Posts tagged: thoresen

Scenes from a sailing on the Vitsentzos Kornaros (ex-Viking Viscount)

May 2016 will mark 40 years since Townsend Thoresen took delivery of the Viking Viscount, the last of their ‘Super Viking’ quartet for Southampton and Felixstowe service. We have looked in the past at two of her sisters, the Viking Venturer and Viking Voyager but today the ‘Viscount’ is the last survivor. After passing to TT’s successor P&O European Ferries in 1987 she ended her English Channel days more than two decades ago but continues operating in Greece as the Vitsentzos Kornaros for her only subsequent operator, Lane Lines.

Early days at Felixstowe where the operating company was technically still the Atlantic Steam Navigation Co with their Transport Ferry Service name still in use.

Early days at Felixstowe where the operating company was technically still the Atlantic Steam Navigation Co with their Transport Ferry Service name still in use.

The bar areas, forward and to port, on the Super Vikings were certainly the funkiest spots on any Townsend Thoresen ferry - if not quite the equal of contemporary ships like the St Edmund or Tor Britannia. The aft restaurant was also pleasant but the rest of the ships' accommodation including the Food Fayre self-service cafeteria was largely unremarkable. [/caption]

The bar areas, forward and to port, on the Super Vikings were certainly the funkiest spots on any Townsend Thoresen ferry – if not quite the equal of contemporary ships like the St Edmund or Tor Britannia. The aft restaurant was also pleasant but the rest of the ships’ accommodation including the Food Fayre self-service cafeteria was largely unremarkable.

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The Viking Viscount and Viking Voyager transferred to the western channel in 1986 and the 'Viscount' is seen here arriving at Portsmouth in P&O grey in July 1988. She is still showing her original port of Registry, Dover; this would change to Portsmouth when the ship was renamed Pride of Winchester in 1989.

The Viking Viscount and Viking Voyager transferred to the Western Channel in 1986 and the 'Viscount' is seen here arriving at Portsmouth in P&O blue in July 1988. She is still showing her original port of Registry, Dover; this would change to Portsmouth when the ship was renamed Pride of Winchester in 1989.


The images below are from a voyage in September 2013 on the ship’s regular operation between Kissamos on Crete to Piraeus via the islands of Kythira and its tiny neighbour Antikythera. The ship provides a direct link to the port of Athens for these half-forgotten corners of the Aegean, but it is a somewhat controversial one. The Vitsentzos Kornaros is heavily subsidised – in 2013 at a cost of almost Euro200 per passenger carried making this the most expensive ferry operation that the Greek government supports. The majority of travellers to these islands take the shorter ferry from Neapolis, over 4 hours driving to the south west of Athens, and in late 2013 government tried to withdraw the subsidy which would have seen the Piraeus link cease. An outcry followed and eventually agreement was reached which would see the Vitsentzos Kornaros continue (her scheduled retirement and replacement as outlined in the earlier 2009 contract between Lane and the government appears to have been brushed under the carpet).

It is not really expected that many passengers will sail direct from Kissamos to Piraeus (direct sailings from Chania, 30 minutes away from Kissamos, leave much later and tend to arrive earlier) so most are heading to or from Kythira and Anthikythera. But the salvation of the route was fortunate not just for islanders but also for travellers seeking a sail on a vintage ferry operating one of the most fascinating routes anywhere in Europe.

The Vitsentzos Kornaros at Kissamos.

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Boarding over the vehicle deck. As built the ship had retractable mezzanine decks covering the whole width of the this space but at some stage the sections between the engine casings have been removed.

Two berth cabin on present-day Deck 7 (originally B Deck). Although looking appropriately vintage, this room was installed by Lane when the ship came to Greece having latterly been part of the Club Class lounge with P&O.

Two berth cabin on present-day Deck 7 (originally B Deck). Although looking appropriately vintage this room was installed by Lane when the ship came to Greece having latterly been part of the Club Class lounge with P&O.

Time for a quick look around...

Time for a quick look around...

The amidships stairway on Deck 6, looking aft to the self-service.

The amidships stairway on Deck 6, looking aft to the self-service.

Just forward, the main reception desk is still retains its P&O-era light wood look.

Just forward, the main reception desk is still retains its P&O-era light wood look.

Little bits of original TT green signage have survived.

Little bits of original TT green signage have survived.

Starboard side, looking aft.

Starboard side, looking forward.

And looking forward.

Lounge area right forward, overlooking the bow.

Lounge area right forward, overlooking the bow.

