Atlantic Steam Navigation Company
Number of locations
|Tilbury, Preston & Lowestoft|
|North Sea & Irish Sea|
|Services||Roll-on Roll-off ferries|
The Atlantic Steam Navigation Company was founded in 1934 with the original object of providing a no-frills transatlantic passenger service. A combination of difficult economic conditions and then World War II frustrated these early ambitions.
In 1946 the opportunity was taken to lease war-surplus LSTs from the Admiralty and start the world's first roll-on roll-off ferry service. Starting with military charters returning materiel from Europe to England the company progressed to providing commercial services across the Irish Sea and then across the North Sea. In 1971 the company was acquired by European Ferries.
- 1 History
- 2 Routes
- 3 Fleet
- 4 References
Genesis of the company
The company was originally founded in 1934 by Frank Bustard, the Passenger Traffic Manager for the White Star Line when the latter was merged with the Cunard Line the same year. The original idea was to set up a low cost line providing cheap passages between Europe and the United States. He first attempted to purchase a number of surplus vessels from the Red Funnel Line but was unsuccessful. He then approached Vickers Armstrong with designs for two new ships. However the government of the day was not keen on a new company operating on the North Atlantic in competition with Cunard White Star and Bustard was not able to raise a loan from the Bank of England to finance construction. The onset of World War II saw Bustard called up to the Army Reserve and his plans went into abeyance. During the war he was present at trials of landing craft loading and unloading vehicles on the sands of New Brighton.
Post World War II
After demobilisation, Bustard tried again to implement his transatlantic plans but there were no suitable ships available and no chance of raising finance for a new build. Instead he turned his thoughts to the use of surplus LSTs as vehicle ferries on the short sea routes across the North Sea. After lengthy negotiations with the Admiralty he succeeded in chartering 3 LSTs, 3519, 3534 and 3512. The ships needed modifications to engines, boilers and navigational aids as well as improved accommodation. The maiden voyage of ASN took place on 11 September 1946 when LST3519, now renamed Empire Baltic, sailed from Tilbury with 64 new vehicles for the Dutch Army for delivery in Rotterdam. The company continued to ferry thousands of military vehicles across the North Sea via Hamburg. In 1955 the terminal was transferred from Hamburg to Antwerp.
In 1948 ASN acquired another LST which became the Empire Doric and was used to inaugurate a commercial service between Preston, Lancashire and Larne. Early cargoes included a contract to carry 200 prefabricated houses, lorries loaded with glass from Pilkington's, and a circus. This was the first commercial roll-on roll-off ferry service in the world. It proved so successful that in 1950 the Empire Gaelic was acquired to operate a new service between Preston and Belfast.
In 1952, ASN were chosen to manage a fleet of 12 LSTs for the War Department, operating in the Middle & Far East. This arrangement continued until 1961 when the operation transferred to the British-India Steam Navigation Company.
In April 1954 ASN was nationalised and came under the auspices of the British Transport Commission. With the dissolution of the BTC in 1962 the company was transferred to the Transport Holding Company. In 1968 it became part of the National Freight Corporation, subsequently being sold to European Ferries in 1971.
In late 1956 the entire fleet was sent to Mediterranean during the Suez Crisis. ASN had to charter in a number of ships to maintain the freight services from Preston. Initially three British coasters were acquired to be replaced by four German ships for the rest of the war. Vehicle services were not resumed until January 1957. At the same time ASN were responsible for the operation of 12 LSTS that had been recommissioned for the duration of the war. These were known as the Seabird class.
In 1957 ASN ordered their first new ships, Bardic Ferry and Ionic Ferry in a rolling programme to replace the original fleet of LSTs. The ships were designed to carry both vehicles and container traffic being equipped with their own electric cranes to handle the latter. In addition the main car deck was strengthened to take tanks in the event of the vessels being required for military service. The first of the LSTS to be withdrawn was the Empire Cedric in 1959. The last was the Empire Nordic which survived until 1966. The rest having gone by 1963.
In 1961 ASN startered offering container services from Preston to various ports across the Irish Sea using a number of chartered vessels. Starting with parallel services to Larne and Belfast they expanded to serve Drogheda, Dublin and, briefly, Waterford.
In 1965 ASN moved its North Sea base from Tilbury to the expanding port of Felixstowe which reduced the crossing time by half.
In 1969 the founder of the company, Lt-Colonel Frank Bustard was made a Freeman of Larne.
