HSC Express (Vessel Profile)

Profile including history and technical data of P&O's former Larne-Troon InCat catamaran, Express.

IMO Number: 9176046

Constructed by: InCat Tasmania Pty Ltd., Hobart, Tasmania [DE} #47

Also known as: Portsmouth Express, Catalonia

HSC Express in her latest livery carrying the marketing name 'Viking FSTR'. Viking Line.

Photo: EXPRESS in the livery of Gotlandsbåten.  Gotlandsbåten

HSC Express (ex Portsmouth Express, Catalonia, later marketed as Viking FSTR)

Until the end of September 2015, EXPRESS provided the seasonal service between Larne and Troon (and occasionally Cairnryan) in Scotland.  She is an InCat 91m wave-piercing car carrying catamaran and was built in 1998 to operate in Spain for Buquebus (who’s Spanish services where taken over by Balearia). In 1998 on her delivery voyage from Australia (named CATALONIA) EXPRESS crossed the atlantic ocean in 3 days 7 hours 54 minutes, temporarily making her the holder of the Hales Blue Riband Trophy of the Atlantic for an eastbound crossing – her sister ship CAT-LINK V took the record from her just 6 weeks later.  (The previous record holder had been Hoverspeed Great Britain in 1990 which co-incidentally also previously operated from Northern Ireland to Scotland for Seacat.  Prior to this the record holder was the SS United States which had held the record since 1952!) However, EXPRESS still holds the record for being the first passenger ship to cover more than 1000 miles in one 24 hour period (also achieved on that delivery voyage).

Catalonia at sea. Buquebus.
Catalonia at sea. Buquebus.

Since 2000 EXPRESS spent most of her career operating for P&O, firstly on cross-channel services from Portsmouth then on Scottish services from Larne.  During the winter, when operating from Northern Ireland, she was usually laid up at Albert Quay in Belfast as she only operated between March and October. EXPRESS was one of only 4 car carrying fast craft left operating to the Island of Ireland (Stena’sHSS STENA EXPLORER (withdrawn at the end of 2014) and Irish Ferries ‘JONATHAN SWIFT‘ operating from Dublin, and Isle of Man Steam Packets ‘MANANNAN‘ being the others), and the only catamaran operating between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The P&O high-speed ferry “Express” passing the Chaine Memorial, Larne with the 10.05 sailing from Troon 4/6/10.
The P&O high-speed ferry “EXPRESS” passing the Chaine Memorial, Larne with the 10.05 sailing from Troon 4/6/10. Albert Bridge [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
In June 2015, P&O crew where informed by the company that the charter of EXPRESS was not being renewed at the end of her current season.  At the end of June 2015 it was announced that owners Buquebus had sold EXPRESS to a new company called Nordic HSC, for operation between Gotland and the Swedish mainland.  On the evening of 30th September 2015, EXPRESS made her last commercial sailing in our waters from Troon.  The following morning, she left Larne for the last time for Belfast, where having been handed over to her new owners, EXPRESS visited Harland and Wolff (perhaps for the last time) for a quick dry-docking.

Express in the livery of Gotlandsbåten at Visby. Gotlandsbåten
Express in the livery of Gotlandsbåten at Visby. Gotlandsbåten

Express operated between Västervik and Nynäshamn (Swedish Mainland) and Visby (Gotland) for a single season for a new company called Gotlandsbåten.  However, it was later announced that the service would not continue in 2017.  In early 2017 it was announced that EXPRESS would operate for Viking Line as ‘Viking FSTR’ in 2017.  From 10th April EXPRESS has operated for Viking Line between Helsinki and Tallinn, but with a reduced vehicle capacity.  Our Scandinavian correspondents tell us that this is in order to increase turnaround speed in port.  The Viking FSTR service will run until the 22nd of September.  From a passenger perspective it appears that EXPRESS is essentially unchanged inside from when she operated for P&O.

During summer 2018 EXPRESS was chartered to Naveira ARMAS for service in the Canary Islands.  On October 12th 2018 NIFS revealed that EXPRESS had been sold to Greek concerns for future service from the port of Rafina as GOLDEN EXPRESS.

Viking Line promotional image for Viking FSTR, formerly P&O and Gotlandsbaten's HSC Express.
Viking Line promotional image for Viking FSTR, formerly P&O and Gotlandsbaten’s HSC Express.

