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March 2004

March 28
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Tommy Dover, Kevin Bennett, Michael Bracken, Stan Basnett, Sara Cass and "others".


SEACAT ISLE OF MAN departed from A&P Birkenhead on March 22 stopping off at Prince's Landing Stage before proceeding to Douglas. Her 2004 season commenced on Thursday March 25 with the 07:00 sailing from Douglas.


The company takes over the Fleetwood - Larne service on April 5. SEAFARER, LEADER and PIONEER will transfer to Stena and gain Stena name prefixes.

EUROPEAN ENVOY and EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR which have also been sold to Stena will be placed on the charter market.      

Stena will close its freight headquarters in Ashford, Kent, when the lease expires this November and will relocate to a Midlands location.

When Ashford opened in 1988, the operator had many cross-Channel services. Its focus is now on the Irish Sea and North Sea, and McGrath said it needed to be closer to the heart of the UK logistics industry.

STENA EUROPE - technical problems with a propeller which was damaged on the 21:50 sailing from Rosslare on March 25 resulted in her sailings being cancelled. She was still off service on March 28.

STENA LYNX III departed from H&W Belfast on Sunday March 28. 


NORBAY entered Canada Dry Dock on March 22. She appears to be undergoing some major hull work with sand blasting noted in process on Saturday.

EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR - prior to her transfer to Stena she is currently operating on the Liverpool - Dublin route covering for NORBAY.


PONT-AVEN made her maiden voyage from Plymouth to SANTANDER on March 24. Photographs of her at the Spanish port can be found at


JONATHAN SWIFT finally made it into #5 dry dock at A&P Birkenhead on Monday March 22 following her abortive attempt on the previous Saturday. She returned to service on Thursday.

It is understood that the restructuring talks have with the deck and engine officers which involve SIPTU are not progressing too well and may be handled by the Irish Labour Court in the coming week.

Talks between ratings, staff and cabin managers represented by the SUI and SIPTU are believed to be making better progress.


A new memorial in will be unveiled at a ceremony to be held at the Pier Head, Liverpool on Friday April 16.

The memorial plaque will remember the thousands of Netherlands seamen who sailed out of Liverpool during WWII keeping the trade route open during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Twenty five veterans are expected to attend the ceremony. Placing of the plaque came as a result of former veterans attending the Battle of the Atlantic 60th Anniversary Commemorations discovering that there wasn't a plaque commemorating the contribution of seamen from the Netherlands. 



At 9:51 on Friday March 19 Liverpool Coastguard received a 999 emergency call from some contract workers in Harrington Harbour, near Workington, reporting that one, possibly two people had been swept into the harbour by a large wave.

It later emerged that a father and son had been taking photos from behind the railings on the seawall at Harrington when a large wave had knocked them off their feet. The son was thrown against the railings, sustaining a leg injury, but remained on the sea wall. The father was swept under the railings and into the water.

The local contractors raised the alarm by calling the Coastguard and Ambulance services while they raced to the scene. They managed to pull the father from the water where he was treated at the scene by the ambulance crew before being taken, along with his son, to the West Cumberland Hospital.

Dave Bullingham, Cumbria Sector Manager said: “We have been informed by the Police that unfortunately the 46 year old father was pronounced deceased upon arrival at the hospital and we would express our condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time.

This tragic incident, once again, shows that the unpredictable nature of the sea can catch out even those that take precautions. The weather conditions this morning in Harrington Harbour were Westerly winds up to severe gale force 9 and rough seas.

We would warn anyone wanting to view the sea in these weather conditions to do so from a safe distance, stay away from the edge of cliffs and stay well back from the waters edge to reduce the chance of being caught by a freak wave.”


HMS MERSEY arrived at Liverpool on March 23 to prepare for her commissioning ceremony on Friday March 26. She was open for public inspection on March 27.

HMS SCYLLA The ex Royal Naval Frigate, HMS SCYLLA, recently purchased by a consortium headed by the National Marine Aquarium, was sent to the seabed to produce Europe ’s first artificial reef at approximately  on Saturday, 27th March 2004 in Whitsand Bay , near Plymouth , Cornwall

HMS Scylla was decommissioned from the Royal Navy in 1993, being replaced by the highly advanced Type 23 Frigate, which offers a far superior and more potent weapons system.

The Royal Navy’s Southern Diving Group 1 based in Devonport Naval Base,
Plymouth , supervised the proceedings, and will subsequently be the first to dive on the Scylla to remove any hazards. The Southern Diving Group acted as an advisory group to the Canadian contractors who placed the scuttling explosives, and ensured compliance with UK explosive safety regulations prior to the event.

After the Scylla has settled onto the seabed, the Royal Navy’s Dive Team will be the first to dive on to the new artificial reef to collect any hazards that may remain. The RN Dive Team will be carrying underwater photographic equipment with them on the first dive to record the initial views of the Scylla.

An excellent set of photographs showing the preparation of SCYLLA and the actual sinking can be found on the BBC Website.


RFA SIR BEDIVERE arrived at the Belfast yard on March 22. 


NorseMerchant Ferries is to reintroduce its passenger service linking Liverpool (Birkenhead) and Dublin commencing 29 March with the sailing of the 22,152 gross tonne BRAVE MERCHANT from NorseMerchant's Twelve Quays Terminal in Birkenhead. With her 120 berths, BRAVE MERCHANT will provide much-needed extra passenger capacity on the Irish Sea, especially over the Easter weekend.

NorseMerchant's passenger service between Birkenhead and Dublin was suspended in 2003 due to vessel re-deployment.

BRAVE MERCHANT will sail from Birkenhead every evening at 22.00, arriving at 06.00 in Dublin. The return voyage from Dublin is at 10.00, arriving 18.00 in Birkenhead.

NorseMerchant Ferries' Managing Director, Phillip Shepherd, is particularly pleased to reintroduce passengers on the Dublin run:

"BRAVE MERCHANT, named after the Irish racehorse Dancing Brave, is a beautiful ship and has excellent passenger accommodation. We recognised that her on-board facilities are being under-utilised. We had excellent support on this route until she was temporarily withdrawn from service and we are confident these passengers, and many new ones, will return quickly."

The decision to re-start this passenger link follows hard on the heels of NorseMerchant's decision to upgrade its Heysham - Belfast freight service to three sailings per day in each direction.


The UK  Government has been ordered to curb the building of wind farms after warnings of an "environmental disaster" in busy shipping lanes of Liverpool Bay .

An amendment passed by the House of Lords prevent farms from being located "where interference may be caused to the use of recognised sea lanes essential to international navigation".

The defeat, during debate on the Energy Bill, followed warnings that huge tankers heading for ports such as
Liverpool could crash into the turbines.

