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NEWS BULLETIN - January 2008

January 24Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Tony Brennan, Ian Collard, Peter Langley, John Pryce and "others".

DUKE OF LANCASTER

A new embryo web site has appeared featuring the DUKE OF LANCASTER at www.dukeoflancaster.net .

The ship continues to generate considerable interest on the BBC Wales Web Site [CLICK HERE]

HEYSHAM

Mersey Docks (Grab Dredger) MERSEY MARINER was noted dredging at Heysham around the linkspans for a couple of days last week in early January .  The Trinity House tender GALATEA was servicing the danger patch buoy off Fleetwood on the morning of January 12. Westminster Dredging Company's suction dredger SOSPAN DAU arrived at Heysham January 09 from contract dredging at Workington but called via Fleetwood and after bunkering from roadtankers left same day for Burryport via Fleetwood. 

ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY

The company announced this week that it is to close the Belfast call centre in March 2008. This location was very much an anachronism from former parent company Sea Containers presence on the Irish Sea.

The eight permanent staff will be offered redundancy packages.

Mark Woodward chief executive said: "On behalf of the company I would like to thank our staff in Belfast for their dedicated service over many years. It is with sadness this decision has been made but the scale of the operation has made this closure and consolidation inevitable."

In recent years the number of customers booking online has risen to 65% which resulted in the decrease of permanent employees in Belfast. 

Call levels have fallen from 736,000 in 2003 to 223,000 in 2007.

As a result the company has decided to relocate the call centre to it’s Douglas headquarters. The new location will be in the Sea Terminal in Douglas where staff will combine contact centre and check in duties.

IRISH FERRIES

OSCAR WILDE - the recently acquired ship will be visiting Dublin arriving on Monday January 28 at 10:00 and departing again for Rosslare at 16:00 on January 29.

Information received from a correspondent indicated that the likely plan for Monday January 28 is for ULYSSES to use berth 51 at Dublin Port with OSCAR WILDE berthing at 49.

ISLE OF MAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT

DOUGLAS HARBOUR

DECEMBER 2007 HARBOUR TRAFFIC

Total harbour traffic (including Steam Packet passengers and vehicles, cruise vessels, etc):

 

December

Year to Date

 

Passengers

Vehicles

Passengers

Vehicles

2007

26,575

8,952

654,520

200,976

2006

25,834

8,456

588.530

170,016

%change

+2.9%

+5.9%

+11.2%

+18.2%

Steam Packet passenger route performance for December:

Route

%change

2006

2007

Dublin

Plus 4%

442

461

Heysham

Minus 3%

19,809

19,244

Liverpool/Birkenhead

Plus 27%

4,873

6,209

Steam Packet passenger route performance For 2007

Route

%change

2006

2007

Belfast

Plus 16%

19,171

22,266

Dublin

Plus 16%

11,640

13,527

Heysham

Plus 11%

269,989

299,517

Liverpool/Birkenhead

Plus 9%

264,958

290,035

Whitehaven

All Plus

nil

1,199

Troon

All Plus

Nil

386

Larne

All Plus

3,528

5,638

Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew comments: “2007 has seen passenger numbers increase every month.  The overall total at 654,520 has brought passenger traffic back to the levels seen in 2003 and has halted the decline seen since then.  It is pleasing to note that the Steam Packet’s revised winter schedule has produced a positive response.  Operating to Liverpool/Birkenhead instead of Heysham on Saturdays and Sundays has resulted in a net gain of 771 passengers..”

January 17Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, seawaves.com, R.McDonald, Dave Horton and "others".
ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY

SNAEFELL transferred from NSL Bidston to Cammell Laird on Wednesday January 16 for completion of her refit, though an AIS "ghost" was still showing her at Bidston on Thursday evening!

BIRKENHEAD SERVICE

Despite the negative reaction from some quarters about the company is claiming that the BEN-MY-CHREE service has been a success with passenger figures up by 29% in December 2007 when compared to the frequently interrupted SSC2 service operated the previous year. 

NEWLYN PORT

Plans for a £7 million fish market at Newlyn in West Cornwall have been hailed as offering a new lease of life to the industry.

