving audio performance of contemporary PCs. Thus, from time to time, you may come across a page with accompanying music. Any tunes played will be indicated on the page concerned.

Once again I would like to thank all the contributors of material which have been included in this week's bulletin. Don't forget to check the "What's New" page to ensure you have not missed anything.


SUPERSEACAT TWO had been due to arrive at Cammell Laird on Friday 7th January on the late morning tide for the commencement of a £2.5million refit. Her passage from Newhaven to Birkenhead being scheduled for 36 hours. However, poor weather conditions meant that she remained at Newhaven. At Laird's SSII will be fitted with a "T" foil and skegs to improve stability. Extensive work will also be undertaken on the ship's galley. The work on SSC2 is expected to last for six weeks.

SUPERSEACAT THREE did not operate to Dublin on Tuesday and Wednesday, due to adverse weather conditions and it was left to the LADY OF MANN to close the Liverpool - Dublin route for a shorter winter break. SUPERSEACAT THREE entered Cammell Laird on Thursday 6th January at around 10.30. She expected to spend two weeks in Cammell Laird whilst she undergoes a £500,000 refit.

With regard to the £3m Cammell Laird contract Peter Reeman, Sea Container's technical manager said: "Five firms across the UK, as well as two Dutch yards, tendered. Cammell Laird offered the best deal. The investment by Sea Containers Irish Sea Operations shows a highly positive commitment to the North West economy and its ship repair industry."

LADY OF MANN from 1st to 24th December the Lady is reported to have been out on 21 days. Considering that she is supposed to be on stand-by this is a creditable achievement and perhaps indicates that instead of being on stand by she should be scheduled to operate. This is the last full winter that she can operate without major modifications to comply with new safety requirements. Given how she has continued to extricate Sea Containers from problems associated with bad weather, it is difficult to understand how the Irish Sea operation could cope if she was not available in 2001 and a prolong period of adverse weather was to ensue.

On Friday 7th January the Lady operated the 07.30 Douglas to Liverpool, arriving at Douglas at 12.15. For the first hour out of Douglas she is reported to have experienced SW Force 9.

Her scheduled return time from Liverpool had been 14.15. However, this was delayed initially until 17.00 as the BEN-MY-CHREE had cancelled her afternoon sailing from Heysham. The sailing was then put back to 19.00 because of force 9 winds off the Isle of Man

The LADY OF MANN managed to get away at 18.47. Though the cafeteria was forced to close due to the conditions. As a result of the delay passengers were issued with meal vouchers and also provided with complimentary drinks and biscuits in the Liverpool Terminal.

On Monday, the LADY OF MANN will return to Liverpool via Heysham for berthing trials as there are reported to be problems with the quay which have put the BEN-MY-CHREE's gangway out of action and necessitated a return to bus boarding.

BEN-MY-CHREE will remain in service again next week, even though she should have been well into her refit by then. She is now expected to come off service on 19th January.

SEACAT SCOTLAND was seen on the Clyde on 6th January [ex-Troon] heading up river with a tug in attendance heading to Yarrow's Dry Dock.

SEACAT DANMARK - On 8th January Sea Containers Belfast sailings were reported to be operating on an "alternative" timetable due to adverse weather i.e. sailings to Troon are operating to Stranraer.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN - left Canada Graving Dock during the week and proceeded to West Langton. On Saturday morning she crossed the river to Alfred river entrance, entering the Birkenhead Dock System before noon. She then proceeded to her lay-up berth at Vittoria Dock. Her complete set of liferafts were not in place. Despite the refit she retains her dummy funnel has still yet to acquire the darker SeaCo red, and still appears in IoMSPCo red. ]


This week the Argyll & Antrim Steam Packet logo disappeared from the front page of the Sea Containers Irish Sea Ferries web site. Though on Friday it could still be found lurking on inside pages. This looks a particularly ominous move given the uncertainty over the operation of the Ballycastle - Campbeltown route following a poor summer this year.

JHL'S COMMENT: Further more the demise of the logo is unfortunate in its own right. Clearly inspired by the former Isle of Man Steam Packet roundel it was of pleasing design. On a personal note I always though that IoMSPCo/AA Line roundel design should have formed the basis of a set of logos for Irish Sea operations - i.e. Liverpool and Dublin Steam Packet Company where "Steam Packet" could have been a general fleet name branding.


