14 November 2017

Norge in Helsinki, 2 June 2017

After the entries on books and ship photo locations, we return to the regular programming of ship photos. Last summer, both the Norwegian and Danish royal yachts visited Helsinki as a part of the ongoing 100th anniversary of Finnish independence celebrations (which otherwise seem to consist of shops selling Finland 100 -branded toilet paper and minced meat). Today, we will be looking at Norway's Norge and next time we'll porbably proceed to the Danish counterpart Dannebrog.

Norge

Name history: Philante, Norge
Built 1937, Camper and Nicholsons Gosport, United Kingdom
Tonnage 1 625 GT
Length 80,60 m
Width 11,60 m
Draught 4,70 m
12 passengers
2 Bergen diesels, combined 1 312 kW
2 propellers
Speed 17 knots

The Norge started life as the Philante, one of private yachts of Thomas Sopwith, the owner and founder of the Sopwith Aviation Company. The 1937-built ship saw only relatively short service for her original owner, as after the outbreak of World War II she was sold to the British Royal Navy for use as a warship. After cessation of hostilities, the Philante was sold back to Thomas Sopwith - but he had already ordered a replacement yacht and therefore had no long-term need for the Philante.

Meanwhile, interest had grown in Norway for the country to acquire a royal yacht of their own. Indeed, when Prince Carl of Denmark agreed to take on the Norwegian Crown as Haakon VII of Norway in 1905, he had been promised a royal yacht, but the country's precarious economic condition never allowed the acquisition of one. Now, the Norwegian people finally honoured their promise: the Philante was purchased in 1947, given an extensive refit by her original builders and presented to Haakon VII in 1948 as the Norge.

Following the death of Haakon VII in 1957, a 10-year upgrade programme for the ship was instituted by his son Olav V. In 1985, while the Norge was undergoing maintainance at Horten, a fire broke out and destroyed much of the ship. She was repaired by the same shipyard, with the destroyed equipment replaced by more modern ones and the interiors rebuilt in accordance to modern saferty standards.

The Norge remains in use today as one of three remaining European royal yachts (the others being Denmark's Dannebrog and the Netherlands' sailing yacht De Groene Draec). In addition to being used for state visits and other official functions, the ship is also used by King Harald V - a keen sailor who has represented Norway in Olympic Games - when participating on various sail races around the world.

The photo below show the Norge departing Helsinki Eteläsatama (South Harbour) on the afternoon of 2 June 2017, photographed from Ehrenströmintie. Not the ideal location, but I was uncertain of which shipping lane the ships would take out, and this was the only spot where I could photograph them regardless of which route they took. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

The Norge (right) and Dannebrog moored at the South Harbour.
Turning in the harbour pool; the yellow building on the right is the Finnish Presidential Palace (or President's Castle, as the name literally translates as - but it's obviously not a castle).
Heading out with a police cutter for escort.
On Kruunuvuorenselkä. The aft views proved a challenge, as the ship is obviously much smaller than what I've usually photographed here.

09 November 2017

New book: Innovation and Specialisation – The Story of Shipbuilding in Finland

In addition to the detailed text, Innovation and Specialisation is profusely illustrated, with many images never before seen in print.

It is finally here. Innovation and Specialisation – The Story of Shipbuilding in Finland is mine and Bruce Peter's new magnum opus, detailing the history of shipbuilding in my homeland for 328 pages, with circa 500 illustrations. It took years to make and it was occasionally an arduous process, but the end result more than makes up for it.

The main focus of the book is on ship design and the various innovative design solutions – such as the Azipod, Wärtsilä Air Bubbling System, the all outside ship and the double-acting ship, to name just a few – that were instrumental in making Finnish shipbuilders into some of the most highly regarded ones in the world. While most ship types built by Finnish yards are at least mentioned in the text, the emphasis is on ship types that are produced by Finnish yards today: ferries, cruise ships and icebreakers. Every cruise ship, icebreaker and ferry designed for international service built by Finnish shipyards since 1945 is described, up to and including those that are currently under order or construction.

