Sunday, September 28, 2008

Here's one we missed....

In posting the piece about the arrival in Cork Port of the Swedish sail-training vessel Gunilla which is due at Cork's J.J. Horgan Quay tomorrow, I completely missed another sail training vessel which is currently at that location. The Stavros S. Niarchos is a 493 tonne brig which was completed in January 2000. When seeing the name I assumed she was a Greek vessel given the name until I noticed the Union Jack on the stern. She is actually owned by the Tall Ships Youth Trust of the United Kingdom.

Then I looked at the Tall Ships Youth Trust website ( and noticed that the Stavros S. Niarchos' sister-ship the Prince William is for sale. I immediately thought it might make a good replacement for the recently lost Asgard II but to be honest I just don't know enough about this type of vessel to know if such a ship would be suitable for purpose. But I suppose it would be no harm for the Irish government and the Coiste an Asgard to take a look....

The Stavros S. Niarchos (named after a Greek shipping magnate) leaves Cork at 11am tomorrow (Monday, 29/9/08)
more info on the Tall Ships Youth Trust website:-

Thursday, September 25, 2008

QE2 in Cobh - 2nd October (clarification)

The Old Blog Cabin has been contacted by a number of people querying the arrival date of the cruise ship QE2 in Cobh. I can now confirm definitively that it will arrive in the port on Thursday, 2nd October 2008 at approximately 07.00hrs (local time).

I apologise profusely for the error. I gleaned the original wrong information from a website which had also incorrectly stated that the ship would be visiting Dublin.

The ship's full itinerary and those of its sister ships can be found on the official Cunard Line website at

Once again sorry for misleading people.

Here is the itinerary from Cunard's website:-

Sept 30 - Southampton, England - depart 5.00pm

October 1st - Cherbourg, France - 8.00am - 6.00pm

October 2nd - Cobh, Ireland - 9.00am - 6.00pm

October 3rd - Liverpool, England 12.00pm - 10.00pm

October 4th - Belfast, Ireland 12.30pm - 11.00pm

October 5th - Glasgow, Scotland - 12.00pm -10.00pm

October 6th - Cruising the North Sea

October 7th - Edinburgh, Scotland - 8.00am-6.00pm

October 8th - Newcastle, England - 10.30am-10pm.

October 10th - arrive back Southampton, England

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Swedish Sail Training vessel bound for Cork Port

Sweden's largest sail training vessel, the Gunilla is due in Cork next Monday (29th September) for a short visit. Coming so soon after the sad loss of Ireland's own sail training vessel the Asgard II in the Bay of Biscay it will be nice to see a great sailing ship in port again, although not the same no doubt for those who served on Asgard. The Gunilla, 49 metres long and 380, she is a square sailed ship so she looks more like the Jeanie Johnson than the Asgard (see photo). Gunilla was built in Sweden in 1940 and became a sail-training barque in 1997. She was actually originally a motor yacht and is now operated by Den Seglande Gymnasieskolan (the Sailing Upper-Secondary School).

Gunilla will berth at Horgan's Quay near Cork City centre (opposite Jury's Inn and the Custom House).

(Photo by drewhound on

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cobh Harbour liner visit season nearing end

With the nights becoming longer in this part of the world the most successful season of liner visits to Cork Port for 2008 is gradually drawing to a close with the final scheduled visit being that of the Thomsen Celebration on October 24th. Before that there are still some interesting visits with the highlight being the last ever visit to Cork of the QE2 which will take place on Thursday, 2nd October.

The QE2 will tie up at the Deepwater Quay in Cobh around 9.00am local time and depart at 6pm. The old but still elegant ship will then sail for a final time to Dublin, Liverpool and Belfast before a final trip around the UK coast, a farewell voyage to New York and a journey through the Mediterranean before reaching its final destination in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on November 27th where she will be converted into a floating hotel.

The QE2 was the star of the show at the 1991 Tall Ships Race, not taking from the grace and beauty of the tall ships including our own late lamented Asgard II, but complimenting them. There are still many homes around the Cork Harbour area with large photos of the QE2 surrounded by smaller vessels and with tugboats cascading water over her from their powerful water jets. It is a picture that will endure.

The Queen Elizabeth 2 (to give it its full name) was launched in Clydebank from the yard of John Brown on 20th September 1967 and made her official maiden voyage to New York in May 1969. By 2002 she had logged 2,000,000 miles at sea. QE2 has now been superseded by the Queen Mary 2 (since 2004).

Harbour Pilots - a dangerous but vital job

You might remember back in July I wrote an article entitled "Harbour Pilots at Work" outlining the importance to any major port of a pilot service. ( I also mentioned that it was a tough and dangerous job. Regrettably that has proved to be all too true locally here in Cobh where a little over a week ago one of the Port of Cork's harbour pilots had a nasty fall in the course of his duty and received serious injuries. The man in question had to be stretchered off the pilot boat with the assistance of the local fire brigade.

The Old Blog Cabin wishes the man a speedy recovery.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Asgard: Inquiries begin as crew safe home in Ireland

Two separate inquiries have commenced into the sinking of the Irish sail-training vessel Asgard II which was lost early last Thursday morning off the French coast, thankfully with all hands saved.

The Irish government's Marine Casualty Investigation Board and its French counterpart are investigating the circumstances of the sinking while it is still unclear if a any attempt to raise the ship can be made. Reading between the lines of comments from various Irish government sources it would seem that a new build may be the most likely outcome since Asgard is in 90 metres of water and raising it would be very costly. A survey of its present condition is yet to be undertaken. Meanwhile there has been some speculation that Ireland's two other large tall-ships the Jeanie Johnston and the Dunbrody - both replica's built in the 1990s - might have a temporary role to fulfill in sail training for the Coiste an Asgard, the body which was responsible for the Asgard and its sail-training programme.

