[Photo Feature] Norbay’s visits to the North Channel 2009 – 2021

P&O Ferries’ NORBAY has just finished a period operating on the Larne – Cairnryan route.  The vessel was covering for the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY from 23 September to 6 October.  The vessel departed Larne with a one-off commercial sailing to Liverpool that evening.

The NORBAY is normally on P&O’s Liverpool – Dublin route.   Although built for the Hull – Rotterdam route in 1992, the ship has been Irish Sea based for almost twenty years.

NORBANK and NORBAY together at Dublin on the evening of 10 October 2021. Image: © Gordon Hislip.

NORBAY has been a regular visitor to Larne since 2009, looking after many of the biennial overhaul periods.  We take a brief look at some key moments of her visits to the North Channel.

NIFS thanks Trevor Kidd for his photographs and historical knowledge.

P&O Ferries NORBAY at Larne during 2011. Image © Trevor Kidd.

May and June 2009

The NORBAY’s first stint on the North Channel followed a dry-dock at Harland and Wolff, Belfast.

On 24 May 2009 she sailed from Belfast to Cairnryan for berthing trials before arriving at Larne’s Curran Quay.  This berth is the only one that she can currently use at Larne.  This is a different ramp to that normally used by the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER and EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY, that being MacKean Quay.

The NORBAY’s aforementioned stern modifications amounted to an extended section fitted on the starboard side of the ramp and support chains attached between the ramp and the stern to make the ramp self-supporting.  The Stern ramp was too wide to land on the old Cairnryan linkspan to operate normally and had to operate with the shore ramp fingers landing onto it.  This modification was also required in 2011 and 2013.

A closeup of the modifications made to NORBAY’s ramp in 2009 in order to make it self supporting and compatible with the old berth 1 ramp at Cairnryan. Image: © Trevor Kidd.

The NORBAY took up service from 26 May, covering for the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER. She operated three sailings per day in each direction, with no overnight trip on Saturdays/Sundays. The ship finished service on 21 June when the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY returned to service.

After sailing back to Liverpool that evening, the stern door modifications were removed prior to resuming the Dublin – Liverpool service. 

May and June 2011

The NORBAY arrived at Larne on 6 May, direct from refit at Birkenhead.  The ship entered service the following day once again operating three sailings each way most days.

The NORBAY completed refit cover for the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY and EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER on 5 June 2011.  

After discharging at Larne, she sailed to Troon.

From 1500 to 1615, NORBAY made two separate berth approaches to the ramp at Troon.  She turned outside Troon breakwater and ran into berth astern as well as another attempt this time turning inside the breakwater.  It was reported that she landed heavily and damaged a fender.  

The vessel sailed directly to Liverpool to resume service on the Central Corridor route.

May 2013

NORBAY once again dry-docked at Harland and Wolff, Belfast, sailing directly to Larne on 9 May.  

Her first sailing on 11 May, covering for the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER was to prove eventful.  NORBAY broke her moorings in high winds at Larne as she was about to sail to Cairnryan at 1200.  She was re-secured at Curran quay, assisted by the SARAH MCLOUGHLIN.    The sailing was abandoned, with the traffic discharged and transferred to the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY.   She finally entered service with a delayed 2000 sailing.

On 15 May, the vessel’s morning arrival from Cairnryan was abandoned due to high winds, with the vessel touring the Larne coast from around 0940 to 1645.  

The following week, the tug SALLY MCLOUGHLIN was brought from Belfast to assist the NORBAY at Larne during several days of bad weather.

The EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY got delayed at dry-dock.   Whilst NORBAY completed service on the North Channel on 30 May, returning to Liverpool the same day, a normal service wasn’t resumed until 10 June.  In the interim, EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER operated four roundtrips per day and the EXPRESS one roundtrip on the Cairnryan route.

April and May 2015

On 13 April, the NORBAY sailed from overhaul at Birkenhead to Cairnryan for berthing trials at the new Cairnryan linkspan. With the new linkspan in use, the earlier requirement for her stern door to be self-supporting and have the starboard side extension fitted was no longer needed.  

The vessel entered service on 14 April, initially covering for the EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER.  She completed service on 18 May when the EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY resumed service, returning to Liverpool the same day.

Recent years

The EUROPEAN SEAWAY provided Larne – Cairnryan refit cover in 2017 and 2019.  The ‘Seaway was to prove much more suitable cover with her twin-level drive-through decks.

EUROPEAN SEAWAY approaches Larne on her first full day of service, Saturday 6th May 2017. Copyright © Scott Mackey.

However, with that ship mothballed and for sale, it was the NORBANK that provided cover during spring 2021.

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