The broad approach of the book is chronological, but it is divided into chapters dedicated to different ship types.

While the book discusses Finnish shipbuilding since the 18th century, focus is on the decades after the end of World War II, when Finnish shipbuilding grew exponentially. The importance of the Soviet Union as the driving force of this expansion – and the Soviet's subsequent position as the biggest customer for Finnish shipyards – is explored, as are the economic difficulties faced by Finnish yards following the fall of the Soviet Union. Similarly, the consolidation process and eventual demergers that resulted in the ownership structure that Finnish yards have today are discussed in detail.

Innovation and Specialisation – The Story of Shipbuilding in Finland can be purchased directly from the publishers, as well as from well-stocked bookshops and online retailers.

01 November 2017

Guide to ship photo locations in Helsinki, part 1: Suomenlinna, Lonna and Vallisaari

To celebrate the 500th entry of this blog, today I will be doing something different. People have occasionally asked me for a guide to ship photo locations in Helsinki, and I thought making one would be a nice way to commemorate the milestone. When compiling these, I quickly realised there are simply too many photo spots in the city to include in one entry. So, today we will be looking at the photo spots in Suomenlinna and the surrounding islands (which are probably the most photogenic of the lot), which will allow you to photographs ships sailing to and from Eteläsatama (South Harbour), as well as icebreakers passing to their quays in Katajanokka, and the few remaining ships sailing to Sompasaari harbour (which is currently under redevelopment into a residential area).

The other photo spots for Eteläsatama (yes, there are more!) and those for Länsisatama (West Harbour) will have their own entries later on, if and when I will have the time and energy to write them.

Ship photo locations in Suomenlinna, Lonna and Vallisaari

The photo locations in and around Suomenlinna that I have used; see smaller map below for the precise locations at Kustaanmiekka (numbers 5-9). Satellite picture courtesy of Google.
Suomenlinna, Lonna and Vallisaari offer diverse views, and as the islands are located on different sides of the shipping lane, these give you a wide variety of options depending on the time of day and lighting conditions.

Lonna

1: Lonna is a small military island opened to the public a couple of years back. It's biggest advantage is the location just south of the main shipping lane out of the South Harbour, which passes the island in a roughly from west to east. Thus, whereas from most Suomenlinna locations (2-10) the side of the ship facing the camera will in the shade until circa 14.00-15.00 in the afternoon - and from Vallisaari (11-13) you will have the opposite problem - from Lonna you can get photos pretty much as long as it's light out. The ideal photo spot is a small quay on the north shore of the island.

Lonna is accessible by JT Line's ferries from Kauppatori (Market Square), with the crossing taking approximately seven minutes. The ferry only runs between May and August. Because the place is essentially deserted before this, barnacle geese and seagulls nest here in large numbers. If you visit early in the summer, move with care as both can be aggressive - and make sure you have enough time, so you can peacefully pass all the nests. The ferry quay is on the south side of the island, so there are potentially quite a few birds on the way.

As the main shipping lane passes quite close to Lonna, you get quite impressive views. Cruise ships at the Katajanokka cruise quay sometimes use the more northernly shipping lane, but this also gives decent views. The full set of the Funchal can be seen here.

Suomenlinna

Most Suomenlinna locations are only usable in the afternoon, after circa 14.00-15.00, due to the fact the main shipping lane passes from the east side of the island in roughly north-south direction. Note that parts of the island are a low-security prison and therefore not accessible to the public. Suomenlinna is accessibly by HSL (Helsinki Regional Transport Authority) ferry from Kauppatori around the year, JT Line ferry from Kauppatori between May and September, and JT Line ferry from Hakaniemi between June and August.

