08 March 2019

Isosaari in Helsinki, 23 June 2018

To start off, I must apologise for the longest hiatus in the history of this blog. Both my work and my personal life has been really hectic of late, and the blog has been an easy thing to drop off. Things are looking a bit easier in the near future and I will hopefully be able to return to a more normal update frequency.

For today's entry, we will be looking at a something of an unusual ship for this blog: the Isosaari, a local ferry connecting central Helsinki to the outlying island Isosaari. I've been sitting on these photos for some time, and the reason why I was inspired to post them today is the fact that the miniature Isosaari is slated to become a cruise ship this year – it will make one two-night cruise from Helsinki to Turku via Jussarö and Örö, and another one with reverse itininerary in early May. Both cruises will be all inclusive, even! So let's take a brief look at the history of one of the smallest premium cruise ships out there!


IMO 67212806
Name history: Sveio, Aspö, Isosaari
Built 1967, Ankerløkken Værft Florø, Norway
Tonnage 506 GT
Length 44,18 m
Width 9,94 m
Draugth 3,30 m
275 passengers
40 passenger berths
2 Wichmann diesels, combined 661 kW
? propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 11,5 knots

The Isosaari was originally built in 1967 by the Ankerløkken Værft in Florø, Norway as the Norwegian local ferry Sveio for Hardanger Sunnhordlandske Dampskibsselskab. As built, the ship had a drive-through car deck for 30 cars and a passenger capacity of 350.

After lengthy service in Norway, it was sold in 1995 to Suomen Saaristolaivat in Turku, Finland and, despite being 28 years old, rebuilt at Pansion Korjaustelakka in Turku, with new passenger areas built into most of the former car deck. At the same time, the superstructure was made lower to keep the gross tonnage below 500 (as ships of under 500 gt can follow different crweing rules than bigger ships) Renamed Aspö, the ship then started service in the Turku Archipelago, linking to the outlying island of Utö.

In this role the ship remained until spring 2018, when it was sold to Suomen Saaristokuljetus in Helsinki, who had a dual role in mind for the ship: it both links Kauppatori in central Helsinki to the island of Isosaari, and functions as a hotel ship in Isosaari during the summers, and as a hotel ship and restaurant in central Helsinki during the winters. In March 2019, Suomen Saaristokuljetus made known that the ship would offer the two all-inclusive Helsinki-Jussarö-Örö-Turku cruises mentioned above, as a test for the potential demand for further such cruises in the future.

The photos below show the Isosaari on the afternoon and evening of 23 June 2018 in the Kustaanmiekka strait, in the first two photos outbound from Kauppatori towards Isosaari and in the second two sailing in the opposite direction. As per normal practica, click on the images to see them in larger size.

Apparently, the ship has a pretty attractive 1960s style interior. I wouldn't know, I haven't sailed on it yet.
In 2019, the Isosaari will also connect to Vallisaari, the island seen in the background here.
An hour later, the ship is in the same spot but bound in the other direction.
Kships will return. Hopefully sooner than in a months' time.

Edited 2019-03-09 20.47 with additional information about the ship's 1995 refit, courtesy of Miran Hamidulla.

21 January 2019

Upcoming book: The North Sea Bridge

I am happy to finally officially announce that this year will see the publication of another book by me. The North Sea Bridge – Ferry connections between Scandinavia and Britain 1820-2014 will, es the name suggests chronicle the history of the passenger ferry services between Scandinavia and Britain (plus Finland and Iceland to Britain) from the beginning of regular scheduled services right until the closure of the last passenger link in 2014.

Those of you who speak Finnish might be familiar with my very long article series on the same subject in Ulkomatala, published in 2015-2016; the book will be a translated, expanded and generally improved version of the article series.

Projected publication will be in December this year, while the projected page count will be 160. For the most eager amongst you, the book can already be pre-ordered from the Ferry Publications website here.

05 January 2019

Wasa Express interiors, 13 March 2014

Happy belated new year to all Kships readers! There was a bit of a hiatus over christmas and new year, as you probably noticed – in addition to being "regularly busy" with the festivities, there were also other issues of a personal nature that kept me from the regular update schedule. But now we're back and hopefully will be back to the weekly updates.

