Posts tagged: bari

Farewell Svealand, Stena Seatrader, Seatrade

. . .


A couple of weeks ago Ventouris Ferries’ Seatrade departed for scrapping, under the name Sea Project. The ship, originally delivered in 1973, had operated for the Greek company on the Igoumenitsa-Bari route for the past three years, before which she enjoyed a 35-year north European career. For the first 16 years she traded on Sweden-Germany routes, initially as a train ferry, before a sale to Stena Line in 1989 preceded nearly two decades of UK service, as a freighter on the North and Irish Seas.

Shortly before the end I joined the Seatrade for a heavily-laden crossing to Italy. Ventouris Ferries are a peculiar operation who for several years had operated a pair of former DFDS ro-paxes on the Bari route in the Siren (ex-Dana Gloria, 1976) and her lengthened sister Polaris (ex-Dana Futura, 1975). The arrival of the Seatrade for 2009 displaced the Siren, which went for scrap in 2010; the Polaris followed in early 2011. This left the Seatrade, the eldest and, from a passenger perspective, by some distance the least agreeable of the trio and for the summer of 2011 she was paired with the chartered Olympus (ex-Ropax 2).

The realities of the Ventouris Ferries business on the Igoumenitsa route are clear from these moves – this is a company which is predominantly focussed on freight and the passenger market they most enjoy is “camping on board” in which passengers drive their camper vans aboard and, for the most part, stay there. Freight drivers are, of course, welcome but there doesn’t seem to be much desire to cater for motorists, less still foot passengers, and the company website reflects this, barely mentioning the Bari-Igoumenitsa route and instead being almost totally dedicated to the more mainstream Bari-Durres (Albania) operation.

At peak season, and with the limited space aboard the Seatrade, it proved rather difficult to find tickets for her on our crossing but we managed to secure a pair of places on deck. Having observed the ship’s arrival at Igoumenitsa from Bari in the morning we sailed over to Corfu for the day, returning to embark a couple of hours before the scheduled departure time at which point the loading of freight was already in full swing. The difficulties of squeezing a near-full load of freight and camper vans onto the ship were demonstrated by the prolonged period over which this process took – having commenced at around 5pm the ship did not depart until past 10pm, over an hour late.

Below are some pictures from one of the more memorable crossings of 2011.

Link: Stena Seatrader, 1995 profile deckplan

The Seatrade, arriving from Bari in the morning, reverses onto her berth in Igoumenitsa.

The Seatrade, arriving from Bari in the morning, reverses onto her berth in Igoumenitsa.

The offices of Milano Travel, Ventouris Ferries' local agents, where they display a selection of fine images of scrapped Ventouris ships in the Polaris, Athens and Siren.

The offices of Milano Travel, Ventouris Ferries' local agents, where they display a fine selection of images of scrapped Ventouris ships in the Polaris, Athens and Siren.

Boarding the Seatrade over the main vehicle deck with the base of the railway lines still clearly visible. Until very late in the ship's Stena ownership the rails remained intact, with wooden boarding surrounding them.

Boarding the Seatrade over the main vehicle deck with the base of the railway lines still clearly visible. Until very late in the ship's Stena ownership the rails remained intact, with wooden boarding surrounding them - they were removed in 2007.

Embarking foot passengers ascend all the way to the top freight deck - where they find the former aft docking bridge...

Embarking foot passengers ascended all the way to the top freight deck to the former aft docking bridge...

... latterly in use as a reclining seat lounge.

... latterly in use as a reclining seat lounge.

The international terminal at Igoumenitsa.

Seen from the Seatrade is Igoumenitsa's international ferry terminal.

The top deck during loading. This was primarily used for tourist vehicles and, in particular, passengers "camping on board".
Some lorries were also squeezed in here...

Some lorries were also squeezed in up here...

Access forward from the aft bridge area was via this narrow alleyway alongside the camper vans on the port side. It appears a few passengers never got this far - the following morning some who had overnighted in the aft bridge enquired if "there was anywhere else" on board!

In a bid to increase the ship's passenger capacity, a pair of charming "lounges" were added on former open deck space, just aft of the bridge wings - here is the starboard side version.

In a bid to increase the ship's passenger capacity, a pair of charming 'lounges' were added on former open deck space, just aft of the bridge wings - here is the starboard side version.

The recesses beneath the lifeboats provided a small area of traditional outside deck space.

The recesses beneath the lifeboats provided a small area of traditional outside deck space.

Aft of the saloons on decks 7 and 8 were a variety of cabins, many of which had been spruced up by Stena in the ship's 2007 refit.

