|16.11.2009 NEW!||FINNJETweb managed to salvage another bunch of more than 50 FINNJET-items from Alang|
After our difficult trip to India last year and saving some items from the ship, we had the opportunity to go into long-winded negotiations again. And now we have managed to rescue another bit of FINNJET! This includes passenger deck signs and plans, paintings from cabins, several posters, certificates and other stuff. A higher four-digit amount of Euros was transferred to India in the beginning of the month and the mentioned items are currently on their way to us. They were shipped from Bhavnagar (50km away from Alang breaking yard) to Mumbai and from there to Hamburg, Germany by ship and will be arriving he re in a few weeks from now. This gives us the unique chance to secure a piece of FINNJET for the crew of FINNJETweb.com and all other interested fans. The bought items are from now on available exclusively at the FINNJETweb Shop and are priced around 40-100 Euro per item, depending on quality, condition, size and uniqueness.
In fact, the items are no bargain buy. This is mainly related to the businessmen in India who are aware of the historical value of FINNJET items for her fans and thus not selling this stuff at crash prices. For us, this deal included a high risk (advance payment to Indian bank account) and we are very proud and happy that we succeeded at the end and that we are able to have this opportunity to offer this unique chance.
We have forbeared from importing heavy machinery that was also offered to us (freight rates!) and concentrated on authentic items as the mentioned paintings and deck signs. You can take a look at the FINNJETweb Shop to review the different items and reserve your personal historical piece of Finnjet. Please note that not all items are currently open for sale yet and the whole amount of over 60 items will be made available over the time. We will give frequent updates about the status of shipping.
|16.11.2009 NEW!||FINNJETweb goes Web 2.0|
I feel quite ashamed for simply not having managed to keep the website running anymore in the past months. Apart from the contents, it's also the technical framework and concept of this website which is starting to get seriously outdated. Time remains a hardly limiting factor even in the future, but still we have now managed to get something new for this website, which will hopefully rise my motivation to work on the page again. Of course I'm also depending on your comments, opinions and support, so let me know what you think! One step towards a newer general concept of this website is the introduction of a Video-Podcast, which, in its first episode, tells a bit more personal information about the creator of this page and will be a source of personal opinions on different shipping related topics. You can check out the new FINNJETweb Video-Podcast here.
Another piece of news is that FINNJETweb is now on Twitter! Named "finnjet", you can now follow our tweets about Page and Shop updates and thus stay tuned :-)
|16.11.2009 NEW!||FINNJET update|
The situation about Finnjet remains more or less unchanged. The ship is more or less gone, but still no confirmation could be given for full completion of the scrapping works. Rishi Ship Breakers has reportedly not yet beached another ship on its plot. I hope you all heard and read about the following interesting media publications in the past to describe the status of the ship, especially:
24.10.2008: YLE: A-Zoom TV Report (finnish)
16.11.2008: NDR: Ostseereport TV Report (german)
12.12.2008: NDR: DAS! TV Report (german)
02.01.2009: HS: Scrapping of Finnjet advances at fast pace
15.08.2009: Peter Knego photos of Finnjet in Alang (May, July 2009) (scroll down to KINGDOM, ex DA VINCI, FINNJET)
Please also read our now updated ship chronicle summarizing the events since late 2007.
Surely you will have noticed that FINNJETweb lacked quite some updates in the past months. I'm sorry for that. When I started this website back in 2001, FINNJET was a subject full of life and enthusiasm, every trip was a great experience and the idea was to share these wonderful moments with others on the Internet. The end of Finnjet's existance marked a completely new situation also for me and FINNJETweb. It was never my intention to have a website about something that doesn't exist anymore (I never had good grades at history lessons..). I'm not saying that I intend to close the page, but you can believe me that the last months were not easy for me considering what to do with this website. I lost interest completely in between, but came up again lately. However, time is a major issue working against my FINNJET efforts, currently I'm working on a research paper for my studies, before that I was doing an internship with a big German transport company. Times for this website have obviously changed. FINNJET is gone and so is most of my time for the page currently. However, Kai is doing a great job in keeping the FINNJETweb Shop running and we still see new items joining our stock of items, so keep on checking it out, you will find lots of nice things that shouldn't be missing in any FINNJET collection. Keep in mind that we are also still working on our Alang Video-DVD which will be a documentary about our exciting trip to Alang last year, making us the last passengers to stay on board and the only guys who actually went to Alang to save some historic documents from the ship in a dangerous mission.
