12 March 2011

Silja Festival, 8 October 2006

Silja Festival

IMO 8306498
Built 1986, Wärtsilä Marine Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 34 417 GT
Length 168,00 m
Width 27,60 m
Draught 6,50 m
Ice class 1 A Super
1 886 passengers
1 937 berths
300 cars or 60 trailers
4 Wärtsilä-SEMT-Pielstick diesels, combined 26 200 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 22 knots

Despite having sailed for just two companies under two different names, the Silja Festival is a ship with a varying and fascinating history. I'm afraid the history section of this entry is going to be rather long...

In the early 1980s, following the success of the Finlandia (now the Princess Maria) and Silvia Regina delivered for the Helsinki-Stockholm route in 1981, Silja Line's owners Johnson Line and Effoa decided to order new ships of a similar design for the Turku-Stockholm service. In fact the Finlandia and Silvia Regina had been built with possible transfer to the Turku service in mind, but in the end Silja's owners opted to have new ships built for the Turku route instead of building another new pair for the Helsinki service and transferring the old pair to Turku.

While similar in interior layout and facilities to the Finlandia and Silvia Regina, the new ships - eventually named Svea and Wellamo - were given sleek, streamlined exterior stylings that were a great contrast to their boxy, functionalist older fleetmates. (it's also of interest to note that the Svea and Wellamo were built at the same time by the same company as Viking Line's Mariella and Olympia, yet in terms of exterior design the Silja pair appear much more modern). As was the tradition on Silja Line ships, Svea and Wellamo carried the funnel colours of their respective owners, with Silja Line markings accompanied with the company's seal head symbol on the hull. As with their older fleetmates, the sister were painted with black decorative stripes on their superstructures.

The first of Silja Line's new sisters, Johnson Line's Svea, was delivered in May 1985 and was briefly the largest ferry in the world. Effoa's Wellamo, the ship we're talking about in this entry, followed in January 1986. The sisters settled in nicely in the Turku-Stockholm service, though the Wellamo's early career was not without mishaps as she was stranded on rocks off Mariehamn in bad weather after just seven months in service. Her starboard propeller was damaged and she was repaired in Naantali. Changes lay ahead however.

In 1990 Effoa and Johnson Line merged their passenger operations, becoming EffJohn. Due to the merger the old practice of painting the full's in the owners' funnel colours was abolished and instead the seal symbol migrated from the hull to the funnel, which was now painted white with the seal in dark blue. Due to delayed delivery of Silja's new Helsinki-Stockholm ship Silja Serenade the Wellamo was transferred to the Helsinki-Stockholm service from April to November 1990. (This was due to the Finlandia's sale to DFDS having already been agreed on and DFDS demanding delivery as originally agreed). Later in 1990 the Wellamo's livery was altered again, with the black decorative stripes on the superstructure and the Silja Line hull texts repainted blue, with the seal symbol in the funnel painted white with a thin blue outline on a white background - hence the livery matching that of the new Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony.

The Svea and Wellamo underwent a more radical change in early 1992. both ships sailed in turn to Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven where amongst others a new midship skybar and and a new buffet restaurant were added. To bring the ships in line with the new company naming policy the ship also recieved new names: the Svea became the Silja Karneval while the Wellamo became the Silja Festival. During the docking the ships also recieved a new livery, essentially the same the Silja Festival carries in the pictures below. However, originally the ship's name was painted on the side in large letters instead of the Silja Line text and the narrow white bands amidst the blue area on the superstructure were originally painted red (which in my opinion gave the livery a nice contrast).

Changes in EffJohn-owned companies soon brought changes for the Silja Festival too. In 1992-1993 EffJohn's other Baltic Sea operations, Sally Cruise and Wasa Line were integrated into Silja Line. The delivery of the new Silja Europa, also in 1993, and the following fleet reshuffle led to the Silja Festival being replaced on the Turku-Stockholm service in March 1993 by the Silja Serenade.The Silja Festival was briefly transferred to the Vaasa-Umeå service, but already in the end of May she was transferred again, now to the Malmö-Travemünde service on the south Baltic that Silja now started operating in conjunction with Euroway. For this service the Silja Festival's livery was altered, with the thin red stripes on the superstructure painted white and the Silja Festival hull text replaced by a new Silja Line Euroway text. At the end of the 1993 summer season the route was extended into Copenhagen-Malmö-Travemünde-Lübeck in an attempt to improve the economics of the service. This was to no avail and in April 1994 the route was closed down.

By this time Silja Line had entered into an agreement to sell the Silja Festival to Color Line. However, in the end Silja decided to sell the sister Silja Karneval instead. As Color Line had already begun to market their new ship as the Color Festival, the Silja Karneval took on this name and for the next 14 years both sisters were named Festival. Following the closure of Euroway the Silja Festival returned to the Gulf of Bothnia for the 1994 summer season, sailing from Vaasa to Umeå and Sundsvall. For the 1994-1995 winter season she made 24-hour cruises from Helsinki to Tallinn in lieu of the Sally Albatross that had been withdrawn after a serious grounding accident in spring 1994. For the 1995 summer season the Silja Festival returned for the last time to the Vaasa-Sundsvall service. From autumn 1995 she sailed again between Helsinki and Tallinn, but now on a ferry service with two daily departures from both ports instead of a 24-hour cruise service.

In April 1997 the Silja Festival returned to the Turku-Mariehamn-Stockholm service for which she was built, as Silja Line had lost the Silja Scandinavia that they had chartered since 1994 to Viking Line (the Silja Scandinavia remains in Viking line's service today as the Gabriella). Coinciding with the route change the Silja Festival was moved from the Finnish registry to the Swedish registry, to continue the company tradition of having one ship ship in both registries both on the Helsinki-Stockholm and Turku-Stockholm services. For the next eleven years the Silja Festival remained on the Turku-Stockholm service, sailing parallel to the Silja Europa.

To bring her up to the most recent SOLAS standards, the Silja Festival was docked in Rauma in 2001. At the same time catalysators were added to the engines and aft sponsons were fitted for increased stability. In 2006 the ownership of Silja Line passed to Tallink. As a result of this the Silja Festival was (again) withdrawn from the Turku-Stockholm -service in July 2008. She was replaced by the Galaxy that had in turn been repalced by the new Baltic Princess. Following the withdrawal from Turku-Stockholm service the Silja Festival left the Silja Line fleet (after 22 years) and transferred to the fleet of Tallink, moving to their Stockholm-Riga service. She retained her Silja-prefixed name however and her livery was only minorly altered, with Tallink hull text replacing the Silja Line text and Tallink funnel symbols added on the funnel, which was now painted white. Somewhat confusingly, the Silja Festival is marketed sometimes under her full name, despite now being a Tallink ship, and at other times as simply "Festival".

The photographs below are of the Silja Festival arriving in Mariehamn on 8 October 2006, having sailed from Turku the same morning. Photographed from onboard Viking Line's Amorella. Click on the images to view larger size.

Visible on the sides of the bow are old Effoa bow symbols, a red circle with a yellow star in it. The ship still retains them today, 21 years after Effoa ceased to be.
The green water in this one is not so much concious design as an unavoidable result of getting rid of the excessive blue tint caused by my old camera. Still, the final result is a pretty spiffing photo.
Inbound to Mariehamn, with houses of the city visible of the left. Especially from this view the Silja Line side text looks like a quick, amateurish job (which it possibly was, back in 1994) that somewhat compromises the otherwise very stylish livery.

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