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December 2003

December 30

Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Jim Edgar, Tony Brennan, Ian Collard, Tommy Dover, Michael Bracken, Andrew Glyn-Williams, Dan Cross and "others"


Irish Sea Shipping would like to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous 2004.

A further update will be posted tomorrow, however, visitors to the site are reminded that there will be no update this weekend.


BEN-Y-CHREE  undertook what may well have been her last sailing to Dublin on December 27. 

With the 2004 timetables now available it has become clear that both the pre and post Christmas sailings on the Dublin route will be operated as time ashore day excursions by the LADY OF MANN. 

As usual, the BEN-MY-CHREE found it difficult to keep up with the scheduled five hour crossing time arriving at Dublin around the time she should have been departing on the return trip at 13:30. 

LADY OF MANN - though an enhanced service will be operated over the Christmas period in 2004, there will not be a daily Liverpool - Douglas service as was experimented with in November and December. This is not surprising as mid week passenger numbers often failed to reach 100. 

However, it does mean that for 2004 the double run on Fridays makes a reappearance - something which will please those enthusiasts who don't have to work on Fridays.



The Dutch coaster EMMAPLEIN was expected over the weekend December 27/28.

Traffic in the bay included EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR northbound on Monday [December 22] afternoon, a P51 type Irish navel vessel and various containerships and tankers headed or Dublin .

The tug ADA DOROTHY stayed at Wicklow harbour over Christmas, she moored alongside KILQUADE at the north quay.


Christmas Holiday lay-ups on the North Channel were as follows: At Larne - Continental Quay: EUROPEAN PIONEER, Chaine Quay: EUROPEAN MARINER, MacKean Quay: EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER and Curran Quay: EUROPEAN LEADER.

EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY laid up at Cairnryan.

Further south EUROPEAN SEAFARER spent the holiday at Dublin.


ELITE [STENA LYNX III] currently laid up at A&P Birkenhead has now been purchased by Stena Line. 

When she concluded her service on the Irish Sea this autumn the vessel's owners had already offered her to a potential Red Sea operator. 

However, as a consequence of the Red Sea deal falling through she was purchased by Stena.

It is expected that work to prepare her for the 2004 season on the Rosslare - Fishguard route will commence very soon. 


MERCHANT BRILLIANT which had been expected to lay up for the holiday period at West Float, Birkenhead on December 24, finally arrived on December 27.


PLYM - Reports in the Plymouth Evening Herald reveal that the bus operator First Group is boycotting one of the Torpoint ferries following a recent series of accidents. 

First Group is amending its timetables and advising other bus and HGV operators not to use the PLYM one of the three ferries which operate the Torpoint - Devonport crossing.

This change has come because of the risk to vehicles and 'potential environmental damage'. The last straw for the firm's bosses came last week when a First double-decker grounded as it was driven off the ferry at Torpoint at low tide.

The bus's compressed air system was punctured, automatically locking the brakes and leaving it stranded in the middle of the centre slipway, forcing passengers to get out and walk. By the time a rescue vehicle had driven 23 miles from Plymouth via Saltash, 90 minutes had passed and the rear of the bus was under water.

First managing director for Devon and Cornwall Gerald Taylor, said today: "I strongly advise operators of long wheelbase rigid vehicles not to use Torpoint ferry number two.

"In just two weeks, three of our vehicles have been damaged as a result of incidents involving the ferry. The Tamar is a precious asset for Plymouth, and I believe there is a serious risk of pollution through damage to vehicles that may be caused by this ferry."

First spokesman Stuart Render added that its buses had had a number of
difficulties with the PLYM, the oldest of the three Torpoint ferries.

"We have made substantial modifications to our fleet of seven double-decker buses using Torpoint, including moving the fuel tanks from the back to underneath and chopping off the backs so they can get safely on and off," he said.

"But we can't allow accidents like this to continue, so we are no longer allowing our double-deckers to use ferry number two. We have to use double-deckers on this main link between Plymouth and the Rame Peninsula."

He added: "The new ferries will help, but in the meantime we will be working closely with the ferry company.

"It will mean changes to the timetable, and we will be putting notices in the buses and at Bretonside bus station.

"There will be occasions when our buses can't get on a ferry and we apologise for the disruption this will cause to some journeys while this situation continues."

Ferry operations manager Tony Whetton said it was possible the geometry of the prow of the PLYM had changed and this was being looked into.

"The PLYM has not been refitted for three years and would have been in 2004, but it is due to be the first ferry replaced in December 2004.

"The ramps on the new ferries will be double articulated, and we will have to modify the slipways. But we will resolve the problem without a refit because we cannot allow this situation to continue for another 12 months."

Mr Whetton stressed there was no danger to the PLYM ferry during the latest incident.

"While we stopped it we continued to operate the other two ferries," he said.


HMS MERSEY the last of three offshore patrol vessels built to charter to the Royal Navy, was handed over by her builders, VT Shipbuilding (formerly Vosper Thornycroft), to the Royal Navy in a ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base on 18th December 2003.



The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) announced on December 22 that 17 foreign ships were under detention in UK ports during November 2003 after failing port state control safety inspection.

