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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

NEWS BULLETIN: October 2005

October 30Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Philip Parker, Michael Clarke and "others"


LADY OF MANN renamed PANAGIA SOUMELA departed the Mersey for the very last time around 13:00 on Saturday October 22, 2005. The Irish Sea will be a much poorer place without her presence. . Passengers wishing for a reliable means of transport during the autumn and winter months between Douglas and Liverpool will now face the uncertainty of travel on SUPERSEACAT TWO.

SUPERSEACAT TWO the usual autumn blows have seen SSC2 sailings cancelled and rescheduled during the week of October 23 to 30. MONA'S ISLE - photographs taken on board the wreck of the former Townsend Thoresen FREE ENTERPRISE III have been published on the web.


The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has announced a clamp down on disruptive behaviour on board its vessels.

The Company’s ‘Zero Tolerance Policy’ which is broadly in line with those practised with other shipping and airline operators will be introduced with immediate effect.

Mark Woodward, Steam Packet Operations Director, said, ‘The Steam Packet’s primary concern must always be the safety and security of its passengers, crew and staff. Occasionally, the antisocial or disruptive behaviour of some of our passengers can make others feel uncomfortable and in extreme and rare cases compromise their safety. This policy involves tackling any signs of a potential problem as soon as it arises’.

Company staff at ports will warn passengers whose behaviour is deemed unacceptable that their travel may be refused.

Unacceptable behaviour may include drunkenness, smoking in no smoking areas, using abusive language or conduct that could cause upset to fellow passengers and an unwelcome distraction from what should be a pleasurable journey.

Steam Packet crews and staff have been fully trained to deal with incidents of this nature and will vigorously enforce the policy. The Company point out that any person who disobeys the lawful command of a crew member or security officer may be committing a criminal offence. A ‘Warning Notice’ may then be served and if the offender persists the police will be called to the port or to meet the vessel on arrival.

Such an offence may result in a very substantial fine and the possibility of imprisonment.

The Company stress that whilst such behaviour is rare it believes that by treating such incidents seriously, offensive behaviour to the distress of other passengers can be eradicated altogether.


The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has appointed a new UK based advertising and marketing company in a move which is designed to build its passenger business and enhance its profile.

The appointment of ‘Access’, based at Old Trafford, Manchester will bring a fresher, more dynamic approach to marketing and growing Steam Packet business.

Rupert Trevelyan, Steam Packet Director of Marketing said, ‘Access have strong links with the tourism industry in the North West including Liverpool Tourism, Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008, England’s Golf Coast, The Trafford Centre and Visit Britain. These strong ties along with their geographical location make Access uniquely placed to grow the Steam Packet business and tourism to the Isle of Man’.


Dartmouth and Kingswear councils have been urged to stump up money for the River Dart passenger ferry service and 'use it or lose it'. The two towns have been asked to contribute a sum of money, thought to be around £4,500 between them, to subsidise the Dart Valley Railway's running of the service.

Ff Dartmouth and Kingswear councils agree to this by the end of November, residents will then have to use or lose the ferry - or face cuts this time next year. The two ultimatums arose from South Hams Council's executive meeting, when councillors discussed how to proceed with the running of the service.

The Dart Valley Railway had announced that it wished to halt the passenger ferry at 19:00 instead of the current 23:00 - except during Regatta week - and axe the Sunday service completely through five months of the year, due to poor usage. But Dartmouth and Kingswear residents were infuriated by such a prospect, claiming that the elderly and children would be among those being disadvantaged by having to use the uncovered River Dart car ferry, which is run by South Hams Council, in all weathers instead.

Kingswear councillors including Dr Barrie Tulloch, chairman of planning, and vice-chairman Councillor Irene Fletcher attended the executive meeting at Follaton House, Totnes, last week clutching Save our Ferry placards, but were dismayed to be prevented from hearing the debate on the issue. Dr Tulloch said: 'We knew that we wouldn't be able to speak on the subject, but to be totally excluded from the meeting is not very good.'

The executive committee discussed the ferry operation for more than an hour behind closed doors before releasing the following statement: 'South Hams Council is concerned that, except in Regatta week, the level of use after 19:00 is low at times and calls into question the viability of the service. Those people who would have been seriously disadvantaged by the proposal are relatively few.' Cllr Richard Yonge, leader of South Hams Council, added: 'Maintaining this service depends on the community demonstrating the need for the ferry by voting with their feet.

There are many communities in the South Hams in need of improved transport, so we hope that the decision today is recognised as a positive move by this council to support Dartmouth and Kingswear.' Cllr Yonge said that if both Dartmouth and Kingswear councils refuse to stump up cash for the ferry service, which would complement a subsidy from the district council, the issue would have to be reviewed. [DARTMOUTH TODAY - October 21, 2005]


It appears that the proposed Blackpool to Southport hovercraft service to be operated by Walton’s Coaches across the Ribble estuary will commence operation during Spring 2006.

The hovercraft was initially expected to make its maiden flight across the estuary from Starr Gate to Southport beach at the end of May 2005. But the journey was postponed after English Nature raised concerns about the potential effect on wildlife.

The coach operator from Freckleton has spent the last five months trying to allay fears by working with Sefton and Blackpool councils, as well as English Nature.

Mr. Walton says he is now hoping to be able to make some test flights across the Ribble Estuary throughout the winter months while a hovercraft compound  is constructed at Starr Gate in readiness for spring.

He said: "Things are progressing slowly, but we now have the news we have been waiting for from the Sefton Council side of the operation, which means we can go ahead and land at Southport."

English Nature had initially delayed the start of the £5 one-way flights after concerns were raised about wildlife, especially nesting birds, being disturbed on the estuary.

Tests have now been carried out and Mr Walton has even offered the use of his craft to carry out an on-going wildlife survey in the future. He said: "Down south where a regular hovercraft route is in operation the bird population has in fact increased because the undercurrent caused the water to oxygenate, which brings the food source to the surface and attracts more birds to the area.

"We will be delighted if it did the same here on the Ribble." Mr Walton believes the hovercraft route will bring in visitors to Blackpool. "The initial news of the intention to set up a service has caused great interest, with Fylde people wanting to book return shopping trips to Southport."

The idea that wildlife will be monitored more closely appeals to Mr Walton, who wants to be involved in regular estuary wildlife surveys in the future. He added: "Once a month we would like to take a day out and offer the craft so surveys can be carried out.

"If we can work together to monitor the estuary more intensely then that is good for us and it is good for English Nature as well. "I would be delighted if our surveys identified an increase in bird population."  [BLACKPOOL GAZETTE]


SEVERN FISHER On the evening of Friday October 28 she became the first vessel to enter the former Cammell Laird wet basin since August 31 when PACIFIC PINTAIL departed.


Penwith Council has applied to the Secretary of State for Transport for a Harbour Revision Order for the redevelopment of Penzance Harbour. The application is for the construction of a new Scillonian terminal, the extension of the Lighthouse Pier and the demolition and rebuilding of the lighthouse.

The proposed terminal, which will be built on the northern part of Battery Rocks, will be constructed by building a new 165 metre long stone wall some 50 metres seaward in front of the existing south harbour wall.

This will start from the eastern apex of the Jubilee Pool and will run parallel to the harbour wall, terminating at the 'kink' in the harbour near the lock gate.

The Lighthouse pier will be extended by 61 metres, the old lighthouse demolished and a new one built on the end of the new extension.

The newly-created area opposite The Barbican will then be filled in with stone and become a large open-plan concourse for the pick-up and set-down of passengers for the Scillonian.

There will be a new all-weather passenger terminal, a freight terminal, covered walkway and public conveniences: all built on the new concourse.

Charlotte Hill, Head of Regeneration, Tourism and Leisure at Penwith said that Penzance Harbour is owned and operated by the council and that maintaining and enhancing the operation of the harbour and securing the life line link to the Isles of Scilly was identified as a key project in the WS Atkins "Penzance Harbour and Town Regeneration Action Plan".

This followed a public consultation and adoption by the Council.

Ms Hill said that money has been provided by the Chamber of Commerce, Hotel and Guesthouse Association, Penzance Town Council, Penwith District Council, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company and Penzance Dry Dock in partnership working to produce a long term plan for the future.

Public meetings and consultation have been an ongoing part of this process.

She said that public exhibitions were held in July 2004 and January 2005 seeking views from the public on the emerging options.

"The preferred option is Option A which can be found on the website set up by Hyder Consulting Ltd. during the projectand can also be accessed via the Council's website,," said Ms Hill.

"The technical investigations package was commissioned by the Council in 2003 and covered Penzance Harbour, the Promenade and Newlyn Harbour.

"The cost of the package totalled approximately £667,000, and was competitively tendered resulting in Hyder Consulting Ltd. being awarded the contract."

Ms Hill said that the application for a Harbour Revision Order is part of the process, the aim of which is the first cornerstone to bring the harbour up to date as modern port facilities that provides a basis for future growth.

"Until further work has been completed it is not possible at this stage to comment on the costs of any associated development," she said.

"There are no plans at present to progress the findings of the feasibility work undertaken by Hyder Consulting Ltd. regarding the promenade."



The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) announced on October 21 that 9 foreign ships were under detention in UK ports during August 2005 after failing Port State Control safety inspection. <Click for List>

Latest monthly figures show that there were 7 new detentions of foreign flagged ships in UK ports during August 2005, along with 2 other ships still under detention from previous months. The number of new detentions compared to last month has fallen by 4 while the overall rate of detentions compared with inspections carried out over the last 12 months is 5.24 % which is a decrease of 0.06% on July’s 12 month rate.

During the month of August 139 Port State Control Inspections were carried out in the UK, which brings the total so far this year to 784 inspections. For those ships inspected during August a total of 120 vessels had deficiencies raised against them. 76 had between 1 to 5 deficiencies, 26 had between 6 to 10 deficiencies, 15 had between 11 to 20 deficiencies and 3 had more than 20 deficiencies.

