29 July 2014

Hamburg in Helsinki, 28 July 2014


IMO 9138329
Name history: C. Columbus, Hamburg
Built 1997, MTW Schiffswerft Wismar, Germany
Tonnage 14 903 GT
Length 144,13 m
Width 21,50 m
Draught 5,15 m
Ice class 1B
400 passengers (lower berths)
423 passengers (maximum)
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 10 560 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Service speed 18,5 knots

Our series of ships that have never been featured on this blog before continues with the Hamburg of Plantours Kreuzfahrten. The ship was originally built in 1997 by the MTW shipyard in Wismar, Germany as the C. Columbus for Conti Kreuzfahrt, who chartered the ship to Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten for ten years. I have often wondered if the ship was originally meant for a different operator from Hapag-Lloyd, as her exterior styling and onboard product were so different from the (then-)soon-to-be-completed Hapag-Lloyd flagship Europa. (However, this is pure conjecture).

In any case, the C. Columbus continued in service for Hapag-Lloyd without blemish for fifteen years, with apparently the only major event of her career for the company being the installation of a duck tail in 2001. Eventually, in 2012, Hapag-Lloyd decided to replace the C. Columbus with a larger ship more in keeping with growing demands of the premium market segment. The Insignia was chartered from Oceania Cruises and renamed Columbus 2, replacing the C. Columbus. The C. Columbus, to the best of my knowledge still owned by Conti Kreuzfahrt, was then chartered to Plantours Kreuzfahrten, who renamed the ship Hamburg. The Hamburg replaced the Vistamar are Plantours sole ocean-going cruise ship.

The photos below show the Hamburg passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait shortly after departing Helsinki South Harbour in the afternoon of 28 July 2014. Photographed from the ramparts of Kustaanmiekka. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

From this point of view, the forward superstructure actually reminds me very much of Renaissance Cruises' second batch of newbuildings (Renaissance Five through Eight).
Sleek, but I'm definately not a fan of the "hidden bridge" school of design.
Incidentally, the bridge wings are retractable to allow the ship pass through the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the Great Lakes of North America.
The angular scifi sleek aft superstructure is really at odds with the streamlined forward superstructure. The theme of conflicting stylings is also carried over in the juxtaposition of round and angular windows.
I have to say that the aft superstructure actually looks rather nice. Had the whole ship been designed in similar style, it would actually look rather good.

24 July 2014

Baltic Queen in Tallinn, 11 March 2014

Before we get on with the regular programming, for those interested in my visit to the Gann, my report from the visit is now up at MaritimeMatters for your reading pleasure.

Baltic Queen

IMO 9443255
Built 2009, STX Europe Rauma, Finland
Tonnage 48 915 GT
Length 212,10 m
Width 29,00 m
Draught 6,42 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 800 passengers
2 500 berths
600 cars
1 130 lanemeters
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 32 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Speed 24,5 knots

The big news on the Baltic Sea this week was of course Tallink's announcement that the Silja Europa is to be chartered to Bridgemans Services as an accommodation vessel in Australia for 14 months, with a possible extension to 48 months. (Bridgemans are of course also chartering the Silja Festival). In August, the Silja Europa's place on the Helsinki-Tallinn 22-hour cruise service will be taken over by the Baltic Queen, transferring from the Tallinn-Stockholm service. The Romantika will in turn transfer back to the Tallinn-Stockholm service, and the Stockholm-Riga route will, at least temporarily, revert into a single-ship service. (Interestingly, after these changes all three ships of Tallink's Galaxy-class will have sailed on the Helsinki-Tallinn route at some point during their careers).

With this in mind, I decided it's time to post something relevant about these changes. The Silja Europa has been widely covered here, especially after her move to sail from Helsinki, but images of the Baltic Queen are fewer - and as it happened, I have a few nice previously unpublished ones sitting on the computer. So here they are: The Baltic Queen departing from Tallinn in the evening of 11 March 2014, photographed from onboard the Finlandia. As always, you can see the images in larger size by clicking on them.

The near-nocturnal photo session required heavy but straightforward adjustments to brightness and contrast... but the result is rather worth it, I think.
Alas, from the position that we were at there weren't too many different views to photograph the ship before she slipped behind the breakwater and out of range.