Penwith planners this week granted permission to the ambitious Objective One-backed scheme which will replace the town's crumbling fish market.

"This new fish market will herald a bright new dawn for the fishing industry," said Penwith district councillor and Newlyn resident Malcolm Pilcher. "It is central to the regeneration of the whole of Newlyn."

The new market will replace the current building, which does not comply with modern standards.

Work could start next year on building the new market alongside the old one, which will eventually be demolished.

Coun Pilcher said the new facility had the potential to be used for a number of other events, such as antique fairs and farmers' markets.

"It will be an open and welcoming place with public viewing encouraged and several adjacent units which could be used for restaurants or shops," he said.

"There is no doubt in my mind that without this new fish market, the fishing industry in Newlyn would have died.

"No change was not an option here.

"I know of boats which land their stock in Newlyn then take it up to Plymouth because the facilities are better up there.

"A new market will end all of that and I think more boats will use Newlyn."

Paul Trebilcock, of the Newlyn Fish Producers' Organisation, also welcomed the scheme being given the go-ahead. But he said fishermen still wanted reassurances that using the new facilities would not be price-prohibitive.

"The principal of improving Newlyn fish market is a good thing," he said. "Ensuring that fish which is well looked after on boats is well looked after through the selling process is very positive."

Mr Trebilcock said fishermen had not yet been informed what charges would be applied to anyone using the new market.

"We are 100 per cent behind improving the market, but people want their minds put at rest about the cost," he added. [WESTERN MORNING NEWS]

ROYAL NAVY

HMS SEVERN and HMS BULWARK are understood to be scheduled to berth at the cruise terminal over the weekends of February 02/03 and 09/10 respectively.  HMS LANCASTER is also believed due at Huskisson Dock over the weekend of February 09/10.

SEA CONTAINERS

One time Irish Sea vessel SUPERSEACAT THREE and sister SUPERSEACAT FOUR which have been operating on the Baltic between Helsinki and Talinn are reported to have been sold to Aegean Speedlines which are believed to be continuing the Baltic operation this year when the new season commences in the Spring.

SWANSEA - CORK

It was reported this week that an Irish consortium, led by businessman James Campbell, has said it has found a suitable vessel in Scandinavia and is pressing ahead with plans to reinstate the link this spring. There is speculation in the shipping world that the ship could be either the 1980 built ROSELLA of Viking Line or the 1981 built CHRISTIAN IV of Color Line.

The news has been welcomed by tourism leaders in Swansea.

"It is very good news that positive moves are being made to re-establish the route," said Tourism Swansea Bay vice-chairman Geoff Haden.

Cork councillor Michael Courtney has said that talks about the new service are at an advanced stage, and he is confident the service will be resumed in time to meet the summer tourist demand.

It is believed the Port of Cork will offer some financial incentives to a new service provider, which may include reduced fees for a limited period.

Meanwhile, Mr Haden has called on Swansea to do more to tap into the tourism potential of the new service.

"It would very clearly have a positive effect on the economy of Southern Ireland," he said.

"If it can be reinstated, I would like to see Swansea making a bigger effort to capitalise on the potential it offers.

"A drive is needed to attract more people to Swansea and Gower, to persuade those using the ferry to stay a few nights."

January 12Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Sea Truck Ferries, Michael Pryce, Michael O'Connell and "others".
BRISTOL CHANNEL FERRY SERVICE

An influential shipping expert has added his support for a North Devon ferry service from Ilfracombe to South Wales after saying it was "inevitable."

Professor Alf Baird, head of the Maritime Research Group at Edinburgh's Napier University, has joined other leading British academics to back proposals for a multi-million pound 45-minute fast catamaran service to Swansea.

Supporters have also been given the thumbs up by leading Welsh academic Professor Brian Morgan, who undertook a detailed analysis of the financial and business plans and said they were "very robust."

Momentum for the twin commercial link between North Devon and South Wales plus Penarth to Minehead have been spurred on after a business plan, plus all the facts and figures were set before top experts - and not found wanting.

