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September 2004

September 26
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Tommy Dover, John Godsell and Alex McCormac and "others"

The weather continued to provide interest this week disrupting sailings by a number of Irish Sea operators. Particularly hard hit was the Isle of Man Steam Packet company whose SUPERSEACAT TWO and SEACAT ISLE OF MAN sailings were significantly disrupted. If the LADY OF MANN had already returned from her Açor Line charter things may have been a little different. However, though the ship is due to return early October, her future is looking more uncertain than ever with rumours circulating that she will be withdrawn at the conclusion of TT 2005. 

A spell of adverse weather, such as that recently experienced,  emphasizes the problems of excessive reliance of fast vessels with restricted wave height operating parameters. Given that the BEN-MY-CHREE managed to maintain her sailings, though with some delays due to extended crossing times, perhaps thought should be given to ensuring that the LADY OF MANN is eventually replaced by a fast conventional vessel and that further reliance is not placed on fast craft at a time of year when conditions may cause service disruptions. 


There have been a number of updates posted during the past week - please check "What's New" for details.


Weather caused significant disruption this week to SUPERSEACAT TWO and SEACAT ISLE OF MAN.

On Friday evening SUPERSEACAT TWO sailed for Douglas. However, she was unable to return to Merseyside until she was able to run light on Tuesday afternoon. 

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN also missed a number of sailings. She attempted to run to Belfast on Tuesday morning having missed the Monday afternoon crossing. An observer reported her passing off Laxey around 07:55. However, she was forced to turn about off the Point of Ayre after encountering heavy seas and was noted back at Douglas before 09:00.  


Rumours continue. There has been suggestion that Incat 046 THE LYNX may very well be the vessel chartered to replace the aging SCIOM. 

This vessel operates for Interisland Ferries - New Zealand. As THE LYNX vessel operates seasonally she would be available during the northern hemisphere summer. 

Then again there are rumours of vessels in Canada being considered! It all adds up to an interesting period of speculation pending any announcement. Though one or two observers of the Irish Sea scene even consider that nothing may change for next year's season! Time will tell!


The company is offering a special £79.00 any length of stay crossing for a car and up to 4 passengers on the Liverpool - Dublin route until the end of the season on November 1.

The offer is being run via advertisements placed in the Liverpool Echo. Bookings are to be made via Travelbreak NI and not the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

Bookings are by phone only and must be made by phoning Travelbreak NI on 0870 443 0360, quoting 'Liverpool Echo Ferry offer'. Lines are open 09:30 to 17:30 Monday to Friday and 10:00 to 13:00 on Saturday. There are NO tokens to collect, therefore it is open to anyone.

Intending passengers are advised to have preferred dates of travel available before calling. They should also have an alternative date in case the first choice is not available.

This is probably the best deal on Irish Sea crossings this autumn.


LAGAN VIKING had a technical problem this weekend which resulted in her passengers having a much longer stay on board than usual.

The ship departed Twelve Quays, Birkenhead on Friday morning for her crossing to Belfast. However, on arrival on Belfast it was discovered that a bolt securing the stern ramp had jammed. 

Over 50 passengers and the ship's crew along with vehicles were unable to disembark.

An attempt was made early on Saturday to open the door, but the attempt had to be abandoned when the berth was required. LAGAN VIKING put out into Belfast Lough. 

Engineers from Harland and Wolff were eventually able to open the stern door after cutting the bolt.

The ramp eventually came down at about 1430 BST on Saturday, after engineers managed to remove the lock using specialist cutting equipment.

A report on BBC Northern Ireland revealed that most of the passengers thought the incident had been well handled and that they had been well looked after, though some lorry drivers were reported as being angry due to time being lost.

SAGA MOON operated sailings from Birkenhead to Dublin on Saturday and Sunday - September 25/26 whilst BRAVE MERCHANT was switched to the Belfast service to cover for LAGAN VIKING.


SUPERSTAR EXPRESS - entered A&P Birkenhead wet basin for winter lay-up on Wednesday September 22, 2004

The long awaited restructuring of the company's UK ferry services will be announced on Tuesday September 28 at 09:30.

There is intense speculation as to what will happen to the company's route with rumours of over 1000 job losses being circulated in the media.

On the Irish Sea the future of the Liverpool - Dublin service, which the company had wanted to sell to Stena Line, is the main focus of interest. 


The Annual National Commemoration Services for Irish Seafarers hosted by the Maritime Institute of Ireland will be held on Sunday 21st November 2004 opening with 11:30am Mass at City Quay Church, Dublin.

This well be followed by wreath laying at the Irish Merchant Seamen's' National Memorial, Memorial Bridge. There will then be refreshments in the Church Hall attached to City Quay The Dublin port tug, the CLUAIN TARBH" will carry the wreaths out and lay them at sea in Dublin Bay.

Evensong will be held at St.Patrick's Cathedral at 15:15. The text of last year's sermon can be found at: all are invited


The company's two DeHavilland Otter aircraft have been in the news this week. The Cornishman reported that one of the aircraft was damaged at St.Mary's Airport by a manoeuvring fuel tanker. A wing was clipped causing damage to the tip. This had to be returned to the mainland by SCILLONIAN III for repairs.

On Saturday the St.Mary's to Newquay flight was forced to divert Exeter Airport to make an emergency landing after problems were experienced with the starboard engine. 


The MOD police force patrolling Devonport Naval base and surrounding waters will be increased to 69 with the addition of 18 officers and two civilians. The increase in manpower is to combat the increased threat of terrorist attack. The MoD Police patrol 112 miles of water from Ernesettle to Rame Head as well as the naval base itself.


The Port of Larne has walked away from the Transport and Logistics Awards 2004 with the prestigious title "Irish Port of the Year."