NOT VERY RAPIDE: Urbain Ureel reports that the RAPIDE arrived in Ostend on 4 January and may stay there for 3 or 4 weeks for maintenance and winter lay-up. Visit Urbain's website at

HOVERSPEED UPDATE: Nick Widdows reports that the SUPERSEACAT ONE is to operate Newhaven-Dieppe this year, not the SUPERSEACAT FOUR as was widely expected. The ATLANTIC II is not expected to operate in 2000, instead the HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN will operate 4 round trips Folkestone - Boulogne, and 2 round trips Dover - Calais suggesting that there will be some light running between Dover and Folkestone. Nick's "Ferries Of The British Isles & Northern Europe" website:

FIRST CLASS: Hoverspeed is to follow up the recent opening of it's new '1st' airport-style executive lounge at the International Hoverport in Dover with the opening of a similar lounge in Calais in the near future.

APEX FARES: Hoverspeed have reported that space is already filling quickly for peak periods this summer thanks to their Apex fares. For more details and to book, contact Hoverspeed on 08705 240241 or see

PRE-ORDER SHOPPING SERVICE: Hoverspeed, has come up with a novel idea to take the hassle out of duty-paid shopping with a new pre-ordering service. Vehicle passengers simply select and pay for their goods in the UK prior to departure, and collect them on the Continent from the Hoverstore on their return journey. As a result, the goods are free of UK duty and tax. Available on Hoverspeed's Dover - Calais, Dover - Ostend, and Folkestone - Boulogne services, the pre-order range, which is on display in the UK terminals, includes multi-case offers of brand name beers, spirits, and wines. Geoffrey Ede, Hoverspeed managing director, said:

"The decision to abolish duty-free has proven to have been ill considered, largely because it forces people to panic buy whilst the vessel is outside UK territorial waters. This new service offers an innovative solution whilst operating within the new regime."

Hoverspeed is promising further new developments to its retail offer, including pre-ordering via the Internet and home delivery.

PETS WELCOME: Hoverspeed is to welcome pets from 28 February when the UK's quarantine rules are relaxed with the introduction of the government's new pilot Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).

APEX FARES: Hoverspeed have announced a new range of Apex fares for those booking by 31 March. The fares are as follows: Folkestone - Boulogne: 5-day return from £89, standard return from £165; Dover - Calais: 5-day return from £99, standard return from £179; Dover - Ostend: 5-day return from £99, standard return from £179 and Newhaven - Dieppe: 5-day return from £109, standard return from £189.

EXCEPTIONAL OFFERS: Hoverspeed is currently running a special promotion for readers of The Mirror. The offer allows travel as a foot passenger from Dover to Calais or Ostend until 6 April for free Monday - Thursday or for just £5 Friday - Sunday. Alternatively, a day-trip to France or Belgium is on offer for just £25 for a car and five passengers, with a £10 supplement for travel on Saturdays. There is even a free case (24 x 33cl) of 1664 de Kronenbourg lager for every car booking. Hoverspeed are also offering a 2 for the price of 1 offer for their '1st' class. Two people can enjoy all the benefits of travelling '1st' class - fast-track check-in, priority loading, complimentary newspapers and refreshments - all for just £7.50 per couple, per crossing from Dover to Calais, or £15 per couple, per crossing (which includes a hot meal) from Dover to Ostend.

DAY TRIP SUGGESTIONS: Hoverspeed are promoting daytrips to Nausicaa via their Folkestone - Boulogne route. Nausicaa is France's third most popular visitor attraction and Europe's largest marine life centre and celebrates 2000 as a UNESCO Centre of Excellence. From 20 April until 7 January 2001, Nausicaa holds a major new exhibition, The Ocean - The Final Frontier. Meanwhile Hoverspeed is promoting Dover - Ostend daytrips as a way of discovering the delights of Brussels, designated European City of Culture for the year 2000 where a whole host of events are planned for throughout the year.


The last rites have been enacted to wind up the affairs of Manx Line. Public Notices have been published in the Manx Press to announce the voluntary winding up of the company, a Sea Container's subsidiary, following a special resolution being made on 23rd December 1999.

Manx Line was originally founded in 1978 by Jeff Duke, the famous "TT" racer, and Isle of Man business interests to introduce a ro/ro service between Heysham and Douglas to compete with the established IoMSPCo Liverpool to Douglas freight and passenger service. The vessel chosen to operate the route was a former Aznar line vessel Manx Viking. After various problems, including the destruction of the original Victoria Pier Linkspan at Douglas during a gale, the company was acquired jointly by British Railways Sealink and James Fisher & Sons of Barrow.