2: Suomenlinna guest harbour breakwater serves essentially the same function as Lonna, allowing views of the east-west shipping lane north of the islands. As Lonna allows superior views, this is really only a good spot during the time of the year when Lonna is not accessible.

The island in front of the ship is Lonna, so obviously you are shooting from much further away. The full set of the Ocean Countess can be seen here.
3: This random hill on the "wrong" side of the island offers great views of the ships approaching the Kustaanmiekka strait, with Suomenlinna itself in the foreground. The window for photos without obstructions in the foreground for front-views of departing ships is fairly narrow, but the forward views of arriving ships are quite great. Of course, there aren't too many evening arrivals...

For as long as I can remember, there has been a "do not enter - landscaping in progress" sign attached to a low rope fence around the hill, but there is nothing to stop you from climbing on top.

The best views from here are definately those of afternoon and evening arrivals. The full set with the Kristina Katarina can be seen here.
4: The beachfront north of the ramparts (discussed below) has quite often been the spot from where I've photographed when the ship has left early or when I've been delayed in getting to the prime spots. Still, there are some pretty nice views to be had. Note that the yellow building on the beach is a single-family home, so do not trespass on their yard (and maybe also don't include the residents in the photos without permission).

For aft views, this spot is not ideal, but for front views it's nice. The full set with the Empress can be seen here.

Satellite picture courtesy of Google.
5-9: The ramparts at Kustaanmiekka. There are multiple levels, with different ways of accessing them. The map here shows the continuous ramparts in green, accompanied by the numbers as in main map - except for number 9, which is a smaller spot and not a continuous rampart.

Note that, in most locations here, there are no safety railings and some spots are not easy to access.

5: The upper rampart is probably the place that gives the most impressive views. For best views, my recommendation is to climb atop the parapet (doable, but requires some dexterity and strength) - this also gives a chance to take aft views of departing ship without the need to move. Otherwise, you will need to be at the northern edge of 5 for the forward views, and then gallop to the southern edge for aft views. Again, doable, but the somewhat uneven ground is not ideal for running.

Yeah, this is the spot from which you take this particular shot, variations of which all of you must have seen hundreds of times now. A full set with the Minerva can be seen here.
6: The main viewing area is a place that you will have to share with other people but you do get nice views of both front and rear, with minimal need for movement. This is also the easiest spot to access (okay, number 5 isn't hard either, but it's higher up).

This spot gets you slightly closer to the ships than number 5, so you get a bit more dynamic shots. The full set with the Black Watch can be seen here.

7: The Kustaanmiekka beach front get you very close to the ships, albeit with a somewhat low angle. Access here is difficult: you can either walk along the waterline from the north, which will required some balancing on rocks right at the waterline, or you can climb through one of the windows under number 8 (reserve some time to find the correct one).

Same spot as in the picture above, but with a radically different angle. The full set with L'Austral can be seen here.
8: The rampart closest to the sea was closed to visitors a few years back, after a young child fell to their death from the rampart. You can get there by climbing over the fence in the northern edge of the rampart (visible in the photo for 6 above). Relatively many people do this, as the area was open for decades, and closing it seems strange when areas with just as potentially deadly drops are still open, with no safety fences put up either (case points, numbers 5 and 6). The photos are nice, and I have never seen anyone around to stop you from climbing over the fence - but of course, I don't recommend doing so either.

And of course, I have absolutely not gone to the area since it was closed myself. The full set with the Prinsendam can be seen here.
9: The south rocks only give you views towards the south, so this is only useful for evening arrivals (or if you really, really want aft views). Similarly to number 7, access is by climbing through a window below number 8 ramparts. You can theoretically also walk here along the beach from the west, but if I recall correctly there is a steep climb - at least I've never used that route myself.

The Viking XPRS' evening arrival is the main use for this location. This is one of the earliest photos actually put up in this blog, and the only photo I've posted from that particular session. I think my image editing skills have improved a bit since then.
10: The south beach is similar to number 9 in having a view only towards the south, but you can get some fairly neat shots, especially in windy weather when you get nice waves on the foreground.