"The routes are inevitable!" said Professor Baird.

"Many historic ferry routes are being re-started due to rising road transport costs and worsening congestion, aided by ongoing technological advances in ferry design."

Organisers behind the scheme have produced hard data to support the project, looking at target populations and the number of passengers already using ferry services in other parts of the UK and around the world.

Chris Marrow, who is leading the project, said it was a definite milestone and although there had been a great deal of market research in the past, this was the first time the data had been properly analysed to produce hard figures.

"Our business plan is now being finalised," he added.

"A company has already been formed, the financing of the first vessel is being actively discussed with the banks and equity partners are being sought.

"The experts have endorsed the principle, verified the calculations and said the business plan is robust, so this puts us in a very strong position in terms of getting funding and means we will be taken that much more seriously by potential investors."

The potential of the service has clearly impressed. Mr Marrow gave one Scottish route as an example of how well used ferries could be:

"On the three main routes crossing the Clyde, you have got three-and-a-half million passengers per year," he said.

"When you add the target population of that area together, it is actually lower than that of South Wales, Devon and Somerset."

Although not so unrealistic as to suggest such figures were achievable in the foreseeable future, over "an extended period" of several years Mr Marrow said he thought the new Bristol Channel service could still see in the region of one million people climbing aboard.

Potential investors, equity partners or anyone with an interest can contact Chris Marrow at themariner2008-ferryproject@yahoo.co.uk.

The above report appeared in the North Devon Gazette, however, despite the apparent enthusiasm shown by various parties for the proposals one wonders just how wise it will be to deploy a high speed catamaran on what would be very exposed routes.

FALMOUTH HARBOUR COMMISSIONERS

Giant cruise liners could bring thousands of extra visitors to the West Country.

Marine experts in Falmouth have confirmed that the port on the South Cornwall coast could be dredged to take the new range of liners.

In the thriving world of cruise ships, the latest models can take more than 4,300 passengers.

The massive influx of visitors to the popular seaside resort would bring huge financial benefits throughout the community.

An assessment is being carried out to establish the environmental impact of the dredging. Results are due in May.

Marine consultants Royal Haskoning said the channel design would be suitable for the world's biggest cruise ships. The future could see 340-metre (1,115ft) vessels docking in Falmouth harbour.

Environmental groups have expressed concern, however, at the effect the project could have on wildlife in the area.

Falmouth Harbour Commissioner Captain Mark Sansom said he was pleased with the progress being made on the port's environmental impact assessment report.

"The Falmouth Harbour Commissioners have commitment and responsibility for the economic wellbeing of the port and believe this project will help secure a sustainable future for the port and local businesses as well as further afield in Cornwall. I'm delighted that we are moving closer towards our ambition becoming a reality."

A spokesman for Royal Haskoning said: "The design of the channel has also been reviewed to ensure that the channel will be safe to navigate yet minimises the amount of dredging required.

Bob Harrison, director of cruise marketing organisation Destination South West, said: "Cruise ship visitors spend a lot of money at places they visit and when they visit somewhere they like, they tend to return to the area for a longer visit at a later date.

"We should also not forget that the crew come ashore and spend money and you should never underestimate the effect they have on talking up a shore visit to passengers. In Falmouth, stores such as Marks & Spencer put on extra staff when there's a ship due in.

The £410,000 impact assessment project is being jointly funded by the South West of England Regional Development Agency and the Objective One Partnership for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

[WESTERN MORNING NEWS]

LEAVESLEY INTERNATIONAL

Public notices were published in the Merseyside press this week by Peel Ports seeking planning permission to operate a ship recycling facility at Canada Dock, Liverpool. The granting of permission will enable Leavesley International, a UK based group, to establish a ship recycling facility at Canada Dry Dock.

It is anticipated that subject to the granting of the necessary permission, the first ship to be recycled will be the assault landing ship HMS INTREPID. The company anticipates that it can recycle two ships per year at the Canada Dock site.

PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY

NORCAPE will replace the GLOBAL FREIGHTER on Liverpool - Dublin until she in turn is replaced by the TOR MAXIMA in mid-March.