Of the detained vessels 2 were registered with flag States listed on the Paris MOU white list, while the remainder were registered with flag States listed on the Paris MOU black list.

Three bulk carriers, one general cargo ship, two oil tankers and a chemical tanker were detained in the UK during the month of August.

Vessels detained August included the following:

• A Korean flagged, 1696 GT oil tanker was detained 03/08/05 for 9 days at Hull. There were 8 recorded deficiencies. The vessel was detained because all the Statutory Certificates had been issued without conducting the necessary surveys and audits required to ensure that the vessel complied with the applicable International Conventions.

• A St Vincent & Grenadines flagged, 20483 GT bulk carrier was detained 11/08/05 in Immingham. There 27 recorded deficiencies. The vessel remained detained at the end of August. The following detainable deficiencies were found: - A number of defective fire dampers, including funnel dampers - The sickbay was in poor condition, with missing equipment and no running water to the taps or toilet - The lifting lugs on the lifeboat were found to be significantly corroded - A major non conformity was raised against Section 10 of the ISM Code for failure to implement procedures through the Safety Management System to ensure that the ship was maintained in accordance with the relevant rules & regulations.

• A Liberian flagged, 12758 GT oil tanker was detained 31/08/05 in Purfleet. There were 60 recorded deficiencies of which 13 were detainable. The following are some of the detainable deficiencies found: - The decks were found to have widespread corrosion with cracks in some places - The crew were unable to communicate with each other - Various fire doors were found to be holed and could not be closed - The fuel oil purifier was dirty and deemed a fire risk - The floor plates in the engine room were not secured - The galley was found in an unhygienic condition - No hot water available in the galley or accommodation wash basins - There was a cockroach infestation on board - The steering gear had a hydraulic leak - The mooring & anchoring arrangements were found to be corroded - The crew were unable to carry out a satisfactory emergency drill. Three major non conformities were raised against Section 8 – emergency preparedness & Section 10 – Maintenance of the ship and equipment


The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) announced on October 21 that 13 foreign ships were under detention in UK ports during September 2005 after failing Port State Control safety inspection. <Click List>

Latest monthly figures show that there were 8 new detentions of foreign flagged ships in UK ports during September 2005, along with 5 other ships still under detention from previous months. The number of new detentions compared to last month has risen by 1 while the overall rate of detentions compared with inspections carried out over the last 12 months is 5.29 % which is an increase of 0.05% on August’s 12 month rate.

During the month of September 154 Port State Control Inspections were carried out in the UK, which brings the total so far this year to 940 inspections. For those ships inspected during September a total of 120 vessels had deficiencies raised against them. 84 had between 1 to 5 deficiencies, 23 had between 6 to 10 deficiencies, 8 had between 11 to 20 deficiencies and 5 had more than 20 deficiencies.

Of the detained vessels 4 were registered with flag States listed on the Paris MOU white list, 2 were registered with flag States on the Paris MOU grey list while the remainder were registered with flag States listed on the Paris MOU black list.

Three bulk carriers, two general cargo ships, one chemical tanker, one refrigerated Cargo carrier and an off shore service ship were detained in the UK during the month of September.

Vessels detained in September included the following:

• A Georgia flagged, 1697 GT general cargo ship was detained for 26 days in Blyth. There were 26 recorded deficiencies. The Master of the vessel was removed from the ship by Police for being in a drunken state. As a result of this the manning levels were not in accordance with the requirements of the minimum safe manning document. A Prohibition Notice was also served to the vessel for non provision of a gangway. Other detainable deficiencies were: - engine room could not be sealed in the event of a fire because the emergency escape hatch cover was missing and the top side of the funnel was damaged and the skylight incapable of being closed due to wastage, - the rescue boat was deflated and not ready for use in an emergency. Two major non conformities were raised against the vessel’s ISM safety management system.

• A Georgia flagged, 3988 GT general cargo ship was detained on 05/09/05 for 11 days in Ipswich. There were 53 recorded deficiencies. The detainable deficiencies were as follows: - The crew were unable to launch the lifeboat in a reasonable time - The Engine Room fire dampers were seized - The reserve source of energy for the MF/HF Radio Installation was inoperative.

• A Thai flagged 17066 GT; bulk carrier was detained on 14/09/05 for 3 days in Silvertown, London. There were 22 recorded deficiencies including 5 detainable deficiencies. The emergency fire pump was not working because the suction line in the engine room was not working, the VHF radio and DSC equipment was not working and the cold rooms were found not to be operating at the correct temperature leading to the food being condemned.


A report in the Sunday Times reveals that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company may received a £3billion takeover approach from a Middle East rival as early as this coming week.

Dubai Ports World (DPW), which is owned by the Gulf state’s government, has hired Deutsche Bank to advise it on a bid. Banking sources in Dubai said this weekend that a preliminary meeting between the two sides was likely to take place within days.

The Middle Eastern firm is understood to have contacted banks about financing a bid for the British ports operator. A stock-exchange announcement confirming its interest may be made as early as Monday October 31.

If completed, the deal would make P&O the latest FTSE 100 company to be acquired by a foreign counterpart this year, after the takeovers of the drinks group Allied Domecq and the logistics firm Exel.

An approach from DPW is almost certain to set off a bidding war for P&O, with Temasek, the Singaporean state investment firm, and the Danish shipping group AP Moeller-Maersk among other likely predators.

DPW is keen to acquire P&O, the world's fourth-largest ports operator, to strengthen its position in the rapidly consolidating global ports industry.

It is expected to try to persuade P&O's management, led by chairman Sir John Parker and chief executive Robert Woods, that the long-term investment required for modern port development would be best done by a private rather than a quoted group. P&O owns 27 container terminals and has logistics operations in 18 countries.

Its British container-terminal operations include sites at Southampton and Tilbury, and the company was granted planning consent earlier this year for a £1.5 billion development, the London Gateway port in Thurrock, Essex, which is eventually expected to account for as much as 10% of P&O's total ports capacity.

P&O also owns port operations in Africa and Australia and has operations in India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

A takeover would mark the end of a long restructuring of the company which has included the disposal of its 25% stake in the shipping firm P&O Nedlloyd, its golf-club and exhibition-centre assets, and the sale of its refrigerated logistics arm.

The future of P&O's ferries business has also been the subject of speculation in recent months.

A takeover bid for P&O would underline the high prices that are commanded by port companies. Two Australian financial institutions, Macquarie Bank and Hastings Fund Management, are understood to be behind recent approaches to another British group, PD Ports, which operates Teesport.

A takeover of P&O would lead to sizeable payouts for its directors, including Woods and the recently arrived Parker, who also chairs National Grid Transco and is a senior non- executive director of the Bank of England.

On Friday P&O announced the arrival of a quartet of non-executive directors, including former government minister Baroness Symons, Mike Turner, chief executive of BAE Systems, and Richard Gillingwater, chief executive of the government's Shareholder Executive, an agency that oversees Whitehall's interests in trading groups such as Qinetiq.

October 20Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews and Ian Collard



DAWN MERCHANT departed from Brocklebank Dock on the afternoon of Thursday October 20.  She has been berthed since her return from the English Channel on  the morning of Saturday October 15.

 Ian Collard's photo (right) reveals that her Norfolk Line fleet name has been painted out, whilst her funnels have been painted all back to obliterate the Maersk blue. On entering the Mersey she proceeded to the Liverpool Bar. DAWN MERCHANT then returned and sailed up river and proceeded to Twelve Quays to take up DUBLIN VIKING's sailings.

DUBLIN VIKING after discharging at Twelve Quays, after discharging she moved off the berth to allow DAWN MERCHANT to berth. She then moved up river to await the early morning tide on Friday October 21 tide prior to entering Cammell Laird #5 dry dock for refit by NSL.


Following a decision of the Irish Labour Court, the 543 Irish Ferries employees who were due to be made redundant today have been given an 11th hour reprieve for the time being.

Under intense pressure from both the Government and the main employers' lobby, Ibec, Irish Ferries' personnel chief Alf McGrath indicated the company would now enter a round of discussions with the trade unions through  the Labour Court, in the hearing which was adjourned after an hour.

Effectively this means the company will have to follow strict procedures before they can lay off the staff, SIPTU spokesman Paul Smyth said. Speaking after the court appearance, Mr. Smyth commented "It went very well. At long last this company has agreed to comply with the registered agreement. All their plans are put back and they have to start again with  the process now before they can implement any changes."

Mr. Smyth said SIPTU have never been opposed to redundancies once the terms of these redundancies were agreed through proper negotiations and "not with a gun to our heads."

He expressed disappointment that the company was not willing to take on board the recommendations of a report made by financial assessors Sparks and King, having spent several weeks on board the ISLE OF INISHMORE. "Their report recommended a five percent pay-cut which extended to the directors as well.

Ratings and officers would lose substantial amounts of leave and a catering company would be employed to replace the expensive system currently in operation. This saving would have amounted to €15million, but they wanted to reduce costs by €20m."

For the past two weeks Irish Ferroes refused to negotiate with the two seafarers' unions - Siptu and the Seamen's Union of Ireland - concentrating on pushing ahead with its controversial 'voluntary' redundancy initiative. This was designed to replace Irish crews earning €11 an hour with contracted, agency staff on about €3.60 an hour.

Emerging from the brief Labour Court session, Siptu regional chief, Patricia King, said she welcomed the IF's decision to enter talks at the Labour Court on the future of its workforce.

"The company must find more intelligent ways of tackling competitive issues than simply trying to replace 543 workers - many of them with 20 and 30 years service - with cheap, vulnerable, migrant labour from abroad."

She pointed out that "other companies operating on the Irish Sea are profitable without resorting to such tactics. We do not want to allow a precedent by Irish Ferries that will see the arrival of floating sweat-shops where gross exploitation takes place in the name of profit maximisation at any cost."

The news was welcomed by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. "This process is the appropriate way in which the issues can be addressed," said Mr. Ahern.