16 July 2014

Viking XPRS in Tallinn, 5 July 2014

Viking XPRS

IMO 9375654
Built 2008, Aker Yards Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 35 778 GT
Length 186,71 m
Width 27,70 m
Draugth 6,75 m
Ice class 1A Super
2 500 passengers
732 berths
230 cars
1 000 lanemeters
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 40 000 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 25 knots

It's been a while since the Viking XPRS was featured here in new photos. In fact, this is the first time I'm putting up new photos of her since she recieved her new Viking Grace -like livery. The photos below show her arriving in Tallinn late in the evening of 5 July 2014, photographed from the aft decks of the Silja Europa. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

Rather perfect timing with the sunset, with just enough light still remaining.
Still light enough to take photos (admittedly with very high ISO levels), but dark enough for the lights to shine from inside the ship.
The Silja Europa was at a different quay from the usual, hence making these photos possible.
That sky. I have nothing to add.
Thanks to the Silja Europa's abnormal location, it was even possible to take some aft-view images of the XPRS.
The rear of the Viking XPRS' semi-sister competitor Star makes a small appearance on the lower left-hand corner.

12 July 2014

Gann interiors, 6 July 2014

Some more Gann for you, in case the previous entry wasn't enough. And if this entry still isn't enough for you, you can check out Simona Mitmann's entry on our Gann visit in English at her blog, or Sami Koski's account of the entire excursion in Finnish from his blog. But before you dash off to those, I'd like to treat you with a photo tour of the Gann.


IMO 8019344
Name history: Narvik, Gann
Built 1982, Trondhjems Mekaniske Verksted Trondheim, Norway
Tonnage 6 257 GT
Length 108,55 m
Width 16,50 m
Draught 4,74 m
380 passengers (in Norwegian internal traffic)
240 passengers (in international cruise service)
306 berths
2 Bergen diesels, combined 6 400 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Service speed 15 knots
Maximum speed 17,5 knots

In case you haven't read it already, the previous entry includes a relatively detailed account on the history of the Gann. The photographs below, meanwhile, were taken onboard the Gann while she was in Tallinn on 6 July 2014. Before we proceed I'd like to take this chance to thank tha Gann's chief purser Åsmund Johansen for showing us around the ship.

G Deck is, as you might have guessed, the Gann's topmost deck and includes the bridge as well as the observation lounge Leden added in the 1989 refit.

The bridge. I'm afraid I never caught the name of the handsome officer here.
The Leden panorama lounge still retains a rather 80s look. The rather elderly passenger profile of the ship is complimented here by the lovery Simona Mitmann.
Another view of Leden. I think the glass roof is a particularly nice touch.
The aft staircase, leading down to F Deck, decorated with a photo of the ship are she appeared in Hurtigruten service as the Narvik.
F Deck is essentially entirely crew spaces - the only areas open to passengers are the staircases, lobbies and the open sun deck aft.

Signage. Notice the "you are here" plan still display's the ship's original name and the logo of her previous owners Ofotens og Vesteraalens Dambskibsselskap.
This room, just below the bridge, allows students to track and monitor the ship's route in real time while sailing as a training ship. I for one would be interested in giving this a go even as a passenger.
Unfortunately we couldn't visit any of the passenger cabins, but Åsmund kindly opened the telegraphist's cabin for us to see.
A view forward from the aft sun deck area.
The sun deck it self, seen from the aft of the ship. Notice that the port funnel is a dummy, as testified by the lack of uptakes.
E Deck has the ship's other lounge, Nordkapp, forward, while there are cabins aft.

The Nordkapp lounge, with Simona, Åsmund and Jani Nousiainen of Matkustajalaivat.com.
The furniture here is not the original, but rather the furniture from the night club added aft on Deck D in the 1989 refit. When the Narvik became the Gann, the nightclub was converted into classrooms and the original furniture moved here.
Deck D is the main public room deck, featuring both of the ship's restaurants, a library, classrooms and, in cruise service, a shop, as well as a number of cabins.

