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NEWS BULLETIN

May 2004

May 30
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Alex McCormac, Tony Brennan, Michael Bracken and "others"

ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY

LADY OF MANN operated a "Round the Island" cruise on Saturday May 29 in support of the Alzheimer's Society. She is to operate a similar cruise on Sunday May 30 in support of the Manxman Steamship Company.

NORSE MERCHANT FERRIES

MERSEY VIKING was dry docked on Thursday at Canada Graving Dock for attention to her bow thruster over the bank holiday weekend. Meanwhile BRAVE MERCHANT is covering MERSEY VIKING's sailings. Birkenhead - Dublin sailings usually operated by BRAVE MERCHANT are being covered by SAGA MOON.

CARNIVAL CORPORATION

QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 will visit Liverpool on Monday May 31. She is expected to arrive between 08:00 and 09:00. Mersey Ferries are operating an evening cruise to escort the liner out of the Mersey when she departs in the evening.

RESIDENSEA

THE WORLD of Residensea, the floating condominium will visit Liverpool between June 03 - 06.

WAVERLEY STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY

BALMORAL is currently operating on the Irish Sea, and will provide cruises from Liverpool next weekend. Details from Waverley Excursions

WICKLOW & EAST COAST NOTES from Tommy Dover

Coasters calling at the port this week included  MAREIKE , WANI WIND ex NORTHERN WIND , UNION GEM , KORALLE and JOKER.

Traffic in the bay included GRANUAILE southbound, various yachting traffic , mussel trawlers and a school of Dolphins !

A mussel trawler was working in the bay during the week, she tied up overnight at the north pier.

Wicklow Rowing club skiffs were out training for the East coast races held during the summer, the clubs annual 'regatta ' is held on the August bank holiday Monday.

MARITIME & COASTGUARD AGENCY

PORTAVOGIE SKIPPER PROSECUTED BY MCA FOR FAILING TO KEEP PROPER LOOKOUT

At Newtonards Magistrate’s court on Wednesday 26th May 2004, the owner and skipper of the fishing vessel ASPIRE (B903) pleaded guilty to failing to ascertain that risk of collision existed.

The Magistrate fined Mr Phillip McMullan £500 plus £500 in costs for breaching Rule 7(a) and (d)(i) of the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea, for failing to ascertain that risk of collision existed.

On 18th December 2002, The ASPIRE was returning to Portavogie when she was in collision with the clam dredger MARISCOS off Burial Island. The MARISCOS immediately capsized momentarily trapping the two crewmen in the upturned wheelhouse. They both managed to swim free and floated to the surface. One of the crew of the ASPIRE quickly donned a survival suit and lifejacket and jumped into the water. He assisted the two men to the side of the ASPIRE where other crew members brought them safely aboard.

In mitigation Mr McMullen claimed that the low winter sun seriously affected his ability to see the MARISCOS, and his radar picture was confused with spurious echoes.

The Magistrate said in her summing up that she noted what the defence had said in mitigation but this was a very serious offence.

Captain Bill Bennett, Surveyor in Charge of the MCA Belfast Marine Office, said,

“The agency is concerned that the skipper Mr McMullen seemed to have overlooked the fact that where visibility is affected by rain, snow or bright sunlight it is vital that additional steps are taken to ensure that a proper lookout is maintained; If necessary slowing down or stopping until it is clear that there are no obstructions or other vessels ahead.”
 

May 23
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Liston, Ian Collard, Tony Brennan, Kevin Bennett, Tommy Dover, Jenny Williamson and "others".

ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY

LADY OF MANN departed from the berth at North Western Ship Repairers in West Float, Birkenhead on Friday May 21. She proceeded to Alfred Lock, where she entered the river around mid day and ran engine trials out to the Bar. She then returned and entered Langton Lock, proceeding to her berth at Alexandra Dock.

SUPERSEACAT TWO - a problem with the ride control system caused a delay to the Friday evening sailing to Douglas departure from Liverpool being almost three hours behind schedule. The 09:30 sailing to Dublin on Saturday was also delayed for around 30 minutes. However, a smart turn round at Dublin meant that her arrival back at Liverpool was only 10 minutes behind schedule.

LOUGH FOYLE FERRY COMPANY - RATHMULLEN - BUNCRANA SERVICE

Donegal County Council have announced that the new ferry service between Rathmullen and Buncrana will commence operation on May 28. The service will initially operate seasonally until late September being aimed at the tourist market.

The hours of operation will be between 10:00 and 20:00 daily. Crossing times will be 25 minutes. Foot passenger fare is €3.00 and cars €12.00

The new service is being supported by Donegal County Council whilst the level of demand is determined. The Lough Foyle Ferry Company operators of the successful Greencastle to Magilligan ferry will operate the service using the FOYLE RAMBLER. She was built in Germany as the STEDINGEN for Fähren Bremen-Stedingen GmbH to operate across the River Weser. She was delivered to the Foyle Ferry Company two months ago.

WICKLOW & EAST COAST NOTES from Tommy Dover

The only coaster observed at the port this week was MV LEONA.(ex SCOT CARRIER)

Traffic in the bay included the USS LA SALLE out of Dublin after a courtesy call, LE ORLA south bound, the containership CORVETTE, tanker CRESCENT HIGHWAY and GRANUAILE.

The relief fleet Tyne class lifeboat OWEN & ANNE ASHER ( 47-017 ) made a overnight stop while on passage south.

Wicklow lifeboat launched for a winch exercise with the Coastguard s61n helicopter in the bay.

LAXEY TOWING COMPANY

KARINA - Age Concern have chartered Laxey Towing Company's passenger vessel for cruise in Douglas Bay to watch the fireworks on Tuesday 8 June. Drinks and Canapes are to be provided.

Departure will be around 20:30. Fireworks are timed for 23:00 therefore the return should be around 23:45. For bookings and more information.  For more information, 'phone Margaret Mansfield on 01624 480368. Tickets available from Denise on 613044 (12.00 to 16.00)

DART VALLEY RAILWAY plc

The operator of passenger ship services on the River Dart, linking Dartmouth with Totnes and Kingswear and operator of pleasure cruises from Dartmouth its annual report this week.

In his report to shareholders Chairman David Madge reported that the Dart Valley Railway plc enjoyed another profitable year in 2003 despite incurring a small loss on the company's nautical activities.

This was blamed the budget for vessel maintenance was blown apart when the Marine and Coastguard Authority, decided that major works were needed on the CARDIFF CASTLE. There were also additional costs incurred in sending two vessels to Plymouth for overhaul as a result of the company's Old Mill yard being out of action for longer than forecast in 2002, the net result being an overspend of £83,572. This was exacerbated by a 38% increase in insurance premiums.

The Dartmouth to Kingswear ferry service returned to profit in 2003 with a modest profit of £10,464 as a consequence of fare increases.

As a consequence of the extra expenditure the company's nautical operations incurred a loss of £27,000 on a turnover of £1,234,000. 

The railway service and bus operations were profitable with the company returning an overall profit of £174,000. A dividend of 20p per share will be paid to shareholders.

It is interesting to note that shipping services on the River Dart turned over more money [£1,234,000] than the railway operations [£1,099,000] in 2003.