Latest monthly figures show that 10 foreign ships were detained in UK ports during November 2003 along with 7 other ships still under detention from previous months. The overall rate of detentions compared with inspections carried out over the last 12 months is 7.0% which is a decrease of 0.3% on the detention rate to October. Half the vessels detained during the month were targeted by the Paris MOU for priority inspection.

The ships detained in November included:-

• Russian, 1639 GT, 1978 built, general cargo ship for 5 days due to master being unable to provide evidence that the cargo was loaded and secured in accordance with the Cargo Securing Manual;
• Antigua and Barbuda, 2825 GT, 1993 built, general cargo ship for 1 day due to cargo shifting resulting in 8o list;
• Antigua and Barbuda, 3815 GT, 1991 built, general cargo ship for 2 days due to oil leakage from wing fuel oil tank and water ingress to double bottom tanks;
• Romanian, 16192 GT, 1979 built, bulk carrier for 7 days due to poor standard of fire and abandon ship drill, defective fire dampers and ISM deficiencies, a total of 20 deficiencies were recorded;
• Maltese, 17770 GT, 1975 built, tanker, for 12 days, re-detained from Rotterdam, detainable deficiencies included corroded/wasted hatch defects and HP double skin fuel pipes for main engine not connected to leakage alarm.

[November Detentions List - MCGA Site]

[JHL's Comment: It will be noted that the WARSAN - ex MERCHANT VENTURE appears in this list]


The Maritime & Coastguard Agency took the unusual step of releasing a tape of a purported hoax call made to their operations room in North Wales on the Saturday evening prior to Christmas. 

This has been released in an effort to try and identify the caller who may have made up to 3 other hoax calls in the past few weeks, also to the marine emergency service.

At 21:40hrs on Saturday 21st December, a call on VHF Channel 16 calling for assistance from the Coastguard was received by Holyhead Coastguard in North Wales.

On acknowledging the caller, it was reported that 5 persons were on board the fishing vessel `Caprice’ with total engine failure in Conwy Bay. At this time the wind was gale force 8 with wave height up to 4 metres, with heavy hailstone showers. Following the Coastguard advice to the caller to deploy the vessel’s anchor, both Llandudno Lifeboat and the Coastguard Rescue Team were sent to assist. There was no further contact from the `distressed’ vessel.

Following further investigations and a fruitless search of the area, the incident is now considered to be a hoax.

Jim Paton, District Operations Manager at Holyhead Coastguard today:

“We suspect that this is the 4th hoax call from same caller in recent weeks hence our actions in releasing this tape. During last week Rhyl Lifeboat was tasked following a call to assist an injured crew member on a fishing vessel off Rhyl. No such vessel was located. All of the calls have been made by a mature male voice on VHF Channel 16.

“We would urge all people who put to sea to make sure they give a land base contact their sailing plans and if they change in any way, to up date that contact ashore. It goes with out saying that we would like to remind the public how wasteful and potentially life threatening for others in need hoax calls can be, particularly at this time of year when members of the rescue services can be called away from the homes and families, and put their own lives at risk often in horrendous conditions.

"The important thing is that this hoax caller is found. Hoax calls can, and in this case did tie up a valuable maritime search and rescue resource.

” Those who risk their own safety to rescue others should also not be put at needless risk in responding to bogus distress calls.


The International Chamber of Shipping has ranked the Isle of Man in the top six of the world shipping registers. 

The Isle of Man is one of only six countries out of 104 listed by the ICS which has no negative performance indicators. 

The other five countries in the top six were Bermuda, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway and the U.K..

December 24

Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Tony Brennan, Ian Collard, Tommy Bryceland and "others"

The Irish Ferries dry docking programme is based exclusively on Merseyside this year. 

A&P will refit the conventional vessels at Birkenhead, whilst North Western Shiprepairers will refit JONATHAN SWIFT at Canada Dry Dock.

January  4th NORMANDY finishes French service in the morning
January  5th NORMANDY commences Pembroke service with 07:45 sailing to Pembroke.
January  4th ISLE OF INISHMORE sails to Dublin in the afternoon
January  5th ISLE OF INISHMORE commences on Holyhead route departing Dublin 09:05

January  5th ULYSSES sails to A&P Birkenhead in the morning

January 20th ULYSSES resumes Holyhead service 21:05 departure from Dublin [subject to confirmation]

January  20th ISLE OF INISHMORE sails to A&P Birkenhead [pm]
February  4th ISLE OF INISHMORE resumes Pembroke service 21:00 ex Rosslare

February  4th NORMANDY sails to A&P Birkenhead [pm]
February 24th NORMANDY leaves A&P [pm]
Feb 25th NORMANDY lays up for non dry-dock work AM.
March 5th NORMANDY resumes French service with afternoon sailing from Rosslare [subject to confirmation]

January 6th JONATHAN SWIFT finishes service with 20:15 departure from Holyhead.
January 7th JONATHAN SWIFT sails to North Western Ship Repairers - Canada Dry Dock.
January 27th JONATHAN SWIFT resumes service from Dublin at 12.15 [subject to confirmation]




STENA EUROPE - will refit in February at Brest.




EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR proceeded to Harland and Wolff on December 24. She is expected to enter dry-dock on December 28.

