Name history: Europa, Silja Europa
Built 1993, Meyer Werft, Germany
Tonnage 59 912 GT
Length 201,78 m
Width 32,60 m
Draught 6,80 m
Ice class 1 A Super
3 123 passengers
3 696 berths
932 lane metres
4 MAN diesels, combined 31 800 kW
2 bow thrusters
1 stern thruster
Speed 22 knots
Ah, the Silja Europa. It's been a while since the ship was featured in this blog. And during that time, she has been chartered out to Bridgemans Services as an accommodation vessel. So in addition to the new (old) photos, it's time to update the ship's history.
Silja Europa was originally ordered by Rederi AB Slite, one of the owners of Viking Line, in 1989. The Europa, as she was to be known (in keeping with Slite's tradition of taking their names from Greek and Roman mythologies), was to be the jewel in the company's crown, outdoing both SF Line's (the other Viking Line partner) Cinderella and Silja Line's still-under-construction Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony. In terms of basic design the Europa is an enlarged version of the Athena and Kalypso, built in 1989 and 1990 respectively (they in turn were based on the Mariella of 1985 and her sister Olympia of 1986).
While the Europa was under construction at Meyer Werft, a disaster stroke the Finnish shipyard Wärtsilä that was building both Slite's Kalypso and Silja's Serenade and Symphony. Wärtsilä's shipbuilding division went bankrupt and in the ensuing reorganisation the prices of the still under construction newbuildings rose radically, leaving both Slite and Silja Line in heavy debt.
Fast forward to January 1993. During the month the Swedish krona was devaluated by 25%, leaving Slite 200 million SEK short of the price of the Europa just two months before the ship was to be delivered. The situation was further compicated by the fact that the main funder of Slite, Nordbanken, was also the main funder of Silja Line. While Slite was better off financially of the two, the bank stood to lose more if Silja failed (as it was perhaps likely to do at the time). Regardless of what the actual reasons were, Nordbanken refused to grant Slite an additional loan to secure the Europa. During the same month Silja Line signed an agreement with the shipyard to charter the Europa on completion of the ship. Slite's assests meanwhile were evaluated by Nordbanken as being much less valuable than they were. The result was that Slite was forced to declare bankruptcy and their remaining assets (Olympia, Athena and Kalypso) were sold for trading outside the Baltic. The money from selling the ships easily covered the debts of RAB Slite. With large parts of Viking Line's fleet missing, Silja Line established itself as the dominant shipping company on the North Baltic and managed to somewhat improve it's financial position.
Returning to the Europa, she has been christened Silja Europa on 5 March 1993 and entered service on Silja Line's Helsinki-Stockholm route on 14 March 1993. She had been planned for that exact route, and placing her on the service allowed Silja to cash in on the large-scale marketing Viking Line had already carried out for the ship. In 1994 the Silja Europa was the second ship to arrive on the scene of the Estonia disaster and the ship was appointed head of the rescue operation.
In practice Silja Line found the Silja Europa to be ill-suited as a running mate to the Silja Symphony. More importantly the Silja Serenade—which the Silja Europa had replaced on the Helsinki-Stockholm service—was found to be highly ill-suited for the Turku-Stockholm service she had been transferred to. Resultingly from January 1995 the Silja Europa moved to the Turku-Stockholm service, with the Silja Serenade returning to the Helsinki-Stockholm route.
Originally the Silja Europa had a partially white funnel, with the seal painted on on blue. This was for a time the distinctive feature of the company's ships sailing from Helsinki (the ships sailing from other ports has blue funnels with the seal painted on white). During a docking in 2000 the Silja Europa's funnel was painted blue with a white seal. In 2002 there the Swedish Stena Line were reportedly interested in chartering the Silja Europa to replace their Stena Saga (reportedly the staff of the Stena Saga even visited the Silja Europa to get to know her). Resultingly Silja Line's then-owner Sea Containers purchased 42% of the ship from Meyer Werft, which together with the previously Silja-owned 17% gave them a majority ownership and blocked the transfer to Stena. In 2004 Sea Containers purchased the remaining shares of the ship. In 2006, prior to Silja Line being sold to Tallink, the ownership of the ship was passed to Silja Line.
The Silja Europa had for a long time suffered from engine problems, which are particularly problematic on the intensive Turku-Stockholm route. Compounded with the arrival of Viking Line's new Viking Grace on the Turku-Stockholm line in January 2013, Tallink swapped the Silja Europa with the Helsinki-Tallinn 22-hour cruise ship Baltic Princess in January-February 2013. The Silja Europa was transferred under the Estonian flag and marketed as a Tallink ship (although retaining her Silja-prefixed name). She entered service on the Helsinki-Tallinn route on 23 January 2013.
The ship remained in Tallink service without incident until July 2014, when her owners took the shipping world by surprise when they made public the agreement to charter the Silja Europa to Bridgemans Services as an accommodation vessel to Australia for 14 months (with a possible extension to 48 months), starting from August. Thus, the Silja Europa sailed to Naantali for conversion to an accommodation ship. At the same time the ship was repainted with Bridgemans logos on the hull. After the refit the ship left the Baltic Sea on a lengthy transition to northern Australia. She is currently in transit, having last been spotted at Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The photographs below show the Silja Europa in more traditional surroundings, arriving in Helsinki West Harbour on the afternoon of 12 October 2013, photographed from Vattuniemi. Click on the images to see them in larger size.
|Sisä-Hattu, my usual haunt for West Harbour photography, in the foreground. It was a bit too cold to wade there this time around.|
|Rocks and Europa.|
|This is an excellent image, even if I may say so myself.|
|It's not just the trees that change colour in the autumn.|
|This one would (once again) make for a pretty magazine cover. Anyone got need for one?|
|Brich trees, always photogenic.|