RNLI

Three SCILLONIAN Lifeboat men received RNLI bravery awards on Thursday.

The Bronze Medal for Gallantry was awarded to coxswain Andy Howells, and crew members Philip Roberts and Mark Bromham of the St. Mary's Lifeboat.

They saved a severely injured yacht thief last October in fading light with 50 mile-an-hour winds and 10m high seas. The awards were presented by the President Mary McAleese of Ireland at a special ceremony in London.

The rescue culminated as a result of an interesting series of events which had begun at Crosshaven, County Cork, a few days earlier.

On October 25 Lawrence McMillan a 53 year old Scotsman, had asked to view at yacht which was being offered for sale by its owner. McMillan was handed the keys to inspect the PROVIDENCE. The  €83,000 yacht subsequently disappeared only to reappear off the Isles of Scilly in distress four days later.

On the same day that the lifeboat men were being honoured by the President for their daring rescue, Lawrence McMillan was sentenced at 14 months imprisonment at Tralee Circuit Court in County Kerry.

News reports suggest that Mc.Millan had an "colourful" past and the tricking of the yacht's owner was one of a number of criminal acts.

Following the rescue the PROVIDENCE was recovered and taken to Newlyn, Cornwall for repairs.

Mc. TAY MARINE

Mc. Tay Marine of Bromborough is reported to have ceased ship building at its Bromborough yard. A report in the local press on Friday indicated that 70 staff have been made redundant. 

Competition from overseas yards has been blamed for the decision to end ship building. 

The last vessel to be completed was AFON DYFRDWY, recently completed for the Holyhead Towing Company, to convey Airbus wings from Broughton to Mostyn. 

Mc.Tay Marine will continue to provide marine consultancy services.

MARITIME & COASTGUARD AGENCY

LIVERPOOL COASTGUARD CO-ORDINATE RESCUE OF MAN 

On the afternoon of May 22,  Liverpool Coastguard were alerted to a man attempting to walk to Hilbre Island from West Kirby (River Dee). The incident took place approximately ten minutes before high water.

It transpired that the man concerned was warned by several people, including members of the local beach patrol not to attempt the crossing but ignored their advice.

Liverpool Coastguard requested the West Kirby RNLI Inshore Lifeboat to launch and recover the man from the water. He was transferred by ambulance to the Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral suffering from the effects of immersion in the cold water.

The outcome of this incident could have been far more serious but for the fact that the lifeboat was already at sea taking part in its own official naming ceremony. When the lifeboat arrived on scene, the man was up to his neck in water and it took some time and gentle persuasion to rescue him.

RNLB JAMES STEVENS #10

The Western Morning News reported this week that A lifeboat which saved more than 200 lives off the Cornish coast at the beginning of the last century is being pressed back into service again - taking tourists on pleasure trips.

The James Stevens No 10, which served in St Ives from 1899 until 1933, was rescued from a boatyard in Essex a month before it was due to be scrapped.

Now Kirstan Gorvin, his wife Naomi and cousin Mike Laity, who operate a leisure boat business out of St Ives, have completed their labour of love to restore the boat to its former glory.

The vessel was relaunched on Thursday evening at Hayle - from where she made her maiden voyage more than a century ago.

She is now ready to operate from the West Cornwall town taking tourists on trips around the bay.

Mrs Gorvin said: "It is important to St Ives as an historic vessel and it would have been a great shame to lose it.

"There has been so much interest in it because so many people had grandparents who were crew members. Lifeboats always do bring about emotions in people, and this one was in St Ives for such a long time."

The vessel - which was originally powered by sail and oars - was built specifically for the town of St Ives thanks to a donation to the RNLI from wealthy businessman James Stevens.

The 38ft boat was too big to take through the winding town streets so she was originally launched from Hayle and rowed over to the town.

The James Stevens No 10 saved 220 people in the course of her 59 launches, and her crew was also responsible for rescuing Mr Laity's great-great-grandfather, Captain Carbine.

Mr Laity said: "After we decided that we would bring her back and restore her, we went down to the lifeboat station for all the information they had on the boat.

"They printed out a list of all the rescues and as I looked down the list, one of them was my great-great-grandfather's ship the Try Again. It was fantastic."

The James Stevens No 10 was discovered in a boatyard in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, by a lifeboat enthusiast who was restoring another boat, The James Stevens No 14.

When he found out that the boat had been there for four years and was to be scrapped in the coming months, he wrote to the St Ives Times and Echo and appealed for somebody to save her.

Mr Laity and the Gorvins already ran leisure trips on the Dolly Pentreath, a replica of a pilchard driver which they built nine years ago.

They decided to rescue The James Stevens No 10, and have been restoring her for over a year at a boatyard in Hayle.

APPLEDORE SHIPYARD

Western Morning News reported earlier this week that union officials from Appledore shipbuilders still have "serious short-term concerns" after a meeting with the Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon yesterday. The North Devon yard collapsed last year and has since been taken over by Devonport Management Limited (DML).

All work at the yard has ceased but officials are in the process of putting together a bid to refit two Royal Navy Castle Class vessels for use in the Falklands.

Bosses at the yard say that if the bid is successful some of the 550 laid-off workers could be back at the plant as early as Christmas.

Appledore is up against four other firms for the work and yesterday, at the GMB Engineering Conference in Scarborough, union leaders sought assurances from Mr Hoon that their bid would be successful.

After the meeting, Gary Cook, secretary of the joint shop steward committee at the yard, said: "There was a clear commitment from Mr Hoon towards British industry. But these contracts are vital to the future of Appledore and we must secure them as soon as possible.

"The meeting with Mr Hoon was very positive but you can't expect him to bring his cheque book. There are still some serious short-term concerns."

Contracts for the work to refit the two Castle Class vessels will be overseen by the Defence Logistics Organisation.

May 16
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, John Lewis, Tony Brennan, Michael Bracken, Kevin Bennett  and "others"

DANIEL ADAMSON PRESERVATION SOCIETY

The Daniel Adamson Preservation Society web site is now on line. www.danieladamson.co.uk

ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY

LADY OF MANN was moved from North Western Shiprepairers and Shipbuilders Bidston dry dock on Friday May 14.

Svitzer tugs OAKGARTH and SVITZER BIDSTON  were in attendance. They were secure at 14:40. The LADY OF MANN departed dry dock at 14:45. She was moved to the berth outside the dry dock and was secure by 15:08, the tugs departing at 15:14.

There have been some distinctive changes in her livery. The forward dummy funnel, as reported earlier has now regained its full width black band. The  after funnel is now black down the back for its full height. Except for the vent doors which are Steam Packet red.

The LADY OF MANN's hull is a much darker shade of blue, darker than the BEN-MY-CHREE's and equates roughly to that now carried by Seatruck vessels. 

The Steam Packet logo and fleet name are brought together as on her three fleetmates. This is a great improvement. 

ISLE OF MAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT

DOUGLAS HARBOUR - APRIL TRAFFIC FIGURES

Passenger figures compiled by the Harbours Division for April 2004 at 63,387 show a 1.6% decrease on the figure for the same period in 2003 which was 64,387.

