Investment—or what?

Published: Thursday, 19 October 2017

IT IS NOW more than a year since the Liverpool Lightship Planet was seized by CaRT on the 19th September 2016, writes Pam Pickett.

Planet owned by Alan Roberts now lies in a shipyard approximately eight miles from R.W. Davies shipyard on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, that is also the current resting place of Geoff Mayers boat, Pearl.

lightshipThe snatch

Press coverage at the time of the snatch of Planet by the Trust appears to have referred to arrears of berthing fees amounting to £10,000. However, the arrears of berthing fees were in the reality just under £5,000. Those fees were being pursued through the County Court at the time of the seizure and were not the true reason for CaRT to snatch the vessel.

I am however led to understand those berthing fees were paid shortly after the vessel was taken and within the time limit stipulated in the court judgment. One has to wonder on whose word the £10,000 as widely reported was received by those journalists covering the story of the snatch? I rather doubt that the oft quoted ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story’ applies here.

Sea worthiness

Regardless, prior to being towed to Sharpness, Planet was subjected to a survey by Braemar Technical Services, Marine Surveyors to ensure the seaworthiness of the vessel. The date of the instruction to Braemar Technical Services by CaRT was 28th July 2016. Interestingly, given this date, some two months before the snatch, you don’t have to be brain of Britain to assume that CaRT already had a coastal passage in mind.

For some reason however any mention of the value of Planet appears to have been omitted from the survey report, instead only the scrap value of £70,750 seems to have been stated. It was then in April/May this year that CaRT apparently claimed that due to ’ bad publicity’ enquiries were being received only from scrap merchants, hence the price of the sale. Handy then perhaps it was aware of the scrap value!

Failed to name the buyer

Moving on. Somewhat surprising I feel that costs incurred relating to the seizure of the vessel inclusive of those incurred by ‘High Court Bailiffs‘ that ultimately turned out to be no such thing. The cost of the survey and finally the 300 nautical miles tow to Sharpness had now clocked up some £43,000 in costs, yet was then sold for £12,500 to Steve Beacham, the owner of the shipyard to which the vessel was towed. ‘Bad publicity’ now together with ‘doubt as to title to Planet’ suggested by CaRT as being the reason for the eye-watering low price of the sale. CaRT however failed to name the buyer at this time.

I have to admit that when CaRT claimed to have sold the boat in April or May for just £12,500 I could not believe this to be true. However, listening to historian Peter Elson on the Roger Phillips phone-in on Radio Merseyside a couple of weeks ago, this information was indeed validated, Steve Beacham himself interviewed by Peter Elson it seems confirmed that he had in fact purchased Planet for the amount stated.

Loss of money

Some things it seems are stranger than fiction, given the loss of money here. Regardless of the high cost of breaking up a vessel like Planet, even scrap would give a rather nice return, but then not as much as selling Planet on, once tidied up as I understand is to happen, title permitting of course. Given the rates of interest offered to savers today I doubt any would turn up their nose at such a return!

Incidentally, at the end of the day Alan Roberts is yet another vulnerable boater, suffering from the painful autoimmune condition Polymialgia Rheumatica a symptom of which is clinical depression, with the primary treatment for this not only for some sufferers adding to that depression, I’m told, but also causing confusion.