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NEWS BULLETIN - March 2008

March 30Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, John Williams, Trevor Kidd, Jenny Williamson and "others".



More cruise liners packed with American tourists will call at West Country ports this year than ever before.

The number of cruise liners visiting the region is expected to triple in the coming months and years, generating about £6.5 million to the local economy.

The news follows a successful lobbying trip to
Florida by Destination South West, the organisation charged with promoting Devon, Cornwall and Dorset ports and attractions to cruise companies around the world.

Bob Harrison, director of cruise operations for Destination South West, said 97 cruise liners would this year visit ports including Falmouth in Cornwall, Dartmouth and Plymouth in Devon and the Isles of Scilly - a 217 per cent increase since the organisation started promoting the region's ports six years ago.

Mr Harrison said: "It's very good for the South West. But what's even more important to stress is that 40 per cent of these visitors will return to the region if they have a good time. So it's up to us here in the Westcountry to make sure they do."

It is estimated that each of the 800 passengers on board the cruise liners will spend about £85 while visiting
Cornwall, Devon or Dorset.

Mr Harrison added: "And that's not even counting what crews will spend. So it's good news for the region."

Altogether 10 ports will welcome American and German cruise liners from the Isles of Scilly and Mount's Bay in
West Cornwall to Portland and Poole in Dorset, Plymouth and Ilfracombe.

The first port to welcome the new cruise liners will be
Falmouth when the VAN GOGH, the OCEAN NOVA and the BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS cruise ships call into port. The Van Gogh will berth on Saturday April 5.

The VAN GOGH will also be the last ship to visit the region this year when it comes to Falmouth
on December 21. Although Torbay will not be visited this year, Mr Harrison is adamant the English Riviera will see cruise ships return next year.

Polly Birchall, tourism manager at South Hams District Council, said: "It will have a very positive economic impact on the region. Cruise travellers are high spenders so this will benefit shops in the ports where they will stop including Dartmouth
. This should benefit the whole of the region."

The busy schedule of cruise liner visits came after representatives of Destination South West lobbied companies during a UK Trade and Investment-funded visit to
Florida last month. [Western Morning News]


The Port of Cork anticipates a bumper cruise season in 2008 as it reaps the rewards of continuing investment in enhanced port facilities for visiting cruise ships. During 2008 the port will host a record 51 cruise ships with over 72,000 passenger capacity. This compares favourably with 2007 which had also been a record year when Cork hosted 40 ships and 42,000 passengers.

The Port of Cork Company has committed further resources to improving its port facilities with additional dredging at the Cobh Cruise Terminal to permit the handling of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom class ships, at 160,000 gross tons and 4400 passenger capacity, this is the largest cruise ship in terms of tonnage and passenger capacity afloat today.

Cork is the only major Irish cruise port capable of berthing such vessels at all stages of the tide and the growing number of ships, both large and small, calling at the port is recognition by the cruise industry of Cork’s strategic importance to the future of cruising on the Atlantic seaboard of Europe.

More than half of the vessels calling at the port will have capacity in excess of 1000 passengers, among them some really eye catching ships such as the INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS, one of Royal Caribbean’s aforementioned Freedom class ships, Princess Cruises’ GRAND PRINCESS, (109,000 gross tons and 3300 passenger capacity), Mediterranean Shipping Company’s MSC POESIA, the latest addition to the European line’s rapidly growing fleet and Cunard Line’s QUEEN ELIZABETH 2, the world’s most famous ocean liner.

On entering service in May 2008, the INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS will be the largest ship ever to be home-ported in Europe. Her maiden voyage will be a four day short break from Southampton to Cork to Southampton cruise, one of three cruises the vessel will undertake this year. As with similar calls by the NAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS in 2007, INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS will overnight at the port and is sure to receive a very special welcome. It is expected that thousands of people will travel from all parts of Ireland to see the ship. The vessel will thus provide a significant twin boost to the local economy with the economic impact being derived from both passengers and Irish residents alike.

Altogether Royal Caribbean will account for six cruise calls with sister company Celebrity Cruises accounting for a further two calls.

Princess Cruises will have an impressive programme of five visits to Cork with three calls by the magnificent GRAND PRINCESS (her first ever call to the port) and one call each by PACIFIC PRINCESS and ROYAL PRINCESS.

The QE2 has long been a favourite ship at the Port of Cork dating back to the early 1970’s when Cork was on the vessel’s regular transatlantic itinerary. In July 1990 the vessel called with a twofold purpose – part of Cunard’s 150-year celebrations and to mark the official opening of the port’s Ringaskiddy Deepwater Terminal.

When the vessel calls in October it will be as part of her final round Britain and Ireland cruise before she departs in November for Dubai, where the refurbished liner will be berthed at a specially constructed pier as a floating hotel, retail and entertainment destination.

In April the new 90,000 ton 3000 passenger MSC POESIA will call to Cork as part of her pre-inaugural cruise from Dover to Venice.

Cruise traffic through the Port of Cork provides a major economic stimulus to the economies of the city and county of Cork, together with the neighbouring counties of Kerry and Waterford.

An independent economic impact study undertaken by the Centre for Policy Studies, University College Cork found that the regional economic contribution of the Port of Cork’s cruise business in 2004, when the port handled 36 cruise ships and 33,500 cruise passengers, amounted to €28 million and supported 204 full time equivalent jobs. With 51 cruise calls in 2008 offering passenger capacity in excess of 70,00 it is clear that the value of the Port of Cork’s cruise business has increased significantly and the study will be updated during this current season.

While enhanced port facilities contribute to the popularity of the Port of Cork as a port of call, the real appeal is the quality and variety of shore side attractions on offer. At the quayside next to the Cobh Cruise Terminal at the town's restored Victorian Railway Station is Cobh Heritage Centre where a vivid multi media exhibition dramatically recalls the story of Cobh's origins, its unique history and legacy and where individual themes include the Titanic, the Lusitania, emigration and the great Irish famine. Passengers can stroll from the cruise ship along the attractive colourful town where a warm welcome always awaits.

The port offers an array of half day and full day shore excursions including visits to some of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions including Cork city, Ireland’s second city, world renowned Blarney Castle (home of the famed Blarney stone), the Jameson Heritage Centre at Midleton, the beautiful heritage/fishing town of Kinsale (widely recognised as Ireland’s gourmet capital), the celebrated Lakes of Killarney, the stunning wild scenery of West Cork and Kerry and the very popular Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre.