Let me also say a few words about this page itself. We have always been a neutral pool of information for over 8 years now, open to everyone - without any intentions of working towards a specific target or actively searching for contacts to create any bigger form of collaboration or the like. Thats not the point of this page. The point is to share the interest in Finnjet, not more and not less. Everyone who wants to send me stuff is very welcome to do so, however currently I don't get it managed to update the page due to time restrictions. But believe me, we will be back sooner or later!
Here are some notes on whats currently up to date:
- Juha Rautavirta (Finnjet's last Finnish Captain) recently invited me to some interesting FINNJET-groups on Facebook. Take a look as well, there you can find interesting photos and contacts.
- Peter Knego's MidShipCentury.com released pictures of what is remaining of the GTS FINNJET at Alang in May and July 2009. Take a look.
- Feel free to discuss your current thoughts on Finnjet or the website on our Forum. What about showing the progress of your Revell models?
- Dany Carvalho from France is currently developing an impressive 3D Model of Finnjet for Virtual Sailor, a PC based home shipping simulator! Check out the previews below:
More Infos still to come, check out FINNJETweb every now and then and please stay tuned! - Mathias
FINNJET is slowly dying away
After now all saving trials seem to have failed*, I would like to thank all people who have been involved in the different projects and also those who just agreed on the idea to save her. It was a great feeling to notice that there are lots of others who have a special interest in the ship. Unfortunately I did not have enough time too keep my website regularly updated after May 2008. Still I tried to follow every step of her final weeks in detail and commented in my forum. The regular website updates were anyway missing, for which I give my apologies to those who were looking for news. On 23rd of August I left home for India with 4 other Finnjet fans, to say goodbye to the old lady one final time. During the trip we took hundreds, if not thousands of photos and videos of the ship. I made up a quick report with some interior and exterior impressions of the vessel here. More photos and more information is still to come soon.
* Still final negotiations are actually going on according to Johnny Sid from ProFinnjet Turku, but chances are small.
The last journey has begun: FINNJET to India
Finnjet has now left the harbour of Jeddah for Mumbai. From there the journey goes on to Alang, where the ship will be broken up by the local scrapyards. FINNJETweb has therefore changed its Save the Finnjet! alert and extended it as far as we are now looking for every possible (part)-Investor for the Espoo-Hotel/Musum project (see below). If bigger investors can be convinced as well, and voluntary crew for the back-transfer to Finland can be arranged, the chances for the ship to be preserved from the scrappers rise. If not, Finnjet will be broken up already in a few weeks.
After the scrap news: Finnjet back to Finland?
After the shock of the scrap news of 5th May, almost any kind of news about Finnjet are good news. While the ship has sailed to Jeddah in Saudia Arabia now and passed the Suez Canal on the way, 3 new possible options have come up for a future use of the ship. The first two options that Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported about some days ago were told by Turkish shipbrokers. These options would see Finnjet either as pilgrim ferry in the Red Sea or as Cruise Ferry from France to Algeria. However, a much more promising option was now proposed in the city council of the second biggest city in Finland on monday - Espoo!
Kurt Byman (Independent), Martin Saarikangas (National Coalition Party), Timo Soini (True Finns), and Eero Akaan-Penttilä (Nat. Coalition) have now started an initiative on Monday. They propose the city to purchase the vessel and save her from the breakers. The 31 year old ferry could be used as accomodation vessel for students or other people looking for budget hotel accomodation. Finnjetweb proposes that the ship could also be used as a floating multi-purpose hall for exhibitions, conferences, concerts, parties, sports events etc. on the cardeck. Also the engine room could be turned into a museum and the whole ship become a combined hotel/shopping mall/event hall/muesum.
The possible purchase price including the transport to Finland would cost the city 10 Million Euros. "As a floating hotel, the ship would quickly pay itself back and then start making profit. [...]n I believe this would be a profitable business venture. With a moderate investment we could get seriously good revenue for the city", Saarikangas believes.