Manx Line passed into Sea Containers ownership in 1984 when Sealink was sold by the UK Government. In 1985 somewhat controversial merger terms were agreed between Manx Line and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company which resulted in Manx Line acquiring 40% of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company shareholding. Thus putting Sea Container's foot firmly in the door of Imperial Buildings and paving the way for the subsequent full take over in Spring 1996.


Funding for the restoration of the former Mersey Bar light vessel PLANET is being been sought. The light vessel has been berthed at the Historic Warships site at Birkenhead for some years since the Bar station was replaced by a light float.


The new Merchant Navy gallery - to be known as "Lifelines" is now scheduled for opening in February.


A familiar sight in old Photographs of Liverpool's "Dock Road" are the countless numbers of horsedrawn lorries, their horses and drivers. Plans were announced in the local press this week to erect a memorial to the Carters at the Albert Dock.


Geoff Hamer reports that following her withdrawal from the St. Malo - Cork route, the VENUS has gone straight back into service for Ventouris Ferries on their Greece - Bari service - she has been reported there regularly since 12 December, having departed Cork on 29 November. Ventouris may be benefiting from the withdrawal of the SUPERFAST III as the replacement Strintzis ship has a lower commercial vehicle capacity.

The circumstances of the withdrawal of the St Malo Cork Ferries service remain unclear. It was reported in the Irish press that the French authorities had ordered the vessel into dry-dock following a routine inspection on 25 November. St Malo Cork Ferries claimed that the service had been "temporarily suspended" due to "mechanical failure". The operator said that efforts to find a replacement vessel approved to carry livestock had not been successful (livestock being a key part of the route's trade) and that since the introduction of the service in July freight and passenger figures had "exceeded projections".

There has been no further comment or information since. However, given the vessel is clearly permitted to run from Bari to Greece it leaves one wondering there seems no reason why St Malo Cork Ferries couldn't have resolved what must have only been a very minor problem. With only the EUROPEAN PATHFINDER sailing to France until the NORMANDY returns in March it seems the VENUS could have carved an attractive slice of the Ireland - France passenger market.

[JHL'S COMMENT: On Wednesday 24th November I was fortuitously in Cobh [With the school trip - not it wasn't planned like that - honest!] around the time the VENUS returned from St Malo. Little did I realise that when I photographed the vessel that the demise of the service was only hours away. 


STENA LYNX III Fishguard - Rosslare sailings were cancelled early on 3rd and all day on 4th and 5th January due to adverse weather conditions. With the high speed service then suspended until 10 March, the STENA LYNX III has to date only managed to sail one full day in 2000 on the Fishguard route (2 January). One would seriously question the merits of Stena continuing with a high speed service on this route outside the more favourable conditions of the summer. Stena Line's KONINGIN BEATRIX and STENA LYNX III spent the New Year at Fishguard whilst the ISLE OF INNISFREE and NORMANDY were at Rosslare

On 31 December 25 E.S.B. (Electricity Supply Board) vehicles left Rosslare aboard the KONINGIN BEATRIX enroute to France, to help with the efforts to restore power. It was said that at one stage almost a quarter of France was left without power following the Christmas storms. 175 ESB electricians have also gone to France to help restore power to the 530,000 French homes currently without power. Snow, fog and ice have stalled repairs.


Brian Chambers reports that the NORMANDY's service to France closed for the winter on 7 January. The vessel will stay in Rosslare until 15 January before proceeding to dry-dock in Poland. The NORMANDY will re-open the French service on 1 March. Brian Chambers' Rosslare Europort website:

Don't forget the Irish Ferries competition to name their new vessel for the Dublin - Holyhead route. Entries are to be made via the IF web site.


As I completed this week's update a correspondent e-mailed with a very interesting rumour. It is alleged that a team from Virgin, including Sir Richard Branson recently visited Holyhead to view the port and ferry operations. Apparently rumours are reported to be rife in the port that Virgin may take over Stena Line's port and ferry operation and possibly even Irish Ferries.

[JHL's COMMENT: Obviously this is only a rumour but if one puts things in context, there may very well be some logic in Virgin branching out into shipping, having experienced significant success as an airline operator. Only recently Virgin disposed of 49% of Virgin Atlantic to Singapore Airlines - perhaps Sir Richard is looking somewhere else to invest his cash. Next year will we see a red liveried HSS VIRGIN EXPLORER on the Dún Laoghaire - Holyhead run?]


