A look back nearly 40 years to 1983 and a fold-out brochure from Belfast Car Ferries promoting their service to Liverpool. The service itself had only commenced in Mary 1982, replacing the service that P&O had closed the previous November. The single ship, ST COLUM I, sailed from Belfast to Liverpool overnight and returned during the day. The sailing time was about 9 hours.
The service used the terminal at Donegall Quay in Belfast City Centre (in later years this was used by SeaCat) and Langton Dock in Liverpool.
Having become part of Irish Continental Group a few years previously, the service closed in 1990 following financial issues at the parent company. ST COLUM I herself had proved problematic, with recurrent technical issues (not helped by her intensive schedule having little time for layover) leading to cancelled sailings. The schedule would also prove less attractive to hauliers than the alternatives due to having only a single sailing in each direction per day.
The following year Norse Irish Ferries was established to resurrect the route to Liverpool. The new service learned from the problems with the previous service and focussed on freight, offering two sailings in each direction on most days. The Belfast terminal was located at the brand-new purpose-built facility at Victoria Terminal 2 closer to the river entrance, while the Liverpool terminal was at Brocklebank Dock. The service continues to this day as Belfast to Birkenhead, having passed to Stena Line via Norse Merchant, Norfolk Line and DFDS.
The ship pictured in the brochure is ST COLUM I. She was originally built by Schichau Unterweser as ST PATRICK for Irish Continental Line’s new Ireland to France service to the same design as Lion Ferry’s PRINCE OF FUNDY. Lion Ferry was one of the initial partners in Irish Continental Line. In 1982 she became surplus on the French run after she was replaced by ST PATRICK II, and so was used to establish a new service from Belfast to Liverpool. Initially renamed ST COLUMB, then again renamed ST COLUM I after apparent objections from Sealink due to the similarity to ST COLUMBA, she would stay with Belfast Car Ferries (later renamed Belfast Ferries) right until the end of the company. In 1990 she was sold to Greek interests. She was scrapped during 2005 in India.