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


July 27Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Stephen Carter, Ian Collard and "others".


BALMORAL is now expected at Liverpool on October 12 and Belfast October 13. Her call at Cóbh scheduled for October 09, is now redated to October 10.


BEN-MY-CHREE experienced technical problems on Friday July 25 and July 26. Her afternoon sailing on Friday afternoon was delayed until around 15:05 and she appeared to be making quite slow progress at times not reaching Douglas until around 19:30.

VIKING operated the BEN-MY-CHREE's evening sailing from Douglas to Heysham departing Douglas at 22:00 and returning from Heysham at 01:00.

BEN-MY-CHREE also missed her sailing on Saturday July 26, with VIKING once again rostered to provide cover. However, VIKING on her approach to Douglas from Liverpool is understood to have had an altercation with some crab pots which required attention. This then resulted in the replacement VIKING sailing to Heysham and the return sailing from Heysham being cancelled.

Both VIKING and BEN-MY-CHREE were reported to have run engine trials out in Douglas Bay early on Sunday morning.

Services later returned to normal.


Despite reports earlier in the year that the Ramsey based Mezeron Line had been acquired by the Sefton Hotel Group, it appears that this deal was not finalised.

This week it was announced that Peter Döhle, the German shipping group which has a significant presence on the Isle of Man at Fort Anne overlooking Douglas harbour,  has completed what it terms 'a friendly takeover' of the Ramsey shipping firm Mezeron.

The company says the bid was supported by Mezeron Line shareholders and management and facilitated by Moore Stephens.

Döhle says the acquisition will complement its portfolio of services and help secure the diversity of transport means to and from the Isle of Man, by strengthening Mezeron's financial position.

It says regular services into Ramsey from Belfast and the Lancashire port of Glasson Dock, by the SILVER RIVER, will continue under the new ownership.

Döhle adds options to 'enhance these services' will be carefully considered, in discussions with Mezeron's clients and its experienced management team, which will remain in place.


The former Millbrook Steamboat Co ferry WESTERN BELLE, built Fellows Great Yarmouth in 1934 was noted by a correspondent at Maryport, Cumbria this week. She is understood to have been sold to the Ullswater Transit & Navigation Company, operators of the Ullswater "Steamers"

Originally operating out of Plymouth WESTERN BELLE passed to Dart Pleasure Craft in 1980, and was transferred to the Dartmouth-Kingswear ferry on the River Dart.

She was sold in 2000, appearing on the Thames for Chris Cruises of Hampton Court in 2005 where she has been operating on the upper Thames.

This is the second west country passenger vessel to be acquired by the UT&NCo, the former TOTNES CASTLE - now LADY WAKEFIELD - having been acquired several years ago.

July 23Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Gary Davies, Ian Collard, Jenny Williamson and "others".


The Port of Cork is to seek financial support from the EU for the first ferry service between Ireland and the north of Spain.

The Ro-Pax (freight and passenger) ferry service, with a journey time of 24 hours, would run between Cork and the northern Spanish city of Gijón around three times a week.

It would put Alicante and other resorts on Spain's Mediterranean coast within a day's drive of the port.

The Port of Cork is already in talks with several major ferry operators, including P&O Ferries, Brittany Ferries and Transfennica, about supplying such a service, which could be up and running by next March.

A joint submission from both ports will be sent later this month to the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO), the semi-state agency that advises the Department of Transport on ferry policy.

The Port of Cork commercial manager Michael McCarthy told Go that the proposed service is a "no-brainer" as far as the public are concerned and that it has attracted a great deal of interest from tourism concerns in both Ireland and Spain, along with the support of Cork Chamber of Commerce.

"It is further south, so we would have a nine-month holiday season. It would allow people who own homes in Spain or Portugal to pack up their cars and drive there," he said.

"There is huge demand from tourists for this. If you look at the specifics we have done on our Brittany Ferries route between Cork and Roscoff, 70 per cent of them are going down to the Bordeaux area for good weather. They are travelling six to 10 hours in their cars and often with children."

However, he conceded that financial inducements will be needed to attract ferry companies, which are traditionally reluctant to commit to new routes because of the financial risks involved.

Both ports will hope to receive funding through the EU's Motorways of the Seas initiative, which was set up four years ago to get freight traffic off the roads and on to the seas, lessening road congestion and significantly reducing CO2 emissions.

He said the demand is also there from exporters. Trade between Ireland and Spain was worth E4 billion last year, most of it going by road via France and the UK.

"It needs a certain bedding-in period and it needs the confidence of the trucking and the export business that it is going to be there long-term.

"Our job is to convince the shipping lines to come on board. What they all say is that they want to do it, but they are not just ready yet. We're now ready to move it along," he said.

IMDO director Glenn Murphy said his organisation is, in principle, supportive of the proposal.