Among the other major players to call at Cork this year will be US based Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line, Silversea Cruises and Seabourn Cruise Line, British based P&O Cruises, Fred Olsen Line, Saga Cruises, Thomson Cruises and Voyages of Discovery; French based Iles du Ponant; German based Hapag Lloyd Cruise Line, Aida Cruises, Transocean, Deilmann and Phoenix Reisen and Norwegian based Hurtigruten. [PORT OF CORK]


A current list of cruise calls can be found on the Peel Port of Liverpool Web Site [CLICK HERE] this shows which ships will go into the docks or call at the Landing Stage. At present there appears to be some confusion over SILVER WIND - you web master has seen her featuring on the Cóbh Chamber of Commerce Web Site (though not Port of Cork site) for May 27, the same day she is due on Merseyside!

During 2009 CROWN PRINCESS is scheduled to call at Liverpool on four occasions doing round - UK cruises operating the cruises that GRAND PRINCESS is operating in 2008. At 112,000grt GRAND PRINCESS will be the largest passenger ship (tonnage) to have entered the Mersey. Also AZAMARA JOURNEY (ex R SIS) is due in late-August 2009.




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



Year to Date





















Steam Packet passenger route performance:






Minus 29%




Plus 615%



Director of Harbours, Captain Michael Brew comments:

“Whilst passenger figures are slightly disappointing after the growth seen in 2007 it is pleasing to see that vehicle numbers remain steady.  The return of the fastcraft will increase passenger choice in a very competitive market place”


VIKING was aborted two sailings to recent adverse weather on March 28 and 29.

The 07:30 morning sailing on Friday March 28 from Douglas to Liverpool had its departure delayed until 09:00. However, when the sailing eventually departed weather conditions deteriorated and the fast craft returned to the harbour and the sailing was cancelled. Reports in the IOM press indicate that items were starting to "fly" about the passenger saloons and that some vehicles had moved on the car deck.

On Saturday March 19, the VIKING's 15:00 Douglas to Liverpool sailing was also forced to abort the crossing and returned after a few minutes to Douglas Harbour. Passengers were then transferred to the BEN-MY-CHREE which had not been scheduled to sail on Saturday evening due to it being a scheduled maintenance period. She sailed earlier than usual to Heysham and returned with diverted Liverpool passengers.


The Defence Helicopter SAR Award is an annual honour bestowed to a Search and Rescue helicopter crew that has performed an outstanding rescue over the 12 months between award dates.

In 2007, the Maryland State Police Aviation Command took the award for the rescue of workers unable to climb down from a 1,000 foot smokestack.that was on fire.

Nominations are invited through Shephard's website and only these nominations are considered for the award.

This year, the Royal Air Force's (RAF) SAR helicopter crew Rescue 122 were presented with the SAR 2006 Award at Shephard's own dedicated event, the SAR conference and exhibition, which was held in Bournemouth, UK in March.

Rescue 122 merited the SAR Award through their actions on the night of 31 January, 2008, in rescuing the majority of the crew of the Ferry RIVERDANCE that was powerless and in danger of capsizing in terrible weather of the UK's western coast.

The following outline, prepared by the RAF, best explains the circumstances of that evening:

"On the 31 January 2008, Flt Lt Lee Turner (Operational Captain), Flt Lt. Giles Ratcliffe (Co-pilot), Sgt John Stevens (Radar/Winch Operator) and MACR Rich Taylor (Paramedic Winchman) were the duty SAR helicopter crew (Rescue 122) based at C Flight, 22 Squadron RAF Valley. 

At 2016 hrs, Rescue 122 was called to the aid of 23 persons on board the Ferry RIVERDANCE that had lost all power and was in severe difficulties 10 nautical miles north west of Blackpool. 

Weather conditions on scene were atrocious with low cloud, storm force winds (50 gusting to 70 knots) causing severe turbulence and a sea state of 7 with an associated 10 metre swell.  Light levels on scene were also poor meaning that even with night vision goggles the crew were struggling to maintain a visual horizon and references.

Rescue 122 arrived on scene at 2035 hrs and found the RIVERDANCE cross wind, side on to the sea swell and listing between 45 and 60 degrees to her port.

The battering of the waves against the slab sided ferry and associated rolling and surfing in the swell meant that on occasion the port bridge wing was dipping into the water and she was at significant risk of capsizing.

RIVERDANCE's Captain had moved all 23 persons on board into the relative safety of the bridge and was requesting the immediate rescue of non essential personnel.  After a detailed reconnaissance, the crew decided that the safest option was to winch the passengers from the ferry's starboard bridge wing and attempts began.

Unfortunately, the strength of the wind and poor visual references meant that this option was technically extremely demanding.  Despite some outstanding flying by Flt Lt Turner and exceptional winch operating by Sgt Stevens their numerous attempts to deliver the winchman over the next 30 minutes were unsuccessful. 

An even riskier option then had to be considered which would involve winching the passengers from the port bridge wing on the low side of the vessel.

One of the ferry crew was tied on to a rope and lowered from the wheelhouse onto the steep deck.  Through skilful flying, accurate winch operating and considerable courage from the winchman a rope high-line was eventually delivered to the crew. 

The listing and violent motion of the RIVERDANCE meant that the crew member was unable to keep hold of the high-line and the crew of Rescue 122 then had to repeat the process, this time managing to deliver the winchman to the deck.  Flt Lt Turner was then required to maintain an accurate hover close to the vessel for an extended period of time which required significant power changes and therefore immense concentration.

Conditions on deck were appalling and MACR Taylor had to make his way up and down the steep listing deck whilst being battered by waves to organise the evacuation of the passengers and crew.  Throughout this whole process MACR Taylor was not secured to the aircraft and at considerable risk of falling from the ferry; worse still, he would have undoubtedly been killed had the ferry capsized. 

The crew then began the transfer of casualties and managed to lift a total of eight from the vessel including the recovery of MACR Taylor as a triple lift.  During this process the challenging conditions snapped the high-line and yet again Flt Lt Turner and Sgt Stevens were required to re-establish contact with the vessel; this was an especially impressive piece of winch operating from Sgt Stevens as the winchman was on board the RIVERDANCE and therefore unable to offer assistance with the high line. 

He also had to manage multiple casualties, who were gripped with fear and in shock, to ensure their safety once on board the aircraft whilst maintaining constant high line contact with the vessel.  Also, throughout this whole sortie, the input and support offered by the co-pilot Flt Lt Ratcliffe should not be underestimated and without his efforts the rest of the crew would be unable to carry out their functions.  He remained calm and collected whilst co-ordinating all aspects of the rescue and communicated with multiple agencies including the captain of RIVERDANCE.

