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MV Balmoral set to leave Bristol for ‘make or break’ MoT

Friday 16th May, 2014

Campaign to save the last sea-going ship built in Bristol, moored outside the M Shed since last summer, from the scrap heap has passed its first hurdle

MV Balmoral moored outside M Shed
MV Balmoral moored outside M Shed

A campaign to save the last sea-going ship built in Bristol, which has been moored outside the M Shed since last summer, from the scrap heap has passed its first hurdle – with the ship set to leave Bristol next Tuesday.

The MV Balmoral has been plying the British coast since it was built in 1949. Since 1986 it has been the sister ship to the famous paddle steamer the Waverley taking tourists along the North Somerset coast.

However, it has not sailed since 2012 year and urgently needs a £350,000 refit.

A fundraising campaign has been ongoing since it arrived outside M Shed and £110,000 has now been raised to allow it to travel to dry dock in Sharpness in Gloucestershire.

There it will undergo the equivalent of an MoT test, to determine whether it is fit to continue sailing.

Without urgent work, the ship will not receive a new safety certificate – due for this August. If it fails to get a new certificate, it is likely the ship will never sail again.

A statement from Balmoral Fund Ltd, the group managing the fundraising, said it was “wonderful news” that the first milestone in their campaign had been reached – but warned more funds were required if the ship was to have a long-term future.

“Balmoral Fund Ltd is able to announce the wonderful news that we have long waited for and thought may never come. All is now arranged, confirmed and booked,” the group said.

“Under command of Captain Steve Colledge MV Balmoral will at long last leave her berth in Bristol City Docks at 5am on Tuesday, May 13. She will sail under her own steam (diesel power) under Brunel’s famous Avon Suspension bridge down to Avonmouth for an overnight berth, before sailing at 6am on Wednesday, May 14 to Sharpness in Gloucestershire where she will go straight into dry dock on arrival.

“At Sharpness she will undergo her equivalent of an “MOT Test”. Optimism is high that she is still in good shape but this is a five-yearly survey and expensive work will be required. One of the major items here being extensive ‘ultrasonic tests’ carried out on her entire hull.

“Just getting her to Sharpness and dry docking costs will be in the region of £90,000 but thanks to the wonderful donations and pledges received so far, we are able to commit to this initial work.

“The fund of course has to behave in a financially diligent manner, not committing to costs which it cannot fully meet. It is already known that some re-plating will be needed and other things may come to light at dry docking. If it were possible to pay for these while Balmoral is actually in dry dock – savings would be considerable.

“The cost of a second dry-docking to carry out repairs before the August MCA deadline for re-certification could put the project in jeopardy. The bank balance of today will go some way towards the repair bill but isn’t enough. Another £50,000 is required to pay for expected additional work.

“That is why support is more vital now than at any time before. If this money can be raised now it could prove the financial lifeline. Generous financial donations could ensure that Balmoral sails again from ports and piers around the UK in 2015. If dry docking is successful and all goes as well as we hope it does and the ship is fully ready and certified to sail, there will still be huge financial and other challenges to overcome, hence the main target appeal of £350,000.

“We have a clear marketing plan and an innovative sailing programme being devised for 2015. The organisation will do everything in its power to explore every fundraising opportunity to ensure that this famous and much loved classic ship sails on into the future. Failure is not an option as that would probably be the end of the line for this wonderful vessel.”

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