He says ferry-passenger traffic was up 10 per cent in the first quarter of the year on all routes out of Ireland, confirming a trend that began last year.

"It is indicating that people are looking to change how they make their transport choices," he said.

He also said that the rising cost of fuel, congestion on European roads and penal levels of tolls in France made the proposition more economically viable than it has been in the past."



Though Summer is still in full swing, Irish Ferries is already looking ahead to Christmas with the news of their pre-Christmas escorted wine mini cruise to France will depart from Rosslare to Roscoff on Thursday, 11th September and arrive back in Rosslare on Saturday morning, 13 September.
Aimed at those wishing to stock up for the festive season, passengers will be escorted by wine expert and writer, Martin Moran who will conduct wine tasting on board and preview some of those that can be bought ashore.
Scheduled to coincide with the Autumn wine sales in France, passengers will spend up to 6 hours ashore in Roscoff or nearby Morlaix. Fare, at EUR99 per adult return and EUR39 return per child (4 ­ 15 years), includes bed in a 2 bed en-suite cabin. A car or motorbike can be brought for only EUR59 return extra when two or more adults travel together. Supplements apply for superior cabins.  
Part of the pre-Christmas landscape since their introduction in 2007, the the popular Irish ferries wine cruise opens the door to savings of EUR10 per bottle of champagne, EUR10 on spirits and up to EUR8 on wine plus other reductions on beer and DIY items.


Irish Ferries has thrown its weight behind Failte Ireland in their efforts to promote Summer tourism into Ireland by becoming a headline sponsor of the forthcoming Tour of Ireland cycle race which takes place here from 27th - 31st August next.

The company will be providing freight and passenger space on board their ferries for competitors, support personnel and equipment travelling to Ireland for the six-day event. One competitor scheduled to take part is leading British Olympic rider and Tour de France stage winner, Mark Cavendish.

As a further incentive, the company has also introduced a reduced-cost travel package for supporters wishing to visit Ireland for the  event.


MONA'S QUEEN - the pioneering 1972 built side loading motor ship was reported sold for breaking at Alang. The vessel has been trading as MARY THE QUEEN in the Philippines since her sale in 1995.

INCAT 50 is seen here arriving at Portsmouth flying the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company House flag on July 16. Photograph © Gary Davies Maritime Photographic.




It is understood that LAGAN and MERSEY VIKING have been bought by Norfolk Line for resale to Epic - operators of PAU CASSELS and BLANCA DEL MAR (ex DAWN & BRAVE MERCHANT). LAGAN VIKING was reflagged from italy to the UK last week.


SVITZER WATERSTON, the new tug, which was damaged in a grounding incident at Milford Haven on July 02, 2008 arrived at Birkenhead under the tow of AYTON CROSS on Wednesday July 23.


The urgency of restoring the Cork/Swansea car ferry for the 2009 season was highlighted yesterday, as the tourism industry continues to suffer a sharp decline in the south-west.

The loss of the ferry, two years ago, is reckoned to be costing the region millions of euro worth of business, especially this year when there is a dramatic downturn in visitor numbers.

It is claimed tourism is down by 70% in parts of Kerry this summer, with the recession, foreign exchange rates, oil prices and even the poor weather all combining to keep visitors away.

The Irish Hotels’ Federation Kerry branch has called on employees to agree to a pay freeze until the end of the 2009 season because of the crisis facing the industry.

Civic leaders in Cork and Kerry are being asked to join forces to revitalise the Cork/Swansea car ferry for the 2009 season.

The Cork Port Authority is also involved in trying to attract a carrier and Fáilte Ireland has given an undertaking to market the route.

Cork County Council Mayor Noel Harrington, Cork City Council Mayor Brian Birmingham and Kerry Mayor Tom Fleming have been called on to set up a working group with a view to re-establishing a ferry service.

Pointing out that councils in the region had supported the service in the past, Kerry-based FG councillor Michael Connor-Scarteen said the experience of ferry operations in Greece and Sweden was that the most successful were those that were supported by a number of public bodies.

"Since the cancellation of the Cork/Swansea ferry, two years ago, and especially this year, the losses to the region have been huge. The overall loss is estimated at €30 million," said Mr Connor-Scarteen, a member of the South West Regional Authority.

The council also supported a motion by FF Cllr John Brassil to appoint a tourism officer in Kerry next year to promote Kerry exclusively.

Indications from different parts of Kerry suggest a massive downturn in tourism. SF councillor Robert Beasley, from Ballybunion, said there had been a drop of 70% and golf was badly hit because the American market was down.

Meanwhile, many hotels in Cork and Kerry are looking to the home market to salvage the season and are offering competitive packages to attract business.



Services on the Torpoint Ferry were interrupted on Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 July as part of industrial action over an on-going dispute over pay. In a short statement, David List, general manager of the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee, said only emergency vehicles would be allowed onto the ferry.

