Monday, 29 April 2013

Ship Profiles 4: Finnjet

Name: GTS Finnjet
IMO number: 7359632
Built: 1976
Lenght: 214,96m
Beam: 25,4m
Draught: 6,89m

Tonnage: 32,975 GT
Type: Cruiseferry
Speed: 33,5 knots

Decks: 10 public decks
Capacity: 1781 passengers, 815 lanemeters
Also known as: Da Vinci (2008); Kingdom (2008)
Status: broken up in 2008-2009

Finnjet was built in 1976 especially for traffic between Helsinki and Travemünde. Many consider her the first genuine cruiseferry, and during her career she held many records.

Finnjet was originally her project name, and many other names were considered, for example Urho Kekkonen, who was the president of Finland at that time. Finally, it was decided that Finnjet would keep her name and she was christened on 28. April 1977, exactly 36 years ago.

Finnjet in her first, Finnlines livery
Since Finnjet was well over a decade ahead of her time, she was very prestigious, famous and loved. A well-known Finnish artist Kimmo Kaivanto did several paintings to decorate the ship, including a painting named Pictures of Finland, which was three decks high. Finnjet has had a piece of music written for her, medallions of her were released and she's the first ship to have a Lego model of her that anyone could buy on board. When Finnjet was launched, the Katajanokka terminal in Helsinki, now used by Viking Line, was built, and the Kustaanmiekka strait had to be widened to fit such a large ship.

Finnjet Lego model

Several newer ships, for example Regina Baltica and Princess Maria were clearly influenced by her.

Regina Baltica
Princess Maria
Several companies have tried to use the name Finnjet for their later ships, but since Finnjet is a registered trademark owned by Finnlines, none have actually done so. During her first ten years in Finnlines' fleet, and later on with Silja Line she served on many routes, mostly between Helsinki, Tallinn, Rostock, Travemünde and St. Petersburg.

Finnjet and Cinderella in Helsinki
 During her time in Silja Line's fleet, her interior was rebuilt several times, last time in 2004, when she was being prepared to enter the Tallinn - St. Petersburg - Rostock route. Although Finnjet's glory often made the operator keep her going even if it was unprofitable during her golden days, this was not the case, so when Tallinn - St. Petersburg - Rostock turned out unprofitable, the route was terminated and in 2005 she was put up for sale.

In winter 2005-2006, Finnjet was used to provide housing to university students who had lost their homes to hurricane Katrina. After that, she travelled from one owner to another, who usually had big plans to rebuild her into a cruise ship, or a casino ship etc., but when it came out that the cost of the plan was higher than anticipated, she was put up for sale and sold to the next owner with big plans.

Finnjet on Mississippi river
In May 2008 she was sold for scrap, but several efforts were made to save the mighty vessel. Due to foiled plans and misunderstandings, none of those efforts worked, so she arrived to a scrapyard in India in June. The good condition of her impressed the breakers and once again, efforts were made by several parties to get the ship back in traffic. Those efforts almost led to success, but during the time she was in India, the warm and damp climate had taken its toll on her, causing a serious mold infestation. That made her unsalvageable and she was taken apart. Her thick steel hull and very strong bulkheads made the process very difficult and more expensive than the scrap value. 

Last days of GTS Finnjet

Finnjet's Records

  • Largest cruiseferry in the world in GRT (1977-1981)
  • Largest cruiseferry in the world in number of passengers (1977-1981)
  • Largest cruiseferry in the world in passenger berths (1977-1981)
  • First civilian vessel in the world equipped with ECDIS (1994)
  • First and only gas turbine powered cruiseferry in the world (1977-1996)
  • First and only combined gas turbine and diesel-electric ship in the world (1981-2000)
  • First cruiseferry in the world with a Lego model of it for sale
  • Longest cruiseferry in the world (1977-2001)
  • Largest gas turbine powered vessel in the world (1997-2002)
  • Fastest conventional cruiseferry in the world, with the max speed of 33,5 knots - still unbroken
  • Most powerful cruiseferry in the world with 66 400 kW - still unbroken

Finnjet medallion

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Isabelle update

Yesterday, early in the morning, just as I woke up to get ready for school, I received an e-mail.
It was an automatic letter from MarineTraffic, announcing that Isabelle had left Turku. I had prepared for that moment, and I was happy that it didn't come at any other time, because just two days before I had finally got the MarineTraffic app on my phone. I kept tracking her during the whole day, until I saw from her course that she was going a bit too far east to be heading for Riga, so I checked her destination, and I was very happy to see that it was Tallinn.

