Posts tagged: stena baltica

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 The ship has since been withdrawn from service.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 The ship has since been withdrawn from service.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sampled in 2010 was 22 years old compared to 17 in 2009 – and indeed nine of the 2010 ships have subsequently been withdrawn.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.

Things Seen – October 2009

The Gare Maritime at Calais which would be destroyed early in the Second World War. During the Siege of Calais (May 1940), the harbour area became a key defensive position for the embattled British forces and Brigadier Claude Nicholson established his headquarters in this building.

The Gare Maritime at Calais which would be destroyed early in the Second World War. During the Siege of Calais (May 1940), the harbour area became a key defensive position for the embattled British forces and Brigadier Claude Nicholson established his headquarters in this building.

  • It is nearly 15 years since the final train left Calais Gare Maritime. The adjacent quayside was once one of the most important in Europe – a late departure of the Golden Arrow from here might be reported in the London evening newspapers whilst, as railway author George Behrend noted, the railway station used to be “crammed with International Expresses to meet every packet” – nightly departures to Istanbul, Berlin, Rome, Trieste, San Remo, Monte Carlo, Nice and Bucharest; the ‘Train Bleu’, the ‘Rome Express’, part of the ‘Orient Express’ and, in earlier years the ‘Peninsular Express’ to India via Brindisi, or the ‘Bombay Express’ via Marseille. The restaurant at the station before the Second World War was known as one of Europe’s finest eateries, the perfect place to while away the time between arriving off the steamer from Dover and the departure of your Wagon-Lits.

    Ron Fisher has some splendid images of trains at the station, as well as at Boulogne, in the 1960s to the ’80s. Meanwhile Mike Irlam’s site has an almost Behrend-style narrative of a typical journey on the Golden Arrow in its heyday.
    Over on youtube, there is a superb two part-British Transport Films production celebrating the post war Golden Arrow:

    Part One
    Part Two

    Great times, and the sight today of the post-war Gare Maritime building still standing, but used as little more than a rest point with lavatories and vending machines for truckers and motorists waiting to board the modern cross-channel ferries is really quite heartbreaking, even for those of us for whom hours at the station represented SNCF strikes, delayed trains and missed connections.

  • Down the coast slightly, at Dieppe, the station closed in 1994 when Stena Sealink transferred ferry traffic to the new port on the other side of the harbour. Readers of Continental Modeller should look out for an upcoming piece by David Thomas regarding the railway station, whilst the websites of Roland Arzul and Paul Smith have plenty of information and images.
  • Dieppe's 1954-built Gare Maritime.

    Dieppe's 1954-built Gare Maritime.

  • The recent grounding of the Marko Polo brought to mind the not dissimilar case of the Swan Hunter-built Proleterka near Murter in 1969. The Proleterka was scrapped after this experience – let’s hope the story of the former Peter Wessel has a happier ending. The Simplon website has some images of the 1969 accident.
  • The British Pathé website is a real treasure trove with an archive covering the best part of a century. Included in the archive are a number of memorable shipping-related films including:

    “Something new in ferryboats”, with a “queer method of mounting the propellers” (the new Lymington, 1938) The pay off line of “so chalk another one up to Britain for one more development in transport” was more than dubious given the Voith Schneider technology being employed was most definitely German.

    The launch of the Koningin Wilhelmina (1960)

    Dover-Boulogne by car ferry (on the Maid of Kent, 1960)

    By Car to Boulogne (with the newly-converted Normannia, 1964)

    The launch of the Princesse Astrid (1968)

  • A couple of aged former British domestic ferries serving Italy have been scrapped in recent years, and Navi e Armatori has faithfully recorded their final moments.