Beating off stiff competition from a short-list which included Belfast and Dublin Ports, the port secured the impressive accolade at an awards ceremony in the Ramada Hotel.

A delighted Mr Alastair Gardiner, Managing Director, Port of Larne

commented: "The Port of Larne is one of the major ro-ro ports in the UK and Ireland. Winning Irish Port of the Year is confirmation of this. The key to our success is our commitment to customer service. We are totally focused on our customers needs and adopt a flexible approach to business. We work closely with all our customers to ensure that their requirements are met. This philosophy is the cornerstone of our success."

Customers at the Port of Larne include two top shipping companies, P&O Irish Sea and Stena Line as well as Wincanton Distribution, P&O Ferrymasters, Fry Transport, Marsh Freight and Barline Transport.

The judging panel highlighted recent developments at the Port of Larne which has seen the return of Stena to operate the Larne-Fleetwood route, the development of the Larne-Troon fast ferry service and the arrival of the first ever cruise ship to Larne.

Mr Gardiner continues: "The Port of Larne has seen major developments over the past twelve months. Stena Line returned to Larne in April and has reported that the Larne-Fleetwood route has contributed positively to a 44% increase on its Irish Sea business while P&O Irish Sea's Larne-Troon fast ferry service has recorded a year-to-date increase of 21% on the number of passengers and 7.1% on the number of vehicles using this route. We entered the cruise market for the first time ever with the arrival of mv Funchal in May and with further cruise vessels booked, we have taken a positive step in developing this market in the future."

Over 800,000 passengers, 450,000 commercial vehicles and 200,000 tourist vehicles will use the port in 2004 with P&O Irish Sea and Stena Line operating up 32 scheduled movements daily to Cairnryan, Troon and Fleetwood.

"The Port of Larne is an exceptionally busy port," adds Mr Gardiner, "and our success is a credit to all our staff who show total dedication and commitment. I would like to pay tribute to everyone and thank them for the part they have played in ensuring that the Port of Larne is the Irish Port of the Year 2004."

September 19
Acknowledgements: Ian Collard and "others"


A fairly lightweight update this weekend due to lack of news. I have used the opportunity to catch up with posting some remaining Devonport Navy Days photographs. All that remains to post of this event were those taken on my visit to the historic South Yard which I will hold over or another quiet week. 



SUPERSEACAT TWO cancelled her Dublin and Douglas sailings on Thursday due to adverse conditions.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN also cancelled her Thursday afternoon round trip to Dublin due to adverse conditions. 

INCAT 057 - Rumours remain strong regarding the charter of this vessel in 2005 as a replacement for SEACAT ISLE OF MAN and LADY OF MANN. It looks as though SEACAT ISLE OF MAN is in her last days of Steam Packet service and will be offered for sale. LADY OF MANN continuing in service until TT 2005, 


The schooner ELLAN VANNIN [ex SOUTHERN CROSS] which spent some time in the 1990s in the Albert Dock Liverpool sank on Thursday at Whitehaven.

After leaving the Albert Dock the ELLAN VANNIN made its way to Douglas where she spent some time. She eventually returned to Liverpool and earlier was noted in Sandon Dock.

In high winds on Thursday she was swept out to sea and onto rocks. The local newspaper reports that the town's harbour master and HM Coastguard observed the vessel being fended off the North Wall of the port before she drifted, under heaving seas, onto the beach at Whitey Rock, between Whitehaven and Parton.

Looking like a latter day Mary Celeste the old sailing vessel had slowly drifted to her doom.

She had torn herself free of her moorings as she was tied up and left unattended near the Sea Cadets base, the TS Bee. Among those watching the drama unfold were young people from the West Cumbrian NACRO team who had been intending to start work on the vessel that very day.

NACRO team leader, Michael Cullum, said he was heartbroken to see the ship founder. The ship's owner Tommy Doyle was nowhere to be found as the Whitehaven Harbour staff tried desperately to contact him.

The old schooner, was named after a tragic steamer that sank in Liverpool Bay, in 1909, claiming 36 lives and which was immortalised in a well-known folk song by the Liverpool group, The Spinners.

Monitoring the situation on Thursday, harbourmaster Mr Foskett told the Workington lifeboat, which had scrambled, to stand down, as there was no threat to life or shipping.


HMS WALNEY - The Western Morning News reported on September 18 that the Sandown Class Mine counter measures ship has been called in to assist police investigations of a drowned Cornish parish councillor who was known to have an interest in the occult.

The body of 56-year-old Peter Solheim was recovered from the sea by fishermen five miles off Black Head, on the Lizard Peninsula.

A post-mortem examination revealed the cause of death was drowning - but Mr Solheim also had suspicious "unexplained injuries".

Now the Portsmouth-based minesweeper HMS Walney has been searching the seabed east of the Lizard as part of the ongoing inquiry.

Devon and Cornwall police asked the Navy to search the area of the seabed where Mr Solheim's body was found.

According to a police spokesman the warship is using her remote-controlled submersibles and mine-hunting sonar to search for anything unusual on the seabed that might help the police inquiry.

Mr Solheim, from Carnkie, was last seen getting into his small white dinghy Izzwizz with an unidentified man at Mylor harbour, near Falmouth on June 16.

His boat was found adrift in the harbour with its key in the ignition the following day. On June 18 his body was pulled from the sea.

Police later launched a murder hunt after calculations showed that it was ''not feasible" that Mr Solheim's body could have floated from Mylor to the spot where it was found, a distance of around 13

September 15
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Alex Mc. Cormac and "others"


SEACAT ISLE OF MAN - adverse weather conditions on September 14 disrupted sailings. The 06:00 SEACAT ISLE OF MAN sailing to Liverpool was delayed due to adverse weather. 

