Gone but not forgotten: NORSE LAGAN

Profile of the former Belfast to Liverpool ferry NORSE LAGAN. Includes an overview of her history, technical specifications, and photographs.

IMO Number: 6719342

Constructed by: Davie Shipbuilding & Repairing, Lauzon, Quebec [CA] #660

Also known as: M. RIVER / MOBY RIDER / HANSA LINK / FLAVIA II / ATHENA / FRED / FREDERICK CARTER

NORSE LAGAN at VT2 14 Feb 1997. Copyright © Alan Geddes

Photo: Norse Irish Ferries freight and passenger ferry NORSE LAGAN at VT2 14 Feb 1997. Copyright © Alan Geddes

Historical overview of Norse Lagan.

Early Years

NORSE LAGAN was originally completed by the Davie Shipbuilding shipyard in Lauzon (Quebec, Canada) for Canadian government controlled CN Marine as the Canadian train ferry FREDERICK CARTER in January 1968.  She was named in honour of Sir Frederick B.T. Carter, a former speaker in the Newfoundland House of Commons.

FREDERIC CARTER being launched from the slipway as the Davie Shipyard in 1967. Marine Atlantic.
FREDERIC CARTER being launched from the slipway as the Davie Shipyard in 1967. Marine Atlantic.

FREDERICK CARTER  was recognised as the worlds largest train ferry in the 1983 “Guinness Book of Facts and Feats of Ships and Shipping”.  She was designed to carry freight wagons between Newfoundland and the Canadian mainland. 

FREDERICK CARTER. Official Marine Atlantic postcard from Ian Boyle's collection.
FREDERICK CARTER prior to her extensive rebuild in Europe. Official Marine Atlantic postcard from Ian Boyle’s collection.

Conversion

During 1988 she was sold for service elsewhere following a decision to end the rail-ferry service, arriving at the end of November at the Öresundsvarvet shipyard in Landskrona (Sweden) for rebuilding/lengthening.  She was moved to the Polish Navy yard at Gdynia in January 1990 for the rebuilding to be competed, before entering service for Nordö-Link as HANSA LINK between Malmo and Travemünde in April the same year.  The rebuilding work had created one of the largest capacity RoRo passenger ferries in the world at the time with capacity for up to 2,400 lane metres of freight and 800 passengers, but also gave the vessel a rather ungainly appearance with large sponsons on both sides. She was now almost 30m longer and 3m wider than originally built having originally only had capacity for 12 passengers.  Following a short charter to DFDS for service across the North Sea, HANSA LINK was chartered to transport troops to the Persian Gulf for the first Iraq War.

Norse Irish Ferries

In November 1991 HANSA LINK was again sold, this time to Wagenborg shipping of The Netherlands.  Wagenborg immediately chartered her to Norse Irish Ferries for their new service between Belfast and Liverpool as NORSE LAGAN, partnered initially by the freighter TRANSGERMANIA then a second freighter NORSE MERSEY (i).  During the Christmas period of 1991 she carried her first tourist passengers, an experiment to see if there was enough demand.  The experiment was deemed a success with non-freight passengers and vehicles carried on a permanent basis from early 2002.  In 1994, she had her homeport changed from Nassau (Bahamas) to Delfzijl (The Netherlands). Delfzijl is the home town of then owners Wagenborg.

Pictured at the new Victoria Terminal 2 in 1992 is NORSE LAGAN, a very different ship to the vessel with which replaced her, the first LAGAN VIKING. She was an important ship for Belfast, in that she helped reestablish the direct ferry service to Liverpool. Copyright © Alan Geddes
Pictured at the new Victoria Terminal 2 in 1992 is NORSE LAGAN, a very different ship to the purpose-built vessel with which replaced her, the first LAGAN VIKING. She was an important ship for Belfast, helping re-establish and prove the viability of a frequent direct ferry service to Liverpool. Copyright © Alan Geddes

NORSE LAGAN had proven herself as a successful vessel on her new route, helping to re-establish and prove the viability of the link between Belfast and Liverpool, and so in June 1996 Norse Irish Ferries purchased her and switched her home port to Douglas (Isle of Man).

