28th April 1976

Guernsey passengers stage a ferry sit-in

The 1970s are remembered as a time of strikes and discontent. It’s not normally customers who go on strike, but that’s exactly what happed on one Guernsey-bound ferry.

Around 700 passengers on the Sealink ship Earl Godwin staged a sit-in at the end of April 1976. They refused to move until British Rail, Sealink’s owner, transported them and their cars to the Channel Islands. They had been stranded at Weymouth, Dorset, since the previous day, when the ship stewards had gone out on strike.

The stewards were protesting staffing levels on the ships. They returned to work provisionally, while negotiations continued, on 29 April – the day after the passengers’ sit-in.

The Channel Islands were effectively cut off from the mainland during the strike, as it prevented vehicles being unloaded from another Sealink ferry, the Maid of Kent, which was sitting in port at Cherbourg.

Just the previous month, passengers had been stranded at Weymouth when the same ferry – the Earl Godwin – had developed a generator fault and been unable to put to sea.

Earl Godwin’s history

Earl Godwin had been built in Sweden in 1966 under the name Svea Drott. She was 99.5m long, and 17.8 wide. Her cruising speed was 18.5 knots (21mph). She served the Channel Islands, on and off, for 13 years between 1976 and 1989, and in October 1985 ran aground just outside St Helier harbour, Jersey.

Sealink had originally leased the ship from Trave-Line but bought it outright in 1975. At that point it renamed it Earl Godwin, after the Earl of Wessex, who had been one of the most powerful earls in England under the rule of King Canute. In 1990 the ship was purchased by Moby Lines, who renamed it Moby Baby.


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