She eventually departed Douglas at 07:50 and arrived at Liverpool around 10:50. Conditions were so bad on the Mersey that the Adsteam tug COLLINGWOOD was required to try and restrain the link span pontoon which was pitching heavily to allow vehicles to discharge from SEACAT ISLE OF MAN.

After discharging SCIOM departed back to Douglas around 12:50 light ship - passengers having been diverted via Heysham. However, on venturing out into a stormy Liverpool Bay, SEACAT ISLE OF MAN did an about turn and retreated into the Mersey where eventually entered Langton Lock where she remained overnight before departing on Wednesday morning to take up her schedule with the 10:30 Liverpool to Douglas.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN resumed service on Wednesday September 15 with the 10:30 sailing from Liverpool. Unfortunately this sailing also had to put back to Liverpool this time due to a passenger taking ill. She eventually reached Douglas mid-afternoon.

SUPERSEACAT TWO - due to adverse weather sailings were cancelled on September 14.


Irish Sea freight ferry operator Seatruck Ferries has been voted "Irish Sea Shipping Line of the Year". Seatruck Ferries received the award at the annual All Ireland "Transport & Logistics Awards" at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast on Friday, 10 September. The champagne breakfast in Belfast was attended by over 500 of the key players in the Irish transport industry,

The award was open to any shipping operation that sails into Ireland, including all ferry operations, container, bulk and liquid carriers.

Seatruck made it into the final three, with P&O Irish Sea and Stena Line also in contention. During the presentation ceremony Seatruck was praised for running an excellent operation, with a number of extremely favourable customer comments finally convincing the independent judging panel that Seatruck should be given the winning vote.

The award was presented by Ireland's leading transport journal, 'Export & Freight', and was sponsored by HSBC.

Seatruck is widely recognised within the haulage community as providing unparalleled levels of service to its freight clients, who value the customer-focused approach of the close-knit Seatruck team. The company has gained a reputation for maximising results in what has been, and continues to be, a highly competitive market place.

By focusing on the needs of the freight industry, Seatruck Ferries provides efficiency and reliability with a friendly personal touch. In carefully choosing terminal locations that are not prone to major congestion problems, Seatruck Ferries' customers are able to maximise the efficiency of their operations while still taking advantage of easy links to the industrial heartland of both Ireland and England.

Excellent road links from Warrenpoint, coupled with increasing congestion in ferry terminals elsewhere in Ireland, has seen hauliers take a fresh look at their operations. Warrenpoint is not only an ideal base for ferry operations but can also offer warehousing and ancillary services at non-city-centre prices.

General Manager Alistair Eagles comments, "This is fantastic news for Seatruck. Winning this award against such quality opposition was a real 'giant killing' for us. Seatruck Ferries has proved that it is possible to run a successful ferry route by focusing on what freight customers actually require; that is a no-frills, low-cost method of moving their units reliably on a year- round basis. The continued growth of the service has been made possible by the enthusiastic Seatruck team. We are a young company who enjoy what we do."

Seatruck is now looking to increase capacity on the route. Larger, faster vessels will provide additional space for its customers and provide the opportunity for more new customers to experience the benefits of the route.

Seatruck is also examining other route opportunities where it can successfully mirror the high-quality, low-cost operation pioneered in Warrenpoint.


NorseMerchant Ferries boosts freight capacity on its Birkenhead - Dublin route with a third daily sailing

NorseMerchant Ferries has responded to market demand for increased trailer capacity between North-West England and the Republic of Ireland by adding a third vessel to its Birkenhead - Dublin service. With a capacity of approximately 70 trailers, the newly-chartered Leili will provide over 400 additional spaces per week in each direction on this route when she enters service in October.

A sister vessel to NorseMerchant's Varbola, currently operating on the Heysham - Belfast route, Leili can also carry 12 driver accompanied units.

Sailing from Birkenhead at 03.00hrs, Leili will arrive in Dublin at 11.00hrs, enabling same day delivery. The return sailing from Dublin at 15.00hrs will arrive in Birkenhead at 23.00hrs, allowing next day deliveries throughout the UK.

This additional freight sailing complements the existing twice-daily sailings offered by Brave Merchant and Lindarosa.

Declan Cleary, NorseMerchant's Sales and Marketing Director, expects the strong demand for capacity to continue:

"There is currently a very high level of demand for space on the Birkenhead - Dublin route. This demand is strengthening as logistics and transport operators assess the impact of significant and sustained increases to the price of fuel, and recognise the cost benefit of using the long sea option that we provide.

"The additional sailings are designed to accommodate later running traffic on the 03.00hrs departure from Birkenhead, and still facilitate next-day deliveries in Ireland. We are very pleased to have secured the charter of Leili, which allows us to respond quickly to this demand. With her speed and capacity, Leili is ideally suited as a third vessel on the Birkenhead - Dublin route."

NorseMerchant will be bringing even more capacity to the Birkenhead - Dublin route in 2005, explains Mr Cleary:

"We announced last month our intention to switch our two Ro-Pax ships Lagan Viking and Mersey Viking from Belfast to the Dublin route when we take delivery of two new buildings in July and December 2005. These ships will offer 20% more freight capacity than Brave Merchant and Lindarosa provide at present, as well as offering a twice-daily passenger and driver accompanied service."



At 9.18 on Wednesday September 15, 2004 Falmouth Coastguard received a mobile 999 telephone call via colleagues at Brixham Coastguard reporting the location of five survivors on board a liferaft from the Irish 60 foot converted ketch INIS MIL.

The vessel had been unreported for five days and was on passage from Ireland to France via the Isles of Scilly, but upon recovery it transpired that the survivors had been in the liferaft for eight days.