Replacement

Also in 1996, Norse Irish Ferries announced that they had agreed the charter of two new RoPax ferries currently under construction at the Visentini yard in Italy which would be delivered the following year.  In the meantime a brand-new RoRo vessel NORSE MERSEY (ii) had been chartered from the same yard to run opposite NORSE LAGANThe new RoPax ferries would replace both NORSE LAGAN and her new running mate, and would allow Norse Irish Ferries to operate additional daytime sailings due to their superior speed compared to the existing vessels. For the first time the company would also have vessels which had been purpose-built for the carriage of passengers, rather than having been converted for the purpose from freight only vessels.

The MERSEY VIKING (ii) being put through her paces on July 23rd, 1997. She had been delivered from her builders in Italy earlier the same day., and was one of the lead vessels (the other being sister-ship LAGAN VIKING) in the Visentini RoPax series. The current Belfast - Liverpool vessels are an enlarged and improved version of this design. Copyright © Alan Geddes.
Norse Irish Ferries first purpose-built RoPax MERSEY VIKING (i) being put through her paces on July 23rd, 1997. She had been delivered from her builders in Italy earlier the same day. She was one of the lead vessels (the other being sister-ship LAGAN VIKING) in the Visentini RoPax series. The current Belfast – Liverpool vessels are an enlarged and improved version of this design, a version of which is still being built to this day. Copyright © Alan Geddes.

 

Following the arrival of both these new vessels,  MERSEY VIKING (i) and LAGAN VIKING (i), NORSE LAGAN was withdrawn from service.  On the evening of 16th November 1997 she entered Liverpool’s Canada Dry Dock for maintenance, receiving an updated Norse Irish Ferries livery including the corporate logo of a coloured Viking longboat sail on her funnel for the first time.  Her bow and funnel colours remained unchanged though despite the introduction of a new predominantly red and white corporate livery as part of the launch of the new vessels from Italy.  As part of NORSE LAGAN‘s updated livery the “Liverpool to Belfast” text on her side stability sponsons was reapplied as just “Liverpool to”, increasing speculation that she could soon be deployed on a new Norse Irish Ferries Liverpool to Dublin route.  However, once these works were completed NORSE LAGAN was laid up at Cammell Laird rather than going into service.

At the end of March she NORSE LAGAN chartered to transport troops involved in a NATO exercise in Norway.  A further short charter followed with Seawind Line operating between Stockholm (Sweden) and Turku (Finland) from May to August 1998 in full Norse Irish livery, before she was laid up again, this time in Finland.

Norse Lagan, Stockholm. Pictured in 1998 whilst on charter to Seawind Line but still in full Norse Irish Ferries livery. Copyright © Ian Boyle. Simplon postcard.
NORSE LAGAN, Stockholm. Pictured in 1998 whilst on charter to Seawind Line but still in full Norse Irish Ferries livery. Copyright © Ian Boyle. Simplon postcard from the NIFS archive.

Return to the Med

During October 1998 NORSE LAGAN was purchased by Moby Lines, passing through the Kiel canal on 17th October and returning to Gdynia on the way to her new home in Italy.  Renamed MOBY RIDER she was used on a seasonal basis as a freight and no-frills passenger vessel until she ran aground on a sandbank near the entrance of the Tuscan port of Livorno on the 19th of May 2005. She had 46 freight units and a number of passengers onboard including 21 German tourists.  After a re-floating operation which involved fresh water and fuel oil being pumped off the vessel before she was pulled free, she was laid up in Genoa.  Despite rumours of her being used for further service in Greek waters, MOBY RIDER was sold for scrap in 2007.  She arrived on June 2nd 2007 at Alang (India) renamed M.RIVER for beaching and demolition.

