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.
The Sveti Stefan of Montenegro Lines, originally Brittany Ferries’ Cornouailles of 1977, this afternoon arrived off Aliaga in Turkey prior to being scrapped.
The ship had been ordered by Brittany Ferries from the Trondheim Mekaniske VÃ¦rksted following the company’s earlier charter of the Prince de Bretagne (ex-Falster, later Vega), which had been delivered by the Norwegian shipyard two years earlier. The Prince de Bretagne had lacked sufficient passenger space and was considered prone to rolling in even moderate seas but the French evidently saw enough in the basic design to order a similar vessel for themselves. Although the Cornouailles was built with significantly more accommodation, she did inherit some of the poor seakeeping characteristics of her half-sister and, most notably, nearly sank in an incident off Cork in 1992 when, in one of her final periods of service back with Brittany Ferries, she encountered a “freak wave” and barely made it into port.
The Cornouailles replaced the smaller Penn-Ar-Bed as the mainstay of the Roscoff-Plymouth route but passenger traffic continued to grow and, in 1984, she was chartered out to SNCF for two years, being replaced in BF service by the Benodet (1984) and Tregastel (1985). Painted in full SNCF livery, the ship replaced the smaller Valencay and served as one of two French ships on the Dieppe-Newhaven operation, alongside the Chartres and the British Senlac.
Returing to her owners in January 1986 she initiated freight-only service on the new Ouistreham-Portsmouth route before being deployed that summer on a new passenger option on the Cherbourg-Poole Truckline operation that Brittany Ferries had acquired the previous year. This proved successful and for 1989 the ship was replaced by the Tregastel and transferred to BF’s other affiliate, British Channel Island Ferries, and renamed the Havelet. There she would begin over a decade of service to the islands, running as second ship to the Rozel (ex-St Edmund) between 1989 and 1992 and the Beauport (ex-Prince of Fundy, Reine Mathilde) from 1992 to 1993. When BCIF was taken over by rivals Condor/Commodore in 1994 she operated in support of the car-carrying catamarans until the arrival of the new Commodore Clipper in late 1999, after which she was laid up.
The Havelet eventually found a buyer in the form of Montenegro Lines, who had inherited the Bar-Bari route of Prekookeanska Plovidba which had maintained a car ferry service since the 1960s. The original ship, the first Sveti Stefan (ex-Djursland) operated on the route for three decades and, for a brief period in the 1980s, was joined by the Njegos – a ship which subsequently followed the Cornouailles in service at Roscoff and Poole as the Tregastel.
In 2003 Montenegro Lines acquired a second passenger ship in the shape of the Sveti Stefan II, originally the third Prinz Hamlet and latterly Polferries’ Nieborow. A shorter derivation of the KEH design that had produced the Gustav Vasa (later Norrona) and Nils Dacke (Quiberon), the ship was deployed primarily on the longer crossing from Bar to Ancona. The two ships operated together for a decade until, in early 2013, the newly-published summer timetables indicated that only a one-ship service would be offered to Bari with the Ancona route closed. The Sveti Stefan II was retained and the smaller Sveti Stefan was sold for scrap. Having maintained the core service through the winter, the ship made her final scheduled sailing from Bari to Bar on 16 April. Arriving the next morning, she was promptly destored and sailed straight for Aliaga just two days later.
I first travelled on the ship as part of a three-day visit to Montenegro in the summer of 2003. The Adriatic ferry scene has changed much in those ten years and most of the old ships we encountered on that trip have succumbed to the breakers. We had disembarked in the morning in Brindisi from the venerable Poseidonia of Hellenic Mediterranean Lines, the most famous of all Greek operators themselves no longer with us. That ship was originally the Belfast Steamship Co’s Ulster Queen of 1967 and we arrived in a Brindisi which, that summer, was served by an array of aged tonnage which once served the British Isles such as the Kapetan Alexandros (ex-Doric Ferry), Media V (ex-Viking I), Egnatia III (ex-Saint Killian II) and Penelope A (ex-European Gateway).
After taking the train up to Bari we walked around the breakwater to inspect the Orestes (ex-Cerdic Ferry) which was enduring the long lay up which preceded her final demise. Not long removed from the port was the abandoned Sirio (ex-Cambridge Ferry) whilst in regular service were the Dubrovnik (ex-Duchess Anne), Marko Polo (ex-Zeeland), Azzurra (ex-Olau West), Siren (ex-Dana Gloria) and Polaris (ex-Dana Futura). The ship which had been replaced by the Cornouailles during her two year SNCF charter, the Valencay (by then the Pollux) was in her final season running from Bari to Albania whilst Marlines operated the sole rival operation to Montenegro using their Duchess M, once the Cornouailles’ Brittany Ferries fleetmate the Breizh-Izel.
