At a recent conference, our Managing Director Alan Miles led a debate on the subject.
Since the age of 4, growing up in Belfast, he had an interest. Back then a near neighbour was the captain of the Heysham to Belfast ship, Duke of Lancaster. That ship survives to this day near Mostyn but hasn’t moved for many years.
From the age of 10 to 15, he worked for a newsagent and every Sunday morning went down to collect the Sunday newspapers from the Heysham ship terminal in Belfast.
In 1979, he graduated from Queens University in Belfast and joined the National Freight Corporation and was placed with Containerway and Roadferry at Heysham, located where the current Seatruck offices are. Containerway operated ships from Heysham to Belfast and from Preston to Greenore, all lift on lift off.
From then until now, lots of shipping routes have closed and some started and then closed.
- Ardrossan to Belfast – Northern Ireland Trailers
- Troon to Larne – P&Oo
- Troon to Belfast – Seacat
- Heysham to Belfast – Containerway
- Preston to Greenore – Irish Ferryways
- Ellesmere Port to Belfast – Freightliner
- Fleetwood to Larne – Stena
- Fleetwood to Dublin – B&I and Pandoro
- Heysham to Larne – Seatruck
- Mostyn to Dublin – P&O
- Swansea Cork Ferries
- Newport to Waterford – Bell Lines
Many routes have been sold numerous times, the best example being Birkenhead or Liverpool to Belfast:
- Belfast Steam Company
- Belfast Car Ferries
- Norse Merchant
- In Administration
Many of the big haulage companies that existed back in the early 1980’s no longer exist:
- Stockton Haulage
- Bell Lines
No services to Ireland now exist from Fleetwood and Preston is closed as a working dock to Ireland.
Many of the ships that served so well on the Irish Sea had interesting lives thereafter.
- Europic Ferry ex Cairnryan-Larne served in the Falklands before being scrapped in India in 2005
- Ulster Queen ex Liverpool-Belfast sank whilst sailing between Suez and Jeddah in 2005
- Ulster Prince ex Liverpool-Belfast ended up serving Iraq before being scrapped in 2002
- European Gateway ex Cairnryan-Larne sank just before Christmas in 1982 close to the port of Harwich where it was on dry dock cover from Cairnryan
- Ionic Ferry also known as Dragon – another Cairnryan-Larne ship – caught fire and sank in 2002
- Pride of Rathlin ex Cairnryan-Larne sank on 11/07/15 in Indonesia
- Pride of Ailsa sank in the Red Sea and is now a diving tourist attraction
There are many stories on Irish Sea ships – we may update on them at a later date.
The story of the Irish Sea shipping continues to evolve. It will be interesting to see where the current generation of ships end up.