Admittedly this spot is mainly good for ships you've already photographed before from both directions - but it's still a nice view. The full set with the Silja Symphony can be seen here.
Vallisaari

As with the others, Vallisaari is a former military island, but was only opened to the public in 2016. As there local ecosystem is quite rare, and unaacounted for explosives potentially remain in the ground, you should not stray from the marked paths. Due to being on the west side of the shipping lane, Vallisaari is ideal for photographing morning arrivals and departures; the light should remain okay until circa 14.00, though I've never actually been out there so late myself.

Both JT Line and Aava Lines serve Vallisaari from Kauppatori between May and September, and JT also sails from Hakaniemi between June and August. JT Line sails to Luotsipihan laituri on the north shore, while Aava goes to Torpedolahti in the east. Both are a bit removed from the main photo spots, but a bigger problem is that the first morning departures for both companies are too late to get to photograph the morning ferry arrivals. Thus, if you want to photograph the ferry arrivals, this will set you back over 100 euros (or that was the rate the last I checked) - so the best idea would be to gather a larger group to split the bill.

11: Kustaanmiekka towards the north. I know I just said you shouldn't stray from the marked paths, but this one will require you to do so. From the main gravel path towards number 12, a small path through the grass northwest to a small concrete tower; this is the only location that I've discovered so far that has any decent view towards the north, making it ideal for morning/mid-day departures. However, you can't really get decent aft views.

The place is fairly low, but you do get nicely dynamic shots. The full set with the Viking XPRS (including shots taken at number 13) can be seen here.
12: "Gibraltar of the North" is what this bit is called in the map of Vallisaari; it is a vieweing platform built specifically to give views over the Kustaanmiekka strait to Suomenlinna, and toward the sea in the south. Due to vegetation, the view towards the north is nonexistent (and the route between 11 and 12 is so long it's not really a workable to run from one to the other, as there's no coastal path). Resultingly, it's best for morning arrivals - but number 13 will give you much more impressive views.

Not a bad view at all. The full set with the Mariella (including shots taken at number 11) can be seen here.
13: Aleksanterin pattery is a former artillery battery on the highest point of the island. Metal walkways have been built above the battery, and the views are really, really great. For morning arrival, I'd say this definately the best place in Helsinki, also offering the most unique views.

The southern parts of the island, visible here in the foreground, is currently completely closed to the public. The full ser with the Silja Symphony can be seen here.

26 October 2017

Mein Schiff 6 in Helsinki, 31 July 2017

Mein Schiff 6

IMO 9753208
Built 2017, Meyer Turku, Finland
Tonnage 99 526 GT
Length 293,20 m
Width 35,80 m
Draugth 8,05 m
2 534 passengers (lower beds)
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 28 00 kW
2 propellers
3 bow thrusters
Speed 21,7 knots

I always like it when a new Mein Schiff comes to Helsinki (especially as I've usually had the chance to visit them beforehand at the shipyard on delivery - in fact, I have a bunch of interior photos of the Mein Schiff 6 on the computer waiting for me to bother looking through them and editing for publication) and, of course, the Mein Schiff 6 is no exception. As testified by the fact her maiden call in our fair city was one of the few times that I actually managed to go out and photograph ships this summer.

As she entered service only a few months ago, there's very little to say about her history, so let's get straight down to the photos, which show the ship departing Helsinki Länsisatama (West Harbour) in the afternoon of 31 July 2017, photographed from Vattuniemi. As per the usual, you can click on the images to see them in larger size.

