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JUNE 2003

June 29

Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Krispen Atkinson, Ian Collard, Tommy Dover, Michael Bracken, "Pugwash", Kevin Bennett and "others"


Once again due to a large amount of material received. There is likely to be at least two updates during the coming week. An announcement will be made on the Irish Sea Shipping group when the updates have been posted.


The latest edition of Geoff Hamer's indispensable handy guide to British Isles passenger ship and boat services has just been published.

The book contains information on all of the passenger services operated in the UK and Ireland on sea, river and canals.

 Price £4.95 inc UK P&P direct from the author. For further details  

SEA CONTAINERS \ Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

DIAMANT departed Merseyside on Thursday, June 26 and was reported to have arrived at Dover on the morning of Friday 27. It is understood that DIAMANT has replaced HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN rather than SEACAT SCOTLAND. HSGB is now reported laid-up at Dover. 

HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN is now reported laid up at Dover. HSGB was believed to be going to A&P Falmouth for repairs to shell plating damage.  However, the yard is now reported full and she may come to A&P Birkenhead. Damage is rumoured to be very similar to that suffered by SeaCat Isle of Man in May.

SUPERSEACAT TWO was noted by correspondents running very late on Sunday June 29. She passed Q8 inbound for Liverpool at 18:02 and C23 at 18:32. Departure for Douglas was 20:11 with ETA at Douglas 23:00.


The Manx media is speculating again that the new owner of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company will announced during the coming week. The Montagu appears to remain the favourite prospective purchaser, though it reported that two other potential buyers are also interested.


Isle of Man Steam Packet Company TT Passenger carryings are reported to be down almost 15% when compared to the 2002 figures. 

In 2003 32,000 passengers arrived off IoMSPCo vessels compared to the record breaking figure of 37,548 in 2002.

Vehicle figures for 2003: 4,081 vans and cars and 10,300 bikes compared to 12,834 bikes and 4,132 vans and cars in 2002.

Steam Packet media relations officer Geoff Corkish said it was likely some vans were carrying bikes to the TT and these would not be included in this year's figures.

During the festival the IoMSPCo predicted figures would be down by around 2%


BRAVE MERCHANT is due to arrive back from her MoD charter at Marchwood on  July 11. It seems that she will go to Norfolkline - initially at least.


It appears that any chance of ship building ever returning to the former Cammell Laird South Yard have been dashed. For some months there has been speculation about the redevelopment of the yard.

The local press have confirmed that a consortium led by the chairman of Wirral's Chamber of Commerce Gerry White, has bought the 67-acre Birkenhead site from  BAe Systems, for an undisclosed sum.

Plans include an arena with a seating capacity of 5,000 for exhibitions and concerts, a ski dome and skating ring and a proposal to relocate the Tranmere Rovers Football Ground to the site.

Residential apartments also feature in the plans as does a Cammell Laird Museum. A new home for the Historic Warship Collection are also believed to be included.

Mr White, who is also chairman of Wirral Chamber of Commerce, said: "People say they want shipbuilding there, but they have had 10 years to do that. Politicians who say this are 10 years behind the times.

"I want to see Wirral grow."



On March 25 the Company made a statement in advance of the half-year end on 30th June, 2003. The announcement of the half-year results is expected to be made on 9th September, 2003.

Trading in the first half of 2003 is likely to be in line with the indication given at the time of the preliminary results in March, and repeated in the AGM statement in May. The Board continues to believe that overall trading in 2003 should be similar to that achieved in 2002, and the additional capacity created by the recent capital investment programme will enable the Group to benefit from any future upturn in general economic conditions.

Overall the Ports division has been trading in line with expectations reflecting a range of performances across different ports and key cargo sectors. Liverpool has seen healthy growth in container volumes but slight weakness in roll-on/roll-off and agribulks. At Sheerness, fresh produce imports have been similar to 2002, while car volumes have maintained growth in spite of weakening sales in the UK market and the port has received a significant boost with the commencement of exports from Thamesteel. In Dublin, Marine Terminals’ re-equipment programme was completed in February and the two new services have generated strong growth in the first half.

Both Liverpool and Heysham have been adversely impacted by the uncertainty affecting NorseMerchant’s Irish Sea ferry services. However, the eventual resolution of the Administration for NorseMerchant and its parent company Cenargo is expected to be positive for the Group.

In the Shipping division there has been continuing pressure on margins which has affected Coastal Container Line, but all of the Group’s shipping interests remain profitable.

The Logistics and Transport division’s overall trading is also expected to be slightly weaker than 2002. Roadferry has performed satisfactorily notwithstanding the slowdown in the Irish economy and intense price competition, but the tank transport companies have suffered loss of margin.

Property investment income is expected to be in line with forecast. Several enquiries are being progressed for lettings at the new office building at Princes Dock and outline planning consent for Central Docks was granted on 17th June, 2003.

The share repurchase programme has resulted in the purchase and cancellation of 3.31 million shares in the first half at a total cost of £15.6 million. With capital expenditure sharply down compared to 2002, overall borrowings at 30th June should be approximately £235 million.


HMS ALBION - The Royal Navy's newest ship, HMS Albion, was formally commissioned into the Fleet at a ceremony at Devonport Naval Base on Thursday 19 June 2003 in the presence of her sponsor, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.

During the ceremony Her Royal Highness inspected the guard, the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Plymouth and six platoons from the ship's company. HMS Albion's Commanding Officer, Captain Peter Hudson, read the Commissioning Warrant from the Commander-in-Chief Fleet and three Royal Naval Chaplains conducted a short service of dedication. The youngest member of the ship's company, Operator Mechanic Jamie Rowe, aged 17, from Plymouth, and the Commanding Officer's wife, Linda Hudson, had the honour of cutting the commissioning cake at the reception after the ceremony.

Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, Commander in Chief Fleet, John Coles, Chief Executive of the Warship Support Agency, Rear Admiral James Rapp, Flag Officer Sea Training and Commodore Jamie Miller, Commodore Amphibious Task Group, attended the ceremony along with families and friends of members of the ship's company. Representatives from the
ship's affiliated organisations and the town of Chester, including the Lord Mayor Councillor Barry Cowper, were also among the guests.

Captain Peter Hudson said: "The commissioning ceremony is an important milestone in the life of the newest capital warship to join the Fleet. We are pleased to be able to show off our ship to our families and friends. We are also deeply honoured that Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal could attend today. With over 1,450 people attending it promises to be a great day."

June 25

Acknowledgements: Ian Collard, Kevin Bennett and "others"
SEA CONTAINERS \ Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

LADY OF MANN - Departed for the Azores on Wednesday June 25.



The joint application from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company and national regeneration agency, English Partnerships, to transform 31 hectares (70 acres) of Liverpool’s waterfront into a major dockside residential and leisure village has been given the go-ahead by the City Council’s Planning Committee.

The outline application for the Central Docks mixed development, envisaging primarily residential units, plus shops, pubs, restaurants and a marina on a stretch of almost two kilometres of the famous Mersey River front, was approved after councillors and officials visited the site north of Liverpool’s famous Pier Head.

Mersey Docks, who own most of Central Docks, and English Partnerships, who also own an area of the site, are working together to secure the comprehensive regeneration of 22 hectares (55 acres) of developable land set around dock basins, which stretches for 1.7 kilometres from Princes Half Tide Dock in the south to Bramley Moore Dock in the north.

The outline planning application for the Central Docks site which was accompanied by a Master Plan and Development Strategy document illustrating the full potential of the scheme, was approved subject to agreement by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office. The regeneration proposals also envisage extension of the riverside walkway from Pier Head, a water sports centre and 30,000 sq metres (323,000 sq ft) of business and industrial units.

Having been given the go-ahead, Mersey Docks and English Partnerships will focus on translating the very strong interest already expressed by potential developers of the site into a dynamic, detailed scheme.

Mersey Docks’ Chief Executive Peter Jones said: “The proposals will primarily offer quality residential accommodation complemented by leisure and work place developments.”

The Central Docks site is a continuation of Liverpool’s Princes and Waterloo Docks where Mersey Docks has initiated major redevelopment involving offices, retail and residential property.

Mr Jones said the transformation of the substantial brownfield site would represent a valuable return to shareholders from an area which had remained largely dormant for two decades. “It will also make a significant contribution to the regeneration of Liverpool’s waterfront, giving this prime dockland area a new lease of life and acting as a stimulus for investment and employment creation.”

Dave Turner, Development Surveyor at English Partnerships, added: “We are pleased to have finally achieved outline planning permission for what promises to be an ambitious and exciting regeneration scheme. The waterfront has always been significant to Liverpool’s heritage and we believe our proposals reflect that importance.”

June 24

Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Tommy Dover, Tony Brennan, Ian Collard, Jim Edgar, Aiden McCabe, Paul Tomlin - "Edendale Graphics"  and "others"

Last week mussel trawlers from Northern Ireland etc arrived to dredge for mussel along the 

Asgard11painting.jpg (20681 bytes)

ASGARD II off Wicklow Head 

by Pat Dover.

Wicklow coast. About 15 boats were in the bay late in the week, The mussel is landed at Arklow port, and some of the vessels stay overnight at Wicklow port.

BIM the Irish fishery board is currently conducting a mussel survey in Wicklow Bay, using an Arklow fishing boat.

Square Sail's sailing ship PHOENIX went south late in the week out of Dún Laoghaire for Falmouth after her visit to the Mersey Maritime Festival.


NORMANDY a helicopter from RNAS Culdrose was tasked to the NORMANDY on June 21 to convey a doctor to the ship to assist a Romanian woman who had been refused admission Ireland by immigration officers at Rosslare.

The woman went into labour at about midnight on board the NORMANDY which was en route from Rosslare, County Wexford, to Roscoff.

The mother, who was reported to be Romanian, gave birth at 00:30. She and the baby were treated by a nurse who was a passenger on the ship.

The woman was one of six people turned back by the authorities when they arrived in Rosslare, but immigration officer in the port were not aware that she was heavily pregnant.

An officer in Rosslare said two of the six people who were refused entry under the terms of the Irish Immigration Act had previously tried to enter the country before with false passports.

Irish Ferries spokesman Don Hall reported: ``I understand the woman was travelling with her husband and one child.

``They left Rosslare last evening around 19:00, and my understanding is that they had come in yesterday morning.

``They were assigned a cabin and at around midnight last night at a point off Lands End, the lady began to deliver a baby.

``The matter was taken in hand by the chief purser and the senior stewardess on the ferry. We put out a call, as we normally would in these circumstances to see if there was a doctor or a nurse on board.

``The nurse, who was on her way to a holiday, assisted with members of the crew in the birth of the baby.

``Everything was fine, but the captain thought that as a precaution a doctor should be called.

``The mother and her baby were found to be in fine fettle, and the doctor praised those who had attended the birth.``

Mr Hall said there would have been reservations about letting the woman on board if it had been realised that she was so heavily pregnant.

He added: ``Everyone was surprised by this development.

``But our staff do take advanced training in medical matters and I am delighted that in this case that training paid off so well.``

Lawyers in Dublin have raised the question of the baby's citizenship as she was born at sea on board an Irish-registered vessel.

But there was no immediate confirmation that the child was entitled to be classed as Irish.


The proposed acquisition by Stena  of certain assets and vessels operated by P&O on the Irish Sea and Proposed JV between Stena and P&O to acquire Cairnryan Port may be probed by the Office of Fair Trading.

 The Office of Fair Trading is considering whether the above acquisition qualifies for investigation under the merger provisions of the Fair Trading Act 1973. Should it be found to qualify, the OFT will consider it further with a view to advising the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry under section 76(1) of the Act as to whether or not the merger should be referred to the Competition Commission for investigation and report.

