26 June 2019

Finbo Cargo in Helsinki, 25 June 2019

This blog has been very inactive recently, as I have been putting the finishing touches on the manuscript and photos of The North Sea Bridge – Ferry connections between Scandinavia and Britain 1820-2014. Today, however, the blog comes back to look at our new Helsinki-Tallinn ferry, the Finbo Cargo.

Finbo Cargo

IMO 9181106
Name history: Midnight Merchant, El Greco, European Endeavour, Finbo Cargo
Built 2000, Astilleros Españoles Sevilla, Spain
Tonnage 22 152 GT
Length 179,95 m
Width 25,00 m
Draught 6,50 m
Ice class 2
366 passengers
214 passenger berths
2 000 lane metres
4 Wärtsilä-NSD diesels, combined 23 760 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Service speed 22,5 knots
Maximum speed 24 knots

The Finbo Cargo was built in 2000 by Astilleros Españoles in Sevilla, Spain as the Midnight Merchant, one in a series of five sister ships. Although owned by Merchant Ferries, the ship was chartered following delivery to Norfolkline for service between Dover and Dunkerque, but retaining its Merchant Ferries name. In this the Midnight Merchant was joined by the sister ship Northern Merchant.

When Norfolkline took delivery of its new D-class ships purpose-built for the Dover-Dunkerque route in 2006, the charter of the Midnight Merchant ended to them ended. The ship was instead chartered to Acciona Trasmediterránea and renamed El Greco (after the famous Greek painter who worked in Spain for most of his career); Trasmediterránea also took the Northern Merchant under chater as the Zurbaran, and had owned the fifth and final sister Murillo from the start.

Unlike the Zurbaran and Murillo, the El Greco left the Trasmediterránea fleet already in 2007, being sold to P&O Ferries (but immediately resold to a British bank and chartered to P&O) and renamed European Endeavour. During the early part of the ship's P&O career, it alternated between routes, sailing on Liverpool-Dublin, Dover-Calais and Tilbury - Zeebrugge, as well as being briefly chartered again to Norfolkline, until settling on the Liverpool-Dublin route in 2011.

In the beginning of May 2019, the information first surfaced that the ship would have been sold to Rederi Ab Eckerö. While the to-be buyer initially denied any deal would have been done and only said they were only "interested" in the ship, on 6 May the deal was made public, with Rederi Ab Eckerö confirming the ship would be employed by their subsidiary Eckerö Line on the Helsinki-Tallinn route as a cargo-oriented ship. Many (the author included) theorised the ship would get a -landia suffixed name in the tradition of Eckerö Line (like many, my money was on Estlandia, with Eurolandia a potential second candidate), later in May the company revealed the ship would instead be named Finbo Cargo, after an island in the Eckerö municipality.

On 15 May the European Endeavour was taken over by its new owners and officially renamed. A few days later the Finbo Cargo set sail for the Turku Ship Repair Yard (actually located in Naantali, not Turku), where it was repainted in a new livery – I can't really say it is an Eckerö Line livery, as the company doesn't really have a uniform livery, and the big text on the side actually reads Finbo Cargo by Eckerö Line.

Originally, the Finbo Cargo was slated to enter service between Helsinki's cargo harbour in Vuosaari and Terminal A in Tallinn's Vanasadam (Old City Harbour). However, following a public outrage about a cargo-oriented ferry sailing to the city centre in Tallinn, the Port of Tallinn agreed to alterations in Muuga, Tallinn's cargo harbour, so the Finbo Cargo would sail there. Thus, on 25 June 2019 the Finbo Cargo entered service between Vuosaari and Muuga.

As the ship lacks an ice-reinforced hull still nescessary for around the year service on the Gulf of Finland (despite climate change making the winters warmer, ice reinforcements of some kind are still a nescessity), according to Rederi Ab Eckerö CEO Björn Blomqvist the ship will be dry-docked again at a later date – presumably some time next autumn or early winter – to receive proper ice reinforcements to the hull, propellers and rudders. It remains to be seen if the public rooms will receive some TLC at the same time, as they essentially remain in P&O-eta style based on photographs.

The photos below show the Finbo Cargo arriving in Vuosaari on the first commercial crossing from Muuga in the afternoon of 25 June 2019, photographed from Särkkäniemi. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

Vuosaari doesn't give the best views, especially during the long approach when the ship is quite far from land and pretty much always seen from the same direction.
Nearer to the harbour and turning towards the quay. And of course the side facing me was in the shade.
And then turning in the other direction...
...to reverse into the quay.
Rush hour in Vuosaari, with the Finnmaid departing as the Finbo Cargo arrives (the Finnmaid was delayed, it should have left an hour earlier).

Next time: likely more of the Finnmaid, as it's been years since I last photographed her.