Posts tagged: habib

That Was The Year That Was – 2010

The Vis (ex-Sydfyn) at Ubli in July. The ship has since been withdrawn from service.

The Vis (ex-Sydfyn) at Ubli in July. The ship has since been withdrawn from service.

In ferry terms, 2010 will perhaps be remembered as a year in which dozens of classic ships from Southern Europe were despatched for scrap. Over twenty ships on which I had sailed headed to the breakers during the past twelve months including some of my absolute favourites such as the former Senlac (Apollon), Mette Mols (Istra) and Svea (Ancona).

On the other hand there were relatively few significant new ferries introduced in 2010, as delivery rates slowed and shipyard orderbooks thinned out – the new Stena Hollandica and her sister proved to be the real highlight of the year in this respect. 2011 promises a little more and the arrival of P&O’s Spirit of Britain this month offers a first chance to see if that company can finally offer anything innovative, followed (definitely maybe) by LD Lines’ Norman Leader.

On a personal level, 75 ships were sailed on and two visited in port, whilst 33 nights were spent at sea. In an effort to make a final farewell to some of those doomed classics, the average age of ships sampled in 2010 was 22 years old compared to 17 in 2009 – and indeed nine of the 2010 ships have subsequently been withdrawn.

Based purely on subjective feelings on those 77 vessels, here are some bests and worsts of the year.

The Stena Hollandica at Hoek in November.

The Stena Hollandica at Hoek van Holland in November.

Best new ferry
Looking at ships delivered in 2009 or 2010 and new to me this year only one vessel really stands out – the new Stena Hollandica on the Harwich-Hoek route. Her sheer size marks her out but she also gives a useful indication of where Stena see the future – a ferry version of “the vision thing” from one of the industry’s leading operators with the deepest pockets. Relatively luxurious and expensively-finished accommodation above huge and flexible freight decks seems to be the answer for an operation which, as with many of Stena’s legacy routes, still has a strong passenger element.

There was not really much competition on the new ferry front – other recently-delivered ships sailed on in the past twelve months were Norfolkline’s Humber Viking (an interesting and efficient ro-ro), Wight Ryder I and II (awful), Minoan’s Cruise Europa (dysfunctional), Nova Ferries’ Phedra (pleasant enough) and Jadrolinija’s Jadran (generic).

The Habib leaving Genoa.

The Habib leaving Genoa.


Best classic ferry and favourite crossing
Four of us travelled between Tunis and Genoa on Tunisia Ferries’ 1978-built Habib in July and, looking back on the year, all agreed that the sailing on this ship was the highlight. Although it still seems uncertain, it is to be hoped that this beautiful ship of state will continue sailing in future years – despite her age, she seems in reliable mechanical condition and her largely original 1970s interiors with dozens of pieces of bespoke artwork are quite remarkable. The Habib is one of the all-time classic car ferries.

The oldest ship sailed on in 2010 was the local Lisbon ferry the Eborense of Transtejo e Soflusa, built in 1954 – whilst she is not and has no need to be a Habib, she is certainly a delightful little ship and, happily, looks set to be retained despite the delivery of new vessels.

The cross-river Lisbon ferry Eborense.

The cross-river Lisbon ferry Eborense.

A rainy day in Gdynia.

A rainy day in Gdynia.


Worst crossing
There was something indescribably horrific about sailing on the Stena Baltica (ex-Koningin Beatrix) between Karlskrona and Gdynia on a wet day crossing in June. This ship received a major conversion to drive-through loading with twin freight decks and a complete refurbishment of the passenger lounges just before Stena’s new enlightenment with regard to interior design. The new freight arrangements seemed to work well enough, but ten hours staring at shiny plastic laminate flooring, wipe-down surfaces and jarring decor would be enough to drive anyone to distraction, never mind the forgettable food and the depressing weather. Wherever she ends up next, hopefully the Stena Baltica will get some urgent attention to revive her passenger spaces which, whilst originally slightly spartan in places, were at least previously coherent and pleasant.

The Sveti Stefan II at Bar in Montenegro.

The Sveti Stefan II at Bar in Montenegro.