- 1946 - 1965 Tilbury - Rotterdam
- 1946 - 1955 Tilbury - Hamburg
- 1948 - 1971 Preston - Larne
- 1950 - 1971 Preston - Belfast
- 1955 - 1968 Tilbury - Antwerp
- 1961 - 1971 Preston - Drogheda
- 1963 - 1971 Preston - Dublin
- 1964 - 1966 Preston - Waterford
- 1965 - 1971 Felixstowe - Rotterdam
- 1968 - 1971 Felixstowe - Antwerp
Chartered from Admiralty
The ships names commemorated White Star Liners.
|SS Empire Baltic||1946–1962||ex LST 3519|
|SS Empire Cedric||1946–1959||ex LST 3534|
|SS Empire Celtic||1946–1960||ex LST 3512|
|SS Empire Doric||1948–1960||ex LST 3041|
|SS Empire Gaelic||1950–1960||ex LST 3507|
|SS Empire Cymric||1955–1962||ex LST 3010, ex HMS Attacker|
|SS Empire Nordic||1955–1966||ex LST 3026, ex HMS Charger|
Managed ships for RASC
1952-1961, named after distinguished RASC officers.
|SS Charles MacLeod||ex LST 3021|
|SS Evan Gibb||ex LST 3037|
|SS Frederick Clover||ex LST 3001 renamed Pacific Pioneer|
|SS Humphrey Gale||ex LST 3509|
|SS Maxwell Brander||ex LST 3024, renamed Fredrege Isabel|
|SS Reginald Kerr||ex LST 3009|
|SS Snowdon Smith||ex LST 3028, renamed Elbano Primo|
Managed ships for the War Office
Mobilised for the Suez Crisis in late 1956.
|SS Empire Curlew||ex LST 3042, ex HMS Hunter|
|SS Empire Fulmar||ex LST 3524, ex HMS Trumpeter|
|SS Empire Gannet||ex LST 3006, ex HMS Tromso|
|SS Empire Grebe||ex LST 3038, ex HMS Fighter|
|SS Empire Guillemot||ex LST 3525, ex HMS Walcheren|
|SS Empire Gull||ex LST 3523, ex HMS Trouncer|
|SS Empire Kittiwake||ex LST 3510, ex HMS Slinger|
|SS Empire Petrel||ex LST 3520, ex HMS Thruster|
|SS Empire Puffin||ex LST 3015, ex HMS Battler|
|SS Empire Shearwater||ex LST 3033, chartered by Townsend Bros in 1959|
|SS Empire Skua||ex LST 3517, ex HMS St Nazaire|
|SS Empire Tern||ex LST 3504, ex HMS Pursuer|
The ships names again reflected ASN's White Star Line heritage.
|MV Bardic Ferry||1957–1976||Sold, renamed Nassim II|
|MV Ionic Ferry||1958–1976||Sold, renamed Kamasin, renamed Tamerlane|
|MV Cerdic Ferry||1961–1981||Sold, renamed Atlas I, renamed Sifnos|
|MV Doric Ferry||1962–1981||Sold, renamed Atlas II, renamed Captain Alexandros|
|MV Gaelic Ferry||1964–1985|
|MV Baltic Ferry||1965–1968||ex USS LST1081, ex USS Pima County. Sold and renamed Sable Ferry, renamed Nickel Ferry|
|SS Celtic Ferry||1966–1974||ex USS LSD11, ex HMS Cutlass, ex HMS Northway, ex City of Havana.|
|MV Europic Ferry||1967–1993||renamed European Freighter, sold and renamed Afrodite II, renamed Ajman Glory|
|St Kilda||Aug-Sep 1956||J & A Gardner|
|Cliffville||Aug 1956 - Jan 1957||John S Monk|
|A R Rawall||Sep 1956||Irish|
|Kapt Jan Reinecke||Sep 1956 - Jan 1957||J.A. Reinecke||West German|
|Fidentia||Sep 1956 - Jan 1957||Metcalfe Shipping Company Ltd|
|Heinrich Lorenz||Sep 1956 - Jan 1957||West German|
|Mary Robert Müller||Oct 1956 - Jan 1957||Robert Müller||West German|
Preston container services
|Elisa||A C Hoff||ex Biscaya|
|Goodwill||A C Hoff|
|Prior||A C Hoff||renamed Trinitas|
|Stream Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|Goodwill Trader||A C Hoff|
|Noach||A C Hoff|
|Goodwill Merchant||A C Hoff|
|Inniscara||British and Irish Steam Packet Company||Irish|
|Bay Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|Race Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|Leven Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|Eden Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|River Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|Firth Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|Derwent Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|Clipper||A C Hoff|
|Goodwill Traveller||A C Hoff|
|Curran||Shamrock Shipping Ltd|
|Moyle||Shamrock Shipping Ltd|
|Cambrian Coast||Coast Lines|
|Barbel Bolten||Auguste Bolten|
|Orwell Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|Coria||Dammers & van der Heide|
|Solway Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|Marietta Bolten||Auguste Bolten|
|Linda||Dammers & van der Heide|
|Poole Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
|Owenglas||Huelin Renouf Shipping Services|
|Guernsey Fisher||James Fisher & Sons|
The following ships were chartered from Townsend Thoreson to cover the overhaul period of ASN's ships.
|MS Viking I||1966, 1967|
|MS Viking II||1965|
- By Road Across the Sea, Miles Cowsill  Ferry Publications
- The Townsend Thoresen Years, Miles Cowsill & John Hendy  Ferry Publications