I immediately told the news to my friend, and we were very happy, because although Isabelle will soon serve in Latvia, we would get to see her afterall. We were only wondering where in Tallinn she would be staying.

Isabelle arrived at half past 5 in the evening, to a very good spot in Old Tallinn Harbour. It seemed obvious that Isabelle wouldn't leave by the next day, since it's not very wise to make a huge loop just for one short stop. It was now or never, so I'm pretty sure my friend and I weren't the only ship lovers out taking pictures today.

Isabelle from Terminal A
Isabelle from the shore
In addition to Isabelle, I took several good photos of other vessels too. 

Star at Tallink HQ
From the left: MS Viking XPRS, MSV Botnica, MS Isabelle and MS Finlandia. 
Finlandia the big bad car-eating beast
and Viking XPRS next to her
Finlandia's sister Superstar leaving
Finlandia's funnel and top decks from Terminal D
MSV Botnica, a fancy icebreaker
Departing Finlandia, and some seagull. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Update on Isabella.. I mean, Isabelle.

Today Tallink released the following press release:

Published: 2013-04-22 11:54:57 CEST
 Tallink Grupp
Company Announcement
 Completion of purchase
 Tallinn, 2013-04-22 11:54 CEST (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Hansalink Limited, a subsidiary of AS Tallink Grupp today completed the transaction of purchase the cruise ferry Isabella from Viking Line ABP.
  The newer vessel with more passenger and car capacity will replace M/S Silja Festival on the Riga-Stockholm route, meeting the increased demand on that route. The ship will start service departing Riga in the second week of May under the new name Isabelle
          Harri Hanschmidt
         Head of Investor Relations
         AS Tallink Grupp
         Sadama 5/7. 10111 Tallinn
         Tel +372 640 8981
 This news release was distributed by GlobeNewswire, – a NASDAQ OMX company

 Briefly, Tallink is renaming Isabella to Isabelle (In fact, they already did). On one hand, it seems very.. lazy. Isabelle is a very common name among ships. If they continue with the same attitude, Isabelle will probably end up looking like this.

If that will really happen, I'll be quite angry, because it will be an even clearer indicator, that Tallink bought her to get rid of the possible competition, not because of their actual interest in a new ship.

On the other hand, naming the ship Isabelle is quite clever. It totally eliminates the Viking Lineish feeling, without really changing the name too much. Isabella has had a long and successful career without any big accidents, always under the same name.

Either way, I really hope that Tallink will not leave Isabella red, because red is and has always been and always will be Viking Line's uniform colour. I don't think they want people who see Isabelle from far away to immediately think "oh that's some Viking Line ship".

Now there's two major questions in my head. First of them, as mentioned, is the future livery of Isabelle. The other one is curiosity about what is going to happen to Silja Festival. Today my friend wrote to Tallink, asking about her fate. Tallink replied that nothing has been decided yet.

We'll see what happens. I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Ship Profiles 3: Azores [updated March 2014]

Name: MS Azores (At the time of writing this post, Athena)
IMO number: 5383304
Built: 1948
Lenght: 160m
Beam: 21m
Draught: 7,9m

Tonnage: 15 614 GRT
Type: Cruise ship
Speed: 17 knots

Decks: 8
Capacity: 556 passengers
Status: In service

Athena is a vessel with a very long and colorful history. She's one of the oldest ships in the world that are still afloat, and a lot has happened during all those years. 

Athena entered service in 1948. In the same year Steven Tyler, Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper were born. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated; the first monkey astronaut Albert I was launched into space; the Korean peninsula was split in two coutries: Republic of Korea and Democratic People's Republic of Korea, more known as South and North Korea.
The devastating World War II had ended three years before, resulting in major changes on the political map of the world, with many new countries founded and even more occupied. The Soviet Union was ruled by Joseph Stalin, the president of the United States was Harry S. Truman, George VI was the king of the United Kingdom and the Pope was Pius XII.