Aft of the saloons on decks 7 and 8 were a variety of cabins, many of which had been spruced up by Stena in the ship's 2007 refit.

At some stage the ship lost her small sauna, which is seen here in late 2006, before both the final Stena and Ventouris refits.

At some stage the ship lost her small sauna, which is seen here in late 2006, before both the final Stena and Ventouris refits.

Forward on Deck 8 was the former cafeteria, complete to the end with its Stena 'Truckers Lounge' identity.

Forward on Deck 8 was the former cafeteria, complete to the end with its Stena 'Truckers Lounge' identity.

Truckers Lounge bar counter; out of picture to the right is the small cafeteria servery area.

Truckers Lounge bar counter; out of picture to the right is the small, enclosed, cafeteria servery area.

Another view, looking across from the starboard side.

Another view, looking across from the starboard side.

The deck below, Deck 7, featured this lower lounge.

The deck below, Deck 7, featured this lower lounge.

Ventouris installed this small additional lounge, complete with bar and reception desk, aft of the forward saloon on Deck 7.

Ventouris installed this small additional lounge, complete with bar and reception desk, aft of the forward saloon on Deck 7.

Time to head below decks...

Time to head below decks...

The cabins on Deck 2 were used until very near the end in the Stena days but, with Ventouris, they were abandoned and derelict.

Moving back up a deck, Deck 3 was the main freight deck.

Moving back up a deck, Deck 3 was the main freight deck.

This still bore many clear signs that the ship had once been a train ferry.

This still bore many clear signs that the ship had once been a train ferry.

Deck 3 - looking aft from adjacent to the centre casing.

Deck 3 - looking aft from adjacent to the centre casing.

On board the ship during the Stena days, before the railway lines were properly removed.

On board the ship during the Stena days, before the railway lines were properly removed.

Later in the crossing, this view shows the stern door closed with some of the tourist traffic collected in Corfu just in front.

Later in the crossing, this view shows the stern door closed with some of the tourist traffic collected in Corfu just in front.

The second freight deck, Deck 5.

The second freight deck, Deck 5.

In one part of this deck there appeared to be evidence of there having been a lorry fire at some stage during Ventouris service.

In one part of this deck the charred deckhead appeared to indicate that, at some stage, there had been a lorry fire.

Returning to the top freight deck via the funnel casing.

Returning to the top freight deck via the funnel casing.

Some interesting gas cylinders could be found here...

Some interesting gas cylinders could be found here...

... test stamped March 1972.

... test stamped March 1972.

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Seatrade Miscellany

Back on the top vehicle deck, with loading still progressing slowly.

Back on the top vehicle deck, with loading still progressing slowly.

Other, more mainstream, competitors came and went as we slowly squeezed our heavy load of freight on board.

Other, more mainstream, competitors came and went as we slowly squeezed our heavy load of freight on board.

Night fell and the bolted-on plastic seating areas turned a lovely shade of blue, a lighting choice more commonly associated with landlords trying to drive away drug addicts.

Night fell and the bolted-on plastic seating areas turned a lovely shade of blue, a lighting choice more commonly associated with landlords trying to drive away drug addicts.

The engines are ramped up for departure and a huge plume of acrid smoke comes out of the old ship's funnel.

The engines are ramped up for departure and a huge plume of acrid smoke comes out of the old ship's funnel.

The ship's bell.

The ship's bell.

Sunrise the following morning - it comes as no surprise to learn we are running four hours late.

Sunrise the following morning - it comes as no surprise to learn we are running four hours late.

Those passengers who have spent the night wrapped up against the cold on the aft docking bridge wing wake to the first signs of another beautiful day.

Those passengers who have spent the night wrapped up against the cold on the aft docking bridge wing wake to the first signs of another beautiful day.

Down on Deck 5 the difficulties in loading the ship are shown in just how tightly packed together the lorries are.

Down on Deck 5 the difficulties in loading the ship are shown in just how tightly packed together the lorries are.

Time to get the camping stove out and cook breakfast...

Time to get the camping stove out and cook breakfast...

Finally the great port of Bari is in sight; we are headed for the modern terminal used by the Greek ferries and cruise ships but on the berth at the older terminal are vessels on routes to Albania, Croatia and Montenegro. From left to right: Bari (ex-St Anselm), Riviera Adriatica (ex-Daedalus), Ionian Sky, Ankara and Sveti Stefan (ex-Cornouailles).

