The BARI seen docked in the port of Zakynthos in 2015, during her first season in which she connected the islands of the Ionian Sea with Italy.
Exactly one month after the RIGEL I of Ventouris Ferries departed the port of Aegion in order to perform her final trip as a result of her being sold for demolition, for which a Tribute Post was written, I find myself writing a new one for one of her fleetmates. Indeed, the ferry BARI of Ventouris Ferries, which had been serving the company for the past 11 years on the Adriatic Sea, has also ended her career due to having been sold for scrap. She left the port of Durrës in Albania on 5 October 2021, having been renamed ALTAIR, in order to head to the infamous scrapyard of Chittagong (or Chattogram) in Bangladesh. This therefore marked the end of this ferry's 41-year-long career, which was deemed a major success and was marked by several changes in ownership and areas of operations. Altogether, the BARI operated on the Channel, on the Irish Sea and on the North Channel for the first half of her career, before moving to the Mediterranean Sea in order to first serve the Balearic Sea under two different Spanish companies. In 2010, she was initially sold for scrap and was supposed to head to Alang in India, but she miraculously avoided heading to the scrapyards, as she was bought by the Greek company Ventouris Ferries while she was performing what was thought to be, at the time, her final trip. This last-minute acquisition eventually extended her life by 11 years, as the vessel successfully operated on the Adriatic Sea, initially on the Bari-Durrës line (alongside the RIGEL I), before connecting Greece with Italy beginning in 2015, as she was deployed on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line. This service turned out to be a major success, to such an extent that she was joined by the RIGEL I in 2017. She continued to perform this service until the end of the 2019 season. At the time, Ventouris Ferries had invested on a larger and more modern ferry, namely the RIGEL VII, which eventually replaced the BARI in 2020. The latter was due to operate on a new service on the Bari-Sarandë line, but demand was low and the services were canceled. She only performed a few trips on the Bari-Durrës line in late 2020. In 2021, with passenger traffic on the Adriatic Sea diminishing altogether, scrap prices being at very good levels, and with Ventouris Ferries preferring to operate the three ships that they had acquired during the second half of the 2010s, the two longest-serving members of the fleet, the RIGEL I and the BARI, were no longer deemed necessary for service They were therefore sold for scrap, and this time the BARI was unable to escape the demolition yards, just as she had done so in 2010.
Just like the RIGEL I, the BARI also managed to have a relatively good career and did not experience a miserable end, which would have been spending many years under lay-up or suffering from a major accident that would have forced her to end her services prematurely. Instead, she kept on sailing even at the age of 40, and it was only the arrival of a newer and larger vessel and higher scrap prices that forced her into retirement. She turned out to be a very useful for Ventouris Ferries, as she had a fair amount of passenger amenities and cabins, and her garage in particular was large enough to satisfy the freight demand of the Adriatic Sea. This had also been the case at the start of her career, when she was built in order to enhance freight traffic on the popular Calais-Dover line on the Channel. She was part of the very successful Saint-class of British conglomerate Sealink (later Sealink British Ferries), which was composed of four ferries that went on to have very productive careers on the Channel and on the Irish Sea, as well as on the Mediterranean Sea. Over the years, she also underwent significant refurbishments, during which she acquired more areas dedicated to the passengers, and hence her overall passenger capacity further increased. When she left the Channel for good in 1998, she joined Spanish company Umafisa, which spent a large sum of money in order to convert her into a night ferry, so that she could serve the Barcelona-Ibiza line. This refit proved to be vital, as it enabled her to operate several services on the Mediterranean Sea, including during her spell under Ventouris Ferries. Ultimately, her advanced age and the company's focus on larger vessels were the main factors that led to the end of her services, but she nevertheless had a very honourable run. One could imagine whether she could have been saved once more, especially when considering that she is only the first vessel of the Saint-class to be sold for scrap, as her three sister ships continue to be active despite being over 40 years old.
Just like all Ship Farewell Tribute posts that I have done in the past, this Blog post covers the entire history of the BARI, from her career on the Channel under Sealink and later Stena Line (as well as her brief time under the P&O Stena Line brandname), to her spell in Spain under Umafisa and later Baleària, and finally her services under Ventouris Ferries on the Adriatic Sea. I only got to see her twice in my life. The first time was during the summer of 2015, when I happened to be in the port of Zakynthos at the same time during which she was moored, in what was her first season on the Ionian Sea. The second time was in 2018, while she was docked in the port of Igoumenitsa, in which I had stopped by while heading from Patras to Ancona on 25-26 August 2018 with the OLYMPIC CHAMPION of ANEK Lines. At least I was able to see her while she was still active and sailing, unlike other cases such as the EUROPEAN EXPRESS of NEL Lines or the IONIAN SKY of Agoudimos Lines.
The ship that went on to become the BARI was ordered in 1978 as the ST ANSELM, being part of a quartet that was due to be delivered to the British conglomerate Sealink in 1980 and in 1981. Sealink was the brandname of the train/ferry operator British Railways. The British state-owned company operated services from Great Britain to the Channel Islands, and was also widely known for connecting the United Kingdom with Ireland, France, Belgium and The Netherlands. It served as a consortium operating all ferry services ran by the Channel train and transportation companies of various countries, such as British Railways, the French company SNCF (which owned the late EPTANISOS and DELOS of Strintzis Lines, or the future EXPRESS SANTORINI of Agapitos Express Ferries, Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins and Hellenic Seaways), the French company Angleterre-Lorraine-Alsace Société Anonyme de Navigation (which owned the SAINT ELOI, which became the AQUA STAR of Sea Jets in 2021), the Belgian company Regie voor Maritiem Transport, also known as RMT (which owned the late AIGAION of Agapitos Lines, the late GEORGIOS EXPRESS of Ventouris Ferries, Ventouris Sea Lines and Agios Georgios Ferries; the late BARI EXPRESS of Ventouris Ferries; the late PANAGIA TINOU 2 of Ventouris Sea Lines, later the EXPRESS ATHINA of Agapitos Express Ferries, Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins and Hellenic Seaways, or even the future SUPERFERRY II of Strintzis Lines, Blue Star Ferries and Golden Star Ferries), and the Dutch Stoomvaart Maatschappij Zeeland (which owned the original PANAGIA TINOU of Ventouris Ferries, which later joined AK Ventouris and Ventouris Sea Lines). In addition, the company had the famous H-class under the management of British Railways and SNCF, a trio of vessels that became the legendary Apollon Trio in Greece, and in particular on the Cyclades: the HENGIST which became the original ROMILDA of GA Ferries APOLLON EXPRESS 2 of Ventouris Sea Lines, then the PANAGIA EKATONTAPYLIANI of Agapitos Lines (and later Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins), before ending her career again under Ventouris Sea Lines, as the AGIOS GEORGIOS and then as the new PANAGIA TINOU, being sold for scrap in 2017; the HORSA, which became the legendary PENELOPE A of Agoudimos Lines on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line; and finally the SENLAC, which became the iconic APOLLON EXPRESS/APOLLON EXPRESS 1 of Ventouris Sea Lines, and later the EXPRESS APOLLON Agapitos Express Ferries, Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins and Hellenic Seaways. And I can write about dozens of other ships as well. Altogether, the Sealink conglomerate rapidly became one of the dominant ferry companies of Northern Europe, and operated successful services on the Channel, on the Irish Sea and on the North Channel. The deployment of all the aforementioned vessels (and along with many others) during the 1960s and 1970s further cemented its presence, and their passenger services were much-acclaimed. They operated a diverse fleet, from conventional ferries to night ferries, as well as Ro-Ro carriers and hovercraft, the latter operating under the Seaspeed brandname. They did not, however, come without strong competition. Indeed, during the 1970s, a company that went on to also become a dominant force on the Channel (as well as on the North Sea) was the British operator Townsend Thoresen (whose roots trace back to the European Ferries Group), which also had ferries that went on to have prominent careers in Greece. While the latter did not have ferries that provided high-standard passenger amenities, they nevertheless had the upper edge in terms of vehicle capacity, with many ferries being primarily dedicated to freight transportation. With the pending arrival of Townsend Thoresen's new vessels in 1980, namely those of the Spirit-class, which provided larger garages that could easily cover the largest part of the freight market share of the Channel, Sealink decided to respond by ordering freight-dedicated vessels as well, with these being the ferries of the Saint-class. Two vessels were projected for the Calais-Dover line, whereas the other two were due to be deployed on the Irish Sea and on the North Channel.