It's pretty obvious that during all those years, Athena didn't always have the same name and look. She was built as MS Stockholm, and ever since she's also been known as Völkerfreundschaft, Fridtjof Nansen, Italia I, Italia Prima, Valtur Prima and Caribe. She was renamed to her current name in 2005.

The reason why she has lasted this long is probably pure luck. The average ship has a lifespan of 30  years, and sooner or later a ship will be scrapped or lost. Some ships, like the Athena, keep on going from one owner to another without being scrapped though. And it's definitely not because of uneventfulness - Athena has been through several accidents and refits.

The most famous of them happened 8 years after Athena, then known as Stockholm was launched. On the late evening of 25. July 1956, about 12 hours after departing from New York, in heavy fog, she collided with the Italian liner Andrea Doria at a 90 degree angle. The collision resulted in Andrea Doria sinking, despite all the preventive efforts of the crew both before and after the collision. Stockholm's bow was badly damaged and after rescuing some of Andrea Doria's crew and passengers, she returned to New York for repairs.

Damaged Stockholm returning to New York
Ironically, 33 years later in 1989, she was sold to StarLauro, now known as MSC Cruises. She was named Italia I and delivered to Genoa, which was the home of the sunken Andrea Doria. That caused some big emotions and reactions; the Italian press called her "La nave della morte" (The ship of death).

At the same time, she was extensively rebuilt from an ocean liner to a modern cruise ship.

In 2008 in the Gulf of Aden, pirates tried to attack her, but an US Navy aircraft made some of the pirate boats flee. The Athena crew fired water cannons at the rest, preventing them from boarding, and the vessel managed to escape with no damage.

During her long career Athena has done many transatlantic voyages and different cruises all around the world. She has even served as a barracks ship in Norway. Unfortunately for now her future is uncertain; in September 2012 she was arrested in Marseille, France for large fuel bills and unpaid crew wages.

Inside Athena
Athena in Kiel canal about a month before arresting.

march 2014 update: She is now called Azores and owned by Portuscale Cruises, but currently under charter and doing cruises in North Sea. 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Ship profiles 2: Amalie

Before I get to it, I'd like to dedicate a small friendly rant to my friend Tõnis for suggesting a ship with hardly any information available. But I did it :P

Name: MF Amalie
IMO number: 6519132
Built: 1965
Lenght: 24m
Beam: 4,5m
Draught: 2,25m
Tonnage: 110 GT

Type: Ro-ro cargo/passenger ship
Speed: 10,5 kmots
Decks: 1

Capacity: 100 passengers; 10 cars
Home: Kihnu, Estonia
Status: Laid up, waiting for season.

It is known that she was built in Norway in 1965 and used to be named Ottersøy 4 and Radøy.
In 2004, she was bought by the Estonian company Kihnu Veeteed to be used for traffic between small Estonian islands. In late April, she is planned to enter the Kihnu - Munalaid route for the summer.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Ship profiles 1: Isabella

Name: MS Isabella
IMO number: 8700723
Built: 1989
Lenght: 169,4m
Beam: 27,61m
Draught: 6,26m
Tonnage: 34 386 GT

Type: Cruiseferry
Speed: max. 21,5 knots / average 17 knots
Ice Class: 1A Super
Decks: 12

Capacity: 2200 passengers; 850 latemetres
Home: Mariehamn, Åland
Sisters: Amorella, Gabriella, Crown of Scandinavia
Status: Laid up in Turku, waiting for delivery.

Isabella was originally built to replace Rosella on the Naantali–Mariehamn–Kapellskär route. The plans changed, because Kapellskär harbour hadn't been modernised in time to be able to accomodate her. Instead, she was placed on Naantali - Stockholm route for summers, doing cruises from Helsinki other time of the year. In 1992, she was rebuilt to fit more passengers and cars. In 1992 the Naantali-Mariehamn-Kapellskär route was terminated, and Isabella started doing cruises from Helsinki all year round.

A postcard of Isabella before 1992 - notice the red stripe missing from the livery and no rear sponsons.
In 1994 she swapped routes with Cinderella, doing Helsinki-Stockholm until 1997. Then, her newly-purchased sister Gabriella  replaced her and she joined her other sister Amorella on the Turku-Mariehamn-Stockholm route. She stayed on that route until she was replaced by new Viking Grace in January 2013.
In 2000, she was rebuilt with rear sponsons to add stability, and in 2007 her interior was extensively rebuilt.