Rescue 122 then flew to Blackpool to drop the passengers, refuel and shut down to wait for further tasking.  Shortly afterwards the ferry unexpectedly ran aground on a sandbank and Rescue 177, which had arrived on scene from Prestwick, lifted a further six crew.  Left on board were nine essential crew who were going to attempt to re-float the stricken vessel.

At 0415, Rescue 122 was again scrambled to the RIVERDANCE as the vessel was now stranded on a sandbank and with the vessels cargo moving freely on the deck was expected to capsize.  Despite already coping with the previous ordeal, by using the same techniques the crew went through the process of safely recovering the remaining nine crewmen.  Despite the fact that the vessel was a little more stable the crew yet again had to work extremely hard as the ferry was still rolling and surfing.  At one stage, the sudden and unexpected motion of the ferry endangered the aircraft and it was the lighting quick reaction of Sgt Stevens who called an immediate climb that prevented a disaster. 

MACR Taylor stayed on RIVERDANCE until the last lift when he along with the Captain abandoned the vessel to her fate.  The remaining casualties were all dropped at Blackpool Airport safe and well and Rescue 122 returned to base to resume SAR Standby."

As a footnote to this rescue it should not be forgotten that by 2012, under the SAR-H Programme, the RAF and Royal Navy (Rescue 177) will cease to be responsible for the provision of search and rescue helicopter services along the UK's coastline. This will instead by provided by a commercial organisation, the winner of the current IPT competition. The eventual winners will have a legacy to maintain. [ ]

March 27Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Martin Edmondson, John Pryce, Jenny Williamson, and "others".

The British Titanic Society will holding a public exhibition with stalls and lectures at the Liner Hotel, Liverpool on Saturday April 12, 2008. For full details visit


PONT-AVEN the forward facing shelter deck (6) windows, some of which were broken when the ship encountered a freak wave during the early part of the 2006 season have been restored following the vessel's recent refit. The new windows are circular and resemble the large port-hole style windows found elsewhere on the vessel. They appear to be very robustly constructed and restore a view which had been thought to have been lost when the windows were removed.

On Thursday March 20, passengers arriving at Santander on board the PONT-AVEN from Plymouth with vehicles experienced a prolonged wait for disembarkation due to technical problems with the linkspan ramp at the Santander Sea Terminal. Some 50 minutes or so elapsed before the first vehicles were able to disembark.


DFDS is not a company associated with shipping on the Irish Sea - however, there is growing speculation that the company has been taking a look at the Norfolk Line operation owned by Maersk group which operates on the English Channel and Irish Sea.


Incat has relaunched  its web site to bring its range of High Speed Craft to ship owners, operators, brokers, and ferry enthusiasts of the world.

The new site links web users to information about Incat vessels old and new, the latest technological advancements in High Speed Craft design, and also to career opportunities for people seeking a new and exciting direction in life.

"Whether you're a ferry operator interested in acquiring a brand new state-of-the-art high speed craft, a military in search of a high speed support vessel, or a school student , researching the history of the builder of the world's best high speed ships, it's all here on our new Web site," said Incat Director of Marketing Ms. Kim Clifford.

The popular Incat fleet pages have been updated, with a whole new range of information now available at the web user's fingertips.

After consultation with a number of industry journalists the popular Media selection has been given a complete makeover and the result is an easy-to-use, one-stop portal for anyone intending to write of Incat's activities and achievements.

The new Incat web site is live now at


Seatruck's TRIUMPH will be charted to the company to provide freight refit cover for the BEN-MY-CHREE when she refits in early April. The vessel paid a visit to Douglas for berthing trials on Tuesday March 25, 2008. [Photo: Adrian Sweeney]

BEN-MY-CHREE - due to adverse conditions on March 20 the BEN-MY-CHREE evening sailing from Douglas operated to Birkenhead Twelve Quays rather than Heysham. This was the first time, other than during the scheduled winter service, that the BEN-MY-CHREE has switched a sailing to Twelve Quays due to stress of weather.


The Barrow in Furness shipping and maritime services group James Fisher increased its pre-tax profit 21%, to £182m (US$367m), on the back of a 54% increase in revenue, to £118m. The company says organic growth is the main source of increased profitability.

Fisher's chairman, Tim Harris, said: “2007 was another good year for James Fisher with significant increases in all the key financial metrics. James Fisher has a proven track record, consistently generating cash and good margins. Trading so far in 2008 has met management expectations. Our main markets of shipping, offshore and port services remain strong. The company is well placed in these markets to continue to produce good growth and value for our shareholders.”

In his statement Mr Harris said: “The results are released against an uncertain global economic backdrop. While it would be unrealistic to suggest that James Fisher is immune from the general economy, we believe it is well placed to ride out and indeed prosper in any upcoming storm because:

* it has a proven track record generating cash and organic profit growth

* its businesses are firmly established in three of the fastest growing market sectors, e.g. offshore oil, marine and port related services

* a growing proportion of group revenue (2007 37% - 2006 30%) is now generated outside the UK

* as a service business it is largely unaffected by cyclical swings in asset values

* it has good, long-term relationships and credit lines with its banks and healthy margins on its bank covenants.”

Tim Harris added: “The company is well placed in its markets to continue to produce good growth and value for our shareholders.” [Maritime Global Net / Maritime Clippings]


Canal tours cruise to victory!

Mersey Ferries are celebrating after scooping top honours at this year’s national Waterways Renaissance Awards, run by The Waterways Trust and BURA (British Urban Regeneration Association).

The Ferries record-breaking Manchester Ship Canal Cruises took top spot in the awards’ Recreation and Tourism category.

Over the last few years, demand for the cruises, one of the jewels in the Mersey Ferries crown, have sky rocketed – 22 per cent in 2007 alone.

They are proving so popular that Merseytravel, which owns and operates the Mersey Ferries, committed to extra cruises throughout 2008.

Councillor Mark Dowd, Chair of Merseytravel, said: “This is a fantastic achievement and we are delighted to have received national recognition for our cruises.

“The fact that they are proving more popular, year on year, justifies our decision to continue to invest in the ferries.”

Neil Scales, Chief Executive and Director General of Merseytravel added: “The ferries business is incredibly important to us and we’re particularly delighted with the success of the cruises. It has taken a lot of hard work by a lot of people to make them the success they are today.