An original ODS detail on the door to the Finnmarken restaurant.
The Finnmarken restaurant, forward on D Deck, has been retained largely in original appearance. Interestingly, the space is usually only used when the ship sails in cruise service.
Another Finnmarken view. Notice, if you look closely, that the chairs are all attached to the floor by a chain, keeping them in place in rough seas.
The forward staircase as seen from D Deck, with a photo of the King and Queen of Norway on display.
Midships on D Deck is the ship's second restaurant, the more buffet-style Sandnes.
Another view of the Sandnes restaurant.
This very different space seems to also be a part of the Sandnes restaurant.
Aft of the Sandnes restaurant is the rather delightful library, which originally served as a smoking room but has now been converted into more civilised use.
The Narvik night club, right aft on D Deck, has been converted into two classrooms on the Gann. This here is the starboard one.
One of the conference/classrooms was used as a shop at least during this particular voyage. It is maintained by our guide Åsmund's 16-year-old son, which explains the unusual layout. Alas, the shop only accepts Norwegian kroner, which stopped me from hoarding tons of fantastic Gann merchandise. (Apologies to Sami Koski for paparazzi-ing him).
C Deck has the entrance lobby, reception and cabins. For some reason, it seems I didn't take a single (passable) photo from the entire deck.

B Deck has cabins forward and the former car deck area aft. As the Gann does not need a car deck as such, it has been converted into various workshops and study areas, as well as a gym for the crew.

The car gate on the port side still exists, and presumably the ship could be converted back into a ro-ro ferry without much difficulty.
Workshop areas.
The gym. As far as I could tell, there is no gym onboard for passengers - and since the crew gymn is towards the aft of the ship, it's not entirely simple to make it passenger accessible. A chance, maybe, for an improvement in the ship's layout.
A Deck is the bottom-most (passenger accessible) deck on the ship, with cabins forward and engine spaces aft.

The engine control room was a rather claustrophobic place. I, again, forgot completely to ask the names of these fine gentlemen. In any case I hope they do not mind having their photos published.
This part of the engine control room looks like the set of a 1970s scifi movie. The effect is further enhanced by the lens distortion.
I suck at the mechanical side of shipping, so here is machinery...
...more machinery (which, if I remember correctly, was somehow related to the ship's air conditioning?)...
...and still more machinery.
Emerging back into daylight from the bowels of the Gann, I leave you with one more photo from outside the ship:

The port (dummy) funnel. Notice the outlines of the funnel colours of the ship's previous owners: ODS/OVDS and Hurtigruten ASA.

07 July 2014

Gann in Tallinn, 6 July 2014

During the past weekend, I had the chance to realise one of my long-time dreams: getting onboard a Hurtigruten ship - albeit in this case a former Hurtigruten vessel, now used as a training ship: the Gann (ex-Narvik). Onboard photographs will be posted here in the coming days, and more verbose reportages from the visit will be published later in English at MaritimeMatters and in Finnish on Ulkomatala. But to start with, here are exterior shots of the Gann, as well as a short account of her history.


IMO 8019344
Name history: Narvik, Gann
Built 1982, Trondhjems Mekaniske Verksted Trondheim, Norway
Tonnage 6 257 GT
Length 108,55 m
Width 16,50 m
Draught 4,74 m
380 passengers (in Norwegian internal traffic)
240 passengers (in international cruise service)
306 berths
2 Bergen diesels, combined 6 400 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
Service speed 15 knots
Maximum speed 17,5 knots

The Narvik, as the ship was originally known, was the middle ship in Hurtigruten's three-ship-strong 1980s newbuilding programme (the so-called mid-generation ships); she was preceeded by the Midnatsol and followed by the Vesterålen. The planning process of this trio was somewhat complicated, as the companies operaring Hurtigruten and the Norwegian State - which paid for a lion's share of the construction costs - had very different ideas of what the next generation of coastal liners should be like. The Hurtigruten partners wanted ships with relatively large passenger capabilities, and wished to trust on roll-on/roll-off loading for cargo. The state, on the other hand, wanted lower passenger capacity and trusted in a lift-on/lift-off arrangement for cargo. The realised ships were thus compromises, with smaller passenger capabilities than their owners would have wanted, and equipped with both ro-ro car decks and a 22 TEU container deck.