He said: "In view of the impact that the industrial action will have, members of the public are advised to make alternative arrangements to reach their destinations for the duration of the action.

"Following negotiations with local union representatives, agreement has been reached to provide an 'emergency only' service for 'blue light' emergency vehicles during the strike period."

July 16Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Dan Cross, "Pugwash", Mike Taplin, Alistair Dayton, John Pryce, and "others".


INCAT 50 arrived in Portsmouth on July 16 she had departed Valetta, Malta on Sunday on the final part of her Voyage from Tasmania. She is due to go to the FSL Naval Dock Yard for a substantial refit, ahead of entering service in 2009.

Chief Executive Mark Woodward flew out to meet the Incat 050 when it arrived at the Suez Canal and is delighted that Manx primary schools have been charting the vessel’s progress, contacting the ship by email and satellite phone to put questions to the crew.
“It’s been an incredible journey for all those involved,” said Mr Woodward. “Thankfully, the voyage has, so far, passed without any major incidents and that is, in part, down to the careful planning that we undertook in the weeks between securing the purchase and embarking on the voyage to Portsmouth.

“We did have to make an unscheduled stop in Gibraltar to pick up some consumables that weren’t ready to be collected in Malta. But with the end now in sight, everyone is just hoping for a smooth transit on the last part of our journey into Portsmouth.”

Incat 050 was built in Tasmania in 1998 and served three years as a passenger and vehicle carrier in Australia and New Zealand, before being chartered to the US Military. [Photo: INCAT 50 Arriving at Portsmouth - Mike Taplin]

BEN-MY-CHREE - the following press release was issued to mark the ship's 10th Anniversary:

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s flagship, Ben-my-Chree, has completed its first decade’s service in the Irish Sea.

Built by Van Der Giessen de Noord in Rotterdam, at a cost of £24 million, the ship first sailed into Manx waters on Tynwald Day 1998. Since then she has completed 14,000 sailings, covering more than 800,000 miles and has a near-100% reliability performance.

Four years ago the Ben’s passenger accommodation and facilities were extended in a £2 million overhaul.

Chief Executive Mark Woodward explained: “The Ben is, without question, the most reliable ship ever used by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company in its 178-year history. She has also been the most intensively used vessel in our history and has carried more than two million passengers in the last decade."

“In fact, she has already completed more trips than many of the former Isle of Man Steam Packet Company vessels which were twice as old as the Ben is now.”

Mr Woodward added: “She has been a fantastic servant to both the travelling public and the Company, and her reliability has been outstanding.”

The BEN-MY-CHREE is the sixth ship in the Company’s history to bear the name and has undergone several overhauls in the last ten years, and earlier this year returned to service after a short break resplendent in her new livery as part of the Company’s re-branding.


The Liverpool Linkspan was reinstalled on July 16, 2008 following modifications required to locate it at the north end of Prince's Landing Stage. The afternoon Liverpool to Douglas service was diverted to Heysham to facilitate the removal of the temporary span which had been built on a MD&HC "Camel" and the location of the original span in its new position.


The Daily Telegraph has recently carried advertisements for two 7-day French Riviera Cruises on 5 and 12 July by the 12-passenger mega-yacht HARMONY II, with prices starting at £2786.

She has a rich history:

HARMONY II was built at Split in 1954 for Jadrolinija for coastal service in the then Yugoslavia. In 1955 she was renamed MOSTAR In 1966 she was sold to Greek owners, renamed MELTEMI II, and used in the one-day cruise trade form Piraeus to the Saronic Islands In 1980 she went back to Yugoslavia, to Kvaerner Express for day cruises from ports on the Istrian Peninsula to Venice 1983 saw a sale to Hellenic Mediterranean Lines In 1987 she was sold to a London-based leasing company and renamed, firstly

APOLLON I, and then PRINCE ALBERT She was used as a hotel/conference ship and attended the Cowes Regatta, then moved to Greenwich, before spending the winter at Chatham. In April 1988 she was at Sheerness, and the following year was moved to Tilbury Docks, and in 1999 moved to Liverpool, where she lay at the Albert Dock. Ownership had changed several times form 1988 onwards.

On 7 January 2001 she attempted sea trials, but had to be rescued and towed back from off Formby by a tug after her engines failed and she almost sank In 2002 she was moved to Ipswich and totally refitted, gaining her present name; then In 2007 she entered service in the luxury yacht charter market. She is owned by Pedley International.

[Alistair Deayton]


Hopes of a last-ditch rescue package for a historic steamship – laid up in Sunderland – have been dashed.

A six-year campaign to preserve the SS Manxman, which used to sail between Liverpool and the Isle of Man, has ended in failure.

There was hope that an American organisation was planning to refurbish the vessel as part of a business plan.