Those who object to our seascapes being disfigured by wind turbines will undoubtedly be pleased by this news!



New freight customers are being offered a 50% discount on their first return voyage. To book please call Alistair Eagles 01524 853512 or Damian McGrath 028 416 54400 quoting 'HALF PRICE WEB OFFER'



A new Terberg tugmaster has been delivered to Warren Point terminal. The extra unit and new member of the stevedoring team will ensure even faster vessel turnarounds benefiting customers on both sides of the Irish Sea. This investment is part of a rolling program that will see more announcements in the months to come.


A fully inclusive passenger special is offered on the company's morning sailings from Heysham and Warrenpoint. The fare is £180 for a car and two passengers. Fare includes cabin, all meals and two complimentary drinks. To book phone 01524 853512 quoting reference HQSP

March 21
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Tommy Dover, Kevin Bennett, Alex Mc. Cormac, Chris Jones and "others".


Adverse weather conditions continued to effect sailings during the second half of the week.

BEN-MY-CHREE - her 08:45 sailing to Heysham on Friday was held at Douglas until 10:00. Afternoon sailing from Heysham did not arrive back at Douglas until around 19:00. The 14:15 sailing from Heysham on Saturday took four and three quarter hours as the BEN battled strong winds and very rough seas reducing her speed to around 13knots. She was on Edward Pier at 19:00. Her return sailing was delayed by 15 minutes not leaving until 20:15. However, with a moderating wind behind she had a smooth crossing and arrived at Heysham only five minutes behind schedule.

LADY OF MANN has been covering some of SSC2's sailings again due to adverse weather conditions. On Friday and Saturday mornings she operated the 07:00 Douglas - Liverpool sailings. Returning to Douglas light ship on Friday. On Saturday she operated the 21:00 to Douglas and on Sunday the 07:00 to Liverpool. 

SUPERSEACAT TWO missed her 10:30 sailings to Dublin on Friday and Saturday though managed to get away on Sunday. She operated the 21:00 to Douglas on Thursday and Friday but returned light to Liverpool ahead of deteriorating weather. On Saturday she spent 9 hours prowling the River Mersey on March 20 whilst the LADY OF MANN was berthed.  



Coaster callers included DEFENDER , WIEBKE D  and LEONA.

Bad weather caused some disruption to shipping during the week, vessels noted sheltering in the bay included KEEPER and the Polish REGA. GRANUAILE was working at the Codling lanby during the week, She came into the bay to land some personnel at the south quay by tender, before she departed north.

Wicklow Sailing club announced that BMW will be the sponsor of the 2004 Round Ireland Yacht starting in Wicklow bay in June.

The RNLI ILB INBHEAR DEAS took part in the St Patrick's day parade in the town. 


A women passenger in her forties fell into the Mersey as the vessel berthed at the Pier Head on Friday March 19. 

The woman clung to the mooring lines of PONTUS which prevented her being pulled under the Landing Stage. She was rescued by Mersey Inshore Rescue Service crewman Les Moulsdale, who jumped into the fast flowing river and manage to get her to the rescue boat. 

The woman who spent 15 minutes in the water was taken to hospital suffering from shock and hypothermia.


JONATHAN SWIFT crossed to A&P Birkenhead on Friday March 19, departing Dublin at 16:30. She entered the wet basin, shortly after NMF's RIVER LUNE departed from #5 Dry Dock.

On Saturday morning's tide she was reported to be entering A&P#5 Dry Dock. Around 10:00 she was noted to be in the mouth of the dock at something of an unusual angle presumably due to the gale force winds.

After a while she retreated back into the river, the dock gate closed and she appeared to be heading back to the wet basin. 

ISLE OF INISHMORE - All sailings on the Rosslare - Pembroke route on Saturday March 20 were cancelled due to adverse conditions.


Stena issued the following press release concerning the recent acquisition of the Fleetwood - Larne service.

"Our ambition is to continue to grow on the Irish Sea . The new route means that we can improve services by offering our customers increased flexibility and capacity," says Michael McGrath, Freight Director for Stena Line.

With the addition of this route to our already extensive ferry network, Stena Line offers its freight customers a wider range of route options and services on the Irish Sea . Customers can now choose between: Stranraer-Belfast, Fleetwood-Larne, Holyhead-Dublin, Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire and Fishguard-Rosslare for their transport needs to/from Ireland and the UK/continental Europe .

The vessels on the Fleetwood-Larne route are Stena Leader, Stena Seafarer and Stena Pioneer. Together they increase Stena Line's total freight capacity on the
Irish Sea by 20-25%. All services on the route will continue without interruption throughout the change in ownership.

"It was extremely important for us to establish a diagonal line between mainland
Britain and Northern Ireland ," says Frank Nieuwenhuys, Freight Commercial Manager, UK & Republic of Ireland. "We are now able to meet the needs of clients with different freight characteristics and serving different markets," he adds.

The addition of the Fleetwood-Larne service to Stena Line Freight's portfolio is a vital step in meeting customers' demands for both long and short sea crossings The service will cater for accompanied and unaccompanied freight, and will operate to the same timetable as previously offered.


It is reported that the Windermere Care ferry MALLARD may be out of service for six weeks for maintenance work which will result in the suspension of the service.

Work is expected to commence on April 18 whilst the council  carries out a "blitz" on the vessel which carries over a quarter-of-a-million people across the lake between Far Sawrey and Bowness
each year. 

The work will involve removing the ferry from the water, renewing paintwork and combating the effects of corrosion.

CCC's project manager John Robinson said: "Every year there is some basic maintenance on the boat and every five years there is some significant maintenance done. We have to take it out of the water, clean it, paint it and do a major refit.

"The ferry was commissioned in 1991 and operates every 20 minutes, each day of the year apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so the machinery needs maintenance from time to time to keep it going."

He added: "We have said six weeks as an initial estimate but if we can get the work done in four then we will."

But John Moffat, property manager at Hill Top, the former home of Beatrix Potter at Near Sawrey, fears the closure will affect the popular tourist attraction at a peak time of year.

He said: "We have been looking at the plans for closure in quite a bit of detail and we realise why the closure has to go ahead. But it would have been much easier for us if the repairs had been done during our winter closing period."

He added: "We will probably be affected to some extent by the ferry cancellations but it is more likely to be the visitors who will miss out. Many people have never been on a ferry before and taking the boat across the lake is part of the experience for them."

A pedestrian ferry service will be provided over the six-week period running from Bowness Bay across to Ferry House.

Meanwhile, hopes of raising extra money for the ferry through a high-profile sponsorship deal have been dashed after the company behind the proposal pulled out.

An unnamed national retailer with local connections had approached the county council about sponsoring the vessel late last year and councillors agreed in December that the deal could go ahead.

