09 March 2011

Superfast VII, 9 March 2011

Superfast VII

IMO 9198941
Built 2001, HDW Kiel, Germany
Tonnage 30 285 GT
Length 203,30 m
Width 25,42 m
Draught 6,60 m
Ice class 1 A Super
626 passengers
626 berths
661 cars
1 891 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä-Sulzer diesels, combined 46 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 28,9 knots

Superfast VII was the first in a series of four identical ice-reinforced fast ferries built for use on routes around the Baltic Sea. The Superfast VII entered service on Superfast Ferries' new Hanko (Finland)-Rostock (Germany) route in May 2001. Two months later she was joined in the service by her sister Superfast VIII. In February 2006 Tallink, who had reportedly been planning beginning a Finland/Estonia-Germany service of their own, purchased the apparently profitable Baltic Sea operations of Superfast Ferries, taking over the Superfast VII, VIII and IX (the last havings transferred to the Finland-Germany service in 2005).

After Tallink took over the Hanko-Rostock service the route ran into trouble. The ships were moved from Greek to Estonian registry, but the Finnish Seamen's Union demanded that even under Estonian flag the ships would continue to follow the Finnish collective agreement of seaman's pay (this was due to the fact most of the crew of the Superfasts had been members of the Finnish Seamen's Union and the Finnish collective agreement had been followed even though the ships weren't under Finnish flag). The route was altered to Hanko-Paldiski-Rostock in April 2006 but this proved to be unfeasible and two months after it reverted to Hanko-Rostock.

From the beginning of 2007 the Tallink Superfasts' Finnish port was changed into Helsinki. Prior to the change there had been rumours that the ships would be moved under the corporate identity of Tallink's sudsidiary Silja Line, that had also been acquired in 2006, as Silja Line had previously operated between Finland and Germany with the famous Finnjet between 1987 and 2005. A Tallink representative even stated in an interview the company would be adopting the Finnjet brand for the Superfasts - however this would have been impossible as "Finnjet" is a trademark belonging to the ship's original owner Finnlines. In the end the Superfast VII, VIII and IX stayed under the Tallink brand when moved to sail from Helsinki. They did however retain the original red Superfast Ferries hulls.

Already in early 2007 the Superfast VII and her sisters' route was again altered, now to Tallinn-Helsinki-Rostock. In late 2008 the call in Tallinn was abandoned and soon afterwards the ships' harbour in Helsinki was moved from Länsisatama to Vuosaari. Competition in the Finland-Sermany routes had however been tightening since 2006, as Finnlines brought into service their new, large and fast Star-class ferries. Originally three of these were placed on a Helsinki-Travemünde service, but in 2009 two additional sisters joined them and Finnlines enlargened their services also to the Helsinki-Rostock -route.

Tallink had already chartered out the Superfast IX in 2008, but things were getting worse and for the winter seasons 2010 and 2011 both the Superfast VII and her sister were laid up. In March 2011 an agreement was signed between Tallink and Stena Line that the Superfast VII and VIII would be chartered to Stena for three years from the end of the 2011 summer season onwards, with option for another charter year and purchase. Reportedly the ships will be placed on Stena's service between Belfast and the new ferry port of Loch Ryan.

The photographs below show the Superfast VII departing from Helsinki's Länsisatama on 9 March 2011, during a brief period on the Helsinki-Tallinn service while the Star was being docked. Photographed from Vattuniemi. Click on the individual images to view larger size.

Unfortunately the lighting was less than perfect... and my camera's cell could really use a clean.
Sleek, isn't she?
Heading towards Tallinn past Pihlajasaari.
Updated 11 March 2011: Stena's new port of Loch Ryan.

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