Representatives of the unnamed firm visited and inspected the ship and commissioned a detailed hull survey, but it now looks as if the scheme will be scuppered by the credit crunch.

The Manxman, which is laid up at the Pallion yard, has been on the River Wear since 1997 after being used as a ferry and then a floating nightclub. There were hopes that if she were salvaged it would bring jobs to the city.

In 2006, thieves pillaged equipment from the ship after rowing up the Wear with a generator and cutting equipment.

The Liverpool-based campaign to save the vessel was dealt a serious blow when Peel Holdings took over the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company.

The Manxman Steamship Company was formed in 2002 to purchase, restore and preserve the vessel, but a £2.7million bid for Heritage Lottery funding was rejected in 2004.

Chris Brindle, of the Manxman Steamship Company, said: "Our campaign has ended.

"After six years of hard work, match funding for our project was not forthcoming from the local authorities because of Peel Holdings' inability to provide us with a berth due to their plans to redevelop the docks – and of course the council backed the much larger scheme Peel were offering.

"The thing with Merseyside is that there is a huge amount of redevelopment and local focus on big projects. Ours simply lost its charm.

"Regarding the American bid, they were supposed to be making an offer by today but they are hampered by credit issues. I understand that some of their backers are finding it tough to get the funding.

"As for the ship herself, she is as far as I am aware intact and in a state where preservation is still achievable – but, with minimum maintenance, unless something happens this year she just will not be viable."



PRINCESS ROYAL (ex HABICHT II) - Fakta om Fartyg reports that the former German passenger ship, which has been laid up at Liverpool since around 1994 has been sold. She will be renamed TRINITY and rebuilt in Amsterdam for cruising in the Caribbean.


The company which set out to break the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's monopoly on the Douglas Sea Terminal linkspan has had its case thrown out.

Seaside Shipping Ltd, part of the Barony group, lodged a petition of doleance last year after being told by the Harbours Division that it couldn't use the linkspan to set up a rival freight shipping company.

The firm wanted to use Ro-Ro ferries to compete with the Steam Packet and launched a legal challenge against the Department of Transport.

In short, Seaside argued the DoT was acting beyond its powers when it refused to open the linkspan, and the user agreement broke European law by restricting the free movement of goods.

But Deemster Doyle heard arguments from the government and the Steam Packet that the agreement was made in 1995, and so the challenge was far too late.

He agreed, saying Seaside Shipping had known about the agreement for 13 years but had only decided to challenge it last September.

He said it would be wrong in law, justice and fairness to allow the case to go ahead, but added the court made no ruling about whether the agreement did restrict trade under European legislation.

Deemster Doyle dismissed the petition.



TRIUMPH was renamed CLIPPER RACER at Brocklebank Dock, Liverpool on Saturday July 12, 2008.

CHALLENGE will be renamed CLIPPER RANGER next weekend.

CLIPPER POINT - is due to make a call at Dublin Port on July 20 presumably for berthing trials. She is show as arriving at Dublin at 12:00 and departing at 14:45.

July 09Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, John Pryce, and "others".


PONT-AVEN was diverted on Tuesday morning to rescue the crew of a historic yacht which had sunk.

The Brittany Ferries' PONT-AVEN got a rescue call from the THO PA GA which was sinking off Brest in France.

The ship picked up five Spanish crew from a liferaft after three were picked up and flown to hospital by a French helicopter. All crew are safe and well.

The PONT-AVEN was en-route from Santander in Spain to Plymouth.

'Efficient reaction'The THO PA GA, a 1924-built Ibiza-based yacht, was sailing to Brest in France for a yachting festival.

At 01:35 BST on Tuesday the crew reported seawater coming into the boat and alerted rescue services.

The PONT-AVEN diverted 25 miles (40km) to the yacht which by the time it arrived had sunk amid 25 knot winds and 4-5m high waves.

Captain Gilles Quere said: "There was no choice about turning back. We had to go and help.Our crew are trained for such situations. It was an efficient and well-managed reaction. Holidaymaker Sharon Russell, from Bridgewater in Somerset, said: "It was all happening around us, very exciting.

"The rescue was extremely quick." The PONT-AVEN was about an hour and half late arriving in Plymouth on Tuesday.



INCAT 50 has reached Suez by the evening of Wednesday July 09, 2008 on her voyage to Portsmouth she had been delayed slightly at Jeddah. You can follow the ships progress on the


THE historic schooner KATHLEEN AND MAY was the subject of a lifeboat rescue at Appledore on Sunday afternoon. In high winds and dropping tides, the Bideford based sailing vessel became stranded and entangled on the Appledore lifeboat mooring, with the mooring rope tight around its rudder.

Timing is crucial for the three-masted ship to leave her moorings and make her way down river from Bideford to ensure sufficient water to float, but allow clearance for her 100ft masts under the Torridge Bridge.