The move would have been a potential money-spinner for the ferry and would have given the retailer major exposure.

"Talks have gone dead after the company looked at its figures again, and the deal has withered on the vine," said Mr Robinson.

The company had proposed a major cash contribution to the £260,000 cost of the ferry refit.


SAGA MOON provided cover on the Heysham - Belfast service this week whilst RIVER LUNE under went a short dry docking at A&P Birkenhead this week.

From next week, the MERCHANT BRAVERY and RIVER LUNE will operate Heysham - Dublin and VARBOLA, MERCHANT BRILLIANT and SAGA MOON Heysham - Belfast. This is due to more capacity being needed on the Southern route with the gradual closure of P&O's Mostyn service. The change will give Dublin a capacity for around 34 extra units per day.


EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR - adverse conditions on March 20 disrupted the Dublin - Cherbourg sailing. The 1200 departure from Dublin was rescheduled to 18:00 and omitted its call on the southbound run at Rosslare.

March 17
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Jenny Williamson, Kevin Bennett, Alex Mc. Cormac and "others"


SUPERSEACAT TWO - adverse weather conditions resulted in sailings being cancelled on Monday and Tuesday. However, the ship did get away to Dublin on Wednesday March 17.

MONA'S ISLE - the short lived ex Townsend Thoresen FREE ENTERPRISE III which trade as AL FAHAD following her sale to Egyptian owners was  photographed apparently abandoned with a severe list off the Saudi Coast on March 11. [ for link to the Shipping Newsletter which contains the photograph. Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view]


STENA ADVENTURER will operate a special St Patrick's Party Night Cruise on Friday from Dublin to Holyhead and back hosted by 2FM DJ Gerry Ryan. Tickets are €25 inclusive of drinks reception with the captain and a buffet style dinner.



Preliminary Financial Results for the Year Ended 31 December 2003


a.. Group turnover rose 8.9% to £297.4m (2002: £273.0m)

b.. Group operating profit up 5.8% to £65.7m (2002: £62.1m)

c.. Profit before tax £53.7m (2002: £53.3m)

d.. Underlying* profit before tax for the year £55.2m (2002: £54.6m)

e.. Earnings per share 45.1p (2002: 44.5p)

f.. Underlying* earnings per share up 2.0% to 46.9p (2002: 46.0p)

g.. Increased final dividend of 16.0p, making total for the year of 23.1p, up 7.4% (2002: 21.5p)Continued strong cash flow

h.. Princes Dock: positive news on lettings and developments
  * before goodwill amortisation and exceptional items

Commenting on the results, Chairman Gordon Waddell said:

"The Group's performance in 2003 was in line with our expectations and a stronger second half delivered growth in our core ports business.

"The Group's recent investment programme is beginning to deliver growth and the beneficial impact should be evident for several years. This programme has been enhanced by substantial customer investments at the Group's main port locations, reflecting confidence in our portfolio and its prospects.

"The Board is confident that the strengthening performance in the second half of the year represents a sustainable trend, and looks forward to further progress in 2004."


For some time there has been speculation concerning the provision of an on-river container terminal which would obviate the need for vessels to enter the dock system and also cater for the new generation of larger container ships which are unable to pass through Gladstone Lock.

MDHC is presently carrying out a feasibility study which should be completed before the end of 2004

If undertaken the project would involve the creation of a new retaining wall from Gladstone Lock in the south to the river wall at West Seaforth. The area between the new and existing river wall would be in filled to create a 40 acre site for container handling.

The company is hoping that the project would attract European Objective One Funding.


The Blackpool Evening Gazette reported on March 16 that the Knott End ferry has won a reprieve for one year.

Wyre Council's ruling cabinet decided last night that a stop-gap summer service should operate on the route this year, starting from April 9. he decision is a U-turn for the cabinet, who last year voted. to axe
the ferry with immediate effect on the grounds that it was too expensive.

Lancashire County Council had promised to spend £500,000 on a new ferry and improvements to landing stages at Fleetwood and Knott End in return for Wyre Council operating an all-year-round service - a commitment council bosses said they could not afford.

However, a new deal has now been brokered between the local authority and operators Wyre Waste Management, of Fleetwood, which will see the traditional ferryboat HARVESTER back on the Wyre estuary this summer. Wyre Waste Management has provided a summer service using HARVESTER for the last two years.

The announcement was made by physical environment portfolio holder, Coun Peter Hawley last night, following extensive talks between the council and the operator.

He said: "The winners in all this are the people of Wyre and the tourists who come to visit the many attractions we have to offer." Preesall councillor Gordon McCann, who chaired the committee which
looked into the ferry operation, described the about-turn as a sensible response to public concern.

He said: "The decision to run the ferry service is a victory for common sense. It was obvious to everyone that the original contract was far too expensive for Wyre's council tax payers to bear.

"This decision will give us breathing space to negotiate an affordable ferry service, now that all parties are aware of the value the residents of Knott End and Preesall put on the service."

Talks will go ahead to ensure the ferry's long-term future. Wyre Council has readvertised for potential operators.

And consultations with Lancashire County Council are ongoing in the hope of reducing the requirements for a permanent service, or securing more funding.

Coun McCann said: "There are some tough negotiations to come if we are to see the ferry continue operating in the future."


The final passenger sailing from Mostyn will be undertaken on Saturday by EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR. The EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR will then operate from relief sailings from Liverpool.

EUROPEAN ENVOY will continue to operate a single ship freight service from Mostyn until the advertised closure date of April 04, however, accommodation is for freight drivers only.


ANASTASIS is scheduled to visit Merseyside between June 14 and July 04. She will be open to the public with organised tours of the ship. For more information on Mercy Ships visit: .


The company has reported to have been in talks with Neptune Developments with a view to the reinstatement of the New Brighton Ferry service on a seasonal basis for visitors.

Neptune Developments is planning a multimillion pound redevelopment of New Brighton which would include the provision of a pier. The company would like to see either a dedicated ferry service or to provide facilities for the present summer down river cruise service to call at the pier.

The New Brighton Ferry service was withdrawn in 1972, with the demolition of the Ferry Pier and Landing Stage occurring soon afterwards. The Promenade Pier was demolished in the early 1980s.


PONT-AVEN - the new £100m cruise ferry was expected in Plymouth today for trails prior to entering service on Wednesday March 24 when she makes her maiden voyage to Santander in Spain at 16:00.

March 14
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Trevor Kidd, John Williams, Tommy Dover and "others"



Additional updates were posted on March 11 and 13. Check "What's New" for details. The news bulletin was updated on March 11. See below this bulletin.


SUPERSEACAT TWO - missed another sailing to Dublin on Sunday March 14 due to adverse weather conditions. Traffic being switched to Irish Ferries. SSC2's 21:00 sailing to Douglas was also cancelled.