Representations about any competition or public interest implications should be sent, before July 2,  to:

Mr A Tait
Office of Fair Trading
Fleetbank House
2-6 Salisbury Square
London EC4Y 8JX
FAX: 020-7211-8916


STENA TRANSPORTER - was reported to be out of service until at least June 24. She has been receiving repairs at NSL Bidston Dry Dock.



Four jetskiers were rescued from the River Mersey on Friday evening June 20 after they came off their craft and began drifting in the busy shipping lanes. The two women and two men were extremely lucky to have been spotted by two local residents who had been watching them from their house. They called 999 and Liverpool Coastguard began co-ordinating a search which led to the jetskiers’ rescue from the river.

Liverpool Coastguard received the 999 call at 19:45 reporting that the four jetskiers had been in the water for 45 minutes and appeared to be in trouble. The Coastguard immediately requested the County Inshore Rescue Boat from the Pier Head to launch as well as the New Brighton RNLI Inshore Lifeboat. 

The presumed location was sketchy at first and in the first sweep of the area nothing was found. However, some other jetskiers were questioned and from this information three of the four were located by the County Inshore Rescue Boat at just after 20:00. The fourth person was located several minutes later.

All four jetskiers were taken to shore where they were examined in case of hypothermia or injury.

Paul Parkes, Liverpool Coastguard Watch Manager said:

“These people are extremely lucky to have been found and we would like to relay our thanks to the local residents who made the 999 call. If it had not been for the telephone call the jetskiers may not have been found, as they had no methods of raising the alarm themselves. There could also have been horrendous consequences of drifting helplessly in the shipping lanes.

“It is imperative that jetskiers carry some form of communication with them in case of a similar emergency. A waterproof radio is the preferred piece of equipment. Flares would also be useful. Advise on the correct radios and flares can be sought from any Coastguard Station.

“In addition all jetskiers should wear the correct clothing, normally a wetsuit and lifejacket.”


Passenger figures compiled by the Harbours Division for May 2003 at 79,676 show a 2.1% increase on the figure for the same period in 2002 which was 78,006.

The year to date figure at 217,789 passengers shows a 5.7% increase over the same period in 2002 which was 205,998.

During May car and motorcycle traffic through Douglas Harbour increased by 10.1% from 22,888 vehicles to 25,204 vehicles.

The year to date figure at 63,127 vehicles shows a 12% increase over the same period in 2002 which was 56,315.

Scheduled Routes show the following changes in passenger numbers for May:-


plus 17%



DublinMinus 12%from2,583to2,285
Heyshamplus 5%from27,405to28,738
Liverpoolplus 8%from35,784to38,794
Fleetwoodall minusfrom1,693toNil
Llandudnoall minusfrom2,686toNil
Whitehavenall minusfrom1,588toNil
Warren Pointall minusfrom881toNil

Freight Traffic

May commercial vehicles metreage decreased by 1.1% from 42,954 metres to 42,470 metres.

Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew comments:

“May passenger figures at 79,676 are the best May figures for many years and highlight the strong underlying growth which was present throughout the month. The passenger figures are exceptionally good as 2002 figures also contained the Lady of Mann day-trips which this year operated in June.”



June 18

Acknowledgements: Ian Collard, Stephen Marsden, Melanie Richardson, Northwestern Ship Repairers, Kevin Bennett  and  "others"

A reminder that there will not be an update this weekend as I will be on BALMORAL. There may, however, be short updates on Friday and Monday evenings. Otherwise the next main update will be on Wednesday June 25.

SEA CONTAINERS \ Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

LADY OF MANN departed A&P Birkenhead at 14:00 on June 18 and proceeded to her lay-up berth at Alexandra Dock.

DIAMANT departed A&P Birkenhead at 14:20 on June 18 she berthed briefly at Prince's Landing Stage before moving departing for sea trials.


NORBANK a van carrying soft furnishings caught fire on Sunday evening. This was attended by the fire brigade. This delayed the ship's evening sailing to Dublin.


MERSEY VIKING dry-docked at Canada dry-dock for passenger ship certificate renewal early on June 16, some underwater works had to be carried out therefore the vessel missed June 16th sailing. She departed from Canada on Tuesday afternoon, June 17th. 


WHITASK - a new vessel to Irish Sea area has been moved from Southampton [owners James Whittaker] undergoing repairs and conversion prior to taking up new charter in the area. The ship is  presently at Bidston Drydock.

MOD Vessel RFA Fort George at Inchgreen facility [Glasgow] has taken water this weekend, which is in line with programme of works, vessel due to be re-delivered mid-July.


STENA ADVENTURER arrived at A&P Birkenhead for the fitting of the upper vehicle deck forward flap early on June 17.

STENA TRANSPORTER has been out of action following a technical problem. It was anticipated that she would be back in service with the 14:30 sailing.


Associated British Ports (ABP) is set to invest over £4 million in major construction works at Millbay Docks, at its Port of Plymouth, in preparation for the arrival of Brittany Ferries’ new superferry, PONT AVEN, which will come into service in April 2004.

The £4 million capital expenditure will fund marine works to cater for the safe year-round navigation of PONT AVEN into Millbay Docks which – at 20 metres longer than the existing longest ferry currently using the port – makes her the largest in Brittany Ferries’ fleet. The marine works will include the construction of three new berthing dolphins and dredging to improve access into the port and assist PONT AVEN when manoeuvring onto the berth.

At the same time, ABP will also be investing in the port’s landside operations by expanding the current passenger and freight vehicle-reception area, rationalising vehicle flows as well as undertaking improvements to security and Customs facilities.

Colin Greenwell, ABP Port Manager, Plymouth & Teignmouth, explained that this latest investment represents the continuation of a successful partnership between ABP and Brittany Ferries:

"Over the last 30 years, Brittany Ferries has developed its successful ferry operations on the Western Channel and the Port of Plymouth has become a vital part of these operations. This latest investment extends the excellent partnership between ABP and Brittany Ferries for a further 15 years, thereby securing the future of Plymouth as an established ferry port."