The ST ANSELM was the second ship of the quartet to be completed, following her successful construction in the famous Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast in Northern Ireland. The same shipyard was known for having built several iconic ocean liners and cruise ships during the early part of the 20th century, including the Olympic-class of White Star Line which included the RMS TITANIC, the RMS BRITANNIC and the RMS OLYMPIC. The ST ANSELM, named after the eponymous Saint who was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109, was delivered to Sealink in October 1980. She carried the British flag and was registered in London. She began service only a few months after her sister ship, the GALLOWAY PRINCESS, which had started operations on the Stranraer-Larne line on the North Channel. The ST ANSELM was expected to cover the increasing freight demand on the Calais-Dover line, alongside with her sister ship, the ST CHRISTOPHER, which was delivered in 1981. Sealink had expected that passenger traffic would continue to be mainly covered by the hovercraft of Seaspeed, hence the two ferries of the Saint-class initially featured little passenger capacity, having the possibility to only carry 600 passengers. However, while the construction of the ships progressed, these estimations were revealed to be incorrect, hence their accommodation superstructure was upgraded to a wider extent, meaning that the ships could carry 1,000 passengers. But as the ferries began their service, this soon proved to be insufficient, hence they underwent several refits throughout the 1980s in order to increase their passenger capacity. The ST ANSELM and the ST CHRISTOPHER rapidly proved to be valuable vessels, as they had a large garage that enabled them to carry about 310 vehicles. They also had twin drive-through freight decks, which made the loading process much more efficient. This was the major problem faced by the company's two ferries that were serving the Calais-Dover line. Indeed, these were the EARL SIWARD (formerly the DOVER) and the EARL LEOFRIC, both built in 1965, which had limited vehicle capacity and relied on steam engines. With the deployment of larger ferries by Townsend Thoresen, these ships were deemed inefficient and unable to match the competition. The only ferry on the Calais-Dover line that provided relatively satisfactory results was the CHARTRES, delivered in 1974, which later became the legendary EXPRESS SANTORINI in Greece. With this taken into consideration, Sealink deployed the ST ANSELM on the Calais-Dover line in 1980, while the ST CHRISTOPHER followed in 1981. In addition, they deployed the newly-built CÔTE D'AZUR (later the SEAFRANCE RENOIR of defunct French company SeaFrance), which had been ordered by SNCF, for service in 1981. They further deployed the SNCF-owned CHANTILLY (later the OLYMPIA of Agapitos Lines from 1987 to 1990), which had been built in 1966 and had previously served the Boulogne-Dover line. With the introduction of these four vessels, the EARL SIWARD was sold to Cypriot company Sol Lines, for whom she sailed from 1982 to 1986 as the SOL EXPRESS. The EARL LEOFRIC was sold for scrap in 1981, even though she was only 15 years old. The CHARTRES would move to the Dieppe-Newhaven line in 1982.
The introduction of the ST ANSELM on the Calais-Dover line proved to be a major success for Sealink, as they managed to provide excellent services, particularly for the freight transportation on the Channel. She was therefore considered to be the flagship of the company, and she proved to be a very good competitor against the ferries of Townsend Thoresen. Most notably, she and the ST CHRISTOPHER engaged in a fierce battle for freight transportation against the ships of the Spirit-class, namely the SPIRIT OF FREE ENTERPRISE (which went on to become the ANTHI MARINA of GA Ferries from 2003 until she was sold for scrap in 2012), the PRIDE OF FREE ENTERPRISE and the HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE. The service of the two vessels of Sealink were marketed by the company as the 'Flagship Service', as a response to the 'Blue Ribband Service' marketing campaign promoted by Townsend Thoresen for its Spirit-class. While the two sister ships of the Saint-class established themselves on the Calais-Dover line, Sealink also had much success from the deployment of the GALLOWAY PRINCESS on the Stranraer-Larne line. In 1981, the last ship of the quarter, the ST DAVID, was delivered to Sealink and was deployed on the Holyhead-Dún Laoghaire line on the Irish Sea. All four ships became very popular in the United Kingdom, and ferry enthusiasts on the Channel and on the Irish Sea continue to remember them fondly. As a result, Sealink maintained a strong reputation for providing ships of good quality that would ensure reliable service.
The ST ANSELM seen during her launching ceremony in late 1979, while being under construction at the Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast in Northern Ireland. Picture taken by Matt Murtland and published on www.hhvferry.com.
An impressive picture of all four ships of the Saint-class in 1980, while they are undergoing their construction at the Harland & Wolff Shipyard: (From left to right) the GALLOWAY PRINCESS, the ST CHRISTOPHER, the ST ANSELM and the ST DAVID. Picture taken by Matt Murtland and published on www.hhvferry.com.
The ST ANSELM seen in Dover in 1980, while performing berthing trials. She had just been delivered to Sealink and was undergoing the final preparations in order to begin service on the Calais-Dover line on the Channel. Picture taken by Matt Murtland and published on www.hhvferry.com.
The ST ANSELM seen sailing on the Channel in late 1980, shortly after she officially began her career under Sealink on the Calais-Dover line. Picture taken by Roy Thornton and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The ST ANSELM seen arriving in the port of Dover in 1981. She is seen carrying the iconic dark blue livery of Sealink, along with the famous double-arrow logo of British Railways (known as British Rail since 1965). At the start of her career, she was considered to be the most efficient ferry on the Channel, and she responded to the increasing freight demand to great success. Picture taken by Jim Ashby and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
A view of the ST ANSELM as she is seen leaving the port of Dover in 1981. Here, one can see her original appearance, with her stern lacking the passenger accommodation that went on to be added only three years after she had started her career. Picture taken by Jim Ashby and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
A view of one of the three sister ships of the ST ANSELM, namely the ST CHRISTOPHER. She was the third out of the four ships to be delivered to Sealink. She was built in 1981 and was deployed alongside the ST ANSELM on the Calais-Dover line. Both ships underwent a major refit in 1983 in Belfast, during which their stern was upgraded. Sealink became privatised in 1984, and the vessel started operating under the new Sealink British Ferries brandname. She was significantly damaged during the Great Storm of 1987, while she was sailing away from Dover, but she was repaired immediately afterwards. In late 1990, Sealink British Ferries was taken over by the Swedish giants Stena Line, which resulted in a new company trading as Sealink Stena Line (later renamed Stena Sealink Line in 1992). The ST CHRISTOPHER was renamed STENA ANTRIM in 1991, and was deployed on the Stranraer-Larne line on the North Channel. In 1996, Stena Line erased the Sealink brandname and all ships were placed under the core Stena Line livery. That same year, the STENA ANTRIM returned to the Channel, being deployed on the Dieppe-Newhaven line. She stayed there for two years, at the same time as Stena Line and P&O Ferries merged their Channel services and began trading as P&O Stena Line in 1998. She however did not join this new company, as she was sold to Moroccan company Limadet and was renamed IBN BATOUTA. She was inserted on the Algeciras-Tangier Med line on the Gibraltar Strait. Limadet joined the Moroccan state-owned company COMANAV, being part of the COMANAV Group. In 2008 she fully joined COMANAV, which had been renamed COMANAV Ferry. She continued to operate on the Algeciras-Tangier Med line until 2012, when her owners ceased operations due to financial issues. She was laid-up in Algeciras, and remained there for three years, until she was reportedly sold to Italian-Albanian company Red Star Ferries in 2015. She arrived in Durrës and was due to operate on the Adriatic Sea, but she ended-up remaining laid-up in the Albanian port until 2018, when her company was rebranded as European Ferries. She headed to Tuzla in Turkey for a conversion during that year, after which she headed to Salamina in Greece. She was renamed EUROPEAN STAR in 2019, and was due to finally enter service on the Brindisi-Vlöre line, but she spent the whole summer under lay-up in Brindisi. She then headed for lay-up in Salamina, where she is awaiting her fate. Picture taken by Frank Heine and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