LADY OF MANN - was again reactivated to cover the 21:00 Sunday and 07:00 Monday sailings.


RAPIDE re-entered service as planned with the 07:40 Belfast - Troon sailing on March 12. However, services were disrupted on March 14 due to adverse weather conditions. Traffic being switched to P&O.


Details of the Liverpool Ship Show to be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, adjacent to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company terminal, can be found at:


SUPERSTAR EXPRESS departed from A&P Birkenhead #5 dry dock on the afternoon tide on March 13, 2004. She is now at Larne where she will undergo internal refurbishment before entering service on April 08.


QUEEN VICTORIA the Fincantieri new build for Carnival Corporation which is currently under construction will not now be named at Liverpool in spring 2005 as had been hoped.

The reason given is the lack of progress in providing an extension to Prince's Landing Stage.

Work should have begun this spring, but is now unlikely to start until Autumn at the earliest.

Delays in granting a harbour revision order is apparently the reason why it has not been possible to proceed with construction on schedule.

It also appears that according to Southampton press reports, QUEEN VICTORIA may not be based in Southampton for dedicated UK cruising as originally announced. The company is now reportedly planning a new strategy for the future QUEEN VICTORIA. 

Though no announcement has been made, it is speculated that QUEEN VICTORIA will spend her winters in the Caribbean and summers in the Mediterranean, giving Southampton a miss.


scotmarinerarrival0304.JPG (50737 bytes)Coaster visitors to Wicklow port this week included RIKA , SCOT VENTURE , SCOT MARINER , KORALLE and BALTIC MAGDA.

Traffic in the bay included EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR south for France, 2 Air Corp ' Dauphin '  helicopters , the Coastguard SAR helicopter and HMS CORNWALL ( F99 ) south out of Dublin.  

hmscornwall04.JPG (54588 bytes)

Commissioners of Irish Lights tender GRANUAILE anchored in Wicklow Bay overnight late in the week. GRANUAILE has been working on buoys along the Wicklow coast.

Wicklow Lifeboat station's ''Tyne ' class boat ANNIE BLAKER returned from Devon during lordsaltoun001.JPG (69101 bytes)the week following a refit and went back on station. 

The relief lifeboat LORD SALTOUN then departed for Baltimore in Cork .




A&P Falmouth, part of the A&P Group, has won two significant orders for March this year (2004). The first involves the 31,290 dwt containership Safmarine Europe, which is part of Safmarine’s Great White fleet. The vessel, due on March 12th, will be in the shipyard for 24 days, work including underwater hull cleaning and painting, refurbishment of three deck cranes and renewal of approximately 40 tonnes of steel in the peak tank, deep tank, wing tank and double bottom tanks, cargo holds (including cell guides), hatch covers and shell plating.

The second contract is from Sweden’s DFDS Tor Line involving the 8,696 dwt freight ferry Tor Anglia, which operates out of Felixstowe. The vessel, which is due on March 4th, will undergo a complete underwater hull blast and paint, cargo gear overhaul and test, removal of the starboard rudder and rudder stock in order to renew the stock seals. This is the second time a vessel from this owner has drydocked in A&P Falmouth, the ferry Admiral of Scandinavia being dry-docked in Falmouth during 2002.


UK’s A&P Group has won an important multi-million pound sterling Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract to refit the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol Ship HMS Endurance at its Falmouth shipyard. The contract will run between 14th June and 1st October 2004.

A&P Falmouth Commercial Director David Daniel said: "This contract was won against very tough competition. For the Group it is a major breakthrough into Royal Navy work as it is the first RN ship contract to be awarded to a commercial shipyard for over a decade."

Refit work onboard HMS Endurance will include complete hull blasting and repainting, general refit work, steelwork and the overhaul of main engines and auxiliary equipment. The 1990 built HMS Endurance, formerly the Polar Circle, is heading back to the UK from her annual deployment to the Antarctic. The refit will run from mid-June until October.

A&P Falmouth has just completed a four month long refit to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary RFA Argus. Managing director Peter Child said: "A&P Falmouth is becoming a centre of excellence for MoD work with the RFA and now we have won our first Royal Navy vessel."



At 14:33 on Saturday March 13 Liverpool Coastguard received an emergency call on VHF Channel 16 from the fishing vessel THE OCEAN HUNTER, reporting that it was on fire and the fire appeared to be out of control. 

After obtaining the position of the vessel by radio further contact was lost with THE OCEAN HUNTER. The vessel’s position was given as approximately 2 miles offshore on the west side of Wigtown Bay, southwest Scotland.

Liverpool Coastguard requested the attendance of the Kirkcudbright inshore lifeboat, Port William inshore rescue boat, Workington all-weather lifeboat, rescue helicopter 122 from Valley and Coastguard Rescue Teams from Kirkcudbright and Isle of Whithorn. 

The Kirkcudbright lifeboat located the burning vessel with a life raft close by, which was occupied by the sole crew member of THE OCEAN HUNTER. The man was uninjured and was transferred by lifeboat to Garlieston harbour. Kirkcudbright inshore lifeboat is standing by the disabled vessel.

THE OCEAN HUNTER is a 50ft wooden fishing vessel registered in the Isle Of Man. The skipper on board was a 33 year old local fisherman.


At 02:45 on March 14 Falmouth Coastguard launched an extensive search for a missing fishing vessel with three men on board, which was reported overdue after she failed to return to Newlyn on Saturday evening. There has been no contact with the vessel since she left Newlyn at 04:00 on Saturday morning.

The missing vessel, SABRE, a 30ft wooden boat had a three man crew from the Newlyn area on board. The alarm was raised by the wife of the skipper who informed Falmouth Coastguard that the vessel had not returned to Newlyn as expected on Saturday night, having left Newlyn to go to fishing grounds 13 miles south of the Lizard to retrieve nets which had been shot and left on the previous day.

Falmouth Coastguard immediately initiated a search involving the Penlee and Lizard lifeboats, the Coastguard Tug ANGLIAN PRINCESS, the fishing vessel OCEAN SPRAY and 2 merchant vessels. The search continues and an air search will commence at first light by the rescue helicopter from Culdrose and Coastguard Rescue Teams will search the coast from Mounts Bay to Falmouth.

By 07.45, Falmouth Coastguard were informed by the merchant vessel FASTWILL that she had located a life raft 1 mile off The Lizard and the Rescue helicopter from Culdrose was requested to attend and was on scene within minutes. Two crew members from the missing fishing vessel SABRE were airlifted from the life raft and transferred to Treliske hospital, Truro. The search continued for the third crew member.

It was reported that the SABRE had capsized and sunk at 19:00 on Saturday night after getting into difficulty in heavy seas.

