Isles of Scilly Steamship Company
The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company (ISSC) operates the principal shipping service from Penzance, in the English county of Cornwall, to the offshore Isles of Scilly. It provides a year-round cargo service together with a seasonal passenger service in summer. The name of the company's principal ferry, the Scillonian III, is perhaps better known than that of the company itself.
The company is based in the Isles of Scilly Travel Centre Penzance. It also owns Isles of Scilly Skybus Ltd, an operator of fixed-wing aircraft services to the Isles of Scilly, and Westward Airways, an operator of sight seeing flights.
In 2010, the company had close to 1,000 shareholders, around half of whom live on the Isles of Scilly. Due to the Isles of Scilly's remote location, the shipping service is often called 'a life line' for the archipelago.
From 1858 services were provided by the Scilly Isles Steam Navigation Company which was replaced in 1870 by the West Cornwall Steam Ship Company. This was wound up in 1907 and the services operated by John Banfield until 1917. For the rest of the First World War the services were operated by Government vessels. At the end of the war, a transport vacuum arose when the Ministry of Shipping withdrew the wartime service between St Mary's and Penzance.
On 26 March 1920 the current Isles of Scilly Steamship Company was founded with £20,000 (£700,000 as of 2014) raised by selling shares, mostly in the Isles of Scilly. The company was formed with the express purpose of securing a regular shipping service between the islands and the mainland. It came into service when the company received its Certificate of Incorporation, giving the right to commence business, dated 27 March 1920.
Initially services were operated by the Peninnis (ex-HMS Argus), which the company purchased from the Admiralty Disposals for £8,000 (£280,000 as of 2014). Following the necessary alterations at a cost of £5,000 (£180,000 as of 2014), this former fishery protection vessel served as the company's ship from 1920 until 1927 but it soon became clear that a purpose-built, new steamer was required.
During 1924 the directors of the Steamship Company began considering the purchase of a larger ship and at an Extraordinary General Meeting of Shareholders on 16 June 1925, the directors were empowered to place the order with Ailsa Shipbuilding Company Ltd of Troon, Scotland. In order to keep their yard open during the economic slump, this work was undertaken at cost, the contract price was £24,500 (£1,220,000 as of 2014). The new ferry, built to carry 400 passengers and cargo, was launched on 17 November 1925 and named Scillonian by Mrs. A.A. Dorrien-Smith of Tresco Abbey. At 11 pm on 25 January 1926 she completed her maiden voyage from Troon and docked at St Mary's. She made her first time-tabled, commercial trip from on Thursday 2 February 1926 from St. Mary's to Penzance. It took her three and a quarter hours.
Following this ship Scillonian II entered into service in 1956, purpose built for the Steamship Company by John I. Thornycroft & Company of Woolston, Southampton, and was in service until 1977. A second ship operated for a while named Queen of the Isles. At approx 500 tons she was smaller than Scillonian II and was used to augment the larger ship at busy times. She was also used to run charter services to the Islands from other ports. On her sale she went to operate an inter-island service in the Pacific.
The present Scillonian III was also purpose built for the Steamship Company and entered into service in May 1977. Scillonian III is the third passenger ship of this name and currently in service for passengers and cargo 8 months of the year. Due to the number of tidal currents which meet off Lands End, and the need for a shallow draught to allow access to the Islands, the sea journey to Scilly can be rough. For this reason Scillonian III was fitted with a "Flume" antiroll stabilizer system.
On 1 September 2009, the Steamship Company took over the lease to operate and manage Penzance Dry Dock. Established in 1834, it is one of the UK’s longest established dry docks and provides facilities for vessels requiring repair and conversion. It takes in 15 to 20 ships a year.
At the AGM in September 2010, the following corporate figures were published: During the previous fiscal year, Steamship Company craft had carried 73,000 passengers to Scilly by air and sea. This accounted for 61.4% of the total passenger market on the route between Scilly and the mainland. Skybus Ltd had a market share to 50.2% of all passengers flying to St Mary's.
Currently in service
- Scillonian III — Passenger and cargo vessel. Purpose built in 1977 by Appledore Shipbuilders Ltd, Devon.
