Posts tagged: vlore

Farewell Doric Ferry, Kapetan Alexandros

At Vlore, July 2008

At Vlore, July 2008


Quietly, the Kapetan Alexandros A ex-Doric Ferry, last of the ships of the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company, left her lay up in Keratsini under tow of the tug Christos XIV bound for scrapping in Aliaga. In service between Brindisi and Vlore through the past Winter, her lay up after being withdrawn was to be mercifully brief.

A final image of the ship in Greek waters, under tow for Turkey, can be found here.

Kapetan Alexandros A (ex-Doric Ferry) – an update

The Kapetan Alexandros A at Brindisi in 2007. Click for larger image.

The Kapetan Alexandros A at Brindisi in 2007. Click for larger image.


Perhaps I spoke too soon with the comment in the previous post that it seemed the Kapetan Alexandros A was coming around to Brindisi for a further Summer!

Agoudimos have now shuffled their fleet and the net result is that the Ionian Spirit (ex-Roslagen/Viking 3) has been rescheduled to operate Brindisi-Vlore this Summer in place of the former Doric Ferry.

The latter, sadly but inevitably, has been rumoured to have been sold for scrapping but is presently lying at Keratsini.

Last of the line: the Kapetan Alexandros A (ex-Doric Ferry)

Kapetan Alexandros A arriving at Brindisi

Kapetan Alexandros A arriving at Brindisi


The six purpose-built ships of the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company were completed at British shipyards between 1957 and 1968 for ASN’s North Sea and Irish Sea operations and all had successful careers of varying lengths. Primarily freight ships they might today fall under that catchall phrase ‘ro-pax’ – they seem fairly traditional in external design to the modern eye, however the initial vessels, the 1957-built Bardic Ferry and the Ionic Ferry of the following year, were proclaimed as fairly revolutionary, being Britain’s first ro-ro freight ships, with the ability to also carry some passengers (55 as built).
ASN brochure, using their 'Transport Ferry Service' name.

ASN brochure, using their 'Transport Ferry Service' name.


The evolution of the series as further half-sisters were delivered was of a fairly cautious nature, the second pair (Cerdic Ferry (1961) and Doric Ferry (1962)) being slightly longer but with capacity for only 35 passengers. The final two vessels were one-offs, the Gaelic Ferry of 1964 being not dissimilar to the previous pair before the slightly racier Europic Ferry (1967) was rather longer and faster and took passenger capacity up to 160.


The ships all remained in service through the takeover of ASN by Townsend Thoresen in 1971, and remained useful for most of the 1970s. However, towards the end of that decade the earlier ships were becoming a little obsolete as larger and more modern tonnage was introduced and by 1982 the first four had been sold. The Gaelic Ferry excluded, each went on to have a second life with Southern European operators including the Europic Ferry which had lasted with TT’s successor P&O European Ferries until as late as 1993 before becoming Med Link Lines’ Aphrodite II.

Longest-lived however were the middle pair, the Ailsa, Troon-built Cerdic Ferry and Doric Ferry. Sold together to Libra Maritime in 1981 as the Atlas I and Atlas II, they served a variety of Adriatic and Aegean routes until onward sale in 1987/88, the ships ultimately being split up with the ex-‘Cerdic’ passing to Ventouris Sea Lines and the ‘Doric’ to Agoudimos as the Kapetan Alexandros (later the Kapetan Alexandros A). The ‘Cerdic’ neatly side-stepped the implosion of much of the Ventouris family’s shipping operations in 1995 by being sold within the family to A K Ventouris but was further sold in 1998, becoming the Orestes for Albanian service. Sadly, she was arrested and abandoned in Bari in 2000 and spent the subsequent seven years as a rusting hulk on the breakwater at the Italian port being finally being scrapped in 2007.

The story of the Kapetan Alexandros has been altogether more positive. With Agoudimos she was enlarged into a true passenger ferry, serving both domestic and international, Adriatic services. Named after Agoudimos Lines’ founder, Alexandros Agoudimos, the ship has since the turn of the century operated each year between Brindisi in Italy and Vlore in Albania, a sole constant as various competing vessels and operators on the same route have come and gone with unerring rapidity.

Her survival is in part a tribute to the strength of the hull and reliability of the machinery. Now one of the oldest open-sea car ferries in Europe (in fact probably the oldest, certainly transiting an international route?) she has once again in 2009 been scheduled for a complete season of sailings on the Vlore run, indeed she has even spent much of the Winter in operation, covering for the errant Ionian Spirit (ex-Roslagen/Viking 3) which was scheduled to maintain the off-season services before mechanical troubles took hold.

The following pictures of and on board the Kapetan Alexandros A were taken during a variety of sailings on the ship between 2004 and 2008. Significant parts of the ship’s interior can be described as having the ‘Greek 1980s’ look, however in the original spaces, essentially the original cabins and the forward lounge, the spirit of the original Doric Ferry survives. How much longer this can be the case is uncertain – a crew member on Corsica Ferries’ Mega Smeralda last year explained how he had left Agoudimos just to be away from the ship which he was less than flattering about, indeed it would probably be libellous to repeat some of the things said! – however each year she confounds expectations and returns to service, the last of a fine series of handsome British-built ferries.

Boarding for foot passengers is via the car deck.

Boarding for foot passengers is via the car deck.

Open the right doors and the Doric Ferry reveals herself once more...

Open the right doors and the Doric Ferry reveals herself once more...

Out on the forecastle

Out on the forecastle

The ship's original bell remains

The ship's original bell remains

Morning off the Albanian coast.

Morning off the Albanian coast.

Approaching Vlore.

Approaching Vlore.

