Islands tend to be served by locally based shipping companies and over a very long period. Note the coverage in my last Coastal Commentary of Mezeron at Ramsey that has served the Isle of Man for 30 years.
Island customers and local ship-owners tend to develop a relationship where mutual loyalty should be beneficial to both parties - so it was a shock in August when the Huelin Renouf Company, which for 80 years had served the Channel Islands from Southern England and Northern France, called in the administrators.
As I reported back in February they had recently taken a new ship on long term charter, Huelin Dispatch, 2,545,’12, and it didn’t bode well that she ran aground off Alderney on her first commercial voyage. I am not sure whether problems associated with sourcing the new tonnage led to a financial problem which was maybe exacerbated by the recession. Then there is the continual competition they face from the ro-ros of Commodore Ferries and the breakbulk and container service of Alderney Shipping to Poole. However, very soon it seems the liquidators did a deal and a rapid rescue was formulated permitting the huelin Dispatch to continue her business with only a short pause.
A Jersey based business, ‘Channel Island Lines’, was formed to acquire the assets of the Huelin Renouf Group from ABP Southampton which apparently had purchased them from the liquidators. So Huelin Dispatch can continue to run three return journeys a week between the Islands and the UK and 50 to 60 jobs have been saved. ‘Channel Island Lines’ is funded by an investment company owned by four Jersey residents so it looks like, from the ashes of Huelin Renouf, a long term service has been resurrected and should have a stable future after an unfortunate collapse.
I can’t think of any freighters in UK waters smaller than Ivor B (see print edition for more details on Ivor B -ed) and I have been saying for some time now there is a need for small sized economical tonnage to serve islands and fetch and carry to small quays and isolated communities. Maybe the vessels that come closest to what I have in mind are the Yorkshire Dry Dock ships built in the late ‘80s that initially saw service with Lapthorn. They seem to be obtaining business despite their small size. Seen at Poole lifting another island freight, aggregate for Guernsey, is River Trader 794,’89 while round at Southampton also in September is her sister, Absolute Shipping’s Swift loading rapeseed for Ghent.
These little ships work on but I believe that before they wear out someone should design a small, versatile, shallow draft freighter to take-over and further develop the art of shifting freight to the less accessible coastal and island communities.