Afterword

A year after the sale of NORSE LAGANNorse Irish Ferries was sold in September/October 1999 to Cenargo group.  Cenargo had introduced their own Liverpool to Dublin route through their Merchant Ferries subsidiary in February 1999, a year after NORSE LAGAN had become spare and was linked with starting a similar route. This was operated by their own new Spanish-built RoPax sister-vessels BRAVE MERCHANT and DAWN MERCHANT. During February Merchant Ferries confirmed they had ordered a further two sister vessels which they intended to deploy on a Liverpool to Belfast route which would have been in competition with Norse Irish Ferries, however with the takeover of the latter this never happened and the additional vessels were chartered to Norfolk Line for their new Dover – Dunkerque route instead. The two companies would remain separate in name before they were merged together to become Norse Merchant Ferries in February 2001.  Following financial difficulties at Cenargo International, Norse Merchant Ferries became a separate company for a while before being acquired by Norfolk Line.  Norfolk Line was subsequently purchased by DFDS, who soon sold the bulk of the former Norfolk Line Irish Sea operation to Stena Line.  Today the former Norse Irish Ferries Belfast to Liverpool route still exists in the form of Stena Line’s Belfast to Liverpool (Birkenhead) service. This uses the 2 Visentini-built RoPax vessels STENA LAGAN and STENA MERSEY, as well as the FSG-built freighter STENA PRECISION.

STENA MERSEY. Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 22nd February 2017
STENA MERSEY. Press Eye – Northern Ireland – 22nd February 2017. Photographer – © Matt Mackey / Press Eye

Title image: Norse Irish Ferries freight and passenger ferry NORSE LAGAN at VT2 14 Feb 1997. Copyright © Alan Geddes


Technical data

NameNORSE LAGAN
Previous Names
  • FREDERICK CARTER
  • FRED
  • FLAVIA II
  • ATHENIA
  • THENIA
  • HANSA LINK
Later Names
  • MOBY RIDER
  • M. RIVER (beached as)
IMO Number6719342
Building YardDavie Shipbuilding & Repairing, Lauzon, Quebec, Canada
(Currently named Chantier Davie Canada Inc.)
Hull Number 660
Launched12th June 1967
Year Completed1968
Delivery date –
In serviceEarly 1968
In Service (Norse Irish Feries November 1991
Call sign in NI servicePGJA / MVXX9 [after sale to Norse Irish] / IBCQ [Moby]
Conversion/RebuildLengthened by almost 40m and rebuilt as a passenger vessel with the addition of additional passenger accommodation and stability sponsons.

  • Öresundsvarvet, Lanskrona, Sweden (11/98 – 01/00)
  • Stocznia Marynarki Wojennej ,Gdynia, Poland (1/00 – 4/00)
ClassificationLloyd’s Register of Shipping

Registro Italiano Navale (RINA) [Moby]

Length overall  (between perpendiculars)
As-builtAfter rebuild
148.1m (137.2)187m (176.2)
Beam
As-builtAfter rebuild
21.7m24.4m
Depth
As-builtAfter rebuild
 –
Draft
As-builtAfter rebuild
 6m approx 7m
Gross Tonnage
As-builtAfter rebuild
12,221 21,717
Machinery
  • 4 x Pielstick 12 PC2V 400 12-cyl. marine-diesel engines reduction geared to twin controllable pitch propellers.

Bow and stern thrusters

Mac power14,872kW
Operational speed18.5 kts (18 kts post rebuild)
Capacity (as built)
  • 39 x 45-foot railcars or 32 x 55-foot tractor trailers or 148 x 30-foot long cars, or a combination of the above.

12 passengers

Capacity (Norse Irish)
  • 2400 lane metres of vehicles
  • Up to 400 passengers
Original FlagSt John’s (Canada)
Flag under Norse IrishNassau (Bahamas)
Delfzijl (The Netherlands)
Douglas (Isle of Man)

Title image: Norse Irish Ferries freight and passenger ferry NORSE LAGAN at VT2 14 Feb 1997. Copyright © Alan Geddes


The above article is Copyright © Steven Tarbox, all rights reserved.  Unauthorised reproduction or distribution is strictly prohibited.

With thanks to Alan Geddes, Scott Mackey, and Ian Boyle for the use of their images.


Original article published: 02/05/18
Last update: 02/05/18

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