MV Oliver Cromwell sinks in the Irish Sea whilst under tow to Coleraine

Former owners of MV Oliver Cromwell English Holiday Cruises have been shocked and saddened to learn that she sank on Friday afternoon just off the coast of Anglesey whilst being towed to her new owners in Northern Ireland. Fortunately, there was no-one on board at the time, no-one has been injured and there is no risk of any sea pollution. However, we were deeply upset by the news as she was a major part of our lives for nearly 14 years and we were looking forward to seeing her new owners renovate her into a static hotel and restaurant.

The Oliver Cromwell was sold in January this year to a leisure company in Northern Ireland who then set about preparing her for towage with the assistance of 2 marine surveyors, Sharpness Shipyard, Griffin Towage and the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Final surveys of both the tug and the vessel were completed this week and the MCA granted the necessary Load Line Exemption Certificate to permit the tow. Given the prevailing fair weather conditions, the tow commenced on Wednesday, 23rd May and proceeded for over 200 nautical miles before running into difficulties. We have no further information on the event at the moment. The circumstances and likely causes of her sinking will be investigated, as is normal, by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch. Further comment would be speculative and unhelpful at this time.

In view of some inaccurate reporting in the last 24 hours, we would like to clarify the history of the vessel and our reasons for selling her.

1. After many years of sailing the Severn as a hotel boat she was moored up as a static venue in the docks from 2009, primarily because the costs involved in renewing her passenger licence were prohibitive.
2. She did not prosper in her location on the West side of the docks and her planning permission in that location was only temporary.
3. Her owners therefore sought permanent planning permission on the canal closer to higher footfall but this proved difficult.
4. As a result, she was put up for sale in 2012. As part of the sale process, out-of-water surveys were undertaken in 2014, including hull thickness testing, all of which demonstrated that she was structurally sound.
5. Several expressions of interest were submitted up to the end of 2016 but in all cases the buyer either could not raise sufficient funds or did not have a mooring to take her to.
6. To hedge against the possibility that no buyer would be found, English Holiday Cruises sought and received CRT approval and planning permission to moor the vessel, after refurbishment, on the Gloucester and Sharpness canal at Moreton Valence as a static bed and breakfast hotel.
7. In early 2017, however, a number of well qualified buyers began to express interest, just when the owners were losing enthusiasm for the bed and breakfast venture, due to their age.
8. The first successful bidder paid to repaint the exterior but could not raise the funds to complete the purchase.
9. A blind bidding process then yielded a second successful bid from a leisure company in Northern Ireland and the sale was completed in January 2018.
10. As part of the process to secure permission for towage, we assisted the new owners in submitting to the MCA the vessel’s stability book, ultrasonic hull thickness test results, a marine surveyor’s recent condition report and all the other information they deemed relevant.
11. A list of works to adapt the vessel for safe towage was then developed by the MCA, Griffin Towage and two independent marine surveyors. The necessary works were undertaken at Sharpness Shipyard and signed off by a marine warranty surveyor and the MCA. As is routine, the MCA certification and Insurance certificate was submitted to the Harbourmaster at Sharpness in order to have her departure authorised.
12. In summary, the vessel was fully prepared to be towed and all parties as required were consulted in preparing her for the voyage so that the necessary certification and insurance could be issued.

Richard Clements MD of English Holiday Cruise said “We were looking to forward seeing the vessel getting a new lease of life in Northern Ireland and are very upset that this will no longer happen. We are grateful that nobody has been hurt and no pollution has occurred. We have sent commiserations to the buyers in Northern Ireland.”

English Holiday Cruises Ltd