“We’ve spent more than £40million in the last ten years making improvements to the three ferries and the terminals, including new and exciting attractions. They are a key part of the region’s tourism economy.”

The judging panel said: “The service is expanding and developing to provide extra trips, staff training and a refurbished vessel with better accessibility. The Mersey Ferries are applauded for the successful and effective execution of a simple idea.”

Now in their sixth year, the Waterways Renaissance Awards aim to recognise best practice in sustainable waterway regeneration and development throughout the UK.

The winners of the ten categories were announced at a prestigious awards ceremony and dinner, which took place at the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester on the 12th March 2008. 

Roger Hanbury, Chief Executive of the Waterways Trust added: The modern renaissance of our waterways continues to transform our environment, creating education and business opportunities, injecting new life into formerly neglected areas and bringing communities together. All projects making the final list are excellent examples of what can be achieved with vision, commitment and partnership working.”

The nominations were judged by an independent assessment panel, comprising waterway, conservation and regeneration experts and chaired by Sir Neil Cossons.


CLIPPER POINT made her debut at Heysham on Saturday March 22, 2008. PHOCINE operated her final sailing from Heysham on the evening of March 20th.

MERCHANT BRILLIANT is expected to return to Norfolk Line on April 12. From April 12 CLIPPER POINT and MOONDANCE  will operate a two ship service until delivery of CLIPPER PACE during September when a three ship service recommences on the Warrenpoint - Heysham route.

RIVERDANCE – now sinking into the sand off Blackpool beach – was  declared "a constructive loss" on March 21 according to reports in the Blackpool Gazette

The storms of the last fortnight have battered the ship to a point where she is now beyond repair.

The 6,000-ton ship is now virtually under water at high tide.

RIVERDANCE has been gradually sinking into the sand in the last seven weeks.

Salvage teams still plan to attempt to refloat the ship, but are now considering using mechanical winch devices to do that rather than complex buoyancy techniques.

If that fails RIVERDANCE will have to be cut up on the beach.

Tony Redding from owners Seatruck Ferries Ltd, said: "She is a constructive loss and will never return to service.

"She suffered very significant damage during the last bout of bad weather.

"The intention is still to remove her in one piece and new proposals are being prepared about the salvage operation.

Mr Redding's declaration the ship will never return to service echoed comments from a leading local nautical expert.

John Matthews, the head of Fleetwood Nautical Campus, said the only voyage the boat would now be making is to the scrapyard.

He said: "If you tried to open the cargo door it would not open and if you turned the propeller it would be wobbling because it would not be in line – it's only scrap."

Mr Matthews also said continued efforts to refloat the vessel and get her off the beach in one piece were the best option financially for the owners.

"It's cheaper if you can take it all in one piece," he said.

"If you cut it up on the beach it would be such a difficult job because there is 6,000 tons of metal.

"If you had to cut it up imagine all the lorries going through Cleveleys."

The tanks which were fixed to the vessel which were to act as floatation devices have now been removed.


STENA SEA TRADER was reported at Milford Haven on Wednesday March 19 where she was berthed at the Irish Ferries jetty. She took bunkers before sailing.


BALMORAL - It appears that plans to operate sailings to and from Llandudno again this season have been dealt a blow by the recent spate of gales which have destroyed the pier fenders according to a report in the North Wales Weekly News:

It will be the second year in succession that the sailings by the vintage steamer Balmoral have had to be cancelled because of problems with the fenders.

Last year (2007) they were deemed to be in such poor repair they needed replacing, but the pier’s owners Six Piers said they were unable to meet the estimated £70,000 cost.

Town councillors were alarmed that the loss of the sailings would impact on the tourist trade, and at one point Conwy County Council looked set to step in with a contribution towards the cost of the repairs, but that fell through after opposition from some councillors who said it wasn’t right for the council to subsidise a private business.

Negotiations have been ongoing to try to get the work done this year but that now seems impossible.

“The damaged fenders have now been ripped away completely as a result of the weekend’s stormy weather and the chances of getting them replaced for this season are very slim,” said pier manager Simon Mason.

The pier suffered other damage as a result of storm force northerly winds combined with a very high tide and priority will have to be given to those repairs, he said.

“The steel storm grates at the Happy Valley Road entrance were destroyed and as a result an area of decking was ripped apart. The storm also burst the water main and damaged the electrics and we had to close the pier for half of Saturday until we could make the area safe,” he explained.

The news that the sailings will have to be abandoned alarmed town councillor Philip Evans.

“The BALMORAL is important to the tourist industry because it brings in thousands of tourists, and this year the Waverley company which owns it had hoped to put on more sailings to link with Liverpool being European City of Culture.

“Trips to Liverpool to see the Tall Ships and the QE2 on her last voyage were planned so it will be very disappointing if those can’t happen,” he said.

March 16Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Eddie Doig, John Pryce, Michael Pryce, Val Simpkin and "others".


BEN-MY-CHREE the company was one of several Irish Sea operators to have sailings cancelled during the adverse weather early last week. The BEN-MY-CHREE missing her 19:45 sailing on Tuesday March 11 and her 02:15, 08:45 and 14:15 sailings on Wednesday March 12.

A correspondent writes that a review of the booking computer shows that BEN-MY-CHREE makes her final pre-overhaul sailing on Monday 31 March at 19.45. There is no return sailing from Heysham that night.

The BEN reappears at Douglas on Monday 14 April, on the 08.45 sailing to Heysham.

During the overhaul period, the basic weekday schedule shows a fast craft service 08.45 Douglas to Heysham, returning at 12.00, and a 15.00 fast craft service sailing Douglas to Liverpool, returning at 19.00.

At the weekends, there is no passenger service to Heysham except on Sunday April 13, when the above weekday timings operate.

On Saturdays April 5 and 12, the service will be 07.30 Douglas to Liverpool, 11.15 Liverpool to Douglas, and 15.00 Douglas to Liverpool and 19.00 Liverpool to Douglas.

On Sunday 6 April, there is no morning sailing to Liverpool, but the 15.00 round trip from Douglas is supplemented as stated below.

On 2 nights, Thursday April 3 and Sunday April 6, there is an additional round trip at  22.30 between Douglas and Liverpool, returning at 01.45 the following morning.


The old Number 3 linkspan was towed to Liverpool by tug SEA TROJAN arriving on Saturday March 15. The new number 3 linkspan is now expected to be delivered to Heysham in mid April.  The tug SMIT BISON was expected to arrive with the dredging plant needed to prepare for the installation of the new span. The split barge CORK SAND having arrived at Heysham on Friday March 14 to take part in the dredging project.