A view of the second sister ship of the ST ANSELM, namely the GALLOWAY PRINCESS. Built in 1980, she is the lead ship of the Saint-class, although she was the only ship of the class that did not bear the name of a Saint. She was deployed on the Stranraer-Larne line on the North Channel. Sealink became privatised in 1984, and the vessel started operating under the new Sealink British Ferries brandname. The GALLOWAY PRINCESS was refurbished in 1989 in Bremerhaven, while in 1990 she joined the newly-formed Sealink Stena Line (later renamed Stena Sealink Line in 1992), being renamed STENA GALLOWAY in 1991. After a further refit in Belfast in 1992, she was introduced on the Irish Sea, being deployed on the Holyhead-Dún Laoghaire line. In 1993 she returned to the Stranraer-Larne line, while in 1995 she was inserted on the Stranraer-Belfast line. In 1996, Stena Line erased the Sealink brandname and all ships were placed under the core Stena Line livery. She remained under the latter until 2002, when she was sold to the Moroccan company International Maritime Transport Corporation, also known as IMTC. She was renamed LE RIF and was deployed on the Algeciras-Tangier Med line on the Gibraltar Strait, where her sister ship, the ex-ST CHRISTOPHER, had been operating since 1998 as the IBN BATOUTA of Limadet. She remained there until IMTC went bankrupt in 2013, after which she was laid-up in Tangier Med. She was sold at auction to Moroccan company Detroit World Logistics Maritime in 2016 and initially headed to the Spanish port of Málaga for a refit. She remained there until 2017, when she went to Naples. Her company wanted to reintroduce her on the Algeciras-Tangier Med line, but, despite undergoing an extensive refit, the ship did not begin operations as it was planned in 2018. She instead joined fellow Moroccan company Africa Morocco Link, which is partly-owned by Attica Group (which manages Superfast Ferries, Blue Star Ferries and Hellenic Seaways) in 2019, being renamed MOROCCO SUN. She made her return to the Algeciras-Tangier Med on the Gibraltar Strait, where she continues to operate today. Picture taken by Nigel Thornton and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
A view of the ST DAVID, which was the last ship of the Saint-class that was delivered to Sealink. She was built in 1981, and was deployed on the Holyhead-Dún Laoghaire line on the Irish Sea. Sealink became privatised in 1984, and the vessel started operating under the new Sealink British Ferries brandname. The following year, the ST DAVID was deployed on the Ostend-Dover line on the Channel, while in 1986 she joined the GALLOWAY PRINCE on the Stranraer-Larne line on the North Channel. She was refurbished in 1989 in Bremerhaven, while in 1990 she joined the newly-formed Sealink Stena Line (later renamed Stena Sealink Line in 1992), being renamed STENA CALEDONIA in 1991. She was refurbished in Belfast in 1992, and continued to operate on the Stranraer-Larne line until 1995, when she moved to the Stranraer-Belfast line alongside the STENA GALLOWAY. In 1996, Stena Line erased the Sealink brandname and all ships were placed under the core Stena Line livery. She continued to serve the Stranraer-Belfast line for the next 15 years, until she was withdrawn in 2011. She was sold in 2012 to the Indonesian company ASDP Indonesia Ferry and was renamed PORT LINK. She was deployed on the Merak-Bakauheni line on the Sunda Strait, where she continues to operate today. Picture taken by Nicolas Levy and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
While the services of the ST ANSELM proved to be very successful, Sealink found itself facing an ever-increasing number of passengers aiming to travel by sea on the Channel. As a result of this, the passenger capacity of both the ST ANSELM and the ST CHRISTOPHER proved, once again, to be insufficient. Therefore, in 1983, both ships headed to the Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast, where they had been built, in order to undergo a major refit. Both ships saw their sterns upgraded, with the accommodation superstructure extended to the aft area. The addition of this aft extension enabled the ships to have an additional passenger lounge area, an onboard duty-free supermarket store, and an outdoor passenger deck. They subsequently returned to the Calais-Dover line right before that start of the 1983 summer season, with an upgraded passenger capacity, having gone from 1,000 to 1,400.
A view of the ST ANSELM while she undergoes her first conversion in Belfast in 1983. Her stern was fully upgraded, while her aft area was further extended in order to accommodate more passengers onboard. Picture taken by Roy Thornton and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
A view of the upper deck of the ST ANSELM, known as the Boat Deck, as it is being remodeled during the ship's conversion in Belfast. The new area enabled an increase in the ship's passenger capacity. Picture taken by Andrew Orr and published on www.hhvferry.com.
The ST ANSELM seen leaving Dover during the summer of 1983, just after having completed her major refit in Belfast. As you can see, the vessel's stern was completely remodeled, and the ship could now transport more passengers, in addition to her impressive freight capacity. Picture taken by Roy Thornton and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
During the early part of the 1980s, Sealink continued to provide excellent services on the Calais-Dover line, with the ST ANSELM and the ST CHRISTOPHER playing a key role in the success of freight transportation on the line, despite fierce competition from Townsend Thoresen. Sealink further enhanced its presence in 1984, by deploying the newly-built SNCF-owned ferry CHAMPS ÉLYSÉES (today the POETA LÓPEZ ANGLADA of Spanish company Baleària), whose technical specifications were much similar to those of the CÔTE D'AZUR, as an additional ship on the Calais-Dover line. That same year, however, Sealink was privatised, following its sale from the British Government to the company Sea Containers. The latter also became the owner of the company Hoverspeed, which had been established in 1981 as a result of the merger between Seaspeed and their rivals Hoverlloyd. The company therefore became known as Sealink British Ferries, and their ferries changed their liveries, abandoning the dark blue hull for an all-white hull. The ST ANSELM was refitted in 1985, and in that period received the new Sealink British Ferries livery. She continued to serve the Calais-Dover line, together with the ST CHRISTOPHER, the CÔTE D'AZUR, the CHAMPS ÉLYSÉES and the CHANTILLY, although the latter was moved to the Dieppe-Newhaven line in 1986. Their services continued to be very successful, and the ST ANSELM remained the proud flagship of the company, despite the ownership change. Competition against Townsend Thoresen continued to be very strong, and the latter managed to earn a larger part of the market share for the services between Belgium and the United Kingdom, as Regie voor Maritiem Transport decided to have their ferries operate under the European Ferries-based company. Sealink also encountered further competition in the service linking The Netherlands with the United Kingdom, with prominent competitors such as Townsend Thoresen and North Sea Ferries. Nevertheless, the link between France and the United Kingdom under Sealink's dominance, with SNCF and Angleterre-Lorraine-Alsace Société Anonyme de Navigation. The services of the former company on the Dieppe-Newhaven line were rebranded as Sealink Dieppe Ferries.
The ST ANSELM seen on the Channel during the summer of 1985, which marked her first one under the new livery of Sealink British Ferries. Her funnels no longer to bore the famous double arrow logo of British Rail. Nevertheless, she continued to perform the same services that she had been offering prior to the company's privatisation in 1984. Picture taken by Roy Thornton and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The late 1980s were not a successful period for the Channel ferry services. Indeed, the market was heavily affected by the disaster of the HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE in 1987. The ferry sank moments after having left the port of Zeebrugge, which resulted in the tragic deaths of 193 passengers and crew members. In addition to this, the highly-anticipated completion of the Channel Tunnel contributed to the decrease of popularity of the ferry operations in the area. Furthermore, Sealink British Ferries faced a new dangerous competitor: P&O European Ferries, Townsend Thoresen’s successor following the takeover of the former company's services on the Channel in 1987 by P&O, shortly after the tragedy of the HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE. The newly-established company quickly sought to enhance its presence on the Calais-Dover line, and, to that end, introduced two newbuildings which heavily favoured freight service: the PRIDE OF CALAIS and the PRIDE OF DOVER. Being also much faster than the ferries of the Saint-class, they were therefore preferred to the more classic ferries of Sealink. Due to the introduction of these impressive new ferries, Sealink British Ferries sought to upgrade its fleet. The ST ANSELM was sent for a major refit in Bremerhaven in Germany in 1988, during which all her indoor areas and her garage were refurbished. Her sister ships also underwent a similar refit between 1988 and 1989. Despite this refit, the ST ANSELM and the ST CHRISTOPHER could not match the freight success of the two new P&O European Ferries vessels. Only the Ro-Ro carrier NORD-PAS-DE-CALAIS, built in 1987 for SNCF, was able to provide good competition against these two vessels. In order to respond to the increasing competition and the pending order of three newly-built Ro-Ro carriers by P&O European Ferries between 1990 and 1992, Sealink British Ferries decided to buy two Ro-Pax ferries, the sister ships TZAREVETZ and TRAPEZITZA of the Bulgarian company So Mejdunaroden Automobile Transport, also known as Medlink. Both 1980-built ships were purchased due to their impressive garage, which Sealink hoped would attract hauliers and logistics companies operating on the Channel. They were renamed FIESTA and CHANNEL SEAWAY, respectively, with the latter beginning service in 1989 on the Calais-Dover line.
