Introduction to European Seaway
EUROPEAN SEAWAY is a 1991-built Ro-Ro freight ferry owned and operated by P&O Ferries, normally on the Dover Strait between Dover and Calais but also as a relief vessel between Larne and Cairnryan. She was built in Germany as the first of what would ultimately be four vessels, three “Seaway-class” freighters and a single Ro-Pax, PRIDE OF BURGUNDY. While the three freighters were built for the
EUROPEAN SEAWAY is the only one of the trio of freighters left in her original configuration, with
The first time EUROPEAN SEAWAY visited Northern Ireland was in 2017 as
Schichau Seebeckwerft AG (SSW), Germany
Knud E Hansen AS, Denmark
Three Quays Marine Services
Schichau Seebeckwerft AG (SSW), Bremerhaven, Germany
7.10.1991 (Dover – Zeebrugge)
Lloyds Register of Shipping
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Limassol (Cyprus) – since 05.19
Previously Dover (United Kingdom) from construction
The History of European Seaway
Construction and sister-ships
EUROPEAN SEAWAY was ordered by P&O European Ferries from Bremerhaven’s Schichau Seebeckwerft as one of what was at first to be 2 (later increased to 4) identical new Seaway (or “Super European”) class “super-freighters” for P&O’s Dover-Zeebrugge operation. The term “super-freighter” was used in the early 1990’s to describe vessels built to carry larger amounts of freight traffic than the previous generation of freight ferry. Significantly, for freight ships, the Seaway class could carry up to 200 passengers. This passenger accommodation was needed to accommodate drivers who accompanied their trailers on the crossing, rather than just leaving it at the port to be picked up by another driver at the destination port. North Sea Ferries (later P&O Ferries’) sister ships NORBAY and NORBANK were also described as super-frieghters when conceived.
However, changing traffic patterns meant that P&O changed the Seaway Class order when construction of the ships was already underway. Subsequently, the fourth vessel was completed with more passenger accommodation, entering service as the multi-purpose passenger and vehicle Ro-Pax ferry PRIDE OF BURGUNDY. Under the original plan she would have been identical to the other ships and named European Causeway. From the 10th of March 1998 the vessels operated under the ‘P&O Stena Line’ banner, following the establishment of a joint-venture between P&O and Stena Line for their English Channel routes.
Life after the Zeebrugge service
As a result of reduced traffic levels after the opening of the Channel Tunnel and improvements to road connections from Calais, the Zeebrugge route closed at the end of 2002 to release the vessels for Calais. The announcement of this coincided with the announcement that the joint-venture between P&O and Stena Line on the Calais route would end after just 4 years. By now the other route in the joint-venture, the former Stena Line Newhaven-Dieppe route, had been closed with new operator Transmanche Ferries operating the route instead.
Although three of the vessels were delivered to the original specification as freighters, EUROPEAN SEAWAY is the only vessel now remaining as originally built. EUROPEAN HIGHWAY and EUROPEAN PATHWAY became the passenger RoPax ferries PRIDE OF KENT (II) and PRIDE OF CANTERBURY (II) in 2003 after conversion at Lloyd Werft (this was known within P&O as The Darwin Project – the ships evolved).
It had been intended that these vessels would be rebuilt at their original builders yard, but following Schichau Seebeckwerft going out of business the contract went to nearby Lloyd Werft. This was a yard which was no stranger to converting freight ships to cross-channel ferries having successfully converted Sealink’s FANTASIA (later STENA FANTASIA) and FIESTA (later SEAFRANCE
EUROPEAN HIGHWAY and EUROPEAN PATHWAY were fitted with modernised ‘digital’ systems during their rebuilds (as was PRIDE OF BURGUNDY), meaning EUROPEAN SEAWAY remains as the only vessel in the quartet with her original ‘analogue’ systems still in place. EUROPEAN HIGHWAY and EUROPEAN PATHWAY became PRIDE OF KENT(II) and PRIDE OF CANTERBURY (II) and continue to serve the Dover to Calais route.
With the closure of the Zeebrugge route, EUROPEAN SEAWAY dedicated to Dover – Calais freight duties. Her large open upper vehicle deck meant she was suitable to carry large amounts of the hazardous cargo which was not allowed to pass through the competing Channel Tunnel. She would only stay in service until November 2003, however, due to over capacity after the introduction of the ‘new’ PRIDE OF KENT (II) and PRIDE OF CANTERBURY (II) which replaced smaller ships. Following a refit at A&P Falmouth during December 2003, EUROPEAN SEAWAY was used as an accommodation vessel for fleet overhauls at Falmouth and listed for sale. In June 2004 she was moved to Birkenhead for further lay up, though she was removed from the sale list.
At the beginning of 2005, EUROPEAN SEAWAY returned to Dover to resume sailings to Calais. Until August 2010 EUROPEAN SEAWAY didn’t stray from the Calais route except for refit’s apart from a short period during March 2006 when she operated 6 sailings to Zeebrugge after the collapse of a berth at Calais. Berthing trials were conducted at Boulogne’s ‘hub port’ for a single day in October 2009, however, in order to assess the new port’s suitability as a fallback option should Calais be closed. Years later this would prove important as PRIDE OF BURGUNDY, PRIDE OF KENT (II) and PRIDE OF CANTERBURY (II) (which still share the same hull-form as EUROPEAN SEAWAY) would all be required to operate to Boulogne when Calais was blockaded during industrial action related to the closure of MyFerryLink in 2015.