Today, we will look at an older photo set that, for some reason, I neglected to post when it was brand new: interiors of the Wasaline Vaasa-Umeå ferry Wasa Express from my & Bruce Peter's trip onboard her back in 2014.

Wasa Express

IMO 8000226
Name history: Travemünde, Travemünde Link, Sally Star, Thjelvar, Color Traveller, Thjelvar, Rostock, Thjelvar, Betancuria, Wasa Express
Built 1981, Wärtsilä Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 17 046 GT
Length 141,00 m
Width 22,81 m
Draugth 4,95 m
Ice class 1A
915 passengers
316 passenger berths
450 cars
1 150 lanemeters
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 14 866 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 19,5 knots

For those interested, the history of the Wasa Express was covered in a previous entry, which also includes my (so far only) exterior shots of her.

Before making judgements on the Wasa Express based on this entry, please remember that the photos are from 2014 and many of the interior spaces have since been refurbished. Wasaline are, of course, planning a replacement for 2021 delivery – I guess I will need to do another trip to Vaasa before then and document the Wasa Express again. Not an unpleasant prospect, as the service and food onboard were some of the best I have encountered on any ship, even if part of the ship were, at least at the time, in need of some TLC.

Decks 9-11 – all passenger spaces onboard the Wasa Express are found on decks 7 and 8. Above are the bridge (on deck 10), crew spaces and open decks accessible to passengers.

Sunset at Holmsund (Umeå's outer harbour) as seen from deck 9 of the Wasa Express.
Deck 8 – back in 2014, this deck had the bar forward, passenger cabins amidships, and kennels, conference rooms and the children's playroom aft. Since then, the aft areas have been reorganised so that there is now a sitting lounge and an extra-cost business lounge there in addition to the kennels and conference rooms.

The bar occupies the entire width of the ship forward. Since 2014, this had been rebuilt with the bar counter moved away from the view-blocking central location and is now just behind the photographer's back in this view. The chairs have also been swapped for new ones.
Midships there are a total of 60 cabins.
The kennel as it was back then. The chairs have since been swapped for new ones. Unfortunately, the rest of the aft area were closed (and I didn't want to intrude on the kid's playroom), so I can offer you no other shots of this part of the ship.
Deck 7 – here were (and still are) the cafeteria, à la carte restaurant, shop and the information booth. New additions since 2014 are the children's playroom (moved down here from deck 8) and buffet restaurant, which replaced the (at least on my trip unused) second cafeteria aft.

The cafeteria had a wonderfully eclectic collection of chairs from the ship's career back then. Perhaps fortunately, they have since been replaced with new ones and are now all of a uniform design.
The Vitfågelskär à la carte restaurant served some of the absolutely best, locally-inspired cuisine I have ever eaten onboard any ship (and yes, this includes your luxury cruise ships like the Crystal Symphony). The sea buckthorn panna cotta was to die for – and I don't even normally like panna cotta.
Midships, a starboard arcade connects the forward and aft restaurants. The glass doors on the right led to the small onboard shop, but this has since been replaced by the kid's playroom and a new, larger shop has been added aft. As was typical for Wärtsilä-designed ferries at the time, the galley occupies the same space port, serving restaurants both forward and aft of it.
The aft stair lobby, which also serves as the entrance foyer.
The (unused) aft cafeteria has since then been completely transformed into a buffet restaurant – which, my friends tell me – serves excellent food. The new shop is again behind the photographer's back here.
Decks 3-6 – the ship has two double-height car decks, allowing it to carry a pretty impressive number of lane metres considering what a small ship we're talking about.

While the ship does actually have a bow visor and side gate that would allow drive-through operation, for reasons unknown to me Wasaline use the bow ramps in both ports. The traffic cones are here because the gangway in Vaasa was broken and we had to embark and disembark via the upper car deck.
Kships, as always, will return.

14 December 2018

Roald Amundsen under construction, 13 December 2018

Yesterday, I had the chance to visit the Kleven shipyard in Ulsteinvik, Norway (as a representative of Cruise Business Review) and see Hurtigruten's new expedition ships Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen under construction. I have written a bit about the event and ships for Cruise Business' website here, and a more detailed article will follow for the magazine's next issue. Here on my blog, however, I thought I would share some pictures from the visit to Kleven, and take a look at what the Roald Amundsen looks like inside now and what it will look like when delivered.