Falmouth Coastguard redefined the search area following the location of the liferaft and the search for the missing crew member continued involving the Penlee and Lizard RNLI lifeboats, the Coastguard Tug ANGLIAN PRINCESS, the fishing vessel OCEAN SPRAY, the tug NEFTIGAS 57 and the rescue helicopter from Culdrose.

The search for the missing crew member was abandoned at 13:00 on Sunday.

Conditions on scene: SW force 7-8 with visibility of 3 miles.

March 11

Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Paul Evans - Internal Fire, Melanie Jane Richardson, Kevin Bennett, Ewin Wilmshurst, Alex McCormac, Michael Pryce and "others"


LADY OF MANN was back in service on the evening of March 11. Adverse conditions had led to the cancellation of the 21:00 Liverpool to Douglas sailing by SUPERSEACAT TWO. The LADY OF MANN is also scheduled to operate the 07:00 Douglas to Liverpool sailing.

Adverse conditions also led to the cancellation of the Liverpool - Dublin sailing on March 11.


The full timetables for 2004 are now available at .

BALMORAL - the Newbury Sirron engines are to be moved to "Internal Fire" The Museum of Power at Tan-y-groes, Ceredigion, Wales, next week. As they remain in running order the museum will install them with a view to them being run on a weekly basis during the summer.


The Liverpool Express feeder service that connects the UK with the Mediterranean is expected to cease in the next few days according to reports in Lloyd's List this week as it is no longer viable with increasing charter rates.


Irish Ferries has issued its preliminary statement for the Twelve Months to December 31, 2003.


  a.. Turnover €304.3m (+4%)
  b.. Car carryings 407,000 cars (+2%)
  c.. RoRo units 201,000 units (+9%)
  d.. Cashflow from operating activities €54.4m (-21%)
  e.. Operating Profit* €28.9m (-17%)
  f.. Adjusted EPS* 91.4c (+8%)
  g.. Redemption of redeemable shares at 15c per redeemable share.
  h.. Total redemption of redeemable shares for the year of 22.5c, a 14% increase on the 2002 total dividend of 19.665c.
  i.. Net debt €125m (-21%)
  j.. Share buyback of 5% of share capital at a cost of ?9.8m (2002: ?14.5m)
*before exceptional items and goodwill amortisation

It appears as though the company is on the acquisition trail and is looking to branch out into airline operation according to press reports  looking to acquire the state owned airline Aer Lingus


Barrow based James Fisher & Sons plc issued their report for the year ending December 31, 2003 on March 08 which showed good growth and continued strong cash flows.

The marine support services division now accounts for 41% (2002: 14%) of segmental operating profits before central and exceptional costs and has become the largest profit contributor, confirming James Fisher's strategy to grow its service businesses both organically and by acquisitions.  With the tankships division contributing a further 34% (2002: 32%), there is a reduced reliance on the cable ships division, where it has been considered prudent to write down cable ship NEXUS to its scrap value with an impairment provision of £4.8m.

Financial Highlights

* Turnover up 9% to £77.2m (2002: £71.1m).

* Total operating profit up 18% to £15.6m (2002: £13.2m), excluding NEXUS impairment.

* Pre-tax profit, excluding NEXUS impairment, up 4% to £10.1m (£5.4m after impairment; 2002 - £9.7m).

* Basic earnings per share after adjustment for NEXUS impairment is 19.01p and (2002 before tax credit: 18.63p) - before adjustment 9.04p (2002: 21.11p).

* Final dividend of 4.30p (2002: 3.74p), making a total dividend of 6.77p (2002: 5.94p), up 14%.

Operational Highlights

* Tankships division: Profits up 30% to £6.06m; fleet modernisation programme; UK market leader.

* Marine support services division: Now largest profit contributor with segmental operating profit of £7.32m (2002: £2.15m); expansion in defence, North Sea, non-defence areas, including nuclear industry; primary area for growth.

* Cable ships division: Segmental operating profit down to £4.3m before NEXUS impairment (2002: £7.9m) on conclusion of NEXUS charter and weaker dollar impact on other charter income.

* Higher quality earnings and good returns on capital in core divisions.

Commenting on the Outlook, Chairman, Tim Harris, CBE, said:

'The strength of James Fisher's marine service capabilities is demonstrated by the overall growth in profits in 2003 despite a deterioration in profit from cable ships.  Early signs of recovery in this cyclical market may be
emerging. Overall, tankships is well placed to produce strong cash flows and a growing trend in profitability.  Marine support services profitability has grown dramatically during 2003.  We plan to continue this growth both organically and by acquisition.

Trading in the year to date has been in line with expectations and we are well placed to continue producing growth in profitability and dividends for our shareholders.'

The full annual report and accounts can be found at

Of particular interest to fleet watchers buried in the annual report is the news that Ministry of Defence intends to exercise their purchase option on the RFA OAKLEAF in September 2004.


Several hundred thousand visitors are expected to descend on Waterford in July 2005 after the city beat off competition from 23 locations in Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe to secure host port status for Tall Ships' Race 2005.

Dozens of eye-catching sailing vessels will gather in Waterford from July 6-9 before the first of the races in the 2005 series leaves the south-east port on July 9 for Cherbourg-Octeville in France . The global gathering of large sailing ships previously visited Cork in 1991 and Dublin in 1998.

A sense of the event's scale is evident from reviewing the statistics of the 2003 races when 102 ships from 18 different countries took part and approximately 6,000 young people from over 20 different countries participated as on-board trainees. Over three million people visited the fleet at the 2003 host ports of Gdynia , Turku , Riga and Luebeck Travemunde.

Speaking in Waterford at a reception to announce details of the city's hosting of next year's event on March 08, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, Mr Martin Cullen said that Tall Ships' Race 2005 would be the largest ever international event held in Waterford.

"On behalf of the elected members of Waterford City Council and indeed the people of Waterford , I wish all of those who will be involved in organising this major event every success between now and July next. I am sure that no individual or organisation in the city will be found wanting in terms of supporting the work of the organisers. Working together, we can ensure that Waterford excels as a host port and seizes the chance presented by our having the 2005 race series starting here."

Mr Nicholas Fewer, Chairperson, Tall Ships Races 2005 (Waterford), said that work was now at an advanced stage on bringing together the relevant statutory and private bodies that will need to combine to ensure the smooth running of the major event which will concentrate on the south and north quays but have spin-off events across the city and region.

"The local organising team is very aware from having visited previous host ports of the vast scale of this event. We are also conscious of the immense opportunity that Tall Ships Race 2005 presents to Waterford and the Event Manager, Ms Olivia O'Reilly of Waterford City Council, will work along with our management committee as well as other specialist committees to ensure that everything runs smoothly in the run-up to July 2005 when our city will be en fete as never before.

