Chair's Letter November 2016

Friends of the Ferries

Across the Mersey

c/o 7 Foxcovers Road, Bebington, Wirral, CH63 3EQ


Dear Member,                                                                                                                           November 2016

Although we have had a very reasonable summer, followed by dry and warm weather extending into November, Mersey Ferries has had a miserable time.  This was due to the May closure of the Ship Canal by a fallen bridge, a July accident to the Royal Iris off Eastham Locks requiring five months of repairs, and an October breakdown of the Snowdrop immediately prior to its annual refit.. Consequently, there have been few Canal trips this summer, and no ferry service this Autumn for nearly a month.  Mersey Ferries and Merseytravel have argued in recent years that operations can be maintained with only two vessels – a policy which we have consistently rejected.  We have written to the Chair of Merseytravel, again urging that the Royal Daffodil be brought out of lay-up to provide a back-up facility, funded by revenues generated by off-peak  charter work in our booming tourist and conference market for which she is admirably suited.

Redoubled efforts are required by the marketing department of Mersey Ferries to restore confidence and win back disappointed customers.  An opportunity will arise between 3rd January - 12th February and 30th May - 18th June, when the cross-river Merseyrail system will be shut down.  As Wirral rail service between 13th February - 29th May will only operate 6 car trains at a reduced frequency to James Street platform 2, many passengers may well prefer to continue on the Ferries during this period, too.

Our Cruise this year was very well supported and plenty of shipping movements were observed in both the river and dock system.  In fact, the Gladstone and Langton Locks were so busy that for the first time in about 30 years we were unable to enter Seaforth Dock.  We also passed the new Liverpool 2 container terminal, where a trial docking at the open river quay was taking place.  The £400 million project occupying 50 acres of reclaimed land was completed for a formal opening on 4th November 2016, and can accommodate the largest container ships.  The aim is to attract those vessels with Northern England cargoes now sailing to Felixtowe or Southampton.  We thank our commentators Stuart Wood and Andy Ball who enjoyed their day with us. The provisional date for our 2017 Dock and River Cruise is 27th May 2017.               

On other river news, it was pleasing to see Sir David Attenborough, the naturalist, carry-out the keel-laying ceremony at Cammell Laird on 17th October of the British Antarctic Survey vessel to be named after him. The £200 million vessel (hull no.1390), to be completed in 2019, is reported to be the largest commercial shipbuilding project in the country in 30 years.  More recently, Princess Anne named the container ship Atlantic Sea at the Pier Head Liner Terminal.  Part of the ACL fleet renewal, the ship just fits the Gladstone Lock.  In attendance on the river, with a tootle on her whistle, was the newly restored Ship Canal steam tug Daniel Adamson, captained by Stuart Wood.  She carries 100 passengers and 12 crew.

Please find enclosed our Newsletter by Geoff Holmes, and tickets for our ever-popular Christmas Draw run by Gordon Ditchfield.  Membership receipts or reminders are also enclosed.  Joan Roberts continues to attend local events and fairs with her sales stall - see some items below for Christmas presents!

Very best wishes to you all for Christmas and the New Year!

Yours sincerely,                                                                         

Andrew Hodgson

Hon. Chairman.