The Taoiseach had been critical of Irish Ferries in the Dail last week, describing its actions as "deplorable". Mr. Ahern had also questioned the legality of making workers redundant and replacing them with lower-paid workers from abroad calling it "sharp practice" and sought legal advice from the Attorney General on this matter. According to Siptu, the management has given an undertaking to the Labour Court that it will abide by its registered agreements with the unions. "We now look forward to raising all the issues with them through the Labour Court process," Ms. King added.

The company was anxious not to have its wider 'displacement' plan considered by the Labour Court and tried to keep discussion confined to the technical employment conditions of ships' officers.This comes on the back of a strike threat for Dublin port issued by members of Siptu last Friday. It is now likely a compromise will be found with IF continuing to employ Irish and British officers but buying-out its ratings for replacement with lower-paid crews from the newer EU member states.

Reflecting a more conciliatory position, Mr. McGrath said the company now wanted to explain its intended course of action to the trade unions. Mr. Smyth said Irish Ferries changed its position under pressure from the government especially. Last week the government announced that it would not be financing a rebate towards redundancies as it did with the NORMANDY.

"They couldn't flag out their ship as it requires a ministerial order. There was huge pressure for IF to behave in a fair way. If unions were acting against regular procedures we'd be castigated too.

"This is a company that has thumbed its nose up to the government and the unions. Following this hearing I sense there's been a change of mind, but I don't think there's been a change of heart," he commented.

Mr. Smyth added that he does not believe IF plan to work with the unions on this, "but I hope I'm wrong. Their demeanour and whole body language goes against it. I'm guessing they'll try and get out the other end of this as soon as possible."

Referring to the company's profits of €20m last year and to its Eamonn Rothwell's pay package of €750,000 a year, Mr. Smyth asked "when is enough enough. This is greed. If Rothwell gets his way on this, Stena Line will follow suit. That will have a knock-on effect in France. Are we in a race to the bottom?"

He rubbished talks of a 90 percent landslide move by staff to take the redundancy. "Applications forms were sent to people two, three times and they responded by email and by writing to the offers even though the figures are inaccurate" He continued "The terms of the redundancy, (eight weeks for  every year worked), were also misleading, as the company only plan to initially pay four weeks."

Mr. Smyth also rubbished Mr. Rothwell's claim on Monday that many of the non-nationals under his employment are making more than people in Ireland working a full week, as they get food and board.

"They are prisoners on an intensive-running ship, going gaga because they are stuck on it for months. "Also there is the issue that many of them don't speak good English. One man said there was a fire recently and the staff started shouting in their native tongues. It is nonsense."

The two parties will re-enter talks over the coming months to iron out an agreement, as in keeping with proper redundancy procedures. [GOREY ECHO]

October 19Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Kevin Bennett, Alex McCormac and "others".



It was one of the worst kept secrets on the Irish Sea - however - the company finally confirmed on the afternoon of October 19 that the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company had been sold to Australian owners - Macquarie Bank. Rumours had been circulating for some time and were featured on Irish Sea Shipping's "Lamb Banana" page just over two weeks ago.

19 October 2005 - The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ("Steam Packet") today announced it has been acquired by Macquarie Bank Limited ("Macquarie") from Montagu Private Equity.

The acquisition includes Steam Packet’s vessels, buildings, land holdings and other assets. Steam Packet is the main provider of passenger, vehicle and freight services to the Isle of Man, linking the main port of Douglas with four ports in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It provides the only means of roll-on/roll-off freight transportation and passenger ferry services to the Island.

The Macquarie Bank Group is a diversified international financial services group and a global leader in the infrastructure sector. Macquarie manages a portfolio of infrastructure and essential service assets and businesses around the world and has a track record of successful and responsible management.

Hamish Ross, Steam Packet’s Managing Director, commented: "We are delighted that Macquarie has chosen to acquire Steam Packet under existing management. We look forward to working with them to build the business and continue to provide a first-class service to our passenger and freight customers."

"Macquarie brings commitment, global resources and specialist expertise. They fully understand the importance of Steam Packet’s provision of year-round reliable services to the Isle of Man," he said.

Jim Craig, Head of Macquarie in Europe, said Steam Packet fits with Macquarie’s philosophy of investing in quality infrastructure and essential service assets.

"This is the type of business we are keen to invest in, with stable revenues, a strong customer base and a proven management team. The Island itself has an excellent record of stability and economic growth," he said.

"Macquarie is committed to a long-term relationship with Steam Packet. We look forward to working with existing management as they continue to provide a reliable, high quality service to the people of the Isle of Man.

"It will be business as usual for Steam Packet’s customers, suppliers and staff. The day-to-day operations of the business will continue to be run by local management from their base on the Isle of Man."

[WEB MASTERS COMMENT - Original investors Montagu have certainly received a fine return just over two years after buying the company during summer 2003.

One wonders if the new owners, having made a significant investment in purchasing the company, may just get round to finding a suitable replacement for SUPERSEACAT TWO? 

Regular ISS contributor Alex McCormac has been playing around with an image of a new Incat design in Photoshop and given it a few Steam Packet "tweaks" and good traditional name! Perhaps the new proprietors may just select a product from their home country?]


It has been reported in the Manx press that the company has surrendered its alcoholic drinks licences. The move occurred due to a lack of people available to be named designated officials to comply with Manx licensing laws.

This means that alcohol will not be sold whilst vessels are within Manx territorial waters which extend up to twelve miles from the island. This is effective from midnight on Wednesday October 19. 

It appears that any future "round the island" cruises are likely to be "dry affairs unless the problem of finding sufficient designated officials can be solved.


Passenger figures compiled by the Harbours Division for September 2005 at 62,661 show an 8.1% increase on the figure for the same period in 2004 which was 57,981.

The year to date figure at 507,470 passengers shows a 6.9% decrease over the same period in 2004 which was 545,119.

During September, car and motorcycle traffic through Douglas Harbour increased by 8.6% from 17,298 vehicles to 18,778 vehicles.

The year to date figure at 144,441 vehicles shows a 1.1% decrease over the same period in 2004 which was 146,034.

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






Minus 46%




Minus 18%




Minus 10%




Plus 32%



Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew comments:

“Passenger traffic shows growth for the first time since March and continues the positive signs seen in the last two months. Vehicle traffic has seen an increase for the last three months and the year to date total is similar to last years. The extra capacity provided by SUPERSEACAT 2 is likely to be the reason for this very welcome upturn.”



Last year Stena Line reported that its Southern Corridor business, which includes the Port of Fishguard and the Route between Fishguard-Rosslare, has returned to profit for the first time since 1998.

Despite lower than anticipated Tourist volumes during 2005, Vic Goodwin, Stena Line's Route Director for its Southern Corridor business anticipates that the company will again achieve an acceptable level of profitability in 2005.

Commenting Vic Goodwin said: "We are facing increasing competition from low-cost airlines and other ferry operators which has seen a decline in our passenger volumes by 5%.  If we compare the period up to the end of

September 2005 to the same period last year, the passenger market overall has declined by approximately 8%, therefore, we are performing satisfactorily within the market.

"On a more positive note, we have seen a 15% growth in our Freight volumes and our strong focus on cost control will mean we will achieve a positive result by the end of the year," added Vic.

Turning to the challenges ahead, Vic added: "We will continue to face strong competition from low-cost airlines and other ferry operators going forward. Another major threat to our business and to the transport sector as a whole, however, is the significant increases in fuel costs and we must start to address this issue now, as there are no indications that the existing high fuel prices will fall.  This means we will be continuing to work on our costs, reviewing our pricing structure to include fuel surcharges and also reviewing our sailing patterns to make sure they are cost effective and meet future demands."

Vic Goodwin confirmed that it intends to reduce the number of trips undertaken by the STENA LYNX III, its seasonal Stena Express Fast Craft service in 2006.

Vic Goodwin commented: "We will operate the Stena Express from the end of April 2006 until late September 2006 on a two round trip timetable for the whole period instead of the existing three round trip timetable in July and August.  There will be no change to the sailing pattern of our Superferry, the Stena Europe, which will continue to operate two round trips a day all year round.

"The combination of the Superferry, the Stena Europe and our Fast Craft, will still give us a unique combination on the Southern Corridor," said Vic.


Stena Line has once again become the only ferry or cruise business to achieve the prestigious Hospitality Assured Standard for Service and Business Excellence on its Irish Sea routes to Britain. The International accreditation puts Stena Line on a par with organisations of the calibre of Mariott Hotels, Warner Holidays, Crowne Plaza and Centre Parcs, companies who are renowned for their customer service excellence.

This is the fifth year in succession that Stena Line's Irish Sea central  (Dun Laoghaire/Dublin Port - Holyhead) and southern (Rosslare - Fishguard) corridor routes have met the required standard. All Stena Line's vessels across the routes have the Hospitality Assured quality marque, which is awarded only to organisations in the hospitality and leisure sector, which demonstrate delivery of the highest standards of service across all areas of their business.

Developed by the Hotel and Catering International Management Association (HCIMA), the award is based on a system of self-assessment and individual on-site evaluation by independent experts. It enables Stena Line to measure the quality of its customer service against a checklist of ten areas of best practice which include customer research, service delivery, business planning, operational planning, standards of performance, training and development and customer satisfaction.

Celebrating the news, Vic Goodwin, Stena Line's Route Director for Dun Laoghaire - Holyhead, Dublin - Holyhead and Rosslare - Fishguard Routes said:

"Once again, we are delighted to receive this accreditation, five years in succession is a tremendous milestone for our staff and a reflection of their hard-work and drive to always provide our guests with the highest standards possible. The Hospitality Assured award represents a long-term commitment to our customers and the most challenging monitor for service excellence we have found. To compare favourably with organisations known for their first class service levels is a real boost for all of us.

"The accreditation confirms Stena Line's commitment to bringing passengers exceptional service while continuing to be the number one choice for ferry passengers on the Irish Sea," he added.