On that first crossing the budget did not stretch beyond a place on deck and, after a brief inspection of the accommodation inside, we set up camp for the night on her port side promenade deck. As we sailed to Bar, the ship encountered what appeared to be tremendous seas, and she rocked and rolled alarmingly through the night. We woke the next morning, with our sleeping bags covered in sea salt, to another beautiful and perfectly calm day and with the Duchess M following us into port. Already alongside was Montenegro Lines’ little freighter the Alba, which in an earlier life had served the UK as the Neckartal on charter to Sealink and, latterly worked for Schiaffino Line.
During our 2003 visit to Montenegro we stayed up the coast at Budva, and were able to stop briefly en-route at the small island town of Sveti Stefan after which the ships are named – well, we were able to stop outside it, for the island itself is a private and exclusive hotel, perhaps not the best situation for one of Montenegro’s most famous tourist sights.
Seven years later I had the opportunity to sail on the Sveti Stefan and Sveti Stefan II once more, the former from Bar to Bari on the night of the 2010 football World Cup Final, which delayed departure from port as the crew preferred to wait and watch the conclusion before setting sail. The pictures below are from that sailing and the ship remained in satisfactory condition given her age and limited size – and certainly a world away from the fairly squalid state of her fleetmate.
The Cornouailles was a workmanlike, unglamorous ship, almost always overshadowed by her fleetmates. She was rarely given first ranking – whether it be the Armorique, the Senlac and Chartres, the Rozel, the Beauport, the Condor fast cats or, latterly, the larger Sveti Stefan II, she was always a useful second ship, able to economically cover the routes with lower loads and with less expectations. Only when she headed up the Truckline passenger service and her initial period with Montenegro Lines (2000 to 2003) was she the lead ship. Yet this was still a useful function – she was able to set up new operations and, latterly, maintained Montenegro Lines’ services year round when the use of the larger vessel could not be justified. In her final guise, she also played an important part in the recovery of Montenegro’s tourist industry which had been shattered by the Balkan wars.
Time catches up with all ships in the end, however, and in a continuingly difficult economic climate Montenegro Lines’ downsizing meant the Sveti Stefan had to make way. There was a hope that, as with some other ferries, she might get a reprieve, that some entrepreneurial operator might see some worth in her as she sailed past Piraeus for Aliaga. But it was not to be. She sailed on, under her own power and only a couple of days after carrying her final passengers – a workhorse to the end.
29 April 2012 marks 40 years to the day since the launch of Sealink’s Hengist and Horsa, the purpose-built ferries delivered in the summer of 1972 by the naval shipyard in Brest. The sister ships saw service, primarily from their Folkestone home, until the final closure of the Folkestone-Boulogne route at the end of 1991. Thereafter, both forged remarkably successful new careers in the Aegean, where they remain in year-round operation as the Agios Georgios (Ventouris Sea Lines) and Penelope A (Agoudimos Lines).
A third, slightly modified, later sister, the Senlac, was scrapped in 2010.
In this entry we take a look back at the ships’ British careers through Sealink promotional material produced over their near two decades of service.
On May 18 1966 Stanley Raymond, Chairman of the British Railways Board, held a press conference at Harwich Parkeston Quay where he announced a massive investment plan including a complete redevelopment of the port and a new car ferry operation on the traditional route to the Hook of Holland – to be serviced by two new vehicle ferries. In addition a pair of cellular container ships were to be built to operate to Zeebrugge from a new container terminal adjacent to the ferry port. Mr Raymond explained that Parkeston Quay, with its rail-roro-container interchange, would become a showpiece which we expect people will come from all over the world to see.
The two container ships became the Seafreightliner I and Seafreightliner II and had careers at Harwich stretching into the 1980s although they never appeared to have the success that had been hoped for. Of the two ships for the Harwich-Hook car ferry operation one was ordered by the BRB’s traditional Dutch operating partner, the Stoomvaart Maatschappij Zeeland (SMZ), with the other to the BRB’s own account. Whilst the two ships had a common basic specification, as delivered they were notably divergent in appearance. The Dutch Koningin Juliana had her design details finalised by Danish naval architects Knud E Hansen (KEH) who produced an attractive if very slightly conservative-looking car ferry – early renderings were a little more racy, more in line with KEH’s normal output, but it appears SMZ rather resisted this approach. The British vessel meanwhile, built at Swan Hunters on the Tyne, took the name St George and would become a valuable reference ship both for her naval architects, Tony Rogan and Don Ripley of the BRB, and also interior designers Ward & Austin.
