Name history: Anu, Norcliff, Anu, Luna Bridge, Lady Catherin, Lakespan Ontario, Sir Lamorak, Merchant Trader, Mols Trader, Mads Mols, Pride of Portsmouth, Norman Commodore, Fjärdvägen
Built 1972, Ankerløkken Verft Florø, Norway
Tonnage 6 040 GT
Length 109,51 m
Width 21,45 m
Draught 4,95 m
Ice class 1A
2 Pielstick diesels, combined 5 885 kW
1 bow thruster
Speed 17 knots
The Fjärdvägen is a roro freighter that provides a "lifeline" service between the Åland Islands and Finnish mainland (although one can question how much of a lifeline it is, when thanks to EU tax regulations the Åland Islands are probably the best-served area in the world when it comes to ferries). The little freight ferry has a suprisingly interesting history, however.
The Fjärdvägen was originally built in 1972 as the Anu, one of four identical ferries delivered by Ankerløkken Verft in Florø, Norway to Alander Frachtsciff, a Germany-based company owned by Ålandian interests. On delivery the Anu and her sisters Ilkka, Lalli and Leila were chartered to the Finnish Avomeri Line (avomeri = open sea). The Anu briefly served on the Helsinki-Helsingborg-Århus -route, until chartered to North Sea Ferries between 1973 and 1974 as the Nordcliff. For the years 1973-80 she reverted to the Anu, spending time under charter to Tor Line and Sealink. In 1980 she was sold to Tejo Leasing, but soon resold to Javelin Shipping and renamed Luna Bridge within the same year, continuing under charter to Sealink. In late 1980 the ship was again renamed, now to Lady Catherin, and chartered to B&I Lines until 1981.
Between 1981 and 1982 the ship was chartered to Lakespan Marine in Canada as the Lakespan Ontario. In February 1982 the ship was requisitioned by the British Ministry of Defence, renamed Sir Lamorak and used as a material and troop transport during the Falklands War. She remained in service with the Ministry of Defence until the end of 1985.
In 1986 the Sir Lamorak was sold to Cenargo Navigation as the Merchant Trader. The next year she passed to Scout Shipping as the Mols Trader and in 1988 to Bahamadifko LXII as the Mads Mols, sailing under charter to Mols Linien in Denmark (based on the name one could presume she was already connected to Mols Linien when known as the Mols Trader). Between 1989 and 1992 the ship sailed in the English Channel as the Pride of Portsmouth for Mainland Market Deliveries. After this she was chartered to Commodore Ferries as the Norman Commodore.
In 1994 the Norman Commodore was sold to Clare Business, but remained in service with Commodore Ferries. In late 1995 the ship was sold to Rederi Ab Lillgaard in the Åland Islands and renamed Fjärdvägen for service between Långnäs in the Åland Islands and Naantali in the Finnish mainland. She took over the route and the name from a previous Fjärdvägen that had only serviced on the route for a year.
The Fjärdvägen is jokingly referred to as the "Sips Express" after the popular brand of crisps (or potato chips if you're American) manufactured by the Ålandian company Taffel, as Taffel's crisp trucks are the Fjärdvägen's main customers.
The photographs below show the Fjärdvägen in the Åland Archipelago on 26 June 2012, soon after departing Långnäs for Naantali. Photographed from onboard the Isabella. Click on the images to see them in larger size.
|My camera had a little trouble focusing on this one, but the composition is brilliant (even if I may say so myself).|
|The we departed Mariehamn just a short while earlier it was raining. Not anymore, just look at that fantastic light!|
|Closeups of the ship were hard to get, as she was actually quite far away all the time.|
|The Fjärdvägen has a less demanding timetable than the Isabella, so we soon left her behind...|
|Which resulted in some rather delightful photo opprtunities.|
|Looking back, I'm not sure where the light in these photos comes from since the sky seems to have been almost entirely cloudy. One of life's great mysteries.|