Leading ferry company Stena Line is celebrating a double victory in the Northern Ireland Travel Trade Awards.

Stena Line picked up the award for Best Ferry Operator for an unprecedented thirteenth time and the company's Head of Travel Market, Paul Grant picked up the prestigious award for NI Travel & Tourism Personality of the Year at the glittering ceremony held at the Slieve Donard Hotel.

Hundreds of guests and VIPs from the travel industry were present at the awards, organised by the Northern Ireland Travel and Leisure News and hosted by television personalities Angela Rippon and Bill Ward, better known as bad boy Charlie from Coronation Street.

Paul Grant said: "We are very proud to pick up the award for Best Ferry Operator for a thirteenth time which is a testimony to the hard work and effort that has helped Stena Line to increase market share and reinforce its position as market leader on the Irish Sea. To win this award so many times is even more remarkable when you consider just how competitive the industry is at the moment.

"We have had a number of challenges this year as we have worked to improve our booking systems and our services in general and I would like to thank the travel trade for bearing with us and supporting us not only in these awards but throughout the year," he added.

In presenting the NI Travel & Tourism Personality of the Year award to Paul, the organisers said:

"This award is made annually to the person judged to have made the greatest contribution to the travel and tourism industry and this year's winner is someone who is probably one of the most influential executives in the ferry  industry. He has literally risen through the ranks since first joining one  of the world's leading ferry companies straight from college. Nineteen years later he is in charge of all Stena Line's sales and marketing  activities and five routes operating between Ireland and the UK Mainland,"

In accepting his award, Paul said: "To also be recognised individually is a real honour for me and one which I  was not expecting. I feel very privileged to have been selected for this award and to have such a strong and committed team behind me. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the hard work of the whole Stena Line team whose efforts have helped to make 2005 a successful year for the company," he concluded.


The Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (Siptu) announced on October 19 that they had learnt that Irish Ferries was seeking to recruit Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian seafarers to replace Irish Ferries staff nearly two weeks before the results of the review carried out by independent consultants Greg Sparks and Martin King was even published.

Branch Organiser, Paul Smyth said the Union has evidence that Irish Ferries were using Dobson's Recruitment Agency to recruit Eastern Europeans to replace Irish workers in Irish Ferries.

Mr Smyth said: 'this is just another example of a bad faith on the part of the Irish Ferries management and clearly demonstrates that the sole purpose in engaging independent assessors to comprehensively review the company was simply to avoid any possible industrial unrest over the summer months'.

He added that SIPTU are calling on the Irish government to signal its intention to enact legislation which would ensure ferry workers, who regularly operate between the UK and Ireland or France and Ireland, have the same protection as all shore-based employees.

Irish Ferries received the consultants' report on September 15th. It was commissioned in July as part of the Labour Court process to resolve the dispute of the company replacing Irish workers with cheaper foreign workers.



Four people and their 56ft Ketch were rescued by Fowey lifeboat, 4 miles south of Fowey, on October 16 following a 999 call to Brixham Coastguard from the yacht at 21:12.

The caller stated that their vessel, SEAFARER 2 was taking water fast and that is was unlikely that the vessel would stay afloat before reaching Fowey, the nearest port. Two of the crew were bailing with buckets with the water gaining, and the vessel’s speed was decreasing due to the amount of water onboard. The weather at the time was southerly force 5 with 4 miles visibility and heavy rain.

A Mayday Relay was broadcast to obtain assistance from vessels in the area, and Fowey RNLI all weather lifeboat and Rescue helicopter 169 from RAF Chivenor were sent to assist. RFA BRAMBLELEAF also proceeded, but was stood down before reaching the yacht.

The lifeboat was alongside the yacht within 20 minutes of being tasked and a pump was transferred onboard. Once it was confirmed the water level was reducing and the yacht was safely in tow by the lifeboat, the Rescue helicopter was stood down.

Tris Newey, Watch Officer at Brixham Coastguard, says:

“The rapid response of the Fowey lifeboat in this instance almost certainly ensured the safety of the vessel and its crew, given the fast ingress of water. The crew remained calm, despite the loss of their VHF radio and other electrical systems due to the flooding.”


Pacific Nuclear Transport has placed an order for a new nuclear fuel carrier with Mitsui Engineering of Japan.

The Barrow based company whose ships are operated by James Fisher and Sons will be paying £30m for the vessel which will be 104 m in length, 17 m beam, 6.75 m draught and be of 4,500 dwt.

Delivery is expected to be during November 2007 and she will be registered in Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria.


It was revealed in the Liverpool Echo earlier this week that there will be no Mersey River Festival during 2006. Though there will be a maritime event to coincide with the conclusion of the Clipper Ventures Yacht Race during July.

Part of the reasons given for the decision to cancel the event is the amount of construction work which will be going on in the vicinity of the Liverpool Waterfront.

October 16Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Kevin Bennett, Tony Brennan, Ian Collard, Alex McCormac, Kierran and "others"


LADY OF MANN - now transferred to Greek ownership has been renamed PANAGIA SOUMELA. At the time of compiling this update she remains at Alexandra Dock, Liverpool, undergoing preparations for her departure.

Those people wondering about her new name should  as you will find out the name perpetuates the Lady theme which is appropriate. PANAGIA being one of the the orthodox church's titles for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

RTÉ's weekly maritime magazine Seascapes broadcast a major feature on the Isles of Man Steam Packet company this Thursday to commemorate the company's 175 Anniversary. The programme explored the company's links with Ireland and featured interviews with Captain O'Toole, Captain Jack Ronan, Mike Casey and John Watt. If you missed the programme an audio file is available on line. 


Passenger figures compiled by the Harbours Division for August 2005 at 98,897 show a 1.4% decrease on the figure for the same period in 2004 which was 100,291.

The year to date figure at 444,809 passengers shows a 8.7% decrease over the same period in 2004 which was 487,138.

During August, car and motorcycle traffic through Douglas Harbour increased by 5.3% from 22,824 vehicles to 24,024 vehicles.

The year to date figure at 125,663 vehicles shows a 2.4% decrease over the same period in 2004 which was 128,736.

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





BelfastMinus 30%6,1534,293
DublinMinus 16%5,2374,420
HeyshamMinus 11%34,46930,627
LiverpoolPlus 7%53,25156,725

Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew comments:

“The positive trend in vehicle traffic seen in July has continued into August. The rate of fall in passenger traffic has also reduced and the key Liverpool route shows growth for the first time in months.

The increased vehicle and passenger capacity provided by SuperSeacat along with active marketing of the lower fares available by the Steam Packet seems to be bringing about positive benefits.”


The essential maintenance work on the Canning River entrance gate, Liverpool,  originally scheduled to commence in October 2004 and run through to spring 2005 is to be carried out this autumn and winter.

Notices have been placed in the Albert Dock / Canning Dock area advising that the river wall walkway will be closed from October 24 2005 to March 31 2006 inclusive.

The gate has been leaking a considerable amount of water into the River Mersey at low tide for some time. During this period it will be assumed that vessels in the Albert / Canning dock will be trapped for the duration of the work.


The Port of Cork Company has signed a contract for a new pilot launch following a competitive international tender process. The launch will be built by Cobh based Safehaven Marine and is due for delivery in mid 2006. It is based on Safehaven Marine’s Interceptor 42 pilot boat design and was chosen for its combination of sea keeping abilities, performance and competitive price.


In a modern port, the provision of a pilotage service is an essential and vital service requiring a high powered pilot launch. There are over 17 craft of this class now in commercial service. The launch’s accommodation provides seating for up to six pilots. Twin D12 Volvo engines rated at 480hp will provide an operational speed of 23kts. Production of Safehaven Marine’s commercial pilot boats will take place at a brand new 5500sq ft. states of the art facility at Little Island, Cork.


The launch will replace the existing pilot launch “Failte” which was built in 1990 and will operate alongside the port’s other pilot launch “Sonia”.


DAWN MERCHANT - after an absence of three years and one month on charter to Maersk's Norfolk Line subsidiary DAWN MERCHANT returned to the Mersey on the morning tide of Saturday, October 15. Her charter to Norfolk Line ended on Thursday. She returned still wearing the Norfolk Line fleet names and Maerk blue funnel band, though the Maersk Stars had been removed. On arrival on the Mersey she was welcomed back by a long blast on the whistle of her sister BRAVE MERCHANT, she then entered the Liverpool Dock system and berthed at the former NMF Belfast berth at Brocklebank Dock.


The Solway Harvester, which sank in storms off the Isle of Man killing seven of its crew, may be moved out of public view, it has emerged. The wreck of the 69ft trawler went down amid high winds and heavy seas while heading towards Ramsey in January 2000. It is now berthed in the outer harbour at Douglas.

Director of Harbours Captain Mike Brew told an audience at the Manx Museum that "many options have been considered" to move the vessel. "We thought long and hard about what to do with the vessel," he said. "It needs to be accessible for all of the legal reasons. It also needs to be left pretty much intact until the families decide what they want to do with it.

"You would be amazed at the options that we considered to get it out of the way. The court wanted it in the Isle of Man and not in Liverpool, which was an option. We seriously considered lifting it out of the water and putting it in a building but the cost of that was horrendous."

The crew, from the Isle of Whithorn in Dumfries and Galloway, drowned when the boat sank. The manslaughter trial of the owner of the trawler, 41-year-old Richard Gidney, collapsed in the Isle of Man in May. A court found that Mr Gidney, who denied killing the seven crew by breaching his duty of care, had no case to answer.  [BBC]


The future of one of Merseyside's most popular maritime attractions is in doubt because its home is needed for a car park. The Historic Warships Collection at Birkenhead has to relocate because flats are being developed nearby.

Most of the collection can be moved, but there is no room for the biggest attraction - the only World War II German U boat recovered from the sea. The boat is one of only one of four left in the world.