The Irish Sail Training vessel ASGARD II now has a new web site at


EUROPEAN SEAFARER departed the Mersey and proceeded to sea at 07.05 on 3 January following her seasonal dry-docking at Wright & Beyer, Birkenhead. The vessel re-entered service with her 22.00 Larne - Fleetwood sailing on 3 January. It is expected that the EUROPEAN PIONEER operated the first sailing of the New Year on the route operating the 10.00 from Larne on 3 January, the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR following with her normal afternoon sailing ex Larne. Following her seasonal holiday the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER departed the Mersey shortly after 09.00 on 4 January and it is believed the vessel re-entered service with her 02.30 Ardrossan - Larne service on 5 January.

EUROPEAN PATHFINDER remains in Cammell Laird, where her refit continues. According to Brian Chambers she should return to Rosslare - Cherbourg route on Thursday 13th January.

EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR ran aground on the Islandmagee side of the Larne harbour on Friday 7th January at around 17.40. High winds had been experienced in the area. By 18.30 she was reported as having several tugs in attendance and had developed a slight list to port. She was finally pulled off the mud flat at around 20.00. There had been 28 crew and 14 passengers on board.

PRIDE OF RATHLIN was noted back in service on 4 January following her Christmas mishap, arriving in Larne on time at the end of her 11.30 sailing ex Cairnryan. However, the vessel may have entered service at any time between 2 and 4 January. Some JETLINER sailings were cancelled on 4 January due to adverse weather conditions, as were all her sailings on 5 January. The JETLINER was not advertised to sail again until 1 March.

However, on 5 January the PRIDE OF RATHLIN found that after leaving Larne at 09.00 it was 21.00 before she would dock at Cairnryan. High winds again prevented the EUROPEAN TRADER leaving the Cairnryan berth leaving the PRIDE OF RATHLIN unable to dock until conditions abated. The end result was that the bulk of a day's sailings were lost and the PRIDE OF RATHLIN was once again operating well behind schedule. In an attempt to minimise the
disruption the JETLINER was brought back into service on 6 January to ensure that disruption was kept to a minimum. It is suspected that the JETLINER operated to the PRIDE OF RATHLIN's usual schedule, the behind schedule 'Rathlin picking up any remaining passengers. The JETLINER is now officially out of service for annual maintenance.

With it appearing likely that the JETLINER charter will not be re-newed in June, it may well be the case that a different fast ferry such as the SUPERSTAR EXPRESS will actually re-open Larne - Cairnryan fast ferry sailings in March.

JETLINER REUNION POSSIBLE: Frank Lose reports that the charter of the GOMERA JET (ex BERLIN EXPRESS ex KATTEGAT) to Trasarmas will end in April. The vessel will then be handed back to her Norwegian owners who are understood to have sold her to a Greek operator believed to be GA Ferries. With it seeming unlikely that P&O will renew the charter of the JETLINER when it ends in June one wonders if the two vessels may end up sailing together for the same operator for the first time in their career.

EUROPEAN SEAFARER departed the Mersey and proceeded to sea at 07.05 on 3 January following her seasonal dry-docking at Wright & Beyer, Birkenhead. The vessel re-entered service with her 22.00 Larne - Fleetwood sailing on 3 January. It is expected that the EUROPEAN PIONEER operated the first sailing of the New Year on the route operating the 10.00 from Larne on 3 January, the EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR following with her normal afternoon sailing ex Larne. Following her seasonal holiday the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER departed the Mersey shortly after 09.00 on 4 January and it is believed the vessel re-entered service with her 02.30 Ardrossan - Larne service on 5 January.

EUROPEAN LEADER - Brian Chambers reports that EUROPEAN LEADER will be in Rosslare Europort on Sunday morning, 9th January. The vessel will dock at 04.00, and will dep. 06.00. EUROPEAN LEADER will return on Tuesday with 33 Circus Trucks.


SPHEROID berthed in the West Float at Birkenhead on the evening of 3rd January. Already in the West Float was MERCHANT VENTURE which had arrived at the conclusion of her P&O charter on Christmas Eve.

MERCHANT VENTURE departed from her berth by the Duke Street Bridge on the morning of 4th January bound for Heysham. It is possible that this vessel will be used to replace MERLE which is being returned to Dart Line

Gary Andrews writes that if the MERCHANT VENTURE is not re-chartered to P&O for services at Larne and if the schedules of the other vessels are not altered it would appear that Larne - Cairnryan is going to be short of freight capacity especially given that there are no fast ferry sailings until 1 March and the PRIDE OF RATHLIN will face increased demand on her vehicle deck capacity from tourist traffic.

