|ARCALIA SHIPPING / CLASSIC INTERNATIONAL CRUISES / TRAVELSCOPE|
ATHENA - its is reported that Travelscope has cancelled the 2007 / 08 charter for the veteran 1948 trans - Atlantic liner and all ATHENA cruises from the UK have been cancelled.
The ATHENA is, of course, better known as the STOCKHOLM, famous for its encounter with the Italian Liner ANDREA DORIA. Despite the major collision which resulted in the sinking of the Italian Liner the ATHENA has had a charmed life when many ships a fraction of her age have long gone to the scrap yard.
She was sold by Swedish America Line in 1960 to the East German Government for use as a trade union cruise ship VOLKERFREUNDSCHAFT and operated until 1985. ATHENA then had a somewhat chequered career which included use as an asylum seeker's refuge in Oslo. Following several ownership changes she was extensively refitted and chartered to Classic International Cruises on for ten years in 2004.
During 2006 she had operated a number of cruises to / from Falmouth and Liverpool and had been scheduled to undertake two cruises from Falmouth this spring before switching to the east coast for the main summer season.
As a consequence of the cancellation of the ATHENA cruises, the VAN GOGH and PRINCESS DANAE, also chartered by Travelscope has been rescheduled - with a number of planned Irish / Celtic Sea calls cancelled.
The Falmouth Packet, a Cornish News Paper suggests that the cancellation has been due to a slump in bookings following the negative publicity in the wake of a lively return trans-Atlantic crossing last autumn in which one passenger received fatal head injuries.
In a statement Travelscope, who charter the ship, said the cruise in March had been cancelled because of low ticket sales.
"We can confirm that the ATHENA has been taken out of the Travelscope programme for the cruise departing March 8th 2007 due to disappointing sales," it said. "The exact movement/positioning of the ship will be handed by the owners although we do understand that they have scheduled a departure from Lisbon during this time which will be sold in the Portuguese market."
"This decision involves some amendments to the programme for 2007. A small number of cruises, those with low numbers booked, will be cancelled. The vast majority of cruisers will be accommodated on VAN GOGH and PRINCESS DANAE with minimal date changes and on the same itineraries as originally booked."
Edwin Wilmshurst, who supplies most of the cruise call items for Irish Sea Shipping writes that around 90% of booked passengers have had their cruise dates and/ or area of visit changed.
However, there has been some suggestion on the Yahoo Liners List the ATHENA cancellation may have been in influenced by other matters - there is an ongoing thread concerning ATHENA on Liners List Yahoo Group. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LinersList/
Cruise call lists featured on Irish Sea Shipping have been updated to take into account the end of the ATHENA charter and rescheduling of the VAN GOGH and PRINCESS DANAE. [CLICK HERE]
A French prosecutor investigating the BUGALED BREIZH tragedy, in which five fishermen died three years ago, has cleared both a British and a Dutch submarine of involvement in the accident.
Anna Kayanakis said documents sent by the Royal Navy to a court in Quimper, Brittany, along with the testimony of the captain of HMS TURBULENT proved the submarine was moored at Devonport, Plymouth, when the BUGALED BREIZH sank off the Lizard.
Documents released by the Dutch Navy, including the log book of the submarine DOLFJIN, show it was ten nautical miles from the place where the Breton trawler sank at 12.23pm French time on January 15 2004.
Mrs Kayanakis revealed that interviews with Navy personnel had answered some questions surrounding the tragedy.
A helicopter which arrived at the scene was a Sea King MK7 which had picked up the trawler's distress call while taking part in exercises.
And a red liferaft found floating in the area was slashed by a diver, said Mrs Kayanakis, to sink it to avoid confusing rescue operations.
Asked whether a judge investigating a case of manslaughter and failing to assist persons in danger, had now ruled out the theory that a submarine snagged the Bugaled's trawl gear and dragged her down, she replied: "I cannot definitely say that, but two submarines suspected of involvement, the TURBULENT and the DOLFIJN, have been ruled out." [WESTERN MORNING NEWS]
HROSSEY departed from #5 dry dock on the morning of Sunday March 18 bound for Lerwick. During her three weeks on Merseyside she was refitted and equipped with new crew accommodation at the stern. This has enabled her old crew area to be converted to passenger accomodation.