- Gry Maritha — Cargo vessel. Built in Norway, acquired in 1989.
- Lyonesse Lady — Inter-island launch. Purpose built in 1991 by Lochabar Marine Ltd. to replace MV Gugh (see below).
- Swift Lady — Inter-island RIB. Purpose built in 2004 by Redbay Boats, Northern Ireland.
- Island Lady — Cargo vessel. Built in 1986 as a MOD tank landing craft, acquired by the ISSC in 2007. Is 90 ft long with a 22 ft beam and capable of carrying 100 tonnes of cargo.
Former ISSC vessels
- RMS Peninnis, operated by the ISSC 1920 - 1927.
- MV Ganilly, operated by the ISSC 1923 - 1932. Built in 1923 by H W Dockyard, Plymouth. Later sold to Coast Lines Ltd.
- SS Gugh, operated by the ISSC 1923 - 1951. Built in 1910 by Philip and Sons, formerly the steamer Dart. Converted to diesel in 1927. Wrecked in 1951.
- SS Scillonian, operated by the ISSC 1926 - 1956.
- SS Advance
- SS Endeavour
- MV Endeavour
- MV Normor
- TSMV Lady of the Isles, operated by the ISSC 1947 - 1952. Sold to a French owner.
- Gondolier, operated by the ISSC ???? - 1967.
- Lyonesse, operated by the ISSC ???? - 1967.
- Golden Spray III, operated by the ISSC 1947 - 1968. Now operated by the St. Mary's Boatman's Association.
- MV Kittern, operated by the ISSC 1949 - ????. Built in 1944 by Fox and Son, Ipswich. An ex Royal Navy motor launch.
- MV Tean, operated by the ISSC 1953 - ????. An ex Royal Navy motor launch.
- TSMV Scillonian II, operated by the ISSC 1956 - 1977.
- MV Gugh, operated by the ISSC 1961 - 1991. An ex Royal Navy motor launch. Formerly MV Fervent. Was replaced by the current Lyonesse Lady.
- TSMV Queen of the Isles, operated by the ISSC 1964 - 1966.
- Ivor B — Cargo vessel. Acquired by the ISSC in 2010, formerly Guedel and in French service, formerly serving islands off the coast of Brittany. Is 32 metres long and capable of carrying around 280 tonnes of cargo. Named after the late Ivor Bone, a building contractor manager during the construction of the new Five Islands School. Sold in 2012 and subsequently renamed Evora.
Scillonian III operates a return service from March/April to November (Monday to Saturday, and Sundays during August 2006). She departs Penzance at 9.15am and returns from St. Mary's at 16.30pm, although these times may differ on certain dates due to tidal conditions, school holidays, and other events. The sailing time is approximately 2 hours 40 minutes.
During the winter, when Scillonian III is out of service, a cargo only service is provided by Gry Maritha.
In early 2007, press reports indicated that Cornwall County Council was expected to approved plans for the construction of a new ro-ro replacement ferry at a cost of £17.5 million. This vessel would be leased to the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company and would replace both Scillonian III and Gry Maritha.
- "Contact Us." Isles of Scilly Steamship Company. Retrieved on 5 July 2010.
- "Buy Cornish". Enterprise Edge. Retrieved January 19, 2007.
- Record results for IoS Steamship, 26 August 2010
- Media release by Deborah Clark Associates on behalf of Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, 14 June 2010
- "RMS Scillonian III - Take a look above and below decks on the islands' beloved steamer" in The Islander - Life on the Isles of Scilly (Spring 2009), pp. 30-34
- UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2014), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
- "Scillonian III Back in Service after £1,700,000 Refit" in Scilly up to Date, issue 120 (April 1999), accessed 2011-08-16
- Ships Monthly, Volume 10, 1975 gives an acquisition price of £10,000 (£350,000 as of 2014)
- Steamship Company takes Dry Dock lease, 17 September 2009
- Steamship acquisition, 26 May 2011
- Plummer, Russell (February 2007). "Ferry news". Ships Monthly (IPC Country & Leisure Media). p. 6.