26 September 2010

Princess Maria, 13 September 2010

Princess Maria

IMO 7911533
Built 1981 Wärtsilä Turku, Finland
Tonnage 34 093 GT
Length 168,05 m
Width 29 m
Draft 6,72 m
1638 passengers
395 cars
4 Wärtsilä-Pielstick diesels, combined 22 948 kW
2 controllable pitch propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 sterns thruster
Speed 21,2 knots

Princess Maria was of course the subject of the very first entry in this blog. Since I didn't write anything about the ship's history of appearance in that entry, I must now try to write enough for two entries. ;)

The Princess Maria started life as Effoa's Finlandia, built in 1981 for Silja Line's Helsinki-Stockholm service. At the time of her completion she was the largest cruiseferry in the world (taking over the title from the Finnjet) and alongside her sister Silvia Regina and Viking Line's contemporary Viking Saga and Viking Song the Finlandia did much to transform the Helsinki-Stockholm route to the cruise-oriented service it remains today. Construction of the Finlandia and her sister also in part led to Bore Line withdrawing from the Silja Line consortium; by the consortium's rules, Bore should have commissioned a third sister similar to those ordered by Effoa and RAB Svea. Bore thought the concept would be uneconomic and instead decided to withdraw from Silja and passenger shipping completely, selling their passenger ships and shares in Silja to Effoa. Bore's withdrawal is often described as a mistake on their part, but it should be noted that of the three companies that founded Silja Line, only Bore exists today.

As built the Finlandia had a full-shaped rouded bow with a pronounced knuckle over the waterline to maximise car-carrying capacity. In service the bow construction was found to have very poor sea-keeping capabilities and after less than a year in service both the Finlandia and Silvia Regina were rebuilt, with the knuckle on the bow essentially "shaved off" to get a more streamlined bow. At the same time the interiors of the ships were slightly rebuilt. In 1985 the Finlandia was again partially rebuilt, with the interiors freshened up and the conference spaces enlargened. Around the same time plans were made for a more large-scale rebuilding of the Finlandia and her sister, lengthening them by 28 metres and radically rebuilding them to better compete with Viking Line's newbuildings Mariella and Olympia. In the end these plans were abandoned in favour of building two entirely new ships, that eventually emerged as the Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony.

In preparation for the delivery of the new ships, in 1987 a Memorandum of Agreement was made to sell the Finlandia to DFDS in May 1990 (the MoA also included an option for DFDS to buy the Silvia Regina, but they did not excercise that option). In the end the Silja Serenade was not ready by May 1990 (due to the bankrupcy of Wärtsilä Marine), but DFDS insisted on taking delivery of the ship as agreed, forcing Effoa to look for other solutions. The Finlandia meanwhile became the Queen of Scandinavia, entering service on Scandinavian Seaways' Kopenhagen-Helsingborg-Oslo -route on 1 June 1990. Her first running mate on that route was another former Effoa ferry, the first King of Scandinavia that had originally been Effoa's Wellamo of 1975, the ship that the Finlandia had replaced on the Helsinki-Stockholm service. In 1999 DFDS abandined the Scandinavia Seaways marketing name and in it's place the text DFDS Seaways was painted on the Queen of Scandinavia's side.

In 2000 the Queen of Scandinavia's bow was again rebuilt, now with a more rounded shape and unusually lacking a bow gate of any kind (DFDS did not, at least at the time, use bow gates on their ships due to safety reasons). The next year, following the acquisition of the Pearl of Scandinavia the Queen of Scandinavia was tranferred to the Newcastle-IJmuiden -service. In 2007 she was transferred to the Newcastle-Stavanger-Haugesund-Bergen -service that DFDS Seaways had taken over from Fjord Line the previous year. She swapped routes with the Princess of Norway, ex-Fjord Norway, allowing DFDS to operate the Princess of Norway parallel to the newest (third) King of Scandinavia on the Newcast-IJmuiden run. The Newcastle-Bergen run proved to be unprofitable and it was closed down in 2008. The Queen of Scandinavia had no further use in DFDS Seaways' fleet and she was laid up.

The Queen of Scandinavia remained laid up until the spring of 2010, when she was chartered to St. Peter Line, a new company established by the Russian Inflot to operate a service between St. Petersburg and Helsinki. Repainted with St. Peter Line's funnel symbol and hull markings but otherwise retaining her DFDS Seaways livery, the ship was renamed Princess Maria (after whom I do not know - but my money's on my wife :P) and on 23 April she entered service on the Helsinki-St. Petersburg -run. At the time many (myself included) were sceptical of the new company's chances - after all three companies had tried to operate a Helsinki-Sr. Petersburg service and failed during the 2000s - but they have seemed to find the niché. Persistent rumours claim that St. Peter Line is about to open a second service, linking St. Petersburg to Stockholm, possibly using another chartered DFDS ferry. Whether there's any truth to these claims remains to be seen.

Photographs below show the Princess Maria departing Helsinki South Harbour on 13 September 2010, photographed from Kaivopuisto. Click on the image(s) to view full size.

Pulling away from the quay at Olympiaterminaali and looking very dynamic indeed. Also notice the dents in the 2000-rebuilt bow... seems the quality of the rebuilding was not too good.
Reversing towards the Market Square in order to have enough space to turn in the harbour pool.
Going forward and away from the harbour, with the Uspenski Cathedral (Alexey Gornostaev 1868) in the background on the right.
On Kruunuvuorenselkä en-route to the Kustaanmiekka strait, with the questionable beauty of the Laajasalo oil harbour in the background.

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