NORBANK arrived at A&P Birkenhead and entered #5 dry dock on the morning of December 24.


EUROPEAN ENVOY has laid up for Christmas at the P&O Terminal in Liverpool.


EUROPEAN DIPLOMAT has been laid up in Vittoria Dock, Birkenhead since last week.




MERCHANT BRILLIANT - despite being shown in the movements list as due for West Float for repairs , Birkenhead on December 24, MERCHANT BRILLIANT had not arrived by early afternoon.


MERCHANT BRAVERY - arrived at A&P Birkenhead for dry docking on the morning of December 24, entering the yard ahead of NORBANK


MERSEY VIKING proceeded to Canada Graving Dock, after arriving from Belfast on December 24.


LINDAROSA proceeded to lay-up for the holidays at West Langton Dock, Liverpool on December 24.




RIVERDANCE arrived at NSL Bidston yard on the morning of December 24, to joining her sister MOONDANCE which arrived on December 22. MOONDANCE being in dry dock.

December 20

Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Kevin Bennett, Tommy Dover and "others". 


An additional update was posted on December 17. 


This has been corrected and if you didn't read the news for the 17 thinking it was the 13 check below this update!

The next scheduled update is Christmas Eve. However, it is likely that there will be another update on Monday.


The revised range of CDs will be announced early next week.


LADY OF MANN is understood to have come into contact with Prince's Landing Stage as she departed on the 19:00 sailing to Douglas on Saturday December 20. A request was made to the pilot station on the Landing Stage to check for damage to the starboard side. However, she was able to get away on her sailing.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN moved from dry dock to the wet basin at A&P Birkenhead. She reported all fast at 19:29 to Mersey Radio with next movement due in March.


EUROPEAN DIPLOMAT has laid up for the holiday season at the Vittoria Dock ro/ro berth at Birkenhead.

EUROPEAN SEAFARER finally departed from Merseyside early on Saturday December 20.


MOONDANCE - which should have arrived at North Western Shiprepairers on Saturday December 20, will now arrive on Monday morning December 22. 

RIVERDANCE which should have arrived at North Western on December 23, will now arrive on the morning of December 24.


SVITZER BOOTLE - the new tug for the Merseyside station arrived on Friday, December 19.


The historic sailing vessel did not manage to get around to the Albert Dock this week. When she was put back in the water she was found to be leaking and was lifted out again. [ ]



Coaster callers this week included mv ANKE. Ships expected over the weekend are JOKER and KORALLE.

MERSEY MAMMOTH arrived from Liverpool late in the week to lift the OLIVE RACHEL from the seabed south of Wicklow head, the vessel was raised and pumped out, and then taken to Arklow, the tug ADA DOROTHY and Hunter Marine's KILQUADE assisted in the operation.

Traffic in the bay included the Coastguard helicopter on a training flight.


The future of the Fleetwood to Knott End Ferry service is now seriously in doubt.

Back in April the future of the service looked bright, with the promise of a purpose built passenger vessel and slipway improvements.

Lancashire County Council had already appointed a naval architect to design and build the new boat on the condition that Wyre Borough Council had to commit to a 10-year deal to pay the running costs of the vessel.

However, Wyre councillors decided to shelve the project during at a cabinet meeting this week.

They blame lack of interest in the service and a rise in costs after it was estimated that each £3.80 trip would require a £7 subsidy from the council per person.

Wyre's Portfolio Holder for Physical Environment, Cllr Peter Hawley said: "We did not take this decision lightly and it is sad that it has come to this.

"But the cost of providing the service would simply be too great for the people of Wyre."

Wyre Borough Council have pledged to put their current ferry budget of £10,000 into improving existing bus services between Fleetwood and Knott End. But a spokesman for the current ferry operators - Wyre Waste Management,  Ian Drury, said: "We're all very disappointed with this latest development.

"Over the last couple of years we've spent a lot of time and effort trying to give the ferry service some credibility and we feel a lot of people have come to rely on it.

"The excuse that the service was not generating enough interest and income is ridiculous.

"Our records show that, each season, we were taking more than 14, 000 people to and from Fleetwood to Knott End.

"That is an awful lot of cash generated by tourism for local trade and we can't believe that the council can just lose interest in such a profitable project.

"And, as far as we were concerned, we had got through the red tape, the plans had been agreed and the money was in place to go ahead with the new plans. We just don't understand the cold feet all of a sudden."

"Over the course of our negotiations with the council we even offered to set up a scheme whereby we buy the actual ferry slip site over a ten year period to cut out any hint of a risk for them. But unfortunately, now the plug has been pulled, we're going to have to look at other alternatives to keep the service up and running, possibly including local investment."

"One thing is for sure, we can't let the ferry service go back to the state it was in two years ago."


Some seasonal specials from RTÉ's excellent Seascapes programme:

St. Stephen's / Boxing  Day - December 26th Christmas at Sea, an hour-long special
10:00 on RTÉ Radio 1. 

Monday, December 29th,  Seascapes Review of the Maritime Year 15.30 on RTÉ Radio 1.

From Thursday January 8, 2004 Seascapes will be broadcast at the new time  of 19:30 each Thursday.

Seascapes can be received on 567AM in the UK / Isle of Man or you can listen live on the web or to a recording.