The old grain warehouses near the boat are being redeveloped into flats, with the berth area becoming a car park. The warships' trust says losing the U-boat, which has been there for nine years, puts a question mark over its whole future.

Wally Bennett, of the warships' trust, said: "We have been informed that the U-boat will not be accommodated and as a consequence, that will impact on our income and the future sustainability of the trust."

Wirral Council leases the land for the trust from the Mersey Docks Company and has found a new home for the other vessels just along the dock.

All the ships have to be moved by February next year. [BBC]

October 12Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Kevin Bennett, Ian Collard, Phil Welsh, Nick Widdows and "others"


The company announced on October 12 that it had gone into administration and had ceased operation of services on the Liverpool - Dublin route. As a result of the closure eight directly employed staff and the remaining agency staff have been returned to the crewing agency's books. Passengers with reservations will have fares refunded. A press reports revealed that the shareholders had invested £2.5m in the service. Reports suggested that losses were now running at £100,000 per week and that fuel costs amounted to 80% of the weekly budget.

The Company's web site disappeared late afternoon on October 12 with the front page replaced with the following message:

Irish Sea Express has ended its service from Liverpool to Dublin with effect from 8th October 2005.

We would like to thank the 60,000 passengers who chose to travel with us this year as well as our suppliers and staff for their enthusiasm and dedication.

The company reopened the seasonal Liverpool - Dublin service , abandoned by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company at the end of the 2004 season, on April 27, 2005. There were ambitious plans to operate for around 46 weeks of the year. During this period of time 60,000 passengers and 20,000 vehicles were carried on the Dublin service. Ambitious plans for two round trips per day were scaled back and only recently the company announced that autumn services would not operate on Tuesdays and Wednesday.

SEA EXPRESS 1 arrived back at Liverpool for the last time on the evening of Saturday October 08. Early on Monday October 10 she moved to the berth outside the NSL Bidston yard. Her sailings on Sunday and Monday having been cancelled due to adverse conditions. Her next scheduled sailing would have been on Thursday October 13.

A combination of high fuel prices, competition from other shipping operators and budget airlines have been blamed for the closure.

The Daily Post on Thursday revealed that the company had an option to purchase SEA EXPRESS 1 at below market value, and apparently if this option is exercised by the Administrators, and the ship subsequently sold, there will be enough surplus to enable all creditors to be paid  and some funds returned to investors.

Financial guarantees were apparently in place to ensure charter fees to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company were paid in full.

[WEBMASTER'S COMMENT: It is around forty six weeks since an obituary for the Liverpool - Dublin Isle of Man Steam Packet service was uploaded Irish Sea Shipping. Following the withdrawal of the service rumours continued to circulate about a new operator appearing on the route and it was pleasing to note early in the new year that it was announced that services would be recommenced by a new operator Irish Sea Express.

However, a number of observers of the Irish Sea Shipping questioned the viability of a purely passenger and private vehicle service on the route in the face of mounting competition from operators who's main "bread and butter" was freight. As a consequence these operators have been able to offer very attractive food inclusive fares on day time sailings this autumn - £69 single for a car +2 with Norse Merchant (fuel surcharge applies) and lunch included. £89 RETURN for a car +2 with P&O again with food included. At these competing fares it is not surprising Irish Sea Express was struggling, especially when the foot passenger return fare was £56 including surcharge!

There is also the question of reliability. On Saturday October 01, SEA EXPRESS 1 aborted its sailing to Dublin and was forced to return to Liverpool. Passengers arriving back at Liverpool just in time to see the competition, using conventional ro-pax vessels sail out of the river on schedule.

Fast craft versus conventional ships is a debate that can go on and on. However, the debate can be likened to the tale of the hare and the tortoise. Is it better to take a little longer on a crossing and arrive on schedule or be subject to delays and cancellations if conditions are not suitable?

Fast craft certainly have their role, and designs such as the twin hull Incat are inherently more suitable for Irish Sea operations than mono-hulls  but in autumn and winter even the twin hulls struggle to operate on the Irish Sea.

To Irish Sea Express and their staff one must say resounding THANK YOU for trying and giving the route another shot. Better to try and be unsuccessful than never try  at all.

Perhaps one day a high speed link with Dublin may become financially viable again, but that is unlikely to happen until the "budget fly - boys"   are forced to charge higher fares for their environmentally unfriendly means of transport. If the budget airlines were not skimming off foot passengers, there might be a future for high speed ferry operations on the Irish Sea between Liverpool and Dublin.  ]


Of course the BBC managed to get the TV news report on the closure of Irish Sea Express by showing video footage of SUPERSEACAT TWO! That is bound to lead to some confusion!


SUPERSEACAT TWO - missed her 07:00 Douglas to Liverpool on Monday and return 10:30 sailing due to adverse weather conditions - passengers were diverted to the 08:45 and 14:15 sailings from Heysham - forcing them travel the "great way round". The prevailing conditions would not have prevented the LADY OF MANN from sailing.

A new feature has been created on Irish Sea Shipping to record the number of weather cancellations recorded by SUPERSEACAT TWO it can be accessed by <clicking here>. As the weeks go by it will be interesting to observe what happens.

Will Neptune be kind? Will the company get away, at least this winter, with disposing of the old but reliable LADY?

Perhaps the closure of Irish Sea Express may just give the Steam Packet the opportunity to deploy old faithful SEACAT ISLE OF MAN? At least she can sail in wave heights of 3.5 metres. that 0.5 metres might make all the difference on a marginal day.

However, one must ask - Is the Steam Packet is intent on creating a self fulfilling prophecy which will lead to the eventual withdrawal of the Douglas - Liverpool autumn / winter service?

An unreliable service will result in passengers opting not to use it. Following the demise of Irish Sea Express, the Liverpool Terminal operation now has to be funded entirely by the Steam Packet. Given unreliability combined with extra terminal costs perhaps the necessary evidence is being gathered now to convince the Isle of Man Government that the Liverpool - Douglas winter service is unviable and should be withdrawn.

Observers of shipping services around the British Isles have seen this sort of situation develop all too often before.

The citizens of the Isle of Man and Merseyside should be approaching their political representatives with their concerns for the future of the Liverpool service now - before it is too late!

LADY OF MANN - her name and port of registry have been painted out. An observer reports that at least four Greek crewmembers could be seen wandering around on Wednesday evening.  When asked, one of them who appeared to be an engineer possibly, could not confirm exactly when she would depart. He said that they had arrived only yesterday and were not aware of a definite time or date. He was the only one who could manage any English. one of the others was wearing a "Hellas Ferries" jacket. She is flying the Greek ensign, and interestingly was flying a small red pennant this afternoon from her foremast starboard yardarm. By this Wednesday evening, a round 17:00 this had been hauled down, could be that she was being bunkered. Her generators were all powered up. 


The current Passage East Car Ferry which links County Waterford with County Wexford  is set to be replaced with a new and improved model within the next three weeks. Operations Manager Conor Gilligan that the Passage East Car Ferry Company have recently purchased a new vessel in Holland.

The newly named FBD TINTERN is currently in Bellview where it is being upgraded and having new components installed to meet with stringent regulations set down by the Department of the Marine.

'We would hope to have it ready in three weeks,' said Mr. Gilligan, adding that the installation of the ramps is the last major job to be carried out.

The new car ferry is a more modern vessel and though it has around the same 30 car capacity as the current ferry, the EDMUND D, it will be able to  travel faster than its predecessor if necessary, according to Mr. Gilligan.

'We've upgraded the car ferry to keep in-line with the high standards required,' he said.

Though the company would not reveal how much they paid for the new ferry, Mr. Gilligan described it as 'a very substantial investment', adding that 'they don't come cheap'.

The FBD TINTERN previously operated as a car ferry in Germany, but has been undergoing extensive upgrading work in recent weeks.

It was fitted with 'a whole new bottom' in Holland, while it has also received new engines and a new steering system along with countless other modifications in Bellview.

Mr. Gilligan said it is a 'much nicer' car ferry visually than the EDMUND D, which has been crossing between Ballyhack and Passage East for eight years  now. The company are not yet sure what they will do with the EDMUND D.

The FBD TINTERN is the company's third car ferry and follows in the footsteps of the DUNBRODY and the current vessel, the EDMUND D, which was named after the father of the company's current boss, Derek Donnelly.

FBD TINTERN was built in 1971 by Schiffswerft Oberwinter, Oberwinter / Rhein, Germany as the STADT LINZ for Rheinfähre Linz - Remagen GmbH of Germany. She operated on the Rhine between Linz and Reamagen. In 1990 she was renamed  the ST JOHANNES. In 1997 sold to Fähren Bremen - Stedingen GmbH,. Following sale she was  renamed the VEGESACK and operated across the Weser between Lemwerder and Vegesack. In 2003 she became a reserve vessel and in 2004 was renamed the STEDINGEN (the name previously carried by the ferry sold to  Lough Foyle Ferry Company). Later sold to Schraven BV of the Netherlands and refurbished. In 2005 sold to Passage East Ferry and renamed the TINTERN.  Notes courtesy Nick Widdows.


Irish Continental Group plc confirmed on October 10 that it had formally withdrawn from the tendering process being conducted by the Scottish Executive to provide a Northern Isles Ferry Service which would operate routes between Scotland and the islands of Orkney and Shetland commencing April next. Irish Continental Group was one of three companies invited to tender for the service.

After conducting a thorough review of the service and an analysis of the contractual commitments that would be involved - a process that included visits to both islands and consultations with all of the known interest groups - the company has decided to withdraw from the tendering process. A letter has been sent to the Scottish Executive formally notifying them of the decision.

October 09Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Kevin Bennett, Ian Collard, Tommy Dover, Stan Basnett, Paul Knappton, Andrew Hall, Peter Donald and "others".


