Atlantic Container Line (ACL) officially launched its new fleet of transatlantic combination container/roll‐on roll‐off (con-ro) ships on 20 October 2016 with the christening of Atlantic Sea, by HRH The Princess Royal in Liverpool.
Crowds lined Liverpool’s waterfront to witness the official Christening Ceremony of the new ship. This was the first Royal Christening on the Mersey since 1960, and was followed by a fireworks display and departure.
ACL’s UK Managing Director, Ian Higby said that the event marked a “historic new dawn” for ACL, which has operated between North America and North Europe since 1967.
“This was an unforgettable day for everyone at ACL,” he said. “It was wonderful to join our Liverpool and New Jersey offices together with our owners, the Grimaldi Family, the UK Shipping Minister, John Hayes and many distinguished guests in the presence of The Princess Royal.
“It was especially poignant to be able to thank the people of Liverpool and Merseyside who have supported us passionately since we first started business. Our ships have called Liverpool twice a week, every week since 1969 acting as a crucial link for the UK’s export and import trades. Our European HQ is now in Liverpool with our new purpose‐built office on Duke Street, the first built by a shipping line in the city since 1924.
“We have deep bonds with Merseyside where maritime is in the DNA of the people. We are proud to employ nearly 170 staff with half under the age of 40. In addition, ACL supports a substantial UK supply chain. More widely, the Christening sends an enormously powerful message to the industry. Our new fleet of Generation 4 (G4) CONRO vessels will replace the existing fleet of G3 ships and double our transatlantic capacity.”
Mr Higby said that the new G4 con-ro ships are the largest of their kind in the world. All ships will call at Liverpool twice a week: “We were very proud to announce, in the presence of the Royal Family and the UK Government, that the new G4 vessels are registered in the UK and proudly fly the Red Ensign, with Liverpool as their home port proudly displayed on the stern. We were delighted to recognise Peel Ports for its support in widening the entry to the basin of Seaforth Dock ensuring our new ships will fit through the lock to their berth.
Each of the new G4 vessels, which were built in Shanghai at Hudong‐Zhonghua Shipyard, can carry 3,800 containers, 1300 vehicles and have 28,900 m2 high and heavy roll‐on/roll‐off capacity .
The christening also saw a blessing in memory of the ACL G2 vessel,Atlantic Conveyor, which was 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 permanent memorial to their sacrifice stands at Liverpool Parish Church.