The proposed mooring place close to Suomenoja marina in Espoo is anyway highly doubted by experts. Salomon Kaukiainen, one of our Finnjetweb authors and sailor, knows the area. "The fairway is only deep enough for boats with a draft of 1,5m. To get Finnjet in there, it would probably even require to remove some archipelago islands." More information:
>> Helsingin Sanomat (22.5.08)
It's official: FINNJET is sold!
No Lloyd's List, no Ilta Sanomat, no Postimees, noWikipedia and yes Fakta om Fartyg! FINNJET will not become a casino ship (see report below) despite the news reports of the last days. Instead, the ship is already owened by the Dutch Club Cruise for several weeks. It has to be admitted that this was first published already in the end of November. However, several reasons left the impression of an impossible or at least unsure deal, which is why Finnjetweb did not report about it except for the Forum. Now, secure sources say that Finnjet is in fact already owned by Club Cruise. On 16th January, Finnjet was renamed m/v DA VINCI!
Who are Club Cruise? A Dutch shipping company that operates cruise ships and charters them to tour operators on a long-term basis. M/S Alexander von Humbold for instance is owned and operated by Club Cruise for german tour operator Phoenix Seereisen. Unconfirmed sources say that Finnjet is also expected to be a charter candidate for Phoenix. This would make sense, considering the ceasing services of T/S Maxim Gorki in November 2008, one of the most famous and classic Phoenix Seereisen cruisers. If Finnjet may inherit her still stays questionable: Despite all amenities Finnjet is primarily a ferry, especially considering her cabins. Since Club Cruise intends to offer the ship as a cruiseship, an intense refit of the cabins will be nevertheless necessary. This makes it considerable again, that from 2009 on it's not Maxim Gorki but Finnjet as Da Vinci sailing the seas, after all also the Baltic Sea!
SeaContainers themselves might be happy enough to be finally rid of the ship: Since June 2006, so 18 months, the ship was laid up at Freeport, Bahamas without any use. This caused extraordinary costs for SeaContainers, which has already applied for chapter 11 insolvency earlier. Experts think that the sale price of 11 million USD hardly covers more than the costs of the layup. Monaco based V-Ships, also responsible for the manning of other Club Cruise ships, will probably continue to be resonsible for the crew management on board, as in parts since 2004 already.
What is about to happen? In roughly a week Finnjet will start her second crossing of the Atlantic ocean. Most probably at a slower pace than 2005, when the average speed to Baton Rouge was 25 knots. After a bunkering stop at Gibraltar, the destination of the trip will be Genoa, Italy, where the ship will be docked and refurbished at the T. Mariotti yard. At the shipyard, also known as standard partner for Club Cruise's ships, Finnjet will then become a cruise ship, no further details are known at this time. Almost sure is anyway the removal of the Gas Turbines and so also the prefix GTS will turn into history.
FINNJET to become world's largest Casino-Resort at Sea?
FINNJET is reportedly under contract to a newly formed Bahamian company, controlled by U.S. interests, who plan to dramatically upgrade the vessel into the world's largest, most lavish, casino resort-at-sea catering to 3,100 passengers plus 500 crew members. Plans call for the existing car deck areas, on Deck(s) 2 & 3, to be converted into a large casino area and the passenger cabins on Deck 4,5,6 & 9 to be demolished and replaced with approximately 200 VIP suites of an extremely high caliber. Four esculators are to be installed together with new, much larger, elevators capable of accommodating the increase in passenges.
We understand that famed naval architects DeltaMarin, of Turku, Finland, have been retained and are preparing the conversion specifications while Interior Design International (IDI), of Seattle, Washington USA, is preparing the interior design package and layout of new VIP suites. IDI appears to have extensive experience with cruise & casino ships having performed work for Carnival, Holland America and Princess.
There has been no disclosure as to where FINNJET will operate however
rumors have indicated Asia, Europe and/or the United States. FINNJET
remains, as of this date, in Freeport, Grand Bahama with a crew of 27,
under the command of Captain Branko Skoric and managed by Monaco based
V Ships, the world's largest ship operator and operator of the five
star Seabourne cruise fleet.
