CENARGO: NORSEMERCHANT FERRIES
22:15 Liverpool to Dublin - February 18, 2001
One thing I have noticed about travelling on the Merchant Ferries [now NorseMerchant Ferries] service to Dublin is how the numbers of passengers have steadily increased particularly on the overnight services. This trip was to be no exception. I arrived at the Canada Dock terminal fairly early around 20:30 and there were already quite a few people around. Some of them apparently day trippers who had travelled over for a football match though DAWN MERCHANT had arrived rather late [after 15:00] on the Saturday evening sailing.
It was obvious that DAWN MERCHANT was not being used in roll through mode with all vehicles being turned to face the stern - presumably bow ramp problems?
When private vehicles were boarded a single line down the centre of the vehicle deck had been left vacant leading the first few cars filled up the area in the bow, however, given the number of private vehicles other vehicles including mine stopped further back.
Once on board it was off to collect the cabin key from the shop, put the bags in the cabin and then off for a meal. As usual with NorseMerchant there is a tempting carvery selection and the beef turned out to be excellent!
Off into the bar it was noted that more substantial blinds had been fitted to the windows since my last trip at the start of September.
Listening into comms traffic P&O's EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR made her TR and gave a Dublin eta of 05:30 - she had on board 68 passengers. On DAWN MERCHANT there were 135 pax a significantly greater number than P&O.
Departure time came and went at 22:15, but this is not unusual when travelling with NMF. Engines were finally started at 22.27 and we moved off at 22:35. Outside it was rather foggy. The Howard Smith Tug BRAMLEY MOORE gave us a helpful nudge on the starboard side to line up DAWN's stern to pass through the gap between Canada Dock and Brocklebank Dock. BRAMLEY MOORE then positioned herself on the port side and nudged DAWN around to line up with Langton Lock. Here it was necessary to wait until the lock raised back to dock level, having just been used by the Belfast sailing.
Eventually the lock gates opened and DAWN MERCHANT making fast at around 23:37. The tug's presence one would imagine was due to the poor visibility as NMF vessels usually depart and arrive unaided. Looking down on the upper vehicle deck revealed that this was almost completely full.
DAWN MERCHANT was out in the river by 00:10 - Mersey Radio reported visibility as being around 25m.
By now it was time for bed. During the night the fog cleared and we were secure on the berth at 06:40. Passengers having been called for breakfast at 06:15 just as DAWN MERCHANT drew level with Kish Lighthouse. However, disembarkation of the vehicles took a bit longer as it was necessary for most of the lorries to leave before the cars could disembark. By the time I drove off the ISLE OF INISHMORE had berthed at the main terminal.
22:15 Dublin to Liverpool - February 21, 2001
The return journey from Dublin on Wednesday evening proved to be interesting. I arrived at the terminal fairly early at 19:30, the ISLE OF INISHMORE was still discharging freight trailers from her afternoon sailing from Holyhead.
The check in for NorseMerchant Ferries was due to open at around 20:00 however, this didn't occur. They were experiencing problems with the computer system and boarding cards had to be handwritten. STENA CHALLENGER and ISLE OF INISHMORE had both long departed before boarding of DAWN MERCHANT commenced at around 22:25. There was obviously a good load of foot passengers as two runs were of the boarding bus were undertaken. On its second run the car marshalling area gates were opened and the usual "follow the leader" exercise took place with the boarding bus leading a stream of cars through the NMF freight marshalling yard.
The lower vehicle deck was already full with trucks already on board and facing outwards, though the upper deck appeared still to be empty. The bus went on board first to off load foot passengers, before reversing off. The cars were then brought forward into the bow area.
It was obvious that we were going to be rather late, but then a late arrival usually means one doesn't have to get up quite so early. After another great meal - gammon ham this time which proved to be just as tasty as the beef on the Sunday night - it was off to the bar.
The captain advised passengers that departure was delayed due to the late arrival of the incoming sailing, though DAWN MERCHANT appeared to have been well on the berth when I arrived at the port at 19:30. I think part of the problem must have been the additional time taken to turn all the trucks once on board so that they could exit via the stern ramp. The vibration and clanking from below suggested that the unaccompanied trailers were still being marshalled on the upper vehicle deck and chained down.
DAWN MERCHANT finally left the berth at 12:08 and notified an arrival time at Liverpool Bar at 05:45. I awoke at around 06:20 and made my way down to the restaurant for breakfast by now we were rising to dock level in Langton Lock.
We were on the berth at 07:25, though again it took sometime before the trucks had been cleared and it was possible to drive off.
Once again, NorseMerchant proved to be an enjoyable and very relaxing way to cross the Irish Sea. It is also obvious that the service is proving increasingly attractive to passengers.