The year to date figure at 134,224 passengers shows a 2.8% decrease over the same period in 2003 which was 138,113.

During April car traffic through Douglas Harbour decreased by 4.3% from 14,825 vehicles to 14,190.

The year to date figure at 36,690 vehicles shows a 3.3% decrease over the same period in 2003 which was 37,923.

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

Belfast

Minus

17%

from

3,618

to

3,004

Dublin

Minus

4%

from

3,621

to

3,487

Heysham

Plus

2%

from

21,119

to

21,478

Liverpool

Minus

1%

from

34,766

to

34,366

Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew comments:

“April 2004 passenger figures show a small decrease on last April’s figures which were record figures for any April. The figures for the first four months seems to indicate that overall passenger traffic levels are static.”

IRISH COASTGUARD AGENCY

The Minister for the Marine, Dermot Ahern, announced this week that the new Coastguard Agency is to be located in Drogheda in Co Louth.

It will include the operational functions of the Coastguard and the work of the State shipping surveyors who deal with safety issues and investigations.

At present, both the Coastguard and the Maritime Safety Directorate operate under the Marine Department. The new agency will be a stand-alone operation, independent of the department. The minister has justified the choice of Drogheda, within his Louth constituency, by saying that the agency had to be located on the east coast and that the location had been recommended by a report from officials in his department. Upwards of 30 staff will be located in the new headquarters which will include senior management, corporate support, administration operations co-ordination and pollution response.

STENA LINE

STENA LEADER has been having problems since Monday evening when she had to return to Larne on one engine. This led to the cancellation of Fleetwood - Larne round trips on May 12 and May 13. 

STENA PIONEER Over the weekend of May 15 / 16 the ship was reported out of service for 24 hours to allow for engine repairs.

CARNIVAL CORPORATION

CARONIA - the ship which last visited Merseyside in Autumn 2003, some months after her sale to Saga Cruises had been announced, will commence sailings for her new owners on March 05, 2005 as the SAGA RUBY. It had been the initial intention to name her SAGA STAR.

IRISH FERRIES

JONATHAN SWIFT had an altercation with a submerged object on Dublin Bay on Friday which damaged a T foil. She arrived at A&P Birkenhead for repairs on Sunday morning and is expected to be out of service until Thursday.

MARITIME & COASTGUARD AGENCY

26 FOREIGN SHIPS UNDER DETENTION IN THE UK DURING MARCH 2004

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) announced on May 14 that 26 foreign ships were under detention in UK ports during March 2004 after failing Port State Control safety inspection.

Latest monthly figures show that 20 foreign ships were detained in
UK ports during March 2004 along with 6 other ships still under detention from previous months. This contrasts with only 4 ships detained in February. The overall rate of detentions compared with inspections carried out over the last 12 months is 6.3% which is an increase of 0.3% on the detention rate to February. Half of the ships detained in March were targeted by the Paris MOU for priority inspection.

The ships detained in March included the following:-

* a Liberian, 5320 GT, 1983, reefer for 5 days in Sheerness. A total of 39 deficiencies were recorded, including charts not corrected, fire dampers inoperative, NUC lights missing and total failure of on board safety management system

* a Brazilian, 27123 GT, 1983, bulk carrier for 24 days in Tilbury with 16 recorded deficiencies. Fire dampers inoperative, hydrants, hoses and nozzles defective, nautical publications out of date and extensive deck corrosion requiring renewal of steel work. Deficiencies indicate failure of on board safety management system. Class suspended and ship released for one off voyage to
Rotterdam for repair

* a Cypriot, 10944 GT, 1985, oil tanker for 3 days following mandatory expanded inspection in
Hull . Deficiencies included non compliance with SOLAS requirement for double sheathed HP fuel pipes and unsatisfactory fire and abandon ship drill with lack of communication and poor response from crew

* a St Vincent Grenadines, 475 GT, 1978, refrigerated cargo ship for 2 days in Aberdeen. Deficiencies included charts and nautical publications out of date, crew working in excess of maximum hours allowed under ILO178, no schedule of work and no record of hours/rest being maintained, no flag State endorsements for mater and officers.

* a
Bahamas , 2026 GT, 1993, general cargo ship for overloading in Glasgow
. The winter load line mark was submerged 13 centimetres after allowing for dock water density. Ship allowed to sail following discharge of excess cargo.  

PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY

CHAIRMAN'S STATEMENT TO THE AGM 14 May 2004

At P&O's Annual General Meeting in London on May 14, the Chairman, Lord Sterling, made the following statement on the company's recent progress.

  "We have seen an active start to the year in all of our businesses and I thought I would take this opportunity to talk through some of the more important events. As many of you will know, we issued a trading update last week for the first quarter of 2004. We stated that our ports business continues to grow strongly with organic growth up by 17% and overall throughput up by 30% on the same quarter last year. Record volumes were handled at our ports in China and India , and we achieved a significant increase in Europe . In Belgium , we recently signed a 40 year concession with the Antwerp Port Authority to equip and operate a new terminal. This new project, when fully developed, will add over 3.5 million teus to our existing operations there which currently have a capacity of 1.4 million teus. Construction is underway for the first phase which we expect to be operational by the middle of 2005. This major expansion will make Antwerp one of the top 20 container ports in the world.

In Canada we have agreed with the Vancouver Port Authority that we will invest a further 130 million Canadian dollars expanding our terminal over the next 18 months. Vancouver is one of the fastest growing ports on the West Coast of North America and this expansion will double our capacity there to 720,000 teu.

In March we announced plans to boost capacity at Southampton Container Terminal to 1.5 million teus. This will enable the port to meet the requirements of its shipping line customers for several years to come. While on the subject of our UK activities, we await with interest the government's decisions on our London Gateway port and business park projects. At the same time we are continuously reviewing new opportunities elsewhere in the world.

Our maritime services business, which is based in Australia , is now focused on the ownership, provision and operation of specialist vessels for the mining, marine research and government sectors. It is continuing to grow successfully.

The ferries market remains difficult. As we said in our trading update, so far this year there has been some improvement in tourist rates despite a decline in overall market volumes. Freight volumes were stable but at reduced rates. Since the beginning of the year we have reduced the number of ships on our Dover-Calais route from eight to seven. On-board services on night sailings are now more closely aligned with demand so as to achieve lower costs while maintaining the quality product for which we are renowned.

We are putting significant resources into further development of on-line booking for customers and stockholders. Our new ferries website is in the final stages of testing and should be launched in the first two weeks of June.

In April, Stena acquired our Fleetwood-Larne route on the Irish Sea . We have closed the loss-making Mostyn-Dublin route but are continuing to operate the profitable Liverpool-Dublin route. Our Larne- Cairnryan route is doing well.

April also saw the launch of a new express service from Portsmouth to Caen . The new ship and service have been well received and I hope many of you will take the opportunity to try out the new service over the next few months.

We have stated previously that a wide ranging business review is underway of our Ferries business. This is progressing on schedule. We will be announcing the conclusions in the summer.

Cold Logistics has made a good start to the year, particularly in the US . We are also making progress with our planned property disposals which are on track to achieve net sales of £250 million by the end of the year.

