Panagia Tinou (most recently Agios Georgios, originally the Hengist of 1972).
Half sunk in Piraeus harbour, July 2016.
Panagia Tinou (most recently Agios Georgios, originally the Hengist of 1972).
Half sunk in Piraeus harbour, July 2016.
Brittany Ferries introduced the Baie de Seine on their ‘économie’ services in Spring 2015; it was immediately clear that, although still a ro-pax rather than a cruise ferry, she featured an altogether more sophisticated passenger environment than the initial économie ship, the Etretat, which retained her essentially factory-fit Visentini interior design by Studio Ancora. For the Baie de Seine, however, BF went to some lengths to make the vessel feel more like one of their own.
Although ordered by Lloyd Sardegna back in 1999, delays at her Polish yard meant that the ship which became the Baie de Seine was never completed as intended and the order was cancelled. Instead, together with her earlier sister, she was acquired by DFDS and named Dana Sirena (the other vessel becoming Dana Gloria). For her intended role as the new Harwich-Esbjerg ship the ‘Sirena’ enjoyed quite substantial reconfiguring with the interior design being masterminded by Steen Friis, who was also behind the Maersk ‘D’ Class and Stena’s Killingholme quartet.
When the Dana Sirena, by then Sirena Seaways, passed to Brittany Ferries various pieces of DFDS artwork were removed, although some remain. To fill the gaps, the French operator delved into their warehouse and reintroduced pieces which had once featured on earlier ships – in particular the Duc de Normandie and Val de Loire.
The most represented artist on board is Serge Hanin, who in the early 1990s was commissioned to provide 25 pieces for the Normandie and then a further 20 for the Val de Loire. Appropriately enough, Hanin is from Lillebonne, just outside Le Havre, which port the Baie de Seine would be serving in her initial season.
In a further DFDS link, some of the pieces now aboard the Baie de Seine remained on the Val de Loire when that ship was sold to DFDS in 2006. For her first year as the King of Scandinavia, she retained much of her French artwork and several of the large ship models. These were subsequently replaced with items from DFDS’s own collection and returned to BF.
In 1976 Normandy Ferries expanded from their original operations in the western Channel based at Southampton and opened a new service between Dover and Boulogne – the latter approximately 90km from Normandy itself. The operator, established in 1967, had been a joint venture between the British P&O and French SAGA, SAGA having been a storied cross-channel operator in their own right in the inter-war period.
The Boulogne service used the Lion, late of P&O’s Ardrossan-Larne service (formerly Burns & Laird) and was something of a gamble. P&O’s presence at Dover was not welcomed by the establishment operators, and memoranda from meetings of the cartel that fixed rates and operations around this time express the view that Normandy Ferries were a “black leg” (sic) who would not be invited to “join the club” (P&O subsequently attended various meetings but were always resented by Sealink and Townsend Thoresen for adding further capacity to a market which already had too much and for driving down fares so that everyone struggled to make money).
This brochure shows the Normandy Ferries operation just after the commencement of the Boulogne service and before the second vessel, the nf Tiger, was brought into operation in 1978.
The Dover-Boulogne service expanded to three ships in 1980 and, after SAGA’s exit, operated under the P&O Ferries name. Both routes were acquired by Townsend Thoresen in late 1984 and the five ships fairly quickly withdrawn from Channel service.
May 2016 will mark 40 years since Townsend Thoresen took delivery of the Viking Viscount, the last of their ‘Super Viking’ quartet for Southampton and Felixstowe service. We have looked in the past at two of her sisters, the Viking Venturer and Viking Voyager but today the ‘Viscount’ is the last survivor. After passing to TT’s successor P&O European Ferries in 1987 she ended her English Channel days more than two decades ago but continues operating in Greece as the Vitsentzos Kornaros for her only subsequent operator, Lane Lines.
It is not really expected that many passengers will sail direct from Kissamos to Piraeus (direct sailings from Chania, 30 minutes away from Kissamos, leave much later and tend to arrive earlier) so most are heading to or from Kythira and Anthikythera. But the salvation of the route was fortunate not just for islanders but also for travellers seeking a sail on a vintage ferry operating one of the most fascinating routes anywhere in Europe.
The Stena Traveller was an early ro-pax – indeed the term hadn’t come into common usage when she was delivered in late 1991 and the Shippax Guide devoted to her earlier sister, the Stena Challenger, still refers to them as ‘combis’. The pair were part of a series of five ships whose hulls were built at the Bruce shipyard in Landskrona, Sweden but the vessels completed at Fosen in Rissa, Norway. Fosen’s had originally won the order for a pair of vessels from Turkish Cargo Line and, as they by then already specialised in ship fitout, subcontracted basic construction to Bruce’s. The price was very competitive and this did not go un-noticed by Stena RoRo who moved in to order a pair of heavily modified sister ships. A further vessel became the Bergen of Fjord Line.
