Home NewsCommunication Update From Chief Operating Officer

Hello fellow volunteers,

In the words of Arkwright from Open All Hours “it’s been a funny old year”, what with the sailing season cancelled and very restricted numbers of volunteers being allowed on board the ship. But that doesn’t mean that nothing has been going on, in fact, the lock down has given us the opportunity to really get on with securing not only the future of the ship but also of the new charity which now has full responsibility for maintaining and operating Shieldhall.

Many of our volunteers have felt a bit left out in terms of knowing what has been going on so this note from me is designed to inform you of all the work that is currently under way to hopefully give us a successful season in 2021

I will not dwell much on the activity of the Trustees Board of the new charity (Steamship Shieldhall Charity) as our Chairman – John Rose, has already covered this in the magazine and over a couple of Zoom meetings. Instead, I will update you on the activities of the Operations Committee. Having said that, the Trustees Board have been very active and one of its successes has been the securing of a permanent berth for Shieldhall.

We are in the final stages of an agreement with ABP whereby berth 110 will be Shieldhall’s permanent berth. We will run all our passenger excursions from berth 110 and open the ship for alongside functions from the berth. This will involve making safe the approach from the car park to the ship, putting up safety barriers with signage informing visitors about the history of the ship and arranging car parking away from the ship with some form of shuttle service from car parks to the ship. We will also bring the “Blue Box” back into service as a reception area for visitors.


The engineering volunteers work parties have continued throughout the summer on Wednesdays and Fridays, with very limited numbers on board to maintain social distancing. Despite this they have achieved a great deal culminating in the recent firing up of one of the boilers and the running of the engines and other steam driven machinery on board. Our current key issues are:

  • Several tank inspections have been carried out with MCA in attendance.  Tanks inspected are generally structurally sound but coatings in some need attention and this is being dealt with. 
  • At drydocking MCA requires extensive ultrasonic thickness measurements of the bottom shell of the engine room double bottom tanks.
  • Fuel tanks remain a serious concern with fuel seepage still an issue. A proposal has been put to the Board to completely replace our fuel tanks with new ones built inside the ship in the aft hold (void) space away from the side of the ship. Design work continues but if this goes ahead it will most likely be completed in dry dock in 2021. Having said that, a separate proposal for the work to be carried out at berth 110 is also being worked up.
  • Fixed anodes on the hull are being depleted and although currently supplemented by suspended anodes, their replacement at drydocking or using divers will be a priority.
  • Leaking boiler fuel valves due to the use of diesel fuel have caused flash backs when igniting and the intention is to replace the fuel valves with modern tighter valves before the next sailing season.

Deck Maintenance:

The deck work parties also continued over the summer on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Much of the work carried out has been around generally painting the ship in readiness for the 2021 season. Other key activities include:

  • The aft peak ballast tank which has been scaled and prepared for painting.
  • The area around the pump house has been tidied up
  • A new gangway davit and gate have been fitted following damage caused by high winds and tide
  • The planned maintenance system has been set up again to keep a check on all the routine checks that need to be carried out

Up coming work still to be completed includes:

  • New windows will be fitted to the starboard bridge wing, shop and masters cabin in the next few weeks
  • The remainder of the focsle cabins will be refurbished
  • Life rafts and inflatable life jackets will be landed for servicing ready for the 2021 season
  • The fresh water tank on the focsle will be replaced as the old one is breaking down inside

Marine Superintendent and Training:

With Covid restrictions in place we will be unable to hold our annual safety refresher training on board Paul Smith and Ian Odd are developing web based training modules for us all to complete instead, watch this space for further news. Safety drills will still need to be completed on board but these will be restricted to a small number of volunteers.

In recognition of the potential shortage of Masters in the future a Work Group be set up to consider how to recruit suitably qualified masters and how they can be trained and integrated into the on-board culture, procedures and practices on a volunteer manned ship. Two new Masters joined us last year and have indicated that they are available in 2021 so we will have an early opportunity to test our training processes for new Masters

Website, Ticketing and Marketing:

As you all know, the new website is up and running. Please give any feedback you might have to Lewis. We have also launched our sailing season for 2021 and have already had plenty of interest and sales. Unfortunately, the Poole Boat Show 2021 has been cancelled but we will be looking at how we can fill that vacant slot. The number of tickets for each sailing has been limited to 100 but this may be increased subject to the situation with COVID and the development of appropriate protocols.  Short sailings will now be 3.5 hrs instead of 3hrs due to the location of Berth 110.  Plans are being developed to promote Xmas gift vouchers and membership plans. A special training day for pursers and front of house volunteers is planned for November.

We also have a small working group looking at our Covid protocols and how we will keep our volunteers, our passengers and any alongside visitors safe in 2021. They will be considering:

  • Safety of passengers and crew on-board
  • How to give a good passenger experience within the restrictions of COVID protocols
  • Number of passengers that can be allowed
  • Safe access to ER and Bridge
  • Queuing systems in saloon and bar and additional serving points on the boat deck
  • Temperature checks
  • QR  registration
  • Seating arrangements
  • Need for more crew on-board and possibly ‘hosts’ at key positions controlling access

The intent of this note has been to give you an overall picture of what is happening but if anyone has questions or wants more detail or clarification please get in touch with one of the department heads who should be able to help or alternatively contact myself.

Phil Stephens