Two generation of Finnish-built ships in the Finnish capital: the Mein Schiff 6 and the Costa Mediterranea.
I continue to think there is a nice clarity to the design of the Mein Schiff 3 -class.
Construction of a new cruise quay underway on the left.
If I recall correctly, there was a Tallinn-Helsinki regatta on this particular day, hence the abundance of pictoresque sailboats.
MORE SAILBOATS!
Next week, it'll be time for the 500th entry into this blog. If I receive my copies of Innovation and Specialisation: The Story of Shipbuilding in Finland, I will be writing a little bit about the book; if not, I was thinking of doing a short guide to the different ship photo locations in Helsinki, which some of you have requested. So stay tuned!

20 October 2017

Aidavita in Helsinki, 18 October 2017

The summer cruise season for Helsinki ended last Thursday, and thanks to my lovely wife, I actually managed go out and photograph the the relevant ship. Due to the presenced of a tiny new human in my life, and the work on Innovation and Specialisation: The Story of Shipbuilding in Finland, this was only the third time this year I was out to photograph visiting cruise ships this year. Next year will hopefully be better. Oh yes, and speaking of the book, it should be out from the printers next week. I will write about it in more detail once I have my own physical copies at hand. In the meantime, let's look at this year's last cruise ship.

AIDAvita

IMO 9221554
Built 2002, Aker MTW Wismar, Germany
Tonnage 42 289 GT
Length 202,85 m
Width 28,10 m
Draught 6,30 m
1 266 passengers (lower berths)
1 687 passenger berths
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 27 550 kW
2 controllable pitch propellers
2 bow thrusters
2 stern thrusters
Speed 19,4 knots

Delivered in 2002, the Aidavita was Aida Cruises second newbuilding ever. Although externally quite similar to the company's first ship, the Turku-built Aidacara (originally named just Aida), the Aidavita and her sister Aidaaura were built by the Aker MTW shipyard in Wismar in former East Germany - rather fitting, as Aida Cruises themselves started out as an offshoot of the former East German state-owned shipping company Deutsche Seereederei. However, by the time the Aidavita was delivered, Aida Cruises'  ownership had passed under P&O Princess Cruises, which of course subsequently merged with the Carnival Corporation to become Carnival Corporation & PLC. The Aidavita's career appears to have been rather uneventful, so let's proceed right to the photos.

The images below show the Aidavita departing from Helsinki's Länsisatama (West Harbour) in the afternoon of 18 October 2017, photographed from Vattuniemi. The lighting conditions were far from ideal, so I ended up editing these quite a bit; I quite like the end result myself but it is hardly "natural", and I can understand if it isn't everyone's cup of tea. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

I think the Aidavita and her sister are particularly successful externally, with a nicely balanced profile already evident in the first Aida ship, but with the covered bridge wings giving an extra touch.
The later Aida newbuilds have, alas, not been as successful (visually) if you ask me.
Yes, I did "cut out" the ship and edit it separately from the background. How ever did you guess?
`The reason why I've been out photographing so little this year on the left - and a more natural lighting of the ship on the right.
I really dig the aft design on this ship; a wedge similar to that of the Sally Albatross, but done better.

16 October 2017

Megastar in Helsinki, 19 May 2017

I've done surprisingly few entries about the Megastar, and I since there are a few sets sitting on my hard drive that have not been published here - or anywhere else for that matter - I think it's high time to rectify the case. (Though in my defence, a new small human appeared in my life a few months before the Megastar entered service and as a result I have also photographed her surprisingly few times).

Megastar

IMO 9773064
Built 2017, Meyer Turku, Finland
Tonnage 49 134 GT
Length 212,10 metres
Width 30,60 metres
Draught 7,00 metres
2 824 passengers
188 cabin berths
800 cars (if no freight units carried) or
320 cars and 110 freight units
1 970 lane metres
5 Wärtsilä LNG/diesel hybrid engines, combined 45 600 kW
2 propellers
2 bow thrusters
2 stern thrusters
Service speed 27 knots
Ice class 1A

Nothing much to write about the history of the ship so far, as she's only been in service for less than ten months now. If you want to see what she looks like on the inside, check this previous entry.

