British Transport Commission (BTC)FerriesPast and PresentSealink British Ferries (SBF)Southern RegionWightlink

MV Southsea – Past and Present

MV Southsea

Steel twin screw motor vessel built in 1948 at Wm. Denny & Bros., Dumbarton, Scotland (Yard No 1411) As a TM Ferry/General Cargo vessel.

Technical Data

  • Length: 61.04 m (overall) 55.35 m (between perpendiculars)
    Breadth: 14.53 m
    Depth: 3.20 m
    Draught: 2.134 m
    Tonnage: 986 gross/531 net/182 deadweight
    Engines: 2 Oil SA 8-cylinder 8-MG-32 Sulzer diesels
    Power: 1398 kW/1900 bHP
    Speed: 14 knots
    Capacity: 1,131 passengers (Summer) 1112 (Winter)
    Call Sign: MQCB
    IMO Number: 5335838
    Official Number: 182720
    Port of Registry: Portsmouth/UK
    Sister-Ship: Brading, Shanklin.


1948: Ordered by The British Transport Commission (Southern Region).

“Ordered by the Southern Railway and the three were intended to be dual purpose ferry/ excursion ships. As ferries they were to have Class IV certificates for 1,331 pax and as excursion ships 1,135 pax on a Class III. Denny’s plans (I’ll send you a copy) showed far more windows as befits an excursion ship. However, on nationalisation BR obviously ran down the long excursions  (eg Round the Island) and so she was never used in a Class III capacity. Worth stating that she was the first ship launched for BR. Until 1st June 1951 the Portsmouth – Ryde route was two class and so the SOUTHSEA & BRADING became one class ships at which time minor alterations were made to her interior – removal of partitions etc. The SHANKLIN (1951) entered service as a one class ship. There were early vibration problems with the SOUTHSEA and extra engine insulation had to be fitted. First Master was Captain CW Gibson.”. John Hendy


March 11th 1948: Launched at an original cost of £180,709 by Lady Elliot, wife of Sir John Elliot, the Chief Regional Officer for the Southern Region.

Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection

September 14th 1948: Sea trials on the Skelmorlie measured mile in the Firth of Clyde. Attained an average speed of 15.182 knots.

September 19th 1948: Delivered to British Transport Commission (Southern Region).

© Ken Smith  © Ken Smith

© Ken Smith

September 22nd 1948: Left Dumbarton for Southampton.

September 25th 1948: Arrived at Southampton and carried out further trials in the Solent.

October 29th 1948: Shown to the press.

November 1st 1948: Entered service between Portsmouth – Ryde.

June 15th 1953: With BRADING took Admiralty staff and their guests to the Coronation Review.

1967: Received major overhaul with an extra passenger deck, as a continuation of the bridge deck, and improved seating and catering facilities. The extra decks fitted to the trio were called Spar Decks – they each had seats for 170 passengers. The refit also involved the two lounges on the Main Deck. The bar/ cafeteria was moved from the after lounge into the forward one and in order to create extra space for the modified catering arrangements, plus 100 seats, a section of the cargo hold was reclaimed while the hold-space openings were plated in. Emerged with “stove pipes” projecting from the funnel tops, but during the 1967-8 overhaul the funnel was built up to conceal these pipes, resulting in deeper black tops.

© John Hendy 

© John Hendy (Left) “New” (Right)

1973: Major refit at Immingham costing this cost £100,000. Steelwork was grit blasted and accommodation modified throughout. The amidships section of the Promenade Deck was plated over to allow the 1966-built mechanical gangways to rest on it. Their introduction had allowed turn rounds of 15 minutes She was the last of the trio to be treated.

May 1974: Arrived back at Portsmouth.


Nigel Thornton Collection

© Tony Garner

© Tony Garner (Portsmouth, 06/07/1975)

January 1st 1979: Transferred to Sealink UK Ltd., London.

January 21st 1980: Collided with Portsmouth Harbour pier and put out of action.

© Brian Fisher   

© Brian Fisher (Portsmouth, May 1983)

© John Hendy  © John Hendy

© John Hendy (Both)

July 1984: Sealink U.K. was sold to Sea Containers Ltd, Bermuda for just £66 million. The company then operated under the company name of Sealink British Ferries U.K.

© A G Jones

© A G Jones (Southsea, 10/09/1984)

© Simonwp  © Brian Fisher

© Simonwp (June 1985)(Left) © Brian Fisher (Portsmouth, December 1985)(Right)

© Brian Fisher

© Brian Fisher (Portsmouth, March 1986)

1986 (summer): Replaced by the second of two catamaran ferries. Became reserve vessel plus excursions, then laid-up at the moorings off Portsmouth Harbour Station.