Commenting on the future of the port, Nick Palmer, ABP Director, Short-Sea Ports, said:

"This investment in the port’s core roll-on/roll-off ferry business follows the recent sale of 10 hectares of land and water at Millbay Docks to the South-West Regional Development Agency and English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency. The expected property development of this area will be an excellent complement to Plymouth as an expanding cruise and ferry terminus."

The work is due to commence this autumn, as soon as the necessary environmental evaluation and statutory-consent processes have been completed.

When PONT AVEN comes into service, she will replace VAL DE LOIRE on the twice-weekly Plymouth to Santander service.

June 16

Acknowledgements: Tony Brennan, Tommy Dover, Ian Collard and  "others"

LADY OF MANN - which arrived at A&P Birkenhead on Sunday afternoon is expected to remain in the yard for 48 hours.

Her departure for the Azores is expected to be around June 25. She will be carry a Portugese crew under the command of an Isle of Man Steam Packet Captain and Engineering Officers.

The first commercial sailing is scheduled for June 29 for a special sailing. Normal schedules commence on July 1 and should be completed by the early hours of September 29. Arrival back on Merseyside should be on October 1 or 2.

The Lady has taken two car ramps one of which will remain at San Jorge and the other travels with the ship for lift/off positioning by shore crane at each port of call.

WICKLOW NOTES from Tommy Dover

Coaster visitors last week included IRINA , HEMO and UNION EMERALD.

Wicklow lifeboat and the ILB launched during the week after a man was reported missing near the Silver Strand, south of Wicklow Head. The Coastguard helicopter also joined the search. The search was called off as darkness fell, early next morning the man was located safe and well nowhere near the sea.

Sillanpaa Oy's JOPI is now working near the 5 mile point on a other coast protection project.

ASGARD II made a courtesy visit midweek she was joined by the Dublin yacht RINN VOYAGER.

Traffic in the bay included STV TENIACIOUS southbound after a visit to Dublin, and the Trent class lifeboat 14-24 northbound.

Tommy also writes about the stone carrier TOPI. 

Readers may recall that this interesting little vessel, sister of the JOPI  capsized in Dún Laoghaire harbour during the Autumn 2000 during a storm. She was raised early in 2001 and brought to Liverpool where she was laid up in Sandon Dock for a while looking rather sad, with a crushed bridge and other damage.

The good news is that TOPI is at TURKU being repaired and will be back in service in a few months. Sillanpaa Oy's VILLE is currently working in France though could be back at Arklow soon.


STENA ADVENTURER arrived at Dublin at 07:45 on June 16 on her delivery voyage from Korea. She carried out berthing trials before sailing into Dublin Bay for a photocall with HSS STENA EXPLORER. She then proceeded to Holyhead where she berthed at the old Stena berth used by STENA FORWARDER to load stores and was then expected to proceed to A&P Birkenhead.

June 15

Acknowledgements: Ian Collard, Jim Edgar and "others"


LADY OF MANN has now concluded her TT and special excursions programme for 2003. Her last duties were to operate a Church Army Charter from Heysham [782 pax] on June the 14 and an "Around the Island" public cruise [324 pax] during the afternoon of the same day. [Voyage report and photographs of the Round The Island Cruise will appear soon].

The LADY OF MANN returned to Heysham at 19:30 with the return charter sailing. She departed Douglas carrying her vehicle gangways which will be used for the summer Acor Line charter.

On Sunday she came onto Prince's Landing Stage, Liverpool after SEACAT ISLE OF MAN had departed to off load some stores. She then proceeded across the river to A&P #5 Dry Dock for some minor repairs.

There has still been no announcement concerning the sale of the company.


STAR OF INDIA - a commemorative coin was issued this week featuring the STAR OF INDIA - the world's oldest surviving merchant ship. The STAR OF INDIA was originally built in Ramsey as the EUTERPE in 1863. Now preserved in San Diego, she still operates occasional excursions to sea.


HSS STENA EXPLORER has been noted running late by correspondents recently and is believed to be suffering from technical problems.

STENA ADVENTURER is due at Dublin on Monday June 16. She will the proceed to A&P Birkenhead for work to be done on fitting a bow flap to her upper deck. She is expected at A&P around June 17 or 18.


The Irish Naval Service flagship was reported on the Navies Yahoo group to have arrived at St. Petersburg, on June 13. 

It is unfortunate the INS don't appear keep their web site up to date no mention of visit when the site was checked earlier this week.

June 12

Acknowledgements: Colin Attwell, NSL, Tony Brennan and "others"

NORBAY - as noted on Sunday the NORBAY missed her 10:00 sailing on Saturday June 07 which was covered by EUROPEAN ENVOY. This was apparently due to an internal ramp problem which received attention by North Western Ship Repairers over the weekend.

EUROPEAN SEAFARER paid a brief 24 hr visit to Canada Dry Dock for attention to her bow thruster which had a foreign object go through it. She will return to Canada Dry Dock in a couple of weeks to have the bow thruster refitted.


The three current Cast ships CAST PERFORMANCE, CAST POWER, and CAST PROGRESS, will be replaced in the next three month period by the CANMAR COURAGE, CANMAR FORTUNE and OOCL CANADA - all of which will have name changes to the CAST P series. 

The existing ships on the service to Merseyside will transfer to the Mediterranean - Montreal route with a change of name to the CANMAR ... series.


The following appeared in the Liverpool Echo on Wednesday June 11.

As stated the plans are now three years old. When originally published in the press a passenger ship, was featured as a floating hotel. This appears to be still part of the plan. However, one doubts if a "liner" will materialise - a former Irish Sea cross channel steamer might be more appropriate in size for these docks.

The Mersey water-front is to receive a major facelift more than three years after plans for its transformation were put forward.

Thousands of homes and a floating hotel are earmarked for the 70-acre derelict site at Central Docks close to the Pier Head. Planning chiefs are due to give the plan the go-ahead on Monday.

