Captain Peter Roberts, the master of SS SHIELDHALL, has issued an urgent appeal concerning the future of this fully operational sea going vessel.
By the spring of 2011, a mandatory dry-docking must be undertaken — without it the ship will not be allowed to continue to legally operate and could face scrapping. SS SHIEDLHALL is the last steam-powered cargo vessel in Europe and part of the National Historic Steamship collection. She is operated entirely by volunteers and available for excursions, events, and filming.
The ship will need to sail down the coast from her home at Southampton to Falmouth, Cornwall for the docking and inspection. It is estimated that for the journey and the dry docking costs. The Solent Steam Packet Ltd, who operated her, will need to raise about £80,000 (about $124,000).
The appeal, which has raised just over £10,000 so far, can be found at the following link:
SS SHIELDHALL was laid down in October 1954 and launched July 7, 1955 in Scotland. She entered service in October of that year. Built by Lobnitz & Co., of Renfrew, on the Clyde.
She was built on older classic lines with a traditional wheelhouse, riveted and welded construction, a straight stem and a cruiser stern. SHIELDHALL was operated by Glasgow Corporation to transport treated sewage sludge down the River Clyde to be dumped at sea. She continued a tradition dating back to the First World War, that Glasgow’s sludge vessels carried organised parties of passengers when operating during the summer months. Thus, SHIELDHALL was built with accommodation for 80 passengers.
In 1976, after 21 years of faithful service on the Clyde, SHIELDHALL was laid up, then purchased by the Southern Water Authority in 1977 and after minor modifications, she carried sludge from Marchwood, Millbrook and Woolston in Southampton to an area south of the Isle of Wight for five years from 1980. It was when, due to rising fuel prices, she was suddenly withdrawn from service in July 1985 that active preservation began.
As a result of an initiative by the Southampton City’s Museum Services, a preservation society was formed and SHIELDHALL was purchased from Southern Water in 1988 for £20,000. The Society is registered as an Industrial and Provident Society as The Solent Steam Packet Limited and operates as a charity.
She is now the largest working steam ship in Northern Europe.
All work associated with the Society and SHIELDHALL is carried out by unpaid volunteers. Much work has been done on the ship by these volunteers in order to keep her in sea-going condition. The saloon has been restored and the galley brought up-to-date. Crewed by volunteers, SHIELDHALL is a frequent sight around the Solent running excursions and such. She has been to Holland for the Dordrecht Steam Festival and she has been an attendee at each of the International Festivals of the Sea at Bristol and Portsmouth.
During the summer months, various excursions are run in the Solent area and during the course of these voyages, passengers are encouraged to visit the Bridge and machinery spaces.
To respond to the appeal for funds, please send cheques made out to “The Solent Steam Packet Ltd” to:
Mrs Jill Tulip
“Shielhall” Dry-dock Appea
The Solent Steam Packet Ltd
15 Foxhayes Lane
S045 1XX UK
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.