The photos below show the Megastar arriving at Helsinki Länsisatama (West Harbour) in the afternoon of 19 May 2017, photographed from Vattuniemi. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

I do like the occasional sailboat for photo purposes.
Pihlajasaari (on the left) would be a nice photo spot for mornings - if a) I would wake up early enough and b) the ferry there would go early enough to actually catch the morning cruise ship arrivals.
Is it just me or does the upper left bit of the red infinity sign actually look slightly sloppishly done, with a reverse arch to what it should be?
Behind the Megastar here is the construction work of a new cruise quay, which has made photography from Hernesaari impossible.
While I like the way the ship looks, her exterior does look like it wasn't given a final touch with the detailing. The are good ideas, but the final execution and detailing just looks messy.

10 October 2017

Book news: Ferries 2018

I received this book last week, and was going to do a blog update about it then, but a certain vomotting one-year-old put a small projectile vomit spanner in the works.

But gory details about life at the Id household aside, I've been in a book yet again. This time it's the 2018 edition of the yearly Ferries of British Isles and Northern Europe, published by Ferry Publications. As the name suggests, the "beef" of Ferries 2018 is a database of all Northern European car/passenger ferries in international service, plus all ferries sailing in intra-British or Irish services, and roro cargo ferries sailing to/from Great Britain and Ireland. In addition to the database (which is highly useful in itself), this year's version includes three articles: "Silja Line – 60 Years of Service" by yours truly, "Tallinn-Helsinki: Fit for the Future" by Matthew Punter, and "To Iceland in Wind and Storm" by Kai Ortel.

My "Silja Line – 60 Years of Service" is, as the name suggests, a short look into the history of the company since the formation of Siljarederiet in 1957. If you already own Silja Line from De Samseglande to Tallink, then there's probably nothing new in the article for you (apart from the few lines at the end about the re-separation of Silja Line and Tallink brands that is currently taking place). But if you don't own the book (and you should), this is a nice introduction to the history of the company.

"Tallinn-Helsinki: Fit for the Future" explains and explores the recent grances to Tallink's Helsinki-Tallinn fleet – not just the Megastar introduced earlier this year, but also the changes done to the Star, and the radical refit of the Silja Europa (which was of course also covered on this blog, both during and after the refit).

Finally, "To Iceland in Wind and Storm" is a rather perceptively written account of a Viking Cruise to Iceland and the Faroe Islands onboard Smyril Line's delightful Norröna – well worth a read!

The best way to buy the book is, of course, through Ferry Publications' website here. You can hopefully also find the book in well-stocked bookstores... but unfortunately we no longer have those in Finland, so if you live here and want a copy, off to Ferry Publications' site you go.

06 October 2017

Express (Viking FSTR) in Helsinki, 19 May 2017

The previous entry with exterior views of the Express has a been a surprise hit at the blog, skyrocketing over the summer to the number one most popular entry of all time. As the ship's summer season with Viking Line is spooling towards its end (the last sailings will be on the 22nd of this month), it's high time we look at her again.

Express

IMO 9176046
Name history: Catalonia, Catalonia L, Portsmouth Express, Express
Built 1998, Incat Hobart, Australia
Tonnage 5 902 GT
Length 91,30 m
Width 26,00 m
Draught 3,73 m
836 passengers
120 cars
4 Caterpillar diesels, combined 28 800 kW
4 waterjets
Maximum speed 48 knots
Service speed 30 knots

The history of the Express is explained in this previous entry. The ship's future remains uncertain at the time of writing; earlier this summer, it was reported the catamaran has been sold to Armas for service around the Canary Isles, but this appears to have been what we in Finnish call a "news duck". However, Viking Line have not confirmed the ship's return for the next season. Personally, I would not be surprised if the Express turns out to be a one-summer wonder with Viking; with limited retail, restaurant and entertainment facilities the ships doesn't fit too well in with Viking's strategy of providing cheap tickets but exacting high revenue from onboard services.