Worst maintained ship
No doubting the winner of this one – Montenegro Lines’ Sveti Stefan II (ex-Prinz Hamlet, Nieborow). Bruce has written a bit more about what was a rather sad and run-down vessel in a piece in which the pictures speak for themselves.

Not far behind in this particular race were Blu Navy’s Primrose (ex-Princesse Marie-Christine), Le Rif (ex-Galloway Princess) of Moroccan operator IMTC and P&O’s soon to be withdrawn Pride of Calais. The most dismal single passenger space I saw on a ship operating for a mainstream operator however was another ship near the end of her P&O career: on the Pride of Bilbao what was once the Flash Disco, later a ro-ro lounge, was in use as a smokers’ area with giant ashtrays, ripped sofa seating and fag ash ground into the carpet. Not a pretty sight.

P&O's premier cruise ferry.

P&O's premier cruise ferry.

Best food
At the heart of any great ferry trip lies a decent meal and one operator stood out above all others in 2010 – Unity Line’s Polonia and Skania both provided memorable fare in the restaurants on their route between Swinoujscie and Ystad.

On the downside the Polonia also offered the most unpleasant crew member of the year – a ‘bouncer’ at the entrance to the forward lounge whose main aim in life was to bar entry to anyone who had any luggage with them – including small rucksacks and handbags. Since one cannot get access to the restaurant without passing through this lounge, it was no surprise to find that we were the only diners. As the forward bar stayed empty, all the other passengers could be found cooped up in the rather unluxurious self-service.

Unity Line food - fish soup (Skania)...

Unity Line food - fish soup (Skania)...

... the lamb (Skania)...

... the lamb (Skania)...

... and apple pie for dessert (Polonia).

... and apple pie for dessert (Polonia).

Elsewhere on the food front, the kitchens on Tunisia Ferries’ Carthage rustled up a superb couscous served with lamb, the lunchtime smörgÃ¥sbord on Scandlines’ Hamlet was low in cost and high in quality, SNCM’s Napoleon Bonaparte offered an unexpectedly good buffet whilst the excellent food in the restaurant of Fastnet Line’s Julia almost made up for the somewhat run-down nature of the rest of the ship.

Lunch on the Carthage.

Lunch on the Carthage.

Worst food
Alas, the Sveti Stefan II strikes again; in her restaurant all the main courses arrived still box-shaped.

The restaurant on the Sveti Stefan II.

The restaurant on the Sveti Stefan II.

Forward stairwell on the Eritokritos T.

Forward stairwell on the Eritokritos T.


Best Jap
Former Japanese ferries in Southern Europe continue to receive, perhaps not unsuprisingly, scant attention from north European enthusiasts, but there are some very interesting vessels worthy of attention. In the past couple of years I have mentioned two superbly-converted ships – the Ariadne and the Elyros – but in many respects even more engaging are those which retain elements of their original Japanese design. Japanese ferries have evolved a quite distinct look both inside and out compared to their European counterparts and the Eritokritos T (which has now sailed for scrap) and her sister the Lato showed how intriguing and attractive surviving elements of this can be in the passenger spaces.

That said, although both the Erotokritos T and the Lato had some interesting bits and pieces, probably the most impressive Japanese-built ferry of 2010 was Agoudimos Lines’ Ionian King. Whilst obviously very similar to her sister (Endeavor’s Ionian Queen), this ship has been slightly more impressively reconditioned. A trip on either vessel is to be recommended – they are probably the best ships sailing out of Southern Adriatic Italian ports today. If budgets permit, travelling in one of the super-luxury ‘Emperor’ suites would be the best way to travel.

The Lido deck on the Ionian King.

The Lido deck on the Ionian King.

Lastly, NEL Line’s chartered European Express (ex-Takachiho Maru) wins the award for most laudable onboard signage.

On board the European Express.

On board the European Express.