VARBOLA arrived in Dublin from Heysham at 16.00 on 5 January - she is due to sail to again on 9 January, suggesting she is again to be used by Merchant Ferries.

On Friday 7th January BRAVE MERCHANT was noted to have missed her day time sailing from Liverpool to Dublin being berthed at Canada #3 Branch [south]. On Saturday morning, 8th January, SAGA MOON was noted loading vehicles for the 11.00 sailing. BRAVE MERCHANT is understood to be out of service due to technical problem.


One former Larne - Cairnryan vessel is to replace another. The 1,000 passenger ROSTOCK LINK (the one time EUROPEAN GATEWAY) has been sold to Agoudimos Lines for service between Brindisi and Igoumenitsa and will replace the 1,200 passenger KAPETAN ALEXANDROS A (the one time DORIC FERRY). The Scandlines (AG) ROSTOCK LINK was on charter last year to Mols-Linien on their Aarhus - Kalundborg route. One would suspect that Agoudimos will increase the passenger capacity on the ROSTOCK LINK to a similar or higher level to that of the KAPETAN ALEXANDROS A.


A new shipping company to start operations from Rosslare Europort.

The new company "Mortimer European Services Ltd.", will commence operations from Rosslare Europort in the first week of Feburary 2000. Sailings times: at 10.30, vessel dep. 23.30 at(not sure yet), vessel dep. 23.30 at 10.30, vessel dep. 18.00

The vessel is in dry docks at the moment, a long lift, about 60 feet, is being fitted to the ship, the long lift will load "Road Trains" Lorries and other freight. 

Home Up Next

02 January 2000


Welcome to the first M&ISS News Bulletin of 2000.

Don't forget to check out the news bulletin of 31st December 1999.

Please note that all 1999 news  bulletins have been  be transferred to the Archives Site. However, the December 1999 News Bulletin [last update 31st December will remain available on the main site and accessible via the 2000 news menu until Sunday 9th January. 

Back ups of 2000 news bulletins  will continue to be posted on the archives site though readers should be aware that not all embedded hyperlinks on the back up site news bulletins will be functional.

Finally,  you have not checked out the Review of the Year 1999 you can access that from the What's New Menu.


SUPERSEACAT THREE was noted leaving Prince's Landing Stage around 11.50 on 1st January and was observed by John Shepherd passing the Rock at 12.05. Passing the Rock inward bound at 13.10.

John presumes that SSC3 had been 'round the Bar Lightship' (as the ROYAL IRIS used to be 'billed') to check for Millennium bugs.

SEACAT SCOTLAND spent the New Year holiday berthed at Stranraer

SEACAT DANMARK spent the New Year holiday berthed at Belfast.

HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN Having closed the Folkestone - Boulogne route on Christmas Eve, the vessel was observed by a correspondent moored on the Eastern side of the Prince of Wales Pier, Dover on 31 December. The Folkestone service re-opens on 3 March


Irish Ferries is running a public competition for their new €100million cruise ferry, due to enter service on the Dublin to Holyhead in spring 2001. The ship, which is currently under construction at Finnyards will be launched this autumn.

The competition closes on 31st January 2000. All entries must be submitted by e-mail. Visit the Irish Ferries web site http:/ for more details.



The STENA EXPLORER will be absent from the Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire route from 6 January - 5 February.  It is understood that initially the STENA EXPLORER will operate Belfast - Stranraer to allow the STENA VOYAGER to overhaul. The Belfast HSS will finish service for refit on the morning of 5 January and the STENA EXPLORER will enter service on the evening of 6 January leaving the route without HSS cover for a large part of 2 days. Following the completion of the refit of the STENA VOYAGER in mid January it is understood the STENA EXPLORER will stand down for her own overhaul.

Additional capacity is being provided at Holyhead to compensate for the loss of the services of the HSS.  The STENA INVICTA (chartered from P&O Stena Line) is currently in service on Stena's Holyhead - Dublin route operating at 02.00 and 14.00 ex Holyhead and at 08.00 and 20.00 ex Dublin.  During the period of a second conventional ferry operating on Stena's Dublin service the regular vessel, STENA CHALLENGER will sail at 04.00 and 17.15 ex Holyhead (instead of 03.00 and 15.00) and at 12.00 and 22.30 ex Dublin (instead of 09.00 and 21.30).  To partly replace the STENA EXPLORER
high-speed sailings, the STENA LYNX III will sail at 08.15 and 13.45 ex Holyhead and at 11.10 and 16.30 ex Dun Laoghaire.  This will see two daily high-speed roundtrips instead of the usual four.  It would appear the sailings of the 'Invicta have generally been timed to catch the passengers of any cancelled Lynx sailings.