The Stena Challenger was completed with full passenger accommodation and sent to Sealink but the second ship had no defined role and whilst she was being built Stena RoRo reportedly touted her to Brittany Ferries/Truckline as an option for its Poole-Cherbourg route before they settled on the purpose-build which became the Barfleur. Eventually the Stena Traveller did head for the UK after delivery in 1992, operating for Stena between Harwich and Hook and as summer freight support on the Southampton-Cherbourg route. She then spent three years on charter with TT Line as the TT Traveller before returning to the UK to launch Stena’s Holyhead-Dublin freight route in late 1995. A further five years with TT followed between 1997 and 2002 before another two back with Stena Line running between Karlskrona and Gdynia.
Stena sold her to DFDS in Spring 2004 for a reported SEK250m (which compared favourably to her build price 13 years earlier of approx. SEK325m). As the Lisco Patria and later the Patria Seaways the ship has done the rounds of DFDS’s Baltic freight routes before heading back to the North Sea on her P&O refit charter in early January this year.
On Sunday morning, I headed across to the East Riding to watch her lock in after arriving on an overnight sailing from Zeebrugge and some pictures follow. The ship had been very heavily delayed by rough weather on her previous northbound crossing but was essentially back on schedule by the time she approached the Humber – a scheduled 0900 arrival time was, however, delayed as Finnlines’ Finnkraft was the first to arrive at the lock entrance at the conclusion of one of her near week-long voyages from Helsinki. Rather than dawdle up the river waiting for the Finnkraft to clear, the Patria Seaways approached the mouth of the lock and parked herself alongside, just forward of the Pride of Hull on the river berth. After half an hour of waiting, the ship entered the lock and eventually passed through to the location of the original North Sea Ferries berths inside the dock.
The Patria Seaways is scheduled to operate with P&O on the Zeebrugge run until a final Hull-Zeebrugge sailing on 6 February.
Repost of a voyage report originally posted here in 2009 but subsequently lost.
In 2010 the Ivan Zajc was sold for service in Equatorial Guinea for service to the island of Malabo. She reportedly still survives (an AIS signal was last emitted in July 2015) but there is no definitive confirmation of her present location and condition.
A voyage report from July 2005 (Pictures from 2005 and 2007)
Having motored up the coast from Korcula on the little Liburnija, easily Jadrolinija’s most lovely ship, an overnight sailing from Split to Ancona on the Ivan Zajc awaited. Built for the Linee Marittime dell’Adriatico in 1970 as the Tiziano the Ivan Zajc has the distinction of having passed through three separate operators while all the time operating primarily from Italy to Split, in Croatia (formerly Yugoslavia). Originally operating from Pescara, she passed to Adriatica in 1980, with operations from both Ancona and Pescara as well as use elsewhere on the network on occasion.Finally, in 1993 she was acquired by Jadrolinija, acquiring her present name and being deployed largely on the Ancona run, although certain domestic sailings have also been maintained (in recent years often a daytime return to Vela Luka on Korcula island in between overnights to Italy). In 2007 Jadrolinija introduced some Pescara-Split sailings, restoring the ship to her original route.
Shoehorned onto the forecastle is a small swimming pool, empty on our night crossing and it was just aft of this, on the port-side promenade that we set up camp for the night on one of the lifejacket containers. Nabbing a decent place to sleep on the outside decks had been our first priority upon boarding: exploring the ship could wait for later although, as can be seen, there really isnâ€™t much to explore. The Ivan Zajc pulled out of Split on time and after a long day we bedded down for the night and I soon nodded off to sleep.
I was awoken abruptly in the middle of the night to find a female face leering above screeching in an Australian accent. â€œYouâ€™ve stolen my shoes! My shoes! Where are my shoes?! Iâ€™m going to have to walk around Europe with no shoes!â€. My first reaction was to zip my sleeping bag up over my head perhaps, in my half-comatose state, thinking that this was merely an unfortunate hallucinogenic reaction to the slightly tough and overcooked steak Iâ€™d had for lunch on the Liburnija. But, alas, no: this was all too real.
â€œI didnâ€™t get this paid for you know. Not on Daddyâ€™s credit card. DADDYâ€™S CREDIT CARD! DADDYâ€™S *****Y CREDIT CARD. You got it paid for by DADDYâ€™S ****ING CREDIT CARD.â€
This was altogether too bizarre a situation to comprehend in the middle of the night but in retrospect I should perhaps have advised her that if, by some good fortune, Daddy had left me in control of his credit card, I probably would have found better ways of spending money than travelling deck class on the Ivan Zajc, trying to sleep whilst lying on a hard plastic lifejacket container. Alas the opportunity was lost as our Aussie friend was soon led away by a concerned travelling companion and I resumed my slumber, slightly nonplussed.