Having negotiated the bridge she would normally then moor up at Appledore before starting her passage. On this occasion the water had dropped too far to reach the mooring, so Appledore lifeboat offered its secondary mooring. But in strong tides and heavy winds she missed the pickup and over-sailed the mooring. The mooring strop got caught in front of the rudder, bringing the boat to an abrupt halt and she was well and truly stuck, with the tide about to turn.

A full scale exercise by the Appledore lifeboat crew followed and local diver Colin Eastman was called in. Despite only a metre clearance under the boat and murky conditions, he managed to clear the rope from the rudder and the

Appledore lifeboat pulled the mooring clear. The 100-year-old vessel was able to continue her journey out of the estuary on route to the Brest International 2008 Tall Ships Festival in France. Steve Clarke, owner of the KATHLEEN & MAY, said: 'We were extremely grateful to the Appledore RNLI letting us borrow its mooring in the event we missed the tide, which prevented us being able to tie up elsewhere. We were even more grateful to the crew for getting us off the mooring so we could go on our way!'

[North Devon Gazette]


WEST EXPRESS struck the south quay at Heysham on Tuesday July 08 with her port quarter. This put a large hole to the left of the stern door just above the water line.  After discharge she moved up the South Quay to be repaired and made seaworthy. 

MOONDANCE has been towed to the company's Liverpool base at Brocklebank Dock by tug OAKGARTH - though rumour has it there may be no dry docks available until August.


If you are planning a visit to the Tall Ships Event held in Liverpool over the weekend of July 18 to 21 you are recommended to visit for essential visitor travel information.


Balmoral is back on the Irish Sea for Liverpool / North Wales sailings next week.

Wednesday: July 16 Mostyn / Menai Bridge and round Anglesey with coach connections to/from Llandudno and back to Mostyn from Menai Bridge

Thursday July 17 Liverpool / Menai Bridge (under the bridges and round Puffin Island) and sail back to Liverpool

Friday July 18 Caernarfon/Menai Bridge/Liverpool (for Tall Ships)/Menai Bridge + coach back to Llandudno / Caernarfon

Saturday July 19 Mostyn/ Liverpool (for Tall Ships) with coach return - also coach from Llandudno to Mostyn and back from Liverpool

Sunday July 20 Menai Bridge / Caernarfon and round Anglesey with coach connections from/to Llandudno

Monday July 21 Follow the Parade of Sail on the Mersey.

There is still space available on all sailings - details and times on

BALMORAL is also back on Friday October 03 to coincide with the QE2 farewell round Britain visit to the Mersey. This sailing is already heavily booked so don't leave it too long. (Mersey Ferries trip on the same evening has already sold out)

July 06Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, John Pryce, Jenny Williamson and "others".


The biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken on an Irish island got under way earlier this week. At a cost of €40m, the redevelopment of the port on Inis Mor - the largest of the three Aran Islands - is also the biggest single project ever funded by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

It is the equivalent of €50,000 per head of population on the island.

The Irish Independent newspaper said Inis Mor is the largest of the country's populated offshore islands, with 824 people living there. At the height of the tourist season, the population is multiplied several times over.

"The re-development of the port, planned in conjunction with Galway County Council, involves the construction of a 550m breakwater; widening and upgrading of the pier; dredging works to create a deep anchor bed; new cargo facilities; a new lifeboat station, a walkway and parking facilities," said the report. [MARITIME CLIPPINGS]



GRAND PRINCESS paid the second of four calls to Liverpool this season on July 05, 2008. She arrived around 05:00 from Dublin and sailed around 22:00 for Belfast. For a series of photographs showing the interior of this vessel, the largest passenger ship ever to berth on Merseyside [CLICK HERE]

[PHOTO: Passing New Brighton outbound at 22:15.]



VIKING was taken out of service on Thursday evening, July 03, to enable the refitting of the repaired gearbox ahead of the busy Tynwald Bank Holiday weekend.

This resulted in the cancellation of the Thursday evening 17:45 sailing to Liverpool and the 21:15 return sailing.

SNAEFELL operated a replacement sailing to Heysham departing Douglas at 18:45 returning at 22:00 with coach transfers to Liverpool offered for foot passengers. At present SNAEFELL is unable to use the landing stage due to the presence of the temporary linkspan which as been built on top of an MDHC "Camel".

Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: "The problem with the Viking  gearbox was unfortunate and led to an extra half hour on her sailing  times for the last fortnight.

"We had anticipated that it would take three weeks to strip the  gearbox down and rebuild it before refitting it. However, the gearbox  manufacturer has now completed repairs and we should be back on  schedule and running at normal speed for the Tynwald Day weekend, which is a busy time for us. "We deeply regret any inconvenience experienced by our passengers following the Viking gearbox failure."