Apparently due to conditions the Mersey Pilot was dropped at Douglas before the ship went to shelter on the east coast of the Isle of Man from the gales.
As there is now a dock free the next occupant of #5 may be SEA EXPRESS I to facilitate hull repairs.
CELTIC MIST - A Co Wexford-based vessel has been taken out of operation in Southampton after being declared unsafe by British authorities.
CELTIC MIST, chartered by Wexford based Ro-Ro operator Celtic Link, was inspected by the Classification Society in Southampton after it was reported to the British Maritime Coastguard Authority by the International Transport Federation (ITF).
The vessel can no longer operate in Irish or British waters until major repairs are carried out. According to the ITF, the vessel was chartered from Jay Management of Greece for Celtic Link's daily freight service between Portsmouth and Cherbourg.
The ITF said it had reported the state of the vessel after crew members and contractors working on board contacted them about conditions on it.
ITF Inspector Tommy Molloy said: "The engine room is a nightmare. There is heavy fuel oil sludge almost a foot deep in the bilges. The continuous vibrations mean huge bolts undo themselves as others are being tightened.
"The boiler room is so dangerous that the engineers have now refused to work in it. They say they risk C02 poisoning. One man has already been declared unfit for work as a direct result of C02 poisoning received in the boiler room.
"He was taken to hospital in Portsmouth and was told he could not work for at least two weeks. Two days ago he was told he was being paid off and was taken in a taxi to the airport from where, he claims, he had to pay for his own ticket back to Lithuania," Mr Molloy said.
"Crew accommodation is probably the worst I have seen. I don't think any prison cell in the UK would offer worse accommodation than afforded to this crew. They have had enough. They want the wages they were promised and they want to go home."
The vessel has been moved from Portsmouth to Southampton for extensive repair work. [IRELAND.COM]
CELTIC SUN - will leave the Dublin to Liverpool service this weekend. She is believed to have been chartered to Acciona.
ULYSSES - the afternoon Holyhead to Dublin sailing on Monday March 12 was delayed due to a death on board. The ship eventually departed at 17:24.
Press reports indicate that an investigation has subsequently been launched as the man had been in police custody shortly before his death.
An Irish Ferries spokesman said the man collapsed while the ship was docked. Crew members tried to revive the elderly man who had boarded the ship.
North Wales Police confirmed he had been in their custody, and the force has routinely referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
An IPCC spokesman said: "I can confirm that the IPCC has had a referral from North Wales police after a man was found dead shortly after he had been in police custody.
"The IPCC will now look at that referral before deciding what to do next."
The Irish Ferries spokesperson added: "An elderly gentleman collapsed on board the 1410 sailing on Monday.
"The crew administered CPR and an ambulance was called because the ship was still in dock. The man was taken to hospital.
"There was some police involvement, but we have no details on that." A North Wales Police spokeswoman confirmed a man had died at Holyhead and that the case had been referred to the IPCC. [BBC]
On Friday the High Court has paved the way to start the first steps towards the multi-million euro management buyout of Irish Continental Group.
Ms Justice Mary Laffoy in yesterday issued orders directing the summoning of a meeting of the shareholders in Dublin next month to approve the scheme of arrangement for the buyout.
Earlier this month the Irish Continental Group (ICG) agreed to back a €471m management buyout offer led by chief executive Eamonn Rothwell.
The buyout offer is for the acquisition for cash of the ICG ferry group by Aella PLC, a newly formed company owned by the senior management. Management may offer shareholders in ICG €18.50 per unit, made up of one ordinary share and three redeemable preference shares.
In the High Court Ms Justice Mary Laffoy granted an order for a meeting of the scheme shareholders to take place in the Berkeley Court Hotel at 3.15pm on April 12 next.
She further granted an application by Counsel for ICG that a meeting of Aella Class shareholders take place 15 minutes later on the same date and at the same venue.
On how to conduct the meetings Ms Justice Laffoy granted a number of directions including if the question of whether to approve the scheme of arrangement is put to the meetings a poll shall be taken.