We awoke the next day as the ship neared Ancona; the rival Split 1700 had sailed in convoy with us overnight and had arrived just before. With the early morning arrival we headed off to rouse ourselves with some coffee, cake and freshly-squeezed orange juice in a little cafÃ© in the town, which has become something of a regular haunt after early morning Ancona arrivals. Suitably resuscitated we headed off towards the main railway station where a Eurostar Intercity train would speed us down the coast to Bari.
Built 1975 at Helsingor as Mette Mols for Mols Linien’s Ebeltoft-Odden route.
Sold 1996 to Comarit and renamed Banasa for Tangier-Algeciras service.
Re-engined and refitted in 2003/04.
Laid up in Algeciras, Spain, early 2012 following the bankruptcy of her owners.
Towed for scrapping at Aliaga, Turkey, August 2015.
Towed from Aliaga to Perama, Greece, October 2015 following acquisition by European Seaways.
Renamed Galaxy but subsequently re-sold to Moby Lines.
To become Moby Kiss for Livorno-Bastia service.
Photographed March 2014, abandoned on Algeciras breakwater.
In August 1970, the British Treasury approved the construction of a pair of new multi-purpose passenger car ferries for operation by British Rail from a new Folkestone car ferry terminal. Approval was also given by the Bank of England for the ships, which became the Hengist and Horsa, to be built in France. British Rail executives celebrated clearance of “the complete caboodle”, for this had been a somewhat tortuous process, with much political hand wringing and redrafting of the proposals.
One area which had come under particular scrutiny was what the future would hold for these ships upon the completion of the Channel Tunnel, then expected to be in 1978. Attention was therefore paid to both the estimated useful life of the vessels and their resale value come the opening of the tunnel. This was of particular importance for the business plan, for the the ships had to make an adequate return by 1978 to cover the difference between their construction cost and, it was presumed, the amount the ships would be sold for in that year.
BR/Sealink consulted J S Daniels at the Board of Trade for an independent evaluation and the Daniels memo noted that “it is important that the ships are not so specialised to a particular route and service that they cannot be readily adapted for use elsewhere”. The final business plan assumed a twenty year useful life, with a resale value of each ship in 1978 of Â£2.415m (compared to the Â£3.6m build cost). Correspondence with the Ministry of Transport reassured the minister’s team that the ships would find willing buyers and that “there was a continuous demand for this style of ship for numerous Scandinavian, German and Mediterranean routes on which they can be used” although “a need for similar ships will arise on the Heysham/Belfast route by 1981 and it could be more advantageous to transfer them”.
As it turned out, the key assumption upon which this entire section of the business plan was based turned out to be flawed. The 1970s Channel Tunnel project was cancelled, and so the ships sailed on. More than a decade later, when the tunnel was eventually authorised, the ships were nearing the ends of their Channel careers and were sold two years before it opened to Greek owners for good prices (when the Hengist was sold by her first Greek owners Agapitos to Ventouris Sea Lines in 1993, the price achieved was approx Â£7.5m). The ships proved more adaptable than J S Daniels could have possibly imagined, almost perfectly suited to Greek inter-island ferry operation in the 1990s. So on they sailed, well past the 20 year lifespan Sealink’s calculations had given them, into their third decades and then their fourth decades and fifth decades.
The Horsa passed in 1992 to Agoudimos Lines who placed her in service from Rafina to islands in the northern Cyclades – Andros, Tinos and Mykonos. For four years from late 1999 she fell under Hellas Ferries control as the Express Penelope, but she remained based at Rafina. For more than two decades the port was her home, and she usually sailed through the winter when most of her competitors retired for seasonal lay up. Agoudimos Lines got their ship back in 2004 but by late 2012 the company was in severe financial difficulty and the Penelope A entered a period of uncertainty, out of service. She was in operation around Easter 2013 and then again in late June that year before her crew went on strike over unpaid wages. A settlement of sorts was reached and the ship re-entered service for the summer peak on 23rd July.
27th August 2013 marked 15,000 days since the ship had entered service at Folkestone back in August 1972. Seven days later came the end, both sudden yet expected – she was again taken out of service by her crew, still largely unpaid. In between times, on 31st August 2013, I made what I knew would, in all likelihood, be a final crossing on this proud old veteran.
For the Penelope A (named after Penelope Agoudimos and locally pronounced, Penelope Alpha), this time there were to be no second chances. The crew settled down for the long haul, occupying their ship where she lay – in the port of Rafina, prominently at the bottom of the cliffs from the residence of the former Prime Minister. The crew, seemingly abandoned by the operator, ran out of food and power, their plight featured in national and international media. In January 2014 the last crew members left the ship and, eventually, the Rafina port authority paid for a tug to tow the Penelope A, dead ship, over to lay up in Elefsis bay where she has remained ever since.