The `INIS MIL’ had been the subject of a lengthy investigation after having been reported overdue to the Irish authorities. UK, Irish, French and Channel island search and rescue authorities had been involved in the search for the past five days. Brixham Coastguard had also been involved in searching for the survivors during the past few days.

The liferaft was located off Trevose Head by a rescue helicopter with the five survivors on board. Falmouth Coastguard co-ordinated Coastguard rescue teams from St Merryn, a Naval rescue helicopter and lifeboats from Padstow and Newquay to initially search for the liferaft.

All the survivors have now been transferred to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske.

Falmouth Coastguard Watch Manager Martin Bidmead said:

“Considering the weather conditions over the past week we consider these survivors to be very lucky. No distress alert was received from the vessel prior to the mobile telephone call.”

September 12
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Chris Brindle, Michael Pryce, NSL, Seascapes, Tommy Dover and "others"


This weekend's news update follows. A midweek new update was posted on September 08. There were also several other updates during the week. Check "What's New" for details.

Next scheduled update is next Sunday, however, it is likely that another update will be posted during the week.


BLACK ROVER [A273] - the small fleet tanker which departed earlier this week returned to West Float and berthed outside of NSL yard after completion of successful sea-trials. She will re-restore and depart later this month.

NSL has secured another MoD contract for the refit of Landing Ship Logistic, SIR GALAHAD [L3005]. The ship is expected to arrive at Bidston on or around September 27th for a 4-5 week refit.

Canada Dry-dock is presently occupied by Mersey Venture undergoing annual maintenance and tail shaft repairs


Chris Brindle has recently completed a major update of the Maritime Britain web site. This is a guide to maritime attractions in the UK.

The site (whose data is compiled by RMS Windsor Castle Chair - Alex Naughton) now boast 413 individual pages of information about maritime attractions in the UK including museums, ships - static and operational, piers and more. The site also has over 60 pages of information about Maritime Organisations in this country as well as over 170 links to British commercial organisations on the links pages.  


VANGUARD - its is reported that the salvage company Titan Marine has been awarded the contract to remove the wreck of the Vanguard from the Island of Rona. 


On September 8 fire fighters were called to the Stena Terminal at Holyhead just prior to midnight when 15 boxes were reported to be leaking benzyl butyl phthalate a toxic chemical used to make vinyl flooring. The lorry was in an isolated area designated for hazardous cargo. The fire brigade reported no pollution and used environmental protection equipment to deal with the spill.



Coaster callers this week included MAREIKE , CROWN ALIZEE and SCOT EXPLORER making her first call to the port.

Traffic in the bay included the liner FUNCHAL northbound for Dublin , HOHEBANK, THULE and JOPI back working on the sea defence at Bray head .

Wicklow lifeboat had a busy week with 2 shouts, the first to a French yacht with a rope caught in her propeller and then a whelk trawler with mechanical problems.

Wicklow Sailing Club held a 2 day sailing Regatta in the bay over the weekend.


CILL AIRNE - The former Cork Harbour tender was sold at auction in Cork  for €76,000  by Auctioneer, Dominic Daly, on behalf of the Cork Institute of Technology which had used her in recent years for training nautical students. She has been bought by two Cork businessmen - John Daly and Gerard Long - who intend to turn her into a floating bar and restaurant in the port, specifically for next year when Cork becomes the European city of Culture.  Built at the Liffey Dockyard in Dublin, she was launched in 1963.  

The sister ship of the CILL AIRNE - the BLARNA -  is for sale in the United States. She left Cork to become a tender in Bermuda, was renamed the CHAUNCEY M DEPEW and went from there to Canada where she was re-named again as the GOBLET D'ARGENT II under which name she is now for sale.


The excellent weekly nautical magazine broadcast by RTÉ and presented by Tom MacSweeney can now be received in the UK on LW 252. Recordings of past programmes can be listened to at You can also listen live via the RTÉ site on Thursday evenings at 19:30.


The Conningbeg and South Rock Lightships will be off service for maintenance during September.

South Rock will be withdrawn on Friday September 24 for a period of around one week. 

Conningbeg Lightship was withdrawn on September 5 for approximately 30 days. Buoys will be deployed during the period that the lightships are off station.


This week ICG the parent company of Irish Ferries issued its preliminary statement for the six month period until June 30.

Key Points


30 June 2004

30 June 2003











5.1 cent

5.3 cent

Premium on redemption of redeemable shares

8.625 cent

7.5 cent

Net Debt



Share Buybacks



*at 31 December 2003


In comment, Chairman, John McGuckian said,

"Despite a challenging environment we have achieved EPS broadly in line with the previous year. As is normal the bulk of our earnings are generated in the summer and trading to date in the peak season has been encouraging with growth in both car and freight volumes. The successful negotiation of new rosters with our seagoing employees is a positive development going forward. Although the first half of the year has been more difficult than we had anticipated, based on summer trading we remain cautiously optimistic on the outlook for the year as a whole"



The Board of Irish Continental Group, plc (ICG), reports that in the seasonally less significant first half of the year, the Group recorded EPS of 5.1 cent compared with 5.3 cent in the corresponding period in 2003. Turnover for the half year was €135.8 million (2003: €136.9 million restated for FRS5). There was an operating profit of €4.2 million, compared with €5.5 million in the same period in 2003. The interest charge fell from €3.6 million to €2.8 million resulting in profit before tax of €1.4 million compared with €1.9 million in the first half of 2003. The tax charge was €0.2 million (2003: €0.6 million).

The Board has now decided to redeem one redeemable share per ICG unit for a cash consideration of 8.625cent per redeemable share. This will be paid on 5 November 2004 to shareholders on the register at 8 October 2004. Accordingly no interim dividend will be paid. The consideration per redeemable share represents an increase of 15% on the interim redemption premium of 7.5 cent paid last year.


