After 40 years of ferry service in European waters, WASA EXPRESS is leaving Scandinavia for the Red Sea. The ship, which was replaced by new-build AURORA BOTNIA at the end of August, has spent the past month at Turku Repair Yard. While there, modification, upgrading and painting works for the next chapter in her lengthy career were undertaken. Amongst the items upgraded was the heating and ventilation system.
Previous owner Kvarken Link (which sails under the Wasaline brand) agreed to sell the vessel to UME during December 2020.
At the time, Captain Peter Ståhlberg, Managing Director of Wasaline said:
“We are very pleased that we managed to enter into an agreement with UME Shipping who has a good reputation in maintaining and operating their vessels and have set a new standard for ferry operations in the Red Sea. We believe that UME Shipping share our values in how ships shall be operated and maintained. It is an important milestone to have reached this agreement already now, enabling us to focus on the operations of the existing vessel, as well as the newbuilding project.”
New owners United Marine Egypt (UME) have opted to keep the WASA EXPRESS name, despite its Baltic origins. The ship moved from the Finnish flag to the Cypriot flag on August 31, when she was also handed over to her new owner.
WASA EXPRESS has had a career taking in The Baltic, English Channel, Skagerrak, Mediterranean, and even the Canary Islands. During that time, she has also carried the names TRAVEMUNDE LINK, SALLY STAR, THJELVAR, COLOR TRAVELLER, ROSTOCK, and BETANCURIA.
Her previous operators have included original owner Gedser-Travemünde Ruten, Sally Line, Destination Gotland, Silja Line, Color Line, and Fred Olsen Express. WASA EXPRESS celebrated her 40th Birthday in June.
While in drydock at Turku Repair Yard, WASA EXPRESS was repainted in a red livery similar to that which she wore for GT-Link and during much of her Ramsgate – Dunkirk career for Sally Ferries.
WASA EXPRESS made a final call at her former regular port of Holmsund (near Umeå, Sweden) on the evening of October 2. This was to pick up cargo, reportedly wood, for transportation to Alexandria (Egypt). For this final visit she was assisted onto her old berth by the tug KRONO. She had previously served the Vaasa (Finland) – Umeå route from January 2013 until 26 August this year.
A Red Sea First
Once she arrives in Egypt, WASA EXPRESS will discharge her cargo of wood at Alexandria. She will then proceed to the Red Sea where she will join another former Rederi AB Gotland and Sally Line vessel, GUBAL TRADER, in the UME Fleet. GUBAL TRADER was previously Destination Gotland’s GUTE, and for a couple of years in the early 1990’s Sally Line’s SALLY SUN.
WASA EXPRESS will become the first “hybrid” ferry on the Red Sea when she begins UME service. The ship was fitted with a battery system last year that allows her to run with only one generator instead of two.
UME also operates the former TRANSLUBECA of Finnlines, now called POSEIDON EXPRESS, which was acquired in 2015. The company was established in 2004 and operates the Safaga (Egypt) -Duba (Saudi Arabia) and Digna (Sudan) – Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) routes.
Wasa Express key figures
(These figures are supplied by Wasaline – capacities and weights may not be accurate for UME service)
M/S WASA EXPRESS
IMO Number: 8000226
Built: 1981 by OY Wärtsilä AB, Helsinki, Finland.
Length Overall: 140,8 m
Breadth overall: 24,50 m
Deadweight: 2,501 tons
Gross tonnage: 17,053
Net tonnage: 5195
No. of persons onboard: Crew 65, passengers 915