Set out below are some images from that final crossing, four days before the end of the ship’s long career. It’s fair to say she had seen better days and, although it is not immediately obvious here, a lack of maintenance and long-term care was apparent. But the ship had lasted in operational service far longer than anyone could have imagined back when she and her sister were ordered in 1970, and it was an honour to be given the chance to sail on her for one final time in her Indian Summer, and to say goodbye.
Hellenic Mediterranean Lines were probably the most famous Greek ferry company, well-known initially for fairly exotic liner service and latterly for decades of transporting backpackers on Inter-rail tickets from Italy to Greece. By the early 1990s, HML was operating a grand fleet of veteran car ferries, but their early entries into this market were more impressive, taking delivery of the brand-new Egnatia in 1960, the Adriatic’s first purpose-built overnight car ferry. Then, in the 1970s, they ordered two exceptional new ships, the car ferry Castalia and the pure cruise ship Aquarius. The future seemed secure but this was to be high water mark for the company and, although the fleet expanded through the 1980s, the market changed and they failed to follow it.
By 2003, the company was reduced to just two ferries – the Egnatia III and the veteran Poseidonia. The latter, once the Belfast Steamship Company’s (later P&O Ferries’) Ulster Queen was by then far too small, chronically outdated and much too slow. The Egnatia III, although built only six years later, in 1973, was another matter entirely. Originally the Stena Scandinavica she was one of Stena’s famous four from Yugoslavia, where Sten Olsson, by repute looking to build a pair of vessels, found he could get them built for half the price of a North European yard. So he ordered four instead – two for the Gothenburg-Frederikshavn route (ships which later became the Bluenose and the Versailles/Seafrance Monet) and two for Gothenburg-Kiel (later the Scotia Prince and Irish Continental Lines’ Saint Killian II). It was the Saint Killian II, lengthened by 30m in 1981, which finally found its way to HML, her Irish career drawing to a close after her owners rejuvenated their French operations with the acquisition of the Normandy in 1998. The ship spent almost five years laid up in a deteriorating state before HML revived her and introduced her on the classic backpacker route from Brindisi to Patras via Igoumenitsa, and, on some crossings, Corfu, Kefalonia, Paxos and Zakynthos.
HML’s new, and final, flagship operated for the company for just one season, the summer of 2003, and I joined her for a sailing in July of that year which left Brindisi at 8pm and, after calls at Igoumenitsa and Kefalonia made it to Patras at 1.30pm the following day. We arrived in Brindisi on the high speed train from Ortona and, having wandered down the Corso Roma to the harbour, were faced across the harbour with the magnificent sight of the Derin Deniz, once B&I’s Innisfallen, which was in her final role sailing to Turkey.
The Derin Deniz was not alone in port: whilst in the summer of 2013, only a couple of operators could be found running from Brindisi, on the day of our sailing aboard the Egnatia III twelve ferries were scattered around the port – ten of which were in service, each representing a different ferry line. Only one of those ten operators exists any more, and even they, Agoudimos Lines, are nearing the end. All but one of the twelve ships has been scrapped, the sole exception being the fast passenger ferry Santa Eleonora, today the Ponza Jet. Just as depressing as that ferry roll of doom is the decline of the port of Brindisi – once one of the key hubs of the Adriatic ferry market it is today a peripheral, half-forgotten player.
HML finally succumbed just a year later – the superficial promise of the 2003 season was followed by a quite disastrous 2004. The Egnatia III was chartered out to Algeria Ferries but core operations back at home, which were to have been left in the hands of the Poseidonia, never properly materialised. The little ship stayed alongside in Keratsini through the summer, with a last-minute charter of the old Japanese ferry Arielle being organised instead, giving that vessel the somewhat unlikely honour of operating HML’s last sailings. The Poseidonia, sold to Saudi Arabian interests, soon found herself sunk near Sharm el-Sheikh. The Egnatia III lay at anchor in Elefsis bay for a couple of years but was finally scrapped in India in 2007, bringing to an ignominious close the story of Greece’s most famous coastal shipping operator. The company’s old website persisted for many years and a version still does, now appropriated by a ferry booking engine but still with images of the Egnatia III. So well known was the HML name that the company’s Italian agent later licensed its use on brochures of operators such as GA Ferries and Endeavor Lines. To this day, a giant builder’s model of the original Egnatia can be found in the window of their offices on the Corso Roma.
A decade after our sailing, I found myself flicking through the many pictures taken on that trip and share them below. They aren’t quite of the standard I’d expect to take today, but they capture the final, optimistic but ultimately damned flourish of the great Hellenic Mediterranean Lines and are witness to the closing days an entirely lost era of ferry travel.