Rescue services came to the aid of two passengers who became ill on ferries operating between Belfast and Liverpool.

In the first incident on board MERSEY VIKING, a pregnant woman was taken by an Irish Coastguard helicopter R117 to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.  On Tuesday night, the Donaghadee lifeboat with a doctor on board was launched to attend a passenger who took ill on board LAGAN VIKING's Liverpool sailing.   After treatment he was allowed to continue his journey.

Lawrence Cumming Watch Officer at Belfast Coastguard said "Belfast is the busiest port in Ireland with an increasing number of passengers being transported to and from mainland GB. These incidents should demonstrate to passengers travelling on board vessels in the North Irish Sea that H M Coastguard assistance is always available to them when they need it, even if this involves co-ordination of resources based in different jurisdictions".

LAGAN VIKING - It is not just the passengers that are unwell - but LAGAN VIKING appears to be suffering from technical problems. Slow running towards the end of the week was noted and it understood that she has crankshaft problems are to blame.

By Saturday LAGAN VIKING was out of service and replaced on the Belfast sailing by DUBLIN VIKING on Saturday July 05, 2008 with SAGA MOON covering DUBLIN VIKING's evening sailing to Dublin. On Saturday evening LAGAN VIKING was noted back at Birkenhead. [Photo: SAGA MOON operating the evening Birkenhead - Dublin sailing on July 05, 2008]


The grounding of a brand-new, powerful tug designed to escort LNG carriers in Milford Haven is being investigated. Svitzer’s UK-flag, 7,700-bhp SVITZER WATERSTON, recently delivered from the Freire shipyard in Spain, ran aground in the port area on Wednesday.

The company, part of the Maersk group, has imposed a blanket silence on the incident, with regional offices in the UK told to issue “no comment” responses to press inquiries. But Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA) has been more forthcoming, issuing a statement which says after the incident the tug was able to make its way to a berth “without assistance”. The authority says it immediately launched an investigation into the incident and is co-operating with the preliminary examination being carried out by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).

The grounding, in which there were no reported injuries or pollution, is sensitive as it raises potential safety concerns about the two LNG terminals under construction in the port.

The SVITZER WATERSTON is the first of a fleet of new escort tugs being built under 20-year contracts with the operators of the LNG terminals,

Dragon LNG (a consortium of BG, Petronas of Malaysia and Dutch energy company, 4Gas), and South Hook LNG (Qatar Petroleum LNG, Elf Petroleum and ExxonMobil).

The tug, with a bollard pull of 92 tonnes, was built to a new design specifically developed by Canadian naval architects, Robert Allan, for LNG terminal escort duties.

Svitzer is already the subject of a full MAIB investigation and a police inquiry into the deaths of three crew members of the 300-gt FLYING PHANTOM (built 1981) when it grounded and capsized in the River Clyde in December last year.

In March last year the company’s tugboat Bohus lost power and grounded on rocks off Sweden, with the four-strong crew having to be evacuated by helicopter. Svitzer was also in the headlines this year when the St Vincent-flag, 4,600- bhp SVITZER KORSAKOV was hijacked off Somalia in February and the crew – a British master, Irish chief engineer and four Russian seamen – held hostage for 47 days before a ransom (reputedly $700,000) was paid. [MARITIME CLIPPINGS].


The QE2 Farewell Evening Cruise scheduled for Friday October 03, 2008 has sold out. Tickets for the day time viewing cruises remain available. If you had intended to go on this trip and have missed out - tickets are still available at the time of writing for the BALMORAL QE2 Farewell Cruise. - See Waverley Excursions news below.


The company has secured £180m worth contracts from a total on offer of £250m to maintain a number of Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ships. The remaining work going to A&P Group yards.

The contractors will maintain 'clusters' of ships, providing the necessary refuelling and refit work for the RFA vessels throughout their service lives. Ships are grouped in clusters according to their duties and capabilities.

NSL is contracted for the maintenance of four clusters of ships (11 ships in total), with contracts totalling over £180 million, while A&P Group are charged with two clusters (five ships) in a contract worth around £53 million with the work to be shared between its bases in Falmouth and on the Tyne.

Baroness Taylor, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said: "The RFA is crucial to the work of the Royal Navy – without them it simply could not operate. This is a significant change to the way in which the RFA ships are supported which will not only generate substantial savings for the public purse but will increase the ships' availability and effectiveness to the fleet they serve."

As well as improving fleet support, in the longer term the new programme is expected to save over £330 million on the previous arrangements which saw individual contracts competed as and when they were required.

Commodore David Preston, MOD Defence Equipment and Support Director of Afloat Support, added:
"This new strategy will also see the MOD working more closely with the chosen contractors over the longer term, granting them a greater understanding of our requirements and improving the support RFA ships receive. This should also afford them the ability to forecast their workload further into the future, which is valuable added security for industry and demonstrates how we work with industry to support the Armed Forces."