The ST ANSELM seen arriving in Calais in 1988, at a time during which she was operating against tougher competitors on the Channel. Picture taken by Brian Fisher and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
The ST ANSELM seen departing the port of Dover in 1989, in what would turn out to be her final season on the Calais-Dover line under Sealink British Ferries. Picture taken by Ken Larwood and publihsed on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
The arrival of the FIESTA and of the CHANNEL SEAWAY was a key moment for the company, which eventually sought to enhance their freight transportation abilities by converting them into conventional passenger ferries. As a result, both ships were converted in Bremerhaven, and saw their accommodation superstructures being entirely remodeled. They acquired passenger areas and sponsons that enabled them to sail with better stability on the rough seas of the Channel. They began service as passenger ferries in 1990, with the FIESTA having been renamed FANTASIA (later becoming the first ALKMINI A of GA Ferries, operating for the company on the Adriatic Sea from 2003 to 2004, when she was sold to Polish company Polferries, for whom she continues to sail today as the WAWEL) and the CHANNEL SEAWAY having become the new FIESTA (later becoming the SEAFRANCE CÉZANNE of SeaFrance). With their deployment, the ST ANSELM was withdrawn from the Calais-Dover line, after having operated there for the first 10 years of her career. The ST CHRISTOPHER remained on the service, as the company still required one of the vessels of the Saint-class to provide freight service alongside the NORD-PAS-DE-CALAIS (which later became the SEAFRANCE NORD-PAS-DE-CALAIS in 1996). The ST ANSELM was instead deployed on the Boulogne-Folkestone line, hence operating as a third ship on the service that had been covered, with much success, by the HORSA and the HENGIST since 1972. She only stayed there for one season, however, as traffic on the line was in decline since the late 1980s.
The ST ANSELM seen departing the port of Folkestone in 1990, during her lone season on the Boulogne-Folkestone line. Picture taken by Jim Ashby and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
In late 1990, Sealink British Ferries experienced an expected defining moment in their history, as they underwent a new change in ownership. Indeed, after a hostile takeover bid, Sea Containers decided to sell the company to Swedish giants Stena Line, thus creating a new company called Sealink Stena Line. This resulted in all Sealink ferries receiving the 'STENA' prefix in their respective names. Moreover, the entire ferry network of Sealink underwent an extensive reshuffling programme. Stena Line notably decided to introduce two new ships on the Calais-Dover line in 1991: the newly-built Ro-Pax ferry STENA CHALLENGER (today the LEIF ERICSON of Canadian company Marine Atlantic) and the 1986-built STENA INVICTA, formerly the PEDER PAARS of Danish state-owned company DSB Rederi, which was the predecessor of Scandlines. That ship is currently the COLOR VIKING of Norwegian company Color Line. With these new ferries, alongside the FIESTA and the FANTASIA which were renamed STENA FIESTA and STENA FANTASIA, respectively, the older vessels of the Saint-class were definitely removed from the Channel (for now), and the company sought to deploy them on the Irish Sea and on the North Channel. To that end, the ST ANSELM and the ST CHRISTOPHER were renamed STENA CAMBRIA and STENA ANTRIM, respectively. The former's new name indicated that she would be deployed on the Irish Sea, as she was named after Cambria, an alternative name used for Wales, which borders the aforementioned sea. After undergoing a refit and temporarily serving the Folkestone-Boulogne line in early 1991 (as she was replacing her fleetmates, the HENGIST and the HORSA, while they were undergoing their annual refit in order to enter service as the STENA HENGIST and as the STENA HORSA, respectively, under Sealink Stena Line), she was introduced on the Holyhead-Dún Laoghaire line, hence connecting Great Britain with Ireland via the Irish Sea. She was partnered with the STENA HIBERNIA, built in 1977 and formerly the ST COLUMBA under Sealink, and which later became the EXPRESS APHRODITE of Agapitos Express Ferries, and then of Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins and Hellenic Seaways, and is also due to end her career in the next days as she is sailing to Gadani in Pakistan for demolition, after having spent the final 14 years of her career on the Red Sea as the MASARRAH of Egyptian-Saudi Arabian company Namma Lines.
The STENA CAMBRIA seen arriving in the port of Dún Laoghaire in Ireland in 1991, during her first season under Sealink Stena Line and under her new name. Picture taken by the Sealink Heritage group and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
While the STENA CAMBRIA provided good service during her debut season under Sealink Stena Line, she encountered a few technical issues during the 1992 season, and she therefore missed a few days of service while undergoing repairs in Birkenhead, with her operations being taken over by her sister ship, the GALLOWAY PRINCESS, which had been renamed STENA GALLOWAY. When she was repaired, she took over her sister ship's service on the North Channel, being deployed on the Stranraer-Larne line. After the summer of 1992 ended, Sealink Stena Line had accumulated negative criticism over the switch that had been done with the sister ships, as the STENA GALLOWAY was not fit to dock in Holyhead, which resulted in her experiencing several delays. As a result of this, the STENA CAMBRIA returned to the Holyhead-Dún Laoghaire line, whereas the STENA GALLOWAY headed back to the Stranraer-Larne line, operating alongside the STENA ANTRIM and the STENA CALEDONIA (the ex-ST DAVID).
The STENA CAMBRIA seen during the summer of 1992 in the port of Larne in Northern Ireland, during her brief spell on the Stranraer-Larne line. Picture taken by Aubrey Dale and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
In late 1992, Sealink Stena Line officially changed their name to Stena Sealink Line, which therefore meant that all the vessels operating under the latter would see their liveries changed in order to display the new brandname. The STENA CAMBRIA continued to serve the Holyhead-Dún Laoghaire line, together with the STENA HIBERNIA.
The STENA CAMBRIA seen arriving in the port of Holyhead in 1994, in what was her fourth summer under the new ownership of Sealink by Stena Line, and her second one under the Stena Sealink Line brandname. Picture taken by Bernd Crause and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
The STENA CAMBRIA seen as she arrives in Dún Laoghaire in 1994. Picture taken by Justin Merrigan and published on www.shipspotting.com.
While the services of the STENA CAMBRIA were receiving favourable feedback and the company was performing well as a whole, SNCF decided, in July 1995 to end its pooling agreement that had been signed alongside Stena Line regarding the continued use of the Sealink brandname. Because of this, SNCF became the last company to be part of the former conglomerate, deciding to instead establish a new company named SeaFrance beginning in 1996. The move meant that the new company would operate on the Calais-Dover line as an independent entity, taking over four ships that had previously served under Stena Sealink Line and Sealink Dieppe Ferries/SNCF (under the Sealink livery). These were the STENA FELICIA, which became the SEAFRANCE CÉZANNE; the CÔTE D'AZUR, which became the SEAFRANCE RENOIR; the STENA LONDONER (previously the VERSAILLES of Sealink Dieppe Ferries), which became the SEAFRANCE MONET; and the NORD-PAS-DE-CALAIS, which became the SEAFRANCE NORD-PAS-DE-CALAIS. With this new company established, Stena Line decided to fully abandon the Sealink banner in 1996, and all ships were transferred to the main company, whereupon they received the core livery that was used by the ferries operating for the latter on the Baltic Sea and on the North Sea.
Because of the departure of four of its vessels from the Calais-Dover line due their transfer to SeaFrance, Stena Line sought to fill this void by adding two of its own vessels on the line for the 1996 season. The selected ferries were the STENA CAMBRIA and the recently-renamed STENA EMPEREUR (which had been built for Stena Line as the STENA JUTLANDICA in 1983, and later became the second ALKMINI A of GA Ferries in 2005, although she never sailed for them). The STENA CAMBRIA had been expected to depart the Irish Sea, as Stena Line was about to take delivery of the revolutionary new high speed ferry that it had ordered for the Holyhead-Dún Laoghaire line. Indeed, this was the STENA EXPLORER, which was part of the Stena HSS (high speed service) brandname, which ultimately proved to be a failure in the long run, with all ships having since been decomissioned. With this fleet reshuffle, the STENA CAMBRIA returned to Calais-Dover line for the first time since 1990. Her return proved to be quite challenging, as SeaFrance rapidly overtook Stena Line as the second company on the line in terms of passenger traffic, while P&O European Ferries continued to be the busiest operator with its five ships.
