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Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond


May 26



The Laxey Towing Company has a new web site at

The site gives details of sailings on board the MV KARINA from Douglas to Laxey, Derbyhaven, Port Soderick and around Douglas Bay. Also included are details of the company's fleet of vessels as well as the fleet of historic haulage and contractors' vehicles.


BALMORAL  - The Whitehaven - Isle of Man sailing on May 27 has been cancelled due to a late departure from dry dock.

It is anticipated that the ship should take up her schedules with the sailing from Bangor to Peel on Saturday May 28. Sailing updates can be found at

May 25Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Tony Brennan, Alex McCormac, Andrew Blundell, Kevin Bennett, Jenny Williamson, Edwin Wilmshurst and "others"


BEN-MY-CHREE - subject to final confirmation it was announced on Saturday to passengers travelling on the LADY OF MANN's Troon - Douglas sailing,  that the Ben will undertake her first Round The Island Cruise on Saturday July 23. On this date no Saturday evening sailing to Heysham is scheduled.

SUPERSEACAT TWO - adverse weather conditions led to the cancellation of the afternoon sailing to Liverpool on Monday. On Wednesday the afternoon sailing to Belfast was cancelled as well as the late evening / early Thursday morning sailing to Liverpool.  On Sunday the ailing SUPERSEACAT TWO was noted crossing Douglas Bay rather late at 14:15 on her morning sailing from Belfast.

LADY OF MANN has operated her scheduled special excursions very much to schedule so far this week, with good loadings of 762 ex Fleetwood on Sunday, 379 ex Whitehaven on Monday, 698 ex Fleetwood on Tuesday.

Despite a late departure from Douglas on Sunday at 18:55, due solely to the scanning of every single passenger at the security check, she made good time and was on the berth at Fleetwood in just under three hours.

The company is reported to have put on hold its plans to buy a new vessel as a result of the Isle of Man Government holding talks with budget airline EasyJet according to a report in the Isle of Man Examiner.

"Hamish Ross, the ferry company's managing director, confirmed that 'uncertainty' within the local airline sector was behind the decision. 'There has been quite a bit of volatility in terms of the air services recently and we won't be making a final decision and investing in a vessel until we are clear about what is happening in terms of the air competition' said Mr Ross.

He added 'there is intense competition already on the Liverpool and Manchester access ... and we would certainly argue that in the north west sector there is overcapacity at the moment'

Last month the Government confirmed that it is in talks with EasyJet over the possibility of the airline running services from Ronaldsway airport. However, the Department of Transport noted that it was conscious of the possible negative impact such a move could have on existing operators. Transport Minister John Shimmin stressed that it was extremely premature to consider this [talks with EasyJet as anything more than a speculative investigation on their behalf.

Mr Ross said the EasyJet talks were not the only factor behind the decision but had 'clouded the issue further'.' Volatility [within the airline sector] is a big factor. We are talking about making an investment of £20million and we are not going to leap into that until we are clear about what is happening through the airport.

The Steam Packet had at one stage been planning to introduce a new fast craft this summer but Mr Ross said the timescale would have been too tight. Instead the company had committed to the SuperSeaCat on the Douglas route. The biggest inhibiting factors in growing the Island tourism sector were a shortage of accommodation and the absence of a 'wow' factor. I consider access to the Island now - both by sea and air - is probably better than it ever has been. EasyJet is one for Government to decide, but I would certainly hope that when they are looking at the EasyJet scene they will take the overall picture into view.'


P&O EXPRESS sailing from Larne to Douglas on the evening of June 1 and returning in the early hours of June 2 have been cancelled. Passengers holding tickets are reported to have been notified. The reason for cancellation are not known, though possibly low passenger numbers could be to blame.


NORMANDY was prevented from berthing at Cherbourg on Monday May 23. She had been due to berth at 10:30, however, she did not berth until 18:50.

The company blamed around 60 to 70 protestors who were obstructing the ro/ro ramp and displaying a Brittany Ferries flag.  As a consequence,  793 passengers, 248 cars, 4 articulated freight units and 2 vans were forced to remain on board for many hours.

However, a spokesman for the demonstrators said their protest was not preventing the vessel from docking.

A representative of the International Transport Federation, Tony Ayton, who was at Cherbourg, said the protest there was peaceful and was not impeding the ferry.

The demonstration was organised by the French, British and Irish maritime unions in protest at what they say are low wages being paid by Irish Ferries to mostly eastern European staff.


Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has announced the approval of grants amounting to £17m to fund the provision of a landing stage extension at Liverpool.

£7.1m will will come from EU / UK Government funds and £9.9m from the North West Regional Development Agency.

The landing stage extension will be 250 metres long. More than 25 cruise ships per year are expected to use the  new facility by 2009. A new passenger reception facility will also be provided.


STENA NORDICA [ex EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR] will not be coming to the Irish Sea to provide cover for the STENA ADVENTURER's refit as originally planned, The STENA NORDICA is required to remain on the Baltic due to delays rebuilding and refitting the STENA BALTICA which serves the Karlskrona-Gdynia route.

Cover for STENA ADVENTURER on the Dublin - Holyhead service will be provided by STENA EUROPE currently refitting at A&P Birkenhead.  This means that the STENA CALEDONIA will continue to operate on the southern corridor providing cover for STENA EUROPE and that the STENA SEAFARER will remain on the Stranraer-Belfast route covering for STENA CALEDONIA

May 21Acknowledgements: Michael Bracken, Tommy Dover, Alex Mc.Cormac, Ian Collard and "others".