RFA GOLD ROVER will be the first to undergo works under the new programme, which will be carried out by NSL. She arrived on Saturday July 05, 2008.


The new operator of the Rathlin Island ferry has said that his first few days running the service have been "plain sailing".

On Tuesday the contract for the service transferred to Cork businessman Ciaran O’Driscoll after 12 years of operation by Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) — despite the £4 million contract being the subject of an Audit Office probe

The route receives about £660,000 of taxpayers’ money each year through the Department of Regional Development (DRD).

Mr O’Driscoll was initially meant to take over the service on June 1.  However, the NewsLetter understands that the lease for the MV CANNA — the  ferry which was used by CalMac on the route until Monday — was only signed  hours before Mr O’Driscoll took over.

Last week issues surrounding the ferry service contract were raised at the  Assembly’s Regional Development Committee, with SDLP Assemblyman John Dallat tabling a series of written questions on the ferry contract to Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy.

Writing last Tuesday in response to Mr Dallat’s questions, Mr Murphy said that at that time Mr O’Driscoll was still "finalising" his ticketing system, safety management documentation and an environmental plan. A copy of the tender scoring documents obtained by the News Letter shows that boxes for "ticketing and information", "safety of operations" and  "environmental considerations" were all ticked prior to the contract being awarded in April.

And different answers to the ones provided to four of Mr Dallat’s questions were placed in the official Assembly Hansard on Monday.

When asked about the Hansard record, DRD said it had been an "administrative error" which has subsequently been corrected.

MEP Jim Allister, who asked the Audit Office to investigate the tendering process, vowed that he would continue probing the deal and said the transfer to Mr O’Driscoll was "premature".

"I am in the process of raising further questions with DRD as to how O’Driscoll’s tender satisfied essential requirements under the terms of reference of the tender. I intend to see this process through to its conclusion," he said.

On the island, opinion has been divided about the new service, but many people have welcomed the addition of a second boat on the route — the passenger-only MV OSSIAN of Staffa.

Mr O’Driscoll’s son David, who is involved in designing a new alloy passenger catamaran for use on the route from next summer, said work on the boat was already underway in Glasgow.

He said: "This vessel is designed to comply with all relevant EU and MCA regulations for year-round operation. At 17.8m x 6.5m a total complement of 100 will be easily accommodated.

"Twin turbocharged diesel engines will power the vessel to a fully-loaded service speed in excess of 17 knots, enabling the journey to be comfortably completed in under 25 minutes." [THE NEWSLETTER]


HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH & HMS PRINCE OF WALES - The MoD signed contracts to build the two future aircraft carriers this week. The contracts, worth in the region of £3 billion, were signed with the newly-formed UK maritime Joint Venture, BVT Surface Fleet, and the Aircraft Carrier Alliance onboard HMS ARK ROYAL, one of the Royal Navy's existing aircraft carriers and currently the Fleet Flagship.

Contracts authorised encompass work worth:

* £1,325M for the construction of giant sections of both ships by BVT

Surface Fleet at Govan on the Clyde and Portsmouth;

* £300M for the construction of giant sections of the ships at the BAE

Systems yard at Barrow-in-Furness;

* £675M for the bow section and final assembly and completion of the

ships by Babcock Marine, with assembly taking place at Rosyth;

* £425M for design and engineering for Thales UK; and

* £275M for design and supply of Mission Systems for BAE Systems

Integrated Systems Technologies (Insyte).

Defence Secretary, Des Browne, said:

"This is a historic day for everyone in defence. The two aircraft carriers will provide our forces with the world-class capabilities they will need over the coming decades. They will support peace-keeping and conflict prevention, as well as our strategic operational priorities.

"Today's contract signing seals the future for thousands of jobs, and ensures that we will have a Royal Navy fit for the 21st century. "Baroness Taylor, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said:

"This is truly a national project, involving companies from the Clyde to the Solent. Construction work will create or sustain around 10,000 UK jobs at the peak of production.

I am delighted that we have signed the contracts for manufacture today and I look forward to first cutting of steel for this exciting project later this year."

The future aircraft carriers, to be named HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and HMS PRINCE OF WALES, will be the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever constructed in the UK. They will provide our forces with world-class capabilities, supporting peace-keeping, conflict prevention and our strategic operational priorities. They will be a highly versatile and potent joint defence asset, able to meet the widest range of tasks.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, said:" I am delighted with today's news that the contract for the two new aircraft carriers, to be named HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and HMS PRINCE OF WALES, has been agreed and signed. These ships, with their embarked aircraft, will provide the UK with a potent and powerful aircraft carrier force that will deliver air power in support of the full range of future operations at sea, in the air and on land."