It is the St George we will focus on in this posting, but the historical context and wider Harwich scene deserve a mention in passing. Prior to 1968 the Harwich-Hook of Holland route operated on a pattern established just after the War where the Dutch ships maintained day crossings in either direction with overnight sailings provided by steamers of the Eastern Region of British Railways. The most recent ships of each company – the futuristic-looking Koningin Wilhelmina and the elegant but more traditional Avalon – had been introduced as recently as 1960 and 1963; nonetheless the decision was made to completely overhaul the operation and the two new, drive-through, car ferries were to essentially replace all four existing vessels.
The St George was sold out of Sealink service in 1984 becoming the Patra Express of Ventouris Ferries for whom she operated Adriatic itineraries. Re-engined in 1988, she left Greece in March 1990 under the name Scandinavian Sky II for Immingham where a prolonged refit kitted her out for use as a casino ship in the USA. Under the successive names Scandinavian Dawn, Discovery Dawn, Island Dawn and Texas Treasure she saw out her days before finally the St George went for scrapping in 2008. Her Dutch half-sister, the Koningin Juliana, was displaced by the new Prinses Beatrix in 1978 and after several years in a supporting role eventually passed to NAVARMA (Moby Lines) in 1985. Operating from Livorno to Bastia as the Moby Prince she collided with a tanker off the Italian port in 1991, the disastrous subsequent fire killing all but one of the 142 people on board.
ANTHI MARINA â‚¬2,128,000
One wonders which shipboard delights make the Daliana â‚¬500 more valuable than her sister the Milena. Truthfully, I doubt many will miss most of these ships all of which were fairly grim clunkers at the very bottom of the market by the time GA Ferries finally gave up the ghost. The Dimitroula, whilst not an exception to that comment, was perhaps the most interesting, retaining many of her pocket Italian liner stylings through her Greek career. The fast craft Jetferry I, tucked up in the inner harbour adjacent to the berths of the smaller Blue Star ships, has already been repossessed by her secured creditors so is excluded from the list.
The same set of videos also features a close up consideration of the Mediterranean Sky, once of Karageorgis Lines and before that Ellerman’s City of York but now a sunken, rusting hulk in a corner of Elefsis Bay.
Meanwhile, near to the end of her operational days, life on board a Christmassy Romilda was captured by a nautilia user with the highly commendable name of ‘vortigern’.
Meanwhile, this series of videos shows Tsawwassen terminal and the Queen of New Westminster being pounded by wet & wild weather in 2007.
The East Yorkshire version of the BBC’s Look North carried a decent segment on her demise (no longer available on iplayer but a related news item is here); the Hull Daily Mail predictably missed the story altogether.
(h/t Brodovi i pomorstvo)
Please send any contributions for â€˜Things Seenâ€™ to email@example.com.
Originally the Senlac of 1973 the ship was the last of a trio for cross-channel services to be built by the naval dockyard in Brest. As outlined in The Senlac Story (which will be updated for the final chapter shortly) whereas her sister ships Hengist and Horsa were destined for Dover and Folkestone service, the Senlac was always intended for Newhaven-Dieppe and inherited the convoluted ownership structure of ships on that route. She was, however, resolutely British in terms of operation and manning – at least until January 1985 when the British Sealink sold up and she was transferred to the French flag.
A sale to Greece in late 1987 opened up the second chapter in her career – she became an incredibly successful and popular ship in domestic traffic with, successively, Ventouris Sea Lines, Agapitos Express Ferries and Hellas Ferries/Hellenic Seaways. For many years she was one of the primary ships on the key route from Piraeus through to Santorini and, after a couple of years away from this role, returned to the service for one last, brief, Summer in 2005. Her final owner was the Arkoumanis family, behind the long-standing fringe Adriatic operator European Seaways. At first she was used on sporadic services between Italy and Greece before, in 2009, being deployed to Durres in Albania out of the Italian port of Bari, latterly alongside the ex-Japanese Ionis. Occasional sailings to Greece continued but the Albanian routes more often than not form the final part of a ship’s career – and so it was with the Apollon.