In February, we announced that we had achieved our key objective of reducing our exposure to container shipping and achieving an independent listing for P&O Nedlloyd. We received ?215 million in cash and have a 25% shareholding in the new company, Royal P&O Nedlloyd with two seats on the board. This makes P&O the largest shareholder and will enable us to participate in any potential further upside in the container shipping industry. The new structure gives P&O Nedlloyd increased flexibility to grow and develop its position as one of the leading global container shipping companies.

Last week Royal P&O Nedlloyd issued its first quarter results, recording a respectable improvement from a loss of US$58 million to an operating profit of US$21 million year on year. The outlook for the industry remains positive for the foreseeable future.

As you will gather from what I have said, not only have we seen a busy start to the year but P&O, as a company, is continuing to evolve. We are actively dealing with those areas where returns need to be improved and working our other assets hard. We are focusing our capital on those areas where we can create the most value and building a strong platform for future growth."

HISTORIC NORTH WALES STEAMSHIP TO BE PRESERVED?

This week the Daily Post reported that  plans to bring home a historic steam ship built at a North Wales shipyard brought memories flooding home to two brothers.

Albert and Patrick Roberts sailed on the RH CARR on the Demerara river in British Guyana, where they grew up.

Freelance journalist Michael Knowles wants the vessel returned to Saltney, where she was built by J Crichton and Co in 1927.

The ship was used to carry workers from the capital Georgetown to the bauxite plant in Demba.

The vessel is still afloat in Georgetown harbour. Mr Knowles is seeking sponsorship for a feasibility study into whether it can be returned to Flintshire.

Albert Roberts, 88, who lives in Chester, but was brought up with his brother Patrick in Georgetown, said the RH CARR was considered there as part of the local history. "But I would like to see it back here," he said. Patrick, 76, added: "I often wondered what had happened to her."

Yacoob Ally, of timber exporters A Mazaharally and Sons, has written to Mr Knowles, saying: "The RH CARR is of high cultural significance not only for North Wales but equally so for Guyana.".

Mr Knowles said the vessel could be displayed either at the Crichton shipyard or Connah's Quay.

GLOBAL OCEAN TECHNOLOGIES

SV BLIGH the former survey operated by Global Ocean Technologies is reported to have arrived at Alang recently for breaking.

CAMMELL  LAIRD 

BIG RED BOAT II is reported to have left Freeport in the Bahamas on May 06 bound for the breakers at Alang.

The classic 1960s Italian liner [ EUGENIO C, EUGENIO COSTA,] and latterly EDINBURGH CASTLE, had a troubled season operating out of Liverpool during 1998. 

Then she was owned by Lowline plc and chartered to Direct Cruises as EDINBURGH CASTLE.

Following the demise of Lowline she passed into the ownership of a Cammell Laird Group subsidiary which refitted her on the east coast and then chartered her to USA based Premier Cruises as BIG RED BOAT II.

Since the demise of Premier she has been laid up in the Bahamas and offered for sale. 

May 12

SEA CONTAINERS

FIRST QUARTER RESULTS 2004

The company announced first quarter results on May 07. The net loss was $16.8 million (loss of $0.73 per common share

The first quarter is normally a loss making period because of seasonal losses in the company's ferry businesses.  Silja, the company's largest ferry unit, reported reduced operating losses of $5.5 million compared with losses of $6.8 million in the year earlier period.  These losses, when translated into U.S. dollars, were exaggerated by the 17% weakening of the U.S. dollar against the euro in the past year and this effect is expected to reverse out in the main earnings third quarter period.

Other ferry operating losses of $8.7 million did not have the benefit of $2.7 million earnings in the first quarter of 2003 from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company as this business was sold in July, 2003.  The losses were equally exaggerated by the weakness of the U.S. dollar against sterling and they too are expected to reverse out in the third quarter main earnings period.  Savings on interest costs on debt repaid exceeded the earnings loss from the Steam Packet sale.

GNER's operating profits were $11 million compared with $20.7 million in the year earlier period, however, the year earlier benefited from a non-recurring gain of $11.5 million on the "Network Change" settlement negotiations with Network Rail, following the U.K. Rail Regulator's ruling in GNER's favour in March, 2003, so excluding this non-recurring gain GNER's performance was actually $1.8 million ahead of the prior year.

The company's share of GE SeaCo's operating profits was $6.8 million, up 55% from $4.4 million in the first quarter of 2003.  All container activities, including the company's share of GE SeaCo, generated operating profits of $9.5 million, up 11% over the prior year period.

Other activities reported a loss of $1 million at the operating level compared with a $0.2 million profit in the year earlier period.  This difference was largely due to reduced property sales.  Although agreement in principle has been reached to sell more of the company's property interests in Folkestone and Newhaven, these sales are now only likely to be completed in the second or possibly third quarters.

  The company's investment in Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. is accounted for on the equity basis which represented a $1.9 million loss compared with a $1.2 million loss in the first quarter of 2003.  That company also normally incurs a first quarter loss because many of its hotels in bad weather locations are either closed or operate at low occupancies during the first quarter.  Again, currency translation exaggerates such losses but they should reverse out in the remainder of the year.

Net finance costs were $20.7 million, down 22% from $26.6 million in the first quarter of 2003.

Mr James B Sherwood, President, said that non-recurring items in 2003 and currency translation effects made comparisons rather difficult. "Actually, the underlying performance of all divisions is quite good," he said.  "Silja had a better first quarter than last year partially due to a milder winter in the Baltic, Hoverspeed's losses were reduced due to the shift to seasonal-only operation.  Only SeaStreak performed worse due to ice conditions in New York harbour in February.  Two of Hoverspeed's 7 vessel fleet have recently gone out on profitable charters".

GNER enjoyed considerable growth in revenue over the 12 months ended March 31, 2004 of 8.1%, made up of 6.9% volume increase and 1.2% fare increase, compared with the U.K. railways as a whole which had a 5.2% increase (3.2% volume and 2% fares).

Despite the usual slow period of January and February due to Asian factory closings, marine container leasing results continue to improve rapidly.  At March 31st GE SeaCo's owned fleet was 98% on lease while Sea Containers' directly owned fleet managed by GE SeaCo was 79% on lease and rising.

"New container prices have risen by 40% over the past 6 months which is having the effect of lifting over time the lease rates we can obtain for our existing fleet as lease contracts come up for renewal.  Our lessees appear to have accepted the higher lease rates which we have had to insist upon for new containers.  At the end of March, 2004 GE SeaCo had taken delivery of $52 million of new containers since the beginning of the year and we see no reason at this time to adjust our earlier estimate of $160 million of new container purchases for the entire year.  All Sea Containers' container factories, depots and service facilities are operating profitably. The purchase of additional such facilities in Australia and New Zealand as previously announced is still in the documentation stage."

"Excluding GE SeaCo's new container purchases in 2004 which are not carried on Sea Containers' balance sheet (nor is the related debt guaranteed by Sea Containers), our capital investment program this year will be quite low, probably less than $40 million unless we make an investment.  We continue to consider investment in ferry activities in the Mediterranean but so far without result."