Ferries and Travel Division

The division comprises Irish Ferries, a leading provider of ferry services between Ireland and both the UK and Continental Europe, Tara Travel, a travel services company specialising in travel to Ireland, and the chartering of multipurpose ferries to third parties.

Turnover in the division was €71.5 million (2003: €71.9 million). Operating profit in the division was €3.8 million (€3.6 million in 2003).

Irish Ferries’ core tourist business is car tourism and total cars carried were 165,000 (2003: 174,000). Total passenger numbers were affected by a decline in the foot passenger market and we recorded an 8% drop in overall passengers to 691,000.

Internet sales continue to develop strongly and our year-to-date bookings on the web are up over 40% on the previous year. Internet bookings now account for 36% of passenger bookings.

In the Roll on Roll off freight market we continue to grow, with our volumes up 6% to 100,000 units. There have been a number of developments in the competitive environment in the RoRo sector. One competitor on the long routes from Ireland to the UK has finally emerged from bankruptcy protection, while another competitor, also on the long routes, has closed the Dublin-Mostyn route. This reinforces ICG’s strategy of concentrating capital on the short routes where maximum utilisation of assets can be achieved.

We have concluded the process of consultation with our workforce with the aim of generating cost savings to reflect the competitive environment in which we are operating. The process is designed to bring our labour costs into line with those of our competitors who have had the benefit of lower wage inflation rates than Ireland’s over the last number of years. Tangible benefits will be achieved in the second half of the year through changes in work practices and further benefits will be achieved through new roster arrangements.

Arising from the sustained rise in world oil prices we have reluctantly introduced fuel surcharges with effect from July. If fuel prices return to their lower historical levels these surcharges will be removed.

In ship chartering both the Pride of Bilbao and Pride of Cherbourg (formerly Isle of Innisfree) remain on charter to P&O, servicing their Spanish and French destinations from Portsmouth.

Container and Terminal Division

The division includes our intermodal freight services Eucon, Feederlink and Eurofeeders as well as our strategically located container terminal in Dublin, DFT.

Turnover in the division was €64.7 million (2003: €65.0 million). Operating profit was €0.4 million compared with €1.9 million in 2003. The main reason for the decline in profits was the substantial delay in the opening of our terminal extension in Dublin Port. The commissioning of our new terminal in DFT, which was planned for early in the year, was delayed until June 2004 by external circumstances leading to substantial additional costs and lost revenue. This terminal is now fully operational and will benefit the second half of the year.

Total containers shipped were up 7% to 252,000 teu.

The competitive environment remains challenging, with freight rates, particularly for eastbound (i.e. export) cargo from Ireland, at substantially lower levels than last year. Some increases have been achieved in westbound rates but these remain inadequate.


Depreciation and amortisation in the half year was €12.2 million (2003: €12.7 million), while EBITDA for the 6 months amounted to €16.4 million (€18.2 million in 2003). Cash flow from operations rose to €21.1 million from €18.8 million in the corresponding period in 2003. Capital expenditure in the period was €8.3 million (2003: €9.7 million), principally maintenance capital expenditure on our vessels and investment in information technology.

During the period the Group purchased 0.5 million shares for a total expenditure of €6.4 million. This brings the number of shares in issue to 23.5 million compared with 24.0 million at 30th June 2003.

The average interest cost in the period was 4.4% compared with 4.6% in the first half of 2003. Net debt at the end of the period amounted to €127.0 million. This compares with €125 million at 31 December 2003.

The accounting policies used in the preparation of these interim results are the same as in 2003, with the exception of the adoption of the amendment to FRS5 Reporting the substance of transactions, whereby the Group now presents turnover earned while acting in the capacity of agent on a net basis. In line with other plcs the Group will be changing to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in 2005. Further information on the impact of IFRS is set out in note 7 to the financial statements.

In 1997 a refund scheme for employer contributions of social costs (PRSI) for seafarers was introduced, bringing Ireland into line with the practice in many other EU countries. (In the UK, seafarers in international waters are effectively exempt from National Insurance). This was introduced for a four year period up to 2000 and subsequently extended up to 31 December 2003. We are in consultation with Government on an extension of the scheme which, up to now, has enabled Irish Ferries to compete with other EU flagged vessels employing crew who do not pay social charges. Our expectation is that the scheme will be renewed, enabling us to continue to compete fairly with foreign flagged competition.


The peak tourist season, which is the most important period for us, has been encouraging with our car volumes up 3.5% since 1st July, compared with the same period in 2003.

Freight volumes are also up in the second half to date by approximately 5%. The container freight market in particular remains extremely competitive.

We have successfully renegotiated the rosters of our seagoing staff which will deliver a substantial reduction in costs on the Irish Sea in the second half of the year and in subsequent years. In the increasingly competitive environment in which we are operating further cost savings will be necessary. Our DFT Terminal is now fully operational and we expect a substantial improvement in performance going forward.

At an industry level there has been a welcome reduction in capacity among the freight operators on the long sea routes. With our concentration on the more efficient short routes into Ireland we are well placed to benefit from such a capacity change and we look forward to the remainder of the year with confidence.


Passenger figures compiled by the Harbours Division for July 2004 at 85,367 show a 2.7% increase on the figure for the same period in 2003 which was 83,050.

The year to date figure at 386,847 passengers shows a 1.2% decrease over the same period in 2003 which was 391,420.

During July, car and motorcycle traffic through Douglas Harbour increased by 0.6% from 18,145 vehicles to 18,246 vehicles.

The year to date figure at 105,912 vehicles shows a 1.5% decrease over the same period in 2003 which was 107,508.