The ship was latterly in somewhat poor mechanical health and this seems to have forced her owners’ hand – certainly it does not seem to have been a long-planned decision to let the ship go at this point in time. The 2010 timetable on the European Seaways website still shows her reappearing in December to offer additional sailings over the Christmas period. On the newly released 2010/11 schedule, these are now pencilled in for the Arkoumanis family’s other ship, the Bridge (ex-Bass Trader).
The Senlac’s demise can perhaps ultimately be traced back to her sale from Greek domestic service back in 2006 – and in some respects she paid the price for the continuing success of her sister ships. When the former Hengist and Horsa were sold in early 2004 to rival domestic operators, Hellas Ferries were soon kicking themselves as they were used in competition against their own ongoing services. This class of ship is almost perfect for Greek island hopping service and Hellas Ferries were determined, when the time came, to dispose of the former Senlac to an operator who would not use her in a competing trade. Unfortunately the Apollon was never entirely suitable as an overnight ship on the Adriatic and her mechanical fragility sealed her fate. Those intermittent mechanical gremlins didn’t, however, prevent the Apollon sailing to Aliaga under her own power, topping 17 knots at times as she sped to meet her doom.
Presented below are a few reminders of what was, despite the sudden end, the long and memorable career of a very popular ship.The Senlac’s career spanned a period of massive transformation in the transport networks between the United Kingdom and France. The Newhaven-Dieppe brochure (above) from the year of the ship’s introduction offers passengers a 2202 departure from London Victoria which, via two boat trains and the 2345 Dieppe ferry, will get them into Paris Saint-Lazare in time for an early breakfast at 0625. Cross-channel weather permitting of course. For over a century the Newhaven route remained a key link in transport connections between London and Paris yet today it all seems part of another world. The Senlac never received Sealink British Ferries livery but this leaflet (above), covering almost the final weeks of her career as a British ship, features the SBF name. By this stage the ship was offering ‘Casino Cruises’ (below) – not available on the French vessels.
The Stranraer-Larne route was always at the forefront of the story of car ferries around the British Isles, with the very first drive on/drive off ship to serve open waters from these islands being introduced there as far back as 1939 in the shape of the first Princess Victoria. That vessel was a war casualty, but was soon replaced by a virtual repeat, the second-named Princess Victoria of 1947. The sad loss of this ship with 133 lives in the January 1953 storms did not deter the route’s ultimate owners, by this stage British Railways (through the Caledonian Steam Packet), from investing further significant amounts in new tonnage in due course. It is quite remarkable that, despite the booming traffic from Southern England to the continent, over the twenty-three years including and after the introduction of the Caledonian Princess in 1961 until privatisation in 1984, no BR/Sealink ports received more purpose-built British ships than Stranraer and Larne with, in succession, the Antrim Princess (1967), Ailsa Princess (1971) and Galloway Princess (1980).
All the listed ships were notable in their own ways, but the Antrim Princess, built by Hawthorn, Leslie on the Tyne, stands out as a landmark for British Rail ferry design. Although the Princesses Victoria had been motor ships, based on the preferences of the original designers and owners (the LMS), since nationalisation in 1948 British Railways had consistently chosen steam turbine propulsion. The ‘Antrim’ broke the mould in this respect, and was also the first drive-through BR vessel, complete with lifting bow visor, although in this she followed the lead of the futuristic Stena Nordica which had served on charter to the CSP since 1966. The car deck was full-height for lorries throughout and featured mezzanine decks on either beam – an interesting and possibly unique solution for a ship with a centre casing, presumably requiring motorists wishing to access the accommodation to walk along the mezzanines, down the ramps, across the main vehicle deck and up through the stairwells on the centreline. As with the Caledonian Princess the ship had cattle pens located aft on Lower Deck (beneath, but accessed from, the vehicle deck).
Some of the decor presaged that of later Sealink ships, particularly the Vortigern whose dramatic Britannia Bar was in many ways a tidied-up repeat of the Antrim Princess’ Second Class Bar with rather more expensive furnishings. The oval-shaped First Class lounge meanwhile had an echo in the shape of the Vortigern’s minimalist forward cafeteria.
The Antrim Princess served at Stranraer until 1985 when she was displaced by the St David and transferred, on charter, to the Isle of Man Steam Packet, later being renamed Tynwald. Then, in 1990, the ship was sold to Linee Lauro for Italian service as the Lauro Express. Later serving on services to North Africa, the confusing break up of Lauro’s ferry operations saw the ship pass to the related Medmar in 2003. Subsequently renamed Giuseppe D’Abundo, the ship passed for scrap in 2007.