The matter will be mentioned in court again on April 16. The €471m valuation of the company includes options and shares to be issued.
Already, Mr Eamonn Rothwell owns over 10pc of ICG. Combined, he and the other members of his team - Gearoid O'Dea, Tony Kelly, John Reilly and Tom Corcoran - own over 14pc of the company in total.
The other main shareholders in ICG include institutions like AIB, Schroder Investment Managers and Zurich Financial Services.
Mr Rothwell owns just over 82pc of takeover vehicle Aella. The deal will be funded through debt from AIB.
This includes €499m as well as €90m in loan notes. Management are also rolling over their shares and options with a value of about €50m. [IRISH INDEPENDENT]
However, the success of the management buyout has been called into question as ONE51 has invested over €25m buying up a 5.2% stake in Irish Continental Group.
The Irish Examiner reports that the move raises serious question marks about the fate of the management buyout of ?450 million, tabled less than two weeks ago.
Shares in the group, which owns Irish Ferries, rose by 23c to ?19.50 in late trading on Friday.
The MBO led by chief executive Eamonn Rothwell valued the company at ?18.50 per share.
Carl Bourke, equity analyst with Dolmen Stockbrokers, said the move was interesting.
"Mr Lynch clearly has an interest in sea transport given the 50/50 joint venture with Dublin Port and who knows where this move will lead," he said.
Mr Lynch is the former boss of IAWS Plc, the lifestyle food group.
He became managing director of One51 after it moved from being a co-op to a private company more than a year ago.
One51 still boasts most of the dairy co-ops among its stakeholders and has major plans to become a waste and wind management group.
It also has a 10% share of OpenHydro which earlier this week announced a multi-million contract to produce wave energy for the Channel Islands.
His most noted investment to date has been the €140m investment in NTR, the original toll road company on the M50.
That investment has been a major success and gave the group a 25% stake, worth €380m today.
The One51 move on Friday took ICG's management by surprise. A spokesman said the group was on course to bring out its offer document next Tuesday and has been getting positive reaction to its €18.50 bid.
Mr Bourke said the move was open to several interpretations. It might simply mean that One51 saw a bigger counter offer coming down the line, he said. [IRISH EXAMINER]
ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY
EMERAUDE FRANCE - the company has confirmed the charter of the 74m Incat EMERAUDE FRANCE (ex ATLANTIC II / SEACAT FRANCE) for the main summer season to replace the collision damaged SEA EXPRESS I. She will be used to operate the Irish services between June and September.
The vessel, currently berthed at Tilbury, has a capacity for 450 passenger and 74 cars. She will sail to Merseyside to be prepared for service.
BEN-MY-CHREE was delayed on Thursday morning March 15. She has come to the assistance of a small cabin cruiser THE KERRY LEE.
At 04:30 the cruiser with three persons on board - a male skipper (60), a female (41) and a young male (14 ) contacted Liverpool Coastguard reporting that she had lost steerage and that the female and young male were experiencing severe sea sickness.
The BEN-MY-CHREE was asked by the Liverpool coastguard to attend the scene which it is obliged to do this under the SOLAS convention (Safety of Life at Sea). The passengers on board the Kerry Lee were airlifted off by the RAF Anglesey coastguard rescue helicopter 122 at 06:35.
The BEN-MY-CHREE remained at the scene till 06:45 when she was released by the Coastguard and arrived in Douglas at 08.30. THE KERRY LEE was towed into Fleetwood by the RNLI.
SEA EXPRESS I - it is understood that she may enter Cammell Laird #5 dry dock to patch up her hull. The dock was vacated by HROSSEY on Sunday March 18.
Plans for the new Merseyside Ferries terminal building at the Pier Head, Liverpool has provoked some lively opposition as reported by the Daily Post this week:
The proposed ferry terminal at Liverpool Pier Head is bizarre, woefully inadequate, and resembles a doll's house, the chairman of Merseyside Civic Society has warned.
Plans for the multi-million pound Mersey Ferries facility are due to be debated at a meeting of Liverpool City Council's planning committee tomorrow.