Nothing new in the West
The current news situation about the retired "Queen of the Baltic Sea" is rather quiet. Every now and then, captain Sime Vitlov, who came on board in mid september, has to shift the ship from one quay to the other - probably in order to free up the required spaces for other ships. Vitlov is of Croatian nationality and has the honour to succeed Luciano Lullia in the position as captain on board. Lullia left the Bahamas for his Italian home in september after 3 months on the Finnjet.
The looming sale of the ship in the beginning of August did not happen in the end, and it is known that the question of the price still delays the sale. In a Finnish newspaper, Paul Clark from SeaContainers spoke about potential buyers from the US and Finland a few days ago. However, he did not give any further information.
The current situation of SeaContainers Ltd. appears to be much more interesting. After a fail in publishing several financial reports and figures, the stocks are no longer listed on the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange). Furthermore the company had to declare insolvency according to the American "Chapter 11", which has the main target of re-structuring the company and giving a hopefully profitable future. If this plan fails, it is probable that Finnjet (and Opera, ex Silja Opera) will be auctioned. SeaContainers is the single owner of Finnjet Bermuda Ltd., which owns Finnjet since June.
Last but not least a few notes from the Baltic Sea: Silja owner Tallink have decided to join both "Superfast Finland" and "Tallink Finland" with Silja Oyj Abp in Finland. Some observers think that this could be the first step towards an integration of the Superfast traffic into Silja Line. The main arguments for this speculation are the fact that Tallink may not use the Superfast brand anymore after 2007 by contract and also the fact that Silja Line is a well established marketing name for the Finland-Germany route for almost 20 years thanks to Finnjet. For this purpose Finnjetweb wants to express it's own, not fully serious idea :-)
An Italian in command of a Bahamian ship: GTS FINNJET
After Juha Rautavirta's change to Silja Serenade, the new captain in command of GTS Finnjet is Luciano Lullia from Livorno, Italy. Same as the remaining crew of 20 persons on board, he works for the ship crewing agency V-Ships that SeaContainers hired to "fill the gap" between Silja service and the new owner on board. "I'm honored to be at the command of this famous lady and I hope the best for her" Lullia told towards FINNJETweb. On 15th June 2006 SeaContainers founded a daughter company "FINNJET BERMUDA Ltd." to operate the Finnjet for the time of the sale and for performing the flag change to Bahamian, which was completed on 20.7. "Finnjet's homeport is Nassau now", the Italian captain confirmed. Whether he stays on board after the sale is not sure yet: "At the moment V-Ships is in close contact with SeaContainers to offer full management to the eventual new owner so my position on board will depend on that."
Among the interested buyers are Discovery Cruises (Florida-Bahamas cruise service) and a Florida based casino group as Lullia tells. Anyway the last visit of a possible buyer on board is more than 6 weeks ago and the crew on board does not get much to know about the ongoing sale. According to Bob Kraus, our Florida based cruise expert, none of the above options seems realistic however.
As an interesting detail, the Finnish staircase paintings on the Finnjet (introduced in 1977 with the ship and painted by Kimmo Kaivanto to demonstrate different facets of Finland's nature) were removed in Freeport right after arrival. They are now back in Finland and else than the rest of the ship still owned by Silja Line. According to the comment of a user of the FINNJETweb Forum, there is an agreement with the artist that the paintings will always remain in Finnish hands. The crew on board did not leave the wall empty after the removal of the paintings: "The empty wall has been covered with stainless steel plates, then we have painted them with a light azul paint that gives the impression of texture and the result is not bad at all" as Lullia thinks.
Different sources state different information regarding Finnjet's current situation. While it was reported in the end of July that Finnjet was sold, with delivery to the new owner in August, Peter Bartleet from Galbraith's London shipbrokers can only tell that "the vessel is in fact committed on private and confidential terms and we are not in a position to be able to comment at all." On board, Lullia has not heard about any sale, anyway he knows about a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by SeaContainers and the potential buyer lately. The updated price talk for the ship appears to be 25 Million USD.