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






Plus 10%




Minus 2%




Plus 9%




Minus 4%



Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew comments:

“July 2004 passenger figures are the best since 1989 and follow on from excellent June figures. Whilst the high levels of growth shown in recent years is not apparent this year, overall traffic levels remain broadly similar to last year which was the best year for sea passenger traffic since 1984.”

September 08
Acknowledgements: Ian Collard, Edwin Wilmshurst, Michael Bracken, Kevin Bennett, Gary Andrews, John Williams and "others"


SEACAT ISLE OF MAN - on September 05 rescued three youths from Northern Ireland who had become lost whilst trying to sail to Bangor in an inflatable boat.

The youths became lost in for off the Galloway coast, Scotland and were sailing in the wrong direction towards the Solway Firth.

The rescue operation was co-ordinated by Belfast and Liverpool Coastguard, after the youths had raised the alert by text message.

Lifeboats were launched from the Isle of Man and Portpatrick in Scotland. A rescue helicopter was scrambled from RAF Prestwick.

The youths were located after a flare they had fired was spotted by SEACAT ISLE OF MAN.

Colin Brown, watch manager for Liverpool Coastguard, said the SeaCat resumed its passage to Belfast, where the youths were reunited with their families.

Their inflatable boat was recovered by a lifeboat crew who took it to Portpatrick.

Mr Brown said: "I would like to thank all the units that have been involved and put out a strong safety message to anyone taking any type of vessel out on the water that they must be properly prepared and always remember to check that their vessel is fully seaworthy before setting out and that safety equipment is carried on board including VHF radio, lifejackets and flares, as it could mean the difference between life and death."

As for SEACAT ISLE OF MAN herself speculation is continuing as to what may eventually replace this vessel in 2005. The favourite in the frame once again appears to be INCAT 057 though she may only prove to be a medium term interim replacement.


L1020643.JPG (70821 bytes)VANGUARD the crew of eight on board the Merseyside based tug had to be rescued on the evening of September 07 after the vessel began to take on water off Skye shortly after 17:30

A Coastguard Helicopter and Portree Lifeboat were tasked to the scene. 

VANGUARD is believed to have been working with the British Underwater Testing and Evaluation Centre (BUTEC) at Kyle of Lochalsh and was contracted by BAe Systems and accompanying a Canadian Navy submarine which was undergoing sea trials.

The tug was beached on the Island of Rona. The crew of eight were reported safe and well. On Wednesday it was reported that an attempt would be made to remove fuel and oil prior to an assessment being made to see if it was possible to refloat the vessel.

It is not yet clear as to how the vessel began to take on water. 

The above photograph shows VANGUARD at the Carmet berth in Vittoria Dock.


RFA BLACK ROVER the small fleet tanker which has been refitting over the past few months at North Western Ship Repairers is expected to depart from the yard at 04:00 on Thursday September 08 for sea trials. On conclusion of these trials she is expected to return to the yard.

RFA ARGUS [A135] is due to visit the Mersey in August 2005 as part of the Centenary Celebrations of The Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Now an aviation training and primary casualty reception ship, she started life as Sea Containers CONTENDER BEZANT.


HMS PEMBROKE  [M107] the Sandown Class Mine Countermeasures Ship is due to visit Liverpool between September 25 and 27 


Press reports suggest that Stena is looking at the possibility of deploying a larger vessel on the Holyhead - Dublin route or increasing the frequency of sailings. The company says an urgent review of central corridor tonnage is required.

The company claims that some sailings are now running at 98% of freight capacity. Some of the increase in traffic being attributable to the closure of the P&O Mostyn - Dublin service earlier this year. The company expects to beat its profit target for 2004 by £1m.

However rising fuel prices mean that costs on the services out of Holyhead may rise by £1m next year.


The TOPAZ [formerly the embryo Carnival Corporation's second Cruise Ship CARNIVALE] and previously Canadian Pacific's EMPRESS OF BRITAIN, met with one of the more recent additions to the Carnival Fleet - the former  P&O GRAND PRINCESS.

TOPAZ (ex Empress of Britain) had returned to the Irish Sea for the first time in 40 years.  She was sold by original owners  Canadian Pacific to Greek LIne in 1964.  Her return visit to Belfast on September 1 & 2 was on charter to Peaceboat of Japan. 

TOPAZ departed Belfast for New York to arrive there in time for the 9/11 commemoration. She was joined in Belfast on 1 Sept. by GRAND PRINCESS 109,000/98 which had been visiting several UK ports & which was the largest cruise ship ever to dock in Northern Ireland, disembarking 3700 passengers & crew.

It was significant that the two ship were together as Topaz was once CARNIVALE the 2nd ship owned by Carnival which with their first ship MARDI GRAS (her former CP fleet-mate Empress of Canada) were responsible for helping establish Carnival which has become the largest cruise company in the world, now operating such luxury cruise ships as GRAND PRINCESS.


September 05
Acknowledgements: Michael Bracken, Tony Brennan, Alex McCormac, Tommy Dover, John Lewis and "others"



Your web master is currently trying to catch up with recent submissions and his own recently gathered material. However, there is still someway to go and therefore it is likely that further mid week updates will be posted. At present you are recommended to check back on Thursday evening to catch up on any mid week updates.

As a consequence of the many recent updates it will be necessary to archive older material posted prior to mid June in the busier galleries.

In this weekend's update the first material from the 2004 Navy Days has been posted including the HMS Albion Amphibious Experience.



The second round of the SCIOM replacement name poll was concluded this week. The poll was hosted on the Irish Sea Ships Yahoo group. 