Finally the great port of Bari is in sight; we are headed for the modern terminal used by the Greek ferries and cruise ships but on the berths at the older terminal are vessels on routes to Albania, Croatia and Montenegro. From left to right: Bari (ex-St Anselm), Riviera Adriatica (ex-Daedalus), Ionian Sky, Ankara and Sveti Stefan (ex-Cornouailles).

The Superfast II, deployed on Bari-Igoumenitsa-Patras route, overtook us shortly after sunrise and is already fully unloaded by the time we approach our berth.

The Superfast II, deployed on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari route, overtook us shortly after sunrise and is already fully unloaded by the time we approach our berth.

Embarkation of the Bari pilot.

Embarkation of the Bari pilot.

Safely on the berth - four hours, forty minutes late.

Safely on the berth - four hours, forty minutes late.

Fin.

Picture of the week: Veterans in Bari

Rigel (ex-Bore I, Ilich, Baltic Kristina), Sveti Stefan II (ex-Prinz Hamlet, Nieborow) and Adriatica I (ex-Silesia) at Bari.

Rigel (ex-Bore I, Ilich, Baltic Kristina), Sveti Stefan II (ex-Prinz Hamlet, Nieborow) and Adriatica I (ex-Silesia) at Bari. Click for larger image.

Previous image

Previous image

More on the Senlac

Nigel Best has come to the rescue to complete our update of the current status of the ‘H Boats’ with recent images, from owners European Seaways, of the Senlac, now the Apollon, operating between Bari and Durres.

The Apollon at Bari.

The Apollon at Bari.


The Apollon's bridge.

The Apollon's bridge.

Starboard side lounge.

Starboard side lounge.

The Franta Belsky 'Senlac' mural at Boat Deck level.

The Franta Belsky 'Senlac' mural at Boat Deck level.

Mention was previously made of the volume of competition on this route, with perhaps the most competing ships on any overnight crossing in the world. In full, to the best of my knowledge, the complete line up is as follows:

  • European Seaways: the Apollon & Ionis
  • Ventouris Ferries: Rigel, Siren & Athens
  • AGEMAR/Halkydon: Arberia, Grecia, Venezia (also sailing to Trieste but the ships rotate between the two routes)
  • Adria Ferries: Riviera Adriatica. The Riviera del Conero (ex-Egitto Express) appears to be remaining exclusively on the company’s original route between Durres and Ancona this Summer.
  • Tirrenia Divisione Adriatica : refurbished Strade Romana class Domiziana & Flaminia
  • G Lines: Santa Maria I (although the company’s website makes no mention of it, the ship is also making some sailings Barletta-Durres)
  • Lastly the sole fast ferry on the route, Virtu Ferries/Venezia Lines‘ San Gwann
  • Not operating to Durres, but on an optimistic new route from Bari to Shengjin in Albania’s north are Azzurra Line and their peripatetic Azzurra.

    Down the coast on the parallel Brindisi-Vlore route the demise of the Kapetan Alexandros A has done little to change the nature of operations with Medglory Shipping’s Veronica Line and Red Stars‘ Red Star I competing with the Agoudimos replacement the Ionian Spirit. Although Red Star seem to be Skenderbeg Lines reborn, the latter’s name has joined Palmier Ferries, Rainbow Lines, Prosperity Navigation etc in defunct operators on this route. The Europa I remains in Brindisi, where she has been laid up now for more than a year after the failure of last year’s Otranto-Vlore operation.

    The most notable names missing from the list of Albanian operators are Marlines and their Duchess M, the former Breizh-Izel of Brittany Ferries. Marlines’ final years were a cruel betrayal of their glory days (pre-Superfast), but they seemed to have found a niche in a market more akin to the Greece-Italy routes of that halcyon era. The company has not, however, returned for 2009 and so one must wonder if this is to be the end of another of the Adriatic’s most famous names, with HML and, to all intents and purposes, Adriatica already gone. The Duchess M, for now, remains laid up in Elefsis.

    The future for the ex-Senlac is almost as uncertain. The Arkoumanis-controlled European Seaways have boldly expanded into the Durres market, from their first sailing less than ten months ago to now having a two-ship rolling schedule. Whether this has been a success or not time will tell, but for now the Apollon, the most original but also the most mechanically tender of the three Sealink sisters, continues to provide valuable service to one of the Adriatic market’s bottom feeders.

    The Southern Adriatic – a new Golden Age?

    Igoumenitsa Classics

    Igoumenitsa Classics

    Michele Lulurgas’ epic 20-year trek through the ferries of the Adriatic highlights what in many ways can be seen as the sad decline of the area’s ferry operations as an oligopoly of large operators, hewn both out of once-proudly independent concerns such as ANEK and Minoan, alongside newcomers Attica, rose to the top.