At which point the NORCAPE replaces the EUROPEAN MARINER on Larne - Troon. The EUROPEAN MARINER's future hasn't been announced but she is not expected to be sold.

PORT OF LARNE

BUMPER YEAR FOR TOURISM AT THE PORT OF LARNE

The Port of Larne enjoyed a bumper year for tourist traffic, according to 2007 throughput figures released by the port today.

Total passenger numbers grew to 943,000, an increase of 9% on 2006.  The number of tourist passengers grew by 70,000, while tourist vehicles increased by 17%.

Welcoming the figures, Managing Director, Keith Millar said “The range of ferry routes provided in Larne makes it an ideal option for tourists.  Whether it’s tourists visiting Northern Ireland, people holidaying on the mainland or for short business trips, Larne’s location is ideal.”

Ro-ro freight traffic through the port also grew by 3.2% in 2007, with Larne carrying a total of almost 440,000 units.  Much of this is Just-In-Time traffic, servicing the retail sector in Northern Ireland and providing the route for much of the country’s business exports.

“Sometimes the ro-ro freight business isn’t seen as glamorous by the public”, said Keith Millar, “but it is the lifeblood of our economy.  All our major supermarkets and retail businesses rely almost entirely on ro-ro traffic.  The range of options for the haulier available at Larne, together with the reliability of those ferry services, makes it an excellent choice for business.”

P&O Irish Sea’s Larne-Cairnryan service grew on what was a record year in 2006 to carry 253,000 loads, while Stena’s service to Fleetwood grew by 4% to 155,000.

To add to an already successful year, the future looks promising for the Port of Larne as the DRD Roads Service makes plans to upgrade the remaining section of the A8, Larne-Belfast road to dual carriageway standard.  Funding from the Republic of Ireland’s government for infrastructure improvements in the North was announced at the North-South Ministerial Conference last July and can only mean increased social and economic benefits as a whole.

“Since the announcement, we have had confirmation from the Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, that the route corridor study of the last length of the A8 from Belfast to Larne is underway,” explained Keith Millar.  “Business and tourists have demonstrated that they want to use Larne.  It is vital, therefore, that these improvements happen sooner rather than later.  The importance of completing the Trans European Route and creating dual carriageway all the way to Larne can’t be over-emphasised.  The port, the town and Northern Ireland want it and more importantly, need it!”

The increase in traffic is not the only improvement the port has seen in the last year.

The Port of Larne Business Park also continued its development with two new logistics hubs opened in 2007 and a planning application is underway from McKenzies (NI) Ltd, for a food retail and leisure development in the Park.

Commenting on the developments, Keith Millar said,  “The value of setting up so close to the port with its 24/7 choice of ferry routes has been quickly recognised by many businesses and we are already receiving further significant interest.”

“We fully support the supermarket proposal as Larne desperately needs a new convenience food retail offer. This site is ideally situated to make best use of existing infrastructure and capture some of those almost one million passengers, many of whom drive on without stopping.  We feel this site is perfect for the people of Larne and servicing the traffic that uses the port.”

Looking forward to 2008 Mr Millar added, “There is no doubt that there was a major “feel good factor” in Northern Ireland in 2007.  We at the port, like everybody in the country, have seen the benefit our own local NI Assembly has brought.  There are challenging times ahead but I am confident our elected representatives are up to those challenges.  The Port of Larne will continue to provide the first-class 24/7 service to our customers that they need to support Northern Ireland business in the year ahead.”

SEA TRUCK FERRIES

Seatruck have taken a further step in their fleet expansion plans with the purchase of two ro-ro ferries from Attica Holdings in Greece. The 1998-built CHALLENGE and the 1999-built SHIELD are sisterships. They have a length (O/A) of 121 m, capacity for 65 trailers and a speed of 16.5 kts.

The vessels will join the two other vessels of this class, TRIUMPH and ARROW, which were purchased by Seatruck from Greek owners last October.

SHIELD will remain on charter to Norfolk Line, operating from Heysham on Irish Sea routes, whilst CHALLENGE will continue to operate Seatruck Ferries’ service between Dublin and Liverpool.  