© Ken Larwood  Nigel Thornton Collection

© Ken Larwood (Portsmouth, May 1986)(Left) Nigel Thornton Collection (Right)

August 9th 1986: Became the relief vessel when the PAMELA entered service.

August 1987: To be chartered to Waverley S. N. Co. to complete the season for their WAVERLEY. In the event the charter didn’t materialise because it had been arranged by local management.  Sealink HQ at Eversholt House quashed it once they realised what was going on.

March 1987: Announced on press voyage of ST CECILIA that she was to be retained as an excursion ship with Saturday morning ferry duties.

September 6th 1987: Broke down with boiler failure and after repair, she continued as an excursion vessel, sometimes acting as relief.

1987 (end of summer): Brief charter to Waverley S. N. Co. after their paddler had broken down.

Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection

September 3rd 1987: Departed Portsmouth for the Clyde.

September 29th 1987: Returned from Glasgow.

October 1st 1987: Arrived back in Portsmouth.

1988: Cruises within the Solent area.

September 15th 1988: Two seasons of poor weather saw the ship withdrawn after 40 years of service

June 13th 1989: Left Portsmouth for the Fal.

June 1989: Lay up in the River Fal.











Nigel Thornton Collection (Fal, June 1990)

1991: Sea Containers considered investing £1 million in the ship – to be made into a function centre in Manchester for 9 months each year. The other three months she’d be providing for functions in the Solent area and with a passenger certificate for 300. This came to nothing although plans were drawn up for her modifications.

May 5th 1992: Towed by tug MEECHING to Newhaven for static lay-up.

© Andreas Wörteler

© Andreas Wörteler (Newhaven, June 1994)

May 7th 1992: Arrived at Newhaven. During her stay her condition deteriorated and so Sea Containers had her painted on the starboard side only so that she looked smart when viewed from the West Quay!

January 31st 1997: Sold to Brasspatch Ltd., Lymington.

May 6th 1997: Again towed by MEECHING to Husband’s Shipyard, Marchwood. She was then laid-up.

October 1997: Slipped at Husband’s yard.

November 23rd 1997: Arrived at Avonmouth Ship repairers Ltd., Bristol for renovation. Although some work was done on her during 1997, the project ran into serious difficulties in 1998 as serious technical problems were found with the vessel. There were also major problems with the funding and difficulties over ownership.

1998: Her owners, Brasspatch Ltd, went into voluntary liquidation.

February 9th 1998: Receivers appointed followed by her purchase, for a reported £1,000, by Mr. Russ NcLean.

July 28th 1998: To Barnard Marcus for auction in London being eventually sold for £15,700 to a Mr Surinder Gill, London businessman.

August 1998: Re-floated in the dry-dock.

October 3rd 1998: Left dry-dock in Bristol and moved to a berth adjacent to Hotwells Road.

February 10th 1999: Left Bristol under tow of tug MCS LENIE bound for Newport.

1999 (early autumn): The vessel was arrested for non-payment of harbour dues at Newport.

2001: Registered to Avon River Historic Vessel and Navigation Trust.

February 17th 2001: Left Newport, under tow of the tug KINGSTON, bound for Plymouth.

© Wil Weijsters

© Wil Weijsters

March 7th 2001: Left Plymouth.

March 8th 2001: Anchored over-night in St Helen’s Roads.

March 9th 2001: Arrived in Portsmouth where she was moored on buoys in the upper harbour and was subject to vandalism.

January 21st 2005: Moved to Ocean Quay on the River Itchen. The berth was paid up for two weeks but she sat on mud at low tide and may have struck an underwater object when placed at this location on 19th January. One interested party recently offered £1 for the ship, another has offered the scrap value but the owner is said to have been in discussion with an Indian Scrap Dealer for a price of £32,000.

March 13th 2005: Sailed from the River Itchen under tow, “bound for Shoreham”. However the next morning she was observed in the Dover Straits at 07.30.

2005: Sold to Smedegaarden, Esbjerg, Denmark for scrapping.  Towed by the tug VITUS which  was positioning back to Denmark and had offered a low rate for the tow.

© Erwin Willemse

© Erwin Willemse

March 15th 2005: Arrived in Esbjerg for scrapping.

April 4th 2005: Scrapping commenced.

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Brian Fisher, Tony Garner, A G Jones, Ken Larwood, Simonwp, Ken Smith, Wil Weijsters, Erwin Willemse and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in producing this feature.

Sincere thanks to John Hendy.

Article © Nigel Thornton and Ray Goodfellow (Dover Ferry Photos Group)

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