UNIQUE the Mongolian registered cargo ship is to be sold by auction by order of the Admiralty Court on January 9, 2004.

This follows a request from the International Transport Federation which aims to raise funds for the pay of the 6 crew on board - three Russians and three Pakistanis and to fund their flights home.

The ship was escorted into Dublin by the Naval Service and subject to a search by Customs officers.

Nothing untoward was discovered by the ship had been suspected of carrying illegal immigrants.


There is still no news regarding the future of Appledore Shipbuilders.

Receivers Tenon Recovery are believed to still be in discussion with  an unknown interested party, believed by some to be Devonport Management Ltd.

Reports in the press now suggest a deal my be done by Tuesday, December 23.


On December 20, the Western Morning News reported that the lucrative cruise ship business is booming in Cornwall . In Falmouth , visits from cruise ships have quadrupled, bringing money-spending passengers to the area.

And Destination South West, the project set up to encourage cruise ships to call at ports along the region's coast, is seeing an increase across West Country ports.

With an average of £50 spent per passenger, per port the visits add up to big money for
Devon and Cornwall 's economy.

Falmouth , which has been particularly successful in attracting the cruise market, next year looks set to be even busier. A &P ( Falmouth ) Ltd, that runs the docks where many liners berth, announced that it already has 43 cruise calls booked for 2004, carrying a complement of around 39,000 passengers.

In addition to regular visitors like the Van Gogh, which starts and ends cruises from the town, next year will also see the first visit to
Falmouth from ResidenSea's super luxury vessel The World.

Mike Reynolds, Port Operations Manager for A &P, said the figures for 2004 are already looking very healthy.

He said: "We ended 2003 with a total of 39 cruise calls, so having 43 ships already booked to call at the port is very promising. In 1999 we only had ten vessels call at the port but since then the numbers have increased dramatically every year. I fully expect the number of cruise calls to continue to rise during the next five years and I think that 50 calls a year is a realistic target."

Bob Harrison of Destination South West said more passengers visiting
Falmouth also meant more income for the town.

He said: "A study we had carried out by a researcher from
Plymouth University showed that, on average, cruise ship passengers each spend more than £50 in each port. With hundreds, and sometimes thousands of passengers, on each vessel, that means a substantial boost to the local economy from every cruise ship that calls."

Work by Destination South West to promote ports between
Torbay , the Isles of Scilly and Ilfracombe is also paying off with the cruise ship operators.

December 17

Acknowledgements: Ian Collard, Gary Andrews and "others" 


This is an extra update posted to keep on top of the news and views. On the run up to Christmas quite a lot can happen, with vessels coming into the various Irish Sea ports for Christmas and New Year lay-up and maintenance. 

This is certainly a time of year in which cameras can be kept quite busy. If you do capture any interesting seasonal movements in the area covered by "Irish Sea Shipping the On Line Shipping Magazine" please forward them for inclusion. 


The first in a new series of Photographic CDs will be released in the next few days. Information should be on line on Saturday, with on-line ordering via Pay-Pal for instant despatch.


BEN-MY-CHREE - The company has issued the following press release concerning the forthcoming refit:

Extended passenger accommodation will be added to The Isle of Man Steam Packet flagship Ben My Chree during its biennial overhaul in 2004.

The work will be carried out by Northwestern  Ship Repairers Ltd., Birkenhead at a cost of £1.5 million.

Ben My Chree will enter the shipyard on 6th January 2004 when the initial work will commence. The vessel will return to service around the 5th February 2004 with the final phase of the extension being completed in time for the busy Easter period.

Hamish Ross, Steam Packet Managing Director said,' The work planned to be carried out on Ben My Chree reflects the confidence we have in this Company, the route and the Isle of Man. Since the vessel was built, the demands upon it and the Island have grown tremendously. These improvements will allow us to provide enhanced onboard facilities for our passengers including the provision of the highly popular '1st' lounge found on our other vessels. 

The extra accommodation enabling the vessel to carry 200,000 additional passengers annually, includes a dedicated bar area and open deck space with seating and a promenade area. These enhancements will also enable the Island to grow the coach market and will provide a springboard to launch us into 2004. We are very excited about this latest major investment as we approach our 175th birthday celebrations'.

The extension plans follow the decision to operate the Company's passenger car ferry Lady of Mann on a daily winter service between the Island and Liverpool during November and December this year.

Ben My Chree arrived in the Island in early July 1998 sailing direct from its builders van der Giessen-de Noord, Rotterdam when over 5,000 people welcomed her to the Island and inspected her from stem to stern.

The vessel broke the mould in design terms for The Steam Packet, being constructed to serve in a modern age alongside Seacat fast craft. It was also imperative for an Island community heavily dependent upon the reliability of the Company and its vessels that it was able to sustain year round services carrying both passengers and freight. Ben My Chree currently operates a twice daily year round service between Heysham and the Isle of

At 12,500 tonnes Ben My Chree, the 6th Company vessel to be so named, takes her place as being the largest ship ever owned by The Steam Packet and was the first new build for the Company since the passenger car ferry Lady of Mann in 1976.