Seatruck CEO Kevin Hobbs says: “This is another important strategic move for Seatruck. There remains a significant lack of this type of tonnage in the marketplace. In acquiring the four ferries, we have the opportunity to maximise their commercial potential in the coming years - both in our own services and on the open market. These sisterships are well proven and reliable. We look forward to welcoming the additional two into our fleet.”

By mid-2008 Seatruck Ferries will control a fleet of 10 vessels: four newbuilds from Spain, the ferries RIVERDANCE and MOONDANCE and the four recent purchases, ARROW, TRIUMPH, CHALLENGE and SHIELD. ARROW is on charter to Norfolk Line, operating from Heysham on the Irish Sea routes. The TRIUMPH is on charter to Balearia.

Seatruck’s rapid development over the past 12 months also includes the September takeover of Celtic Link’s Dublin-Liverpool route. The newbuild CLIPPER POINT will soon enter service on the Warrenpoint-Heysham route.

SWANSEA - CORK FERRIES

The Irish Examiner reported this week that talks on the possibility of reactivating the Swansea-Cork ferry service are said to be at a critical stage.

A West Cork-based businessman, who is originally from Kerry, and other stakeholders have held several meetings in recent weeks and are looking at sourcing funding.

Captain Michael McCarthy, the Port of Cork’s marketing manager, said yesterday talks were at a "delicate stage".

Capt McCarthy said that he was doing all in his power to get the link reinstated.

A decision on whether to go ahead with the project will have to be made shortly, otherwise it will be extremely difficult to market in Britain for the summer season. The loss of the ferry link cost the south-west region €35 million in lost tourism revenue last year.

Two potential vessels have been identified, costing €20m each. It is expected that the Port of Cork will offer some financial incentives.

These are likely to include reduced fees for a period. There have also been calls from Cork Business Association for Cork City Council and Cork County Council to offer financial assistance.

However, several county councillors have said the county council wouldn’t be able to help and have insisted the Government should intervene.

The mayor of County Cork, Cllr Tom Sheahan, said he understood the business interests trying to relaunch the ferry service still faced a shortfall in finances, but he was hoping this gap could be bridged.

January 07Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews and "others".

  

CELTIC LINK

FINNFOREST - SSG-GÖTEBORG. Strömma Turism & Sjöfart AB, Stockholm is reported to have sold the 15,525grt ro/ro vessel to Celtic Link for US$10.9 million. The vessel was built at Hyundai Heavy Industries, South Korea, in 1978.  The vessel is currently operating on Finnlines' Helsinki - Gdynia route and, according to their schedules, will remain on this route until the end of January at least.

ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY

SNAEFELL - As will have been seen in the photographs elsewhere on the web site SEA EXPRESS I (SEACAT ISLE OF MAN) has been renamed and repainted in traditional Isle of Man Steam Packet Company livery with a new roundel.

The ship is also the first to carry the company's full name for several years. The dropping of the truncated "Steam Packet" is to be welcomed. Anyone with a knowledge of shipping history will be aware that there have been many "Steam Packet" companies - but there is only one Isle of Man Steam Packet! It has always been a mystery as to why Sea Containers adopted the truncated name which removed the opportunity to promote the island!

SUPERSEACAT TWO - will gain the name VIKING as part of the rebranding exercise when she refits for the new season. Lounges and facilities on board the vessels will be given Manx names.

In the latest update to his blog company CEO Mark Woodward is urging further support for the second season of improved Irish sailings using a second fast craft as these are being provided on a "use it or lose it" basis.

ROYAL NAVY

HMS INTREPID - the former landing ship remains in Portsmouth and is still awaiting the necessary permits for its "green disposal" in Canada Dry Dock, Liverpool by Leavesley International. If these are granted she is expected to be towed to Merseyside in March. Her sister ship HMS FEARLESS was towed to Ghent for recycling by Van Heyghen Recycling during December.

SEATRUCK FERRIES

CLIPPER PENNANT - the second of the new ships was reported launched just before Christmas by Astilleros de Sevilla

 

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