British Transport Commission (BTC)FerriesPast and PresentSealink

TS Duke of Rothesay (III) – Past and Present

IMO Number: 5094513.

TS Duke of Rothesay (III)

Roy Thornton Collection

Steel twin screw turbine vessel built by William Denny & Bros, Ltd., Dumbarton 1956 (Yard No 1487) for The British Transport Commission originally as a passenger and cargo vessel.

Technical Data

  • Length: 114.64m (overall), 107.90m (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth of hull: 17.48m (extreme)
  • Depth: 5.97m
  • Draught: 4.54m (maximum)
  • Tonnage: 4,780 (1956), 4,138 (1967) gross/2,258 net, 1,671 (1967)/1,079 deadweight, 954 (1967)
  • Engines: Four Denny Pametrada double reduction geared steam turbines
  • Power: 10,500 shp
  • Speed: 14 knots (service), 21 knots (trials @ 225 rpm)
  • Capacity: 600 first-class and 1,200 second-class passengers (1956)/1,400 passengers and 110 cars (max)(1967)
  • Call Sign: GVJB
  • IMO Number: 5094513.
  • Official Number:165016
  • Registry: Lancaster/United Kingdom 🇬🇧


April 1st 1954: Ordered.

February 9th 1956: Launched.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

December 9th 1956: Sea trials.

December 10th 1956: Delivered to British Transport Commission, London, England. One of three Dukes, the others being DUKE OF ARGYLLDUKE OF LANCASTER.

December 1956: Commenced service between Heysham – Belfast.

© William MacDonald

© William MacDonald (Donegall Quay Belfast, in 1957)

January 1st 1963: British Railways Board succeeded British Transport Commission.

© William MacDonald

© William MacDonald

1964: Vessels painted in the new livery of British Railways, (blue hull and red funnels) and the “Double -Arrow”

Courtesy of Jim Ashby Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby (@ Fishguard)

September 25th – October 11th 1965: Holyhead – Dun Laoghaire.

January 1966 – February 1966: Holyhead – Dun Laoghaire.

February 1967: Conversion to a car ferry at Cammell Laird (Shiprepairers) Ltd, Birkenhead commenced.

“The main deck had most of the bulkheads removed. This area originally consisted of passenger cabins, crew living accommodation, and cargo spaces. The result was a clear and continuous driveway from stem to stern, leaving only an inner island comprising engine and boiler room casings, crew space, main stairways, air-conditioning machinery and fire-fighting equipment. To compensate for the removed deck supporting structures, additional girders and pillars had to be fitted, all to Board of Trade and Lloyd’s Register standards. In all a total of 116 cabins were removed during the conversion.

To provide drive-on, drive-off facilities, shell side sliding doors operated by air powered motors were fitted. A newly developed sealing device was incorporated in the door design. There was now accommodation for up to 1,400 passengers which included cabin space for 184. A new second class lounge was built at the after end of the promenade deck, being one of three second-class public rooms.”

Courtesy of  Terry Conybeare

May 1967: After rebuild returned to commercial service between Fishguard – Rosslare.

November 1969: It was announced that British Rail’s Shipping and International Services Division (S.I.S.D.) had adopted the new brand name Sealink and as a consequence all vessels were painted in the new house colours.

1971: Laid up in reserve sometimes operating between Holyhead – Dun Laoghaire and Heysham – Belfast.

April 2nd (Easter Sunday) 1972: Six hour cruise to Aberystwyth.

1972: Operated between Holyhead – Dun Laoghaire. Also fitted with stern doors during her refit at Holyhead.

© William MacDonald

© William MacDonald

July 1972: Laid up.

1972 (summer): Operated between Holyhead – Dun Laoghaire.

© Ian Collard

🆕 © Ian Collard

September 14th 1972: Cruise to Aberystwyth.

1973: Sealink trading name painted on hulls

April 17th 1973: Opened the seasonal Dun Laoghaire car ferry service.

© A G Jones

© A G Jones (02/04/1974 @ Holyhead)

June 28th 1974: As a relief for MAID OF ORLEANS (which had been sent to Weymouth to deputise for the broken down SARNIA), for a short time operated between Dover – Calais. The only time that one of the former Heysham “Dukes” ever operated in the English Channel.

© A G Jones  © A G Jones© A G Jones  © A G Jones © A G Jones

© A G Jones (all)(@ Dover)

© Peter Glen 

© Peter Glen (@ Dover)

July 8th 1974: Returned to Holyhead,

August 1974: Operated Fishguard – Rosslare.

March 1st 1975: Last trip Belfast – Heysham.

March 2nd 1975: Sailed Heysham – Holyhead.

September 16th/17th 1975: Towed to Barrow and laid up.

© Justin Merrigan

© Justin Merrigan (Being towed from Holyhead 16/09/1975}

October 16th 1975: Sold to Shipbreaking Industries, Faslane, Scotland for £87,000.

October 18th 1975: Arrived at Shipbreaking Industries, Faslane for scrapping.

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 thank: Ian Collard, Terry Conybeare, Peter Glen, A G Jones, William MacDonald and Justin Merrigan for their assistance in producing this feature. 

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


One Comment

  1. Thanks for your article which I enjoyed very much. I have the large brass Denny of Dumbarton engine room plate for this ship hanging on my wall so I was just doing a bit of research on the ship. We live near Faslane and guess my father managed to obtain the plate from Shipbreaking. He had served his time as an apprentice at Denny in the late 50’s.

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