    It is true that many of the famous ferry names of the Adriatic’s original car ferry era are mostly gone: concerns such as HML, Fragline, Adriatica and Marlines and an indepedent Strintzis, all have long since ceased to operate on the Greece-Italy trade that once they dominated. Yet looking at the Southern ports of Bari and Brindisi in the Summer of 2008, no less than 31 conventional ships were to be found, from 15 different operators and only two of those ships came from one of the ‘Big Three’.

    Those glory days of the late 1980s/early 1990s when the vintage ferry enthusiast wouldn’t know which way to turn as he faced choices of the Countess M (ex-Leopard) or the Corinthia (ex-Duke of Argyll), the Lydia (ex-Koningin Fabiola) or the Queen M (ex-Rangatira) will never return. Yet there remains enough within the current fleets to appeal. Perhaps the biggest difference now is that the journey will involve heading to Albania or Croatia or Montenegro. This should not deter since, as destinations, these countries offer as much if not more than Greece with spectacular scenery, relatively favourable exchange rates and varying degrees of ‘unspoilt’ and ‘undiscovered’.

    Here we assess the 2008 Southern Adriatic operators and ponder the future in a market where short-lived operators have long been a fact of life.

    The Apollon (ex-Senlac) at Corfu

    The Apollon (ex-Senlac) at Corfu


    European Seaways
    Poor old European Seaways – just as they were getting a foot in the door with a second straight season running the Apollon from Brindisi to Igoumentisa, Agoudimos and Endeavor have a huge fall out and almost double their previous Brindisi-Greece capacity.

    If you are going to operate a veteran ship in these waters, the Apollon has a strong pedigree – but she’ll never pass muster as a real overnight ship and seems one of the more mechanically troubled of the ex-Sealinks.

    Over the Winter Mr Arkoumanis has deployed his ship in the Albanian trade and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her stay there next Summer. If the Veronica Line fails to reappear for 2009, what chance the Apollon filling the third Brindisi-Vlore slot?

    The Ionian Spirit (ex-Roslagen/Viking 3) off Brindisi

    The Ionian Spirit (ex-Roslagen/Viking 3) off Brindisi

    Agoudimos
    The partnership with Endeavor on the Bari-Patras route lasted from 2005 to 2007 but never seemed entirely happy and for 2008 it came to an end. Agoudimos pulled out all the stops, increasing their Greece-Italy fleet from two ships to four. Yet Shippax statistics show that for double the sailings, they took around half the passengers compared to 2007. Ouch.

    Might Agoudimos follow the lead of famiy rivals GA Ferries a couple of years ago and withdraw completely from the Greece-Italy market? One feels that the net result could be the end of the Albanian veteran the Kapetan Alexandros A (ex-Doric Ferry). A freed-up Ionian Spirit would make a decent enough replacement.

    Ionian Queen at Brindisi

    Ionian Queen at Brindisi


    Endeavor Lines
    Who would have thought that the backpacker market out of Brindisi wasn’t dead after all? Indeed, who could have guessed that there was a market for parties of American tourists who needed to sail from Southern Italy to Greece? Working in co-operation with the former HML Italian agencies, Endeavor appear to have inherited the Brindisi Inter-Rail/Eurail concessions. Aware of the ongoing strength of the brand they also include the HML logo on the cover of their brochures.
    All round, it seems to have been a storming year for Endeavor who will add the new Princess T to their fleet next year. At present, there has been no indication that one of the existing trio will drop out.

    The Rigel at Durres

    The Rigel at Durres

    Ventouris Ferries
    Ventouris’ three-ship strategy from Bari to Albania seems to have been calculated to kill off one or more of the competition. That hasn’t really happened and the benefit of adding the Rigel in capacity terms seems questionable. As a ship however she set high standards and raises the question as to why any discerning traveller would sail with any operator other than Ventouris or Adriatica on the Durres route. But they do.

    To Igoumenitsa, the Siren and the Polaris, their vehicle decks crammed with freight and camper vans, plod ever onwards.

    The Cesme at Ancona

    The Cesme at Ancona

    Marmara Lines
    The sole remaining Italy-Turkey ferry operator. Demand still seems strong enough for the not insubstantial fares they charge; but it has to be a declining market, so will they be back for more in 2009?

