Strangford Lough Ferry was the only service not to be affected by Storm Ali last Wednesday, with the lifeline service between Strangford and Portaferry managing to keep running despite the high winds resulting from the storm. Stena Line and P&O both cancelled their services to Scotland on Wednesday morning and early afternoon, while the Stena Line Birkenhead vessels were sailing behind schedule. The freight-only services were also affected, with STENA HIBERNIA and STENA SCOTIA making additional sailings between Belfast and Heysham on Sunday to clear the resulting backlog.
Further south Seatruck Ferries also experienced some delays down at Warrenpoint, while Scenic Carlingford Ferry had to cancel sailings for a period. All services have now returned to normal.
Lough Foyle Ferry finished until next year
Frazer Ferries “Scenic Lough Foyle Ferry” service ended its 2018 season as planned on Sunday 16th September. This year the service was served by not one but two different vessels at different times, though both FRAZER MARINER and Strangford Lough veteran STRANGFORD 1 were in service together at one stage. NIFS expects at least one of these vessels to make their way south to cover maintenance periods on the other routes in the Frazer Ferries portfolio such as that across Carlingford Lough, which was covered by FRAZER MARINER last year. While STRANGFORD 1 is the fleet “spare” vessel, NIFS believes FRAZER MARINER may be a more suitable replacement due to having a higher weight limit.
Rathlin Express to the rescue
Rathlin Island Ferry’s passenger catamaran RATHLIN EXPRESS rescued five divers from two small broken down boats on Sunday BBC News reports. Despite rough conditions the catamaran managed to pull up alongside both boats for those onboard to transfer to the ferry, and even attempted to take both vessels under tow! The Redbay and Portrush lifeboats brought the two vessels back under tow while RATHLIN EXPRESS returned to Ballycastle with the divers all unharmed.
Clipper Pennant in dry-dock
Former Warrenpoint – Heysham vessel CLIPPER PENNANT left Liverpool on Saturday evening for dry-docking at Cammell-Laird. She arrived at Dry Dock number 5 at approx. 10pm. CLIPPER PENNANT took her final Seatruck traffic for the time-being with an overnight voyage from Dublin to Liverpool, arriving in the Cheshire port on Friday Morning (22ndSept). Her place on the route has been taken by CLIPPER POINT which has been replaced on the Heysham – Dublin service by recently dry-docked sister SEATRUCK PANORAMA which was also on the Warrenpoint – Heysham route until the end of last month. NIFS understands that before commencing her previously reported charter with Canary Bridge Seaways she will have a short spell on charter to DFDS.
Meanwhile CLIPPER RANGER appears to be for sale. The former Belfast, Larne, and Warrenpoint to Heysham ferry is understood to be now surplus to requirements at Seatruck, and a vessel matching her description has appeared for sale at an online brokers site. She remains at Cammell-Laird’s Bidston Repair Berth.
Le Rif update
Acording to the FerryMaroc blog (in French), the owner operator of the former STENA GALLOWAY has been refused a licence to operate the vessel by the Moroccan department of Marine. The company, DWLM, had intended to use the extensively refurbished former North Channel favourite on her former route between Tangier Med and Algeciras. Earlier this month NIFS reported that although LE RIF had been refurbished she reportedly has engine problems and had to be towed back to La Spezia for further layup.
The POETA LOPEZ ANGLADA, better known in these parts as the former STENA NAVIGATOR, has moved to owner Baleària’s Almeria – Nador route. She had been operating the crossing between Almeria and Melilla (taking up to 8 hours) having moved from the much shorter Algeciras – Tangier Med route during the summer. Her current route between Spain and Morocco takes between 6 and 7 hours. In terms of accommodation NIFS understands she still remains unchanged from her time on the Belfast to Stranraer route, except for the replacement of some signage.
Former Belfast ferry to become “Zombie Experience”
The DUKE OF LANCASTER, which has spent decades abandoned near Mostyn in Wales, is to be used by a company called “Zombie Infection” from early 2019. They plan to turn her into a “Zombie Experience” were customers will be chased by trained actors around the vessel in what is billed as a premium immersive experience. The vessel remains owned by expat John Rowley who had planned to turn the vessel into a “fun ship” since it was beached/concreted-in during 1979. Prices start at £89.99 per person but a lower rate is available for groups of 10+.
Despite claims by Zombie Infection that she is a former ocean liner, DUKE OF LANCASTER spent the entirety of her operational life in European waters with the Bay of Biscay the closest she came to any ocean. DUKE OF LANCASTER was completed by Harland and Wolff in 1956 as a steam turbine powered passenger ferry and some-time cruise ship, though she was converted to a stern-loading car ferry at her builders yard in 1970. She operated on the British Rail / Sealink route between Belfast and Heysham from delivery from her builders until the route closed in 1975, when she moved to the Fishguard – Rosslare and Holyhead – Dun Laoghaire routes for a couple of years as a backup vessel before layup prior to her sale. Throughout 2017 work was undertaken to the exterior of the vessel which included repainting much of the vessel black, renewal of some steel work, and concreting in the area around the vessel with the addition of safety rails and a new access staircase. At the time nobody was able to find out who was responsible for this work being carried out, but that such work had been done seemed to indicate that somebody had taken an interest in putting her to use again.