As things have turned out it has been possible to produce a weekend update. However, as stated on Thursday there is a likelihood that updates may become a little erratic until mid June.


A slight error crept into the listing of ships visiting for the annual Mersey River Festival. You may have noticed in my commentary on the LÉ CIARA. However, you will have noticed that she was not listed amongst the visiting ships! This has been corrected. LÉ CIARA and HMS SHOREHAM will berth in Canning basin.


LADY OF MANN commenced what is almost certain to prove to be her final programme of special excursions on May 20 when she departed Douglas bound for Troon.

She returned to Douglas at 1815 on Saturday May 21.

SUPERSEACAT TWO has been noted by observers running somewhat behind schedule in the latter part of the week due to technical problems.


SEA EXPRESS 1 commenced its scheduled evening sailing to Dublin on Thursday May 19. However, the evening arrivals and departures at Liverpool on both Thursday and Friday were delayed by a somewhat sickly and late running SUPERSEACAT TWO.  SEA EXPRESS 1 did not get away from Liverpool until around 19:50 on Friday May 19.


LIVERPOOL VIKING was noted at the former Norse Irish Ferries berth at Brocklebank Dock on Saturday May 21.

LINDAROSA appears to have been operating the early morning sailing from Birkenhead for much of the week with LEILI taking the mid morning sailing at 10:30.

SAGA MOON arrived on the Mersey on Saturday evening May 21 with the sailing from Belfast.

VARBOLA is currently operating on the Dublin route.


Monday 16th - Sunday 22th May 2005

Wicklow Port

Coaster callers this week were SANDETTIE, SCOT VENTURE, UNION GEM and MONICA .

GRANUAILE anchored in the bay overnight during the week , she was working in Wicklow bay for a short time before heading north.

May 19Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Michael Bracken and "others".



As mentioned in the previous news bulletin, there is no scheduled site update this weekend at present. However, it may be possible to post some additional material. This very much depends on time available. Due to various sailings planned in the next few weeks updates may be a little erratic, though I will try to adhere, were possible, to the published schedule.


LADY OF MANN departed from the wet basin at A&P Birkenhead promptly at 19:00 on Wednesday May 18. For photographs of her departure 


Passenger figures compiled by the Harbours Division for April 2005 at 42,351 show a 33.2% decrease on the figure for the same period in 2004 which was 63,387.

The year to date figure at 117,812 passengers shows a 12.2% decrease over the same period in 2004 which was 134,224.

During April car traffic through Douglas Harbour decreased by 26.4% from 14,190 vehicles to 10,447.

The year to date figure at 33,253 vehicles shows a 9.4% decrease over the same period in 2004 which was 36,690.

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






Minus 25%




Minus 33%




Minus 67%




Minus 67%



Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew comments:

“April 2005 figures show the real effect of the early Easter. However after allowing for this they are still disappointing. For the first time in recent years we are seeing a fall in sea passenger traffic despite competitive fares being available.”


LOGOS II The mission ship berthed at East Float, Birkenhead on the morning of May 16 on what will be her last ever visit to Merseyside.

LOGOS II is due to be replaced by the LOGOS HOPE [ex NORRONA]. It has been anticipated that the LOGOS II would pay off at Birkenhead. However, due to delays in converting the LOGOS HOPE she will continue in service calling at Cork on June 02. The day after she departs Birkenhead. Further information:


STENA EUROPE arrived at A&P Birkenhead on Monday May 16 berthing in the wet basin. She transferred to dry dock on the Morning of Thursday May 19 with the aid of Adsteam tugs. Her duties on the Fishguard - Rosslare route are being covered by STENA CALEDONIA.


The final line up of vessels visiting the Mersey for the 25 Annual Mersey River Festival will be as follows:

Canning Dock

Irish Naval Service LÉ CIARA and HMS SHOREHAM.

Wellington Dock

KHERSONES (built 1989), PRINCE WILLIAM (built in 2001), LORD NELSON (built 1986)

Albert Dock

GLACIERE (built 1899 as a Baltic trader) Liverpool 08 Clipper, HMS CHARGER &  HMS BITER, Steam tug - KERNE, COASTAL GUARDIAN.

Whilst there are the usual repeat visitors, the fine Ukrainian fully rigged KHERSONES of the DAR MLODZIEZY class should prove to be of particular interest for photographers. Sister ship MIR proved to be a popular visitor at last year's festival. After several years absence it is good to see the Irish Naval Service making an appearance on Merseyside. LÉ CIARA was the first INS vessel to visit the Mersey in the mid 1990s.


It should also be noted that the BALMORAL will also be visiting the Mersey on the weekend of the Mersey River Festival offering a trip to Llandudno and the Menai Straits on June 11 and a special cruise for the Parade of Sail on Sunday June 12. [ ]


JEANIE JOHNSTON - RTÉ reported this week that the replica emigrant ship is to be sold by her present owners to the Dublin Docklands Development Authority.

The board of the project committee running the vessel at present has approved the sale for €2.7million. This is subject to the final approval of those who invested in the project at the outset including Kerry County Council, Tralee Urban Council and the Shannon Development Authority.

The Jeanie Johnston is at present berthed at Cork Port and is due to take part in the tall ships race in Waterford in July.

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority later said it was planned to berth it close to the city centre, where a berth would be dredged and made available for it.

In the meantime arrangements are being made for maintenance and refurbishment to be carried out at Cork Dockyard before the ship is sailed to Dublin. It has been berthed in Cork Port since she arrived from Dublin in late January.