The 175th Anniversary of the Isle of Man Steam Packet will feature on the RTÉ Seascapes programme next Thursday evening at 19:30. The show is broadcast on RTE1 which in UK can be received on 252m Long Wave and also on the web. Recordings of previous shows and programme information can be found at:

LADY OF MANN information has been received from a number of sources that suggest that the LADY will depart for Greece within the next few days. Exact departure may depend on when repairs to the bow thruster have been completed. On Saturday it was noted that her Manx ensign and IoMSPCo house flag had been removed.

It also appears that SAOS lines will rebuild her to stern loading ro/ro configuration, removing her stern ramps and probably extending the accommodation aft.

SUPERSEACAT TWO - just as the LADY OF MANN is about to depart it was announced that yet again SUPERSEACAT TWO has cancelled its sailings due to adverse conditions. The 14:00 Douglas to Liverpool and the return 18:00 sailing have been cancelled. Passengers have been diverted to the 19:45 Douglas to Heysham and 02:15 Heysham to Douglas with a bus link provided for foot passengers.

Many people expecting to arrive home at a reasonable hour will have to endure hours of delay. In particular those returning to Douglas will endure the worst delays and will probably face having to go to work just a couple of hours later without a decent night's sleep.

One must ask raise the question once posted by the late Mike Goodwyn "Is this anyway to run a shipping line?". Perhaps another author should take up the mantle of reviewing the current state of Manx shipping affairs?


SEA EXPRESS 1 - forecast adverse weather conditions led to SEA EXPRESS 1 remaining at Liverpool on Sunday September 09, 2005.

On Friday afternoon SEA EXPRESS 1 a passenger reported suffering from pins and needles and chest pains. Holyhead Coastguard was contacted at 16:20.

A nurse was in attendance but as the man’s condition worsened it became rapidly clear that he required immediate evacuation to hospital.

A rescue helicopter was scrambled from RAF Valley as the vessel was making around 30 knots inbound to Liverpool, and was about 3 miles off the Holyhead breakwater at the time.

By quarter to five the man had been winched into the helicopter and was flown to Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital where he was met by a crash team.

Mike O’Rourke, Holyhead Coastguard Watch Officer said:

“Sadly, the hospital have now reported to us that the man has been pronounced dead upon arrival. We would like to extend our sympathies to his family and friends, two of whom were travelling with him on board the Ferry.

“We would like to thank the crew of the rescue helicopter who worked on the man throughout the short flight for their extremely quick response to this sad incident.”


KARINA - coastal cruises have now ended for the 2005 season. However, the company's web site indicates that an extended programme of cruises will be available in 2006. Passenger certificate limits have been extended and the 2006 programme of cruises will include trips to Ramsey, Castletown and Port St. Mary on a more regular basis. The company will also be running cruises for a few days on the west coast of the Island between Port Erin and Peel. Further information will be posted on the company's web site in due course: .

Photo - KARINA in the inner harbour at Douglas on Saturday October 08, 2005. Her season had concluded the previous week.


Five developers have been short listed for the development of the historic South Yard site at Plymouth's Devonport dockyard. National regeneration agency English Partnerships has chosen the firms to tackle the redevelopment of the site. An outline planning application was submitted to Plymouth City Council in June 2005 to transform the 7.3 ha site, previously owned the MoD, into a mixed-use neighbourhood comprising high-quality new homes, shops, offices and community facilities.

Following huge interest from development companies, the agency has short listed the firms based on their track record and ability to deliver design quality and sustainability.

The five are Bellway Homes, Crest Nicholson, Midas Homes, Redrow Homes and Urban Splash. Steve Jackson, Senior Regeneration Manager at English Partnerships, said he was delighted by the quality of the proposals put forward by the many developers who expressed an interest.

"The high number of responses and the quality of the submissions demonstrates a real confidence in the potential of this site to put the heart back into the community," he said.

"We've been particularly impressed by the way the developers have taken on board what matters most to local people, which was revealed during an extensive period of consultation, and incorporated this into their responses." [Western Morning News 07/10/05]


LYNHER II -The introduction of the third new Torpoint ferry has been delayed by a month due to problems refurbishing the terminal slipways The aim is to create slipways with better grip for vehicles but with a smooth steel "toe" at the bottom for the ferry's chains to run over. Due to the difficulty of working at the bottom of the slipways, exposed only briefly on low spring tides, pre-cast concrete slabs are being used. The workforce has taken time to master the intricate installation and accurate levelling of the giant slabs. LYNHER II remains laid up at Fergusons shipyard on the Clyde.


Many will be familiar with the DUKW Tours operated in Liverpool, Dublin and London. Now a Somerset based company, Porcellio, plans to introduce similar tours in Plymouth as the Western Morning News reported this week:

The company has secured essential funding through the South West Angel and Investor Network (SWAIN), a pioneering initiative sponsored by the South West Regional Development Agency.

Private investors have sunk a total of £140,000 into Porcellio to pay for the restoration of up to five DUKW amphibious vehicles for use in
Plymouth and the construction of further machines for use elsewhere in the world.

The DUKWs played a vital part in the Allied invasion of Normandy during the Second World War, and many of the original vehicles were transported to the French coast from Plymouth. The bright yellow vehicles will become a familiar sight in Plymouth when the one-hour tours of the Sound and River Tamar start from next spring.

The entrepreneur behind the new venture is Howard Slater, who has invested £150,000 of his own money in the business. He previously set up and then sold Frog Tours, a successful company that operates similar amphibious tours of London and the River Thames.

"The six-figure investment secured through the SWAIN introduction has been crucial to getting the business afloat and we have benefited greatly from the experience and support offered by our angel investors," Mr Slater said.

"It means we now have the chance to duplicate the success of the London operation in Plymouth and beyond. We are offering an exciting alternative to the traditional red bus tours."


The Isle of Man's new Lieutenant Governor, Vice Admiral Sir Paul Haddacks, is due to arrive next Friday on a Royal Navy vessel. Sir Paul, 58, who will be the Queen's representative on the island, sails from the Pier Head in Liverpool on the river class patrol vessel HMS SEVERN.

The swearing in will take place in Castle Rushen on Monday 17 October. Air Marshal Ian Macfadyen OBE, the previous Lieutenant Governor, relinquished his post last month.

After arriving at the Victoria Pier in Douglas next Friday, Sir Paul, who will be accompanied by Lady Penny Haddacks, will be welcomed at an official reception at the Sea Terminal.

He has had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, which has seen him serve as Commander of the UK task force in the Gulf in 1990 and as UK military representative at NATO headquarters and EU headquarters.

He was made the director and chief executive of International Military Staff at NATO headquarters in Brussels in 2001, being responsible for personnel from 30 nations. He left the Royal Navy in November 2004. It is thought to be the first time a Royal Navy vessel will have sailed from the Pier Head in Liverpool for many years.


The hull of the new £2.9 million King Harry Ferry will arrive at Pendennis Shipyard in Falmouth this week on Monday or Tuesday, having departed Holland on Friday. The hull is being conveyed by a 60m barge. The  barge which will be temporarily sunk to allow the hull to float off and on to a cradle before being taken up the slipway and into the shipyard. The cradle will have 18 Boeing 747 wheels (two more than used on an actual aircraft) to support the hull, which at present weighs 280-tonnes.

The majority of the construction of the ferry is being carried out in Falmouth, but Pendennis had so much work on that the construction of the hull was sent over to Holland.

Construction of the vessel, for a service which has taken travellers over the River Fal for almost 120 years, started early in the summer in the Ravestein yard in Holland.

The Pendennis Shipyard will now complete the 400-tonne ferry, which carries vehicles and passengers across the short stretch of river between Trelissick and Tolverne on the Roseland.

Almost £1 million is coming from Objective 1 through the European Regional Development Fund, and the remainder from the shareholders of the ferry company.

The present ferry looks set to be sold to a man who wants to moor it on the Fal as an environmentally friendly houseboat and education centre.

The seventh ferry will, at 55 metres, be eight metres longer than the current ferry and two metres wider, carrying 34 cars as opposed to the current 23.

The design by Pendennis Shipyard also has an architectural input from the award-winning Grimshaw partnership, which designed the Eden Project.

One of their ideas which has been incorporated in the design is a glass side. Made of toughened glass, this will be on the downstream side of the vessel which is due to come into service after its completion in March."If the conditions are not good you will still be able to sit in the car and look down the river," says Tim Light, managing director of the ferry company.

Mr Light says there are no plans to increase prices which, for commuters, have remained the same since September 2001.


It was reported this week that Dartmouth's lower ferry operation has been severely disrupted following the start of repair works to the ferry slipway at Dartmouth.

All ferry sailings have had to be suspended during periods of high tide when the water has covered the repair work excavations making it too  dangerous for the ferry to land. Normally the South Hams Council run ferry operates between 07:00 and 23:00 each day.

On Tuesday October 04, the ferry operation closed down at 15:30 while on October 05, it only operated from 10:00 to 16:00. On October 06 the service was expected to run from 11:00 to 17:00 though it was hoped that services would return to normal by October 07.

The work involves repairing sections of the concrete around the metal rails which guide the ferry ramps as they slide up the slipway on landing. The excavations have proved to be bigger than expected making it impossible under health and safety grounds to continue ferry landings while the holes are hidden by the tide.

A ferry spokesman said: "I do apologise to our customers but we have had to come down on the side of safety." The repair work was necessary because the concrete around the rails had crumbled leaving them so exposed that there were fears they could damage cars or prove a hazard to pedestrians using the ferry.


Wicklow Port

Coaster visitor's this week included the regular's SINA B , LEONA , UNION GEM and AGENOR .Mussel trawlers were working in the bay late in the week. Coastguard crew's from around the coast were in Wicklow over the weekend for a boat handling course in the bay. Aviation traffic included a Air Corp Alouette lll helicopter heading south along the coast on Wednesday morning.


EXPRESS has moved to the former Sea Containers terminal at Belfast for her winter lay-up. Last winter she laid up at A&P Birkenhead.