The STENA CAMBRIA seen leaving the port of Calais in 1996, during her first season under the full ownership of Stena Line, and during her first season on the Calais-Dover line since 1990. Picture taken by Andreas Wörteler and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The STENA CAMBRIA seen entering the port of Dover in 1996. She was now carrying the well-known livery of Stena Line, which had previously only been used by the company's fleet on the Baltic Sea and on the North Sea. Picture taken by David Ingham and published on www.shipspotting.com.
The STENA CAMBRIA seen sailing on the Channel in 1996, during her first season under the core Stena Line brandname. Picture taken by Brian Fisher and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
After two relatively difficult seasons on the Calais-Dover line, during which she was outperformed by many of her former fleetmates, the STENA CAMBRIA soon found another area of service ahead of the 1998 season. This happened when Stena Line, in order to uphold the strong competition against SeaFrance and SeaCat (the brandname used by the high speed ferries of Hoverspeed), inquired P&O European Ferries regarding the possibility of a merger of their services on the Channel. The latter agreed, and this resulted in the creation of a new company called P&O Stena Line based in Dover. They were due to perform services on the Calais-Dover line, on the Dieppe-Newhaven line and on the Zeebrugge-Dover line with a total of nine ferries, three Ro-Ro carriers and one high speed ferry. The ships that remained on the Calais-Dover line were the PRIDE OF BRUGES (the ex-PRIDE OF FREE ENTERPRISE of Townsend Thoresen, which was renamed P&OSL PICARDY), the PRIDE OF KENT (the ex-SPIRIT OF FREE ENTERPRISE of Townsend Thoresen, which was renamed P&OSL KENT, later becoming the ANTHI MARINA of GA Ferries in 2003), the PRIDE OF DOVER (which was renamed P&OSL DOVER), the PRIDE OF CALAIS (which was renamed P&OSL CALAIS), the PRIDE OF BURGUNDY (which was renamed P&OSL BURGUNDY), the Ro-Ro carrier EUROPEAN SEAWAY, the STENA FANTASIA (which was renamed P&OSL CANTERBURY, later joining GA Ferries as the ALKMINI A in 2003), and the STENA EMPEREUR (which was renamed P&OSL PROVENCE, later becoming the second ALKMINI A of GA Ferries in 2005). The ships that remained on the Zeebrugge-Dover line were the Ro-Ro carrier EUROPEAN PATHWAY (which was converted into the ferry PRIDE OF CANTERBURY in 2003, being subsequently deployed on the Calais-Dover line) and the Ro-Ro carrier EUROPEAN HIGHWAY (which was converted into the ferry PRIDE OF KENT in 2003, being subsequently deployed on the Calais-Dover line). The Dieppe-Newhaven line was due to be served by the STENA ANTRIM (which had been deployed on this service in 1996) and by the high speed ferry STENA LYNX III of Stena Line, which was renamed ELITE (she is currently the RAPIDLINK JET of Sea Jets, due to enter service at some point in the near future). However, the STENA ANTRIM was sold to Moroccan company Limabet, hence the STENA CAMBRIA was assigned to replace her. In addition to the aforementioned fleet changes, P&O Stena Line also deployed the recently-acquired ferry STENA ROYAL (previously the PRINS FILIP of Regie voor Maritiem Transport, later rebranded as Oostende Lines), which was renamed P&OSL AQUITAINE and was deployed on the Zeebrugge-Dover line (she then headed to the Calais-Dover line and continued to be there as of 2021, as the CALAIS SEAWAYS of DFDS Seaways). The STENA INVICTA remained unused and was laid-up until 2000, when she was sold to Color Line. With the new company ready to compete against SeaFrance and SeaCat, the STENA CAMBRIA (the only ship not to be renamed and to receive the 'P&OSL' prefix) spent the new 1998 season alongside the ELITE on a service that was constantly seeing a decline in passenger traffic, as opposed to the much more successful Calais-Dover line.
The STENA CAMBRIA seen in the French port of Dieppe in 1998, during her first summer under the P&O Stena Line corporation, following the merger of two companies that were competing against each other on the Channel during the 1990s. Picture taken by Andreas Wörteler and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The STENA CAMBRIA seen arriving in the British port of Newhaven in 1998, during her first season on the Dieppe-Newhaven line. This was also her first year under P&O Stena Line, being the only ship of the newly-established company which kept her name intact. Picture taken by Dr Allan Ryszka-Onions and published on www.shipspotting.com.
After only one season under P&O Stena Line, the STENA CAMBRIA soon found herself left off the company's plans. Indeed, in 1999, her owners terminated their service on the Dieppe-Newhaven line. The ELITE rejoined Stena Line as the STENA LYNX III on the Irish Sea, while the STENA CAMBRIA was listed for sale and was sent for lay-up in Zeebrugge. She did not stay there for a long time, however, as she was immediately sold to the Spanish company Umafisa. The latter was founded in 1985, its name being the acronym for Unión Maritima de Formentera e Ibiza Sociedad Anónima, or 'Maritime Union of Formentera and Ibiza Anonymous Company'. It was launched as a company that would establish a ferry connection between the Balearic islands of Ibiza and Formentera. It was led by Abel Matutes, a well-known Spanish businessman who operated the shipping group Pitra, and who also went on to become the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs. The company began service on the Ibiza-Formentera line with the small newly-built sister ships ESPALMADOR and IBIZA. During the 1990s, as the ferry market on the Balearic Sea and on the Alboran Sea was experiencing a considerable boom, the company sought to connect Ibiza with mainland Spain. They proceeded to buy the Greek ferry MYRTOS of Nea Pnoi Shipping, which had been the well-known ARGOSTOLI of Ionian Lines (1977-1990) and then of Seven Islands Lines (1990-1992), having had a productive career on the Ionian Sea. Upon her arrival in Spain, she was renamed ISLA DE IBIZA and was assigned to operate on the Dénia-Ibiza line under the Pitra brandname. The services on the Balearic Islands continued to be performed under fierce competition, most notably the giants Trasmediterránea, Iscomar, local company Trasmapi, Argentinian company Buquebus (under its Western Mediterranean Sea division), Isnasa and its subsidiary Flebasa Lines. However, in 1998, the latter two companies experienced severe financial difficulties, which eventually led to its collapse. This in turn resulted in longtime Isnasa manager Adolfo Utor creating the new company Baleària, which became one of the dominant forces of the Spanish ferry market from the 2000s onwards. With the demise of the two companies, Umafisa believed that it was a good opportunity to further invest in the traffic between mainland Spain and Ibiza. They first bought the ferry CIUDAD DE ZARAGOZA from Trasmediterránea in order to have her supplement the ISLA DE IBIZA. The ship was renamed ISLA DE TAGOMAGO and was deployed on the Dénia-Ibiza-Palma line during the summer of 1999, under the Pitra brandname. But investments did not stop there. Indeed, Umafisa also aimed to have a ship based in Barcelona, which was the main hub of the Balearic Sea. After searching for a ferry that would be performing this service, they decided to buy the STENA CAMBRIA from P&O Stena Line in 1999.
