It was the week before Christmas and I took the opportunity to view one of very few operations of its kind left in Europe, small ship lo-lo liner working.
Silver River arrived in Glasson Dock at midnight on her second visit of the week from Ramsey and would complete loading by next midday and be heading out into the River Lune and back to the island. She was carrying the last freights for the Isle of Man before everything closed down for the Christmas holiday. Maybe a nice 4 wheel trailer on deck was a lavish Christmas present for a farmer or contractor husband? And the concrete joists and builders materials were a gift for an ambitious DIY project?
Anyway, Silver River would finish down to her marks with four containers for deck cargo. Perhaps they were packed with Christmas goodies, though I doubt it, but it had been an impressive operation, shoe-horning the cargo into the hold and onto the deck of the diminutive freighter in a few hours in a morning. But she has been undertaking this operation for 30 years and shows no sign of changing her ways any time soon.
She seems in excellent order, her motor sublimely quiet as she goes about her two return Glasson-Ramsey trips per week and including a Ramsey-Belfast-Ramsey leg in between. On rare occasions, the company call at Peel on the Manx west coast for the explosives trade.
Operators Mezeron, the small shipping and logistics company, were founded in Ramsey in November 1983 and they acquired Silver River three years later. The company was itself purchased by the Peter Doehle Group in July 2008, but little change has been noticeable since.
Silver River, the ship and its operation, is distinctly lo-tec with four or five stevedores handling everything with a couple of wharf cranes and fork-lifts, loading and unloading everything from concrete and steel joists to containers. All in a single tidal window with no wasted time and with a usually packed hold and deck space. Minutes after the last strap and chain is secured and usually down to her marks, the ship is out of the Glasson Dock gate and on her way. I suspect it is her handiness and speed of lading that is the key to her successful three decades in operation.
The image of the Garvel Dry Dock Greenock from last March shows the Silver River sharing the dock with the Isis. According to Dales Marine at Garvel, Silver River was docked for ballast tank steelwork repairs, hull HP wash and painting, plus safety equipment servicing and certifi cation, tank survey and cleaning. While Isis was docked for major hull steelwork repairs, HP wash and paint, hull survey and overhaul.
That view of Silver River in dry-dock shows a shapely hull of an increasingly rare kind. I once worked with a businessman who was researching converting small cargo vessel hulls to sailing vessels and these were just the kind of hulls he was interested in. I hope Silver River goes on forever but should she be retired, that shapely underwater profile and near clipper bow might make a lovely sailing vessel, a brig or a three masted schooner.