PRIDE OF LE HAVRE and PRIDE OF PORTSMOUTH have arrived on the River Fal for a three month lay-up on the moorings above the King Harry Ferry

They ships will run between Naples and Palermo in 2006. P&O Ferries, which announced its intention to close the Portsmouth- Le Havre service on September 30 subject to on-going staff consultation, has reached agreement with the owners of the two ships it currently charters for the route over the future deployment of the vessels.

In a combined transaction involving SNAV Italy as future owners, the PRIDE OF PORTSMOUTH and PRIDE OF LEHAVRE have been sold by current owners TT Line and respectively sub-chartered out by P&O Ferries. Delivery of the vessels under the sales contract, as well as under the charter agreement, will take place during January 2006 after which the current charter agreement between P&O Ferries and TT Line will cease.


DAWN MERCHANT is expected to leave Norfolk Line on Thursday or Friday of this week and return to Liverpool. She will operate on the Irish Sea providing cover for the original Vikings which will be refitted to for their new role on the Dublin route.


PONT-AVEN will operate a Jazz Cruise from Rigaskiddy to Roche's Point in Cork Harbour on Saturday October 29, 2005. The 3 hour 15 minute cruise will depart at 12:15 and return at 15:30.

There will be on board entertainment in a variety of styles - Jazz, Easy Listening and Rock and Roll. All the usual on board dining and shopping facilities will be available.

It is understood that the 1000 €30 tickets sold out within hours of the cruise being announced.


HS NORMA - an update on the HS NORMA which experienced steering problems whilst entering the Mersey in high winds last weekend. She is reported to have arrived at Dundee on Tuesday and took a Norwegian specialist aboard for the voyage to Gibraltar as there is a violent vibration coming from the prop shaft.

October 05 


It looks as there could be an end to the dispute which has kept the former Cammell Laird Shipyard closed since August 31 when NSL were evicted by site owners Reddington Finance. Apparently talks between the two parties are now underway with a view to NSL securing a 15 year lease. According to local press reports the yard could be open for business again within a matter of weeks. Obviously good news with the winter refit season approaching.


It appears that the visit of the replica frigate GRAND TURK to Liverpool as part of the Trafalgar Celebrations later this month has been cancelled. The Brocklebank column in the Daily Post commented that there will be little happening on Merseyside to commemorate this historic event. However, down in Cornwall a major festival is to be held at Penzance Harbour over the weekend of October 21 - 23. .  Penzance was noted as the port where news of Nelson's victory was landed from HMS PICKLE.


A new museum to the slave is to be established at the Albert Dock, Liverpool. The National Museum and Centre for the Understanding of Transatlantic Slavery will cost £10m to establish and will be located in the Dock Traffic Office adjacent to the Mersey Maritime Museum. The building has been used until recently by Granada TV. Target date for completion is 2007. The Heritage Lottery Fund will contribute £1.65m to the project.


Though no longer an Irish Sea operator it is worth recording here that the company looks as though it could pull out of UK based passenger shipping operations altogether. Consultations have commenced with staff operating the Dover - Calais service over what have been described as fundamental changes in the company's operation.


Scotland will get the lion’s share of the Royal Navy’s new £4 billion aircraft carrier contracts in a decision that will determine the future shape of the British shipbuilding industry and will guarantee hundreds of Scottish jobs for more than a decade.

Defence industry sources said that a decision had been taken in principle for the ships to be built in five sections. Three out of the five go to Scotland — two to BAE Systems’ yards on the Clyde, one to Babcock at Rosyth — and final assembly of the carriers will also be at Rosyth. The other sections go to BAE’ submarine works at Barrow-in-Furness and VT Group at Southampton.

News of the contracts decision will be met with jubilation on the Forth and Clyde, which is already building up to eight Type 45 destroyers for the Royal Navy. The combined order book for T45s and carrier modules will take the yards well into the next decade.

The contracts for the large sections will account for around 80% of the total shipbuilding on the project, with the remainder — mainly the construction of the ship’s deck — to be put out to tender. This holds out the prospect of work for other British shipyards including Devonport and Swan Hunter on Tyneside. Thesources said other yards apart from the main four were likely to receive subcontract work.

The allocation of the carrier work paves the way for the creation of “shipco”, a grouping that would combine all the four companies’ naval ship construction assets in a single company. Talks aimed at establishing shipco have been held up by indecision over how the work on the carriers would be allocated.

Despite the outline agreement on work share, sources close to the project say there are still wrangles over the project’s management. Earlier this year the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) controversially appointed Kellog Brown & Root, a unit of the American defence and oil services contractor Halliburton, as the “physical integrator” on the carrier programme.

“We are making good progress on the shipbuilding programme and have made some sensible decisions. But there are still differences of opinion between the DPA, Ministry of Defence and the industry partners as to the structure of the alliance body that will run the programme,” said one source.

The Ministry of Defence hopes to achieve “main gate” — the final sign-off and contract award — for the two ships in the first quarter of next year. The decision on the allocation of shipbuilding work decreases the chances of French involvement in the construction of the British vessels. Defence ministers from both countries had signed an agreement of cooperation, although it is still possible that the French may use the British ship design for their planned new aircraft carrier. [Maritime Clippings - October 05].


TAMAMIMA (ex CRESTBANK - Bank Line) which has been laid up at Tolverne on the River Fal for a number of years is to be scrapped.  The cargo ship, which during her lay-up has been maintained in excellent condition is reported as having been sold to Indian breakers.


Stena Line is well and truly flushed after the HSS STENA EXPLORER from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead bowled over judges from the British Toilet Association (BTA) in the 2005 Loo of the Year Awards.

Following a detailed inspection by the BTA, the toilets on board the Stena HSS operating on the Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead route have won the National Loo of the Year Award for Sea Transport - with an excellent Four Star rating making it the best on the high seas. The HSS STENA EXPLORER received the accolade at a recent awards ceremony and gala dinner held in Belfast City Hall and hosted by the Lord Mayor of Belfast.

Celebrating the news of the company's latest accolade, James Howey, Stena Line's Head of On Board Services, said: "In recent years, Stena Line has spent a lot of pennies, so to speak, to make sure that our service to customers is second to none and awards like this reflect that," said James. "We have systems, or should I say cisterns, in place to make sure that our toilets on board the Stena HSS are of supreme standards. Stena Line has lifted the lid on cleanliness and hygiene for Transport. If there's a problem, we are very quick to get to the bottom of it - rather than attempt to paper over the cracks," he added.

"To achieve a Four Star rating when you consider that the Stena HSS can  carry up to 1,500 passengers on ONE sailing is a remarkable feat and I would like to pay tribute to all our on board staff who are clearly delighted to win this latest award," concluded James.

The 2005 Awards were sponsored by Armitage Shanks, the British Cleaning Council, Cannon Hygiene, Technical Concepts and Tork and were supported by the four UK national Tourism Bodies (Visit Britain, Visit Scotland, the Welsh Tourist Board and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

Commenting on this year's entries, Richard Chisnell, Loo of the Year Awards Director said: "Standards are rising in many parts of the UK and the spotlight shines even brighter on this very important aspect of our daily lives. The Loo of the Year Awards act as a catalyst between the all  important provider of 'away from home' toilet facilities."

October 02Acknowledgements; Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Steve Nicholl, Sean Robertson and "others"


There are strong, unconfirmed, rumours this weekend that the company has been sold - more on Lamb Banana page.

SUPERSEACAT TWO -  suffered lengthy delays on the morning sailing from Douglas to Liverpool on Saturday October 01. She departed Douglas 07:34 over 30 minutes late in marginal conditions. When she arrived on the Mersey she was unable to berth immediately as Prince's Landing Stage was occupied by SEA EXPRESS 1 which had aborted its Dublin sailing due to adverse conditions and returned to discharge passengers. She berthed eventually just after 11:00. However, discharge of vehicles did not commence until the Adsteam tug Canada arrived to push against the linkspan pontoon and reduce its movement. Vehicle disembarkation commencing around 11:30.  SUPERSEACAT TWO finally departed from Liverpool at 12:30 some two hours late assisted by CANADA which taken a line and towed her out into the river against the wind.


SEA EXPRESS 1 aborted her Liverpool - Dublin sailing on Saturday October 01 due to adverse conditions. She returned from Liverpool Bay and discharged her passengers shortly after 10:10.


A new website has been launched at which gives details of the joint Stena Line / P&O redevelopment of the port which will see Stena operations eventually move across Loch Ryan from Stranraer.


A digest of items which have appeared from a number of sources over the past few days concerning the current situation at Irish Ferries where by the management appear to be wishing to replace local workers by cheap eastern European crews.

[Maritime Clippings: 29/09/05]

UK officers’ union NUMAST says it has challenged Irish Ferries over the company’s claims that cuts are needed to remain competitive with other operators.

The company has threatened to abandon its Irish Sea ferry services if it is unable to replace more than 540 of its British and Irish seafarers with cheaper eastern European agency staff.

It has been estimated that the company will save some €15,000 per crew member by introducing the eastern European seafarers. NUMAST assistant general secretary Mark Dickinson said Irish Ferries seemed intent on pursuing “a damaging race to the bottom” in its attempts to increase revenue. He said: “We have to remember that this is not a loss-making company and that these cuts are about increasing profits, not reducing losses.” The company posted net earnings of euros1.5m in the first half of 2005, with revenue rising to €139.6m from €135.8m over the same period.

“No one denies that there is competition from other ferry services and low-cost airlines, but other companies are able to compete without engaging in an onslaught against decent employment conditions,”

Mr Dickinson added. “Short-term cuts will not provide long-term sustainability and if Irish Ferries does introduce low-cost crews from Eastern Europe, it will only be a matter of time before others seek to follow them and there lies the path to mutually assured destruction.” Mr Dickinson said that ferry companies should be cooperating to lobby for changes in European Commission policies to help promote the employment and training of EU seafarers and to safeguard conditions on services between member states. [29/09/05 - Maritime Clippings]

Irish Ferries dispute is the greatest test of social partnership in 18 years

SIPTU General President Jack O'Connor has described the current dispute at Irish Ferries over management plans to replace staff with workers earning one third of the current wages as "the greatest test that the social partnership process has faced in the 18 years of its existence.