This trading statement is made in advance of the end of the financial year on 31st December, 2003. The preliminary statement of results for 2003 is expected to be made on Tuesday, 16th March, 2004.

At the time of the interim statement in September, 2003, the Board's belief was that the full year outcome would be similar to that of 2002. With the benefit of the results to date, the Board remains confident of that position.

Port Operations Division
At the Port of Liverpool, container volumes are expected to be well ahead of last year particularly reflecting increased Mediterranean volumes. In the agribulks sector overall throughput will be similar to last year. As reported at the half year Irish Sea ro/ro volumes are down on 2002, but the shortfall has been counterbalanced by the positive revenue impact of the Twelve Quays river terminal. At Medway, steel exports will boost general cargo volumes to record levels and Forest Products will also be marginally up on last year. Fresh produce imports and car imports will show a small decline from 2002. The number of containers handled at Marine Terminals in Dublin has continued to show the strong growth evident at the half year. Heysham will show a satisfactory financial performance in the light of reduced ro/ro volumes. In overall terms the Port Operations Division will match last year's operating profit.

Shipping Division
The Shipping Division has made progress in a highly competitive market. An encouraging increase in volumes will produce improved results at BG Freightline and Concorde Container Line, with Coastal Container Line improving on its first half performance. Overall, some improvement in the Division's operating profit is expected.

Logistics and Road Transport Division
The main Roadferry business has made further progress in building up its volumes to take full advantage of the increased capacity available. The tank transport businesses continue to suffer from the market conditions explained at the half year. The Division's operating profit for the year is expected to show a small shortfall on last year.

Property Division
The Property Division will show results commensurate with those for the first half.

At Princes Dock, the developments outlined in the interim statement continue to progress. Further lettings at the new office building have recently been announced and some 30% of the space is now accounted for. Plans for a larger (735 space rather than 575) multi-storey car park are well advanced. The increase in size is in response to the existing and proposed developments and will make more efficient use of the land. Plans for the first residential development at Princes Dock have been submitted to the planning authority by the developer, City Loft Developments.

Work continues on revising the Master Plan for the development of the Central Docks site.

Overall, trading is in line with expectations. Group operating profit is expected to be somewhat ahead of last year and the increase will enable the Group to deliver a pre tax profit very similar to 2002, notwithstanding a £2 million increase in interest, which principally reflects the cost of the share buy back programme. A further 4,285,000 shares have been bought in for cancellation since the half year making 7,595,000 for the full year, at a cost of £41.3million. Capital expenditure for the year, including leasing of £3.9million, will be approximately £24 million. Cash generation remains strong, and debt at the year-end is expected to be approximately £245 million.

The second half of 2003 has seen tentative signs of improvement in economic conditions and these are reflected in our outlook for 2004. In our Port Operations division, container volumes in Liverpool and Dublin should show continuing growth and we expect some recovery in our ro/ro sector as the near-term uncertainty in the Irish Sea is resolved. The agribulks and fresh produce sectors are expected to be modestly positive, but the outlook for cars is less favourable. Medway should receive a further boost from growing steel exports. The Shipping and Transport divisions also expect to advance in the coming year, and the Property division is likely to benefit from further lettings and some disposal proceeds at Princes Dock.

The Board is confident of overall progress and that the recent capital investment programme has provided the capacity to enable the Group to take advantage of the expected upturn.


The saga continues - This report is from The Scotsman:

Plans to restart the ferry link between Campbeltown and Northern Ireland next year look set to fail, although there are still hopes of a long-term future for the service.

An action group which has discovered three potential operators for the service, met Nicol Stephen, the transport minister, to discuss progress. It says it could operate at a profit and has identified an extra 50,000 single trip passengers a year from new developments in the area since the ferry last ran, as well as 10 HGV cargoes a week.

A spokesman for the Dalriada Business Action Group said: "The re-instatement of the ferry service will be a key factor in transforming the economy of Kintyre, Argyll and the West Highlands. However there must be a long-term commitment to the route from the Scottish Executive."

DBAG said use of the ferry could increase significantly by the development of a number of lucrative specialist niche markets which have been identified, while there is potential for new trade links to develop between Scotland and Ireland.

The link between Campbeltown and Ballycastle ran for three years between 1997 and 1999 before being withdrawn. Since then efforts have been made to re-instate it, although in February when the Scottish Executive put the service out to tender no bids were received despite the offer of a £1 million a year public subsidy for five years.

DBAG told the minister that potential operators identified significant difficulties with the previous tender specification.

The DBAG spokesman added: "It was agreed that the practicalities of re-drafting the tender to ensure a 2004 start made this an unlikely scenario. All present recognised that any short-term measure to establish the route must not compromise the longer -term viability."

He added: "The Minister was urged to take on board the fact that the re-establishment of the ferry service was more than a transport issue and was in fact the key to the economic transformation of Kintyre, Argyll and the West Highlands. The permanent re-establishment of the sea route between Kintyre and Ireland would once again change the focus on Campbeltown from being an end-of-the-line destination to a vibrant hub.

"We are satisfied that the Scottish Executive is acting in good faith to take steps to explore all avenues which will lead to a satisfactory long-term outcome for the route. "

The link between Campbeltown and Ballycastle was launched with Sea Containers setting up the Argyll & Antrim Steam Packet company to run it. The service received £8 million from public agencies.

