Built 2013, Fincantieri Ancona, Italy
Tonnage 10 992 GT
Length 142,00 m
Width 18,00 m
Draught 4,70 m
Ice class 1C
Diesels, combined 6 400 kW
1 bow thruster
Speed 16 knots
Le Soléal is the third unit in Compagnie du Ponant's (or simply Ponant's, as the company changed their name since the ship was delivered) attractive Le Boréal -class. She was delivered in June 2013 from Fincantieri's Ancona shipyard and entered service in July 2013. Soon afterwards, the ship became the first French-registered ship ever to have navigated through the Northwest Passage. Apart from that, there is very little to say about the history of the ship. She is after all only two years old.
Le Soléal is easy distinguish from her older sister by her different livery, with a lighter shade of grey used on the hull than in the older sisters. The superstructure stripes and funnels have been painted with the darker shade used on Le Boréal and L'Austral, however, which does compromise the ships' good looks somewhat. The original livery, as seen on the older sisters, is beautifully coordinated, but putting in an additional shade simply does not work; where the Le Boréal and L'Austral look stylish, the Le Soléal looks cheap.
Criticism aside, let us get on to the photographs. Unsurprisingly, these show the Le Soléal passing through the Kustaanmiekka Strait in the afternoon of 12 June 2015, shortly after departing Helsinki Eteläsatama (South Harbour). Photographed from Kustaanmiekka. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.
|The sea was somehow very dark on this particular day, creating quite dramatic images.|
|All the criticism doesn't change the fact that the ships are superbly designed.|
|Notice the French flag - although the ship is actually registered at Mata Utu on one of France's Pacific Islands; I strongly suspect it's cheaper to register a ship there than in mainland France.|