Mr D J O'Sullivan, Chief Financial Officer, reported that the company had sold in recent days $103 million of 2012 senior notes, callable from 2008, with a coupon of 10.5% per annum.  The board has decided to use these funds to redeem immediately $80 million of 12.5% debentures falling due on December 1, 2004 but which may be called now without premium.  The company had initially planned to sell $150 million of senior notes but had expected to achieve a lower coupon, so the board decided to reduce the offering.

Mr Sherwood said that the company was close to agreement with the U.K. Strategic Rail Authority on their claim for a participation in the settlement which GNER reached with Network Rail over the consequences of the Hatfield rail accident.  The company feels that settlement is important at a time when GNER is seeking to acquire the Integrated Kent franchise and to extend or renew its own Intercity East Coast franchise.  The Strategic Rail Authority has agreed as part of this settlement to release immediately in excess of $50 million of cash security which GNER currently maintains in connection with its existing franchise.  The company has recorded a liability in its 2003 accounts for this settlement.

Mr Sherwood said that work is in progress to secure both franchises but he cautioned that the U.K. government was currently conducting a review of the rail industry and it would be difficult to formulate any bids until the results of that review are known, so timing of franchise awards is still uncertain.

Mr Sherwood concluded by saying the 2003 annual report to shareholders had been published in April and contained important additional information about the company.  It is also available on the company's website www.seacontainers.com. 

HOLYHEAD TOWING

AFON DYFRDWY - omitted from Sunday's update was the news that the new Airbus wing transporter ran aground on a sandbank whilst enroute to Mostyn from Broughton on Friday May 06, 2004.

The vessel was forced to wait for the next tide before floating off at Flint Point on the River Dee.

WARRENPOINT - OMEATH FERRY

The Warrenpoint to Omeath ferry in the north of Ireland has closed after over 100 years. Declining passenger numbers and increasing bureaucracy has made the service provided by a number of local boatmen uneconomical.

JACK ROBINSON TRAWLERS

Preliminary matters were heard in the manslaughter case on the Isle of Man on May 12 according to Manx Radio

Preliminary matters will be heard in the Solway Harvester case today.

Earlier this year, Richard Gidney and Douglas White were committed to stand trial following the tragedy.

Seven crew died when the fishing vessel sank in a storm, off the east coast of the
Island , four years ago.

The Company which owned the Scottish scallop dredger, Jack Robinson Trawlers, and its managing director, 40 year-old Richard Gidney, are each charged with the manslaughter of the crew.

Gidney is also charged with towing over the shipwreck in an exclusion zone, while 45 year-old Douglas White is accused of trawling over the wreck after the sinking.

Both men were given leave not to appear in court for the May 12 proceedings.

Acting Deemster Moran has been appointed for the trial, proceedings are expected to get underway at around
4:30pm .

MERSEY DOCKS & HARBOUR COMPANY

SHANGHAI OFFICE OPENS

The Mersey Docks Group has won a contract to advise on the development of a major grain terminal in China and has opened an office in Shanghai as a springboard to further business opportunities in the world’s fastest growing economy.

Portia Management Services, the international port management and consultancy arm of Mersey Docks, has hung its brass plate on a door in the new Pudong business district of Shanghai as the base from which to undertake the initial 2.5 year contract.

The project is one of several new contracts the UK’s longest established port consultancy already has lined up to be initiated in 2004.

The RMB 600m (US$75m) grain handling facility for trading group Shanghai Liang You (Group) Co. Ltd., is primarily a transit terminal and on-site edible oils processing plant, which is expected to handle a projected annual volume of around 5 million tonnes of grain and 1 million tonnes of oils.

Portia's parent company, Mersey Docks, operates the UK's largest grain facility at Seaforth Dock in the Port of Liverpool, which also handles and processes large volumes of edible oils.

Said Portia's Managing Director John Owens: "Initially we are involved in reviewing the project investment strategy, masterplan, design proposals, tender documents and providing advice and assistance during the construction period."

Construction on the Chang Jiang (Yangtse) River site is due to start in 2005 with completion scheduled by the end of 2006.

Portia has established a representative office in Shanghai to oversee the project, working with a local consulting partner. "But the pace of development in China is unbelievable," said Mr Owens, "and we anticipate that local representation will act as a springboard to further business opportunities in the People's Republic."

A second contract being implemented by Portia this year involves the potential development of a public port facility in South East Madagascar for the Anglo-Canadian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto Zinc.

Portia will assist RTZ to develop its business model for the port to be located in the sparsely populated Fort Dauphin region of the island, to support a new extraction project producing ilmenite which is widely used by the paint industry and in the production of titanium.

"We will be examining operational aspects such as facilities, layouts, equipment and staffing for the port, which will give RTZ the only logistics option in such a remote area, of exporting the product in bulk by sea," said John Owens.

PRINCE'S DOCK CAR PARK

The contract to build the first multi-storey car park at Princes Dock, Liverpool 's premier waterfront location, has been awarded to specialists in precast concrete car parks, SCC Ltd of Stockport , Manchester .

Work immediately got underway on the site of the £7 million development, which will consist of 760 parking spaces on 19 levels, plus ground floor crèche and retail facilities. The car park is scheduled to open in March, 2005.

Liverpool City Council approved a revised plan for four additional half levels providing an extra 168 spaces, which was submitted by the Princes Dock Development Company in response to accelerating interest in the 11.7 hectare location.

Ian Pollitt, Chief Executive of the Development Company, said: "SCC faced keen competition for the construction contract, but their very considerable expertise in this specialist sector proved a telling factor."

The development is the latest undertaken at Princes which is rapidly becoming the new, prestige business quarter of the City of Liverpool, with three buildings totalling more than 223,000 sq ft of office accommodation and a 4-Star Crowne Plaza Hotel, already built.

Plans submitted by Harrogate and London based City Lofts for the first residential development, providing 162 luxury apartments in two towers of 20 and 10 storeys, plus parking for 106 cars, have also been approved by the City Council.

Said Mr Pollitt: "The multi-storey car park is an essential piece of the overall plan to transform Princes Dock into a sophisticated place to live, work and relax."

The crèche will have 592 sq m of inside space with an additional secure and safe outside play area.

Said Mr Pollitt: "Parking for personal transport and crèche facilities for young children both come into the category of 'must elements' of modern day living. Their provision at Princes will add another vital dimension to the creation of a living, working and relaxing waterfront community at the very heart of the city."

Princes Dock Development Company is a subsidiary of the Mersey Docks Group which owns more than 2,000 acres of dockland on both banks of the Mersey.

[J.H.L. COMMENT: One hopes that this car park will be open to coincide with arrivals and departures at the Isle of Man Steam Packet Terminal. The nearby Newquay Car Park is completely unsuitable for passengers using this service who arrive at Liverpool in the late evening.]

ROYAL NAVY

The Royal Navy announced plans to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar in 2005.

The Minister for the Armed Forces, Adam Ingram, and the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Alan West, formally launched the commemorations, which are being planned in
Portsmouth for the summer of 2005 and London in October 2005.

The Royal Navy intends to open the programme of events with a Fleet Review at
Spithead in the Solent on Tuesday 28th June as a start to six days of events by the sea. The Royal Navy will give the Review an international flavour with a range of naval and merchant ships, and some of the world’s finest tall ships. The intention is to develop the 600-year-old tradition of the Fleet Review into a modern symbol of international maritime friendship.