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, said: "Today's contract signature marks an important step forward in the Carrier Strike programme. These ships will provide additional options for projecting offensive air power at a time and place of our choosing, and I very much look forward to the arrival of both the carriers and the extremely capable Joint Combat Aircraft on the frontline".

Alan Johnston, CEO of BVT Surface Fleet, said:" This is an important announcement for BVT and for the UK maritime industry at large, guaranteeing work for years to come across the country.

"We are looking forward to delivering these very important ships to the Fleet in the next decade and intend to begin construction work later this year."

Once the carriers enter service in 2014 and 2016 respectively, they are expected to remain in the fleet for at least thirty years.

HMS SUPERB has returned to Devonport after hitting a rock in the Red Sea, damaging its sonar.

The boat collided with a pinnacle after passing through the Suez Canal last month and had to put in for repairs at the NATO facility in Souda Bay, Crete, before returning to Devonport naval base.

The Swiftsure-class submarine will now be assessed while an investigation is conducted. A Royal Navy spokesman said they would not comment on the circumstances of the grounding, in which there were no casualties, because the incident is now the subject of a Board of Inquiry.

He said: “An initial inspection carried out in Aqaba, Jordan, identified damage to her main sonar system and some damage to her ballast tanks. “After transiting the Suez Canal, the submarine conducted a further assessment and some necessary repairs at the Nato facility in Souda Bay, Crete, before commencing the passage home.”

[Maritime Clippings]


MOONDANCE grounded and sustained rudder damage at Warrenpoint on Sunday June 29, 2008. As a consequence she has been taken out of service. Svitzer's Tug OAKGARTH was despatched from the Mersey to tow her to dry dock for repairs. The tow appeared to be underway by the afternoon of Sunday July 06 AIS was showing an arrival on Merseyside on Monday evening July 07.

As a result of the withdrawal of MOONDANCE the 02:00 sailing from Heysham and the 14:30 sailing from Warrenpoint have been cancelled until further notice. WEST EXPRESS and CLIPPER POINT sailings are unaffected.

RIVERDANCE -  Treacherous weather conditions and shortening summer tides are hampering workmen's efforts to dismantle the wrecked vessel.

The company working on the ship, which is being dismantled, say conditions were so poor last weekend (June 28/29) when gushing winds battered the Fylde coast that work on the vessel had to be abandoned on Sunday.

Coastguard Officers have also warned progress has been slowed by the fact time to work between the tides has been halved as the demolition job heads into the summer. Donald McDonald, who is overseeing the operation for the Maritime and Coastguard agency, said: "With the high winds on Sunday it would have been dangerous to put people in the situation.

"We don't normally have this kind of weather at this time of year." [MARITIME CLIPPINGS]

LYGRA - which had been on charter to SEATRUCK until around two weeks ago and had been lying of Heysham has moved to Birkenhead West Float. She is beloved to have been sold by her Norwegian owners to Italian interests who intend putting her under the Panama Flag without a change of name.  Her intended route in future is trans-Atlantic Florida to West Indies to the Congo. 


FITZCARRALDO - Walk the Plank's touring theatre ship, is set to drop anchor for good later this year. The ship, an ex-Norwegian ferry, has visited more than 100 ports and harbours around the coastline, with a cargo of family theatre and a crew which included actors and technicians as well as the usual Captain, Mate and Engineer.

The ship - built in 1971 in Sandnessjoen, Norway - spent twenty years as a general cargo and passenger ferry working the islands around Tromso beyond the Arctic Circle, before Walk the Plank sailed her to the UK to be adapted for her new life as a touring theatre.

The ship sailed her last tour in 2006, and has since been berthed in the Albert Dock in Liverpool as part of the European Capital of Culture celebrations. The ship is now the city's most unique waterfront venue playing host to regular cabaret nights, music gigs, comedy nights, arts events, and performances.

Come the end of 2008, Walk the Plank will be looking for a new berth for the ship, and the Board of Trustees have decided it is time to sell this unique vessel. Ideally, the ship will still be used as an Arts venue or continue to tour to keep the purpose and vision of the ship alive. However, the possibilities for the ship are endless and all ideas will be considered.

If you are interested in buying the ship or know someone who might be please get in touch with John on 0161 736 8964 or email


It is almost certain that most on-line visitors to the Irish Sea Shipping web site wishing to travel on the BALMORAL QE2 Farewell Evening Cruise from Liverpool on Friday October 03, 2008 are likely to book on line.

The fare is only £30.95 INCLUDING a £1.00 fuel surcharge.


The Liverpool Daily Post and Echo "offer" fare is £39.95! This is clearly a case of significant overcharging. Booking via the LDP advertisements does not appear to offer any advantages or extras for this trip this thus people will be paying an extra £9.00 for nothing.

Tickets are still available on the Waverley Excursions web site.

Anyone intending to do this trip on BALMORAL should book now at .


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