HRH Princess Anne to perform historic Christening of new ACL ship at Liverpool’s Pier Head

Client News
Atlantic Container Line UK managing director Ian Higby

HRH Princess Anne will visit Liverpool this month to Christen the newest Atlantic Container Line (ACL)  vessel, Atlantic Sea, at the city’s cruise line terminal, in what will be the most historic maritime spectacle on the Mersey since the visit of the three Cunard Queens in 2015.

The Christening is the first by a member of the Royal Family on the Mersey for more than half a century, since Princess Alexandra launched the HMS Devonshire in 1960. It will take place starting at 12:00pm on Thursday, October 20. Viewing will be available along Princes Parade and the Pier Head. Later in the day the ship will move into the Mersey for a fireworks display around 18:30 before she departs.

ACL UK Managing Director, Ian Higby said the event will mark a new era of investment by ACL in Liverpool and the UK, ACL has long ties with Liverpool, dating back to its founding in 1967 (see notes to editors).

“This is an opportunity to champion Liverpool as a port city of the future and for ACL to thank Merseyside for all its support since the 1960s,” he said. “We are committed to the Port of Liverpool where we have operated two transatlantic vessel calls per week since 1969.  We have  constructed our brand new office building on Duke Street, which is the first shipping line headquarters built in the city since 1924. We have also centralised our back office functions here.  In addition, ACL is investing in local people and we have doubled our workforce in the last three years to 168, including six apprentices. Liverpool people and the city know and understand the maritime business. It is in our DNA.”

Mr Higby added that Atlantic Sea is one of five new combination Container Roll-On/Roll-Off (CONRO) vessels that will double ACL’s capacity, transporting containers and roll-on roll-off cargo between the UK, North Europe and North America.

“The investment in five new vessels signals a ramping up of ACL’s operations,” he said. “The fourth generation (G4) CONROs are the world’s largest and most advanced vessels of their kind in the world, each with a gross tonnage in excess of 100,000 tons. Moreover, at least four of the vessels will proudly fly the Red Ensign, sailing under the UK Ship Registry. We would like to thank the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and its staff in Liverpool for understanding our requirements and supporting us. It is also fantastic to see Liverpool on the stern of the ship as its home port. Few ships have carried the city’s famous name in recent years and it is good to see it back where it belongs.

“Furthermore we would like to recognise Peel Ports for its support in widening the entry to the basin of Seaforth Dock ensuring our new ships can fit through the lock to their berth. The LEP, Liverpool City Council, Mersey Maritime, local MPs, the cruise line terminal, Network Space, ERDF and Chrysalis have also been hugely supportive of our operation and our new office building. We are grateful for the RGF support we received in our centralisation project.”

Fact File: Atlantic Container Line

ACL is a major shipping company owned by the Grimaldi Group of Naples, Italy. The company’s headquarters are located in Westfield, New Jersey USA while the European HQ is based in Liverpool, UK. ACL has offices throughout Europe and North America.

ACL offers five transatlantic sailings each week between Europe and North America. ACL also provides UK logistics, accounting, documentation and customer service functions for its parent company, Grimaldi Lines, and their services to West Africa, South America and the Mediterranean.

ACL is one of the largest ocean carriers operating at the Port of Liverpool’s Royal Seaforth Container Terminal. Peel Ports Group invested in Royal Seaforth to accommodate ACL’s new fleet of G4 vessels, creating a dedicated vehicle storage area with sufficient capacity to handle ACL’s cargo requirements, and widening the passage into the dock basin so that the large G4s could fit into the terminal.

ACL’s connections with Liverpool began in 1969. Cunard Line was one of its original shareholders and when Liverpool was chosen as a main port in ACL’s Atlantic schedule due to its proximity to the British industrial heartland as well as Scotland and Ireland. One of ACL’s second-generation (G2) vessels, the Atlantic Conveyor, sunk during the Falklands War with a loss of 12 crewmen on May 25, 1982. Six Cunard seamen, including Captain Ian North, died when the ship, which had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy, was struck by two Exocet missiles. Six Royal Navy personnel also perished.  A memorial to their sacrifice stands at Liverpool Parish Church.

Atlantic Sea will be first ship Christened by ACL in Liverpool since the Company’s start of operations in 1969.  The last ACL vessel naming in the UK took place at Swan Hunter on Tyne in 1984 with the launching of third generation (G3) vessel, Atlantic Conveyor. ACL has doubled its workforce in Liverpool since 2013. Forty percent of their workforce today is under the age of 30. ACL has received RGF funding for the business centralisation project and ERDF support for its office development in Duke Street.

In 2015, ACL’s five new fourth generation (G4) vessels, with a gross registered tonnage of 100,430 tons, began replacing the existing fleet of G3 vessels. The new ships are named the Atlantic Star, Atlantic Sea, Atlantic Sail, Atlantic Sun and Atlantic Sky. At least four of the vessels will fly the UK flag with Liverpool as their home port. Presently three of the new vessels are in operation – Atlantic Sail, Atlantic Sea and Atlantic Star. The Atlantic Sky will be delivered in October and Atlantic Sun will be delivered in early 2017. All ships will call at Liverpool twice per week.

Each of the five new vessels, which were built in Shanghai at Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard, can carry 3,800 containers, 28,900 m2 high and heavy Roll-On/Roll-Off cargo and 1,300 vehicles. The new vessels carry almost twice the amount of cargo compared to the five ships they are replacing.

The innovative design of ACL’s new CONRO vessels increases capacity without significantly changing the dimensions of the vessel. The G4s are bigger, greener and more efficient than their predecessors. The internal vehicle ramps are wider and shallower and the vehicle decks are higher (up to 7.4 meters) with fewer columns, enabling much easier loading and discharge of oversized cargo. Emissions per container unit are reduced by 65%. The fleet continues to employ cell-guides on deck, a feature that will allow ACL to extend its record of never having lost a single container overboard in 30+ years.

ACL was formed in 1965 by a consortium of five shipping companies, Wallenius Lines, Swedish America Line, Transatlantic Steamship Company and Holland America Line. These were joined by Cunard Steamship Company and French Line (CGT) in 1967. ACL was purchased by the Grimaldi Group of Naples, Italy in 2001. The Grimaldi Group is one of the largest operators of multipurpose RORO cargo ships and passenger ferries in the world today, with services connecting North Europe, the Mediterranean, West Africa, South America and North America. For more information visit:


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