"The most daunting aspect of all that is taking place is the position being adopted by IBEC. Its Director General, Turlough O'Sullivan, has refused to rule out similar approaches by other employers, citing competition as the reason.

"If this naked pursuit of profit maximisation regardless of the social cost is part of the IBEC agenda then we have to ask if there is any point in remaining in the process.

Mr. O'Connor was speaking at a press conference hosted by SIPTU and the International Transport Federation. Delegates representing affiliates in Ireland, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands expressed concern at the knock-on effects of the Irish Ferries plan on other companies if it was adopted.

Apart from the threat to pay and working conditions, the ITF co- coordinator for Britain and Ireland, Mr. Norrie McVicar, said that safety for passengers and crew was a serious issue. "After the `Scandinavian Star' fire which resulted in 157 deaths in 1989 a report prepared by the Norwegians identified:

· Excessively long hours of work,

· Communications difficulties because of language barriers and

· Outsourcing, leading to a situation where nobody knew who employed whom and if staff were properly certified as contributory factors to the disaster.

The preferred option for ferries is that staff come from the states between which the ferry company operates and that all staff, regardless of where they originate are trained to the same standards and enjoy the same pay and conditions."

Mr. O'Connor welcomed the Taoiseach's comments on the dispute, as well as the Labour Party for raising the matter in the Dáil and support from Sinn Féin deputies. "The Taoiseach has recognised the blatant abuse of what is happening and the Government now has an obligation to do everything possible to deal with it.

"For instance it is open to them to create a licensing system for ferries operating in this state, the degree to which companies operating in Ireland can avail of tax allowances and it can make the implementation of the EU Ferries Directive a priority.

He called on the company to abide by its registered agreements with the staff and the Labour Court and use the independent consultants report, which gave them 75 per cent of the cutbacks they were seeking as the basis for a negotiated settlement.

Asked if the presence of so many representatives of other seafaring unions at the press conference meant that Irish Ferries vessels might face blockades, Mr. O'Connor said, "It depends on the degree to which those promoting these barbaric tactics are prepared to resort. We won't fire the first shot but we are ready to fire back whatever they throw at us."

The CGT/CFDT representative Francois Caillou, who represents affiliates of the ITF in France, said blockades were not new and were a possibility if no settlement could be reached for Irish seafarers.

SIPTU's biennial conference begins in Cork next Tuesday, the same day as the Irish Ferries strike will begin in the absence of negotiations. Delegates will also be voting on whether to enter talks on a new national agreement to succeed Sustaining Progress. In answer to questions, Mr. O'Connor said that the position adopted by the company would have a major impact on the Union's approach to talks.

Injunction suspends Irish Ferries redundancies

30 September 2005

SIPTU has won a temporary injunction preventing Irish Ferries from going ahead with its compulsory redundancy plan. The High Court injunction will remain in place until next Wednesday when Irish Ferries are expected to come to court to argue their side of the case.

The interim order prevents Irish Ferries from issuing compulsory redundancy notices or otherwise terminating the employment of any SIPTU member pending a full hearing.

Irish Ferries earlier rejected a second invitation to attend the Labour Court to try to resolve the row over redundancy plans. The company plans to replace almost 550 staff members with cheaper agency workers from Eastern Europe.

The company says it is prepared to attend the Labour Court on Monday to deal with specific procedural matters. However, it is refusing to discuss the general redundancy issue. By then, however, Sunday's deadline for workers to accept the redundancy deal would have passed.

Labour Court Chairman Kevin Duffy has informed the company that he will not defer today's session until Monday, because of the urgency  of the situation.

Meanwhile, Irish Ferries claimed that it had 450 signed acceptances from staff opting to take redundancy.

A spokesperson said only six workers had opted to stay on lower pay and conditions.

He said the remainder are undecided.

However, unions have disputed these figures, accusing management of trying to stampede workers into giving up their jobs.

Irish Ferries Chief Agrees Labour Court Visit

[Sunday Independent - October 02]

Irish Ferries management has buckled slightly under intense pressure from the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern and his friends in the trade union movement.

In a desperate bid to avoid an international blockade of its vessels next week, the company has agreed to attend a Labour Court hearing tomorrow.

The reputation of the shipping company's chief executive, Eamonn Rothwell, as Ireland's top 'macho manager' has been slightly dented as a result.

Mr Rothwell has been forced to back down from his threat not to refer his crew 'redundancy' moves to either the Labour Court or Labour Relations Commission.

The upshot is that the relationship between Mr Ahern and his friends in SIPTU is stronger than ever.

Now political observers are speculating that the outcome the Irish Ferries dispute may even go some way towards effecting the formation of the next Government.

Many in the trade union movement favour a coalition with Fianna Fail - not withstanding the stated objection to such a development by the Labour Party leader, Pat Rabbitte, who is keen on forming an alternative Government with Fine Gael.

For months Mr Rothwell - nicknamed 'the Rottweiler' in management circles - and his senior executives have been preparing plans for a major show-down with SIPTU in a move to axe 543 crew jobs and replace them with low-paid agency workers from eastern Europe on €3.60 an hour for seven-day shifts and no holidays.

The blunt criticisms by Mr Ahern that the company's 'displacement' plan was deplorable and sharp practice has stung the stock exchange listed company.

Mr Rothwell insisted yesterday that 86 per cent of his staff had signed written acceptances of the offer of redundancy including a clear majority of SIPTU and SUI members.

Writing in the Irish Times, he said: "Almost 90 per cent of our staff have chosen the voluntary redundancy package. In light of these clear imperatives, it would be anti-democratic and anti-competitive were the Government to seek to interfere with the legal entitlements of our staff to their statutory two weeks' redundancy pay."

Political detractors claim that Mr Ahern's Dail outburst was more a move to keep SIPTU and their Labour Party allies on side - as potential coalition partners - rather than a threat to frustrate Irish Ferries "restructuring".

But it may also have been intended to keep the wider trade union movement peaceful for a few stressful weeks until the ICTU secures a mandate on October 25 to enter negotiations for a seventh, successive social partnership agreement.

The main unions recognise that Mr Ahern has been their most sympathetic senior politician for many decades; always willing to call Cabinet members to heel if they take too robust an approach in promoting neo-liberal or market-driven policies which so upset the ICTU executive.

Irish Ferries and its dynamic chief, who personally owns a €20m stake in the group, is now the unions' main hate-figure and seen as the personification of greed. He, in turn, feels a victim of political opportunism.

This weekend his spokesman was quick to note Mr Ahern's failures to similarly admonish either RTE, when it privatised and outsourced its outside broadcasting.

Mr Rothwell had even convinced Ibec, the main employers' union, to back his job-swap strategy even if it could, and probably will, lead to the collapse of social partnership pay deals.

Ten days ago Mr Rothwell warned each of the crew members that they should clearly understand that the redundancy offer is "not open to negotiation or reference to any third party" and that the company is not posturing.

With the threat of an official strike hanging over him, he failed to implement his threat that Irish Ferries would "completely exit the operation of ships on the Irish Sea", despite strike notice being served by SIPTU at the beginning of last week.

Instead the senior management has been in secret talks with shipping contract agents about securing contingency crews or 'strike- breakers' if SIPTU mounts official pickets on Tuesday. But the union moved to escalate the action this weekend by contacting the main British marine union, the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) to enforce blockades of its vessels at all British ports.

French transport union chiefs have pledged to renew their earlier disruption of the MV Normandy sailing at Cherbourg and Roscoff if Mr Rothwell proceeds with his crew displacement strategy. The strategy is intended to slash wage costs by over €15m to boost shareholder value and net profits to about €40m in the longer term.

SIPTU will have to inflict costs of at least €10m on Irish Ferries and its parent Irish Continental Group - and hit revenues much harder - to dissuade it from swapping Irish employees for eastern European agency crews. The company is most vulnerable on its freight operations where business could be transferred to its Stena Line, Brittany Ferries and P&O rivals.

An interim injunction secured on Friday evening has bought SIPTU some time until a further court hearing on Wednesday. By then it should have its strike underway though this weekend Mr Rothwell is trying to finalise his plans to keep his freight and roll-on roll-off services in operation.

The union, the company, the Government, and especially Ibec, are all playing high stakes poker. The pot is the future of national social partnership wage deals.


Wicklow Port

Coaster callers this week were  SANDETTIE , SCOT MARINER and BALTIC CARRIER .

The cruise vessel BALMORAL anchored in the bay to shelter from gales on Friday afternoon , she sailed early Saturday morning .



The introduction of the new, as yet to be named, passenger ferry to operate the Fleetwood - Knott End service has been delayed again. The new vessel was due to enter service last week. However the MCGA has highlighted the need for additional safety requirements which could delay the introduction of the new vessel until the middle of October.

 Ian Drury, boss of Wyre Waste Management, the company which operates the service, said: "The MCA are insisting on much more thorough preparation than we expected. "Each of the five men who will take turns in crewing the ferry will have to  carry out a wide range of safety drills and be skilled at getting someone out of the water.

"We have to get enough time on the water for each man to perform the drills and for that we need the right weather, so it's going to take some time. "It will be done time and time again until everyone can do their duties as required. It's not just the man commanding the vessel, but crewman as well who must respond to certain situations."

When the crew are drilled the MCA will return to put them through their paces and issue a passenger certificate. Mr Drury revealed that the boat would also have airline-style safety warnings for passengers.

He explained: "We will have up to 35 passengers and as soon as you go over 12, things change dramatically. People need to be warned about what will happen in an emergency. "We have to decided how we will do this without it sounding repetitive because it's such a regular and short journey. We can have very clear signs but we would still need a short announcement, perhaps recorded, as the passengers are getting on board. Safety is important and if we get our preparation perfected people can be quickly and reliably assured"


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