It will include 1,850 apartments, a marina linking the Mersey and the Leeds-Liverpool canal, together with a water sports centre and a moored passenger liner housing a hotel and conference centre.

Shops, pubs, restaurants and business units will also be built.

Mersey Docks and Harbour Company and English Partnerships, which owns the land, said that as soon as planning permission is given, they will be advertising for developers.

It is hoped work on site will start in the next few months.


STENA ADVENTURER Is due to arrive at Dublin Port on June 16. It is understood that she will then proceed to A&P Birkenhead to be fitted with a "cat flap" which will give access across the foredeck to allow access to the two tier bow ramps.

June 08

Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Ian Liston and others. 


Additional weekday updates were posted on June 2 and 3.

Unfortunately this update is somewhat smaller than anticipated due to domestic technical problems that have consequently used up quite a lot of time today. However, look out for further photographic gallery updates during the coming week including OCEAN MAJESTY and former Wallasey Ferry EGREMONT.


The Mersey River Festival takes place next weekend. Whilst last year's festival received some criticism from Irish Sea Shipping for its lack of "enthusiast interest". This year's festival looks as though it will be a vintage one for enthusiasts with a number of interesting vessels visiting.  some of which are new or infrequent visitors to Merseyside.

Although the Festival officially runs from the June 13 to 16, it will be worthwhile for enthusiasts to keep a look out for arriving vessels during the coming week on the run up to the event.


As yet no official announcement has been made by parent company Sea Containers regarding the sale of the company. However, a report by The Times on Friday June 6 claims that the company is set to be sold  to the investment company Montagu formerly part of HSBC.

The newspaper claims that Sea Containers is about to enter into exclusive discussions with Montagu, which has fought off bids from rival financial buyers including JP Morgan Partners and ABN Amro. An agreed offer for the business is expected in the new few weeks.

 The Times report says that "A spokesman confirmed that the company had received a "satisfactory offer" for Steam Packet, but declined to identify the bidder".

Montagu, formerly HSBC Private Equity was sold  for about £25 million in a management buy-out in March this year, and renamed..

Last month, the Montagu group bought Marlow Foods, a UK maker of the vegetarian meat substitute Quorn, for £70 million, in its first acquisition since the name change.

Montagu is also reported to be on the shortlist of five potential bidders to buy Polymer Seals, the rubber seals division of Smiths Group, the aerospace to healthcare business, for up to £500 million. It is competing with bids from groups including BC Partners, the private equity firm, and Parker Hanifin, the US engineering company.


Irish Ferries Celebrates 30 Years Of Service On Ireland/France Routes

This year, Irish Ferries celebrates a major milestone with the completion of 30 years of successful operations on their direct service between Ireland and France. Inaugurated on June 2nd 1973, the Irish Ferries' service to France began life under the Irish Continental Line banner with a sailing from Rosslare/Le Havre by the car ferry SAINT PATRICK - a vessel purpose-built for the route and launched in Bremerhaven, Germany in January of that year.

Since then, it has provided a vital tourist and trade link with the major markets of mainland Europe and is the only direct, year-round passenger ferry connection between Ireland and the Continent.

In its 30 years history, the Irish Ferries service to France has operated across a network of five routes - two of which are currently in operation both made attractive for their short-sea crossing time. They are Rosslare/Cherbourg (opened 1978) and Rosslare/Roscoff (opened 1995). Other routes that formed the network are Rosslare/Le Havre (from 1977 to 1997), Cork/Le Havre (from 1983 to 1997) and Cork/Roscoff (from 1995 to 1997).

Since its introduction, four vessels have operated the service all of which became household names remembered with affection by the countless thousands of Irish and Continental holidaymakers who sailed on them. They are: mv SAINT PATRICK (1977/82), mv SAINT KILLIAN (1977/97) which later became SAINT KILLIAN II after being 'jumboised' in 1981 when a 32-meters passenger section was added, mv SAINT PATRICK II (1982/96) and mv Normandy, the present vessel which has operated the service since 1998.

Maintaining a schedule similar to when it began - with three return sailings weekly in winter increasing to a departure every second day in summer - Irish Ferries direct service to France merits the title Ireland's premier direct car ferry service to Continental Europe' having maintained an unbroken record of operation across the 30 years that it has been in operation and being, as it is, the only year-round, direct car/ro-ro freight ferry link to Continental Europe. During that time it has played an integral part in helping Irish Ferries win numerous passenger, freight and tourism

In this, the service continues to play a major role in the social and commercial life of Ireland. The millions of passengers transported throughout its life - together with the numerous tourist cars and freight units - have contributed significantly to Irish tourism whilst bringing major economic benefit to Rosslare, Wexford and the South East generally. Moreover, as an instrument of social interchange, the service has helped forge closer relationships between communities here and in Continental Europe - a record that no other ferry company can equal.

As Sales Manager Declan Mescall comments many of those who sail with us today are second and third generation clients...the children and grandchildren of those who travelled with us in the 70s and 80s when they were first introduced to the joys of a motoring holiday in France.


Because of a port strike in Cherbourg on Tuesday June 3 the Monday evening sailing from Rosslare to Cherbourg re-routed to Roscoff from where the Tuesday departure back to Ireland also sailed.


The ship builders delivered the 460-tonne linkspan to the port of Holyhead last weekend for installation at the new Stena Line Terminal 5 berth by Butterley Engineering

The fabrication and final assembly completion of the linkspan began in late January.


The schedules for the MERSEY VIKING and LAGAN VIKING on NorseMerchant Ferries' Belfast - Liverpool route changed about a month ago. Layover is now Friday and Monday with a day time round trip on Sundays.

LAGAN VIKING at 05:50 on June 8 the ship issued a call to Belfast Coastguard reporting a missing person who was suspected of having gone overboard whilst the ship was enroute from Birkenhead to Belfast.

