03 August 2014

Funchal in Helsinki, 2 August 2014

Today we look at a true classic, a 53-year old ship lovingly preserved in pristine condition and one that - despite numerous changes of ownership - has retained her original name through-out those years: the Funchal.


IMO 5124162
Built 1961, Helsingør Skibsværft og Maskinbyggeri, Denmark
Tonnage 9 563 GT
Length 154,60 m
Width 19,05 m
Draught 6,50 m
481 passengers (lower berths)
610 passengers (maximum)
2 Stork-Werkspoor diesels, combined 7 356 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thruster
Service speed 17 knots

The Funchal was built in 1961 at Helsingør Skibsværft og Maskinbyggeri in Helsingør (or Elsinore, if you want to use the English name) in Denmark for the Portugal-based Empresa Insulana de Navegacao for intra-Portugese traffic from Lisbon to Madeira and the Azores. Naturally the name Funchal comes from Madeira's capital (and largest) city. Although today the Funchal is powered by diesel engines, her original power plant consisted of two steam turbines.

For the next eleven years after her delivery the Funchal remained in service to Madeira, despite dropping passenger numbers. An airport had been opened in Madeira in 1964, and unsurprisingly passengers who had previously gone to the island over sea now chose to travel faster by air. In 1972, following problems with the ship's steam engines, she was withdrawn from service. However, this did not mean her demise. Instead, the ship was rebuilt into a diesel-powered cruise ship over the change of year from 1972 to 1973 in Amsterdam.

In 1973 the Funchal re-entered service, now as a cruise ship. The following year her ownership was transferred to Cia. Portuguesa des Transportes Maritimos. Presumably at this point she was repainted with new, orange-dominated funnel colours and a white cruise-style hull colour. The Funchal continued cruising for Cia. Portuguesa des Transportes Maritimos until 1985, when she was laid up and placed for sale. The lay-up was short, as already during the same year she was sold to Arcalia Shipping. Under Arcalia ownership she continued in cruise service, now repainted in Arcalia's yellow-blue funnel colours.

In the 1990s, Arcalia Shipping morphed into Classic International Cruises and the Funchal recieved CIC's white funnel colours. She continued to be popular, but at the end of the first decade of the new millenium a threat loomed over her that many classic ships faced at the time: new SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations, which required for the ship to be rebuilt in order to continue in service. Many owners would have simply sent the ship for scrap at this juncture. Bu not CIC's Georgios Potamianos. The Funchal was withdrawn from service in Autumn 2010 for a refit that would bring her up to SOLAS 2010 standards.

However, it turned out that CIC did not have enough funds to complete the refit. Georgios Potamianos passed away in spring 2012, and soon afterwards his heirs Alexandros and Emilios got into difficulty with CIC's main funders Banco Montepio Geral. In Autumn 2012 all CIC ships were arrested. Things now looked very bleak for the Funchal - I will freely admit I expected her next destination to be the scrapyard.

But then something wonderful happened again. The Portugese businessman Rui Alegre purchased the CIC ships taken over by Banco Montepio Geral - including the Funchal, of course - and started a new company, Portuscale Cruises. The Funchal's refit was completed, and she was repainted in colours similar (but not entirely identical) to her original Empresa Insulana de Navegacao livery.

The Funchal was due to re-enter service in August 2013, but a delay in the finishing of her refit and then a missing passenger certificate meant that two cruises had to be cancelled, before the ship finally re-initiated her career in September 2013 on a cruise from Gothenburg. Despite the un-auspicious start the Funchal seems to have gained popularity, making rather fantastic cruises under the Portuscale flag. In October 2014 she will briefly be chartered to Cruise & Maritime Voyages for two cruises from Bristol, before returning to the "normal" Portuscale itineraries.

The photographs below show the Funchal departing Helsinki on the afternoon of 2 August 2014, on her first visit as a Portuscale Cruises ship to my home city. Photographed from Lonna. Click on the individual images to see them in larger size.

Way markers and buyous, very nautical. The Hanasaari B coal-powered power plant in operation in the background does somewhat diminish the effect...
I'm afraid there is a less foreground crap from the usual in these images, as Lonna isn't quite as good for those as my normal haunts. Plus I wanted to document the ship properly, this being the first time I see her in real life.
They don't make 'em like they used to.
Love the shape of the stern - it's actually been rebuilt sometime during the ship's CIC career, but personally I think the added section actually improves the ship's looks.
Okay, a bit of foreground crap too (the some barnacle geese, which are very numerous in Lonna). When taking the photo I did not notice the thick plume of black smoke eminating from behind the Funchal's stern... and I still have no idea what it was.


  1. Very interesting article about Funchal! =)


    1. I'm glad you liked it!

      I also hope there aren't too many errors in it... :)