The spokesperson said that the onboard museum would be a particular attraction but there had been no detailed consideration of any future sailing plans for the ship.

Some conditions had yet to be worked out to conclude negotiations, he said.


Work   is now well under way on Fleetwood's super new ferry boat for the town's service to Knott End. The new vessel, a 30-passenger, all-weather boat, is currently under construction in a shipyard in South Wales and is expected to be delivered to Fleetwood in early July. It was originally hoped the boat would be ready by the end of this month, but that is now unlikley.

Lancashire County Council, which is financing the £500,000 scheme, is delivering not only the boat itself, but new landing facilities. Work to modify the landing facilities for disabled access is currently underway. The service will be operated by Fleetwood company Wyre Waste Management, which has been operating the ferry service with its smaller boat, Harvester, for the last two years.

Ian Drury, boss of Wyre Waste, said: "We understand that the boat's keel has already been constructed and that work is progressing well. "It will be great to have an all-weather vessel which will mean the ferry service can run throughout the year. "This will be a big boost for Fleetwood."

The vessel is being built by a company called Mustang Marine, which is based in Pembroke docks. In 2003 it looked as if the ferry service would be scrapped altogether when Wyre Council said it could no longer afford to run it. But agreements were eventually reached between Wyre and Lancashire Council in which County agreed to help with the costs for 10 years.

The deal also involved a contractor - Wyre Waste - running the ferry on Wyre's behalf. The new boat will be jet-propelled instead of using propellers, which will help to make it more manoeuvrable. Harvester is currently laid up while work is carried out on the landing facilities, but the service will re-commence in the next couple of weeks. Fleetwood Today - May 16.


Views of the new LAGAN VIKING which is currently under construction in Italy can be found on the company's web site.


The manslaughter trial of the owner of the scallop dredger SOLWAY HARVESTER collapsed on May 18.
The Isle of Man court found that 41-year-old Richard Gidney, director of Jack Robinson Trawlers, who denied killing the seven crew by breaching his duty of care, had no case to answer.

May 15Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, C.J. Lawrenson, Kevin Bennett, National Museums Liverpool, Tommy Dover and "others".



Due to the occurrence of various Nautical Events over the next few weeks it has been necessary to adjust the web site update schedule for the second half of May and first half of June please see the update schedule for details of changes.


LADY OF MANN - This week the Lady was advertised for sale by the Liverpool Ship Brokers S.C. Chambers. She will be available for delivery in October 2005, which will obviously be at the conclusion of her charter to Acor Line. There is therefore the possibility that when the LADY OF MANN departs the Irish Sea in June for the summer that she may never return should a sale to an overseas buyer be concluded whilst she is away.

On Saturday May 14 the LADY OF MANN transferred from dry dock to at A&P Birkenhead to the Wet Basin in preparation for her return to service for her programme of special excursions and TT duties.


The Official Anniversary Book of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company was launched this week at Isle of Man Steam Packet gallery at the House of Manannan.

The 160 page hardback book is illustrated throughout with many excellent colour and mono photographs many of which appear in print for the first time.

The book provides an up to date history of the company from its founding to the present day. In addition there are chapters covering the Mail Contract, Officers and Crews, A Steam Packet Day as well as a biographical A-Z of Captains past and present. The book is rounded off by a fleet list.

It appears that a number of errors have crept into the work particularly concerning some captions and one photograph appears reversed. An eagle eyed correspondent had located six errors by Friday evening and your web Master has found another two.

However, despite the errors the book is a worthy addition to the collection of works which have been published over the years on the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and a very worthwhile souvenir of the 175 Anniversary.

The book is published by Ferry Publications [].


It is understood that the company has recently inspected SEACAT FRANCE and SEACAT SCOTLAND. Both of the Sea Containers owned 74m Incats are currently laid up at the Pallion Shipyard, Sunderland.


On Thursday May 12, seafarers were reported to be picketing the company's office protesting over the issue of poor pay and conditions for foreign workers.

 Work SUPERFERRY is not governed by a trade-union negotiated agreement, and unions say "benefits and safeguards" afforded to other Irish-based seafarers are denied to workers aboard SUPERFERRY.

Tony Ayton of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) said pay aboard the vessel "is greatly substandard".

"Swansea Cork Ferries also deny their crew the right to be members of and be represented by an independent and free trade union," Mr Ayton added.

He said the company refused to sign a deal agreed in 2002 that would see national minimum wage rates introduced incrementally over a five-year period. This did not happen, and the company ceased recognising the union and set up a staff association for workers as a means of bypassing the unions.

Swansea Cork Ferries maintains it now pays minimum wage, but Mr Ayton said a crew member aboard the vessel would need to work 70 hours a week to receive the equivalent of someone on minimum wage working a 39-hour week.

He also said the company's wage calculations include "some allowances and labour costs that are expressively forbidden to be included in the calculations of the national minimum wage".

Workers aboard the SUPERFERRY handed in a letter to management as part of their protest seeking the implementation of the deal agreed in principle in 2002.


It appears there are some changes to the refit cover plans. STENA CALEDONIA is now expected to provide cover on the Rosslare to Fishguard route for STENA EUROPE. Cover for STENA CALEDONIA on the north channel is now expected to be  provided by STENA SEAFARER. It is still expected that STENA NORDICA [ex EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR] will provide cover for the refit of STENA ADVENTURER on the Holyhead - Dublin route.

STENA EUROPE's last sailing prior to refit will be the 14:30 on Monday May 16. STENA CALEDONIA will take up the service on the 21:15 the same day. STENA EUROPE is due back in service on May 29, 2005.