Port side bar area.

Port side bar area.

Heading aft, the self service still bears more than a passing resemblance to its original 'Food Fayre' setup.

Heading aft, the self service still bears more than a passing resemblance to its original 'Food Fayre' setup.

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The forward bulkheads in this area retained their large prints showing scenes of Winchester cathedral by the Sussex artist Judy Strafford until around 2010 but these have now been removed.

The servery area is very P&O however.

The servery area remains very P&O.

On the port side of the self service, looking forward.

On the port side of the self service, looking forward.

At the stern is the former restaurant with the pictured section originally a cocktail bar.

Heading back upstairs, this is the midships lobby on Deck 7; Club Class was just forward of this.

Heading back upstairs, this is the midships lobby on Deck 7; Club Class was just forward of this but has now been reconverted into an area of cabins.

Up another level are a pair of reclining seat lounges of which this is the forward one.

Up another level are a pair of reclining seat lounges of which this is the forward one.

The aft lounge is the former cinema and was not an original feature of the design, being added to all four ships very early in their careers.

The aft lounge is the former cinema and was not an original feature of the design, being added to all four ships very early in their careers.

Officers' mess.

Crew mess.

Down to Deck 5, this is the midships lobby. This deck housed the bulk of the passenger cabins as built (with the upper garage aft). These are all now given over to crew.

Down to Deck 5, this is the midships lobby. This deck housed the bulk of the passenger cabins as built (with the upper garage aft). These are all now given over to crew.

Back on deck to watch departure.

Back on deck to watch departure.

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A few hours later, we approach Antikythera.

A few hours later, we approach Antikythera, which has a year-round population of less than 50 people (rather more stay there during the summer).

The ship has to execute a tight turn in the tiny bay to present her stern ramp to the quayside.

The ship has to execute a tight 180 degree turn in the tiny bay to present her stern ramp to the quayside.

After a call of no more than 10 minutes we are away again.

After a call of no more than 10 minutes we are away again.

Things are a lot busier downstairs after the first port of call, but the majority of the ship's passengers have still to board at the next island call, Kythira, which is another two hours sailing away.

Things are a lot busier downstairs after the first port of call, but the majority of the ship's passengers have still to board at the next island call, Kythira.

Kythira.

Kythira.

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Up early the following morning finds us slowly approaching Piraeus - we are running late so must wait off port as the morning departures make their exit.

An early start the following morning finds us slowly approaching Piraeus - we are running late so must wait off port as the morning departures make their exit.

The Pelagitis sweeps past en-route to the ro-ro terminal.

The Pelagitis sweeps past en-route to the ro-ro terminal.

Highspeed 4 leaving Piraeus.

Highspeed 4 leaving Piraeus.

Blue Star Delos.

Blue Star Delos.

Jetferry 1.

Jetferry 1.

Spongebob Squarepants (left), Agios Georgios (background) and Flying Dolphin Athina.

Spongebob Squarepants (left), Agios Georgios (background) and Flying Dolphin Athina.

Speedrunner III.

Disembarking via the upper garage ramp.

Disembarking via the upper garage ramp.

The present day Deck 5 was originally D Deck before the mandatory renumbering of decks on passenger ships was enforced.

The present day Deck 5 was originally D Deck before the mandatory renumbering of decks on passenger ships was enforced.

Farewell Viking Voyager, Pride of Cherbourg, Banaderos, Barlovento, Samothraki

The Samothraki leaving Mytilene in July 2007.

The recent arrival of the Samothraki (ex-Viking Voyager) at Aliagia in Turkey for scrapping was perhaps not in itself a surprise but her demise, together with that a couple of years ago of her stretched sisters (the former Vikings Valiant and Venturer) leaves only the present Vitsentzos Kornaros (ex-Viking Viscount) of the quartet of ferries delivered to Townsend Thoresen in 1975/76 by Aalborg Vaerft in Denmark.

Somewhat surprisingly, the class has actually been out-survived by the generation of ships they were designed to replace – Thoresen’s original Viking trio of which two remain, only the pioneer Viking I having been dismantled, in 2008 after a legendary 44 year career. Her sister, the Viking II, later Earl William, now somewhat battered, survives in static use at Chaguaramas in Trinidad. The Viking III of 1965 meanwhile remains in service on one of Southern Europe’s more notorious ferry backwaters – the route between Brindisi in Southern Italy and Vlore in Albania.