As per the usual, all photos are mine – except, this time around, the artist's impressions from Hurtigruten, which are clearly marked. As usual, you can see the images in larger size by clicking on them.
The world's most environmentally friendly expedition vessel in the outfitting quay.

Roald Amundsen

IMO 9813072
Built 2019, Kleven Ulsteinvik, Norway
Tonnage 20 889 GT
Length 140,00 m
Width 23,60 m
Draft 5,30 m
Ice class PC6
530 passengers
530 berths
4 Rolls-Royce Bergen diesels, combined 14 400 kW
2 Azipull azimuthing propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 15 knots

Fridtjof Nansen

Built 2020, Kleven Ulsteinvik, Norway
Tonnage 20 889 GT
Length 140,00 m
Width 23,60 m
Draft 5,30 m
Ice class PC6 
530 passengers
530 berths
4 Rolls-Royce Bergen diesels, combined 14 400 kW
2 Azipull azimuthing propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 15 knot

So, what was it like at Kleven? We had a chance to photograph the ships under construction (above and more below), were treated to several presentations from not only the people from Hurtigruten but also the Kleven shipyard and Rolls-Royce (who designed the ship), plus a lovely lunch of authentic food to be served onboard the ships. And, last but certainly not least, we had a chance to go onboard the Roald Amundsen in its incomplete guise, which is always an intensely interesting experience.

Presentations (and lunch) were the yard's welding hall, which also had this nice model of the Roald Amundsen on display.
Roald Amundsen under wraps in the lingering sunrise.
The Fridtjof Nansen is still in a more incomplete state – but fortunately (for photos) not under wraps.
Impressive ships up close, despite their modest dimensions.
Work at the yard didn't stop just because we were there – post-lunch the welding robots were in action (I believe building blocks for a ship under construction at the nearby Ulstein Verft shipyard), attracting the attention of many photographers.

Next, it was time for our tour of the ship. Obviously, with delivery still half a year away, most of the Roald Amundsen's interiors are still far from finished – which, of course, made the visit all the more interesting!

The forward battery room.
The first stop on our tour was of the most innovative parts about the ship – the battery room of the hybrid diesel-electric power plant. The batteries are charged from the ship's own engines, and then their output is used in "peak-shaving mode", aka allowing the engines always to operate at optimal output and getting extra power from the batteries as needed. Although to a layman like me it sounds counter-intuitive, this is expected to decrease emissions from the ship by at least 14 percent.

As you can see, the battery room is relatively empty. This, we were explained, is a concious strategy – as battery technology is currently developing at a high speed, Hurtigruten decided the sensible thing is to get additional batteries one technology has developed further, rather than get top-range batteries now and then discover in a few years they are outdated in terms of storage capacity. Considering how much resources the production of batteries takes up, this certainly lines up with Hurtigruten's sustainability efforts.

The forward engine room, with two Rolls-Royce Vergen diesels. As demanded by regulations, there is a second, separate engine room with two additional main engines.
The main dining room Aune, as it appeared yesterday...
...and as it will be in six month's time. Image courtesy of Hurtigruten.
In the passenger areas, the layout of the ship follows the model of existing 1990s/2000s generation Hurtigruten vessels surprisingly closely. Aft on the main deck is the main restaurant, Aune (named after Tinus Aune, who supplied food to make Norwergian polar expeditions).

Fredheim restaurent under construction...
...and as it will be. The windows especially look like they're going to be amazing (with all due respect to the decor, of course). Image courtesy of Hurtigruten.
With the new ships, Hurtigruten offers their passengers three different dining options for the first time. One of the two new restaurants is Fredheim, a casual eatery serving international cuisine (the name comes from a famous hunting lodge on Svalbard, a place visited by people world-wide). A third dining venue, which we alas did not see, is the extra-cost fine dining restaurant Lindstrøm, named after the cook who travelled with Amundsen both through the Northwest Passage and to the South Pole.
The science center did not look that impressive when we were there...
...but it not only looks to be impressive, it is also going to be innovative as heck. Image courtesy of Hurtigruten.
The Amundsen Science Center is found on the forward part of the main deck (where the existing Hurtigruten ships of the 90s/00s generation have their conference suites). This is by far the most exciting place onboard if you ask me; as an "edutainment" venue, it showcases the nature of the destinations the ship sails to and allows passengers to connect to the places they will visit already before they arrive. While a portion of the center is suitable to the traditional lectures, the space will be so much more than that, being akin to a science center or museum of science aimed at the general population on dry land, albeit of course smaller.