Belfast Coastguard scrambled an Army Rescue helicopter  and requested the launch of Donaghadee and Bangor lifeboats to the scene. The Belfast Authority Pilot Boat went to the scene and was assisted by HSS STENA VOYAGER and Willie Shipping's CELTIC KING.

The search was later abandoned.


EUROPEAN SEAFARER - some excellent photos of the ship's visit to the former Argyle and Antrim Steam Packet Co Terminal at Campbeltown last weekend can be found on the Larne Ferry Web Site. The ship called at Campbeltown to pick up a consignment of wind farm components bound for Mostyn.

A second run is understood to have been made on June 7/8 with SEAFARER due to have a brief dry docking on Merseyside prior to her return to Larne.

On Saturday June 7 the company announced that due to "operational difficulties"  scheduled 14:15hrs sailing from Mostyn was rescheduled to a 10:00 departure from Liverpool. 

The scheduled 23:59 sailing from Dublin was rescheduled to depart at 22:00hrs and sail to Liverpool.

It was noted by an observer that with EUROPEAN ENVOY working the 10:00 sailing from Liverpool on Saturday NORBAY remained at Liverpool and was joined by her sister NORBANK when she arrived late afternoon from Dublin.


June 01

Acknowledgements: Ian Collard, John & Jenny Williamson, David Fairclough, Kevin Bennett, Gary Andrews, Tommy Dover, Michael Bracken, Paul O'Brien, Mike Pryce, Dale Errock, Edwin Wilmshurst, Trevor Kidd and "others".


Many thanks to those who have filled my mailbox and mobile with information about developments whilst I have been away, including the many copies of the Stena / P&O Announcement received. It invariably happens when I go on holiday major developments or incidents occur and the past week has been no exception! 

As you may have noted a large update was posted on Saturday May 31 in addition to this update.   I imagine it will take most of the coming week to ensure that I have caught up with everything!

Please note that due to many recent additions to the site, there will be some significant pruning of older material in the next few days. Please save any older material that you require now before I archive it. 

SEA CONTAINERS \ Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN - Quite often things can go wrong during the intensive period of operations over the TT Festival and of course this year has proved to be no exception. SEACAT ISLE OF MAN had an unfortunate encounter with some floating debris. This damaged her port bow T foil and that has in turn holed the port hull forward and resulted in a trip to #6 Dry Dock at A&P Birkenhead for repairs on May 27. She remained there until departing at 22:00 on May 28

DIAMANT operated trials on the Mersey on Friday May 30 following her refit at A&P. She then returned to the yard in the evening. 

rapide arr douglas 1 jun 03.jpg (46420 bytes)
Rapide arriving at Douglas - June 1st (Jenny Williamson)

RAPIDE made mid-afternoon Belfast to Douglas sailing on Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29 May with north-about returns on both days.

Subsequent RAPIDE scheduled sailings on Belfast - Douglas route:-

Thu 29/5 23.59 Bel to D, seems to have returned light ,Fri 30/5 afternoon Bel to D (not found in booking computer), 19.15 D to Bel (north-about), Sat 31/5 16.30 Bel to D, 20.15 D to Bel, Sun 1/6 08.00 Bel to D, 11.45 D to Bel, Mon 2/6 21.00 Bel to D, Tue 3/6 01.00 D to Bel, Wed 4/6 21.00 Bel to D, Thu 5/6 01.00 D to Bel, Fri 6/6 14.15 Bel to D, 19.00 D to Bel, Sat 7/6 15.15 Bel to D, 20.15 D to Bel, Sun 8/6 07.30 Bel to D, 11.45 D to Bel

SUPERSEACAT TWO was reported running around an hour late on May 27 due to technical problems.

LADY OF MANN operated the Manxman Steamship Company "Round the Island" charter sailing on Saturday May 24. 

For those of who missed the sailing there is an account of the on the following web sites: ; and .

Despite the reappearance of the broad black band on the top of the LADY's dummy funnel after she completed refit at Canada Graving Dock. Orders were issued to reinstate the Sea Containers imposed narrow black band and this was duly done before the "Round the Island" sailing. One wonders why this was done given the fact that Sea Containers ownership is drawing to a close?

The Lady provided cover for the damaged SEACAT ISLE OF MAN some of the sailings noted by correspondents: on May 27 Lady departed Douglas at 07:15 and Liverpool at 11:45.

On May 28 the Lady operated to Heysham with 13:45 Heysham - Douglas and the passengers from cancelled SCIOM 11:30 Liverpool transferred to the Lady and Ben  at 14:15.

The 07:00 Liverpool pax were taken by the Ben at 0915 (for 0845). With SCIOM is due to start again with the 20:00 at 23:59 from Liverpool on May 28 and the LADY reverted to her Heysham schedule, 16:00 Liverpool pax going to Heysham on her at 18: 30. 

There is still no further word on the sale of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.


LOCH PORTAIN The new McTay built ro/ro ferry departed Birkenhead for Scotland on May 30 after running trials on Thursday May 29. She was reported in Oban on the afternoon of May 31.


LAGAN VIKING was noted operating an additional day time sailing on Sunday June 1. 



The Department of the Marine says it is introducing a tough new policy on passenger boat safety.

It will relate to all boats used in areas around the coast for carrying passengers, including those used for tourist and visitor trips and for anglers.

In the strongest safety crackdown so far, there will be random spot-checks on boats, with a policy of active prosecution of offenders.

The Minister for the Marine, Dermot Ahern, launched this year's Water Safety Campaign in Dublin last week

The launch of the campaign came just 24 hours before the Marine Casualty Investigation Board publishes the result of its investigation into the sinking of the vessel, PISCES, at Fethard-On-Sea on 28 July last year. Five people died in the incident.

RTÉ News reports that Mr Ahern and his officials have decided on a policy that will see Department safety inspectors carry out spot-checks on boat operators who carry passengers and who are involved in tourist, visitor and angling trips at various locations around the coast.

Under the new rules, some licences will require boat operators to ensure that passengers wear lifejackets and there will also be an active policy of prosecution of offenders.

