The Irish Sea Shipping Archive

About ISSContactContentVoyage ReportsISS Amazon Shop
PhotographsFeaturesShip AISShips on FilmNews
Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond



June 30, 2001

Sea Containers

By John H. Luxton 2001

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN was late off Prince's Landing Stage at 10:50 due to high passenger and vehicle numbers. Quite a few vehicles having to be held by the terminal building until the outgoing vehicles on the stage had been boarded. Total figures were: 397 passengers and 72 vehicles aboard.

MERSEY VIKING was running down in Langton Lock on her morning sailing to Belfast, whilst at Gladstone Lock, EUROPEAN ENVOY was running down for her sailing to Dublin.

In Seaforth, container vessel CITY OF GLASGOW was visible. Passing down the channel Esco's CELTIC SUN passed in bound for Gladstone with the P&O early morning sailing from Dublin.

Once out in Liverpool Bay the wind was blowing SW 5 to 6 and providing a lumpy ride which prompted the captain to advise passengers to remain seated for part of the journey. It wasn't particularly bouncy and passengers didn't appear to pay much attention. 

Out in Liverpool Bay a new jack-up platform had appeared - I couldn't identify it - it appeared to have a silver grey hull livery. 

An uneventful crossing to Douglas followed with ropes on at 13:32 some 32 minutes behind schedule. As passengers disembarked an announcement was made that the side seating areas were to be closed off and all cleaning concentrated on the central saloon prior to the 14:00 departure for Dublin. The announcement having some urgency as it was stated that the vessel would sail again in 20 minutes. 

I had planned to take a trip on the Isle of Man Railway to Port Erin using the 14:00 departure. However, the late running of SEACAT ISLE OF MAN and the fact I had managed to find myself near the end of the disembarking queue meant a very brisk walk down to the station where I managed to board the train headed by 2-4-0 Tank Beyer Peacock locomotive G.H. Wood,  just as the guard was closing the doors. 

It appears that next year the operation of this last extensive 3ft gauge line in the British Isles will be confined to a short shuttle to Santon and in 2003 the section between Douglas and Castletown. 

The reason for the two year closure is due to the route of the track being used for the Iris pipeline and it is also being sold to the public as an opportunity to relay the track and increase running speeds possibly with a view to the introduction of a commuter service.

The journey down to Port Erin was quite pleasant, but the prospects of quiet contemplation of the beautiful scenery was interrupted by a chatty fellow traveller from Northern Ireland. He was already in the compartment when I boarded.

My fellow travelling companion appeared to be on a day out from his job at the Mount Murray Hotel and appeared to have a lot to say! Spotting the camera bag and green jacket he struck up conversation presuming I was a bird watcher at first. I explained that my main interest was transport and shipping in particular.

Somehow in the one hour journey to Port Erin everything from the woes and intrigues  of Manx and Northern Irish politics and business to the cost of cinema, airline and ship tickets appeared to be explored along with recent Manx Movies and his unfavourable impressions of the late Ian Bannan the star of the Manx film "Waking Ned". ! 

Despite the gossip I did manage to spot MERSEY VIKING passing off Port St. Mary bound for Belfast. But that was the only relief!

As the train ran into the Port Erin terminus it had barely stopped when he dived out of the compartment door forgetting I was behind and slamming it shut! I must admit by now I felt quite exhausted and hurried off to the station buffet to unwind over a pot of tea and a slice of fruit cake!

Port Erin HarbourPort Erin StationG.H. Wood - Port Erin Shed
Isle of Man Railway Museum

Port Erin

I then wandered off for a visit to the Isle of Man Railway Museum nearby. This appears to have been revamped since my last visit a few years ago. This was followed by a quick walk down to the promenade and then back to the station for the 16:35 last train to Douglas. [One day Isle of Man Transport will realise that 16:35 is a ridiculously early time for the last departure of the day especially on summer weekends.] The train was heavily loaded, picking up more passengers at Port St.Mary and many more at Castletown. The train even managed to pick up two passengers at Ronaldsway Airport Halt.  Surely the most sparsely equipped airport station anywhere? Just a name board and stile from a road leading down from the terminal. Surely a bus shelter structure would be useful here?

