Friday, April 8, 2016

Help Save an Ocean Freight Relic From When British Import and Export Cargo Relied on Steam Power

Sea Going Steamship Needs Support to Sail Again
Shipping News Feature
UK – Time was when steamships routinely travelled around the ports of Britain and ventured ever farther afield as the country built its fortune, with the oceans providing a highway for imports and exports of every type. Now that heritage is rapidly dissipating and with the last small potentially sea-going, coastal steamer in the UK, the SS Freshspring being served notice to vacate her berth on the River Severn, the clock is ticking to rehome a unique vessel and relic of naval history.

A dedicated, not for profit team, has gathered to rescue the ship and is working on raising funds to ensure the vessel can be taken to Bideford, North Devon where there is huge support for her. Once in Bideford, the Steamship Freshspring Society aims to utilise the ship to provide the area with a host of activities that will compliment maritime heritage, education and the regeneration of the region.

Work is underway to make the 120ft ex-Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker towable for the voyage to her new home. The long term restoration and maintenance of the vessel will be undertaken by local engineers, volunteers and apprentices with the aim of returning her to steam power, and transforming her into a sea-going cultural experience, providing education, creating jobs and much needed training for Britain's future engineers and maritime workforce.

Ocean freight still carries by far the bulk of British inward or outbound cargoes and the Society says that with the UK sea trade economy expected to double over the next 20 years, the restored vessel can play her part inspiring a new generation of sailors at a time when it believes there will be a severe skills shortage in the sector. With cities like Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle and Cardiff benefiting from the revitalisation of their ports, the aim is that SS Freshspring will serve as a catalyst for the same regeneration of a cultural hub in a pocket of North Devon that's rich in natural beauty but short on opportunities for young people. John Puddy, Society Chairman observes:

"SS Freshspring is a unique and hugely valuable steamship. She represents the numerous small coasting steamers, which served the nation for over a century and is now the only one left with the potential to go to sea. She is recognised as a national treasure in the same way as ships like SS Great Britain or HMS Warrior. The Steamship Freshspring Society is an education Trust that owns SS Freshspring, which will be a major element in providing inspiration and education to help young people enter the maritime sector, becoming engineers and seafarers of the future."

A Gala Dinner is taking place on the 23rd of April at the Royal Hotel, Bideford to help raise the remainder of the £150,000 needed to ensure SS Freshspring is shipshape and seaworthy for her voyage to North Devon before her current berth expires on the 1st of July. If you would like to join in for what promises to be a special evening, please use this link to let the Society know of your interest and take a place at the event to help save a unique piece of British history.