The results of the second round were as follows: 


  • - Manx Express, 5 votes, 15.62%

  • - Snaefell, 12 votes, 37.50%

  • - Manx Cat, 12 votes, 37.50%

  • - Tynwald, 0 votes, 0.00%

  • - Viking, 3 votes, 9.38%

In concluding the second and final round of the poll it was interesting to note that one traditional and one new name found equal favour with those responding who in the final round were only given the option of making one choice.

The joint winners being SNAEFELL and MANX CAT

SUPERSEACAT TWO - was reported running very late on September 04. She only arrived at Douglas at 07:05 to take the 04:00 sailing to Liverpool. The 04:00 arrived at Liverpool around 11:30. 

As a consequence of the late running her Saturday sailing to Dublin was cancelled.


CILL AIRNE the former liner tender which in recent years has served as a training ship for the Cork Institute of Technology is to be auctioned at mid day on Thursday, September 09 at the Imperial Hotel, Cork. 

Built by the Liffey Dockyard in 1963 and designed by the naval architects responsible for the Wallasey Ferries she was one of two sisters. Her sister BLARNA has recently been advertised for sale by a US ship broker.



At 20:20 on September 01Liverpool Coastguard were contacted on channel 16 by the yacht QUEST on passage from Douglas to Fleetwood, reporting that a second yacht UBIER, which they had been in company with was in difficulty and suffering an engine fire. 

Liverpool Coastguard contacted UBIER by radio and the single handed yachtsman confirmed that he was unable to control an engine room fire and was abandoning ship to his tender boat, being unable to reach his life raft due to the smoke. The alert was upgraded to a Mayday call.

Liverpool Coastguard made an emergency broadcast to shipping in the area and scrambled the Rescue Helicopter 122 and requested launch of RNLI life boats from Fleetwood and Barrow.

The oil stand by vessel HIGHLAND SPRITE responded to Liverpool Coastguard and deployed a fast response craft which was able to locate and recover the casualty and transfer him to the vessel HIGHLAND SPRITE. Rescue Helicopter 122 is transferred the casualty to Furness Hospital to check for suspected smoke

Fleetwood and Barrow RNLI life boats were on the scene to deal with the abandoned vessel. Weather and conditions were reported calm and favourable to the rescuers. UBIER is a 37 foot yacht and the yachtsman on board was reported to be from Lancashire.

Liverpool Coastguard Watch Manager Tony Topping said:,

“Liverpool Coastguard would like to thank the crew of HIGHLAND SPRITE for their quick response to the Mayday call tonight as well as the other commercial vessels which also responded to the alert.”

SEACAT ISLE OF ISLE OF MAN was also reported to have assisted in the rescue.


Coaster callers at Wicklow over the last 2 weeks included  FAST SIM ex VERITAS,  ROGER, BREMER SATURN and HOHEBANK.

Visitor's to the port included The GREATER MANCHESTER CHALLENGE and RINN VOYAGER

Traffic in the bay included the cruise liner SAGA PEARL  southbound, the tanker OTHELLO north for Dublin , CIL tender GRANUAILE went south, a gas rig northbound under tow. BEN ELLAN,  VICTRESS, CONDOCK V, cruise liner MINERVA II northbound for Dublin, containership MARGARETA B southbound , The sailing ship JEANIE JOHNSON under sail was noted heading back to Dun Laoghaire.


The replica emigrant ship commenced a voyage to La Corunna in Spain on September 03. For further details visit

September 01
Acknowledgements: Ian Collard, Michael Bracken, Brian McGrath, David Sallery and "others"



Your web master has returned after a short but interesting visit to Devon and Cornwall. This evening I have posted some of the photographs taken during this trip, concentrating on merchant material. 

Devonport Navy Days photographs will appear within the next few days. 


PONT-AVEN due to ongoing technical problems the 14:00 departure from Plymouth to Roscoff and the 23:30 return sailing were cancelled on August 31.

PONT-AVEN is scheduled to operate two Christmas Cruises  in conjunction with Cruise World. The programme of trips includes the chance to sail from Plymouth to Ringaskiddy in County Cork.

The schedule is as follows: Depart Plymouth December 24 or December 30 for Santander, Spain. Three nights. Fares from £99 per person. 

The Christmas Party Cruise to Ringaskiddy, Cork takes place on December 28. Fares start at £79. There is also the opportunity to combine a trip to Spain with the trip to Cork. Full details are available from "Cruise World" telephone: 0870 743 1000. 


Perhaps one day we may just see a ship like this on the Irish Sea?


Completion of Austal's groundbreaking trimaran for Fred. Olsen draws near Progress on the construction of Austal's Auto Express 127 metre trimaran fast ferry "Benchijigua Express" for Fred. Olsen, S.A. continues at a breathtaking pace.

Ordered in June last year, the 126.7 metre long cargo-vehicle-passenger ferry will sail at loaded speeds in excess of 40 knots, providing capacity for 1350 passengers, over 340 cars and more than 400 freight lane metres. When delivered it will be the largest aluminium ship ever built. More importantly, the newly developed trimaran hull form will provide a significant improvement in sea keeping performance and passenger comfort over existing fast ferries.

Construction has proceeded smoothly and is on schedule. To date, the main aluminium structure has been proceeding to a point where it completely filled one of the vast shipbuilding halls at Austal's facility in Henderson, Western Australia. In an adjacent building hall the fabrication of the bow section and wheelhouse have been taking shape in parallel.

A major milestone in the construction of this groundbreaking ship was achieved in mid-July when the bow section, itself measuring some 32 metres in length, 15 metres high and weighing 120 tonnes, was moved out of its building hall and united with the main structure. This revealed the true size and scale of the ferry to the outside world for the first time, with the giant vessel protruding from the 110 metre long building hall by some 30 metres.

Expressing the views of all concerned with the trimaran, Austal's Chairman Mr John Rothwell said he was both fascinated and extremely proud to see the results of the achievement of joining the bow to the main section.