Following this, the Royal Navy plans to play host to an evening ‘Son et Lumiere’, themed on a Napoleonic sea battle, featuring a firework display. The following day attention will move ashore and in a more solemn mood, a Drumhead Ceremony is planned. This is a battlefield service in which drums in the shape of a pyramid form an altar and are draped in colours. This will draw together maritime veterans of many nations, to deepen the bonds of international friendship and to reflect on the sacrifice of fallen comrades.

Between 30th June and 3rd July an International Festival of the Sea will be held in Portsmouth Naval Base. Visitors will have the opportunity to go aboard many of the tall ships, warships, yachts and other vessels featured at the Fleet Review, talk to the crews and find out about life onboard. Dynamic displays will offer a sample of the Armed Forces' combination of land, air and sea capabilities.

In the autumn the Royal Navy intends to focus more specifically on Nelson, commemorating his qualities and historical contribution to our nation. Other events are likely to include a special dinner on board HMS Victory, a service in
St Paul 's Cathedral and an event in Trafalgar Square .

The Royal Navy is proud to be launching Trafalgar 200 and, working very closely alongside the Sea Britain 2005 initiative, the Royal Navy will be helping to raise awareness in young people about the sea and wider maritime community.

May 09
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, John Lewis, Tony Brennan, C.J. Lawrenson, Michael Bracken  and "others"

ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY

LADY OF MANN has regained the broad black topping to her dummy funnel during her on-going refit at North Western Ship Repairers.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN - A correspondent who was travelling on the 10:30 sailing from Liverpool on May 09 reports that when the ship arrived at the Pier Head one of the passengers refused to leave the vessel.

He had apparently become very drunk and despite efforts of the captain and crew it required the police to remove him.

SEA CONTAINERS

SEACAT FRANCE departed from A&P Birkenhead at 21:30 on May 02 towed by former Alexandra Towing Company tug ALEXANDRA now operated by GPS. On May 03. The following day SEACAT FRANCE and her tug were off the Isle of Man seeking shelter from adverse weather conditions forecast for the following day.

MERSEY FERRIES

ROYAL DAFFODIL was towed dead to A&P Birkenhead on Tuesday May 04, for major engine repairs.

STENA LINE

STENA EXPLORER was noted out of service at Holyhead on the afternoon of May 05 for engineering work.

The Daily Post reports that ban on smoking in public buildings in Ireland is nearing Welsh shores - and leaving passengers puzzled.

People sailing from Wales with Stena have to stub their cigarettes out when they get within 12 miles of the Republic.

Rival Irish Ferries, registered in Ireland, has a total indoor smoking ban, thanks to the country's new anti-smoking laws.

Stena is now calling on Dublin to clarify the law.

"Since the introduction of the new smoking legislation in Ireland on March 29 there has been a degree of uncertainty of how Stena Line business would be affected," said Stena spokesman Eamonn Hewitt yesterday.

"We have therefore endeavoured to obtain clarification on how the new law will influence our business from the Health and Safety Authority of Ireland.

"We understand the new legislation does apply to our vessels when they are in Irish waters and we will be meeting to draw up a new smoking policy that will ensure that all our vessels adhere to the new law."

He said smoking was already barred on the company's fast crafts - the HSS Explorer from Holyhead and Stena Express from Fishguard. But it is allowed in crew cabins and bars on its conventional cruise ferries such as the Stena Europe, which sails from Fishguard to Rosslare and the Stena Adventurer, which sails from Holyhead to Dublin.

Mr Hewitt said: "The indications are that the ban could affect ships within Irish waters, 12 miles out."

The ban covers all Irish Ferries routes which sail from Holyhead to Dublin, plus services to France.

Irish Ferries manager Delfryn Davies said: "All our ships are now non-smoking ships, although you can smoke on deck.

"Obviously everyone is making out we are going to lose out but to be honest we're not. In fact we think we are gaining as a result. Lots of people don't want to sit in smoke-filled areas."

ISLE OF MAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT

Passenger figures compiled by the Harbours Division for March 2004 at 30,694 show a 2.4% decrease on the figure for the same period in 2003 which was 31,463.

Since January, the total of 70,837 passengers shows a 3.9% decrease over the same period in 2003, which was 73,726.

During March car traffic through Douglas Harbour increased by 0.2% from 9,655 vehicles to 9,680 vehicles.

The year to date figure at 22,500 passengers shows a 2.5% decrease over the same period in 2003 which was 23,098.

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

Heysham

Minus 21%

from

17,964

to

14,281

Liverpool

Plus 23%

from

11,414

to

13,986

Dublin

Plus 116%

from

329

to

709

Belfast

Minus 17%

from

559

to

466

Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew comments:

"March passenger figures are reasonable. The small fall is probably due to our particular event, the Darts Festival being held in April this year and March last year. The fast craft services to Liverpool show excellent growth this year. The Heysham route is the one affected by the change referred to."

WICKLOW  & EAST COAST NOTES from Tommy Dover

The notes below refer to the week to May 01 which arrived after last weekend's news update had been posted. Tommy is away this week.

WICKLOW

Coasters at Wicklow this week included SCOT PIONEER , UNION GEM and UNION SATURN.

Traffic in the bay included ARKLOW CASTLE , LE CIARA, LE ROISIN and a Air Corp 'CASA patrol aircraft.

ARKLOW

The open sea rowing race between Arklow and Aberystwyth in Wales had to be cancelled due to bad weather over the weekend. The crew from Arklow won the race 2 years ago.18 boats were expected to compete in this years race.

JEANIE JOHNSTON

The Chairman of the Jeanie Johnston company has called on the Irish Government to recognise the achievements of the ship and to stop ignoring the project. 

Hugh Friel said the company does not want a hand-out, but without State recognition the vessel will be sold. The board of the company has decided to sail it again to North America this summer, and there may also be a Round Ireland journey.

Mr Friel, who also leads the Kerry Group, said the company wants State recognition and support for its role in sail training and in promoting tourism and industry abroad. It also wants recognition for the impact it has had on improving North/South relations through its cross border youth training programme with the International Fund for Ireland. 

Last year the company balanced its budget. There is disappointment in the company's board, representing the councils in Kerry, Shannon Development and the Kerry Group, that the Government has not responded to the achievements of the ship last year. 

The company has made it clear that if the Government continues to ignore the ship, it will be sold and that could mean it going out of Irish ownership.

LUSITANIA REMEMBERED

A ceremony to honour seven Manx fisherman who rescued passengers from the Cunard Liner LUSITANIA during the First World War was had at Peel on the Isle of Man on Friday.

The fisherman were on board the Manx fishing boat 'The Wanderer,' which was fishing off the Old Head of Kinsale in Ireland, when they saw RMS LUSITANIA sinking after being torpedoed by an enemy U-boat.

The crew managed to save 115 lives and towed lifeboats to and from the wreckage.

Exactly 89 years later, a commemorative plaque was unveiled at Weatherglass Corner in Peel.

The ceremony was attended by the Chief Minister Richard Corkill, Peel MHK Hazel Hannan, Transport Minister John Shimmin, and descendants of the crew of the Wanderer.

