M.V. Communicator

Ship details: Built in 1954 by Abeking & Rasmussen in Lemwerder/Bremen (West Germany) for Det Stavangerske Dampskipsselskap (DSD) in Stavanger (Norway) as a cargo vessel. The tonnage of the vessel was 477 GRT, 190 NRT and 575 TDW and the vessel measured 186,8 / 29,3 / 8,7. The ship was one of six similar ships owned and operated by the company to carry cargo between Bergen, Stavanger and Oslo. Before renamed MV Communicator the ship was called Tananger, Charterer and Gardline Seeker.

In August 1983 Paul Rusling made enquiries about the availability of the ship Gardline Seeker, and found that it was still available for purchase. The Gardline Seeker was sold through the Swiss solicitor firm of Ivan Cohen and Company of Geneva to Deka Overseas Ltd. of Madison Avenue, New York, before handing the ship over, Deka Overseas Ltd. asked for the ship to be delivered to Florida. On 3rd September supplies were taken on board, and despite storm force winds the Gardline Seeker set sail. On 28th September the Gardline Seeker arrived at the Tractor Marine quay side at about 08:00 hours local time. On 29th September the ship was moved into dry dock number four to enable the hull to be cleaned. The fully cleaned ship was removed from the dry dock On 10th October. On 30th November the ship left Port Everglades, and via the Azores, staying there for four days, sailed to Ireland. On 13th December the ship arrived in New Ross, Ireland and work commenced on wiring up the studios. During late 1983 the ship was renamed “MV Communicator” and registered in Panama.

On 22nd December the MV Communicator set anchor a few miles north of the Drill Stone Light Buoy, Thames Estuary. A force eight storm greeted them, and shortly afterwards the ship was moved to calmer waters, eight miles from Margate. On Christmas Eve repairs were carried out to equipment on the MV Communicator. With rumours that the UK Government were going to investigate the ship, it was moved into international waters, near Long Sands on 27th December. On 1st April 1984 the main anchor chain broke, the on board anchor was lowered. After unsuccessful tests with helium balloons two masts were purchased and these were built on board the Communicator. They were complete by the 5th May. On 10th February 1985 the Communicator lost one of its aerial masts. On 12th April during a force nine storm the ship was adrift. Spare anchors were put down some hours later. On 23rd April the front mast collapsed again. During the next two weeks a completely new front mast was erected.

9th August was day one of “Eurosiege”.On 21st August the MV Communicator upped anchor from her position of one and a half miles from the Ross Revenge, and sailed north about ten miles to a position about half a mile from the Harwich shipping lanes, followed all the way be the the DTI boat the Dioptric Surveyor. With a force eight storm forecasted the Communicator returned to her old anchorage two days later. On 31st October the 133 Ton Dioptric Surveyor was replaced with the 443 Ton MV Gardline Tracker, the Communicator’s sister ship. The 532 Ton (gross) Gardline Tracker was on hire from Gardline Surveys Limited of Lowestoft, Suffolk. It had been built in 1953 by Yacht Bootswerft Abeking and Rasmussen of Lemwerder/Bremen, West Germany. The ship was 173 feet 4 inches long (52.99 metres), 29 feet 3 inches (8.95 metres) wide with a draught of 10 feet 4 inches (3.17 metres).

On 6th November the Communicator had been plagued by generator problems and after a night of heavy storms on the the North Sea, the Gardline Tracker took up position along side the ship. Both ships headed for Harwich. On 7th November the Communicator was put under arrest and was moored on the River Stour, off Edwarton Ness (Harwich). Government ship keepers remained on board the MV Communicator, keeping guard. Norwich Eastern Daily Press (cover date November 7th) reported that Yarmouth survey firm Gardline was drawing up a writ to serve on the MV Communicator. The managing director of Gardline, Mr George Darling, claimed they were owed £5,000 from September 1983 when the ship was originally sold to an American company (The Gardline Seeker was sold through the Swiss solicitor firm of Ivan Cohen and Company of Geneva to Deka Overseas Ltd. of Madison Avenue, New York). Mr George Darling was convinced that the outstanding money would be collected and that the MV Communicator could end up sailing with the Gardline fleet again. During the night of 16th January 1986 the Harwich inshore life boat rescued two night watchmen and then stood by the MV Communicator after they found the engine room full of smoke. The Fire service found no fire, but a faulty boiler causing the smoke. Twenty-four firemen from Colchester and Harwich took part in the operation as well as a fire launch (B-513) plus local police and ambulance services. On 8th April the MV Communicator was put up for sale by C W Kellock and Company Limited of 27 – 31 Saint Mary Avenue, London, EC3A 8AQ. Ship brokers for the Marshal of the Admiralty. On 21st April 1986 East Anglian Productions put out a press release stating that they had purchased the MV Communicator and all the equipment on board for £35,000. On 26th September Custom officers disabled the MV Communicator by removing two drive shaft bearings, the DTI had heard rumours that the ship was going to slip her moorings before she had been checked for seaworthiness. When it became publicly known that the ship had been disabled, the ship breaking firm that was breaking up the Gardline Tracker (the MV Communicator’s sister ship) offered to supply replacements free of charge. On 19th October the Communicator dragged her anchor during storm force winds. The ship was brought under control by a tug from Felixstowe, after it had dragged along the side of the Sealink Cambridge train ferry, and was then tied up at Parkestone Quay. When questions were asked on the grounds of safety why the bearings had been removed, a Customs and Excise spokesman said the engine bearings had been removed on orders from the Department of Transport, but a spokesperson for them said “That is nothing to do with us, the immobilisation of the engines is not our concern”. On 25th October Custom officers board the Communicator and replace the bearings they had removed previously. On 10th November a Panamanian official issued the MV Communicator its certificate. On 15th November DTI officials inspected the ship and lifted the detention order. On the next day the Communicator left Parkestone Quay and headed into International waters, and moored in the Cork anchorage near to Sealand, fifteen miles off Felixstowe. It was later said that the ship and contents had been sold to a foreign buyer. On 4th December the ship’s position was given as the Southern North Sea. On the next day 5th December the ship’s position was given out as a navigational aid. This was 51 degrees 42 minutes 32 seconds North 1 degree 35 minutes 35 seconds East.