It was hoped the twice-daily service would create more than 200 jobs and raise £7 million. But in 1999, the AA Line, reported to be losing £500,000 a year on the route, withdrew from the service.


Reports in the local press indicate that Gerry White, a member of the consortium which now owns the Cammell Laird, south yard site has challenged Birkenhead MP Frank Field to prove that the yard could be used to complete contracts. 

Mr. White claims that  Frank Field is falsely building up hopes of a return to Cammell Laird's glory days and that the Reddington Finance consortium has contacted over 300 companies around the world to see if anyone would lease the site for ship building. 

Reddington insist that the yard is unsuited to ship repair, but Mr. Field says "There is plenty of ship repair work that could be done on that site - to say it cannot be used for that is wrong."

December 13

Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Tommy Dover, "NSL" and "others".


At around 15:00 on Saturday December 13, the total number of hits to the Irish Sea Shipping website front page had reached 144,444. The count commenced two years and three days ago, back on December 10, 2001. However, the total number of visits to the site is likely to be much more, especially if people enter another part of the site via a search engine.

Unfortunately the log from the previous counter used on the web site until autumn 2001 has not survived, but it is certain, that combined the total hits would exceed a quarter of a million  if one reckoned to the site's early days.

It is rather sobering to think that in the autumn of 2004, Irish Sea Shipping will celebrate its 10th Anniversary.

It was in September 1994 that a short posting entitled "Mersey Shipping News" started to appear on the UKForums of CompuServe, usually posted on a Saturday evening. The posting grew from an online message to a weekly news file posted to several CompuServe Forums. 

As CompuServe began to offer access to the developing internet it wasn't long before Mersey Shipping News had become  the "Mersey Shipping" web site using some rather crude software to edit and upload the site. The site name later expanded to "Mersey and Irish Sea Shipping" before settling on the current name "Irish Sea Shipping - The Online Shipping Magazine". 

The size of the main site in the early days was around 5 megabytes. Currently it stands at a little over 160 Megabytes and looks set to grow even further now that broadband connectivity is available. 

Back in the early days virtually all the material posted was compiled by your web master. Now each update is very much a "team effort" involving material submitted by regular and occasional contributors from around the Irish Sea. 

One wonders just what the counter will show next December?


BEN-MY-CHREE is due to arrive at North Western Ship Repairers Bidston for dry docking, bi-annual maintenance and passenger certificate renewal. During the four week dry docking a new 110 tonne accommodation module will be fitted aft of the present accommodation on deck 7. The ship will return to service before the accommodation is outfitted. Work is scheduled for completion at the end of March 2004.

LADY OF MANN - During the BEN-MY-CHREE's absence the passenger service between Douglas and Heysham will operate Mondays to Thursdays departing Douglas at 09:00 and returning from Heysham at 14:15.

The Douglas - Liverpool service will operate Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately the Friday departure from Liverpool at 14:15 is somewhat unfortunate as it precludes weekend visits to the Isle of Man from Liverpool for those who may not finish work until much later. One wonder's why the Liverpool departure time could not have been held to its usual Liverpool departure time of 19:00 on Fridays?

HOBURGEN (ex. Dart 5 ) [9080 grt] owned by Gotland Steamship Company of Sweden will provide freight cover during the refit.


MOONDANCE is due to dry dock at NSL Bidston on December 20 for general work.

RIVERDANCE is due at NSL Bidston repair quay [West Float] for stern ramp modifications and general repairs on December 23.


ISLE OF MULL departed from North Western Shiprepairers Bidston Dry Dock on December 11.


MERSEY VIKING is due at Canada Graving Dock for annual dry docking and passenger certificate renewal on December 24. The vessel will also have both tailshafts overhauled.


EUROPEAN SEAFARER which is currently in Canada Graving Dock has had 1500 m2 SPS [Overlay plates and inject epoxy] work undertaken on the upper vehicle deck. The port main engine crankshaft has been changed for new and has undergone general dry dock work and passenger certificate renewal. She is expected to depart around December 16/17.


WHITSIDE entered NSL Bidston dry dock on December 10 for tailshaft overhaul and general repairs expected to last 8 days.



Passenger figures compiled by the Harbours Division for November 2003 at 27,031 show a 0.4% increase on the figure for the same period in 2002 which was 26,914.

The year to date figure at 631,154 passengers shows a 0.4% increase over the same period in 2002 which was 628,718.

During November car and motorcycle traffic through Douglas Harbour increased by 7.7% from 7,713 vehicles to 8,305 vehicles.

The year to date figure at 167,344 vehicles shows a 1.9% increase over the same period in 2002 which was 164,300.

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


Minus 7%






Plus 15%





Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew comments:

I am pleased to report record passenger figures for any November. The extra capacity and choice provided by the Lady of Mann daily service to Liverpool has helped increase car and motorcycle traffic by nearly 600 vehicles.

[JHL's COMMENT: One wonders if the daily Liverpool to Douglas service will continue in autumn 2004? 

A 15% increase in passengers may look good on paper, but there has been a noticeable decrease in passenger carryings to Heysham. This obviously confirms that a significant number of  passengers would prefer to travel between the Isle of Man and Liverpool rather than Heysham. 