After 19 years operating in the United Kingdom, including 13 of them on the Channel, the STENA CAMBRIA left these seas forever, as she began the second part of her career on the Mediterranean Sea. She arrived in Gijón in order to undergo yet another conversion, which would enable her to comply with the sailing requirements of the new seas on which she was going to operate. Having been a day ferry throughout her entire spell under her previous owners, she required several upgrades in terms of passenger accommodation, as she would be conducting trips during the night, at longer lengths than those that she had been serving on the Channel and on the Irish Sea. Altogether, she underwent her first major refit since the time during which she was still sailing under Sealink British Ferries, as Stena Line never sought to upgrade her during the 1990s. Her stern was further extended, while the aft section was further refitted, with the former onboard supermarket store being replaced by the addition of several passenger cabins. Her lounge areas were upgraded in order to add more luminosity and overall appeal to passengers, while she also saw a new restaurant and a self-service area. During the conversion, she was renamed ISLA DE BOTAFOC. She was therefore named after the small islet of Botafoc, which is located right next to the port of Ibiza and features a well-known lighthouse that serves as a guide for ships entering and leaving the port of the famous Balearic island. The ship also bore the Spanish flag, and was registered in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
In November 1999, after completing her conversion in Gijón, the ISLA DE BOTAFOC was introduced on the Barcelona-Ibiza line on the Balearic Sea. She therefore became the first ship of Umafisa to serve the port of Barcelona. Her service rapidly proved to be successful, and she was praised for her refit which corresponded to the standards of the line that she was serving. She also became the company's flagship, taking over the title from the ISLA DE IBIZA. However, the company ended the year on a bad note, as the ISLA DE TAGOMAGO ran aground in Dénia on 12 December 1999. She was declared a constructive total loss and was sold for scrap in 2000. To replace her, Umafisa chartered the ferry PUNTA EUROPA of the defunct Isnasa, which had been laid-up since 1998 after having completed her charter under fellow Spanish company Euroferrys. The PUNTA EUROPA was deployed on the Dénia-Ibiza line under the Pitra brandname, together with the ISLA DE IBIZA. She operated until 2001, and would then go on to become the PHIVOS of Nova Ferries, having been operating on the Saronic Gulf since 2005. Following her departure, Umafisa did not replace her and only kept the ISLA DE IBIZA on the Dénia-Ibza line.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC seen docked in the port of Barcelona during the summer of 2000, which marked her first full season in Spain under Umafisa. Picture taken by Rob De Visser and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC seen resting in the port of Barcelona during the summer of 2001, just two years after having been sold by P&O Stena Line to Umafisa. Picture taken by Manuel Moreno and published on www.merchantships.info.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC seen in the port of Ibiza during the summer of 2001. She was now the proud flagship of Umafisa and of the Pitra shipping group of Abel Matutes. The company painted a flag of the European Union on the front ramp. She would go on to keep it even during her spell under Ventouris Ferries. Picture taken by Manuel Moreno and published on www.merchantships.info.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC seen docked in the port of Barcelona during the summer of 2003. That year, her livery was slightly updated, with the addition of a blue stripe behind the name of her company which was printed on both sides of her hull. Picture taken by Brent Hanson and published on www.shipspotting.com.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC seen resting in Barcelona in 2003. This would turn out to be her final year under Umafisa. Picture taken by Benoît Donne and published on www.shipspotting.com.
While the ISLA DE BOTAFOC provided satisfactory service and was appreciated by the residents of Ibiza, she soon had to face strong competition from the rapidly-emerging Baleària. The latter had notably introduced a successful high speed ferry service on the Dénia-Ibiza-Palma line, where ships such as the FEDERICO GARCÍA LORCA and the AL-SABINI (later the ship that was supposed to be the MYKONOS JET of Sea Jets, however this never happened as she sank while being towed during her voyage to Greece in 2016) easily outperformed the slower ISLA DE IBIZA. Iscomar also further strengthened its presence on the Balearic Sea, deploying the CARMEN DEL MAR (previously the FLORIA of Finnish company Silja Line, and also the ex-VILLA DE AGAETE of Trasmediterránea) on the Dénia-Ibiza-Palma line in 2002, as well as the newly-acquired MERCEDES DEL MAR (previously the IONIAN BRIDGE of Strintzis Lines from 1997 to 2000 and then the BLUE BRIDGE of Blue Star Ferries from 2000 to 2004, having operated on the Adriatic Sea) on the Barcelona-Palma line. Trasmediterránea also operated high speed ferries on the Barcelona-Palma line, including the MILENIUM, which later became the HIGHSPEED 6 of Hellenic Seaways from 2010 to 2017.
With the rising competition, Baleària decided to take over Umafisa and the Pitra group of Abel Matutes in late 2003. The latter agreed to give his assets to the Spanish giant, while also becoming the major shareholder of the company, after having also made an initial investment in Trasmediterránea following the latter's privatisation. While the IBIZA was sold to Mexican company Baja Ferries, the remaining three of ships of Umafisa-Pitra, the ISLA DE BOTAFOC, the ISLA DE IBIZA and the ESPALMADOR all joined Baleària and kept the names used by their former operators. By acquiring these three ships, the company increased its market share on the Balearic Sea. It further grew only a few months later, as it acquired the Spanish operations of Buquebus, hence expanding their services on the Gibraltar Strait and on the Alboran Sea, on which they had started to operate in 2003. Upon joining Baleària, the ISLA DE BOTAFOC extended her service and was deployed on the Barcelona-Ibiza-Menorca line in 2004. The ISLA DE IBIZA was deployed on the Alcúdia-Menorca line, but was then sold in 2004 to Greek company C-Link Ferries. She therefore returned to Greece, being introduced on the inter-Cyclades lifeline as the PANAGIA HOZOVIOTISSA. She was acquired by NEL Lines in 2007, and remained on the Cyclades until she was withdrawn from service in 2008, and she was sold for scrap to Turkey in 2010. The ESPALMADOR also left Baleària after only two years, being sold in 2005 to Greek company Archipelagos Sea Lines. After only spending one season as the KYRIAKI I on the Chios-Çeşme line in 2006, she headed to Cameroon, where still operates as the THANASIS of Achouka. The ISLA DE BOTAFOC provided good service during her first season under Baleària. In 2005, however, she experienced a few technical issues, which required her to be repaired in Gandia for two months, before eventually returning to service just as the summer season began. In 2006, she acquired a partner, as the company chartered the Greek-built ferry SONIA X (originally the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS/SONIA of Italian operator TTT Lines) during that summer, however the ship left Baleària as she was sold in 2007 to Canadian company BC Ferries, for whom she still sails today as the NORTHERN ADVENTURE.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC seen departing from Menorca in 2004, during her first summer under Baleària, who took over her ownership after Umafisa agreed to merge with the company. Picture taken by Matt Murtland and published on www.hhvferry.com.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC after having just entered the port of Barcelona, during the summer of 2006. Picture taken by Carlos Moreno Trobat and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC, which had now become one of the most experienced members of the fleet of Baleària, seen arriving in Barcelona during the summer of 2006. Picture taken by Frank Heine and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC seen docked in Barcelona in 2008. That year, she acquired the new livery of Baleària, whereupon her stern was painted in viridian green, which is the main colour of the company. Picture published on www.marinetraffic.com.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC seen approaching the port of Barcelona in 2008, during her fifth season under the colours of Baleària. Picture taken by Søren Lund Hviid and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
While the ISLA DE BOTAFOC continued to operate on the Balearic Sea by providing reliable service, her company continued to thrive and to expand its fleet. Its acquisition of more high speed craft on the Gibraltar Strait further cemented its presence there, and the company continued to generate much revenue from these operations. Service on other services on the Balearic Sea, such as the Barcelona-Palma line and the Valencia-Palma line, were also deemed successful, as the company had deployed several Ro-Pax ferries there. One of the included the newly-built ferry BORJA in 2007, which operated for the company until 2010 and also had a spell on the Adriatic Sea under a Greek company, as the ASTERION of ANEK Lines from 2016 to 2018. Having made many profits and now aiming to modernise its fleet, Baleària ordered four newbuildings from the Astilleros Hijos de J. Barreras Shipyard in Vigo. These new cruiseferries would be deployed in 2009 and in 2010, would be the largest and fastest ships of the company (excluding its high speed craft), and would provide new state-of-the-art features and passenger amenities that had never been seen before in Spanish waters. In addition, they were much more environmentally-friendly, with their carbon emissions being much lower than those of the older vessels. The first ship to be delivered was the MARTÍN I SOLER in 2009. She was deployed on the Barcelona-Ibiza-Menorca line, hence the ISLA DE BOTAFOC was removed from this service. She was instead deployed on the Dénia-Ibiza-Palma line, where she replaced the BAHIA DE MÁLAGA (a sister ship of the current PHIVOS of Nova Ferries) which was sold to Turkish company Kada Denizcilik. She stayed there for one summer, which would eventually turn out to be her final one in Spain. Indeed, in 2010, the company received the third out of the four newbuildings that it had ordered, namely the SF ALHUCEMAS (known as the BAHAMA MAMA since 2015), which was deployed on the Barcelona-Palma-Ibiza-Dénia line. This new ferry therefore replaced the ISLA DE BOTAFOC, which was listed for sale and remained under lay-up in Dénia in early 2010. Being now 30 years old, the ship could have attracted other ferry companies based on the Mediterranean Sea, but she was instead sold for scrap to a demolition company based in the coastal city of Alang in India. She therefore became the first ship of the Saint-class to be sold for demolition, as well as the first-ever ferry sold for scrap by Baleària. In preparation of what was believed to be, at the time, her final trip, she was renamed WINNER 9 and was registered in Basseterre, hence flying the flag of St Kitts and Nevis. She left Spain for the last time in April 2010.
