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Laser Hot Hits - History

1986

In February 1986, on the instructions of the High Court the former Laser 558 radio ship, Communicator, was put up for sale by shipbrokers C W Kellock and Co Ltd of London, acting on behalf of the Admiralty Marshal. The vessel was eventually sold in early April 1986 and, despite rumours that the ship would be purchased by scrap dealers, she was actually bought by Ray Anderson of East Anglian Productions, based in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, who submitted the highest of 13 tenders. East Anglian Productions, a television and radio commercial production company, were also well known as producers of offshore radio documentary albums and videos.

During the months after her purchase by East Anglian Productions work was undertaken to refurbish and repair the Communicator, with the objective of satisfying the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) safety regulations and being permitted to take the vessel out of port. Meanwhile, stories circulated widely that the ship was to be used in the Mediterranean to provide a base for an English language offshore  station for British tourists in Spain.

At the beginning of September 1986 it was announced that the Communicator was about to be sold by East Anglian Productions to 'a buyer from Europe'. Ray Anderson denied that the ship would again start broadcasting from off the Essex coast saying, "I think the new owner will probably use the vessel somewhere in the Mediterranean in an attempt to capture business in the French and Spanish areas."

By the end of the month, however, just as it was expected the Communicator would be granted a seaworthiness certificate enabling the sale to new owners to be completed, Customs officials acting on behalf of the Department of Transport, immobilised the ship by removing her drive shaft bearing. Ray Anderson immediately lodged a protest with H.M.Customs and Excise about the manner in which the operation had been carried out and threatened legal action if the part was not returned within seven days.

The Department of Transport said the vessel had been immobilised because necessary safety work had not been carried out. This action was taken  despite the fact that there had been no official inspection of the extensive repairs which had been carried out since the ship's purchase by East Anglian Productions five months earlier.

Ray Anderson also revealed that Department of Trade officials had visited Felixarc Tug Co., the company who supplied fuel to the Communicator to enable her generator, navigational equipment and deep freeze facility to be run while the ship was in port. The company directors had been 'advised' by officials that they should  not deliver any further  fuel supplies to the Communicator. Tim Gray, Felixarc's Managing Director said:-"The Department of Trade has advised us that if we supply fuel or any services to the Communicator knowing it might be used as a pirate radio station we could be left open to the risk of prosecution. Although I do not suspect it would be [used as a pirate radio station], I was not prepared to take the risk and we have stopped supplying fuel to the Communicator."

On 20th October 1986 the Communicator dragged from her moorings in Harwich Harbour during gale force winds and, with her steering gear now immobilised had to be brought under control by a tug. Unfortunately this was not achieved before she had collided with the Sealink Ferry Cambridge Ferry, which was also moored in the River Stour. Although no structural damage was caused to either vessel, and only the ferry's paintwork was scratched, a potentially more serious danger had been the possibility of the Communicator colliding with an oil tanker loading fuel nearby. Ray Anderson again hit out at the 'stupidity' of the authorities in immobilising the vessel, effectively rendering the three man crew powerless to control the ship in such emergency circumstances. Harwich Harbourmaster also contacted HM Customs and Excise to request that some action be taken to prevent such a situation developing again.

Unexpectedly, on 24th October 1986 Customs and Excise officials returned to the Communicator and replaced the vessel's drive shaft bearings.

On 10th November 1986 a Panamanian surveyor went on board the Communicator to inspect the ship and issue the necessary certificate of registration. It then only remained for the Department of Transport to inspect the vessel and confirm that the required safety works had been carried out to enable the detention order, which had kept her in port for nearly twelve months, to be lifted. Once this had happened the Communicator was reportedly sailing to a secret rendezvous with her new owner, although at this stage her future role remained shrouded in mystery. The DTI Radio Regulatory Department sent representatives to keep watch on the ship while she was being refuelled in Harwich.

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East Anglian Daily Times

12th April 1986

East Anglian Daily Times

17th April 1986

East Anglian Daily Times

23rd April 1986

East Anglian Daily Times

5th September 1986

Ipswich Evening Star

5th September 1986

Notice of sale of the MV Communicator, February 1986

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Press Release from East Anglian Productions, April 1986

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