The careers of these seven Vikings show just how the destinies of individual ships are affected by acts, if not quite of luck then certainly by events outside which the performance of an individual vessel can have a substantial impact. I last sailed on the Samothraki in 2007 and she was in perfectly good order and one would have bet on her running on her operations in the North Aegean for many years to come. The sudden and spectacular demise of her owners, SAOS Ferries, and the laying up of essentially their entire fleet in late 2008 saw her decline through neglect from serviceable flagship to unwanted scrapper.

Through whatever channels SAOS had managed to build up their network of subsidised routes, things came crashing down around the company and the Samothraki ended her days in Greece virtually abandoned in Alexandroupoli. One found it hard to imagine that this well-built and reliable ship would never operate again but the decay which sets in quickly in such circumstances evidently overtook her. The dismal state of the Greek economy meant local buyers with cash to invest were few and far between and it eventually became apparent that the ship’s future lay only at the scrapyard.

The Viking Voyager and Viking Viscount were originally delivered for operation on Townsend Thoresen’s Felixtowe-Zeebrugge service and they remained there until 1986 when, replaced by a pair of converted Stena Searunner class freighters, they moved West to operate from Portsmouth alongside their recently-stretched sisterships, the latter pair covering primarily the Le Havre run with the unstretched sisters operating to Cherbourg. Renamed Pride of Cherbourg in 1989, the ship was sold to Lineas Fred. Olsen for Canaries service in 1994, with her sister going to LANE Lines of Greece.

Fred. Olsen looked after the ship well, but after bearing the names Banaderos and Barlovento, she was replaced in 2005 and acquired by SAOS and renamed Samothraki, effectively replacing the former Vortigern in their fleet. In her initial summer season, still with a white hull, the ship could be found regularly in the Port of Piraeus, not too far from the berth of her sister. Thereafter however the Samothraki was focused on operations in the far northern Aegean, and by 2007 one could island hop around these relatively remote islands on the SAOS local fleet including the Samothraki, the Express Limnos (ex-Prins Philippe) and the rather less agreeable Panagia Soumela (ex-Lady of Mann) – a ship whose own final voyage to the scrapyard is imminent.

It is in this busy time, not long before the sudden end, that I will remember the ship. I made three sailings on her in the Summer of 2007 as we explored the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samothraki and Limnos and the onboard pictures below were taken during this period. Although in the late 1980s P&O subjected the original, quite funky, interiors to an overlayering of light wood veneers, pastel seating and conservative decor, the ship’s basic layout changed little over the years. She retained the bulk of that P&O-era look until the end, with a few Fred. Olsen tweaks here and there. As the Vitsentzos Kornaros, the ship’s sister operates with some minimal subdivision as a two class vessel but SAOS never tried to implement this on the Samothraki and passengers were given a free run of the ship.

Seen from the departing Panagia Soumela, the Samothraki at Kavala on July 18, 2007.

Seen from the departing Panagia Soumela, the Samothraki at Kavala on July 18, 2007.

Looking aft in the forward section of the main passenger deck, with the bar and seating areas.

Looking aft in the forward section of the main passenger deck, with the bar and seating areas.

A little further aft and here is the reception desk area with the old shops, little used in SAOS service, to starboard.

A little further aft and here is the reception desk area with the old shops, little used in SAOS service, to starboard.

The self service seating area, amidships on Deck 6 (originally C Deck).

The self service seating area, amidships on Deck 6 (originally C Deck).

On the starboard side, with a playroom now installed in the former drivers' area.

On the starboard side, with a playroom now installed in the former drivers' area.

Food doesn't seem to be served here very often...

Food doesn't seem to be served here very often...

Right aft, the former restaurant with its associated cocktail bar - an arrangement which, as built, was similar in concept to the forward Smörgåsbord restaurants of other 1970s ferries such as the Gustav Vasa, Nils Dacke, Prince of Fundy and Prins Oberon.

Right aft, the former restaurant with its associated cocktail bar - an arrangement which, as built, was similar in concept to the forward Smörgåsbord restaurants of other 1970s ferries such as the Gustav Vasa, Nils Dacke, Prince of Fundy and Prins Oberon.

Right aft.

Right aft.

Moving upstairs to Deck 7, forward was the former Club lounge, installed by P&O in what had originally been an area of cabins.

Moving upstairs to Deck 7, forward was the former Club Lounge, installed by P&O in what had originally been an area of cabins.

Up on Deck 8 were a pair of lounges, the forward of which is seen here. This originally housed an open area of couchettes but latterly was a reclining seat lounge with P&O.