The first ship, the Midnatsol, was delivered November 1982 to Troms Fylkes Dampskibsselskab (TFDS), followed by just one month later by the Narvik, delivered to Det Ofotens Dampsskibsselskab (ODS). The Narvik differed for her elder sister somewhat in that she didn't have an observation lounge atop the ship like the Midnatsol. Due to the lack of an observation lounge, the Narvik's funnel was painted in the company funnel colours, whereas on the Midnatsol the funnel was blank and the company colours were painted on the aft part of the observation lounge. The third sister, the Vesterålen, was delivered in February 1983 to Vesteraalens Damskipsselskap (VDS). Structurally she was similar to the Narvik, but unlike the other two sister, which had black and red hull colours, the Vesterålen's hull was painted black and blue to better match the VDS funnel colours.

Almost immediately it became clear that the new trio of ships simply had too few cabins and too small passenger facilities. Initial attempts to fix the latter problem was to make the spaces more flexible by using movable walls and such, but in the end it was realised that the best thing to do was to give the sister radical refits. In 1989 the Narvik sailed to the Motorenverke shipyard in Bremerhaven, West Germany, where her supecstructure was radically extended aftwards with cabins and a night club, eliminating the original container deck. At the same time she was fitted with an observation lounge atop the ship, similar but larger to the one onboard the Midnatsol. Her sisters had undergone similar refits the year before. By this point, the Narvik and Vesterålen were owned by the same company, as in 1987 ODS and VDS had merged to form Ofotens og Vesteraalens Dambskibsselskap (OVDS).The new company adopted former ODS funnel colours and other markings, and such the change of ownership had no effect in the appearance of the Narvik.

In April 1991 the Narvik grounded on the Folla near Lysøsund. All apssengers were evacuated by the local ferry Folla. The Narvik suffered water damage to the cabins, corridors and cargo holds, as well as more serious damage to the port rudder, propeller and shaft gearings. Once refloated, the ship was repaired at Fiskerstrand Verft in Ålesund, returning to service at the end of May of the same year.

During the 1990s and the early 2000s the remaining Hurtigruten partners, OVDS and TFDS, radically modernised the coastal service fleet. By the time the two companies merged in early 2006, becoming Hurtigruten ASA, it was clear that the Narvik's time with Hurtigruten was coming to a close. In December of that year and agreement was signed to sell the ship to Unge Sjømenns Kristne Forening (Young Seamen's Christian Association. For the purposes of this text I have chosen to abbreviate the name as USKF, though I have never seen such an abbreviation used myself), a privately owned Norwegian school for sailors, with delivery in April 2007.

On delivery to her new owners, the Narvik was fiven the traditional USKF name Gann. The current Gann is the sixth ship, and the third ex-Hurtigruten ship, with that name. Following delivery she was given a new livery, with buff funnels with the USKF flag painted on them, and a blue stripe replacing the original red stripe on her hull (thus, interestingly, making her hull colours identical to the ones originally carried by her sister Vesterålen). As the Gann, the ship is primarily used as a training ship for aspiring seamen, but she also makes occasional cruises in order to raise funds for the school. In April 2010, during the period when European flight traffic was at a standstill following the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, the Gann made two return trips from Stavanger to Newcastle, ferrying stranded tourists back home.

Obviously, the Gann remains in USKF service today. Of her sisters, the Vesterålen remains in Hurtigruten service, and looks set to remain there as no new ships are being planned by Hurtigruten (or at least there is no public knowledge of such plans), while the former Midnatsol has been sailing since 2008 as the expedition ship National Geographic Explorer.

The photographs below show the Gann arriving at, in, and departing from the port of Tallinn on 6 July 2014. The photographs have been taken from onboard the Silja Europa (the first five), from the cruise quay, and from Linnahall (the last two). As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

Photographing the Gann was a challenge due to her small size and the fact the areas with the best views are not accessible to the general public. Here the preserved harbour crane provides a neat way to "fill up" the image.
The classic livery does look nice, even if the ship itself is of an unashamedly functional design.
I could have done without the lamp-posts.
Swinging around. The lighter spots on the aft superstructure are probably window reflections.
Crystal Symphony and Gann, stor och liter.
Up close and personal.
Several hours later, the Gann departed very close after the Viking XPRS, giving the chance for nice "sailing in tandem" photos.
Of course, the high zoom makes the ships appear much close to each other than they really were.