The five permanent crew and 20 trainees arrived back in Dublin last night (Friday) after their ordeal and a short stay on the French island of Bell-Ile where they were taken after rescue.

Some relevant links:

Marine Casualty Investigation Boad - (nothing on Asgard yet)

Coiste an Asgard:

and the other Irish tall-ships:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Asgard II sinks in the Bay of Biscay - Update

It has been reported this morning (10/09/2008) that the Irish sail training ship Asgard II has now sunk in Bay of Biscay after taking in water and sending out a distress call. The crew were brought to safety earlier this morning..

According to RTÉ News the sailing vessel went down at 08.25 local time (7.25am Irish time) some 20 nautical miles from the French coast, south west of the island of Belle-Île-en-Mer.

The Asgard had been en route from the Cornish port of Falmouth to La Rochelle in France where it was due to undergo minor maintenance.
The alarm was raised and the distress signal was picked up by the UK Marine Coastguard at Kinloss in Scotland.

It has been reported that the 5 crew and 20 trainees (most of them Irish) were rescued by a French naval ship and taken to Belle-Île-en-Mer off the French coast where they are safe.

Most Cork people will remember the Asgard II best from the Tall Ships Race of 1991 but she has been a regular visitor to the port since she went into service after completion in 1981. It was at the time of the Tall Ships race that the Cork singer / songwriter Jimmy Crowley wrote the song "My Love is a Tall Ship" dedicated to the Asgard.

The name "Asgard" resonates through Irish history. The original Asgard, owned by Erskine Childers Snr, was used in the Howth gun-running incident of 1914 in which German guns were imported into Ireland for use in the uprising which eventually took place in 1916. The first Asgard (from the Norse name for the "home of the gods") sailed to Hamburg with Childers, his wife Mary and two others to to collect the guns which were landed in Howth in July 1914. Childers was later executed during the Irish Civil War in 1922. His son Erskine Jr. was to go on to become President of Ireland.

In 1968 the Asgard I was bought by the Irish government who established the Coiste an Asgard as a new sail-training authority and the ship was used for training young people in navigation and seamanship until it was retired and replaced by Asgard II. The first Asgard is now being restored but it is unlikely it will ever take to sea again.

Asgard II, a 106 foot brigantine, was built by Tyrell's Boatyard of Arklow, County Wicklow, under the personal supervision of designer, the late Jack Tyrell.

The loss of the Asgard is a huge blow to Ireland, not just because of her importance in sail-training but as a symbol of this country and the good work she has done in promoting tourism she has also been involved in work with a social element along with involvement in research and environment.

It is of course very good news that the crew of Asgard II are safe. We still don't know if there is any possiblity of raising the vessel. That will, no doubt emerge in time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More talks, still no ferry - could "Yellow Pack" be on the cards?

The clock contines ticking as to whether we will have a passenger / freight ferry between Cork and Swansea next year as talks and tentative negotiations begin. Today's newspapers are reporting that the Port of Cork and Associated British Ports have agreed an incentive package to encourage an operator to sign up for the route which has been without a service for two years now.

There is no specific information as to what type of incentives would be on offer but much is made of the additional journey for freight through other routes and even the increased carbon dioxide levels due to the extra road freight is under scrutiny. A Port of Cork source is quoted in today's Irish Examiner as say that around 10,000 units (containers) a year were transported by the previous operator Swansea-Cork Ferries.

The Old Blog Cabin has strongly supported the return of a service on this route but we would not favour a "yellow pack" operator. It is not so long since more than 500 jobs were slashed by Irish Ferries who replaced unionised workers with low-paid migrant workers from Eastern Europe who had to settle for lesser pay and minimal conditions of employment due to EU law which facilitates this and which is even strengthened by the Lisbon Treaty which the Irish government and EU want to bring in by the back door having been democratically rejected by the Irish people in the June 12th referendum. It would be disingenuous of the Old Blog Cabin to support the International Transport Federation's campaign on "flags of convenience" and not take a stand on the cheap labour route for any ferry on the Cork-Swansea route. Once again we call for the local authorities in conjunction with government to take over the route themselves.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

New Irish ships should fly the Irish flag

There was an interesting letter in yesterday's Irish Examiner (5th Sept 2008) from a retired inspector of the International Transport Federation, Mr. Tony Ayton, once again highlighting the scandal of "Flags of Convenience", i.e. ships owned in one country but operating from another where tax, labour and safety regulations are more relaxed. I have highlighted this scandal in previous entries on The Old Blog Cabin.

Mr Ayton in his letter welcomed the fact that seven Irish based shipping companies were investing in new or second hand vessels this year, with the benefit of Irish government concessions. Some 21 such vessels are to be purchased this year with another 27 over the next two years. However the former ITF inspector also expressed his hope, rather than expectectation, that the ships would be registered in this country.

To quote Mr. Ayton: "I fear a lot of them will end up just like many beneficially-owned Irish ships do today operating under the notorious flag of convenience system.

This is a system where shipowners are allowed to register and flag their ships in countries that, in exchange for the registration fees, offer a minimum of laws and regulations that have to be applied and which take little or no interest in how the crews of these ships are treated. Consequently, a large proportion of the jobs that this investment will create could be at exploitative wage rates and miserable working conditions".

In January of this year the Irish government, through Minister Noel Dempsey, met with the International Transport Federation and assured them of the government's determination to do something about Flags of Convenience. Let us hope that they will live up to this promise and ensure that these new ships will comply with the best standards in safety and labour law and pay the proper rate for the job to their crews. Otherwise Mr. Dempsey's assurances will have been nothing more than another bunch of empty promises