"As Minister Cullen and the Mayor have acknowledged, converting the opportunity that this event presents to a successful event will be a major undertaking and we are about to embark on a fundraising drive that will target potential sources of public and private funding. A properly resourced and marketed event will put Waterford in the media spotlight and leave a legacy of increased awareness of the city and its hinterland among generally high-spending sailing and boating enthusiasts."


Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne has confirmed that the company, which has been operating the Ballycastle-Rathlin ferry service in Northern Ireland since 1996, has extended its contract to provide the service from 31 March, 2004 until 31 March, 2006.

The contract was signed at a ceremony held in Portrush, marking a visit by Company Chairman Dr Harold Mills and senior CalMac executives.

Dr Mills said: "We are delighted to have our contract as the operator of this service extended for a further two years and we look forward to developing our relationship with the communities of Rathlin and the mainland of Northern Ireland. The improvement in traffic on the route, which saw an increase in passenger traffic for the year 2003 of almost 20% (up to 46,562) is very welcome and reflects the additional resources we have devoted to marketing the route. This extension to the contract offers the company and the islanders continuity and comfort in terms of the future service."

This Ballycastle-Rathlin route continues to benefit from the general marketing activities undertaken by CalMac marketing to promote the Company and the brand as listed below, and benefit specifically from a local marketing plan with its own budget. The route will also be featuring more prominently in the company's marketing literature

Caledonian MacBrayne's marketing staff have included promotion of the Ballycastle/Rathlin service in their attendance at trade shows/consumer exhibitions.

A generic advertising campaign incorporating Scottish and UK daily/Sunday press, tourist board publications and other publications in industry sectors (especially niche market titles) is also in place. Northern Ireland micro-marketing will be included.


Moves are reported to be underway by the Department of the Marine to take
over the running of Rosslare Europort within the next two years. 

Rosslare Europort is Ireland's busiest passenger port. The port is currently under the control of the Department of Transport, with Iarnród Éireann as its port authority. Talks are also underway over the planned amalgamation of the three biggest ports in the southeast - Rosslare Europort, New Ross and Waterford port - in an effort to expand services and create more jobs.


The company was ordered by Liverpool Crown Court to pay fines and costs exceeding £300,000 following the death of a worker in an Accident. 

Derek Wells was killed by a reversing vehicle. P&O Ferries Irish Sea pleaded guilty to a breach of duty to an employee and breaching Health and Safety regulations

James McKeown, prosecuting, said the tragedy happened on September 14, 2001, when the machine was being driven by the victim's friend, John McCann.

There was insufficient lighting, a camera fitted to the rear of the vehicle was too high up and the driver's view was obstructed by stanchions, he said. The reversing klaxon was also unclear because of other noise.

John Corless for the defence, said the company had paid compensation to Mr Wells' family and had since spent pounds £23,000 on improving the working system.

The judge Bryn Holloway granted leave to appeal.

Meanwhile in Ireland the company has won a Supreme Court ruling the to stop carrying live animal exports on the Rosslare - Cherborg route. This now means that Irish farmers are being left with no way to export live cattle out of the country. The landmark ruling could cost farmers millions of euro. Last year P&O exported over 100,000 live animals.

It has been claimed that no other shipping company has the capacity to export such large numbers.

ICMSA President Pat O'Rourke has said it will have a devastating impact on Irish agriculture.

He said: "In Ireland we are essentially land-locked as we are the only country in Europe who cannot export live animals. The issue must be addressed by the Minister for Agriculture."


Sea Containers announced its full year results for 2003 on March 09, 2004.

It should be noted in the report that Sea Containers is evaluating three possible additions to its ferry business portfolio.

For the fourth quarter net earnings were $11.6 million ($0.54 per common share diluted) on revenue of
$433.2 million, compared with net earnings of $14 million ($0.67 per common share diluted) on revenue of $409.7 million in the prior year period.

For the year ended December 31, 2003 net earnings were $111.4 million ($5.20 per common share diluted) on revenue of $1.68 billion, compared with net earnings of $41.9 million ($2.08 per common share diluted) on revenue of $1.43 billion in 2002.  Excluding gain on sale of ferry assets and non-recurring charges, net earnings in 2003 were $57.4 million, up 37% over 2002.

EBITDA in 2003 was $319.5 million compared with $247.3 million in 2002.

Mr. James B. Sherwood, President, said that results from passenger and freight transport operations at the EBIT level were $10 million less in 2003 than in 2002 as a result of sale of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company in July, 2003, however, savings in finance costs were $10.6 million as a result of debt reduction through elimination of the Steam Packet debt and retirement of $136 million of senior notes using the proceeds from the sale.

Silja's profits at the EBIT level declined from $54.1 million in 2002 to $42.9 million in 2003, partially as a result of consolidating 100% of the equity in that unit for all of 2003 while consolidating only 50% in the first four months of 2002 which is a loss making period.  2002 also benefited from a cruise ship charter termination payment and an arbitration award.

GNER's profits at the EBIT level increased in 2003 to $84.1 million from $68.9 million in 2002 as a result of increased passenger volumes and compensation payments by Network Rail.  15.1 million passengers were carried, a record in the eight year period of the present franchise.

EBIT from container leasing and related activities rose from $23.5 million in 2002 to $36 million in 2003, an increase of 53%.  GE SeaCo, the company's 50-50 joint venture with GE Capital, placed on lease $204 million of new containers in 2003 and Sea Containers' fully owned factory, depot and service operations enjoyed greatly improved results.

The company's property, plantations and publishing division reported profits at the EBIT level of $6.6 million, up 47% from $4.5 million in 2002.  Land sales at the port of Newhaven and increased profits from the company's table grape plantation in Brazil were largely responsible for this improvement.

The company's investment in Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. contributed $10.9 million to net earnings in 2003 compared with $14.7 million in 2002 as a result of lower earnings in the year and a lower shareholding compared with 2002.  Sea Containers currently owns 14.4 million common shares in
Orient-Express Hotels which have a current market value of approximately $270 million.

Long term debt obligations declined from $1.8 billion at the end of 2002 to $1.6 billion at the end of 2003.

Mr. Sherwood highlighted some current events which affect the company. First, discussions are at an advanced stage with the U.K. Strategic Rail Authority to pay them part of the settlement reached in 2003 with Network Rail with respect to Network Change arising from the Hatfield rail accident
in October, 2000.  This payment has been taken into account in the earnings reported by GNER for 2003.  The proposed agreement would also release approximately $53 million of cash to Sea Containers which is being held to secure franchise obligations.