Monday 09th - Sunday 15th May 2005

Coaster callers this week were ANNLEN G, UNION SATURN and SANDETTIE. Traffic in the bay included  RMS LAAR, BLACKFRIARS and LYSFOSS.

Hunter Marines KILQUADE was out winch training in the bay with the Coastguard helicopter from Dublin during the week . Coastguard units from around the country were in Wicklow over the weekend for a boat handling course .

Wicklow lifeboat RNLB ANNIE BLAKER arrived back after a overhaul in England, the relief lifeboat OWEN & ANNE AISHER left the port during the week.

Wicklow Sailing Club yachts were taken in from the moorings due to Easterly gales during the week


A pre planning application has been placed with Wirral Council for a  £500 million scheme including education / leisure and office development by Reddington Finance on the former Cammell Laird Shipyard site in Birkenhead. The architects for the project are based in London.


THOMSON CELEBRATION - Carnival Corporation's former NORDAM which underwent a major refit at A&P Falmouth earlier this year prior to charter to the package holiday operator Thomson has had to cancel its current cruise and return passengers to the UK after serious problems occurred with plumbing on board.

The decision was made on the morning of Friday May 13th.  The problem with the plumbing system first appeared on day three of
a 14 night cruise when the ship was docked in Bilbao on its  scheduled stop. All customers were transferred to hotels in Bilbao  for an overnight stay whilst the ship engineers worked through the
night and the problem was fixed.

The customers returned to the ship on Wednesday morning and the ship sailed at 18:00 that evening heading for its planned port of Lisbon

However, following recurrence of the same problem on Thursday the decision was made to cancel the cruise.  Passengers in the effected cabins were flown back to the UK, whilst others will return with the ship which is due to arrive at Southampton on Monday May 16.

The company has refunded fares and offered a discount on a future cruise. It is anticipated that the next cruise will operate as scheduled.


The dramatic moment when a fisherman first scrambled ashore with news of Admiral Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar will be the highlight of a maritime festival expected to attract hundreds of people to Cornwall.

The historic harbour in Penzance will be filled with local and visiting yachts, as well as two tall ships, as the town celebrates its seafaring past with a weekend programme of events.

At the launch of Battle of Trafalgar celebrations, on board the tall ship SV Ruth yesterday, organisers said it would be a "great occasion" to showcase West Cornwall's proud maritime heritage.

John Lambourn, one of the event's coordinators, said: "One always feels Cornwall rather under-rates its seafaring history.

"But after 200 years we are going to celebrate this great victory. In West Cornwall, people would have been looking for Napoleon's fleet approaching, so imagine what it was like when a lugger landed in Penzance and brought the news of Nelson's victory to shore.

"This will be a very special celebration."

The organisers have decided to hold the celebrations on the actual 200th anniversary in October, rather than during the summer when Falmouth plans to hold its own celebrations.

The highlight will be a re-enactment of the moment when HMS Pickle, which was on her way to Falmouth from the battle with official dispatches, encountered a local fishing boat and passed on the news.

The fisherman hurried to the Union Hotel in Penzance to inform the town, before dignitaries paraded to Madron church to celebrate.

The Baltic trader RUTH will play the role of HMS PICLE on October 22, hailing a lugger in Mount's Bay, which will bring the news ashore. Traditional vessels are being invited to join the flotilla, which will include the tall ship, The EARL OF PEMBROKE.

Mike Foxley, tourism officer for Penwith District Council, said: "The sky around Penzance harbour will once again be full of masts and sails.

"We have been 18 months in the planning stage and there has been a huge amount of support and interest in these important celebrations, which reflect the history and heritage of West Cornwall.

"The harbour is small and close to the town and a lot of visiting vessels like to come here."

The sea event will start with a press gang in the Dock Inn on October 21. The following morning, the fishing fleet of local and visiting luggers and traditional vessels will leave the dock and sail into Mounts Bay until the afternoon reenactment.

Talks, exhibitions and evening entertainment are also planned.

[Western Morning News - May 14]



A fascinating collection of exhibits linked to the TITANIC and LUSITANIA disasters is now on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. The recently acquired items have been added to the permanent displays at the museum to mark the 90th anniversary of the sinking of Lusitania on 7 May 2005.

The new items join existing exhibits in the Floating Palaces gallery. The gallery celebrates the opulence of the magnificent liners of the Edwardian age and tells the dramatic stories of the Titanic and Lusitania disasters. Highlights include the original 20ft long builder’s model of the Titanic and a survivor’s lifejacket from the ill-fated ship.

Maritime Archives and Library are also displaying material relating to the Lusitania from May until September 2005. This special display, using documents from the Merseyside Maritime Museum's extensive archives, gives a glimpse into the events surrounding the loss of this magnificent ship and the lives of those it affected.



Sea Containers announced their first quarter results for the year ending March 31 this week. The net loss for the period was $6.8 million (loss of $0.26 per common share diluted) on revenue of $382 million, compared with a net loss of $16.9 million ($0.73 per common share diluted) on revenue of $373 million in the prior year. 


The quarter benefited from a gain of $41 million from the sale of shares in Orient-Express Hotels, however, there were non-recurring charges of $9 million in connection with the settlement with the Strategic Rail Authority in the U.K. related to the rail franchise which expired on April 30, 2005.  A new 10 year franchise commenced on May 1, 2005 and no further non-recurring charges with respect to the expired franchise are anticipated.  The company also incurred closure costs of its Irish Sea fast ferry service of $3 million and a loss on sale of containers of $1.2 million.  It also established a charge of $2.5 million related to the dispute with GE Capital, however, it is expected this amount will be recovered through arbitration.