Planning officers are recommending the go-ahead should be given for the three- storey structure
Dr Peter Brown, chairman of the civic society, has now formally written to the council to register an objection to the plan.
The terminal structure to be replaced is on the water's edge, immediately in front of the Three Graces that serve as a focal point within the World Heritage Site.
Dr Brown, based at the University of Liverpool's Department of Civic Design, told the council: "It should be self-evident that any building that is to be placed on this uniquely sensitive site needs to possess at least a minimal degree of architectural merit and should ideally display qualities that stand up to scrutiny in terms of their aesthetics, materials, etc, and the relationship between the proposed structure and its surroundings.
"The proposed new ferry terminal building fails to meet any of the above criteria, and is simply not good enough to be placed in such a vitally important location.
"The structure, overall shape and the bizarre geometry of the windows bring to mind either a doll's house or the outcome of an architectural student's failed first attempt, with brutal lines reminiscent of a concrete Channel Island gun emplacement."
Dr Brown said historic restrictions on permitted building height to the west of the Royal Liver Building prompt questions as to whether three storeys can be allowed, let alone justified on this site.
He added: "But if they can, then surely a much more popular feature would be the retention of a significantly larger roof or deck from which visitors can observe activity on the river or the magnificent Pier Head backdrop, including the imminent prospect of adding canal traffic to this scene.
"Overall, the scheme as proposed represents a woefully inadequate missed opportunity to construct a building of quality that will complement its world- class surroundings, and should be roundly rejected until the developer can come up with a proposal that better merits a place in this, the city's most cherished waterfront location."
City planning manager Nigel Lee says the scheme blends with the Museum of Liverpool planned for Mann Island. He also said the design did not conflict with the waterfront's status as a Unesco World Heritage Site. [DP March 12]
Despite the opposition the proposals were given the go ahead as was reported on Tuesday March 13:
Plans for a new £10m ferry terminal at Liverpool's Pier Head have been given the green light by planning chiefs.
Ferry operator Merseytravel put forward proposals to Liverpool City Council for a state-of-the-art building last year. They have been drawn up in consultation with Liverpool City Council, English Heritage and World Heritage officers. If ratified by the full council, work on demolishing the terminal building would begin in June ahead of an expected spring 2008 completion.
Councillor Mark Dowd, chair of Merseytravel, hailed the planning committee's backing as "great news". "Our plans will leave a lasting legacy from 2008, Liverpool's Capital of Culture year. "The new building will offer much better facilities for ferry passengers, commuters and the hundreds of thousands of visitors using the ferries every year." The new three-storey building and terminal will have improved cafe and shopping facilities, easy access to the landing stage and a river viewing area. A low-rise environmentally-friendly design has been developed to retain the view of the "Three Graces" from the river as well as the views of the river from Water Street and Brunswick Street. Materials would also complement the surrounding buildings.
Following the approval of the plans Councillor Lady Doreen Jones claimed she felt blackmailed into approving the plans [DP March 14]:
Liverpool planning chairwoman Cllr Lady Doreen Jones last night said she felt “blackmailed” into approving a controversial new Mersey ferry terminal – describing it as looking like “an architectural student’s failed first attempt.”
Liverpool council’s planning committee unanimously approved plans for the £9.5m Mersey Ferries facility directly in front of the Three Graces at Pier Head within the city’s World Heritage Site, despite the lack of enthusiasm from its leading member.
Cllr Jones said the new terminal was “hardly the design of the year” but Merseytravel said the plans would leave a lasting legacy for Capital of Culture.
Objectors to the three-storey building, which will include a first-floor tourist attraction and second-floor restaurant, said the plans were a “woefully inadequate missed opportunity to construct a building of quality that will complement its world-class surroundings.
Subject to the decision being ratified by the full council, work on demolishing the old terminal building – an outdated tent structure – will start in June, with the new terminal opening for business in June 2008.
Cllr Jones said she made her recommendations for approval reluctantly.
While she agreed the proposals were an improvement on the old ferry terminal – originally a 1960s bus station – she added: “but nothing could be worse.”