Second, Sea Containers has reached an agreement in principle to acquire seven container businesses in Australia and New Zealand from the Owens Group and to sell its interest in the Westfield Container Depot in Auckland, New Zealand for a net amount of NZ$11.5 million (US$8 million).  This investment
is being made at an EBITDA multiple of about 3.5x and will greatly strengthen the company's participation in the refrigerated and tank container service and transport businesses in Australasia which are outside the GE SeaCo joint venture.

Looking forward to 2004, Mr. Sherwood said that the following developments could be significant:

1.   A severe shortage of steel in China has forced new container prices up by 25% in recent months and higher lease rates should follow both for new containers and existing containers.  New containers are being rationed by manufacturers to all buyers, whether leasing companies or ocean carriers. Container lease rates for older containers are expected to rise rapidly until steel availability improves.  This situation will probably reduce the on-take of new containers by GE SeaCo from the $204 million level achieved in 2003 to perhaps only $150 million in 2004.

2.   Fuel prices are running at higher than expected levels although the company has generally been able to buy low sulphur heavy fuels for its fleet at acceptable prices.  Of greater concern is the cost of gasoline which is used by the fast ferries and the gas turbine ship Fanjet in the second and third quarters of 2004.

3.   The company is actively engaged in bidding for the new Integrated Kent commuter rail franchise as well as re-bidding for the GNER franchise which terminates in April, 2005.  New franchise decisions are expected by the end of 2004.

4.   The company is currently evaluating three possible additions to its ferry business portfolio.

5.   The benefits of moving to seasonal fast ferry operation in the British Isles services will be realized in 2004.

6.   The entry of the Baltic States into the European Union in May, 2004 is likely to increase passenger carryings on Silja's services to those countries and the Fanjet will inaugurate its new service between Germany, Estonia and Russia in mid year.

7.   The outlook for Orient-Express Hotels is for an improved profit in 2004.

"In sum, the earnings prospects for 2004 are encouraging," he concluded.

Mr. Daniel J. O'Sullivan, Chief Financial Officer, highlighted positive financial news by reporting that Silja's $67 million of bonds falling due in February, 2004 have been redeemed with syndicated bank debt.  He said Sea Containers plans to sell up to $150 million of new 10 year unsecured senior
notes in April, 2004 to retire as soon as practicable $80 million of 12.5% debentures which mature in December, 2004 but which can be called today without premium.  The balance of the funds has been earmarked for acquisitions, failing which it will be used for debt reduction or other corporate purposes.  He said the roadshow in connection with the sale of the new notes would be helpful in bringing the company to the attention of new equity investors.

Mr. O'Sullivan said that an additional $6 million non-recurring charge had been recognized in the fourth quarter of 2003 for old refrigerated containers which the company has decided not to refurbish for continued use.

Mr. O'Sullivan noted that at the December, 2003 presentations to investors he had indicated the company's plan to reduce long term debt to $800 million by the end of 2006.  He said this program was still achievable despite the planned new note issue if the market price of Orient-Express Hotels rises to $30 by then, which he considered a reasonable target.  He confirmed that the company met all its financial lending covenants at the end of 2003

March 07
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Tony Brennan, John Lewis, Ian Collard, Michael Bracken, Tommy Dover, Hugh Warner and "others".


HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN remains at Harland and Wolff in Belfast. 



The number of scheduled departures from the Island rose from 673,279 in 2002 to 683,563 in 2003, an increase of 1.5%.

Of the total, 369,433 (54%) departed by air and 314,130 (46%) by sea.

Initial results from the Passenger Survey show that Isle of Man residents accounted for 346,145 departures - just over half of all passenger traffic.

Estimates of the breakdown of visitors to the Island in 2003 are as follows (figures for 2002 in brackets):-

  • The number of visitors staying in paid accommodation was 114,207 (113,978)

  • Those staying with friends or relatives accounted for 127,814 (117,165)

  • A total of 88,385 (87,536) were trips made by business visitors

  • The number who came to the Island for a day trip was 7,012 (8,081)

The full Passenger Survey, providing detailed results for all passenger traffic departing the Island in 2003, will be available later in the year.


STENA ADVENTURER sailed to Belfast for her brief inspection dry docking on Sunday March 07. The ELITE also remains at Harland and Wolf.


Coaster callers to Wicklow port included SCOT PIONEER, EMMAPLEIN, KOLLUND and UNION EMERALD.

The Manx coaster BEN VARREY anchored in the bay for a short period midweek.

LE CIARA made a unexpected visit to Wicklow harbour early in the week, this is the first visit to the port by a Irish Navel vessel since the mid 1980s.The vessel a former Royal Navy ' Peacock ' patrol vessel ( HMS SWALLOW ) was stationed at Hong Kong before being acquired by the Irish Government in 1989.

Traffic in the bay included a Air Corp ' CASA ' aircraft and Coastguard s61n helicopter callsign ' Mike Echo ' , 

Wicklow lifeboat launched on exercise with the Coastguard helicopter late in the week.

asgard2mar04_02.JPG (61590 bytes)GRANUAILE was working on buoy's along the Wicklow coast this week. She anchored overnight in the bay on one occasion.

Another visitor to the port was STV ASGARD II seen here on March 04.




Airbus announced this week that its roll-on and roll-off sea (ro-ro) vessel built for transporting A380 components was christened "VILLE DE BORDEAUX" at a ceremony held in Nanjing in East China's Jiangsu Province last week.

The 5,200-dwt roll-on and roll-off vessel measures 154.15 meters long, 24 meters wide and 21.85 meters deep with a watertight stern door of 22 meters by 14 meters. It has a cargo deck space of 6,720 square meters and holds as much as 1,805 "lanes meters".

Airbus will charter the vessel to transport A380 sections by sea from Airbus sites in the UK, Germany, France and Spain to the French city port of Bordeaux. The vessel was built by the Nanjing-based Jinling Shipyard and commissioned by FRET/Cetam.

Specially designed barges will then carry the components along the Garonne River, from Bordeaux to the river harbour of Langon. Here the aircraft components will be transferred to road trailers to continue the final part of the journey to the final assembly line in Toulouse.

In April, the vessel will be delivered to the city of Yizheng on the Yangtze River and sail downstream to Shanghai before eventually arriving in Europe.

This vessel will call at Mostyn to convey the wing sections delivered from the BAe factory at Broughton by Holyhead Towing's AFON DYFRDWY currently fitting out at Birkenhead by Mc.Tay Marine.

March 04
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Ian Collard, Kevin Bennett and "others".


SUPERSEACAT TWO missed her sailing to Dublin on Wednesday March 03.


RAPIDE departed Harland & Wolff around 18:00 on March 03 and was towed back to her Belfast berth. 


A passenger appeared to jump from the 16:30 sailing from Tarbert to Kilimer on Wednesday March 03. 