It appears that the PLANET the former Liverpool Bar Lightvessel has been put up for sale by the Liverpool businessman who bought her. A "for sale" banner has been attached to the ship which is currently berthed in Canning Dock alongside the Strand in Liverpool. It has been reported that since her present owner brought her to Liverpool in October 1996 she has not been made particularly welcome in the Albert Dock complex or by the City of Liverpool. Many visitors to this site will be concerned that this historic vessel could soon be sold out of the area.


CLIPPER POINT is now believed to be arriving at Heysham over the Easter weekend and is expected to take up service wither on Easter Monday or Tuesday.

The recent adverse weather has hindered plans for the refloating of the stranded RIVERDANCE - the following statement has been issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The photograph left was received from a correspondent and was taken before the recent bad weather.


Late Tuesday and early Wednesday morning the stranded Ro-Ro ferry `RIVERDANCE was hit by 78 knot winds, and as a consequence sustained heavy damage resulting in a 100 degree list. She is also partly sinking into the soft and shifting sand locally.

Plans to reduce the list using internal buoyancy and tidal effects have now been abandoned. Salvors are assessing the situation and are in discussion with the owners and insurers of the vessel.

A revised outline plan containing the options for the removal of the vessel will now be presented to Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of States Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, (SOSREP) for his consideration early next week.

Hugh Shaw said "The owners legal representatives have also had a preliminary discussion with him and have given their reassurance that their objective of removing the vessel in an environmentally friendly and timely manner remains paramount."

I look forward to receiving a revised outline plan with options early next week for my consideration.

In the interim the salvors will make every effort to maintain the integrity of the vessel. A full assessment of the damage is still ongoing. Fortunately, and as a consequence of the earlier bunker removal there have been no reports of pollution from the vessel.


The annual Tall Ships' Races, which is organised by Sail Training International and supported by the City, Port and Province of Antwerp, will start in Liverpool this year, with the fleet spending four days in the European Capital of Culture (Friday 18 - Monday 21 July). While in port, the international crews will have the chance to sample Liverpool's cultural heritage and enjoy some specially organised sports and parties.


From Liverpool the ships will travel up to the north coast of Northern Ireland where the spectacular race start will take place on 23 July, five miles out from Lough Foyle. From there the crews will have their work cut out to sail the ships around the north of Scotland, with a choice of going east or west of the Outer Hebrides, then between the Orkney and Shetland Islands and across the North Sea to Måløy in Norway. This challenging race is anticipated to take up to ten days but the crews will be rewarded with a very warm Norwegian welcome in the charming little town of Måløy, which has a population of just 4,000 and is the smallest port ever to host the event. The Tall Ships fleet and crews will dominate the town for four days (1 - 4 August) with its magnificent backdrop of mountains and position at the end of a fjord.


Måløy will also offer the opportunity for many ships to change crews ready for what promises to be a very special cruise-in-company around the fjords before arriving in the more southerly Norwegian town of Bergen, where they will stay for four days (9 - 12 August). The town is surrounded by seven mountains and bordered by breathtaking fjords making it one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world. Trainee and professional crews alike will again have wonderful opportunities to explore the area and get to know this world heritage site.


From Bergen the fleet will then compete in a second race, taking up to eight days, down to Den Helder in the Netherlands where a final four days of festivities will take place (20 - 23 August). The final port always holds a special place in the hearts of the crews as this is where the final prize-giving is held and the awarding of the coveted Friendship Trophy. This beautiful silver plate is awarded to the ship and crew that, in the eyes of the other ships' crews, has done the most to promote friendship and understanding, the underlying principles for The Tall Ships' Races.


BALMORAL will be visiting Wales and the North West twice this season - the second period coinciding with the Tall Ships event being staged at Liverpool during July. Schedules can now be downloaded from .

It appears that the problems with Llandudno Pier may have been resolved and a number of sailings are scheduled to call there.

March 10Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Sara Cass and "others".


ATLANTIC OSPREY - it would appear that the former ro/ro ferry will be sailing  with a nuclear cargo this week. The news being accompanied by the usual negative comment and alarmist reports. One report, which does not even name the ship, suggests she has been minimally converted.

Such an alarmist comment would have many people thinking that she was just a standard and aging ro/ro vessel which is not true. She was extensively rebuilt and modified for her present role in 2002.  The vessel will be guarded by armed officers of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary during the voyage.



Irish Continental Group plc reported on March 10 its results for the year to 31 December 2007.

Turnover for the year grew 14% to €355.8 million (2006: €312.1 million). EBITDA, before non trading items, was up 34% to €80.2 million (2006: €59.7 million) while trading profit before non trading items amounted to €50.1 million (2006: €32.2 million). The improvement in EBITDA and operating profit was due to the increase in revenue across the Group partially offset by higher port charges and fuel costs (up 10% to €36.1 million). Adjusted EPS amounted to 178.6 cent (2006: 108.5 cent).

The net interest charge was €5.2 million (2006: €5.7 million) before a net interest credit from our defined benefit pension schemes of €5.9 million (2006: €6.1 million).


In the seasonally more significant second half of the year turnover was up 13% at €192.6 million, while profit before non trading items was €33.7 million compared with €29.6 million in the second half of 2006. Second half operating profit in the Ferries Division was up 6% at €28.7 million, compared with 2006, while in the Container & Terminal Division operating profit in the second six months rose to €5.0 million, compared with €2.4 million in the comparable period in 2006.

Further details can be found on the company web site at

ISLE OF INISHMORE is due to head for dry dock on Tuesday March 11 to rectify a technical problem. She is expected back on the Rosslare - Pembroke route on Friday.


VIKING began her new season on Saturday March 08 with a retimed 08:00 Douglas to Liverpool sailing, She departed Douglas at 06:00 to run ahead of some forecast high winds. She was able to return to Douglas in the evening at her scheduled sailing time. The new livery gives the ship a much more prominent and attractive appearance when berthed at the Pier Head against the backdrop of the Liverpool waterfront.

STENA CALEDONIA - the company has announced that the ship will be chartered again for this year's TT festival following her successful appearance on the Douglas - Heysham route at during the 2007 TT.


The third volume in the series of books examining the shipping services both past and present between Ireland and Liverpool is now available.

Volume 3 covers the Belfast to Liverpool services. It can be obtained at a good discount from Amazon. Click on link left to order.