The first quarter is normally a loss-making period because of seasonal losses in the company’s ferry businesses.  Those losses were greater in this year’s first quarter than in last year’s, due in the case of Silja Line primarily to the lay-up of the m.v. Finnjet representing an adverse variance of $4 million and a recognition in this year’s first quarter of $4 million of costs which were previously phased to later quarters.  Silja’s fuel costs on a like for like basis were $2.1 million higher than in the first quarter of 2004.


The fast ferry fleet incurred $2.3 million more refit costs in the period than last year and $0.4 million additional fuel costs.

The Rail Division earnings excluding the non-recurring charge of $9 million were $14.2 million compared with $11 million in the year earlier period.  This division performed better than budgeted, indicating strong underlying demand for GNER’s rail services.  From May, 2005 the new franchise came into force which initially will result in a reduction in profitability of about one third using the base case assumptions in the franchise plan, however, revenue growth should allow profits to rise to old franchise levels and better.  If revenue is higher than in the base case assumptions, GNER’s profits will be higher.


The company’s share of GE SeaCo profits rose to $7.3 million from $6.8 million in the prior year period, while profits from manufacturing, depots, service operations and logistics declined to $1.7 million from $2.7 million.

The Corinth Canal, fruit farming and publishing reported a $1.3 million loss compared with a loss of $1 million in the prior year period.


No conclusion should be drawn from the modest decline in earnings from other container activities or other businesses as the variances are due largely to seasonal or exceptional factors.  All these businesses are performing satisfactorily.

The company’s investment in Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. is accounted for on the equity basis which represented a $0.9 million loss in the period compared with a $1.9 million loss in the year earlier period.  That company also is generally loss making in the first quarter and the loss was substantially lower this year than last.  Sea Containers owns 9.9 million shares in Orient-Express Hotels which have a current market value of about $260 million and represent 25% of Orient-Express Hotels’ equity.  The earnings outlook for that company is positive.


Net finance costs in the period were $21.1 million, approximately the same as the $20.7 million reported in the year earlier period.  While interest costs are rising on the company’s $178 million of floating rate U.S. dollar debt, the bulk of its dollar debt is fixed rate ($556 million).  The company’s primary debt obligations are in floating rate euros where the interest rates are lower than for floating rate U.S. dollars.  Many observers expect the widening interest rate differential to cause a strengthening of the dollar against the euro later in the year, thus the company feels it is prudent to remain borrowed substantially in euros.


The company is currently un-hedged for its forward fuel requirements, although it was hedged for part of its first quarter consumption.  Fuel prices are under constant review by the ferries division management and hedges are arranged when they feel the risk/reward relationship justifies them.


Mr James B Sherwood, President, said that the poor performance of the ferry division was receiving the close attention of management, however, it will not be possible to turn around the business significantly until 2006 and further non-recurring charges are likely to be required in the process.


The new Aegean Speedlines service employing one of the company’s SeaCats will commence operations on May 19th.  This will be the first non-Greek flag vessel to be employed in the domestic trades of Greece and if the operation is successful, other fast ferries of the company will be deployed to Greek waters in 2006.  A third, large fast ferry, not owned by the company, will be chartered in for operation in the SNAV-Hoverspeed fast ferry service between Italy and Croatia this season.  A new route between Ancona and Zadar will be opened this year using one of the company’s SeaCats within the SNAV-Hoverspeed joint venture.


Mr Sherwood commented on the container leasing business by saying that GE SeaCo had acquired $49 million of new containers in the first quarter of this year and was now targeting about $150 million for the entire year.  Current utilization of the GE SeaCo-owned container fleet is 98% and utilization of the “pool” fleet owned by GE Capital and Sea Containers is 90%.  Seasonal demand for refrigerated containers, which reaches its peak in the northern hemisphere winter, has been excellent this winter while demand for standard dry containers, largely driven by Far East exports, has been less strong in this year’s first quarter than last year, however, generally speaking the market is robust.


Mr Sherwood indicated that the dispute with GE Capital over GE SeaCo’s costs continues.  Sea Containers has obtained a temporary restraining order against GE Capital preventing the termination of the services agreement, and is seeking an injunction extending the order pending resolution of the dispute by arbitration.  The essence of the dispute is that GE Capital is trying to force Sea Containers to absorb certain costs of GE SeaCo in order to increase GE SeaCo’s profitability at Sea Containers’ expense.  Sea Containers is insisting that the parties be bound by the terms of the agreements. 


COMMENT: Reading between the lines, one wonders if 2005 will see Sea Containers finally withdraw from the UK ferry scene. Following withdrawal from the Irish Sea, all that remains as far as UK nautical operations are concerned is the cross channel Hoverspeed operation.

May 08Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Tommy Dover and "others".



Please note an error crept into the update schedule which indicated that the next update scheduled would be posted on Wednesday May 18. This has been corrected and should have read Sunday May 15. However, as usual, there may well be an unscheduled mid-week update should it be required. Also please note that the update scheduled for June 01, has been changed to June 02.


Irish Sea Express has extended their introductory offer on the Liverpool - Dublin service until May 30, 2005. It is available for travel made up to January 2006. Fares range from £10 to £15 single for foot passengers and £99 to £149 return for car and 2 passengers. 

However, the online booking facility hosted by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company web site still claims that the offer expired on April 30 and the booking facility is showing brochure fares rather than offer fares on the afternoon of Sunday May 08.