The Irish Passenger Boat and Ferry Operators' Association has welcomed the new policy.

The Secretary of the Association, Raymond Ross, said that all officially licensed boats have been conforming to all safety regulations and there had never been a case where a properly licensed boat had been involved in a tragedy.

He said that the Minister should now continue to extend his policy and implement it on all leisure craft.


The investigation report into the loss of the PISCES at Fethard on Sea in Co Wexford last July says the vessel was in an unseaworthy condition and was unstable on the day of the incident. Five people died in the tragedy.

The vessel did not carry sufficient lifesaving appliances and was overloaded with ten people aboard when it foundered.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board published its report on Friday May 30.

The report is also critical that a distress message was not transmitted on the VHF Channel 16 - the normal distress system.

It says the PISCES did not hold a passenger boat licence and would not have qualified for one because of its poor condition and lack of safety equipment.

The report says that a fee of 150 had been agreed between the passengers on board and the owner of the boat, Patrick Barden, from Fethard on Sea.

The investigators point out that the boat should have had a passenger licence that would have required it to have a range of safety equipment aboard.

The inspectors also point out that the registration of the boat, as a sea-fishing vessel for commercial purposes, by the previous owner had not been changed. Under that registration it should have been carrying safety equipment, including life jackets, for everybody on board.

In a letter to the investigators, the widow of one of those who died had asked how many times the boat had taken out passengers and how many were carried each time or if the boat showed instability during those trips.

Relatives of the five people who died and the five survivors of the PISCES tragedy earlier received copies of the report.



The ‘RMS Mulheim’ went aground in Gamper Bay near Sennen Cove on the morning of the 22 March 2003. Since then over the past eight weeks the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SOSREP) Robin Middleton, has overseen the removal of all pollutants and the vast majority of the cargo, which has been conducted by one of the worlds leading salvage teams Wijsmuller Salvage.

On May 29 MCGA  announced that they were coming to the end of this operation; all that can be removed safely has been removed; as the vessel has been weakening since she grounded. On Monday this week some steel plates were lost from the starboard side of the ship, which has prevented the removal of the last 10 - 15 tonnes of cargo. Despite this the majority of the 2,200 tonnes of cargo has been removed, some has been lost to the sea and has been cleaned from any beaches affected. Clean up of beaches will continue for as long as necessary but has so far been kept to the minimum.

The current state of the vessel is such that she has started to break up, as is evident from the starboard side, there are further cracks in the hull which are deteriorating daily and the vessel will continue to break up even under these relatively calm conditions that have been experienced recently. With any increased swell and wind this process will be accelerated and the vessel will start to collapse and over a period of time will breakdown completely.

Donald McDonald, Regional Operations Manager for Counter Pollution and Salvage, MCA said:

“All items of value have been removed and now the vessel is in a highly unstable condition, and may collapse at any time. It is prohibited to board the vessel.”

Today a meeting between the Secretary of State’s Representative, Ship Owners Insurers Representative, WIJSMULLER, Environment Group Representative, Cornwall County Council, Penwith District Council and the land lessee National Trust was held.

Robin Middleton, said this afternoon, at the meeting:

“It has been agreed that all that can be done has been done and the salvage team will be demobilising from the site over the next two days. National Trust are still investigating the need to move the vessel in the protection of public liability”


Opened on the back of the post Titanic movie hype [and the proprietor's Lotto Win!], the Titanic Bar, Restaurant and Gift Shop at Cóbh has closed. Apparently the much hyped development which occupies part of the former White Star Line office building at Scott's Quay closed in December 2002. Enquiries made locally suggest that the affairs of Titanic Queenstown may take some unravelling! Many Titanic schemes followed the success of the movie, including several plans to build full size replica of the ships. 

These schemes along with "Titanic Queenstown" have all imitated the ship. The rest of the White Star Line building at Cóbh continues to trade as the town's Post Office.

Though Titanic Queenstown's web site is now defunct a review with photographs can be found at:


BALMORAL departed from Bristol on May 26 after a delay in the completion of her refit.


EUROPEAN SEAFARER is due to make a run from Campbeltown to Mostyn over the weekend of May 31 / June 1 with wind farm components.


The Stena / P&O rumours referred to in a recent update certainly had some substance with the following announcement made by Stena Line and P&O on Tuesday May 27:

P&O and Stena AB ('Stena') announced that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding ('MOU') concerning Stena's proposed acquisition of a significant part of P&O's ferry operations on the Irish Sea.  The MOU also provides for the transfer of Stena's Stranraer port operations to P&O's port at Cairnryan, with Stena taking a 50% shareholding in the Cairnryan port.

The transaction is part of a wider restructuring of P&O Ferries to focus on higher yielding routes.  The book value of the relevant assets is approximately £50 million and, subject to finalisation of the transaction, no significant gain or loss is expected to result for P&O.  The proposals are subject to contract, employee consultation and regulatory clearances.

P&O proposes to sell to Stena five vessels and various port assets at  Liverpool,  Fleetwood and Dublin and to charter to Stena two other vessels.  P&O also proposes to transfer to Stena the crew of the five vessels to be acquired by Stena, together with the relevant shore staff at Liverpool, Fleetwood and Dublin, and those shore staff at Larne dedicated to the Fleetwood-Larne service.

Consultations will be commencing with employee representatives about the possible closure of the Dublin-Mostyn service, of P&O's shore side operations at the Port of Mostyn and the Fleetwood head office.  P&O will continue to operate the Mostyn-Dublin service as normal until the proposals receive the necessary approvals.

 P&O will continue to operate the following vessels on the Irish Sea, on  the routes indicated:

 Vessel                                 Route
EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY :  Larne - Cairnryan
EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER :  Larne - Cairnryan
SUPERSTAR EXPRESS:    Larne - Cairnryan & Larne-Troon
EUROPEAN MARINER:     Larne - Troon
EUROPEAN DIPLOMAT : Rosslare - Cherbourg

P&O and Stena propose to form a 50:50 joint venture to acquire P&O's port interests at Cairnryan and to finance the construction of new berths for both P&O and Stena.  The Cairnryan redevelopment will be subject to relevant planning approvals.  P&O will continue to own and operate the Port of Larne and this will be largely unaffected by these proposals.

