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Thursday, November 21, 2019

PROPOSED FERRY EXCHANGE ‘AND A TALE OF TWO STEAMERS...’

We are well used to Italian operator Moby Lines acquiring good quality well maintained, but well used, ships from Danish owned European giant DFDS, the ships acquired by Moby subsequently being dressed in their huge daubings of largely US cartoon characters. DFDS is known for their tasteful and classy livery and the elegance of their ships so it is a shock to see the reversal of vessel movement with the two major modern hulls moving from Moby to DFDS, who in return will offl oad to Moby their ageing fl eet units Princess Seaways and King Seaways. DFDS will be taking, for their Tyne-Ijmuiden route, the 2001-built Moby Wonder and the 2005-built Moby Aki, not only newer more modern ships, but increased capacity, especially of freight. The deal is expected to be completed in October 2019. Then, DFDS will subsequently bareboatcharter King Seaways and Princess Seaways from Moby until January and February 2020, respectively until their new ex Moby acquisitions are refurbished – and I sincerely hope they are re-liveried appropriately. The refurbished ferries are expected to be deployed on Ijmuiden/ Amsterdam – Tyne during the fi rst quarter of 2020.

Princess Seaways has been routed from the Tyne for around ten years and is a well travelled ship. She was delivered in ’86 as Peter Pan at Bremerhaven, Germany for TTLine and I was in Travemunde in ’87 when she was docking there from Trelleborg in Sweden, and an impressive if slab sided vision she was. Between 1993 and 2002, the ship operated as Spirit of Tasmania across the Bass Strait. In 2002, she was sold to Fjord Line and renamed Fjord Norway. In 2006, she came to DFDS Seaways and sailed as Princess of Norway before being given her current name in 2011 during the DFDS major rebranding exercise.

By the way, DFDS is one of the ferry companies the UK Department for Transport awarded a contract earlier in 2019 in order to prepare for “the possibility of severe congestion at and around UK ports caused by increased border checks by European Union Member States”.

Under the contract worth €47 million (USD 53.7 million), DFDS agreed to provide additional capacity on Immingham – Cuxhaven, Immingham – Rotterdam, and Felixstowe – Rotterdam. (The scheme included two further companies – Brittany Ferries and Seaborne Freight – and a total contract value for all three companies of GBP 103 million).

See the once fi ne looking Queen of Scandinavia from whose restaurant I once watched the fi nal departure of QE2 from Norway while I was returning to the UK from Bergen, now she is quite a sight as the Moby Dada. And then Moby Otta once took me to Kristiansand and Gothenburg as DFDS’s stately Princess of Scandinavia. The Moby Love is one of their oldest vessels and she is looking well and not too abused since she was the familiar King Orry of IOMSP on the Irish Sea.

Otherwise, DFDS is not losing any of its vision and business acumen acquiring two modern freighters for a new Sweden- Belgium service and its new and largest ever freighter, the Ephesus Seaways, delivered from China early this year, has commenced a high capacity Turkey- Europe link.

This news makes me believe the UK continues to diminish as a maritime and, therefore, as an economic power, and increasingly is destined to become an economic backwater in comparison with its august past.

This year was quite bleak on the UK excursion scene. The embarrassing breakdown of Scillonian that stranded her passengers en route Penzance- St Marys is another (it seems to me) indication that the UK Government as in the West of Scotland has been neglectful in its shipping, marine engineering and ship-building policy (or lack of it) the very means of keeping the country’s separate parts together, even here to the detriment of the Scilly Isles. And the yard that built Scillonian more than 40 years ago has, recently, closed at Appledore.

In 2019, both Waverley and Balmoral were withdrawn with serious faults and await results of major fundraising. It looks like Waverley will make good progress, with, thankfully, an order being placed with Scottish based boiler makers and engineers Cochrans at Annan. It is changes in repair policy at the Government’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency that seems to be Balmoral’s greatest and I would suggest most unfair issue, affecting where ‘doubled’ plates – once perfectly acceptable, are no longer – now and retrospectively. ‘Doubled’, and otherwise thin plates need to be entirely removed and renewed. It is bizarre that as fewer UK ships exist, they are hit by public bodies with increasing bureaucracy and regulation when fewer and fewer yards are able, or willing, to do the expensive work and no funds are identifi ed to help pay for it.

I have heard the lovely preserved ex Manchester Ship Canal steam tug and one time inspection vessel Daniel Adamson, increasingly known as just ‘The Danny’, and largely for 2019 just cruising on the lower reaches of the River Weaver in Cheshire, is doing well and attracting a goodly number of youngsters from school parties etc which is what the lottery funders, ie those with the purse strings, say they increasingly require, ie not just saving a vessel for its own intrinsic value. The MV Balmoral charity, is facing an estimated £3 million to get the historic vessel back on the water and it is too early to say whether she will be in business cruising in 2020.

I recall two attractive excursion vessels that got away from the UK – probably fortunately for them – that are now restored and working well. The fi rst dating from 1904 was the little fjord steamer Stavenes, 181 gt once a familiar sight at Birkenhead and I saw her once at Port Penrhyn in North Wales. I fi rst witnessed her being worked on in dry dock by a job creation scheme for young people in Birkenhead and obviously the subject of many £1,000s in government funds. And much structural work was in hand, I thought what a wonderful way to learn worthwhile engineering skills and restore historic ships in the bargain. How naiive I was in those days. I had thought I was witnessing joined up thinking and maximising the use of scarce public moneys. The next thing I knew was the little ship had been sold back to Norway and all the investment in it had been effectively written off. She was laid up for a while in Norway, but eventually fully restored and in steam once more and see her here looking very smart and a worthy member of the large contingent of beautifully restored Norwegian vessels.

For more information regrading DFDS visit https://www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - November 2019 Issue
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