The famous Devon shipyard responsible for the construction of the present Mersey Ferries SNOWDROP and ROYAL IRIS has been sold.

A consortium of businessmen including the round-the-world yachtsman Michael Berrow has acquired Devon's Noss-on-Dart marina and the former Philip & Son boatyard near Dartmouth. Known locally as Noss Creek, the 14.57-hectare (36-acre) site on the banks of the Dart about a mile from the mouth of the estuary, has a long association with shipbuilding and sailing.

It is the first time the site has come on the market for 150 years and its sale attracted international interest from a large number of potential buyers.

Michael Berrow, who lives on the Dart estuary, and his brother, Paul Berrow, came third in the Whitbread round-the-world race in 1985. The brothers have been involved with sailing and boatbuilding for many years.

Commenting on the acquisition Michael Berrow said: "We feel very privileged to be part owners of this beautiful and important site on the River Dart which, we believe, has huge potential.

"Although it has a proud history of shipbuilding and sailing it has been in sad decline since the boatyard closed in 1999. We now have a unique opportunity to invest in and regenerate the site to create a first class facility.

"I am personally keen to see some form of boat restoration and maintenance on part of the site.

"The existing marina has great potential but it needs to be improved and possibly expanded in the future. We will be consulting widely with key local stakeholders and the community before deciding our long-term plans," he said.

Philip & Son started shipbuilding on the site in the River Dart in 1858 and enjoyed an international reputation, first building in wood and later turning to steel construction. Chay Blyth's British Steel round-the-world yacht was launched there in 1970.

Most of the buildings on this part of the site are now either derelict or used for storage.

The Noss-on-Dart marina opened in 1963 and currently has 180 fully-serviced berths, with 44 deep-water moorings. [Western Morning News]


Coaster callers this week included SANDETTIE, LEONA, UNION GEM, SCOT VENTURE and ANNLEN G. KOVERA and a P51 type navel vessel anchored in the bay during the week. Wicklow Lifeboat launched on a crew excercise on Friday night , the station's Tyne class RNLB ANNIE BLAKER is expected back over the weekend after a refit at Plymouth.

May 05



NorseMerchant Ferries' record growth levels justify further investment in terminals and new vessels for 2005
Irish Sea operator NorseMerchant Ferries has reported record freight levels in 2004 and adds that the trend has continued for the first quarter 2005. Notably its Birkenhead routes registered freight volume growth of more than 18%.

Commenting on this strong performance, Managing Director Phillip Shepherd explains:

"There are a number of reasons why we are experiencing such a high level of growth, including the realignment of capacity on the central corridor. In response to demand, we have introduced additional tonnage on two of our trading routes. In fact, NorseMerchant Ferries was the only operator to introduce additional tonnage on the Irish Sea during 2004."
This increased volume has placed pressure on terminal capacity. In order to accommodate current demand and to facilitate further growth, the Port of Liverpool's Twelve Quays River Terminal at Birkenhead has recently been extended by an additional 2.8 hectares (6 acres) and a new terminal management programme has been implemented.

Mr Shepherd welcomed the additional space as an essential element in the further development of the Twelve Quays facility:

"Volume throughput is expected to increase still further following the arrival of two new vessels that will operate from Twelve Quays this year. The new vessels are being built to an exceptionally high standard at the Visentini shipyard in Italy. Their increased speed, together with superb on-board facilities, will greatly enhance the travel experience for our customers."
NorseMerchant Ferries has date marked August for the introduction of the first of these two new, larger and faster vessels on its twice-daily service to Belfast. The second new vessel is expected to enter service on the route in December.

The arrival of these new ferries will enable the ro-ro/passenger ferries currently serving the route to be transferred to the Liverpool-Dublin service, providing additional freight and passenger capacity. From August, NorseMerchant will offer a full driver accompanied and passenger service on the Birkenhead-Dublin route with both morning and evening sailings.

Mr Shepherd comments:

"The introduction of these two new vessels will greatly increase the passenger capacity from Birkenhead to both Belfast and Dublin. This will consolidate NorseMerchant Ferries' position as a leading ro-ro/ferry operator on the Irish Sea and will allow us to develop our passenger business significantly."


DUNBRODY - The replica emigrant ship which has operated as a static museum ship at New Ross, County Wexford, will undertake her maiden voyage during the Tall Ships Race Festival to be held at Waterford between July 06 and 09.


A union is calling for further negotiation to help resolve a dispute now threatening the operation of a vital commuter link with strike action. Confirming a strike ballot process has now started, a statement issued by the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) on Friday said its members working on the Torpoint Ferry have been given the choice of cuts in pay or increases in unsocial hours, claiming that they had been told by its management that if they did not choose between the options, one option, or the other, would be imposed.

The union's regional industrial organiser Dave Springbett said that the ferry service has seen increased traffic, which has led to a phased introduction of new, larger ferries to replace three older ones.

Mr Springbett said that Torpoint Ferry and Tamar Bridge's combined management started a consultation process but "ignored union input over the crucial pay and hours issues".

He added: "The choices being given to the 41 affected crew were fewer hours, but with a correspondingly unequal, and much larger drop in wages, due to losing various allowances, such as meal breaks, or some pay but with an increase in unsocial hours, particularly weekends, and bringing in split-shift working. The TGWU members rejected the choices comprehensively. In a secret ballot, where the turnout was 98 per cent, three quarters of the workforce voted against both options. The managers then issued a notice on April 14 giving 90 days' notice for people to say which option they want or one would be imposed."

A TGWU spokeswoman added on Tuesday: "Industrial action is always a last resort."

Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Manager David List said: "Eighteen million pounds is being invested in Torpoint to replace our ageing fleet, and two of the three new ferries, which have a 50 per cent greater capacity than the old ones, are now running.

"Changes to the operation schedule mean changes to shift patterns and crewing arrangements."

Mr List added: "We have been in negotiation for 12 months. Management believes there are two sensible options to resource the operating schedule. Management needs a steer from the staff on a preference between the two options. To date, the staff side has failed to propose a feasible option that recognises the compelling commercial case."


In autumn 2004, Stuart Stroud, technical supervisor of Torpoint Ferries, invited boatbuilders to bid for supplying the two tenders. "Initially we were prepared to move with the times when replacing our old tenders," he said."We experimented with fibreglass tenders which proved too fragile and a more resilient plastic boat which was far too unstable.

"So we decided it was wise to remain with the original designs which are made of wood and have lasted us for 40 years.

"Cockwells based at Ponsharden, Falmouth, are renowned for their wooden boatbuilding skills and they provided us with the best value for money bid so they got the contract. So far we are very happy with the build and I was particularly pleased to see that apprentices were involved in the construction. It was great to see our tenders providing young lads with the opportunity of learning the age-old skills of wooden boat building."

Said Dave Cockwell, owner of Cockwells: "Although a complete contrast to our previous project, a 32ft wooden Gentlemen's Launch, these 12ft wooden clinker boats have been great fun to build and it has been a delight to follow the lines of the original vessels which have proved so resilient."  [Cornish Guardian - 05/05/05]


NOMADIC The French Titanic Society (FTS) has learnt the publication of two new auctions regarding the S/S Nomadic (Mothership of the RMS Titanic), set by the Parisian Court:

    - First date on November 10th, 2005, with a reserve price of 500.000 Euros

    - Second date on January 26th, 2006, with a reserve price of 250.000 Euros.

It is worth mentioning that the last auctions under the same conditions were cancelled or deffered. In spite of many steps and procedures, of the support of the French Ministry for Culture and Communication, and of the French Architecture and Heritage Authorities, the FTS could not obtain satisfaction in its endeavours to save the S/S NOMADIC. The FTS, always aware of new projects and solutions, has just discovered a reliable project which will enable her rebirth.

After a detailed study, the FTS is delighted to give all its support to this FRANCE-MONACO PLAN. This plan, built after three years of research and studies, ensures the S/S NOMADIC:

- Her repurchase

- Her future complete restoration (in Brittany) using the original techniques and therefore following the tradition and know-how of the famous shipyards

- Her refitting including the rebuilding of her steam engine

- Then the S/S NOMADIC, last ambassador of the "Belle Epoque" and the Transatlantic history, will reveal her splendour to the public during her future calls organised from her home port, Monaco.

Due to the complexity of the legal situation, the FTS has to constitute a first financial envelope for the S/S NOMADIC in order to enable:

 - Her repurchase   

- Her towing from Le Havre to French Brittany

- Her immediate restoration

 These three important points will guarantee the RESCUE OF THE S/S NOMADIC.

 Hence the FTS has initiated an INTERNATIONAL FUND. The contribution of everyone (from the individual to the large companies) is required.

It is the only alternative for the safeguard of the last historical witness of the International maritime heritage.
May 01Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Tommy Dover and "others".


It is said when one makes a decision one should stick to it!

In the last update I announced my decision to update the web site this bank holiday weekend would be deferred to Monday. However, at that time I had intended to take a trip to Dublin on SEA EXPRESS 1. However, following a last minute change of plan, I am now doing this trip on Bank Holiday Monday and hence the update is being posted as scheduled.

However, due to the fact that I have been out and about taking photographs this afternoon, it has not been possible to complete the news file or prepare all the gallery material, therefore you are recommended to check back for mid week updates of which there are likely to be several commencing Tuesday evening.


INCAT 046 THE LYNX which is rumoured to be eventually finding its way to the Steam Packet has gone on a one year charter to Tobago. Whether she actually turns up on the Irish Sea next year remains to be seen.

WICKLOW PORT NEWS from Tommy Dover

April 25 - 1st May 2005
Coaster callers included UNION MARS, EMSLAND, ANNLEN G, RMS VOERDE and THULE . Traffic sightings included RHEIN CARRIER and CLYDE FISHER . KILQUADE was out winch training with the Coastguard helicopters from Waterford and Dublin .Wicklow lifeboat fund raising branch held a model boat display on Sunday , exhibits included models of lifeboats , tugs and yachts . Wicklow Rowing Club have started skiff training for this years East Coast Regatta's , in August the club will host the All Ireland Championships .


Trading in the first quarter of 2005 has been challenging. In the first 16 weeks of trading, a period which includes the annual overhaul programme of the vessels, we have seen a weaker passenger market combined with a firmer freight market.

In the passenger market our car volumes are down 4% year to date. The tourist market into Ireland is facing perceptions of a high cost destination combined with substantially increased low fare air capacity from the UK, our principal market. In addition many new destinations are being served from the UK by low fare air carriers.

In the freight market our volumes are up 4%.

Overall revenue within the Ferries Division is broadly unchanged while savings in labour costs have been offset by increases in fuel prices.

Within the Container Division conditions remain competitive, although the commissioning of our terminal extension in 2004 is leading to improved profitability from terminal activities.

Fuel costs remain subject to the world price for oil which has recently reached nominal highs. Based on current prices remaining unchanged our fuel bill across the group would be Euro 6m higher than in 2004 which underlines the need for fuel surcharges.