While waiting for the final news of what happens with the ship, we can look at some photos from earlier this year. These show the Express arriving at, and departing from, Viking Line's terminal at Katajanokka, photographed from Valkosaari. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

Inbound, the Express passed several local ferries: the Suokki sailing to Suomenlinna, the Vire to Korkeasaari and the Viapori also to Suomenlinna. The light on the first two was not too good, but this one of the Viapori and Express turned out pretty okay.
It'll be interesting to see if we'll ever see an Incat wave-piercing catamaran in Helsinki after 22nd this month.
45 minutes later, the ship departs, reversing out from the quay.
The Viking XPRS, of course, usually does the same manoeuvre.
Now the pointy bit is in the right direction and we can get going.
I still think they should have painted the hull red all the way to the bow.

29 September 2017

Viking XPRS in Helsinki, 19 May 2017

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 seems the previous Viking XPRS entry with the history of the ship on is somewhat out of date, so it's high time to update.

Viking XPRS was originally a project name for Viking's new fast cruiseferry (XPRS being "short" for express). She was the first newbuilding delivered to Viking Line since 1990 and the first delivered to SF Line (the sole surviving Viking consortium member that renamed itself Viking Line in 1995) since 1989. In the interim the company had drawn up plans for various unrealized newbuildings, including a fast monohull ferry capable of 40 knots for the Helsinki-Tallinn service. Matters leading to the construction of the XPRS started progressing in 2003, when the Cinderella that had been doing 20 hour cruises between Helsinki and Tallinn was moved to a similar service between Stockholm and Mariehamn. In her place the former Stockholm-Mariehamn ship Rosella was moved to Helsinki-Tallinn service, with tro daily departures from each port. After initial difficulties the Rosella's ferry service proved to be a success, and Viking begun planning the addition of a newbuilding for the route.

Viking Line's own designing department drew up the basic plans for project Viking XPRS. After asking for tenders from various shipyards, the company entered serious negotations with Aker Yard's Finnish shipyards and the state-owned Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. The former offered to build a ship for 130 million euros, while the latter was willing to build a ship based on Viking's plans for 115 million US dollars, or an example of their own Moby Wonder -class (the same design as Tallink's Superstar) for 110 million USD. Despite the higher price asked by Aker Yards, Viking ordered their newbuilding from Aker's Helsinki shipyard. The order included an option for two sister ships, which were planned to be built for the Turku-Stockholm service replacing the Amorella and Isabella. Presumably these ships would have been built with larger superstructures to house more passenger cabins and additional public spaces nescessary for the longer route. In the end Viking never exercised the option for these ships and the XPRS remains a one-off design.

The original delivery date for the Viking XPRS was set for 31 January 2008. Delays in the construction, including faults in the propellers that nescessitated an extra drydocking in Rauma, pushed the delivery date back to 21 April 2008. In summer 2007 Viking Line had organised a naming competition for their new ship. In a somewhat unusual move, the result of the competition was that Viking XPRS was chosen as the final name of the ship. (The author of this blog also participated in the competition, suggesting the more traditionally-tinted "Laurella").

Following delivery the Viking XPRS was initially registered in Mariehamn, Finland. However, this was little more than ceremony as the decision had already been made to register the ship in Sweden due to financial reasons. After spending a whole day under Finnish flag the Viking XPRS was re-registered to Norrtälje in Sweden. She entered regular service on the Helsinki-Tallinn service on 28 April 2008, replacing the Rosella (originally Viking had hoped to employ both ships on the route, but the city of Helsinki forbade this as they did not want additional cars passing through the city center).

Although the Viking XPRS was a resounding success during her first summer, with 61% increase in passenger numbers and 74% in freight, her interiors were found to be too small for the number of passengers carried. Resultingly a new dance pavillion was added to the rear decks in spring 2009. Afterwards, the ship settled nicely on the Helsinki-Tallinn route, becoming the most popular ship on the line. In early 2014, she was moved under the Estonian flag to further save costs. In January 2017, the Dance Pavillion added in 2009 was rebuilt in a larger form; interior photos of the ship as she appears today can be seen here.