ROYAL NAVY

Three Devonport based ships will leave Plymouth next week to take part in a major US led multi-national exercise off the eastern coast of the United States . Codenamed AURORA 04, approximately 5,900 UK Service personnel will be taking part in the deployment.

HMS Ocean will be first to leave Devonport on Monday followed by the Fleet Amphibious Flagship, HMS Albion, and Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland. The ships will form part of the AURORA 04 deployment which includes Devonport based HMS Cornwall and HMS Roebuck, along with Portsmouth based warships HMS Invincible, HMS Marlborough, a Mine Counter Measures group and Royal Fleet Auxiliaries. Also deploying with the
UK group will be Royal Marines from Headquarters 3 Commando Brigade, Bickleigh-based 42 Commando and supporting elements, along with Helicopters from the Fleet Air Arm.

AURORA 04 provides a clear demonstration of the
UK ’s world-leading expeditionary capability by deploying, sustaining, exercising and recovering a modern and flexible medium sized Maritime Task Group at high readiness.

The main objective of this long planned routine training deployment is to develop further the operational capability of the Maritime Task Group by undertaking a series of exercises with friends and allies in the region. The main focus of the deployment will be participation in a Combined Joint Task Force exercise, known as Rapid Alliance, together with US, Canadian, Dutch, French and German forces.

Stonehouse-based Commodore Chris Parry, Commander Amphibious Task Group, will command the amphibious force, embarked in HMS Albion. He said: “After our very successful exercise in
Norway earlier this year, AURORA 04 is another excellent opportunity to demonstrate and enhance our amphibious capability. We look forward to working with the highly sophisticated, advanced capabilities of the US forces, who are the market leaders in this area".

The deployment will also provide an opportunity to test the continued integration into the Fleet of the Royal Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship, HMS Albion. The 18,500 tonne assault ship is a Command Ship and Landing Platform Dock and will lead the exercise. She has a floodable dock from which she can offload large amounts of men, ammunition, stores and vehicles, including Challenger 2 tanks, by means of four heavy and four light landing craft. Her command and combat systems are the most advanced in the Royal Navy, based around computer-assisted data-sharing, planning and decision aids.

HMS Albion’s Commanding Officer, Captain Peter Hudson, said: “‘The complex, multi-national and successful amphibious operations which were witnessed off
Iraq last year do not just happen. We need to practice realistically, with our major allies, to make sure all the parts of the jigsaw fit together properly.”

As HMS Ocean prepares to sail on Monday morning her Commanding Officer, Captain Chris Clayton, said: "We have been very busy over the last year but it has, however, been almost a year since we've deployed with our air group and landing forces embarked together. We welcome this opportunity for Ocean to fully participate in the largest amphibious exercise since last year. The
AURORA deployment will provide us with an excellent opportunity to maintain our operational capability by participating in high intensity coalition operations alongside the United States and other partners."

May 01
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Michael Bracken, Niall McGahon, Melanie-Jane Richardson, Niall McGahon, Michael Pryce, and "others"

NOTES & NEWS

UPDATE

Please note this weekend's update has been posted early as your web master will be away May 1 and 2.

AUCTION

Discovered lurking in a drawer were three Mersey Ferries models which were bought on board PS Waverley during her 1977 Mersey programme. These are currently under auction on eBay.

JAMES FISHER & SONS plc

NEXUS - the cable laying ship is to be sold for scrap. The ship had already been written down to its scrap value in the 2003 report and accounts. With the cost of putting it back into class rising the company has decided to dispose of her.

MERSEY DOCKS & HARBOUR COMPANY

The company's plan for a £70m river berth container terminal capable of handling post-panamax container ships is moving on to its next step with work on engineering and environmental impact assessments on schedule.

The recent rejection by the government of the new ABP container terminal at Southampton has added to impetus.

MD&HC hopes to apply for a Harbour Revision Order in the second half of 2004. The company does not expect any significant opposition to the terminal plans as they will take place within the existing port area.

No time scale appears to have been set on completion of the project but the company acknowledges that the extra capacity will be needed eventually.

MERSEY FERRIES

WOODCHURCH - work appeared to be well underway in restoring the funnel and bridge to the vessel which has been undergoing a major refit in the A&P Yard since last autumn. At one point the vessel had been cleared of all superstructure above promenade deck level. 

STENA LINE

EUROPEAN PIONEER was due to head for Belfast on Saturday May 01 to be repainted and renamed STENA PIONEER.

RIVER DEE FERRY

A QUESTION mark hangs over a 30-year-old ferry service across the Dee after vandals attacked a landing stage.

The jetty at The Meadows in Chester is provided by Chester City Council but has been subjected to increasing vandalism in recent months.

It was so badly torched at Easter that council workers were this week forced to remove the structure on health & safety grounds. The vandalism means the city council-owned ferry boat cannot run at the moment.

Normally it operates on weekends over the summer carrying passengers from Handbridge across to Sandy Lane in Boughton giving access to paddling pool and pubs like The Red House and The Mount.

Meanwhile, Boughton residents, often with pet dogs in tow, are keen to travel in the opposite direction to stretch their legs on The Meadows.

Boatman Ron Bowley has the franchise to run the non-profit making service and charges 50 pence per journey to cover fuel and maintenance costs.

Even though the council plans to replace the landing stage with a more substantial structure Ron, 71, has told The Chronicle he's not sure he will return. One of his reasons is that he does not believe the council's options to transform the paddling pool into a water feature will attract as many families in future.

'People in Handbridge have told me that's their holiday, going to the pool, because they cannot afford to go away,' said Ron, who is reluctant to get involved in the issue.

Pensioner Rita Hibbit, of Sandy Lane, has six Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and two Lhaso Apsos, which she takes onto The Meadows taking the ferry every morning and night when it's running.

Miss Hibbit, a member of Friends of the Meadows, said: 'I know it's a personal thing for me, but it's people generally on this side of the river, the Boughton side of the river, who will have no means of getting across there and there's also the pool at Sandy Lane.'

She said that to her knowledge the landing stage had been vandalised every year since it had been installed in 1984.

City Cllr Paul Roberts (Lib Dem, Farndon), portfolio holder for the environment, said even if Mr Bowley was thinking of retiring the council would be determined to find a way of keeping the ferry going.

He said the age of the pool, plus complying with new safety regulations and disability legislation, meant the facility had become 'incredibly expensive' to run. Two people, trained in lifesaving techniques, had to be on duty at all times.

For this reason the pool was closed at the moment, but Cllr Roberts added: 'We are hoping there might be something, albeit small scale, for part of the summer. That's a proposal being developed.'

Over the longer term alternatives are being examined including the idea of fountains that children can dodge around.

He said paddling pools were extremely popular on hot days but this type of water feature might attract a higher average attendance because children could enjoy it on cooler days as well.

TORPOINT FERRY

Torpoint Ferry managers plan to replace the chains on the centre ferry, PLYM over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

On Saturday, a two-ferry, 15-minute service will operate until noon, but on Sunday the normal scheduled service should be uninterrupted. The routine work depends on good weather.

Operations manager Tony Whetton said the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferries Joint Committee apologised to ferry travellers for any inconvenience.