As a postscript, whilst discussing the Antrim Princess in their book Designing Ships for Sealink, naval architects Don Ripley and Tony Rogan noted that, “the onset of modern diesel machinery brought about a necessary change in funnel design and after much internal discussion… a new shape was evolved and proved in wind tunnel tests which were carried out at Swan Hunter’s for the [new Harwich-Hook of Holland car ferry] St George but used to devise the geometry also of the Antrim Princess’ funnel.” This connection with the St George is an interesting point, as the latter ship throughout her planning stage was shown with a combined funnel/mast, similar to the Antrim Princess but without the upper part of the exhaust stack which gave it the distinctive ‘fireman’s helmet’ look. The mast section was ultimately dispensed with entirely on the ‘George’, and all subsequent ships with this signature look followed the Harwich ship’s refined version in one way or another, save for the ‘Antrim’s half sister, the Ailsa Princess. Interestingly, as the Lauro Express, the ex-‘Antrim’ featured modified original safety plans with a funnel design not dissimilar to that originally proposed for the St George suggesting that the final design as used was a late adjustment.
From a British perspective, we have seen this in previous entries relating to the Norwind/Norwave, Viking I & II, Munster and Free Enterprise. The latter ship was an interesting example of an independent operator getting the formula right and it has often been noted that the ‘railway’ ships against which she competed were old fashioned. This is true only to a degree – the British railway ships, until the later years of the decade, certainly fit this description. The ships of SNCF, the French railways, were slightly different. Certainly, a vessel like the beautiful CÃ´te d’Azur of 1951 was very much a classic passenger steamer, but the fleet also included the distinctively modern, Danish-built, train ferry Saint-Germain and, dating back to three years before the Free Enterprise, the car ferry CompiÃ¨gne.
The CompiÃ¨gne was a radically different ship to anything else sailing around the British Isles upon her introduction. It is almost difficult to believe she entered service the year before British Railway’s much more traditional-looking Maid of Kent of 1959, although actually the ships bear some comparison – broadly similar in dimensions, capacities, service speed and intended operations they were remarkably different solutions to a similar design brief. The Maid of Kent was in many ways an enlarged, beautified version of the Lord Warden of 1952, whilst the CompiÃ¨gne instead owed more in appearance to the Saint Germain of the same year. The French ship looked – and in many respects was – a much more advanced vessel than the Maid of Kent, whose steam turbine propulsion in particular dated her and whose more classic lines were perhaps a concession to criticism of the slightly ungainly aspects of the Lord Warden.
The Rouen-built CompiÃ¨gne introduced a number of firsts to Cross Channel traffic, many of them technical advances which would be replicated in ships throughout the following decade. Controllable pitch propellers circumvented the traditional means of ship control via the engine room telegraph and meant the vessel could be manoeuvred directly from the bridge whilst she also had a pair of bow thrusters which bringing the ship alongside and moving off the berth. The vessel was also all welded in construction, rather than riveted.
One area where the ship was not significantly different to the Maid of Kent was in the arrangement of the vehicle deck, being a stern-only loader with a central casing, fixed mezzanines forward and space in the after part of the garage for the carriage of a limited number of high sided vehicles.
When the ship entered service in June 1958, she was deployed on the Calais-Dover route. In those days, British Railways operated their car ferries on the Dover-Boulogne crossing and the French ship was therefore placed into direct competition on the Calais run with Townsend Car Ferries whose converted frigate Halladale was nearing the end of her operational life and would be replaced with the Free Enterprise in 1962.
After 1970, the CompiÃ¨gne was seen more frequently at Boulogne and she remained in service on the Channel for well over twenty years overall. Sold to Strintzis in 1981, she operated on a number of Adriatic and then Aegean services before becoming a pilgrim ship in the Red Sea. Abandoned for many years in Alexandria, she amazingly survives to this day in poor condition as the Al Ameerah.
In many ways it is a shame that there is no equivalent all-encompassing British forum for the analysis of not only the endlessly trivial minutiae but also the broader fascinating history of the British short-sea passenger shipping scene. It would perhaps be impossible to rival nautilia’s seemingly comprehensive catalogue of Greek ferries, where every ship, historic or modern, has its own thread, but it would be nice to try.
Nonetheless, it seems the ship did have a little trouble with that side ramp installed for use on the charter. Back home, and with the demise of GA Ferries and SAOS, there must be some demand for smaller, cheap-to-run ships for use on the subsidised routes beyond just refit cover so the ‘Santorini’ may yet have a future in Greece. If so, it would be nice to see that side door removed altogether.