Mediterranean Massacre – Part Two

After the recent cull of Southern Europe’s elderly ferry fleet, which ships will be next? There remain plenty of veterans out there, and the list below is a bit of idle speculation. Quite a few vessels are now laid up mainly because they have recently finished seasonal service rather than anything more sinister. A couple, like the little Don Peppino in the Bay of Naples (ex-Malmø, 1964) and Jadrolinija’s Porozina (ex-Esefjord, 1971) have seen service this year after previous bouts of inactivity left them looking doomed, so nothing is certain. Particularly for the Croatian ships, domestic service under local, less strict, safety rules might be a solution once a vessel can no longer be used on international services – this may prove a valuable factor for Jadrolinija’s little Liburnija. Sadly however, it is likely that several of the ships listed below may be gone within the next twelve months.

The Ancona and Split 1700 at Split.

The Ancona and Split 1700 at Split.

Two ships which have been sold for scrap since the original instalment are the Ancona and the Split 1700. Between them they helped to make Blue Line the dominant operator from Split to Ancona, in the process seeing off the Italian state operator Adriatica whilst the Croatian equivalent, Jadrolinija, operating their Dubrovnik, are outclassed. However it was always clear that 2010 would be the end for the 1966-built pair – indeed, the Split 1700 had been laid up throughout the Summer since the company acquired better and larger tonnage. The only question was whether anyone would be able to preserve the Ancona but, perhaps not surprisingly, the answer was no and the pair have been sold to Indian breakers.

The Ancona.

The Ancona.

Boughaz and Banasa at Algeciras.

Boughaz and Banasa at Algeciras.

Starting in the West, on the routes to Morocco the situation is fairly critical in terms purely of age with a whole host of ships nearing or over 30 years in age – the Al Mansour (ex-Stena Nordica, Reine Astrid), Atlas (ex-Gelting Syd), Banasa (ex-Mette Mols), Berkane (ex-Napoleon), Biladi (ex-Liberté), Bni Nsar (ex-Ferry Akashi, Dame M), Boughaz (ex-Viking 5), Ibn Batouta (ex-St Christopher), Le Rif (ex-Galloway Princess), Mistral Express (ex-Esterel) and Wisteria (ex-Prinses Beatrix, Duc de Normandie). TransEuropa Ferries’ Eurovoyager is also presently in the area.

Quite what to expect here is difficult to say – other than the Eurovoyager most of the above named are in regular service. There have been a couple of casualties from the area in 2010 already in the Sara 1 and Euroferrys Atlantica but with a reportedly disappointing Summer perhaps there is scope for some further cutbacks. The most likely vessel perhaps, other than the Eurovoyager, might be the oldest – COMANAV’s Bni Nsar has created a notably negative public reputation but has, however, remained in service beyond 30 September.

The Habib.

The Habib.

Tunisia’s 1970s ship of state, the Habib, is a lovely 1970s veteran – sort of an Africanised, originally two-class-version of TT Lines’ Peter Pan and Nils Holgersson of 1974/75. With the new Hanibal due for delivery in 2012, if the Habib is compliant with the safety requirements of the so-called ‘Stockholm Agreement’ one would expect her to return for one final fling in 2011 – but crew members were adamant 2010 was her final season when we sailed on the ship in June.

Sardinia Regina and Moby Vincent at Bastia.

Sardinia Regina and Moby Vincent at Bastia.

Both Sardinia Ferries and Moby on their longer passenger routes have a collection of 1970s-built ships matched with vessels from the past decade – and not too much in between. Moby’s Drea, Otta, Vincent, Fantasy and Corse are all vital parts of the network and one cannot imagine them being replaced in the near future – the Fantasy continually punches above her weight on the Olbia-Civitavecchia route and is perhaps the weakest of the classic ferries. The Moby Vincent (ex-Stena Normandica, St Brendan) is the oldest but both Moby and their yellow-hulled rivals seem content to each employ one of these Rickmers-built ferries as their regular ships on the Livorno-Bastia route. If one or other was replaced with something new I can imagine the rival operator would respond pretty quickly – but who will blink first?

Both Moby and Corsica Ferries have been able to add capacity seemingly at will in recent years, and the latter’s elderly ladies seem equally secure – for now. The Sardinia Vera and sister Corsica Marina Seconda, the Sardinia Regina and sister Corsica Victoria plus the Corsica Serena Seconda all appear in the Summer 2011 timetables.

The Moby Baby at Portoferraio.

The Moby Baby at Portoferraio.