The ISLA DE BOTAFOC seen laid-up in Dénia in early 2010, having been deemed to surplus requirements by Baleària. This picture was taken shortly before her sale for demolition, after which she was renamed WINNER 9. Picture taken by Manuel Hernández Lafuente and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
The WINNER 9 seen in Dénia, shortly before leaving Spain for good in order to head to India for demolition. Picture taken by José T and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
While the WINNER 9 was sailing towards the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in order to then transit the Suez Canal so that she could make her way towards the Indian Ocean, it was soon revealed that she was now deviating from her course and heading towards Igoumenitsa. Indeed, even though she was supposed to head for scrap, she had been bought by Greek company Ventouris Ferries for further service. She therefore escaped the demolition yards at the very last minute, and hence saw her life being unexpectedly extended. This was due to her new company believing that she had technical specifications and passenger amenities that were deemed suitable for the Adriatic Sea, on which they were operating. Moreover, the ship was 30 years old, therefore she could still offer a few more years of service for a company whose youngest ship at the time was 34 years old. For all these reasons, the WINNER 9 became the new acquisition of Ventouris Ferries, which was planning to introduce her on the Bari-Durrës line just in time for the start of the 2010 summer season.
Ventouris Ferries has been an important Greek ferry company, having had a strong presence on both the Adriatic Sea and the Aegean Sea for more than four decades. Its roots go back to 1975, when a ferry company was founded by the Kimolos-native Konstantinos Ventouris, a well-known self-made shipowner who established himself by operating cargo vessels before deciding to enter the Greek coastal service. Along with his four sons, he bought the small passenger ship AGIOS GEORGIOS, which began service in 1976 on the Western Cyclades. The ship immediately made a great impact and gave the company significant exposure across the Aegean Sea. In 1978, the family bought the ferry KONINGIN WILHELMINA of Stoomvaart Maatschappij Zeeland (which had been operating under the Sealink conglomerate), which was initially renamed CAPETAN KONSTANTINOS, and was introduced on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 1980. She was then renamed PANAGIA TINOU in 1981, and went on to have a legendary spell on the aforementioned line. The success of the vessel led the Ventouris family in making significant new acquisitions in the early 1980s. Indeed, in 1980, the company, which had began trading as Ventouris Ferries, bought the ex-FREE ENTERPRISE I of Townsend Thoresen (which had been a major ferry on the Calais-Dover line during the 1960s and the 1970s), converted her in Perama and introduced her in 1980 on the Western Cyclades as the KIMOLOS. The latter also went on to become largely successful, and therefore the company bought the ferry ROI BAUDOUIN of Regie voor Maritiem Transport in 1983. Initially renamed GEORGIOS B, this ship was converted in Perama and entered service on the Cyclades as the legendary GEORGIOS EXPRESS, considered by many to be the greatest ship in the history of the Greek coastal service (though the PANAGIA TINOU is also a major candidate regarding that debate). In 1984, they also began operating on the Adriatic Sea, having bought two ships that were previously operated by Sealink: the PATRA EXPRESS (the ex-ST GEORGE which operated on the Hoek van Holland-Harwich line) and the BARI EXPRESS (the ex-PRINCESSE ASTRID of Regie voor Maritiem Transport, and the sister ship of the GEORGIOS EXPRESS). Both ships were successfully introduced on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line.
However, in 1986 the Ventouris family split into two groups following disagreements between the four Ventouris brothers as their father retired from the coastal service sector. The two oldest sons formed the two subsequent companies: the new company Ventouris Sea Lines was founded by Evangelos Ventouris (along with his younger brother Antonis), while Ventouris Ferries continued under Georgios Ventouris (along with his younger brother Apostolos). The result of this was the transfer of the GEORGIOS EXPRESS and of the KIMOLOS to Ventouris Sea Lines, while Ventouris Ferries would continue to operate solely on the Adriatic Sea with the PATRA EXPRESS and the BARI EXPRESS (although the company later resumed service on the Cyclades, by deploying the BARI EXPRESS on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 1988) as well as the newly-acquired ATHENS EXPRESS (later renamed ATHENS in 2003). Just a year later, the Ventouris family experienced a further split, as Apostolos Ventouris went on to found the company AK Ventouris, and took over the ownership of the PANAGIA TINOU. Antonis Ventouris also operated the smaller company Ventouris Lines on the Saronic Gulf beginning in 1992. By 1995, Ventouris Sea Lines and Ventouris Lines had stopped operations due to financial issues, while AK Ventouris ceased operations in 1990 and then again in 1992, before being reformed as C-Link Ferries (based on the Aegean Sea) from 2002 to 2007 (at some point they also owned the former Baleària fleetmate of the WINNER 9, the ISLA DE IBIZA, as the PANAGIA HOZOVIOTISSA). While his brothers experienced abrupt ends to their services, Georgios Ventouris and his company prevailed, operating several successful ships that went on to have legendary spells on the Adriatic Sea as well as on the Aegean Sea. The company established a solid base in Bari, becoming very popular amongst Italian travelers and hauliers. Their presence there during the 1980s was key in the port's development, and in fact several passengers preferred to call there rather than in Brindisi, which had been the main Southern Italian port that was connected with Greece. As a result of this, they had several ships operating on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line and on the shorter Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line. During the 1990s, the company remained one of the strongest operators on the Adriatic Sea, and they were particularly praised for the freight operations that they offered, most notably through two of their greatest ships: the legendary Ro-Pax ferry VENUS (the ex-DANA GLORIA of DFDS Seaways and later the GEDSER/GEDSER LINK of Germany company GT-Link, which was bought in 1989 and replaced the PATRA EXPRESS-which was sold in 1990-and was later named SIREN in 2004), as well as her iconic sister ship, the Ro-Pax ferry POLARIS (previously the DANA FUTURA of DFDS Seaways and then the SKÅNE LINK of Swedish company Nordö-Link, and acquired by Ventouris Ferries in 1991). The company however started to face strong competition in the late 1990s, when Superfast Ferries (which had started operations on the Adriatic Sea in 1995) introduced its first pair of newbuildings, the original SUPERFAST I and SUPERFAST II (both built in 1995) on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari line in 1998. They therefore ceased the operations from Patras and solely focused on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line. They also ceased operations on the Aegean Sea in 1999, after ceding their domestic services to the newly-established Minoan Flying Dolphins (which was renamed Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002, and has been known as Hellenic Seaways since 2005). Aiming to find another area on which they could generate additional revenue without much competition, they began a service linking Italy with Albania via the Adriatic Sea. For this, they bought the ferry EPTANISOS of Strintzis Lines (previously the VALENCAY of SNCF under Sealink) and deployed her as the POLLUX on the Bari-Durrës line in 2000. The service proved to be very successful, and the POLLUX remained there until 2003, when she was sold for scrap and was replaced by the ATHENS EXPRESS, which was renamed ATHENS. In 2001, this service had been further enhanced, as the company chartered the ferry IONIS of rival operator European Seaways (now A-Ships Management), which had a lengthy spell on the Adriatic Sea (she is also a different ship to the well-known IONIS of Triton Ferries, which currently operates on the Lavrion-Kea-Kythnos line). The IONIS (which later became the HORIZON under European Seaways, and operated for them until late 2015) remained with Ventouris Ferries until 2009. A third ship, the cruiseferry RIGEL (which was renamed RIGEL I in 2013), was bought by the company in 2007 and was deployed on the line as well.
At the time of the acquisition of the WINNER 9, Ventouris Ferries was operating a fleet of four vessels. Indeed, they had the POLARIS and the veteran Ro-Pax ferry SEATRADE (the ex-STENA SEATRADER of Stena Line, therefore at some point a former fleetmate of the WINNER 9) on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line, while the ATHENS and the RIGEL were on the Bari-Durrës line. The SIREN (which had been deployed on the Bari-Durrës line in 2009) had been sold for scrap in early 2010, just a few weeks before the arrival of the WINNER 9. The latter was bought by the company, which was slowly beginning to encounter financial pressure, which required the sale of the older tonnage. Seeing that the WINNER 9 was heading for scrap, they decided to buy her in order to replace the 41-year-old ATHENS, which in turn was sold to the same ship-breaking company and headed to India as the WINNER 11. She therefore concluded a great career under Ventouris Ferries, which lasted 24 years and helped cement her company's presence on the Adriatic Sea. As for the WINNER 9, she finally arrived in Igoumenitsa, being planned for service on the Bari-Durrës line. She was renamed BARI, taking the name of the Italian port in which her company had been operating successfully since the 1980s. She was also flagged in Cyprus and was registered in Limassol. After undergoing a quick overhaul in Igoumenitsa, she then headed to Perama, where she had a more extensive refit and also headed for drydock. She was completed in time for the 2010 summer season, and was introduced on the Bari-Durrës line alongside the RIGEL.