Deck Plans

"P&O

"P&O

Viking Line Viking XPRS information sheet (includes deck plan)

Technical Data

Viking Line promotional image for Viking FSTR, formerly P&O and Gotlandsbaten's HSC Express.
Viking Line promotional image for Viking FSTR, formerly P&O and Gotlandsbaten’s HSC EXPRESS.
 Current Name

EXPRESS

IMO Number

9176046

Design

InCat

Building Yard

InCat Tasmania Pty Ltd., Hobart, Tasmania

Hull Number

47

Year Completed

1998

Owner in NI service

(current owner)

Los Cipreses S.A (Buquebus)

(Nordic HSC)

NI Operator

(current)

P&O Ferries

(Naveira ARMAS)

Classification

Det Norske Veritas – DNV +1A1 HSLC R1 Car Ferry “B” EO

In service (original)

June 1998 (for Buquebus)

Call sign (for P&O)

C6FQ4

Length overall

91.3m

Beam

26m

Draft

3.73m

Gross Tonnage

5902

Machinery

  • Main Engines – 4 x resiliently mounted Caterpillar 3618 marine diesel engines.
  • Water Jets – 4 x Lips LJ145D waterjets configured for steering and reverse.
  • Transmission – 4 x Renk ASL60 gearboxes, approved by the engine manufacturer, with reduction ratio suited for optimum jet shaft speed.
  • 4 x (2 in each hull) Caterpillar 230kW generators
  • Ride Control – A ‘Maritime Dynamics’ active ride control system is fitted to maximise passenger comfort. The system combines active trim tabs aft and optional bolt-on T-foil located at the forward end of each hull.
  • Decca MX400B six-channel GPS with built-in DGPS Beacon receiver.
  • 2 x Decca BridgeMaster II 250 Series radars.

Power(Max/Pme  @ 75%)

28,800/21,600kW

Speed (Max/Operational)

48/<42 kts

Max Capacity

220 cars or a combination of cars and up to 4 buses on single car deck

Up to 900 passengers on 2 passenger decks.

Cargo Access

Bow and Stern doors leading directly onto the car deck

Flag (P&O service)

Bahamas (Nassau)

Previous Names

Portsmouth Express (trading name), Catalonia L, Catalonia

Facilities (at end of P&O career)

Club Lounge (Extra)

Food Court

Costa Coffee shop

Quiet lounge

Shop

Video Lounge

Bureau de Change

Note: There is no passenger lift onboard Express.

Video

A P&O promotional video, released following the 2013 refit of Express.

Gotlandsbåten promotional video promoting the short-lived new service to Visby

Gotlandsbåten anländer till Visby för första gången. from Gotlandsbåten AB on Vimeo.

Viking Line promotional video to introduce Viking FSTR (in Finnish)

Photographs

Line drawing of Express.
Line drawing of Express.
Side profile of HSC Express. © InCat
Side profile of HSC Express, showing the layout of decks and main machinery. © InCat
One of Catalonia’s 36.4t  Caterpillar 3618 engines. She was the first vessel in the world to be fitted with this engine type. Buquebus.
P&O's Express pictured leaving Larne on Easter Monday during her final year in service.
P&O’s Express pictured leaving Larne on Easter Monday during her final year in service. Copyright © Gary Andrews.
“Express” laid-up for the winter, at Donegall Quay, Belfast. Albert Bridge [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Dekplan photograph. Copyright © 2014 Andrew Orr
Dekplan (lower passenger deck) photograph. Copyright © 2014 Andrew Orr
Deckplan (lower passenger deck) photograph. Copyright © Andrew Orr.
Deckplan (upper passenger deck) photograph. Copyright © Andrew Orr.
Buquebus' InCat Express, laid up at Belfast's Albert Quay, following the completion of some 15 years of service for P&O. Copyright © Steven Tarbox 2015.
Buquebus’ InCat Express, laid up at Belfast’s Albert Quay, following the completion of some 15 years of service for P&O. Copyright © Steven Tarbox 2015.
Express in the livery of Gotlandsbåten. Gotlandsbåten
Express in the livery of Gotlandsbåten. Gotlandsbåten
"Bar First" onboard HSC EXPRESS in her Viking FSTR guise. This and other areas onboard are largely unchanged from the vessels final years based at Larne. Viking Line
“Bar First” onboard HSC EXPRESS in her Viking FSTR guise. This and other areas onboard are largely unchanged from the vessels final years based at Larne. Viking Line

Article Copyright © Steven Tarbox (NIFerrySite).  

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