On 5th January 1987 gale force winds damaged the aerial masts, the front mast completely collapsed and the rear one folded in half. Using two sections of mast stored in the ship’s hold, and some salvaged sections from the front mast, the rear mast was built up to eighty feet. A new “T-aerial array” was slung between the new rear mast and front mast.

On 19th May 1987 the MV Communicator was towed from off the coast of Walton to Fairly Bank, twenty miles off Dunkerque (Dunkirk) by a Belgian trawler. The reason for this was the forthcoming Territorial Sea Act that would extend the British territorial waters from three to twelve miles. On 15th August the ship was moved to the Gabber sandbank, about fifteen miles off Harwich and within sight of the MV Ross Revenge, so that potential buyers could see the ship. During September the old aerial masts were taken down. On 30th October the MV Communicator was anchored 3.5 miles from the Sunk light vessel. On the next day the MV Communicator was anchored 3.5 miles from the Sunk light vessel. On 3rd February 1988 the MV Communicator sailed back into Harwich harbour, Parkestone Quay. Two days later the vessel was moved to Edwarton. Studio equipment was removed from the ship. On 6th February the MV Communicator was moored in a scrap yard at Mistly on the south bank of the River Stour, near Manningtree.

In August 1989 the Communicator was towed to Lisbon, Portugal. In July 1983 the Communicator was temporarily renamed Albatross and sold to Old Court Shipping Corp. of Panama City, Panama. On 3rd June 1994 contract was signed in Portugal between Peparacoes Navais do Jego, LDA. and Holland FM for the sale of the MV Communicator for a rumoured sum of $100,000. On 11th August the Communicator was towed by the tug Vlieland from Lisbon to IJmuiden. On 10th October 1994 at 06:00 hours, the Communicator left IJmuiden heading for the specially built pier between Enkhuizen and Lelystad in the IJsselmeer, arriving there late in the afternoon. The vessel served as a broadcasting ship for Holland FM which was taken over by Radio Veronica in 1995.

On 14th October 1998, the vessel was towed to a new anchorage in Pampushaven near Almere. Unico Glorie, director of Radio Veronica, officially handed the ship over to Peter Jansen, director of Q-Radio. In 2003 the ship was sold to the British “Super Station”, an ethical radio group. On June 24th 2003, the MV Communicator was towed to IJmuiden harbour where some urgently needed repair works took place. On 19th December 2003, the JWR Apollo towed the MV Communicator to Lowestoft (UK). The Super Station announced that the ship was to play a crucial part in their plans to create a new genre of radio station in 2004. After much work mostly on the interior and on the engines and radio equipment the MV Communicator finally left Lowestoft on 21st August 2004 bound for St Margarets Hope in the Orkney Islands where she arrived on 24th August to broadcast by means of an RSL from 4th September to 30th November 2004. In December 2004, it was announced that the vessel was up for sale. By August 2007, the former broadcasting ship’s mast had already been demolished. Not much later, it became known that owner Andrew Banks, a businessman from St Margaret’s Hope, had ordered the ship to be scrapped. In September 2007, the demolition was halted because asbestos was found on board the ship. By September 2008, the Communicator had then been almost completely scrapped.

Offshore radio stations: Laser 730 with tests from 19th January to 4th March 1984, Laser 558 from 6th May 1984 to 5th November 1985, Laser Hot Hits 576 from 1st December 1986 to 20th April 1987, Radio Sunk in October 1987.

Licenced Dutch radio stations: Holland FM in October 1994, Hitradio Holland FM from October 1994 till March 1995, Hitradio 1224 from March 1995 till September 1995, Hitradio Veronica from October 1995 till January 1998, Q-Radio from January 1998 till July 1999, Q-The Beat from September 1999 until July 2002.

RSL: The Super Station from 4th September to 30th November 2004

Location: International waters in the Thames Estuary from December 1983 till November 1985 and from November 1986 till August 1989. From October 1994 the ship was anchored in the Ijsselmeer (Netherlands). In October 1998 it was berthed at Pampushaven near Almere. From June 2003, the MV Communicator was moored in IJmuiden harbour. On 19th December 2003, the JWR Apollo towed the MV Communicator to Lowestoft (UK). The ship left Lowestoft on 21st August 2004 bound for St Margarets Hope in the Orkney Islands where it was moored until the end.

photo Theo Dencker