HSC Express to become Viking FSTR.
Baltic ferry operator Viking Line have announced that they will operate the former Larne - Troon fast craft HSC Express on their Helsinki - Tallinn route later in 2017. Renamed Viking FSTR, the vessel which is on charter, will operate from 10th April to October 22nd with a crossing time across the Gulf of Finland of 1 hour and 45 minutes. Viking FSTR (Viking Faster) joins the conventional ferry Viking XPRS on the route for Viking, operating in competition with Tallink's Star, Silja Europa, and recently launched Megastar. A third operator on the route, Linda Line, operates the passenger only catamaran's HSC Merlin and HSC Karolin with a 90 minute crossing time. By comparison Tallink complete the passage in 2 hours, whilst Viking XPRS lags behind at 2.5 hours.
The Helsinki to Tallinn route is very popular with shoppers who are keen to take advantage of the difference in tax rates between Finland and Estonia. The introduction of Viking FSTR will be seen by many as a direct response to Tallink's introduction of Megastar, which boasts a 'Traveller Superstore' spanning 2 decks with an area of some 2,800 square metres - larger than many NI supermarkets. According to Viking Line Viking FSTR will carry just 120 cars - it has been suggested by some that this reduced capacity is to allow for additional shopping facilities to be installed.
It is intended that Viking FSTR will operate 4 sailings (2 round trips) a day with Viking XPRS operating between 4 and 6. Additionally in July the classic cruise ferries from the Stockholm - Helsinki route, Gabriella and Mariella, will also operate a return trip between Helsinki and Tallinn.