The competitive environment remains challenging. New operators have taken over two routes which had ceased operations at the end of 2004 (P&O's freight route between Rosslare and Cherbourg, and the Dublin - Liverpool passenger service previously operated by Isle of Man Steam Packet). When combined with increasing air capacity into the island it is clear that a consistent focus on cost reduction will be necessary in order for us to prosper.

In this regard we have reduced the cost base on our service to France to international norms. Having received clarification this week from the Labour Court and the Union involved we have accepted the recent Labour Court Recommendation on outsourcing. This recommendation also calls for an independent review of our Irish Sea cost base. This review will commence shortly.


It has been announced that Canadian Pacific will transfer its CP Ships brand to all its subsidiaries. This will undoubtedly be welcomed on Merseyside where Canadian Pacific had the distinction of operating the last scheduled trans-Atlantic passenger service out of Liverpool.

From this press release it appears that the Cast Line service to Montreal which operates from Liverpool and offers some passenger facilities will soon regain the CP Ships name.

CP Ships Limited today announced that it plans to re-brand its container shipping services under the CP Ships name and retire its seven operating brands by the end of the year.

"We are listening to our customers and our own people," said Chairman Ray Miles. "They have told us they prefer us to simplify our business and trade under a single brand."

Since 1993, CP Ships has acquired nine container shipping companies, seven of whose brands are currently active: ANZDL, Canada Maritime, Cast, Contship Containerlines, Italia Line, Lykes Lines and TMM Lines.

"As CP Ships developed, multiple branding was a key element of our core strategy. It helped us maintain customer loyalty and build further on strong regional positions after each acquisition. Our aims, which we achieved, were not to lose any business when we acquired a new line and then make the business grow. But now that our acquisitions are fully integrated and will be on the same operational and financial systems later in the year, it is time to move on," Mr Miles added.

All other aspects of CP Ships' core strategy remain unchanged, including its regional focus with strong market positions and building investment capacity to manage through the industry cycle and make business and asset acquisitions when conditions are right.

Service schedules and trade lane coverage will not be affected.

"A single CP Ships brand presents many opportunities. It will help us to streamline our corporate structure, improve further our accounting and related business processes and information systems, save costs, strengthen our company culture and more closely align how we communicate with all of our customers. We look forward to re-establishing the historic CP Ships brand," Mr Miles said.

A project team has been established to steer the many aspects of the re-branding process which will take place over the remainder of the year. Alan Boylan, EVP Commercial, has overall responsibility for re-branding. As part of this, CP Ships is developing a new website to meet the needs of customers, investors and others, all from a single platform. Until the re-branding is complete, the existing corporate website and the seven brand websites will function as normal.


The Southport - Blackpool hovercraft service is to be reintroduced  later this season by Waltons Coaches using a 16 seat hovercraft, though the passenger carrying capacity will be limited to twelve persons. Fares will be £5 single or £10 return. This route which has seen hovercraft operation before across the sands of the Ribble Estuary last operated in the early 1990s.


It appears that problems are likely to surface for the Torpoint Ferry in the light of the recent upgrade work being undertaken with the introduction of three new high capacity ferries. Two of the vessel PLYM II and TAMAR II are now in service with the third due to arrive later this year. However as the Plymouth Evening Herald reports Torpoint ferry workers are to be balloted on strike action over plans they claim will cut pay or increase unsocial hours. According to the Transport and General Workers Union, if workers do not make a choice, ferry managers will impose one or the other.

The union says it has challenged the councillors, who have the responsibility for the ferry, to say which option they would choose and confirmed that the process for a strike ballot had begun.

Dave Springbett, T &G regional industrial organiser, said: "What would the councillors do?  "Would they tug their forelock and take a pay cut or work more unsocial hours or would they fight back."

Increased traffic on the Torpoint Ferry has led to the phased introduction of new larger ferries to replace the three old chain-driven ferries which carry a thousand people a day.

Mr Springbett said the local ferry and Tamar Bridge managers started a consultation process but had 'effectively ignored union input over the crucial pay and hours issues'.

He added that the choices being given to the 41 staff were fewer hours but with a correspondingly unequal, and much larger drop in wages, due to losing various allowances, such as meal breaks, or some pay but with an increase in unsocial hours, particularly weekends, and bringing in split-shift working.

T &G members have rejected the options. In a secret ballot - with a 98 per cent turnout - three-quarters of the workforce voted against both options.

Mr Springbett added that the managers issued a notice on April 14 giving 90 days' notice for people to say which option they wanted or one would be imposed.

"It shows the workforce have no confidence in what the managers are doing so it is up to the councillors. What would they do if it was their livelihood or their allowances?" he added.

The joint committee of Plymouth city and Cornwall county councillors which controls the ferries is proposing to run two ferries between the morning and afternoon rush hours once all three new ferries are on-line because the new vessels can each carry 50 per cent more vehicles than the old ones.

Ferry managers say it would be a waste of resources to run three half-empty ferries during the quieter parts of the day when two could cope with the volume of traffic.

They plan to try the system out and see how it works. The only disadvantage would be that crossings would take place every 15 minutes instead of every 10.

But some local people, including traders, are angry at the proposals and say that the experiment of running three ferries continuously throughout the day should be tried for a year and then reviewed.

There has even been talk of a petition in Torpoint against the two ferries move.

One resident said it would infuriate travellers sitting in queues to see one new ferry tied up in the day when it could be used to speed up the service.

Joint committee member Sheryll Murray said today that day-to-day management of ferry staff was a matter for manager David List, not the committee,


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