Up on Deck 8 were a pair of lounges, the forward of which is seen here. This originally housed an open area of couchettes but latterly was a reclining seat lounge with P&O.

Heading aft again, this lounge was added to the ship early in her career and previously served as a cinema.

Heading aft again, this space was added to the ship early in her career and previously served as a cinema.

Looking over the ship's prow in the mainland port of Kavala.

Looking over the ship's prow in the mainland port of Kavala.

The forward outside deck area.

The forward outside deck area.

Aalborg builder's plate.

Aalborg builder's plate.

Starboard side promenade deck.

Starboard side promenade deck.

The view forward on Deck 9.

Astern on Deck 7.

Astern on Deck 7.

Foot passengers disembarking by the stairs aft, accessed via the upper vehicle deck.

Foot passengers disembarking by the stairs aft, accessed via the upper vehicle deck.

The demise of the Samothraki, the impending scrapping of the Romilda (ex-Free Enterprise VIII) and the abandonment in Vlore of the Veronica Line (ex-Free Enterprise V) leaves just the Vitsentzos Kornaros from Townsend Thoresen’s early/mid 1970s newbuild programme within easy reach. These ships, whilst in some ways less stylish and built nearer to the margins than their Sealink rivals, were and are representative of the market-dominating private ferry company of the age and helped lay the foundations for the ongoing strength of P&O today – albeit now shorn of both the Western Channel and Belgian routes that the Super Vikings were designed to operate.

Although her demise was prolonged, the end of operations for the Samothraki was rather sudden. And, whilst the Vitsentzos Kornaros has now operated reliably for ANEK-controlled LANE Lines for nearly as long as she sailed from the UK, the state of the Greek economy means that nothing is certain anymore. Indeed, LANE’s current three-year subsidy agreement (agreed in 2009) supposedly requires at some stage the replacement of the ‘VK’ – therefore anyone who wants to experience one of these James Ayers-designed ships really should try to sail on her sooner rather than later.

The Vitsentzos Kornaros in dry dock in Piraeus, November 2010.

The Vitsentzos Kornaros in dry dock in Piraeus, November 2010.

The Samothraki departs.

From the scrapyard: Oujda


The pair of stretched ‘Super Vikings’, Oujda (ex-Viking Venturer/ Pride of Hampshire) and Mogador (ex-Viking Valiant/Pride of Le Havre/Cherbourg) were sold for scrap earlier in the year and Unique Marine Machinery have, in the process, taken posession of a couple of items from the former ship, in particular the ship’s bell and the builder’s plate from her 1986 rebuilding and these are now available for sale through their website.


The ships did not have entirely satisfactory final years, bouncing around between COMANAV charters and service for their owners El Salam. COMANAV latterly were able to source better-quality charter tonnage and the ships disappeared to the Red Sea, never to return.

Blast from the Past: Thoresen Car Ferries, 1964

1964 saw the arrival on the Western English Channel of the Viking I and Viking II of newcomer Thoresen Car Ferries. British Railways had closed their loss-making services in advance, confident that money simply couldn’t be made out of these operations. Thoresen very quickly showed them how it could be done and a third passenger ship, the Viking III, followed in 1965.

To illustrate just how different the Viking I and II were, consider that they were delivered in between British Rail’s almost embarrasingly conservative Avalon (1963) and the Dover/Holyhead Ferry I (1965). What must have passengers made of these amazing, thoroughly modern ships?

Equally impressive and modern ferries would follow from other operators and, latterly British Rail themselves. Yet the Vikings stood out for more than just their orange hulls. Styled by Tage Wandborg at KEH, these were utterly gorgeous little ships with modern, Scandinavian interiors and, on a practical level, completely clutter-free, drive-through vehicle decks.

The three original Vikings proved successful beyond just their initial careers – each lived to see their 40th birthday with the premier ship, ranking alongside the likes of the Forde, Free Enterprise and Princess Victoria (I) as one of Britain’s most significant car ferries, being the first to be scrapped in 2008. This post however celebrates the halcyon initial days of Thoresen when they were the newcomer and swept all before them in a wave of style and modernity. The sad evolution to ‘establishment operator’ and the services’ ultimate demise under P&O in the early 21st century was not a pretty sight – P&O clearly hadn’t learnt the lessons of innovation and investment taught by Otto Thoresen himself at the outset.

Show below is a Thoresen Car Ferries brochure from that very first season, printed before the ships were even delivered.


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