Since the delivery of Viking Grace, Isabella substituted for Amorella while she was docked, and ever since she has been laid up in Turku. Isabella had been for sale since summer 2012, but since it was unlikely that she would sell so soon, plans were made to put her on Tallinn-Helsinki route in summer to meet the high demand. But then Tallink stepped in the way, buying Isabella from Viking Line before the plans were made true.

Tallink has announced that Isabella will be placed on Riga-Stockholm route, replacing Silja Festival. Isabella will be delivered to Tallink by the end of April. It is pretty obvious that she will be repainted and renamed, and there have already been many discussions on her future livery.

Old Tallink uniform?
Or maybe something more like Silja Line? 
Or maybe the livery they wanted for Baltic Princess?
Or just a splash?
Either way, when there is more news about her, I will share them. But for now, let's see what happens.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Farewell, sweet Isabella.

Yesterday, a letter with breaking news dropped in my e-mail box. It was from my favourite cruiseferry operator Viking Line. I opened it and I was very much saddened by the news. Viking Line sold Isabella and cancelled all the planned trips between Helsinki and Tallinn in summer.

As I mentioned in my last post, Isabella was replaced by the gorgeous Viking Grace earlier this year, and she has been for sale since last summer. The plans of putting her on Tallinn-Helsinki route were made, because it seemed unlikely that the ship would sell anytime soon. But then things changed.

I was just sad at first, wondering about the fate of Isabella, and worrying that she would be taken as far as Translandia was.

Fun Facts: Translandia was Eckerö Line's cargo ship until she was replaced by Nordlandia, which used to be their passenger ship. Nordlandia's job was taken over by Superstar's sister, much newer and really nice Finlandia (ex Moby Freedom). Translandia was recently sold to some company of United Arab Emirates, and delivered to Turkey. I've seen her in several locations in eastern Mediterranean ever since.

I was also sad to know that my plans of seeing Isabella as I return from Finland in June had to be cancelled, and wondering what ship I could discover instead of her. But when I found out who bought Isabella, I wasn't pleased, to say the least.

Isabella was bought by a daughter company of TallinkSilja to be placed on Riga - Stockholm route, replacing Silja Festival.

That looks to me like a clear indicator that Tallink doesn't want any more competition on Tallink - Helsinki route. Every day, the Gulf of Finland is crossed 22 times by ships operating between Tallinn and Helsinki. Of those crossings, Tallink makes 14 (12 with Star and Superstar, 2 with Silja Europa). Viking Line makes 4 with Viking XPRS, and with Isabella it would've reached 8. Eckerö Line makes 4 too, with Finlandia. 

I can't think of any better reason why the deal was made, really. Tallink said that they bought Isabella to meet the growing demand between Riga and Stockholm, but Isabella isn't much bigger than Silja Festival, and the change would be almost insignificant. 

All I can do now is to hope that Viking Line will be strong enough to stay in the competition, and that Tallink will not end up being the only ship company operating in the Baltic Sea. 

Bye Bye Beautiful

I've been thinking of starting to post on this blog regularly, to introduce one ship at a time. Now I've decided that I will be posting one ship introduction every Sunday, and the first ship I'll introduce will be Isabella. I don't want the selection to be limited to Baltic Sea passenger ships, instead I want to try to cover all kinds of different vessels, and you can help me with that. If you have any ships in mind that you would like me to introduce, please do leave a comment. 

Now I'm very curious about what will happen to Silja Festival, as she's very beautiful and unique, and it would be sad to see her sold and/or repainted. I'd also like to see what will Tallink do with Isabella, mostly regarding the new livery. When it comes to my trip, I considered Linda Line, but then I revised the rules of Eckerö Line, and I was happy to find that I can come with Finlandia.

In the meanwhile, I also had my first ship driving experience, if controlling a small model can be called that. I went to the Seaplane harbor in Tallinn with my class, which is now a museum. My class voted to be taught about aviation, but after that was over, we were free to look around, and I went straight to the pool with two ship models and a mini harbor. I set a goal to drive a ship out of the harbor and back in again without any collisions, but it took me over an hour of practice. I also had a few encounters with people controlling the other ship model, who seemed very determined to collide with my vessel. But in the end I think I got it, and I really liked it. It also made me understand several little things I didn't understand about ships before.

My first ship! :D