    Red Star I at Vlore

    Red Star I at Vlore

    Red Star Ferries/Skenderbeg Lines
    Who are Red Star Ferries? Who are Skenderbeg Lines? I don’t know, but the former has taken the latter’s slots in Brindisi and they share a website. Skenderbeg’s venerable Europa I was supposed to sail from Otranto to Vlore this year but never set sail after the authorities intervened. She has remained laid up in Brindisi ever since. More happily, the Red Star I has established herself as market leader on Brindisi-Vlore.

    Veronica Line (ex-Free Enterprise V) at Brindisi

    Veronica Line (ex-Free Enterprise V) at Brindisi

    Medglory Shipping
    The company are called ‘Medglory Shipping’, but the ship is the Veronica Line.
    They did operate from Otranto but it wasn’t to their liking so they started from Brindisi instead.
    The ship was detained repeatedly in Brindisi and later retreated to lay up in Naples.
    On the face of it, the omens for a 2009 return aren’t good.

    Sveti Stefan II

    Sveti Stefan II

    Montenegro Lines
    For a while Montenegro Lines followed the herd and sailed curiously to Albania as well as their home nation. That has now stopped and the ‘Svetis’ both sail to Bar again, from both Ancona and Bari. A nice pair of interesting ships they are too, although the crews can be mildly eccetric.

    The Azzurra (image courtesy Ann Haynes)

    The Azzurra (image courtesy Ann Haynes)

    Azzurra Lines
    Who sails with them? Why do they do it? Nobody knows, yet Azzurra have survived for eight seasons now so they must be doing something right. The Azzurra herself is a real classic from the 1960s Golden Generation of Scandinavian car ferries, albeit one now thoroughly refurbished.

    Venezia at Durres

    Venezia at Durres

    Ilion Lines
    The Venezia and Grecia continue on the Bari-Durres and Trieste-Durres routes. For enthusiasts, the fact that this class of four Livorno-built ships is now approaching classic status is a bit of a shock. The Ilion ships’ sisters, the Express Pegasus and the former Egitto Express (now the Riviera Del Conero and a regular visitor to Durres herself) have proven interesting in their own right so perhaps I owe this overlooked pair a sail. Former Adriatica fleetmate the Santa Maria I (ex-Sansovino) also made an appearance on Bari-Durres in 2008 for newcomers G Lines before retiring early to Piraeus with engine problems.

    Flaminia off Bari

    Flaminia off Bari

    Adriatica
    We shall continue to call them ‘Adriatica’ – no matter that they say Tirrenia on the hulls, as long as the winged lion remains on the funnels they retain a glimmer of former glories. And, truth be told, the old company doesn’t scrub up too badly on the Albanian run. The Flaminia and Domiziana offer a good quality operation – albeit with something of the old school of service, the retrofitted surroundings are nice and modern, on the Flaminia at least.

    The Duchess M

    The Duchess M

    Marlines
    So it’s come to this: one route, one ship. The Duchess M had a plentiful supply of German and French tourists amongst the full load when I sailed on her this August. No one seems to have told them that Marlines aren’t quite the top ferry operator they once were, or that the Duchess M is no Crown M. It was worthwhile to see what they had done to an ex-English Channel stalwart (answer: a lot, not much of it good) and worth it to say I had sailed with this famous old company. Had I only done it twenty years earlier….

    The Liburnija

    The Liburnija

    Jadrolinija
    The Liburnija and Marko Polo continue to maintain sailings to Dubrovnik out of Bari for Jadrolinija and a more perfectly preserved and maintained pair of classic ferries you couldn’t wish to find. Catch the sweet little Liburnija on a quiet sailing and she really captures the imagination. The ‘MP’ is more businesslike but together they offer a memorable way for the enthusiast to sail into or out of Croatia, one rivalled only by the Ancona up the coast between Split and Ancona.

    Where next for the Blue Horizon?

    Where next for the Blue Horizon?

    Blue Star/Superfast
    Last but by no means least, the only one of the ‘establishment’ operators to sail out of Southern Italy. The new Superfast I and II will be in operation together by the end of 2009 – which leaves a lingering question mark about what will happen to the existing ships. The Blue Horizon will stay until the arrival of the ‘II’ but already, with the return of the Blue Star 1 to the fold, at least two ships seem surplus to requirements. On the face of it these are the Superfast XII and possibly the Diagoras; SNCM may be a potential purchaser, looking around as they are for a new ‘Navire Mixte’ although the ‘XII’ might be too much of a passenger ship for their taste (never mind the price tag) whilst the Diagoras is probably too old. Perhaps a further reshuffle could free up Blue Star 1 or 2.

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