Forward of the science center is an enclosed observation deck.
Two cabins were already (almost) completely outfitted; here is a family cabin which should have a double bed, plus the convertible sofa you see in the foreground...
...and here is a standard balcony cabin for two.
The cabins will step up the standard for Hurtigruten ships: all will be outside cabins, with circa 50 having their own private balcony. Even the smallest cabins are a generous 23 square metres in size. Surprisingly – at least to me – the cabins are not made from prefabricated modules, but assembled in situ... which seems somewhat anarchonistic for shipbuilding of this day and age. (And without intending to brag, I am something of an expert in shipbuilding these days).

On the traditional top-deck location there is an observation lounge...
...which will look much better when it's actually outfitted. Image courtesy of Hurtigruten.
Again mirroring the layouts of the previous generation of Hurtigruten vessels, there is an observation lounge on the top deck, above the bridge. Personally, I am ever so slightly disappointed that the lounge is a single-level space and not a two-level space like those onboard the Trollfjord and Midnatsol – but that doesn't change the fact it's going to be a really impressive space.

The Roald Amundsen is going to enter service in May 2019, and I really hope I will have a chance to go onboard again to see the ship as it is meant to be. But for now, special thanks to Hurtigruten for the chance to see the ships as they are now, and to Cruise Business Review for letting me be the one who goes to visit Kleven.

Edited 15.12.2018: Additional information for the ships' technical details.

10 December 2018

Book review: Ferries of Scandinavia by Matthew Punter

Matthew Punter: Ferries of Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea and the Nordic countries. Ferry Publications: Ramsey 2018. 144 pages.

For a change, I'm featuring a book here that I haven't written anything for – instead, Matthew Punter's Ferries of Scandinavia features numerous photos that I have taken. Most of them will of course be familiar from this blog, but certainly it's different seeing them printed in a book. (Although, full disclosure, I did proofread the manuscript and offer some feedback).

Unlike some of the other books in Ferry Publications' Ferries of... series, Ferries of Scandinavia is not a pure photo book, but a lavishly illustrated overview of the ferry scene of Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea, Faroe Islands and Iceland. The book is divided into six segments: Northern Baltic, Southern Baltic, Kattegat & Skagerrak, Danish Domestic, Norwegian Domestic and Iceland & the Faroe Islands.

As an overview, the book is a very welcome addition, as no such volume previously existed. Personally, I especially enjoyed the last three chapters, as the domestic services of Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Faroes are not something I would have detailed knowledge of. For all regions covered, there is also a short look into the local ferry history, as well as a more general history of the overall Scandinavian ferry development in the beginning of the book. These, unfortunately, have several small errors in them, such as wrong delivery years for ships or wrong routes. Nothing major, but it is somewhat irritating these have not been fixed. Whether such small errors are a dealbreaker is, of course, entirely up to each individual reader.

The photos range from great (these include ones from the likes of Kim Viktor, Søren Lund Hviid and, of course, yours truly, so there are bound to be great ones) to decent. While the standard is towards the great photos, some of the choices did make me wonder if the photo used in the book was really the best one available – although this may also be a matter of personal preference.

Despite the occasional piece of criticism, overall Ferries of Scandinavia is a very good book that nicely fills a gap in ferry literature and is certainly worth the price of admission. Ferries of Scandinavia is available from well-stocked bookshops – but for those of us living in countries that no longer have such luxuries (like Finland), I recommend getting yours from the Ferry Publications website (which, for some reason, shows the book with a different – and arguably superior – cover).

Kships will return later this week with, I hope, some very interesting pictures of certain under-construction cruise ships.