Moby’s five Babies on the Elban routes have an average age of 37 years and recently the company made statements about ordering six new ships to replace them, together with the Bastia on the Santa Teresa-Bonifacio run. Nothing firm has happened on that front yet – so these classics look set to continue for some time to come. The 1966-built Moby Baby (ex-Svea Drott, Earl Godwin) is the now surely the oldest ship operating for anything like a mainstream multi-route operator in the EU (save maybe for Balearia’s Arlequin Rojo) but the even smaller Moby Ale (ex-Mikkel Mols, 1969) would seem likely to be the first to go if Moby were to have a cull. For now that doesn’t seem likely as all five ships are hard-pressed on the busy Summer Saturdays.

The Primrose at Piombino.

The Primrose at Piombino.

Upstarts Blunavy made an entry onto the Piombino-Portoferraio route in 2010 and, after an apparently relatively successful season, claim they are looking for a different ship to the Primrose (ex-Princesse Marie Christine). Something with a better air conditioning system might be a good idea. The sweaty, beaten-up old Primrose has to be high on the list of likely ships to head straight for scrap from here.

The Don Peppino at Pozzuoli.

The Don Peppino at Pozzuoli.

One elderly ex-Moby ship which has thus far evaded the scrappers is the Don Peppino of Gestur. Originally the Malmø of 1964, she spent 24 years with Moby as the Citta di Piombino but was subsequently laid up for a period in Naples. Reactivated in 2008 she is a sweet little thing but can’t have too many years left now. There remain several other interesting ships laid up in Naples but the largest two – the Medmar overnight pair Donatella D’Abundo and Giulia D’Abundo – have now both gone for scrap.

The SNAV Sicilia at Palermo.

The SNAV Sicilia at Palermo.

The most disappointing departures from Italian domestic service after 30 September were SNAV’s ex-North Sea Ferries pair SNAV Campania and Sicilia (ex-Norland and Norstar). Originally rumoured to have been sold for scrap, they are now both at anchor off Jeddah awaiting use, presumably as pilgrim ships for the Hajj in November, after which their futures remain unclear.

The Iginia and Rosalia at Messina.

The Iginia and Rosalia at Messina.

After the Sibari (1970) went for scrap last year, question marks hung over the remaining two classic train ferries on BluVia’s Messina-Villa San Giovanni route, the Iginia (1969) and Rosalia (1973). I travelled with the Rosalia in early September and she has clearly had a little bit of cash spent on her recently (although still retaining the faded glory look of all the ships on this route). Meanwhile the Iginia was to be found having some attention in dry dock in Messina so on this basis they seem secure for now. However the Logudoro, half-sister to the route’s more modern pair, the Villa and Scilla, remains laid up in Naples – if BluVia ever get around to instating her in Sicilian traffic, the lovely Iginia could be doomed.

The Domiziana off Naples.

The Domiziana off Naples.

Just as the future of Tirrenia is unclear, so it is for their oldest ship, the Domiziana. A (relatively) unrebuilt member of the Strade Romana class she has been moved to the Southern Italian port of Crotone for disposal – scrap must be a real option although I would still bet on her being acquired by another operator looking for replacement tonnage.

To the East of Italy the number of elderly ships under threat grows exponentially, first but not least with Jadrolinija. The Croatian national operator has, since the disposal of the Ivan Zajc in 2009, been reduced to four ships capable of realistic use on the coastal and international services. This has meant the Zadar operating Zadar-Ancona, the Dubrovnik on Split-Ancona, the Marko Polo the coastal service, Rijaka-Split-Stari Grad-Korcula-Dubrovnik and on to Bari in Italy, with the little Liburnija operating Korcula-Dubrovnik-Bari.

The Marko Polo will be upgraded over the Winter to meet the new safety requirements but it seems inevitable that the Liburnija will henceforth be restricted to domestic use – if anything. She was Jadrolinija’s first car ferry of any real size and ever since her introduction in 1965 has been lovingly looked after. Now quite antiquated one can only wonder if she will return in 2011 and, if so, what route a ship with cabin accommodation would be suitable for if not the coastal/international lines.

The Liburnija at Korcula.

The Liburnija at Korcula.

The Vis leaving Vela Luca.