ISLE OF MAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT

Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew has described March's traffic figures as 'reasonable'.

Passenger numbers are down by nearly 800 compared to the same period last year.

Since January there's been a slight decrease in total passenger figures, 4% less than the first four months of 2003.

The Heysham route is less popular down 21%, but the new summer schedule means the Dublin route is up 116% and Liverpool has risen by 23%, from nearly 11,500 to nearly 14,000 people.

ROYAL NAVY

HMS TRAFALGAR The Royal Navy has strenuously denied reports that 11 naval ratings mutinied on board flagship HMS TRAFALGAR over fears that their lives could be at risk from faulty equipment.

At a press conference called following reports in a national newspaper, a senior military official stressed that allegations about slipshod maintenance and dangerous radiation levels onboard the submarine were unfounded.

Ten junior ratings and one petty officer expressed safety fears and were removed from the navy's flagship hunter-killer submarine last Friday hours before it was due to leave Scottish naval base Faslane for sea trials in the Irish Sea and Atlantic.

The Navy said that the men showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the Plymouth-based sub hit rocks off the Isle of Skye in November 2002.

The 130 crew members had two poisonous gas scares last week; four of the eventual 11 landed became ill after inhaling diesel fumes sucked in through the air intake mast in Plymouth. Then at Faslane, a refrigeration gas leak on board led to a mass dockside evacuation. The incident sparked fears of a Kursk-style tragedy - when all 118 crew members of a Russian sub died in August 2000 after an on-board explosion in the Barents Sea.

The Ministry of Defence later confirmed one of the 11 sailors had refused to return to HMS TRAFALGAR. A spokesman would not name the individual but agreed it was possible he could face disciplinary action. He said senior officers wanted to talk to him further before any decision was made.

Of the others, the spokesman said five had now returned to the submarine, three were still being medically assessed and two had been cleared fit but had not as yet returned and were to be interviewed again.

South East Cornwall MP Colin Breed and Plymouth Devonport MP David Jamieson are demanding answers about the state of the fleet and specifically HMS TRAFALGAR, which recently had a £60 million refit. Greenpeace also wants the urgent grounding and reassessment of the UK's Trafalgar and Swiftsure-class submarines. Colin Breed said: "It must be of concern if 11 sailors decide the ship which they are in is not safe."

Captain Simon Martin, head of the Royal Navy's Devonport submarine flotilla, insisted HMS TRAFALGAR is 100 per cent safe. Capt Martin said: "We would never send a submarine to sea unless it was safe to do so. There is no safety issue with regards to Trafalgar's nuclear reactor or emergency equipment and there is no specific radiation hazard.

"The crew members did not mutiny but correctly raised their concerns, were seen by the commanding officer and put ashore for further psychiatric and stress counselling. We do not want anyone unstable on board.

"These men were on the submarine when it grounded in 2002 and they had not been back to sea since then. I believe that could be a factor."

An expert said it was "unlikely" all 11 would have been suffering from PTSD. Simon Wessely, Psychiatry Professor at King's College London, said: "PTSD is a psychological reaction to major trauma, leaving people feeling their lives are in danger, exhibiting symptoms of anxiety and refusing to return to the feared situation. It is rare, to say the least, that so many should exhibit such symptoms so long after the event."

HMAV BOUNTY  Artefacts from the Mutiny on the Bounty - which happened 215 years ago this week - are expected to fetch up to £200,000 at auction. The 40 lots range from a nail recovered from the wreckage of the Bounty, to the Cornish-born Captain William Bligh's own rare account of one of the most famous and controversial incidents in the history of the Royal Navy. Also featured is a copy of mutineer Midshipman Peter Heywood's eyewitness description of the uprising, his shipwreck, arrest and trial, along with correspondence to and from Bligh, and other items, which are expected to fetch £19,000.

The incident for which everyone remembers Bligh - who was born at Tinten Manor, St Tudy in 1754 - began on the return from a voyage to Tahiti to collect bread-fruit plants. when Bligh's second in command, Fletcher Christian, led a mutiny. Bligh, along with 18 men, was cast adrift in a 23ft open boat without charts. His navigational skills led them to Timor in the East Indies, a journey of nearly 4,000 miles, which lasted 47 days. They later returned safely to England.

Ten of the mutineers faced court-martial in Portsmouth and three were executed. Others went to live on Pitcairn Island in the Pacific, where their descendants still live. Contradictory testimonies of those involved have ensured that the debate about the mutiny continues.

At the Sotheby's sale in New York on June 18, Bligh's own first edition narrative of the mutiny, published in 1790, should fetch up to £13,500. Letters from Christian, giving his account of events before and after the mutiny, should make up to £2,700, while the minutes of the court martial proceedings against the ten mutineers, published in 1794, may sell for up to £13,500.

Two years ago, three relics from Captain Bligh's voyage to safety were bought by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich for £127,865.

OPERATION TIGER DISASTER REMEMBERED

Three American veterans fought back tears on April 27 as they re-lived the horrors of the Second World War's worst training disaster off the South Devon coast. Former US Navy sailors Steven Sadlon, William Hicks and Charles Brubaker are survivors of the ill-fated D-Day rehearsal - Exercise Tiger - which went tragically wrong exactly 60 years ago today.

On an emotional return to the area, the trio told how they escaped death when German torpedoes attacked their convoy as it crossed Lyme Bay on April 28, 1944.

Exercise Tiger was supposed to be a bloodless rehearsal for D-Day with thousands of assault troops storming Slapton Sands because of its resemblance to one of the Normandy invasion beaches - Utah.

But more than 300 perished during the live-fire exercise and another 749 soldiers and sailors were killed hours later when the follow-up convoy, T4, was attacked by German E-boats.

Former radio man Mr Sadlon, from New York, was on LST-507 - one of three ships struck by torpedoes.

"There were flames everywhere and the poor guys were screaming to death," recalled the 80-year-old who spent over five hours in the water and at one stage passed out through hypothermia. "The last thing I thought of was being held in my mother's arms," he said. "Then I found myself on a mess table in the ship that rescued me. I was covered in 14 Army blankets and this sailor told me I was a lucky guy."

Mr Sadlon was one of more than 130 men plucked to safety by LST-515 whose skipper, Capt John Doyle, had disobeyed orders not to go back for survivors. "If he hadn't I would not be here now," he said.

Mr Hicks, 79, from Michigan was a ship fitter on LST 507 which keeled over and sank in just six minutes.

"I was blown into the water for ten hours, before a British destroyer picked me," he said.

Mr Brubaker, 80, from Pennsylvania was a motor machinist on LST-511. His ship managed to escape the torpedoes, thanks to the evasion skills of its skipper. All three veterans helped lay wreaths at the memorial at Slapton on Sunday, and will make their first return to France to coincide with D-Day's 60th anniversary.

The trio returned along with relatives of two other US servicemen involved in Exercise Tiger. They included trip organiser Laurie Bolton from California, whose uncle, Louis, a sergeant in the US Army's 607th Graves Registration Company, was killed on LST 531. His body was never recovered. Private Louis Seibel from the US 4th Infantry Division was represented by three family members. He died in February 2001.

 

 

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