There are some interesting thoughts, upon which it would be wisest not to comment, on the happenings which preceded the introduction of the ship in Greece here.
The Slavija I made several, increasingly harrowing, return trips, and the Diary of Dr Slobodan Lang gives a detailed account of the period, including a final sailing:
The ship was intended for 600 passengers, but there was a crowd of 3,500 people on board. We approached the ship coming through the GruÅ¾ harbour which was littered with sunken, capsized or burnt down ships. Smoke was rising out of the burning installations for days. We were being watched by those on the top of the hill, not being able to do anything but think they would start to shoot at any moment.
On board that ship, I was contemplating about the ships crowded with Jews on their way out of Germany in the late thirties, as well as the abandonment of Saigon. We were at the very bottom of the shipâ€™s garage. It was simply not possible for the cars and trucks to embark because the ship was crammed with men, children, women, elderly and sick people. The sick were lying on the metal floor, with their I.V. drips hanging up in the air. Tears and silence were hand in hand. Faces were totally changed with crying, haggard because of the silence. People were lying on the stairs in positions I had never seen before, fifteen persons per cabin. One could step between human bodies only too carefully. As we sailed out, huge waves were tossing the ship up and down, so many people vomitted, were nauseous, felt psychical discomfort. Doctors were sought on all sides, painful crying expressed a thousand year old Croatian suffering, agony of yet unborn children to 90 year old people.
Other videos of note are:
And, lastly, some epic coverage of the maiden voyage of the France.
Please send any contributions for ‘Things Seen’ to firstname.lastname@example.org.
. . .
Less than twelve months ago the newly refurbished Stena Caledonia re-entered service on Stena Line’s Stranraer-Belfast service, operating in tandem with the HSS Stena Voyager. This appeared to be part of a move to re-establish the conventional ferry operation at the expense of the costly HSS, but the acquisition of the 1984-built Seafrance Manet in July to become the route’s second conventional ship was still slightly surprising. Since the sale of the Stena Galloway in 2002, the ‘Caledonia’ had soldiered on alone in support of the ‘Voyager’ which dominated passenger traffic. Whilst freight could and is carried to a degree on the fast craft, before her refit this seemed to be the main role of the former St David. That said, P&O up the coast at Cairnryan and Larne however had achieved a near two-to-one dominance in this market which would have been unthinkable twenty years ago.
The Seafrance Manet was duly repainted in full Stena colours in Dunkerque, sailed to Belfast and formally renamed Stena Navigator; a comprehensive internal refit followed. This is not however the ship’s first time operating for Stena – completed for SNCF-Sealink’s Dover Straits operations in 1984 as the Champs Ã‰lysÃ©es she was transferred to the Dieppe-Newhaven route in 1990 and, when SNCF’s successors SNAT finally ran out of patience and closed the operation in 1992, the ship passed under charter to Sealink Stena Line under whose guidance the Dieppe link saw a brief resurgence. As the Stena Parisien, latterly in full Stena Line livery, the ship stayed at Dieppe until the end of 1996 when she was returned to her owners, by now Seafrance. She received a complete refit, acquired the name Seafrance Manet and saw a further eleven years service, latterly in a freight only mode, before finally retiring from Seafrance’s active fleet in April 2008. Thereafter she was laid up at Calais and then Dunkerque.
Stena’s interest in the ship is doubtless due to her size – the tight requirements of Stranraer limit the vessels which can berth there and, with the port’s future uncertain, ‘Stranraer-max’ newbuilds are out of the question. It does not therefore seem likely that this will be a truly long-term purchase, but the ship is still slightly more modern and more capacious from both a passenger and a freight perspective than the Stena Caledonia so she may yet outlast her Belfast-built partner.
Scott Mackey was on board the ‘Navigator’ during her maiden crossing from Belfast to Stranraer on 12 November and has sent a selection of on board photographs. Paired with equivalent images from the ship during her Seafrance Manet days, it is clear that the refurbishment has been comprehensive – although the change is perhaps not as overwhelming as was the case on the Stena Caledonia, it is still perhaps the largest interior upgrade the ship has had in her 25 year career, erasing almost all trace of the three previous thorough refits by SNCF (1990), Stena (1992) and Seafrance (1996).
Thanks again to Scott Mackey for the Stena Navigator pictures, and to Richard Seville for some background details on the Stena Parisien’s Dieppe-era layout.