EXPRESS arrived at Larne from her winter lay-up at the Belfast Isle of Man Steam Packet terminal around 13:30 on Sunday March 09. She re-enters service on the Larne to Troon and Cairnryan routes on Friday March 15.


March 05 


Rumours are circulating that with MERSEY VIKING and LAGAN VIKING coming to the end of their charters they will be replaced by different ro-pax vessels.



In a new phase of its major fleet expansion, freight-only specialist Seatruck Ferries has placed an order for four new generation ro-ro vessels with the leading German shipbuilder FSG (Flensburger Schiffbau Gesellschaft).

These advanced vessels have a groundbreaking four-deck configuration. The design provides 151 trailer spaces in a length (o/a) of just 142m. The new ships will be fast, with a service speed of 21 kts.

The versatile new vessels are programmed for delivery during the November 2011 – June 2012 period. With a design draft of just 5.2m, they will offer extreme operational flexibility. Decisions on how to deploy the new ships have yet to be taken. Options include Seatruck’s existing Irish Sea routes, linking Warrenpoint-Heysham and Dublin-Liverpool.

This innovative design provides for the four decks to be connected by fixed ramps, with a single stern door. The newbuildings will be powered by two 8,000 kW main engines. They will have two 1,000 kW bow thrusters and high lift rudders will enhance manoverability in confined areas.

Commenting on the order, Seatruck CEO Kevin Hobbs said: “We have reached an important stage in the rapid development of Seatruck’s operations and fleet. This new order doubles the newbuilding programme to eight ships. During 2008 we will take delivery of the first four 120 unit vessels, all from the Spanish builder Astilleros de Huelva. The first, Clipper Point, joins the fleet this month. CLIPPER PENNANT, CLIPPER PACE and CLIPPER PANORAMA will follow during the course of the year.”

CLIPPER POINT and CLIPPER PACE will join the Warrenpoint-Heysham service. CLIPPER PENNANT and CLIPPER PANORAMA will be deployed on the Dublin-Liverpool route.

Kevin Hobbs added: “We are delighted to place this new order with FSG. Flensburger has a remarkable track record. They are leaders in the construction of freight ro-ros and have a well-earned reputation for delivering on time. We have no doubt that these ships will further enhance both our own services and this yard’s reputation for quality.

“The decision to place this order now reflects, in part, the shortage of freight ro-ro tonnage in this size class. Freight ro-ro newbuildings are entering service mainly in the larger sizes which are more suited to longer sea crossings. Clearly, we will pursue all appropriate market opportunities afforded by an expanded, young and versatile fleet.”

Over the past six months Seatruck also added four secondhand vessels to its growing fleet. These are the 121m, 65 unit capacity sisterships ARROW, TRIUMPH, SHIELD and CHALLENGE. Last September, Seatruck acquired the Dublin-Liverpool route formerly operated by Celtic Link.

CLIPPER POINT is expected to leave Spain around March 14 to 15 and will enter service on between March 17 and 19.

RIVERDANCE - following rumours that the ship may have to be broken on the beach at Cleveleys - reports from the Blackpool Gazette claim that the ship will be refloated but the RIVERDANCE does not look set to move until towards the end of the two weeks salvors described as "a window of opportunity".

Weather has played a part in hampering efforts to right the 6,000-ton vessel, which has been stuck on the beach near Anchorsholme Park since the start of February.

Salvage crews said there was a chance to move the ship sometime between now and March 13, but they say this is most likely to happen towards the end of this period.

Coastguard bosses insist the plan is still to right and then refloat the RIVERDANCE - denying rumours that the move would be impossible and salvors would have to cut it up.


Irish Sea Shipping only occasionally includes material from outside its area of coverage and then when it does it is usually related to an operator which has a presence on the Irish Sea or a ship which once operated in or visited the area.

However, the following item reported in Piet Sinke's Maritime Clippings will certainly be of interest to those who have an interest in maritime disasters and ships in movies.

A new television film about the sinking of a Nazi ship carrying thousands of German refugees at the end of World War Two has lifted the lid on one of Germany's most painful memories. The film, to be broadcast on Sunday and Monday, tells the story of the former Nazi cruise ship WILHELM GUSTLOFF, torpedoed by a Soviet submarine in the Baltic Sea on Jan. 30, 1945. As many as 9,300 people died -- believed to be biggest loss of life on a single ship.

Yet the tale of the WILHELM GUSTLOFF, which has frequently been referred to as Germany's Titanic, remains relatively unknown outside the country due to the reluctance of postwar generations to examine publicly Germans' suffering during the war. "It's been very hard to talk about this because it raises the difficult question of German victimhood in a war the Nazis began," said British historian Roger Moorhouse.

"This enforced silence for years will have been painful to many people." "But it's really a testament to how the treatment of German history is returning to normal that the story is now being told as a big budget film on prime-time German television."

The multi-million euro production "Die Gustloff" was to be aired on ZDF state television. The imposing 209 metre long WILHELM GUSTLOFF, named after the assassinated head of the Swiss Nazi party, was launched in 1937 and conceived as a cruise liner for the Nazis' leisure organisation Kraft durch Freude, or "strength through joy". Once war broke out, it was used by the German military. Hundreds of soldiers were on the ship when it set off on its final voyage from Gotenhafen (now Gdynia in Poland) for Kiel.

However, the vast majority of its passengers were refugees, many of them women and children fleeing from the advancing Red Army.

The ship was designed to carry about 1,500 passengers, but historians now estimate over 10,000 people were on board when it sank on the 12th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's seizure of power. Directed by Joseph Vilsmaier, who made the anti-war film "Stalingrad", the three-hour movie is the first to dramatise the Gustloff's fate since German reunification in 1990. In 1959, a black-and-white West German film about the sinking was shot. 

Until Germany's Nobel laureate Guenter Grass addressed it in his 2002 novel "Im Krebsgang" (Crabwalk) the history of the  WILHELM GUSTLOFF – whose death toll compares with around 1,500 for the TITANIC -- was relatively obscure even inside Germany.

The film, which Chancellor Angela Merkel and the head of Germany's Central Council of Jews saw in advance, purports to detail incidents from the sinking like a woman who gave birth on a rescue boat as death surrounded her in the icy waters. "The screams were terrible," Ursula Kossmann, a 77-year-old who managed to clamber on board a rescue boat with her mother, told daily Die Welt. "Some officers shot their families." Survivor Guenther von Maydell, who was 13 at the time, told the same paper he wasn't afraid when the ship began to go down.

