04 November 2011

Sea Wind in Turku, 9 August 2011

Sea Wind

IMO 7218332
Former names: Svealand, Saga Wind 
Built 1972, Helsingør Skibsværft og Maskinbyggeri, Denmark
Tonnage 15 879 GT
Length 154,41 m
Width 21,04 m
Draugth 5,02 m
Ice class 1B
12 passengers (as a cargo ship), 363 passengers (maximum)
363 berths
60 cars
1 270 lanemetres
4 MaK diesels, combined 7 356 kW
2 controllable pitch propellers
1 bow thruster
Speed 18 knots

Sea Wind is a car-passenger-train ferry owned by Tallink and operated on the Turku-Stockholm service. She currently operates as a freight-only ship. At the time of writing she is the only trainferry operating out of Finland, but she is due to cease carrying railroad carriages at the end of this year. But perhaps it would be prudent to look at the history of this small but fascinating ship in a bit more detail.

The ship was originally ordered in 1969 by Rederi AB Svea as the trainferry Svealand. On delivery she was placed on the Travemünde-Copenhagen-Helsingborg -service on Trave Line, although she was in fact by owned Linjebuss International, an another RAB Svea subsidiary. In 1976 Trave Line and Rederi Ab Öresund merged to form Saga Line and Svealand passed into the Saga Line fleet. At the same time the intermediate call at Copenhagen appears to have been removed from her route. In early 1981 Saga Line merged with TT-Line to form TT-Saga Line. Coinciding with this the Svealand was moved to TT-Line's traditional Trelleborg-Travemünde -route.

In 1982 the Svealand was rebuilt at HDW Kiel. Later that year Johnson Line (who had taken over Rederi AB Svea in the beginning of 1982) sold the ship to Svenska Lastbil. In 1984 the ship was rebuilt again, this time at Fosen Mek. Verksted in Trondheim, where she recieved new engines and was lengthened by 36 metres. On completion of the rebuild she was renamed Saga Wind. During one of these refits the ship apparently lost her train-carrying capacity.

The Saga Wind's owners were renamed Swedcarrier in 1986, around the same time as TT-Saga Line reverted to the name TT-Line. During the same year the Saga Wind was rebuilt with additional cabins at Seebackwerft in Bremerhaven.

In 1989 the Saga Wind passed for the first time away from the Sweden-West Germany routes. The Finnish Effoa (aka Finland Steamship Company) was looking for a trainferry with which to open a competing Finland-Sweden service to that of Finnlink (following the company's long-established strategy: first try to buy out new shipping companies; if that fails, start a competing service and eventually force the competition into forming a joint service). In the beginning of 1989 the Saga Wind sailed to the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, where she was converted into a rail/freight ferry, with additional cabins also fitted. On completion she was chartered to Effoa's new subsidiary Sea Wind Line and renamed Sea Wind for service between Turku and Stockholm.

The Sea Wind was briefly chartered to Silja Line (both were of course owned by the same company, EffJohn) while Silja's Wellamo and Svea were being rebuilt into the Silja Festival and Silja Karneval, respectively. Swedcarrier sold the Sea Wind to Sea Wind Line in 1993. In 1997 the Sea Wind was grounded in the Stockholm archipelago while inbound to Stockholm. Her passengers were evacuted onboad the archipelago ferry Solöga, while the Sea Wind herself was eventually refloated and sailed to Turku Ship Repairyard for repairs.

In 1999 an intermediate call at Långnäs in the Åland islands was introduced in order to continue tax-free sales onboard. Until 1999 the Sea Wind has been the sole ship of Sea Wind Line (excepting occasional charters), but that year she recieved a running mate in the form of the Star Wind, a former East German trainferry. In 2001 the Sea Wind was rebuilt twice, first in February when her bridge wings were enclosed and a second time in May when she was made compatible with the latest SOLAS regulations. In 2002 Sea Wind Line's (and Silja Line's) then-owner Sea Containers invested in yet another train ferry, the Sky Wind which now became the Sea Wind's running mate (the Star Wind was transferred to the Helsinki-Tallinn route but eventually sold in 2005).

Coinciding with the arrival of the Sky Wind a new livery was applied to Sea Wind Line's fleet. Until this time the company ships carried a medium-blue hull colour (that the Sea Wind had in fact carried since her completion in 1973 as the Svealand), but now this was changed to a much darker blue (to me it looks black) with a wide yellow stripe.

In 2006 Sea Containers sold Silja Line and with it Sea Wind Line to Tallink. Tallink soon begun downsizing the company: in 2007 the Sky Wind was sold, leaving the Sea Wind again as the company's sole ship. From the beginning of 2008 the Sea Wind ceased carrying passengers and at the same time the intermediate call at Långnäs was discontinued. The demise of Sea Wind Line was completed in early 2010, when the SWL markings on the Sea Wind's sides and funnel were painted over with Tallink logos. Due to new policies being taken into use by VR Group, the state-owned Finnish rail operator, the Sea Wind will stop carrying railway carriages at the end of 2011. The ship will remain on the route as a truck ferry.

The photographs below show the Sea Wind arriving in Turku harbour on the evening of 9 August 2011, photographed from a birdwatching quay in Ruissalo. Click on the image(s) to see them in larger size.

The multitude of refits have not exactly improved the ship's looks. See for instance Simplon Postcards' page for her for her sleek but compact original looks.
Tallink, in their time-honoured tradition, simply replaced the old Sea Wind Line markings with Tallink markings while still retaining the SWL hull colours when repainting the ship in 2010. As an interesting detail, the ship has never carried the company name in the hull (as is the tradition) - company markings have always been in the superstructure.
Look at the wonderful Finnish landscape just outside the the oldest city in the country. We've got birch trees and everything. (Seriously though, the Turku archipelago in very pretty).

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