The Vis leaving Vela Luca.

Of the other Jadrolinija ships in service in 2010 the most interesting threatened vessel is the 1965-built Vis, originally the Sydfyn. She has been with Jadrolinija for 34 years now but the feeling amongst her crew was that this was her final year. Aliaga awaits.

Jadrolinija's reserve fleet - Cres 2008.

Jadrolinija's reserve fleet - Cres 2008.

Whereas a couple of Jadrolinija ships have headed for scrap the majority of the coastal fleet, once no longer wanted, appear to be sent to lay up in various parts of the country. For example the onetime Red Funnel pair Lovrjenac (ex-Norris Castle) and Nehaj (ex-Cowes Castle) have been mouldering in Cres and Mali Losinj respectively for several years now. The picture above shows Cres in August 2008 with the Nehaj, Porozina (ex-Esefjord) and Bozava visible and, beyond, the Ero, Ozalj and Zigljen. The Porozina has since seen further service but the future of the remainder looks bleak, with the Bozava reportedly already gone.

The Postira arriving at Dubrovnik, with the Thomson Spirit beyond.

The Postira arriving at Dubrovnik, with the Thomson Spirit beyond.

If the fate of many of Jadrolinija’s old car ferries is uncertain, what then of the four remaining classic passenger ships? The Postira, Premuda, Ozalj and Tijat all still had niche roles in various parts of the country in 2010 but there are grumblings in some areas about the service offered. Many of these ship’s sisters and contemporaries have found their way into static use so one would expect the same might apply when the service careers of these veterans finally come to an end.

The Sveti Stefan and Sveti Stefan II at Bar.

The Sveti Stefan and Sveti Stefan II at Bar.

The Montenegro Lines fleet is in varying states of disrepair. To all intents and purposes they are the only passenger sea line into the country so doubtless will carry on – but it would be nice if they could do something about the state of their ships, the Sveti Stefan II in particular. After seemingly disappearing for all of October, the latter ship returns to service at the start of November and is timetabled through to the end of the year. But what about her little red-hulled counterpart?

The Azzurra at Bari.

The Azzurra at Bari.

One doesn’t know what the Azzurra of Azzurra Line is up to at the best of times so perhaps the most recent AIS signal from the 1964-built ex-Grenaa shouldn’t be a surprise – she is not laid up near her normal Bari-based Adriatic home but is instead at Tasucu in Turkey, having previously paid a call into in Northern Cyprus. Has she entered service on the Tasucu-Gazimagusa route?!

The Arberia at Bari.

The Arberia at Bari.

With her fleetmates all gone for scrap, the Arberia (ex-Bore Star, Orient Express, Wasa Queen) of Halkydon Shipping, for now, ploughs on alone between Bari and Durres in Albania. If Halkydon do complete their withdrawal from the passenger shipping business, this ferry will have to find new owners – going for scrap seems unlikely but in the current climate anything is possible. Perhaps Mr Munk of Sunlink Ferries will finally get his ship?

The Santa Maria I and Rigel at Bari.

The Santa Maria I and Rigel at Bari.

G Lines’ Santa Maria I (ex-Sansovino) seems to have found little success since first being tried on the competitive Bari-Durres service in 2008. Beset by machinery problems in her inital seasons, she has now retired once again to Drapetsona – will she ever see proper service again?

Alongside her in the picture above is Ventouris Ferries’ Rigel (ex-Bore I). This ship and her three quite elderly Adriatic fleetmates (average age – 35) seem set to continue to operate – the Polaris is presently having a not insignificant refit with her place, for now, being taken by Agoudimos’ Ionian King.

The Veronica Line and Red Star I together at Brindisi.

The Veronica Line and Red Star I together at Brindisi.

Brindisi and the Southern Albanian port of Vlore have been the last operational ports of call for a number of notable ferries, from Thoresen’s Viking I, through SNCF’s Transcontainer I to Sessan’s 1965-built Prinsessan Desirée. The route has in recent years been home to three further veterans, the Viking I’s sister, the Viking III of 1965 (now Red Star I), her ex-Townsend Thoresen fleetmate Free Enterprise V (1970, now Veronica Line) and Agoudimos’s sprightly youngster the Ionian Spirit (ex-Viking 3, Roslagen (1972)).