However, it is understood that quite a few of the mid-week evening sailings from Liverpool to  Douglas have carried well under 100 pax.]


Talks were held on Friday December 12 to discuss the future of the Cammell Laird south yard. 

The yard was purchased by Reddington Finance who wish to redevelop the site for residential and recreational use earlier this year. At the beginning of November Reddington dramatically blew-up the south yard cranes - almost as though it was a gesture to suggest that the site's shipbuilding days were finally over.

At present Wirral Council's planning guidelines state that the site can only be used for marine industry. Local politicians believe that the site is still capable of supporting shipbuilding, though Reddington claim it is time to use the site for other purposes. 

Press reports on Saturday, indicate that no further demolition work will be undertaken on the site until the new year to allow further investigation of the use of the site for maritime activities.


Two small coasters CELEBRITY [Faversham Ships] and GEMINUS [River Sea Trading] are in the Clarence Graving Docks undergoing repairs to for bottom damage.


The Historic Warships based at East Float, Birkenhead have a new look web site which can be found at a new url:


The restoration of this historic sailing ship has taken place very rapidly. Just over ten weeks after being raised from the bottom of Collingwood Dock, the GLACIERE was placed back in the water on Friday December 12 and is due to sail round to Canning river entrance on December 16 afternoon tide. For more information


Summer 2004 will see two significant Tall Ship events on the Irish Sea based at Barrow and Douglas. Full details see

There will also be the opportunity to do a Round the Island Cruise on the Russian Tallship MIR or take a shorter day trip on this or one of the other visiting vessels. Full details on the historical ships web site above.



Coasters calling at Wicklow this week included SCOT VENTURE, BALTIC MAGDA and UNION GEM.

The tug ADA DOROTHY and KILQUADE were over the sunken mussel trawler this week, I have not heard any details of what is the next plan of action to raise the vessel.

Traffic in the bay  included JOPI late in the week bringing rock from Arklow to the 5 mile point. EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR and a P22 TYPE Navel vessel.


APOLLON  [ex Canadian Pacific EMPRESS OF CANADA] arrived at Alang for demolition on December 4, 2003.

ALBATROS [ex Cunard SYLVANIA] currently chartered by Phoenix Reisen  has cancelled its world cruise. It is also beloved that the ship's charter from V Ships has been cancelled and she is being offered for sale. This will almost certainly see the steamer heading for the breakers. 

December 10



Only a short update this evening. Contrary to what was advised on Saturday, there will now be an update this Saturday.


On Monday December 8, two hundred Merchant Navy seamen were granted the Freedom of the City of Liverpool in recognition of their services during the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II.

The freedom of the city was conferred by the Lord Mayor Councillor Ron Gould at the Town Hall.


Plans have been drawn up to sympathetically redevelop Stanley Dock. This will lead to the retention of the Stanley Tobacco Warehouse, the largest brick built building in the world, as well as the older Hartley warehouses on the site. Details and illustration of the imaginative plan can be found on the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo website


Barrow based James Fisher has taken over contracts of two double-hull new builds currently being constructed in South Korea.

The company is reported to be paying $32m for the two 12,800 dwt clean petroleum tankers.

Delivery of the ships is due for September 2004 and January 2005. The new builds will replace the two older chartered ships in the company's fleet of 18 vessels.

Next year the company is plans to order new vessels to replace the older smaller vessels. The upgrade program will see the company having the youngest coastal fleet amongst UK operators.


ROYAL DAFFODIL was understood to be having engine and generator problems on Monday evening whilst at Seacombe stage.


The October list of detained foreign vessels has been posted on the MCGA web site  and includes several recent visitors to Merseyside.



Minister of State, John Spellar, MP, today welcomed the introduction of six variable message signs, which will provide users of the Strangford Lough Ferry Service with up-to-date sailing information.

The Minister said: "These hi-tech signs will be controlled directly from the ferry terminal at Strangford and will keep passengers fully informed about sailing times and any disruptions to the service which may occur due to fog, high winds or other circumstances.

"The light emitting diode displays will be fully operational by mid December 2003. The signs are located at each ferry slipway at Strangford and Portaferry, on the A25 between Downpatrick and Strangford, on the A20 Portaferry Road, Newtownards, at the A20 south of Kircubbin and at the A2 opposite Kirkistown Golf Club, Cloughey."

December 6

Acknowledgements: Ian Collard, Michael Bracken, Tommy Dover, Gary Andrews and "others".


Additional updates were posted on December 01, 02 and 03. Please check "What's New". The next scheduled update has been changed to Wednesday December 10. 



Coaster callers this week included MARJESCO, ALMENUM, TRANSMARE and UNION SATURN.

Passing traffic included EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR , JOPI and a P42 Type Irish Navel vessel,

MSC ANNEKE and LADY OH left the harbour this week, after working with KILQUADE and ADA DOROTHY on raising the mussel trawler near Mizzen Head. The trawler was moved to a location nearer the shore, but was not raised to the surface. I have heard a unconfirmed report that the crane ship MERSEY MAMMOTH could be returning to lift the vessel off the seabed.