"The sight of this gigantic ship, the largest aluminium vessel to ever be built in the world, caused me to stop and reflect on where we have come from and what our future potential is," Mr Rothwell said.

"At 127 metres this huge vessel is 4¼ times longer than the first Austal-built live-aboard dive catamaran of just 30 metres. Travelling some 9,500 nautical miles the trimaran will be delivered half way across the world to the Canary Islands, whereas the catamaran was delivered 3,500 nautical miles across Australia to Queensland. At the height of construction approximately 430 people have worked on the trimaran with construction taking 12 months plus two months for commissioning and sea trials. The 30 metre cat was built in approximately six months with just 30 people."

With the bow section fitted the next major milestone was the installation of the ship's machinery plant and this was followed by the rollout of the vessel from her birthplace into the bright Western Australian sunshine on August 16.

The vessel is now 80% complete and with large sections of the structure gleaming in Fred. Olsen's eye-catching livery it will be a dominant feature on the Henderson skyline until its launch in late September.

After it is delivered later this year, the new trimaran will operate in the Canary Islands on the routes from Los Cristianos, Tenerife to San Sebastian, Gomera and the island of Palma, bringing a new age in transport to the ferry industry.


OCEAN BOOMER the former NORTHERN HORIZON which has been refitting in A&P Birkenhead for some months is expected to depart around September 15.

She is  en route to an Atlantic Ocean salvage operation of copper ingots. The recovery project, the company's first, is being performed on behalf of Great Britain's Treasury Department. The proceeds of sale of any ingots salvaged will be realized upon return to port, said the company. Semi-precious metals are currently in a period of significant appreciation on international commodities markets. Since September 2003, copper has risen from $.80 to $1.30 per lb. Accordingly, the cargo of copper ingots on this first recovery project is valued at $5 to $7 million. 14% of recovery proceeds is payable to Great Britain's Treasury Department.

The target wreck is a World War I merchant ship sitting bolt upright with cargo holds open in a relatively shallow 1300 feet of water. Ocean Resources' proprietary ROGE (Remotely Operated Grab Excavator), a hydraulically operated multi-jaw grab, will descend to the ship and attempt to bring its copper ingots to the surface. ROGE is among the world's most advanced deep sea excavating devices, capable of passing through narrow hatches, seizing up to three tons of material in a single grab and operating at depths of up to 16,000 feet, almost double the capacity of competitors.


London, Aug 30 -- A press report, dated today, states: Tug Svitzer Bidston (369 gt, built 2004) is undergoing repairs after being involved in an incident at a local dry dock on the Mersey. It is rumoured that during an attempt to dry-dock the tug it slipped from the blocks and damaged its azimuthing propellers, skeg and puncturing the hull in one of its fuel tanks. At present it is in dry dock and the propellers have been removed and work continues to repair it. SVITZER BIDSTON is currently in Clarence Dry Dock.


Sea Containers announced that it had sold its subsidiary Folkestone Properties Ltd, owners of Folkestone Harbour on the south east coast of the United Kingdom on August 26.

Contracts were signed for the port sale on July 2, 2004 and the purchase, by businessman Mr Roger De Haan who is well known as chairman of the Folkestone-based Saga Group, was completed on August 24, 2004 .  The sale price was $20 million (£11 million).  President of Sea Containers Ltd., Mr James B. Sherwood, said the gain will be recorded in the company’s third quarter results.

Mr Sherwood indicated that long term rights were retained for Orient-Express Hotels Ltd., the company in which Sea Containers has a large shareholding, to access the station and car park for passengers and vehicles related to the Venice Simplon-Orient Express and British Pullman tourist trains.


On September 01 the Western Morning News reported that a  police chase and arrest unfolded at sea on August 31 as officers boarded a lifeboat to track a fishing vessel which had allegedly been stolen.

Two policemen joined the Newquay lifeboat crew in an Atlantic rescue boat at 6.15am when it was realised the 32ft Cygnus crabber BAND OF HOPE was missing from Newquay Harbour.

The Newquay inshore lifeboat joined the early morning search before other fishing vessels, alerted to the incident by a radio message from Coastguards, spotted the missing boat between Portreath and Godrevy, near St Ives, and circled it, blocking its path.

The Atlantic then sped to the scene at a rate of 32 knots - the BAND OF HOPE capable of just ten knots - and by pulling alongside an arrest was made.

For boat owner Adam Beckett, that was not the end of the bad news. "There are two huge holes in the side of the boat where it hit rocks and it's got to be taken out of the water.

"Until it's sorted me and my crewman are out of a job."

A helicopter from RNAS Culdrose was called in amid fears the boat may sink as it was taking in water. The helicopter unloaded a salvage pump on board the Cygnus and another was brought by the St Ives lifeboat.

The Cygnus crabber, made in Penryn, is one of about 100 - with another three common to Newquay Harbour.

Mr Beckett, 26, bought the boat 18 months ago. "I left school at 15 and went straight out to sea.

"My dad died and half the money was left for the boat from that, so for me that makes this even worse."

Crewman Joe Emmett, 25, is also a Newquay Lifeboat volunteer. He was first to raise the alarm and went out in pursuit of the boat. Mr Beckett said: "My crewman got to the harbour just before me and he didn't know if I had gone off with the boat somewhere but then he saw me coming down the drive and started to panic.

"It could have been worse, the boat could have sunk so I have got something to be happy for."

The boat's skull and crossbones flag was flying at half mast yesterday. It was put up last week by crew but had a sour tone after the incident. Mr Beckett said: "That's just something we put up for a laugh about a week ago."

A 28-year-old man has been charged with aggravated vehicle taking and will be appearing before Bodmin Magistrates this morning



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