The BARI seen in Igoumenitsa, shortly after arriving in Greece for the first time in 2010. She was seen undergoing her first overhaul, during which her Baleària livery was being replaced by that of her new owners, Ventouris Ferries. Picture taken by Frans Truyens and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
The BARI seen undergoing the final stages of her refit in Drapetsona in 2010, shortly after having gone for drydock in Perama. She was now fully painted in the colours of Ventouris Ferries, and was due to become their new ship on the Bari-Durrës line. Picture taken by Georgios Koutsoukis and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The BARI seen departing the port of Bari in 2010, during her first summer under Ventouris Ferries. On the right end of the picture, one can see the aft section of the APOLLON of European Seaways, which was formerly the SENLAC, a previous fleetmate of the BARI during her time under Sealink. This time, however, she was a competitor on the Adriatic Sea. She would head for scrap only a few weeks after this picture was taken, hence completing a legendary career on the Channel and in Greece. Picture taken by Trevor Jones and published on www.doverferryphotosforum.co.uk.
The deployment of the BARI proved to be a successful move for the company, as the ship provided the freight capacity that she had been known for since her Sealink days, and this satisfied the demand for lorry transportation between Italy and Albania. While she did not have the same comfortable passenger areas nor the same amount of passenger cabins that the RIGEL did, she still was much-appreciated by the regular passengers of the line. She also sailed at a speed of 18 knots, which was deemed satisfactory by her owners. Despite her good operations, Ventouris Ferries nevertheless had to further reduce their fleet, due to the effects of the Greek financial crisis on the Adriatic Sea ferry market and due to their ships failing to comply with the new SOLAS criteria. As a result of this, the POLARIS and the SEATRADE were sold for scrap in 2011, thereby closing the the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line. The latter was taken over by NEL Lines, which introduced the Ro-Ro carriers AQUA HERCULES and OLYMPUS, but the results were disappointing and both ships departed the fleet in late 2012. With these changes, the company now only had two ferries remaining: the RIGEL and the BARI. Therefore, Ventouris Ferries entered the 2012 season with much uncertainty, as many traditional Greek companies serving the Adriatic Sea progressively began to disappear. Moreover, the competition on the Bari-Durrës line remained very strong, as it featured Adria Ferries (with two ships), ANEK Lines which deployed the legendary LATO on the line, as well as a new company called Albanian Ferries (also with two ships). Despite these challenges, the RIGEL and the BARI had a very good season during that year, and they therefore ensured the survival of Ventouris Ferries. They continued to serve as the successful duo of the company in 2013, as well as in 2014.
The BARI seen resting in her namesake port in 2012, in what was her third season under the ownership of Ventouris Ferries. Picture taken by Domenic Cbari and published on www.marinetraffic.com.
The BARI seen arriving in the port of Bari, after having departed from Durrës, during the 2014 season, which turned out to be her final one on the line. Picture taken by Vassilis Charalampidis and published on www.ferry-site.dk.
Ahead of the 2015 season, Ventouris Ferries was once again a profitable company, and had managed to beat off competition very effectively against Adria Ferries, while companies like Albanian Ferries ceased operations in late 2014, and ANEK Lines did not return following the summer of 2014. However, the Italian company Grandi Navi Veloci planned to make their entry on the Bari-Durrës line with the refitted RHAPSODY (previously the NAPOLÉON BONAPARTE of French company SNCM, which was reformed as Corsica Linea in 2016). With the growing demand and the anticipated new competition, Ventouris Ferries bought the large cruiseferry SCANDINAVIA of Polferries (previously the FELICITY of Sealink British Ferries and then the STENA FELICITY of Sealink Stena Line/Stena Sealink Line/Stena Line), which was due to begin service on the Bari-Durrës line as the RIGEL II during the summer of 2015. She was therefore reunited with the BARI, after the two ships had previously been fleetmates under the aforementioned companies. Upon her introduction on the Bari-Durrës line, she became the new partner of the RIGEL I. The BARI was instead deployed on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line, thereby marking the return of Ventouris Ferries on the ferry link between Greece and Bari for the first time since 2011 (even though they had performed a similar service in 2013 by chartering the EUROPEAN EXPRESS of NEL Lines). With this new service, the BARI operated in Greece and on the Ionian Sea for the first time. She notably competed against the BRIDGE of European Seaways (which was previously the MERCEDES DEL MAR of Iscomar, hence a competitor of the BARI during her time as the ISLA DE BOTAFOC in Spain) and against the RED STAR 1 of Red Star Ferries (which later acquired her sister ship, the IBN BATOUTA, or the ex-ST CHRISTOPHER). The BARI was the most successful ship performing the connection between the Ionian Islands and Italy during that year, and Ventouris Ferries was extremely pleased with her performance. This ensured that she would continue to serve this line on a seasonal basis, while returning to the Bari-Durrës line during the winter season.
The BARI seen in Zakynthos during the summer of 2015, in what was her first season connecting Greece and the Ionian Islands with Italy. This was the first time that I saw her, and this is my first-ever picture of the famed ferry.
The BARI seen docked in the port Zakynthos, prior to her departure for Kefalonia, during the summer of 2015. This was her sixth year under Ventouris Ferries, and her first season on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line.
The BARI seen as she is resting in the port of Zakynthos in 2015. She went on to have a very successful season on her new service, and it sealed the company's return on the Greece-Italy connection via the Adriatic Sea.
One last view of the BARI in the port of Zakynthos, during the summer of 2015.
The BARI was not the only ship of the company to have yielded profitable returns to Ventouris Ferries. Indeed, the RIGEL I and the RIGEL II also had a very successful 2015 season, as they also did during the 2016 season. With the company still very much satisfied with the performance of its vessels, it proceeded to buy another ferry for the Bari-Durrës line, namely the veteran cruiseferry REGINA DELLA PACE of the Croatian company Blue Line International, which was renamed RIGEL III. She began service on the Bari-Durrës line in 2017. The RIGEL I went on to join the BARI on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line for the 2017 season, which was now being operated by two ferries. Both ships had a remarkable season, and once again provided much revenue to the company, which further reasserted its presence on the Adriatic Sea after many years in the shadow of larger competitors. They also continued to be present on the line during the two seasons that followed.
The BARI seen docked in the port of Igoumenitsa during the summer of 2018, which was her fourth consecutive one on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line.
The BARI seen resting in Igoumenitsa in 2018, during yet another successful summer on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line.
The BARI seen in the port of Igoumenitsa during the evening, towards the end of the high season in 2018.
The BARI seen docked in Igoumenitsa in 2018. This had been the second year during which she performed her service together with the RIGEL I.
The BARI seen in the port of Igoumenitsa in 2018, shortly before her departure to Corfu.
The BARI seen in Igoumenitsa during the summer of 2018. This would turn out to my last-ever picture of the ship, as I did not see her again in the next three years that followed, prior to her departure for Bangladesh, where she is due to be scrapped.
The successful service provided by the RIGEL I-BARI duo continued during 2018, as well as 2019. At the same time, the RIGEL II and the RIGEL III were also doing a very good job on the Bari-Durrës line, despite fierce competition from Grandi Navi Veloci, which had been deploying the GNV AZZURRA, the sister ship of the RIGEL II, on the Bari-Durrës line since 2017. With enough earnings at their disposal, Ventouris Ferries sought to purchase a new vessel that would be more efficient in the long term, as its fleet was once again aging. This was the ferry ORANGE 7 of the Japanese company Shikoku Kaihatsu Ferry, which arrived in the summer of 2019 as the RIGEL VII (skipping over the numbers between III and VII). She was introduced on the Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line in 2020, whereupon she replaced the BARI. The latter was due to perform services on the new Bari-Sarandë line, but these were canceled due to low numbers of tickets sold. As a result, the ship was laid-up in Durrës, only serving the Bari-Durrës line once again in late 2020. The RIGEL VII became the new partner of the RIGEL I on the Adriatic Sea, although the latter's service was restricted to the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line, as passenger traffic towards Kefalonia and Zakynthos had diminished.