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Atlantic Steam Navigation Company, 1946-1971
Lt. Col. Frank Bustard founded the Atlantic Steam Navigation
Co. Ltd. (ASN) and chartered after World War 2 through the Ministry of
War Transport from the Admiralty and the War Office for a period of three
years, three British Landing Ship Tanks (LST’s) 3519, 3534 and
3512. These vessels where named ; Empire Baltic, Empire
Cedric and Empire
On 11th September 1946 the maiden voyage was made when the Empire Baltic sailed fully loaded from Tilbury Docks, to Rotterdam, the voyage took a good 24 hours. After the maiden voyage the ASN then used their new vessels to carry thousands of vehicles for the Army, back and forth between Tilbury and Hamburg. In 1955, this service was eventually moved to Antwerp.
The original three LST’s were joined in 1948 by another British LST 3041, named Empire Doric after the ASN were able to convince commercial operators to support the new route between Preston and the Antrim port of Larne. However, special port facilities where constructed at both Preston and Larne before the new route could be open. The Atlantic Steam Navigation company commenced operations with the Empire Cedric between the Lancashire port of Preston and Larne in May 1948. The Preston to Larne service continued to expand so much so that in 1950, the service was expanded from Preston to include a service to Belfast. The service to Belfast opened in 1950 and sailings out of Preston were soon increased to 6 or 7 per week, to either Belfast or Larne.
In 1954, the ASN was taken over under the Labour Governments nationalisation policy by the British Transport Commission (BTC). In 1955 another two LST’s where chartered into the existing fleet these being Empire Cymric and Empire Nordic bringing the fleet strength to seven chartered LST’s. The Hamburg service was terminated in 1955, and a new service was opened between Antwerp and Tilbury. The fleet of seven ships was to be split up with the usual three ships based at Tilbury and the others maintaining the Preston services to Northern Ireland.
During 1956 the entire fleet of LSTs (Landing Ship (Tank)) was requisitioned
by the Government during the Suez Crisis and chartered German ships were
hastily introduced to keep the services going while in the following
year, the company acquired their first purpose-built ships using the
financial backing of the British Transport Commission. A product of the
Wm. Denny & Bros.
yard at Dumbarton the Bardic Ferry and Ionic
Ferry were the world's first
commercial roll on - roll off (RORO) vessels and carried not just lorries
but had sufficient headroom of their vehicle decks to accommodate a double
decker bus. First and Second Class accommodation for 55 passengers
was provided, each with their own dining rooms and lounges. These two
new vessels and their future sister ships were developed from the 11
years of operational experience gained by the ASN using LST’s,
and also took into account Ministry Of Defence specifications in case
any of these vessels were called for military service.
Two more larger vessels of this type were duly ordered from the Ailsa at Troon and the Cerdic Ferry (Rotterdam service) and Doric Ferry (Antwerp service) entered service at Tilbury in November 1961 and April 1962 by which time the Bardic Ferry was back on the Irish Sea. With the new vessels in operation, the LST fleet was gradually reduced until the final LST, the Empire Nordic, was withdrawn in December 1966. With no relief ship during the annual overhauls, ASN chartered Thoresen's Viking 1 to serve the Preston - Larne route during January 1967.
During the 1960s, ASN had purchased a small pier at Cairnryan on Loch Ryan, Wigtownshire, for £60,000 and in 1970 they decided to upgrade it for a new short-sea service. The European Ferries Group (EFG) trading as Thownsend Thoresen acquired the ASN for £5.5 million in November 1971 and the ASN colours of black hull and blue funnel with white stripe and black top soon gave way to the orange and green of Townsend Thoresen.
Many thanks to Henk Jungerius and Ted Finch for his assistance in collecting this data. The following list was extracted from various sources. This is not an all inclusive list but should only be used as a guide. If you would like to know more about a vessel, visit the Ship Descriptions (onsite) or Immigrant Ship web site.
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