The victim, believed to be from Lissycasey in Clare, was on the 4.30pm Shannon Ferries, which was sailing from Tarbert in Co Kerry to Killimer in Co Clare. It is also understood that a brother of the dead man witnessed the tragedy.

Several motorists on board the ferry watched helplessly as crew members scrambled to save the man, but he was swept under the boat's propellers and sustained fatal injuries. The crew managed to recover his body, but efforts to revive him failed, and he was pronounced dead by a local doctor shortly after the ferry docked in Killimer.

Gardaí immediately began interviewing witnesses, forcing the cancellation of the 17:00 sailing to Tarbert.

A garda spokesman said: "We have interviewed a number of people who were on board the ferry at the time. It is too early yet to say what happened, although we are satisfied ourselves about the circumstances."


STENA ADVENTURER will be off service this Sunday and Monday for inspection. As a result the following sailings will be cancelled:

            Sunday 7 March
            Holyhead - Dublin 0230hrs & 1430hrs
            Dublin - Holyhead 0830hrs & 2045hrs

            Monday 8 March
            Holyhead - Dublin 0230hrs
            Dublin - Holyhead 0830hrs

First scheduled service will be the Holyhead to Dublin 1430hrs sailing Monday 8 March 2004.


Human  error was largely to blame for the Lough Foyle ferry running aground off the coast of Co Derry last year, a report has concluded.

Several people were slightly injured and a number of vehicles damaged when the Magilligan to Greencastle ferry crashed into a sandbank near the Magilligan terminal on September 7.

An investigation was launched by the  Department of Marine and Natural Resources.

It is understood that the findings of the investigation is that the grounding occurred when  the ferry veered slightly off course, although the low tide at the time is also believed to have been a contributory factor.

Last year's incident was the first major problem experienced by the ferry, which has enjoyed huge success since it was launched in 2002.

The service transports thousands of people each week from Magilligan to the Inishowen area of Donegal.


A campaign has been launched to investigate the provision of a car ferry between Greenore, County Louth and Greencastle County Down.


The St Mawes Ferry Company which operated between Falmouth and St. Mawes in Cornwall  has recommenced its Sunday service running a ferry service between Falmouth and St Mawes seven days a week.

The Sunday Service will start on Sunday as follows:

Prince of Wales Pier (Falmouth) St Mawes Pier

1015 1045

1115 1145

1315 1345

1415 1445

1545 1615


March 01
Acknowledgements: Gary Andrews, Michael Pryce, Alex McCormac, Dan Cross and "others"


Barrow based James Fisher and Sons plc , announced on February 27 that it had concluded the sale and ten-year bareboat charters for the two 12,800 dwt clean petroleum product carriers, acquired in December of last year. 

These vessels are under construction at Samho Shipbuilding in Korea with deliveries scheduled for late 2004 and early 2005. The transaction has been completed with First Ship Lease Limited ('FSL'), a company specialising in finance of shipping assets. 

FSL have taken over the new building contracts and the vessels will be constructed under the supervision of James Fisher (Shipping Services) Ltd. On delivery from the yard the ships will enter 10-year bareboat charters with Fisher. 

FSL assumes full residual value risk at the end of the charter period and, subject to certain terms and conditions, Fisher has the option to extend the charter for a further 5 years.

The bareboat arrangements continue Fisher's fleet development without further capital commitment. The new tonnage tax regime makes this attractive as the Company no longer requires capital allowances from the purchase of vessels to minimise tax. 

Fishers acquired the new building contracts in December 2003. At 31 December 2003, payments of £7.3m had been made under the contracts for these vessels and were held on James Fishers' balance sheet. These payments have been refunded as a result of the arrangements with FSL. The obligations under the shipbuilding contracts have been assumed by FSL. 

The vessels will join James Fisher Tankships' ('Tankships') eighteen ship fleet of coastal clean petroleum product carriers. Tankships is the market leader in this trade, carrying in excess of six million tonnes of product under contract for the major oil companies. 

Nick Henry, Managing Director of James Fisher Tankships Limited, said: 'Our fleet redevelopment plans confirm our ability to provide the oil majors with a young fleet of quality tonnage. These 12,800 tonne ships are destined to be used in our existing contract programme, complementing the smaller vessels and ensuring we always provide the flexibility that customers require.' 

Chairman of James Fisher, Tim Harris, commented: 'These bareboats complete the arrangement we intended on purchase of the two vessels at the end of last year. Fleet modernisation, using bareboat charters, fits within our declared strategy as a tonnage tax company and, compared with tax leasing and KG financing alternatives, FSL offered attractive terms.


A deadline of March 11 has been set for reaching an agreement over manning levels on the company's ships. 


The NMF web site announces that passenger services on the Birkenhead - Dublin route recommence on March 29. However, no schedule or fare details are shown as yet.



P&O and Stena AB announced on March 1 that they have signed a binding Memorandum of Understanding for Stena to purchase part of P&O's ferry operations and some of its assets on the Irish Sea

Stena will acquire P&O's Fleetwood-Larne route, including the three ferries European Leader, European Pioneer and European Seafarer, and the two P&O ferries currently operating on the Mostyn-Dublin route, European Ambassador and European Envoy. The transaction, which is subject to finalisation of contracts and employee consultation, is anticipated to complete on 5 April.

The agreement follows the decision by the UK Competition Commission last month to block a proposal from 2003 which included the transfer of P&O's Liverpool-Dublin route to Stena. In so doing, the Commission concluded that the transfer of the Fleetwood-Larne route to Stena would not raise any competition concerns.

Following the previously announced Irish Sea transaction, consultations commenced with employees about the possible closure of the loss-making Mostyn-Dublin service, of P&O' s shore side operations at the Port of Mostyn and the Fleetwood head office. These will now be resumed. P&O will continue to operate its successful Liverpool-Dublin route with the same ships - Norbay and NORBANK - as at present.

Commenting on the announcement, Managing Director of P&O Ferries, Russ Peters, said "The proposed transaction is in line with our policy of focusing on our higher yielding ferry routes where we have a competitive advantage. Although some of the details have changed, the transaction would in effect achieve much of what we originally proposed last year."

Under the terms of the deal, Stena will pay P&O approximately £50 million in cash. As P&O's investment in assets at the Port of Mostyn will not be recovered if the Mostyn-Dublin route is closed, and the disposal proceeds will be less than the current book values of the assets being sold, P&O will write down the value of the relevant assets in its balance sheet as at 31 December 2003. This will result in an exceptional impairment charge of approximately £24 million in P&O's 2003 accounts.

P&O will continue to operate services on the Liverpool-Dublin, Larne-Cairnryan, Larne-Troon and Rosslare-Cherbourg routes.



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