16th January 2007, 00:06
There have been a number of posts lately in the gallery of coasters and I must say I think they are lovely little vessels even though I only sailed on one once when I was 15 years old from Leith round to the Western Isles.

I have been wondering what the health of that trade is like nowadays in various parts of the world, whether, like most of the rest of the M.N. it is in decline.

Gavin Gait
16th January 2007, 00:10
We seem to have a regular group of about a dozen coasters all around 200ft that ply their trade from Fraserburgh to various European ports. Cargo's vary from Wood logs , to peat , Grain , Gravel , Fertiliser and one specialised vessel ( the Francona ) delivers block frozen Sprats from the Baltic and takes away block frozen offal from the fish processing industry ( bones/skin/guts/anything not used by us Humans ) to be used as food in the Mink farms in Finland.

We get some older coasters in and some fairly new ones so i'd guess that the coasters trade is going ok in the NE of Scotland just now.


16th January 2007, 13:16
From a NZ point of view, the coastal trade is virtually dead. All that's left are two ships of Pacifica Shipping (one LO/LO container ship and one RO/RO), three bulk cement carriers, two tankers and the Rail Ferries.
And along with the ships, a number of ports also died.

16th January 2007, 13:33
The port of Teignmouth down here in sunny Devon is a busy place.

Each month we have between 20 to 30 ships, ranging up to 5000gt dwt. Most traffic is exporting china clay, but there are regular imports of timber and animal feed.

For those interested in coasters then I recommend the following -



17th January 2007, 00:01
Another extremely busy place in the UK is Goole on the east coast.
Quite varied cargo, although now they prefer to call coasters: "Short Sea Traders" good website too:

In general world wide Coasters seem to do ok. Like most other Industries they underwent huge changes.
The first change came as trucks got bigger and cheaper to run,that eliminated some of the smallest coasters, and some of the smallest harbors.

Then came containers, wiping out harbors ( and traffic patterns) that had existed for up to a thousend years (Nijmegen 2000 years), not counting Tankers for a moment, the old harbors were pretty much located downtown, and most coasters fit that size, 500 to 1200 tons.
Coasters basically came in 2 shapes, single deckers and shelterdeckers.
One basically a "mini bulker" the other comparable to the larger fast cargo liners and break bulk tramps ( who disappeared fast also).
Most coasters that didn't get scrapped found a new life in the Med and Caribbean, some doing quite well, I always felt sorry for those sold to Africa ...
For instance the traditional dutch coaster fleet was practically sold in a period of 10 years.
But they were replaced with a new kind of coaster, which is usually a bit bigger, 2000 to 3000 tdw.
Loosely, the river sea ship with hydraulic bridge, and then the "boxed" mini bulker and "feeder" ship (containers) and now called short sea traders.
A good example of this (if a bit large) is the Bodewes trader 8000 (bulk) and the Bodewes Trader 390 (containers) some with cranes some without.
So now the shelterdecker has morphed into a bit bigger container ship.
Many older norwegian coaster got "boxed in" and an excavator set on deck and they haul mostly crushed stone for the oil industry and such.
I know a few quite old (30 years+) german and dutch coasters that updated their hatches and cargo holds and trade still rather successful in Europe. The "Kormoran" is one example.
How well is business? I believe it depends a bit on the owner, the area and the ship, some are making good money while others go under....
Generally business in Europe (including the Med), the Caribean and Asia seems to be good.
The US never had modern (60's style) coasters, based on the coast line of the US most of that was taken by rail roads and later trucks, and frankly not just coasters but even bigger ships priced themselves out of business.
But the river ships are doing quite ok. and in the US we have a unique "ship"
based on manning requirements.
They call it a sea going tug and barge (notched) and its actually pushing and looks like a ship from a distance, but carries much less crew than a ship would.
They do rather well too, a simple example is on my personal site :

But yes, for the most part the small coasters in Europe are gone unless they have a specialty niche, but have been replaced.
All in all most seem to do well in different parts of the world.
In a way the term coaster is rather misleading, since it leads many to believe they are not seaworthy, which is far from the truth of the matter! Maybe that is why PR folks want them to be short sea traders now :)
On the other hand it wouldn't make much sense to haul 700 tons of Tuborg beer to Australia, the fuel would cost more than the beer LOL
So we took it to Goole instead :)

tom hanley
24th January 2007, 12:29
Hi to all,
I sailed on a small coaster called "Vectis Isle", the owner/skipper was Bob Roberts who used to sail thames barges amongst other things. Only two of us on board most of the time. Bob had sold his barge "Cambria" to the Navy Trust and purchased the "Vectis Isle" to carry on trading. Trouble was, it had an engine and he new nothing about engines. Employed me as engineer, but most of the time I doubled? as mate, deckhand and cook. Probably why we couldn't keep any one else as crew for more than one trip at a time. Ran aground in fog in the channel at Calais, that was fun! Also holed the old girl on rocks (in the fog) somewhere near the channel islands and limped into St. Peter Port for repairs. Had some fun though, and Bob was one of lifes real characters. Can tell you more if anyone wants to know.
Did anyone else meet Bob? what happened to him? I found out he wrote three books on his life at sea.
Regards to all,

24th January 2007, 13:53
Tom, a great story. As a "shipspotter" I remember the Vectis Isle running along the coast in the 1970s. Wasn't she managed by the then fledgling Carisbrooke Shipping? The name lives on in a current vessel which, until recently, was also managed by Carisbrooke, but is now owned by Ukrainian interests.


24th January 2007, 14:45
Wasn't she built as BADZO?Just received a piccie of her courtesy/©John Clarkson.
Launched as BADZO.
In 1940 to Londen.
In 1945 back to owner.
In 1959 to U.K. as VECTIS ISLE.
In 1965 new engine: 2TE 3 cil. App.Brons (230x380) 150 rpk.
In 1979 to Panama as ESTRELLA lV.
In 1985 sunk near Lisbon on the river Taag because leakage in engineroom.
Scrapped on location.

tom hanley
25th January 2007, 09:58
Hi Ruud,
Thanks for the photo. When I was on her, she was owned and operated by Bob Roberts + his dog. Thanks for the history and sorry to hear she sank. Not a bad little ship, sailed like a cork though.

25th January 2007, 23:36
Many thanks everyone for your helpfull responses.