The Veronica Line has again gone into hibernation for the Winter but the Red Star I and Ionian Spirit continue to sail. Whilst this route has a history of sudden disappearances the latter two seem quite secure for now. The Veronica Line may be a casualty of the Stockholm Agreement but there is every chance we won’t know about it until she fails to reappear for 2011.

The Penelope at Igoumenitsa.

The Penelope at Igoumenitsa.

Now laid up in Igoumenitsa the Penelope (ex-European Gateway) appears simply to be bedding down for the Winter rather than anything else and there seems every likelihood this unusual ship will return for 2011.

The Theofilos in white NEL livery at Piraeus, 2007.

The Theofilos in white NEL livery at Piraeus, 2007.

One of the most popular Greek ferries is the evergreen Theofilos of NEL Lines, which has sailed through the September SOLAS deadline and continues on an interesting Northern Aegean itinerary. The future is, however, cloudy for the former Nils Holgersson (1975) and one can only hope she will live to see another Greek Summer.

The Ierapetra L approaching Piraeus.

The Ierapetra L approaching Piraeus.

ANEK Lines have a series of ex-Japanese overnight ferries which are more than 30 years old deployed in domestic service: the Ierapetra L, Kriti I, Kriti II, Lissos, Lato and Prevelis. Although the Lissos is engaged in heavy competition with NEL on the route up to Chios and Mytilene, far from ANEK’s usual base, the remainder are in use on core or subsidised services and there is no imminent prospect of replacement. For now the elderly ANEKs seem safe.

The Rodanthi and Romilda laid up in Piraeus (with the Lissos visible beyond)

The Rodanthi and Romilda laid up in Piraeus (with the Lissos visible beyond)

Not such a happy future awaits the laid-up fleets of GA Ferries and SAOS. GA’s abandoned ships still dominate the Great Harbour in Piraeus whilst SAOS’s, including ex-British pair the Samothraki (Viking Voyager) and Panagia Soumela (Lady of Mann), are concentrated in Alexandropoulis in an increasingly decrepit state. It seems likely that the majority of these will head straight for scrap once the financial wrangling is finally concluded.

The Samothraki leaving Chios in 2007.

The Samothraki leaving Chios in 2007.

The Duchess M at Bari in August 2008.

The Duchess M at Bari in August 2008.

There are also dozens of ships laid up in the shipyards around Piraeus – many of which will never see service again. One such is the Duchess M of Marlines, originally the Wanaka and later Brittany Ferries’ Breizh-Izel. The final season of the final ship of the once glorious Marlines was 2008 and she has been laid up in Elefsis ever since. A one-way journey to the scrapyard is the only realistic result for this ship and so many of the others, including the Okeanis (ex-Free Enterprise) and the Alkyon (ex-Gotlandia).

The Express Santorini (ex-Chartres) and the Scotia Prince (ex-Stena Olympica, top picture) have also arrived in the area recently – they are both now at Drapetsona. The former ship is scheduled to carry out relief sailings through the Winter and a further Summer on charter in the Azores apparently awaits in 2011. For the Scotia Prince the future has to be less certain – she had a heavy refit before the 2010 season which she spent on charter to Marmara Lines for service between Italy and Turkey. It would be great news if this was repeated, but will Marmara Lines be back for 2011?

The Superferry II off Andros.

The Superferry II off Andros.

Although Blue Star Ferries have spent the money to repair her following her coming together with a pier in Tinos, the Superferry II is under threat from the new ships, Blue Star Delos and Blue Star Patmos, currently being built in Korea. The subsequent reshuffle of ships upon their delivery in will almost certainly see the end of the former Prince Laurent.

The Agios Georgios at Sifnos.

The Agios Georgios at Sifnos.

Lastly, are Ventouris Sea Lines’ Agios Georgios (ex-Hengist) and Agoudimos Lines’ Penelope A (ex-Horsa) under threat? Not just yet it seems and both have a Winter of Greek domestic sailing ahead of them.

Funnels: Habib

Habib. Click for larger image.

Habib. Click for larger image.

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