On arrival at Douglas the compartment doors all opened at once and in a scene more reminiscent of a commuter train arrival at London Waterloo people headed off the platform! 

After returning from Port Erin I took a trip along the prom on the tram at around 18:00 the BEN-MY-CHREE had not yet arrived and could be glimpsed a long way off. The BEN finally sailed into the harbour around 18:40 around an hour late.

A 20:00 departure for Heysham was not scheduled for June 30 and maintenance work soon got underway.

Particular attention appeared to be being paid to the  to the rear paintwork around the stern vents with a painter suspended by a cage. Other painters standing on the linkspan spent around an hour and a half painting the stern ramp completely blue apart from the bit under the hinged flap - obviously blue. The white top having almost completely disappeared. The dark blue obviously being more serviceable than the white in the area where it comes into contact with the link spans.

The port side lifeboat went up and down a few times. All this proved a welcome distraction as the RAPIDE's schedule had gone astray. She was reported running 45 minutes down when I checked in at 20:30.

It appears that RAPIDE was running late [but from what I can gather not that late] however, priority was given to SEACAT ISLE OF MAN arriving from Dublin which was running slightly early!

She was fast on the berth at 21:24 had discharged and moving off 21:33 a smart turn round - assisted by low passenger and vehicle numbers. SEACAT ISLE OF MAN then moved round and berthed on the outside of the Victoria Pier.

RAPIDE which I understand had been held in the Bay for at least 20 minutes entered the harbour. However, the commencement of discharge appeared to be delayed somewhat and it was 10 to 15 minutes before the cars and foot passengers disembarked.

There appeared to be a large number of returning foot passengers day trippers. Of course the security checks slowed things down. A chap in front of me on crutches was asked by the security man if he could hop through the metal detector whilst his metal crutches were passed round!

As the IoM enjoy maintaining their rigorous (?) security checks I have wondered why the Department of Transport don't make provision for swifter dispatch of late running sailings. This could be achieved by erecting a partition running the length of the Victoria Pier walkway.

This would separate the inbound and outbound passengers and thus enable security to clear passengers whilst inbound passengers are still disembarking. Passengers could then be held in queues on the walkway until the ship's crew were ready for them to board. Such a move would certainly speed up boarding arrangements.

Needless to say RAPIDE did not get away until 22:30 with 250 pax. RAPIDE had apparently been delayed by a heavy load at Dublin earlier in the day and further delayed at Liverpool.

However, as RAPIDE wasn't that late and SCIOM was running 15 minutes early with a light load would it not have been better to have slowed SCIOM and allowed RAPIDE in with a heavier load, especially as RAPIDE still had another sector to run whilst SCIOM was finishing for the day?

Presumably if the BEN-MY-CHREE had been operating her 20:00 sailing SCIOM could  have gone onto Edward Pier?

An uneventful crossing back to Liverpool followed. The sea state was barely a slight swell. The captain reporting a maximum of 1 metre.  I spent some time out on deck. Late evening travel from the Isle of Man around mid-summer is a fascinating experience. One can almost see the dusk move across the northern horizon to become the next dawn. Heavy high altitude cloud spoiled the effect somewhat. Fortunately quite a few breaks in the cloud cover allowed traces of daylight to be reflected off the sea as late as 23:30. Golden light could be seen to the north, north east of the lights of Douglas which still visible on this clear night as where the flashes of the Manx light houses between Maughold and Chicken Rock - all some 30 odd miles distant by this time.

There rest of the journey passed uneventfully. RAPIDE decelerated at the Rock at 00:40 and was secure on Princes Landing Stage at 01:02. 



Visit for Transport, Industrial Heritage & Regional Digital Photographs and Growing Online 35mm Archive

Irish Sea Shipping - What's New July 2008Irish Sea Shipping - What's New August 2009Back Home Up Next 

Irish Sea Shipping John H. Luxton 1995-2018. Content John H. Luxton and Contributors