"I was just focused on escaping," he said. "I only realised later how lucky I'd been. I must have had a guardian angel." [Maritime Clippings / Reuters]

March 02Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Geoff Hamer, Mike Edmondson, E. Doig, Gillian Haddon, Jenny Williamson, Ian Collard, Ollie Last and "others".


Plans to re-open the ferry link between Campbeltown and Northern Ireland could be extended to a new link between the Kintyre town and Ayrshire.

The appraisal agreed this week between First Minister Alex Salmond and his Northern Irish counterpart, Ian Paisley, will include an assessment of the case for an extra link with either Ayr or Troon.

The two leaders want to re-start the service across the North Channel between Ballycastle and Campbeltown that foundered in 1999 due to its lack of commercial viability. It carried 26,000 passengers and and 6000 vehicles on average over each of the three 16-week summer seasons it was working.

Money has been put aside over the next three years for a public subsidy from Holyrood, and it could also win backing from Stormont's economic masterplan for developing the province's north coast. The plan also extends to improved marketing of the link for tourist potential, which is seen as part of the opportunity that was previously missed. The contract for carrying out the appraisal is soon to be published, and it to look at the option of an additional link across the Firth of Clyde.

However, St Andrew's House officials are concerned that such an addition could run into complex European legal problems similar to those faced by CalMac in running its Hebridean and Clyde services with public subsidy. There was an option of including an Ayrshire link when the ferry was tendered before, but that was not taken up.

Two subsequent efforts to get a company to run the service, with a £1m subsidy, did not find any takers, but the SNP Government and the renewed Northern Ireland administration are determined to succeed.



Brittany   Ferries   has  been   temporarily trialling   a   high-speed   crossing   from Plymouth to Roscoff in Brittany.

The   sleek,  impressive  NORMANDIE EXPRESS carried  travellers from Plymouth to Roscoff in  just  three-and-a-half hours  from  last Thursday to Monday.

And between Saturday and Tuesday, travellers can  again  take advantage of a special  £10 fare for a return trip.

There will be no service between Plymouth and Roscoff until Saturday's high-speed crossing.

The catamaran usually operates from Portsmouth, but is being trialled from Plymouth while work is carried out on the PONT L'ABBE, which usually serves the city.

The super-fast crossing time makes it possible for travellers to take a day-trip to France by ferry for the first time, and many have already taken advantage of the opportunity.

The Normandie Express is the largest high­speed ferry on the channel, propelled by hydrojets to reach a cruising speed of almost 50mph.

Brittany Ferries general manager Maria Hammett said: "The trial went really well ­it was very popular and we got lots of positive feedback. I think people have appreciated the fact they can get there and back in a day and the novelty of having a high speed vessel in Plymouth.

"We might well bring the ferry back now we have had a chance to see how she operates." [WESTERN MORNING NEWS]


A campaign has been launched to restore the DUKE OF LANCASTER.

The Duke of Lancaster, which is moored in the Dee near Mostyn, has lain derelict for a number of years after being taken out of service in 1979.

Known locally as the "funship", it has been used in the intervening years for various purposes, including as a leisure centre and a clothing warehouse.

John Veal is spearheading a fresh drive to restore the passenger passenger, which once featured silver service restaurants, state rooms and luxurious cabins.

"We've started up a website dedicated to the Duke of Lancaster and we are hoping to get something done with it," said the 51-year-old, who lives in Hull and runs his own business in Humberside. "Ideally we would like to see it saved and brought up to the right condition.

"We really need to speak to the owners and find out how willing they are to do something."

Last year a campaign by local man Luke Howard saw 224 people sign a petition  to "save" the liner, following rumours it was to be sold for scrap or sunk off the coast of Liverpool and used to train divers.

The 52-year-old vessel, along with sister ships the DUKE OF ROTHSAY and the DUKE OF ARGYLL, was among the last passenger-only steamers built for British Railways.

The DUKE OF LANCASTER was built at Harland and Wolff, in Belfast, and was designed to operate as both a passenger ferry, primarily on the Heysham-Belfast route, and as a cruise ship, travelling as far afield as Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway and Spain.

Mr Veal's maternal uncle, John Irwin, served as the vessel's first captain for approximately nine years from her maiden voyage in 1956. "He was in the Royal Navy, was captain of an anti-aircraft ship during the war and then came to work for British Railways," said Mr Veal.

"He's a celebrity in the family and that's what sparked the interest in the Duke of Lancaster really."

In 1979 the ship was beached at its present location near Mostyn, and was turned into an amusement arcade. More recently, it has been used as storage space by Solitaire, a clothing company from Liverpool.

Mr Veal has now set up the Save the Lancaster Foundation to gather support and is aiming to hold a meeting of the group next month to discuss the best way forward with plans.

So far, though, he has not been able to get hold of the ship's owners.

He said: "We have written to them but they have refused to answer any of our letters and without their approval there is not a lot we can do. It's very early days but we are trying to arrange a meeting with people who want to see something done with the ship.

"We want to come together and discuss our various ideas and then put pressure to bear on them."

Solitaire Liverpool did not comment when contacted by the Evening Leader.

Anyone who wants to get involved with the Save the Lancaster Foundation, or who has any information or memorabilia relating to the ship, can phone John Veal on 07971660573.

The website,, is online now.


BEN-MY-CHREE - due to adverse conditions the 19:45 Friday  / 02:15  Saturday sailings were cancelled on February 29.

VIKING departed from Liverpool bound for Douglas on February 28. Her arrival at Douglas saw the welcome return of Isle of Man Steam Packet colours to Douglas Harbour for the first time in a decade.

With her return to service delayed due to a contractors over-run at Liverpool she was out and about on Saturday March 01  in Douglas Bay whilst a film crew took gathered new footage for updated on-board safety videos which will reflect the return to the traditional branding. [Video Clip 1 : Video Clip 2 : Video Clip 3 - by Jenny Williamson - hosted on You Tube].

All the former Sea Containers signage around the Liverpool Sea Terminal has been replaced this week by rather tasteful new signage reflecting the new image.


ROYAL DAFFODIL II - the former Wallasey Ferry which was sold to Greek interests in 1977 is reported to have sunk on November 07, 2007 whilst sailing from Turkey to Cyprus.

Following her sale she was converted to a car ferry by Greek interests and renamed IOULIS KEAS II.

She was later converted to a container ship and renamed DOLPHIN I. She had 63 containers on board when she sank. The photograph is from the "Hur Haber" Turkish news site. For those that remember the ROYAL DAFFODIL can see from the photograph that despite the conversion work she retained her distinctive bow.


