TRIBUTES have been paid to the Tuxedo Royale which “launched Newcastle’s party scene” as it bows out for the last time, for scrap.

The ship, which has remained docked at Able's Middlesbrough Port since 2009, is being towed to the firm's Seaton Port in Hartlepool where she will be cut up and scrapped for good.

The Northern Echo:

The ship fell into its poor state after its owners went into administration, and has laid on the banks of the River Tees suffering years of slow-sinking, abandonment and even a serious fire to its superstructure, last year.

But one woman, who worked as a project manager during early plans to restore the ship, said the Tuxedo Royale was “more than just a nightclub.”

Lisa-Marie Turner, who restores redundant vessels, said: “Docked in Middlesbrough, people said she was an eyesore but she had so much history.”

Ms Turner said early plans for its restoration included converting the former car ferry into a Maritime College for students and the unemployed.

She said: “She wasn’t just going to be transformed into a night club, that was never our plan – she was going to be a training vessel.

“People with jobs seekers would have trained on her, students would have been very involved and very hands on. It’s absolutely heart-breaking, she was much more than just a nightclub.”

The Northern Echo:

A campaign to save the five-decade-old ship was launched in 2012, with plans to turn it into a college campus later failing because of a lack of funds.

But for John Coates, who worked on the ship's transformation into a nightclub in the 1990s, its history has unlimited value.

The former electrical engineer on the Tuxedo Royale told The Northern Echo: “She was originally built by Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson on the River Tyne.

“She has steam turbines designed and made by Charles Parsons - a North-East inventor -who built the Turbinia, the first steam turbine ship every built.

“Those very Parsons steam turbines are in the hull of the Tuxedo Royale right now.”

In its heyday as a car ferry, the ship was built in 1965 as the TSS Dover, a British Rail cross-channel ferry.

But after its steam turbines became “outdated” in an era when diesel was proving popular, the ship was sold to a Cypriot ferry firm who renamed it the Sol Express.

Mr Coates said: “There was a lot of conflict in Beirut, between Palestine and Lebanon – part of it Gaddafi (The Former Libyan leader) acquired the Tuxedo Royale and four other vessels, and they went in and did a snatch rescue and brought Gaddifi’s troops out. But she blew a steam turbine and was laid up.”

The mechanical failure was deemed uneconomical to repair.

Mr Coates said the Tuxedo Royale was then acquired by a North-East businessman, who in turn converted the ship into a nightclub, adding a second ship to his fleet which included the already converted-Tuxedo Princess.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Coates added: “The ship employed so many people across the North-East, the knock-on effect was massive, we had 60 staff alone.

"We grew as a nightclub, I started looking after the ship’s wellbeing.

"We took it to St Hilda’s in Middlesbrough, where it was a no-go zone – we brought 2,000 people for four nights a week, to the area.

"It's just so iconic – you think the many people who met their husbands and wives on the ship.

"It was a celebrity haunt, people used to dress up for the 70s night – every thing that was great about it."