The LV18 is a survivor from the heyday of British shipping that predates modern navigational aids or communications. Maritime radar was rare and there were no publicly accessible satellites in orbit.

Mariners navigating their way through the dangerous waters around our coast relied on lightships and lighthouses to keep them away from rocks or sandbanks. In that respect the same hazards remain and merchant shipping is still protected from running aground by stationary lightships anchored at sea as well as lighthouses on land.Today’s Trinity House light vessels, however, are all automatic and unmanned; they have been gutted of anything that isn’t required by the batteries, control and communication systems.Our unique vessel is the only surviving lightship not to have been stripped of its accommodation and it has been restored by a dedicated team of volunteers. LV18 still contains the original crew quarters, galley, messroom and six Gardner diesel generators to power the lantern, foghorns and ship’s equipment. The LV18 is on the UK Historic Ships register.

The Pharos Trust

The LV18 is owned by the Pharos Trust which aims to provide:

  • For visitors with a variety of different needs
  • A sensory experience for visitors with hearing or visual impairments.
  • Assisted access and facilities to enable disabled people to visit the vessel.
  • An educational package for a range of community groups.
  • Each visitor with an enjoyable, educational, value for money and unique experience.
  • An ongoing programme of events on board throughout the year.

Impact so far

Lightvessel 18 has already attracted additional visitors to Harwich, generating income for local hospitality, transport, restaurants and retail. This has already been proved by the earlier successful Pirate BBC Essex broadcasts and the vessel’s subsequent opening since July 2011 in the new permanent berth on Harwich Quay.

The vessel’s operational lantern is activated several times a year to support quayside community activities and festivals in Harwich, it is unique in the UK in this respect.


The LV18 was launched in 1958 and in 2018 celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Why LV18?

LV18 was in the right place at the right time when a small group decided to preserve it. It was sitting on a stream mooring in the River Stour, was intact and remained in a good condition, considering that several years had passed since Trinity House had last maintained it.

At the time, there was a deliberate programme of decommission or conversion of the Lightvessel fleet and the LV18 escaped the cutter’s torch only by a number of chance happenings. As is said locally “It could only happen in Harwich”!

The ’18’ designation comes from Trinity House which allocated an LV number to every Light Vessel built, making our vessel LV18. It is not the only Lightvessel in preservation, a few of those we know about are:

LV1 (Mary Mouse 2) is in Haslar Marina, Gosport, and is a restaurant Trinitys At The Lightship

LV8 (Jenni Bayton) is in Harlingen Harbour and is used for Radio Seagull

LV15 is in Tollesbury, Essex and is the home for a Christian organisation Fellowship Afloat

LV16 (Colne Light) is on Hythe Quay Colchester, Essex, and is the home of the Colchester Sea Cadets

LV87 is in Ipswich and is the clubhouse for the Haven Ports Yacht Club