TERRA MARIQUE - the heavy lift barge which is a regular visitor to the Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal came to the assistance of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution this week:

Staffordshire based specialist shipping firm Robert Wynn & Sons responded quickly last week when they were asked to assist with the recovery of the RNLI's Portrush Lifeboat the KATIE HANNAN.

The £2m lifeboat had, on January 30th,  become strandedon rocks at Rathlin Island, nr Ballycastle Northern Ireland whilst responding to a call out.

After vain attempts in the days following the incident to recover the vessel, which had now been significantly damaged by heavy seas, Robert Wynn & Sons engineers were called in to assist.

Following discussion with the RNLI and other Agencies a plan was agreed to recover the lifeboat, which by now had her engines and portable equipment removed.

The operation would involve pulling the KATIE HANNAN from the rocks and then carefully winching her in to the flooded hold of the TERRA MARIQUE.

At high tide on Friday February 15th the recovery operation commenced with the 17 m long lifeboat being pulled by a tug from the rocks and a winch line attached from the TERRA MARIQUE. Within 1 hour of the TERRA MARIQUE commencing submerging the KATIE HANNAN was safely within the TERRA MARIQUE's hold.

The TERRA MARIQUE then conveyed the lifeboat to Plymouth for repairs.

Robert Wynn and Sons responded quickly to the RNLI’s request for a vessel and have made a very significant contribution to the recovery of the KATIE HANNAN.’ Peter Wynn, Managing Director, Robert Wynn & Sons commented "We were very pleased that the recovery operation went to plan. The operation demonstrated the versatility of the TERRA MARIQUE and we are delighted that we could assist the real heroes of the operation, the RNLI



A report in the Times this week suggests that Britain's oldest naval base at Plymouth will close within five years with the Royal Navy’s submarines moving to Faslane in Scotland, senior defence sources said this weekend.

The base at Devonport from which Drake set sail to destroy the Spanish Armada and Cook embarked to discover Australia will have five of its frigates axed in defence cuts expected within weeks.

Its expertise in refuelling and refitting nuclear submarines has become irrelevant because the new Astute submarines will have nuclear cores that last for the life of the vessel. With only two of the navy’s existing nuclear submarines still requiring mid-life servicing, both naval and industry sources said last week that the dockyard had no long-term future.

The dockyards will therefore be allowed to wither on the vine in favour of Portsmouth and Rosyth, in the Firth of Forth - despite assurances from Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Des Browne, the defence secretary, that the dockyard had a future.

A review of the navy’s three bases (Plymouth, Portsmouth and Rosyth) had been expected to result in the closure of Plymouth or Portsmouth. Browne told MPs in July that the review had ended with a decision to keep all three dockyards open along with the submarine base at Faslane, on the Scottish west coast, but this weekend sources challenged this assertion.

They said Devonport’s future would be nonexistent once the last two Vanguard submarines were refuelled in 2012.

The axing of the five frigates will leave Plymouth with just nine surface ships and seven Trafalgar-class submarines, which will be replaced by the Astute submarines based at Faslane. Its six remaining frigates and three amphibious ships will be moved to Portsmouth, a senior naval source said.

“All that Plymouth will have will be the rusting hulks of the Trafalgar and Swiftsure class, which will be decommissioned slowly over the next five years as the Astute class comes into service,” he added.

Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for Devon South West, said: “When the naval base review took place we thought it was a two-horse race. We have somehow managed to come third. There is a great anxiety now that we will suffer a death by a thousand cuts.”

Naval and industry sources suggested Browne’s dual role as defence and Scottish secretary, and the fact that many Rosyth workers live in Brown’s constituency counted against Plymouth.

The following appeared in the Western Morning News in response to the above report:

Controversial  claims that the West Country's historic  naval base  is to close in five years have been dismissed as "ill-informed" and "inaccurate" by the commander of the  Plymouth facility.

With  the  Ministry  of Defence's (MoD)  backing,  Commodore Simon  Lister yesterday moved to "allay public concerns"  by insisting  that  the  Government  had  no  plans  to  shut Devonport, Britain's oldest naval base.

He  condemned claims made by senior defence sources that the city's  nuclear  capabilities were soon to be  "irrelevant", and pointed to a workload at the naval base and neighbouring dockyard  that could stretch to the end of the next decade and beyond.

Commodore Lister said: "I'm really quite concerned that some of the speculation  that is going on is inaccurate and concerning  unduly our workforce, the workforce  at  Babcock (owner  of the dockyard) and the city. At a time of  change, when  review  work  is  still  going  on  about  the  future distribution  of some of the work, it is perfectly  possible for people to conjecture about what the outcome might be.

"The  problem is that whoever the source is, is ill-informed on  the  fundamentals  and has drawn  conclusions  that  are inaccurate and unhelpful." At  the  weekend,  sources mapped out  a  bleak  future  for Devonport, which employs about 5,000 people across the  base and dockyard.

They   said  five  frigates  would  be  axed  within  weeks. Meanwhile,  Royal Navy submarine work, carried  out  by  the private  sector-owned dockyard, would move to Scotland.  The sources  went  on  to  say  that  Devonport's  expertise  in refuelling  and  refitting nuclear  submarines  had  "become irrelevant  because  the  new Astute  submarines  will  have nuclear  cores that last for the life of a vessel".  Starved of  work from both the dockyard and the MoD, the base  would "wither on the vine", they claimed.

Commodore  Lister  shot  down the suggestions, arguing  that  the MoD's  position had not changed since last year's review  of the  Faslane, Portsmouth and Plymouth naval bases. In  July, Defence Secretary Des Browne told Parliament that all  three sites would remain.

Commodore  Lister,  the base's outgoing commander,  said  he  was "certain"  that  neither the naval base nor the  dockyard  ­separate  entities that many say are inextricably  linked  ­would  close.  Commodore Lister, who has been  promoted  to  Rear Admiral and will be based in London at the Royal College  of Defence  Studies  from  April,  said:  "There  is  no  other submarine  refitting facility in the UK. And a principle  of our maritime industrial strategy is not to create facilities where they already exist. The requirement to revalidate  and refit  submarines will continue for as long  as  the  United Kingdom has submarines."

He  added  that  three  battleships  were  to  be  based  in Devonport  until about 2025, the Flag Officer  Sea  Training (FOST)  operation was in Plymouth to stay and the withdrawal of  the  Trafalgar-class submarines was not expected  before the  end of the next decade. "So you can see from that there is no prospect of the naval base closing," he concluded.


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