For the first time in over 50 years a ship received a Royal Christening on the River Mersey today when the latest ACL container ship, MV Atlantic Sea, was named by HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal. It is also rare to see a container ship at the Liverpool Cruise Terminal, which made the Atlantic Sea’s presence at Liverpool today even more special. The Atlantic Sea is the first vessel to receive a Mersey Royal Christening since Princess Alexandra named HMS Devonshire way back in 1960. Liverpool’s status as a port has declined dramatically since then and has only now started to recover to some extent. The opening of the Cruise Liner Terminal and ACL’s decision to base its European operations in Liverpool are two important examples of that revival. ACL’s new European headquarters building has just been completed on Duke Street in the city and its workforce has doubled in the last three years. It also great to see the name Liverpool proudly beneath the name Atlantic Sea – something that is also rare these days for shipping lines operating internationally.
There have been some protests by the RMT union against the lack of British seamen on board the Atlantic Sea, and there was a small demonstration at today’s naming ceremony calling for ACL to use more British people on their ships. ACL’s response to this is to encourage British people to apply for jobs on their ships. For more information on the RMT’s SOS 2020 campaign click HERE. ACL has been associated with Liverpool throughout its 50 year history. Since 1969 Liverpool has been the base of its Atlantic schedule. Perhaps the company’s most famous ship was the Atlantic Conveyor, which was built on the Mersey at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead. Sadly, during the Falklands War in 1982, it was sunk after being struck by an Argentine Exocet missile attack – costing the lives of 12 men, including the ship’s Captain Ian North. Captain North was one of six Cunard seamen on board the requisitioned ship as it sailed to the South Atlantic. A memorial to the loss of the Atlantic Conveyer can be found in Liverpool’s Parish Church, St Nicholas.
Above: Princess Anne at the naming ceremony and the moment she Christened the ship. Liverpool Echo photos.
Princess Anne named the ship at around 12.30pm at a ceremony at the Liverpool Cruise Liner terminal watched by crew members, dignitaries and a few hundred people along Princes Parade which overlooks the landing stage. When she named the ship with the customary bottle of Champagne coloured smoke was let off next to the stern of the Atlantic Sea and Royal Britannia and other rousing music began playing over a p.a. system. The actual ceremony was also broadcast over the p.a. system. The Princess Royal was then taken on a tour of the ship. I was there in time for the naming ceremony but you could see little from Princes Parade and I wasn’t that interested anyway. I was there to get some video and photos of the container ship which, as I have said, is a rare visitor to the landing stage with container ships usually only going as far as Seaforth a few miles north at the mouth of the Mersey in Liverpool Bay. The Atlantic Sea was huge with an interesting design that ensures the stability and safety of the numerous containers stored on her deck. A series of wall-like structures along the deck and triangular-shaped wedges around the edge of the ship ensured that the containers stayed in place in heavy weather.
I wanted to go back down to the Pier Head this evening, or possibly across the River Mersey to Woodside, to video the fireworks display that was being laid on to celebrate the River’s first Royal Christening in 56 years but I was unable to make it. You can watch an excellent video of the display by Paul Frost on his YouTube channel. The Atlantic Sea set out into the middle over the River at around 6.30pm and the fireworks were set off before she sailed out of the River to continue her career as the latest vessel from the ACL. A couple of more interesting videos of today can be viewed on YouTube on the channels of Phil Anderson and AL Stirling. My videos and photos of the vessel at the landing stage are also on my YouTube channel. You can view some more of the Liverpool Echo photos on my Flickr site or you can read a related article on the Cruise Liner Terminal’s website.