She said: “There has been unfair pressure put on this committee that if we don’t take these plans, we will lose the money set aside for this development.
“I have said it before and I will say it again that I object very strongly to blackmail.
“We had looked to see something a bit more in keeping with the surrounding area.”
Dark glass in original designs has now been replaced by clear glass and Portland Limestone for the new terminal building has been chosen to match the Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings.
Architects added that the low-rise design had also been developed to retain the view of the Three Graces from the river and the views of the river from Water Street and Brunswick Street.
But objector and campaigner Wayne Colquhoun, from Liverpool Preservation Trust, told planners that they were playing a dangerous game with the city’s waterfront.
He said: “If you had told me that it was possible to come up with a worse design than the Shanghai Palace I would have said it couldn’t be done. But I was wrong.
“The new terminal is monstrously high and does not respect the aesthetic principles of what is already there.
“The committee has just given permission for a huge Dormer window to be built on the most important and iconic part of Liverpool’s waterfront.
“How can Lady Doreen say that she hates it and then approve it?”
But Cllr Mark Dowd, chairman of Merseytravel, which owns and operates the Mersey Ferries said: “This is great news. Our plans will leave a lasting legacy from 2008, Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture year.”
[CLICK HERE] TO VIEW COMMENT ON THE CURRENT SORRY STATE OF THE PIER HEAD FROM IRISH SEA SHIPPING - THE ONLINE SHIPPING MAGAZINE
As Mersey Ferries are still sharing Prince's Landing Stage with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, the return to service of SUPERSEACAT TWO next Friday means that Ferry services will be disrupted whenever SUPERSEACAT TWO lies along side the stage due to the vessels greater length compared to SEA EXPRESS I.
As a result Mersey Ferries have amended next weekend's timetable:
Friday 23 March
10:00 and 11:00 River Explorer cruises from Liverpool cancelled
First River Explorer Cruise commences from Liverpool at noon (subject to short delay)
Saturday 24 March
10:00 River Explorer Cruise terminates at Liverpool at 10:50 which is the last service to Liverpool.
11:00 River Explorer Cruise from Liverpool calls Seacombe at 11:10 and Woodside at 11:20 but does not return to Liverpool.
River Explorer service just runs between Seacombe and Woodside only for the rest of the day (10 past the hour at Seacombe and 20 past the hour at Woodside).
Last full cruise leaves Seacombe at 17.10 and Woodside at 17.20, calls at Seacombe at 18.10 and terminates at Woodside at 18.20.
Sunday 25 March
Last River Explorer Cruise 4pm from Liverpool.
Last Direct Service 5pm from Liverpool calls at Woodside at 17.10, and terminates at Seacombe 17.20.
Until the Ravestein SKYLINE BARGE 15 can be repositioned on the site of the former George's Landing Stage the Mersey Ferries service faces increasing disruption as the Steam Packet service increases in frequency as the 2007 season gets underway.
Irish Sea Shipping understand that it remains the intention to break up the sunken George's Stages using explosives. This follows on from the previous attempt by Mammoet to salvage the stage sections last autumn.
Mersey Ferries claim that they hope to be operating from their own temporary stage by April - there isn't that much time left!
MINEHEAD - PENARTH
There has been much talk about reinstating regular ferry services across the Bristol Channel lining the south west of England to south Wales. Since the winding down and withdrawal of the seasonal P&A Campbell services direct cross channel sailings have only been provided on an irregular basis by the Waverley Steam Navigation Company operating the BALMORAL and WAVERLEY.
Now local business leaders have been reported to be planning the introduction of a high speed catamaran service operating between Minehead and Penarth in 2008.
Local press reports claim that a 138 passenger fast craft could cross from Penarth to Minehead in around 35 minutes connecting with a bus to Cardiff at Penarth.
The Minehead-Penarth run is planned to operate in conjunction with an Ilfracombe-Swansea service.
Supporters of the ferry service, which could be running by summer 2008, have agreed to make urgent applications for finance, and bring together business leaders from the South West South Wales to lead the commercial venture.
SEA CONTAINERS are being blamed for delays in the redevelopment of Stranraer Harbour this week in a BBC report:
A marina development, waterfront regeneration and a casino licence are all part of the ambitious plans.