All of the above sailings will operate until the STENA EXPLORER returns to service on 6 February.  The STENA CHALLENGER will then return to her normal timetable until 27 February when she will receive her own overhaul until 16 March and upon her return she will take up her normal timetable again. Between 28 February and 15 March the KONINGIN BEATRIX will replace the STENA CHALLENGER on the Holyhead - Dublin route.  The 'Beatrix will sail at 06.00 and 18.00 ex Holyhead and 12.00 and 23.59 ex Dublin.

The STENA INVICTA is timetabled to operate on the Fishguard - Rosslare route from 7 February to 16 March, initially allowing the KONINGIN BEATRIX to overhaul (7 February - 28 February) then allowing her to replace the STENA CHALLENGER on the Holyhead - Dublin route (28 February - 15 March).  During her period on the Fishguard route, the STENA INVICTA will sail to the normal KONINGIN BEATRIX timetable except the 21.50 ex Rosslare which will be re-timed to 21.30.  It is assumed that the reason for the KONINGIN BEATRIX replacing the STENA CHALLENGER instead of that duty falling to the STENA INVICTA is simply that the former Harwich vessel has a much more suitable
freight capacity for the task.

The STENA INVICTA's three month stint with Stena is then due to end and the vessel will be chartered by P&O Stena Line to Color Line from 1 April to be used on the Strömstad - Sandefjord route for which she will be re-named COLOR VIKING.

The STENA LYNX III will resume service on the Fishguard - Rosslare route on 10 March. Meanwhile, the overhaul period will see one conventional ferry missing from the Belfast - Stranraer route 31 January - 4 February and 25 February - 14 March.

(Please note the above is for rough guidance only and unknown to the author details may have already changed at the time of writing.  Corrections are welcome to

STENA'S NEW YEAR by Gary Andrews

As on Boxing Day, New Year's Day saw a single roundtrip on the Stena's Stranraer - Belfast route at 14.45 ex Stranraer and at 19.45 ex Belfast. It is unclear whether as on 26 December, the STENA CALEDONIA operated the 1 January sailings, however, judging by Stena's sailing patterns it could have been the STENA GALLOWAY. As at Christmas it is believed the New Year saw the STENA VOYAGER berthed at Belfast. Which port the STENA GALLOWAY and STENA CALEDONIA spent the New Year is unclear. However, the vessel operating the 1 January sailing would have spent the New Year at Stranraer, the other at Belfast.

BRIAR STAR by Gary Andrews

It is rumored that the 1974-built FEDRA (ex PETER PAN, ex ROBIN HOOD) of Minoan Lines will be sold to Swansea Cork Ferries to replace the SUPERFERRY on the Swansea - Cork route service in 2001.

The FEDRA is due to be replaced on Minoan's Patras (via Igoumenitsa and Corfu) - Venice service next year by one of the new vessels under construction at Samsung Heavy Industries of South Korea. Whilst the FEDRA is rather old it would offer Swansea Cork Ferries excellent overnight capacity and as has been previously illustrated the firm has had considerable problems in finding vessels with sufficient cabin accommodation.


As over the Christmas period, the New Year at Larne Harbour saw the JETLINER, EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR (in place of the PRIDE OF RATHLIN), EUROPEAN PIONEER and EUROPEAN NAVIGATOR present.

It is understood the EUROPEAN TRADER had been due to spend the New Year at Ardrossan but in light of the PRIDE OF RATHLIN's Christmas Eve incident it may have been kept at Cairnryan.

PRIDE OF RATHLIN had been due to operate the first Larne - Cairnryan passenger sailing of the New Year at 08.00 ex Larne on 2 January, however, with the 'Rathlin still being repaired at Harland & Wolff that honour is now believed to have fallen to the JETLINER's 09.30 Larne - Cairnryan sailing, the mainly freight EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR having operated the 08.00 service.

It is likely that if the EUROPEAN TRADER spent the New Year at Cairnryan, having operated a sailing from the Loch Ryan port at 07.30, it has the distinction of operating the first freight sailing of the New Year on the route.

Amongst those nominated in the New Year's Honours List was Richard Foster who has received a knighthood in recognition of his work as director of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside. Sir Richard was very much the diving force behind establishing the Mersey Maritime Museum at the Albert Dock site.


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