    Firstly, the Heidi, formerly the Caledonia of Cal Mac and before that the first car ferry that Sten Allan Olsson ordered for Stena Line, the Stena Baltica. Operating for Traghetti Pozzuoli until 2004 she ultimately sank at her lay up berth in Naples. Pumped dry, she was towed to Aliaga in Turkey for breaking in 2006. Fakta om Fartyg has some images of her in her sunken state, whilst Navi e Armatori’s pictures were taken by Selim San at the beach in Turkey:

    Picture 1
    Picture 2

    The Carisbrooke Castle of 1959 was scrapped in 2007 having spent the last 33 years in a 48 year career in Italian coastal waters, latterly as the Giglio Espresso II running from La Maddalena to Palau on Sardinia. This image shows her on the beach in Aliaga, with fellow former British veteran the Neptunia (ex-Darnia) alongside.

  • The Canguro Cabo San Sebastian.

    The Canguro Cabo San Sebastian.

  • Another ship which has ended on the beach is the former Donatella D’Abundo, the first of the six-strong ‘Canguro’ class and originally built for Ybarra as the Canguro Cabo San Sebastian before later passing to Trasmed and then Medmar. An image of her can be seen here.

    I have often wondered about this series of ships, built at Union Navale de Levante in Valencia between 1972 and 1984, none of which seem to have had really successful post-Spanish careers. Of the sextuplets, two have now been scrapped, one is in Southeast Asia, and the other three in limbo. The one vessel actually believed to be in service is the Oriental Princess (ex-Canguro Cabo San Jorge and Ciudad de Palma) but she seems to be in rather poor condition in Vietnamese waters (pictures here and here). The Ciudad de Sevilla has reportedly sailed to Port Said under the name Sevilla whilst the Mary the Queen (ex-Ciudad de Valencia and the final of the series) had apparently been sold to Filipino interests to replace the former Steam Packet ship of the same name, but remains in Tarragona with the sale possibly having fallen through.

  • The Donatella D'Abundo at Naples in September 2004.

    The Donatella D'Abundo at Naples in September 2004.

  • Spanish car ferries of a slightly earlier generation were the four-strong ‘Albatros’ class, (including the Juan March and the Santa Cruz de Tenerife) as well as the slightly smaller Antonio Larazo and Vincente Puchol. Some interior images of these and other Trasmed. ships of the era can be found on buques.org
  • The Dana Corona (ex-Trekroner) at Malaga. Also alongside is Trasmed's Antonio Larazo or Vincente Puchol.

    The Dana Corona (ex-Trekroner) at Malaga. Also alongside is Trasmed's Antonio Larazo or Vincente Puchol.

  • None of the six beautiful DFDS car ferries delivered between 1964 and 1970 have survived, but the first and the last, (the England and the Trekroner) dodged the scrappers by sinking, the former actually being en-route for scrapping at the time. The Trekroner however was in service, sailing to Suez as the Al Qamar Al Saudi Al Misri in 1994 when she was overtaken by a boiler room explosion and subsequent fire. 21 people lost their lives. The wreck today has been found and documented by scuba divers.
  • Fancy water-skiing behind the Stena Saga? It is possible, it seems…
  • On youtube, there is a “tribute to the Agios Georgios” (ex-Hengist).
  • For a brief period in 1981/82, Thoresen’s Viking Victory (ex-Viking I) and her sister Viking III were laid up together in Gothenburg awaiting sale. Lennart Ramsvik captured them there, together with several other ferries of the period. This was a time when it was possible to see three Stena ships together in the company’s home port, none of which had been purpose built.
  • Delivered as the Stena Trailer, the ship which ended her days as the Lampung was better known in her early years as Sealink’s Dalriada on the Stranraer-Larne crossing. Her end came in 2006 when an engine room fire spread through the ship as shown in this unhappy footage.
  • Lastly, readers of the main website to which this blog is attached may have noticed that parts of it have “gone missing” in the last couple of days. There shouldn’t be too many pages affected and all will be resolved when I get chance to re-upload them to the main domain within a couple of weeks.

    All this however relates to the demise of Geocities, “the Facebook of yesterday“. Geocities gave free access to web publishing for millions in its time, and many of the websites so created were crude, forgettable and aesthetically criminal. But it was also a step on the ladder, and, despite everything, from the hours trying futilely to load the Page Builder software to the horrors of page after page being lost when that same program decided not to save properly, I’ll miss it.

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