Due to a seasonal downturn in traffic EUROPEAN SEAWAY was laid up for much of August 2010. On the 5th of September EUROPEAN SEAWAY filled in for PRIDE OF BURGUNDY and conducted berthing trials at Ramsgate in place of the latter, as PRIDE OF BURGUNDY was to be chartered for the opening of a wind farm and would use the Kent port.
EUROPEAN SEAWAY continued in Dover-Calais service (excluding refit and occasional lay-up’s due to lower traffic demand) as required until the end of April 2012. She was then chartered out for wind farm work after modifications at ARNO Dunkerque (including fitting a GIS GCH1600/1SF Electric Chain Hoist, and the upgrading of some of the onboard cabins) to make her more suitable. She returned to Dover-Calais service on 22nd October, where she remained until April 2013 (except for her annual refit, this time on Tyneside).
From early April 2013 until mid-August 2014 she was laid up at Tilbury, before returning to the ARNO Dunkerque for further modifications to make her suitable for use as a wind farm accommodation vessel. With the conclusion of this latest charter in early April 2015, the vessel was again laid-up at Tilbury. However, as already mentioned, industrial action related to legal rulings against P&O’s competitor MyFerryLink resulted in a blockade at Calais. This saw EUROPEAN SEAWAY reactivated at short notice to help in moving the huge backlogs of freight which had built up on both sides of the channel. Due to the nature of the changes made for her most recent charter EUROPEAN SEAWAY operated as a stern-only loading vessel as her upper bow doors had been welded shut following damage sustained during her charter.
Apart from refit’s at Damen (formerly ARNO) Dunkerque, EUROPEAN SEAWAY has continued to operate freight sailings between Dover and Calais as required ever since. The first of the refits in December 2015 restored her ability to load through both bow and stern on both levels, therefore making loading and discharging her much more efficient.
First Northern Ireland visit
During March 2017 NIFS reported that EUROPEAN SEAWAY was due to cover the refit and dry-docking’s of EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY and EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER . This spell was planned to last from the end of April to the beginning of June 2016. However, due to a delay with the dry docking of NORBAY, EUROPEAN SEAWAY did not arrive in Northern Ireland for the first time until the morning of May the 3rd. At just shy of 180m long, ‘Seaway’ is longer than the maximum length advised by the Port of Larne website for any of the ferry berths at the port.
It was expected that EUROPEAN SEAWAY would be in service on the Larne – Cairnryan route from May the 6th 2017 until early June. EUROPEAN SEAWAY entered service with the 20:00 ex Larne on 5/5/17 in place of EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER. On 13th May ‘Seaway’ missed her 04:00 ex Larne round-trip in poor visibility, but resumed service as normal with her 10:30 departure from the Antrim port.
At 179.7m long, EUROPEAN SEAWAY is
EUROPEAN SEAWAY visited Remontowa S.A. in Gdansk for her 2018 refit between 20th June and 11th July. While in one of Remontowa’s floating dry-docks her hull was stripped back to bare metal. The current P&O Ferries livery was then applied, replacing what had been a hybrid of different P&O liveries. Some interior refurbishment also took place as well as mechanical overhaul work. Significantly a new female toilet block was added on Deck 7. This will make her more suitable as a relief vessel at Larne. One of the main complaints about the vessel on her maiden spell at Larne was the need for passengers to use toilets located in cabins.
On December 22nd 2018 EUROPEAN SEAWAY went for a second dry-docking of the year, this time at Damen Dunkerque. She returned to Calais on the afternoon of December 31st.
Second Northern Ireland visit
With her 2017 visit judged a success, it was no surprise when NIFS revealed in December 2018 that EUROPEAN SEAWAY would return to Larne as relief vessel in May 2019. She arrived at Larne on the evening of May 14th. Having crossed to Cairnryan and back the following day, she entered service on Thursday, May 16th in place of EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER. ‘Seaway’ had come to Larne directly from Falmouth where she had been undergoing work. Like on her last visit to Northern Ireland, EUROPEAN SEAWAY used only MacKean Quay at Larne as it is the only berth at the port which can accommodate her.
As a result of problems with European Highlander discovered whilst she was in dry dock, EUROPEAN SEAWAY‘s North Channel spell was extended into July in order for EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY to be able to dry dock. ‘Seaway’ finally left Northern Ireland for Dunkirk just after midnight on the 15th July. She was timetabled to return to service on the Larne to Cairnryan route on September 1st so that ‘Causeway’ could return to dry dock. However, this visit was cancelled after a reported minor fire on the vessel while she was moored at Dunkerque on the night of 25/26 August. On September 17, EUROPEAN SEAWAY left Dunkerque for Gdansk under tow of the tug FAIRPLAY 33. Her AIS had been switched off the previous day and according to reports online she had to be assisted by 4 harbour tugs to leave Dunkerque.
A Look Inside European Seaway (May 2017)
To take a look inside EUROPEAN SEAWAY as she was in service between Larne and Cairnryan in May 2017, see the dedicated page here. However, remains almost totally unchanged in 2019. The addition of a female toilet block on Deck 7 the only notable change since her 2017 visit.
The above article is Copyright © Steven Tarbox, all rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction or distribution is strictly prohibited.
Original article published 05/03/2017
updated: throughout 06/17
28.12.18 (Converted to Gutenberg blocks and rebuilt gallery)
Last Update: 22.09.19