The announcement will change Stena's plans to build a new port at Old House Point outside Stranraer, The five ships to be sold are the EUROPEAN LEADER, EUROPEAN PIONEER, EUROPEAN SEAFARER, the NORBAY and the NORBANK. 

 P&O plans to charter two further ships to Stena Line, the EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR and the EUROPEAN ENVOY while the crews of the five ships to be purchased will transfer to the Swedish operator.

Whilst P&O will continue to operate five ships on the Irish Sea it is not clear where EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR and EUROPEAN ENVOY will be deployed to once the Mostyn - Dublin service closes. Perhaps she might find her way back to the Liverpool - Dublin service to which she is more suited? It is interesting to note that there is no mention of the weekly Dublin to Cherbourg service introduced by P&O last year, which it was claimed some time ago was doing well.


JONATHAN SWIFT the legal wrangling with Stena Line over patent infringement have not gone away despite the recent court ruling.

Stena are now appealing to the House of Lords against a patent ruling by the High Court. Stena claims that the design of the Irish Ferries' high-speed catamaran JONATHAN SWIFT infringes their patent for a latticework which made it possible to build the Stena Line high-speed HSS catamarans with large areas consisting of glass.

The first court rulings where in favour of Stena but the courts also stated that JONATHAN SWIFT fulfils the criteria for vessels entering British waters temporarily or accidentally and thereby exempting it from the British patent legislation.

JONATHAN SWIFT enters the British port of Holyhead three or four times per day, each time staying in British waters for approximately three hours.

The House of Lords has asked Irish Ferries for their point-of-view no later than 3 June.


The Lough Foyle Ferry Company is expected to be in a position within the next few days to advise Donegal County Council of its capacity to provide a service on the Swilly this summer.

This came to light at last Monday's meeting of the council in Lifford when the County Manager, Michael McLoone updated members on the prospects for the proposed Buncrana - Rathmullan Ferry Service.

At its Budget 2003 meeting, councillors allocated £ 100,000 to support the provision of such a service on a pilot basis to assess the level of demand for the service, to evaluate the commercial viability of it and to establish the ongoing financial support which may be required from the council to maintain the service.

To implement their decision expressions of interest were sought to provide the service on a pilot basis. One expression of interest was received from the Lough Foyle Ferry Company. At a meeting on March 31 between representatives of the company and officers of the Council the Council invited the company to make an offer on the pilot period, commencement date and level of service based on its subvention of £ 100,000.

A further meeting was arranged for April 17 at which the company was to present its proposals. It was deferred at the request of the company who sought time to develop the proposal further.

The company was experiencing some difficulty and delays during this time in obtaining delivery of a new ferry for the Magilligan-Greencastle service. Their new vessel, which was due on April 22, only arrived last weekend and the service was due to recommence this week. The present vessel CARRIGALOE has returned to her owners Cross River Ferries at Cóbh, County Cork.

Mr McLoone told last Monday's meeting that all of these circumstances had caused delay in obtaining a Ferry for the Buncrana --Rathmullan service but the company expected to be in a position within 14 days to advise the council of its capacity to provide a service on the Swilly while reiterating its intention to provide a service on both the Foyle and the Swilly to an acceptably high standard. He added he would keep councillors briefed on developments.

Clr Rena Donaghy said she hoped matters would progress satisfactorily and that the new service would be given a chance. She predicted it would continue to open up the north-west and continue the good work already done by the introduction of the Greencastle-Magilligan ferry service.

The matter is to be revisited at the Council's next General Purposes committee meeting on June 9.


A trawler skipper was so drunk at the helm he zigzagged his way across a harbour and narrowly avoided ploughing into a main fuel supply line at Ireland’s only refinery.

The fisherman last week became the first person in the country to be convicted of being drunk in charge of a vessel following evidence which a district court judge described as a chilling incident.

Captain Michael McCarthy, deputy harbour master at the Port of Cork, said on the night of December 8 last, port operations personnel noticed the 30ft trawler SILVER HARVEST steering erratically around the harbour.

He said the trawler didn’t travel along the designated channel and the port’ s radar observed it almost colliding with the fuel line jetty at the Whitegate Refinery.

Captain McCarthy told Cobh District Court he was contacted by colleagues who told him the trawler was behaving in a very dangerous manner and appeared to be heading out to sea. Captain McCarthy intercepted the SILVER HARVEST before it left the harbour and on boarding it found the vessel’s master, Declan Cummins, 35, in the wheelhouse.

“He was barely able to stand up and not conscious of where he was or what he was doing. I informed him I was taking the vessel back to Cobh because he was a danger of himself, his crew and a danger to shipping both inside and outside the port,” Captain McCarthy said.

He added that none of the four crew members on board seemed capable of navigating the vessel properly.

Superintendent Pat Sheehan said Cummins was so intoxicated he had to be helped into the local garda station after Gardaí arrested him at the quay.

Captain McCarthy said it was fortunate that a vessel due to take on fuel at Whitegate had been delayed otherwise Cummins’ trawler could have collided with it. He said the harbour was an extremely busy place handling up to 6,000 shipping movements each year and if the SILVER HARVEST had managed to make it out of the harbour there could have been drastic consequences.

“Had it headed out to sea it could have foundered with the loss of crew, or it could have collided with shipping,” Captain McCarthy said.

Cummins, from Ballyhack, Arthurstown, New Ross, Co Wexford, admitted being incapable of discharging his proper duties as master of the vessel.

Judge Murrough Connellan questioned the possible serious outcome if Cummins had hit the Whitegate fuel pipeline or collided with other vessels and said he also had a duty to his crew of four. He imposed a six-month suspended sentence on Cummins and fined him a total of €875.



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