One of the first significant steps towards the new vision for the town is the construction of a breakwater next to the town's west pier.
It is part of a wider £1.3m project to develop a marina in the harbour.
That, in turn, is seen as vital to the overall improvement of the waterfront area.
However, work in the area cannot start until permission is granted from ferry company Sea Containers.
It switched its operations from Stranraer to Troon in Ayrshire seven years ago but still holds a seabed lease.
The council - along with Scottish Enterprise - is funding the project but says despite repeated assurances from the company, there has been no progress.
The delay is being blamed for already pushing up the project costs by £130,000.
Councillors have agreed to raise the budget for the marina project by that figure but the delay has led to concern from Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown.
"This is an issue that came past me at least 12 months ago," he said. "I believed at that time I had a fairly positive response from Sea Containers and it looked as if it was all moving forwards.
"It would appear that this has lain around for a period of time and time is money with these things."
He said he was not interested in who was to blame for the delay but simply in seeing things move forward.
"It needs to be finalised once and for all and not left lying on somebody's desk once again to potentially cost more money at a later stage," he said.
"I'm down here in Westminster five minutes away from Sea Containers' office along the river.
"If I need to go and knock on somebody's door down there and try to move things on then I am quite prepared to do that."
The situation has been complicated by the fact that Sea Containers Services Ltd - the legal tenant - filed for Chapter 11 protection under US bankruptcy law last year.
The company said that meant it had not been allowed by the US courts to make arrears payments required under the terms of its lease.
It also said that it was legally unable to pay towards works to remove concrete piles from the harbour as requested by the Crown Estates.
"We are well aware of the issues relating to the regeneration of Stranraer's waterfront and are enthusiastic about the opportunities it would bring to the area and the local community," said a Sea Containers spokesperson.
She added that the company had written to Mr Brown to say it was keen "in any way possible" to reach a "satisfactory conclusion for the people of Stranraer".
WESTERN LADY FERRIES
Owners of a small ferry service operating in South Devon fear for the future of their business if a major company introduces a new service. Last month, Stagecoach unveiled plans to introduce a half-hourly sea shuttle service between Torquay and Brixham using high-speed catamarans.
Brian Souter, Stagecoach founder and chief executive, visited Torbay to meet resort bosses and discuss the project.
He has pledged to spend £4 million on the initiative, but a further £1 million would be needed for infrastructure for the all-year-round service and there have been suggestions Torbay Council may subsidise it.
Sandie Armstrong, operations manager of the Western Lady Ferry Service which has been running between the two towns for 60 years, is concerned the firm has never received any financial support from the council, yet Stagecoach could receive a subsidy.
She said: "We have plied the route on a seasonal basis for the past 60 years, providing a safe and reliable crossing in 25 minutes from May to October with our world-renowned Fairmile vessels, which originally served with coastal forces of the Second World War and are placed on the Register of National Historic Ships as the last of their kind to survive in UK waters."
Mrs Armstrong said that two years ago, a landing stage at Princess Pier was taken out of commission due to storm damage, which led to the firm buying newer and smaller boats.
She said that the area's integrated transport policy has put forward the idea of a year-round ferry service but, unlike buses, boat operators do not get subsidies.
"Having just invested heavily in newer craft for the ferry service and in renewing engines, running gear and other equipment to meet the high demand for safety of passenger vessels, we were dismayed to read that Stagecoach were proposing a new service on the same route that they we have covered for the past 60 years," she said.
Mrs Armstrong raised concerns about the viability and safety of high-speed catamarans, particularly the impact it could have on the local industry which supports about 40 summer jobs and 20 in the winter.
She said: "The local boat operators plough their earnings, such as they are in some summers, back into their boats and the local economy."
Torbay Council's deputy mayor Coun Kevin Carroll said: "Stagecoach has put forward some very exciting ideas for a proposed fast ferry service between Torquay and Brixham.
"Their proposals do make reference to the possibility of a cash injection from Torbay Council.
"However, discussions are still at a very early stage and no decision will be taken without extensive consultation with residents and local businesses."