Image - Anthony Plowman
The Solent Steam Packet, owners of Steamship Shieldhall, secure National Lottery support

Steamship Shieldhall will benefit from a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund of £6800 for a project enabling Shieldhall to meet International environmental requirements for exhaust emission. Based in Southampton, Shieldhall is subject to a limit of 0.1% sulphur in her fuel to minimise the emission of sulphur dioxide. This project has been made possible by money raised by National Lottery players.

The project is due to start in March 2020 and will consist of seal welding the rivets in Shieldhall’s fuel tank areas and welding the seams where hull plates overlap. Externally, the “as built” appearance of the hull will be preserved. The main reason for the project is to prevent any seepage of the compliant diesel fuel passing the rivets or plate seams and working its way into the sea.  Previously, fuels were more viscous and the potential for this risk did not exist.  Diesel fuel is a known penetrant that will work its way through miniscule passages. This challenge and the ongoing issues of operating an historic ship will be communicated to passengers and wider audiences.

When the project has been completed, Shieldhall will continue to offer a full excursion programme. This is open to all, and includes popular ‘Heritage Adventure Training Days’ offered to young people, enabling them to enjoy time on board one of Britain’s last sea-going steamships.

Steamship Shieldhall is one of the UK’s most significant historic ships. She is the country’s last and largest cargo steam ship and her significance is underscored by her listing as one of just 200 vessels forming the National Historic Fleet (equivalent to being Grade I listed in historic building terms) and has been nominated as their flagship in 2009 and 2018. As a member of the Fleet she is recognised by National Historic Ships as being of pre-eminent significance, providing an insight into the UK's maritime history and technology and meriting the highest priority for long term preservation. Central to Shieldhall’s significance is the fact that she remains fully operational, each year providing thousands of people with the opportunity to experience steam-powered sea travel.

Built in 1955, (and celebrating her 65th birthday in July 2020) Shieldhall was constructed to traditional lines and consequently her classic lines are more evocative of the 1920s than the 1950s.  She forms an important connection with steam ships and the Merchant Navy of the pre-Second World War era, representing the thousands of cargo steam ships built by Britain for the merchant fleets of the world.

Shieldhall remains substantially unchanged since the time of her construction. Her hull and superstructure are as they were when she was built. Her boilers and steam engines are original and of a similar configuration to those of far earlier vessels, such as RMS Titanic.

Commenting on the award, Graham Mackenzie, Chief Engineer, said:

“We are thrilled to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players, this enables us to continue our commitment to the environment whilst providing memorable “days out” for everyone.”

Steamship Shieldhall’s 2020 sailing programme commences on Sat 20 May, with regular cruises then staged until Sunday 13 September. For more information, please visit:

Shieldhall is run entirely by volunteers, and for the past two years has been listed as the ‘Number One Thing to Do in Southampton’ on TripAdvisor.

Find out more about SS Shieldhall, one of our Shipshape Network South Projects.