JOPI left the port early in the week, I saw her arrive in Dublin port on Monday night, she was passing HMS OCEAN which was on a courtesy visit.


The Manxman Steamship Company has relocated its web site to


The Irish Times reported that competition watchdogs on both sides of the Irish Sea will extend their investigation of Stena's planned E70 million acquisition of P&O's Dublin-Liverpool and Larne-Fleetwood services, and P&O's decision to close its Dublin-Mostyn service.

In a statement on December 04, the Irish Competition Authority said it planned to carry out a "phase two" investigation of the deals between the pair, because a month-long preliminary investigation failed to determine if it will substantially lessen competition for ferry services.

The authority added that the UK Competition Commission planned to carry out a similar inquiry of the ferry operators' deals under British competition legislation.

The Competition Authority's statement said the investigation would specifically look at their competitive impact on both freight and passenger services on the Irish Sea. Its move means the authority cannot clear the transactions until March 5th, 2004.

Stena agreed to acquire the two services last May. The parties informed the Competition Authority last month, at which point it began its initial investigation.

The mergers and acquisitions provisions of the Competition Act, 2002 oblige the authority to investigate deals on the scale of the P&O/Stena transaction.

It has up to one month to carry out the preliminary investigation. If it cannot determine the impact of an agreement on competition after that time, it has to begin a three-month phase two probe.


MALLARD - the car ferry which operates across Lake Windermere has been causing problems for local residents and visitors recently.

The sound occurs when the vessel arrives at the shipway and has been apparent for the past eight months.

John Robinson of ferry operators Cumbria County Council explained that the problem had arisen after the routine replacement earlier this year of wearing bars at the ends of the ferry's boarding ramps.

The bars scraped along the concrete slipways as the ferry docks.

A loud noise had occurred before but went away once the bars had worn down to match the shape of the concrete slipways  either side of the lake at Far Sawrey and Ferry Nab, Windermere.

To try to silence the screech this time, the ferry was taken out of service in June to grind the new bars to shape.

But although the grinding has successfully helped to turn the volume down, the screech is still there and is still generating complaints, according to Coun Morphet.

"As far as I can see, we haven't come anywhere near to finding a satisfactory solution," he said.

"We can hear that ferry docking on the far side of the lake. It was audible at Windermere Golf Club and that's three miles away!"

Following a complaint from Windermere Parish Council, environmental protection officers from South Lakeland District Council monitored the screech in the summer and concluded that it was too noisy.

But because they had received the complaint from the parish council and not an individual, they had dealt with it informally, raising their concerns with CCC rather than pursuing legal enforcement proceedings.

To solve the problem, Coun Morphet suggested CCC install nylon rollers instead of wearing bars or asked their skippers to wait for the ferry to stop before dropping the ramps.

Ferry committee member and county councillor Ron Mein said operators could leave the ramps horizontal until the ferry docked, or install sled-style runners.

Mr. Robinson said quickly lowering the ramps speeded up the ferry's operation and added that he would take on board Coun Morphet's comments.

The committee agreed to press CCC to take "urgent action" to stop the screech.

An idea to bring on board a corporate sponsor for Windermere's ferry got a cautious welcome from the councillors. As reported in last week's Westmorland Gazette, an unnamed national retailer with strong local connections has expressed an interest in sponsoring the vessel.

This week, members of the Windermere Ferry Advisory Panel supported the sponsorship idea in principle but stressed that advertising should not be over the top while decisions should be made following proper consultation.

It will now be left to CCC officers to negotiate the terms of any deal. CCC's ferry officer John Robinson refused to name the potential advertiser, claiming talks were at a sensitive stage.



The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) announced today that 20 foreign ships were under detention in UK ports during October 2003 after failing port state control safety inspection.

Latest monthly figures show that 13 foreign ships were detained in UK ports during October 2003 along with 7 other ships still under detention from previous months. The overall rate of detentions compared with inspections carried out over the last 12 months is 7.3% which is a decrease of 0.1% on the detention rate to September.

The ships detained in October included:-

• an Antigua and Barbuda, 1898 GT, 2000, general cargo ship for 2 days due to deck cargo completely obscuring forward vision. Vessel released following acceptable equivalent arrangements agreed with flag State
• a Norwegian, 2791 GT, 1975, general cargo ship for 5 days due to faulty air start system, effecting safe starting and manoeuvring of ship, following report from pilot
• a Russian, 1948 GT, 1963, general cargo ship for 7 days due to holes in No 1 hatch cover, starboard lifeboat in poor condition and inventory incomplete, and failure of shipboard safety management system, a total of 18 deficiencies were recorded . Ship released for one off voyage for dry-docking
• a Maltese, 16,543 GT, 1981, bulk carrier, still under detention at the end of October, due to lifeboat davit mounting bolts severely wasted, engine room fire dampers seized, unsatisfactory fire and abandon ship drill. ISM deficiencies included unsatisfactory maintenance of ship and equipment and unsatisfactory emergency preparedness. A total of 27 deficiencies were recorded.
• a Thai, 10,964 GT, 1981, bulk carrier for 3 days due to No 1 port topside tank ring frames buckled, corroded and cracked and shell longitudinals corroded and detached. A total of 10 deficiencies were recorded.



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