Arriving in Vlore - the Red Star I (ex-Thoresen's Viking III) has sailed the same route but is rather faster so is on the berth first.

Arriving in Vlore - the Red Star I (ex-Thoresen's Viking III) has sailed the same route but is rather faster so is on the berth first.

Berthing on the exposed berths can be a bit tricky when you don't have bow thrusters.... the Kapetan Alexandros often needs the help of a tug, but gets there in the end. This image shows a first attempt - the ramp scraped along the pier before ending up at the correct right angle to it.

Berthing on the exposed berths can be a bit tricky when you don't have bow thrusters.... the Kapetan Alexandros often needs the help of a tug, but gets there in the end. This image shows a first attempt - the ramp scraped along the pier before ending up at the correct right angle to it.

Unloading at Vlore.

Unloading at Vlore.

On the berth in Vlore.

On the berth in Vlore.

Back on board for a return sailing to Brindisi. Starting with the accommodation added by Agoudimos, this is the ship's self-service restaurant, on the port side amidships.

Back on board for a return sailing to Brindisi. Starting with the accommodation added by Agoudimos, this is the ship's self-service restaurant, on the port side amidships.

This centre section separates the self-service from the bar, to starboard.

This centre section separates the self-service from the bar, to starboard.

The bar area.

The bar area.

The small Duty Free shop.

The small Duty Free shop.

Reclining seat lounge, aft on the starboard side.

Reclining seat lounge, aft on the starboard side.

Right forward, this lounge was the main passenger space as built, together with a restaurant.

Right forward, this lounge was the main passenger space as built, together with a restaurant.

The cabins in the forward part of the superstructure are original, without facilities but entirely wooden panelled. They retain plenty of period touches, such as punkah louvres for ventilation and little cup holders etc.

The cabins in the forward part of the superstructure are original, without facilities but entirely wooden panelled. They retain plenty of period touches, such as punkah louvres for ventilation and little cup holders etc.

Sailing back to Brindisi.

Sailing back to Brindisi.

The join where the Greeks extended the superstructure aft is clear - it's where the wooden decking stops and plain painted steel takes over.

The join where the Greeks extended the superstructure aft is clear - it's where the wooden decking stops and plain painted steel takes over.

Back on the berth in Brindisi's old port.

Back on the berth in Brindisi's old port.

Gone but not forgotten: Gabrielle (ex-Prinsessan Désirée, 1965)

The Gabrielle at Vlore, July 2003

The Gabrielle at Vlore, July 2003

From time to time I’ll dig out some older pictures from classic ferries which are no longer with us, having been scrapped – or worse. No. 1 is an interesting ship which had a lengthy Scandinavian career with two very distinguished operators before sailing off to Vietnam, and then the Red Sea, where everyone in Europe assumed no more would be heard from her. Rather unusually however she made a return, spending an eight year Indian Summer on the Southern Adriatic routes out of Bari and, latterly, Brindisi.

The ship is the Prinsessan Désirée, built for GFL (Sessan Linjen) in 1965 where she was pitched straight into the developing Battle of the Kattegatt against newcomers Stena Line on the Göteborg-Frederikshavn route. Sessan Linjen for me are one of the most interesting of operators – a car ferry pioneer who had stylish and upmarket ships but who were – ultimately – outmanoeuvred by a wily, innovative and populist competitor in Stena. The ‘Désirée’ was fairly quickly superseded and in 1970 was sold to the Vasa-UmeÃ¥ Line as the Fenno Express. And there she stayed, operating between Northern Sweden and Finland until the start of her Eastern adventures in 1989.

Less than half a year before she was finally sold for breaking, I made a sail on the ship as the Gabrielle, from Vlore in Albania to Brindisi in Italy. The ship was operating for a company called Prosperity Navigation although it is doubtful that they achieved their titular aim.

The 2001/02 Prosperity Navigation Brochure

The 2001/02 Prosperity Navigation Brochure

The Brindisi-Albania traffic is always very marginal but the ship found herself in competition against two fellow 1960s classics – the Europa I (ex-Jens Kofoed of 1963) and the Media V (ex-Viking I of 1964). If one had to classify these in terms of their condition, the Media V would be top and the Europa I bottom with the Gabrielle somewhere in between, so it is a matter of some surprise to me, in fact probably a matter of some regret, that the Europa I is at the time of writing the only one still surviving.

The Gabrielle was in fair condition, although the first thing you would probably notice as you came on board was the crumpled and ragged condition of much of the lino flooring, particularly in what had been the self service (now with a section partitioned off as a reclining seat lounge). However equally notable would be the acres of shining woodwork throughout the passenger spaces and the photo murals in the lobby spaces which were by noted Danish photographer Keld Helmer-Petersen. Sadly, the English Dining Room on the upper passenger deck (seen here on vasabatarna.se during her Fenno Express days) had been converted into cabins. A stylish and intricate restaurant was a feature of Sessan ships, right up to the last one, the Prinsessan Birgitta of 1981 (later Sealink’s St Nicholas) and the ‘Désirée’ had been no exception.

The Gabrielle and the Media V in the morning sun, awaiting clearance to enter Vlore

The Gabrielle and the Media V in the morning sun, awaiting clearance to enter Vlore

On the berth in Vlore

On the berth in Vlore

On our sailing there were few passengers, which might explain Prosperity Navigation’s swift demise soon after. A few couples and families apart, who took lunch in the old SmörgÃ¥sbord restaurant aft, most seemed content to sit in the forward bar on the lower deck, which became a smoking den where they played cards and drank the crossing away.

All of which left the rest of the ship to us to explore and photograph. That didn’t take too long however and my happiest memory is Read more »

WordPress Themes