Since ’98 she has worked for Slysavarnarfelag, Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre/Seaman’s School, but she was built as the Benchijigua 1,774,’74 at Trondheim for Ferry Gomera (later Lineas Fred Olsen) for service in the Canary Islands. In ’80 she became Betancuria then was sold to Iceland in ’84 and named Akraborg. She served the route Reykjavik-Akranes until 1998. She was then presented to the School for her current role.
At Lerwick in June, as an accommodation ship, is the ex ferry ex cruise vessel Ocean Atlantic 12,798,’86, ex Konstantin Chernenko, ex Rus, ex SC Atlantic. She was Polish built for service in the Russian Far East on the Vladivostok-Petropavlovsk and Nachodka-Yokohama routes.
She is now operated by Miami based company ‘Fleetpro’ who manage a large fleet of cruise vessels and accommodation ships. If she is currently housing workers while moored up, like many accommodation ships in oil, gas and wind energy construction/maintenance offshore sectors, she has to be seaworthy and can stay at sea for long periods.
But redundant ferries have often been allocated a potentially more unstable or transient existence as club or restaurant vessels. This July saw one such well known vessel depart Barrow in Furness, NW England, the port where from 2004 to 2010 she was a night-club ship, and apparently quite a profitable one at times.
Known locally as Princess Selandia 3,056gt she sailed from Barrow, still sporting her last Danish State Railway name Sjaelland. As Dronning Ingrid she was launched at Helsingør in 1951 and she still has her original port of registry Korsør at her stern. She has returned to Denmark seemingly to become a museum, recalling the time when such train ferries held together the Danish Islands and linked to neighbouring countries until they were redundant as the rails in turn went under the sea or over it on embankments and bridges.
As I watched her with a large crowd of onlookers pass through the Barrow dock basins toward the Walney Channel and the sea, with her elegant liner like profile, the scene was not unreminiscent of the fine liners, ferries and packets that had left the building slips of Vickers Armstrong and taken this very route, many heading to the far corners of the world never to return to this ship-building port.
Sjaelland’s train ferry prow and visor, shaped to fit her train dock, and the icebreaker bow, perhaps let her down in the beauty stakes, but she should be appreciated in Denmark where interested parties have struggled long to raise the funds to buy her and bring her home. I wish her well. Barrow docks now look diminished without her imposing presence. Where her two great funnels dominated, the scene is now a largely empty and forlorn dockside promenade.