The photos below show the Viking XPRS departing Helsinki Eteläsatama (South Harbour) for Tallinn around noon on 19 May 2017, photographed from Valkosaari. As always, click on the images to see them in larger size.

The Viking XPRS remains one of my favourite ships in terms of exterior design, although I'm not 100% sure about the Viking Grace -style stripes on the hull. Also note that, despite the added structures rear, the ship's profile remains unaltered.
Valkosaari gives nice foregrounds. I ought to go there more often.
As you can see, the XPRS usually reverses out and then turns around to head towards the usual photo haunt at Kustaanmiekka. Alas, further photos from this session were backlit, so I'm not including them here.

21 September 2017

Veøy on the Geirangerfjord, 29 August 2017

During the recent trip to Norway with Cruise Norway, I took a crapload of photos of local Norwegian road ferries. I'm still debating whether or not to post the photos of most of them, as road ferries are not exactly a focus for this blog. But, in addition to the road ferries, there was one "proper" ferry photographed during the trip: the Veøy, which runs a summer service between Geiranger and Hellesylt, sailing through the pictoresque Geirangerfjord.

Veøy

IMO 7368748
Built 1974, Hjørungavåg Mekaniske Verksted, Norway
Tonnage 1 870 GT
Length 74,98 m
Width 12,01 m
Draught 2,60 m
345 passengers
50 cars
2 Wichmann diesels, combined 1 870 kW
2 propellers
Speed 15 knots

(Please be aware that I'm not 100% certain about the figures above; different sources give different dimensions and tonnage figures for the ship).

The Veøy was built in 1974 by the Hjørnungvaag Mekaniske Verksted for Møre og Romsdal Fylkesbåtar's (MRF) service linking Molde to Vestnes via Vikebukt, which remained the ship's primary route until 1988. After 1988, it served on a variety of different routes, which I won't bore you with, until 1997, when the ship became a regular on the Hellesylt-Geiranger -route during the summer seasons. During the winters the Veøy is a reserve ferry, and as such has sailed on several different routes for shorter or longer periods of time.

In 2001, MRF merged with Fylkesbaatane i Sogn og Fjordane. The combined company first took the name Nordvestlandske, but already in 2002 this was altered to Fjord1. The actual structure of the Fjord1 company is rather complex, with numerous subsidiaries to the main company owning and/or operating the various individual ships, which is why the Veøy's official owners are Fjord1 MRF.

The photos below show the Veøy on the Geirangerfjord, and the ferry quay in Geiranger, on 29 August 2017. Photographed from onboard the excursion ship Geirangerfjord. As per the usual, click on the images to see them in larger size.

The forward rake of the superstructure is interesting; the angle will reduce glare and therefore improve views from inside, but such stylings are relatively rare, except for dedicated onservation longes.
I quite like the classic style of the Fjord1 flag in the logo, but I do wish they would paint the funnels entirely with the red and blue stripe, rather than a white funnel with the stripes just "stamped on".
On the left is the Friaren ("Suitor") waterfall; across the fjord is the better-known De syv søstrene ("The Seven Sisters") waterfall. Personally, I thought Friaren looked more impressive, but maybe that's just me. In any case you're only getting to see that one, as getting De syv søstrene in the same photo as the ferry would have been abviously problematic.
As is common oon ferries that do not venture far into the open sea, the car deck is open to the elements aft.
At Geiranger. The size of the bow visor is rather impressive.
Returning to the livery for a bit, based on photos it seems the masts were originally painted yellow (matching MRF's funnel colours, which were yellow with a black stripe). At least arguably the white masts are not an improvement, even if they are in keeping with Fjord1's corporate image.