Finnjet laid up on the Bahamas
The last weeks were not really characterized by sureness about Finnjet's current state. But thanks to Bob Kraus, who visited Freeport last friday, we know more now: The Finnjet is not yet sold to anyone (as stated in a rumour), but still belongs to SeaContainers. There have indeed been visits of a casino shipping company but it did not end with a transaction.
The ship arrived in Freeport on 9th June at 10 AM. Because of the local traffic situation the ship was not able to dock before 1 PM. Shortly after arrival the Silja signs and texts had to be painted over, since the ship is no longer part of Silja Line after the ferry company was sold to Tallink. The Finnish crew returned home quite a while ago and besides very few engine experts it was completely exchanged by a temporary international crew that will stay on board until a buyer is found. Bob incidently met 2 crew members outside the ship, both came from Bulgaria and have not been on board the ship in Baton Rouge. According to their info, the ship is supposed to stay in Freeport until a buyer is found. Also they confirmed that the captain is Italian and the ship's flag will be re-registered to Bahamian still this month. As 'salary' for their efforts in telling all the details the two want to be shown on my website and I can only say nothing rather than that! ;-)
All photos: Bob Kraus/Orlando, 14.07.2006. No further distribution of the photos without permission.
Mission completed: FINNJET enroute to the Bahamas
Exactly 244 days after the arrival in Baton Rouge last autumn, Finnjet left Baton Rouge again on Tuesday afternoon. The scheduled departure was set for 4 PM and at 4:22 the ship started to move. First a 180 degrees turn with the bow to the east and then the voyage down the Mississippi river could begin. The final destination of this trip seems to be unknown yet, however the first stop will be Freeport on the Bahamas, where the ship is expected in about 4-5 days. The current of Mississippi is about 4 knots and Finnjet will be moving at again about 4-5 knots on the waterlevel, being commanded by captain Juha Rautavirta. Finnjet should be passing New Orleans about 12 to 16 hours after departure from Baton Rouge, i.e. in the wednesday afternoon/evening. Thanks a lot to Ken Freeman, Tom Cunningham and Warren Schulingkamp for their efforts in making photos and keeping us updated! Tomorrow FINNJETweb will be hopefully able to show a photo gallery of Finnjet's departure and the Mississippi river trip. Update 08.06.06: Finnjet seems to be still not yet past New Orleans.
>> A gallery with impressions of Finnjet's departure and trip along Mississippi can be found here
The charter end is coming closer
|Sources: Juha Rautavirta, LSU Website, Tuomas Nylund|
Finnjet's 8 months Baton Rouge mission is almost completed - Next week's Sunday at noon is the official deadline, when all residents of the ship have to be off board, as the LSUHSC website announces. "LSU's obligations to the ship require that the premises be left in the same condition in which you found them. Trash, etc. should be properly disposed of before you leave. It is imperative that you vacate the premises by the deadline. Any goods or belongings left on the premises after that deadline will be discarded. Any expenses related to cleaning up the room assigned to you will be charged to you.", the website further says. Even if this date is already in one week, it is still not yet sure what Finnjet's destiny is. According to Juha Rautavirta, Finnjet's captain, "nothing is confirmed yet. There seem to be at least 2000 different rumors going around." Tuomas Nylund, Silja's SVP, stated on request that "Finnjet's charter will expire 20 June, after which it is planned that she will be taken over by Seacontainers."
The Silja Opera, another Silja ship for sale, was taken over by Seacontainers last week. It's Silja Line logos were painted over and the ship was transferred to Tilbury in England near London, where Silja Opera will be laid up until a buyer is found. Since also other of Seaco's passenger vessels are waiting for sale in Tilbury, it may be possible that Finnjet will also go there, although this is pure speculation and it seems questionable whether layup justifies a 5000 nautical miles trip.
A query at Seacontainers on Friday was unfortunately not answered (yet?).
Rising waters and moving Finnjets
|Sources: Juha Rautavirta, Tom Cunningham|
Time goes by and not too much is happening about the good old Lady. At least the ship's condition is not deteriorating according to local sources, students are careful with "their boat" and so the ship's interiors still look like they did when Finnjet arrived. The exact date of the charter-end was announced to be June 20, time will show how exact this really is.
While the water level ('gage height') of Mississippi river has been constantly rising since the beginning of the year from about 5 feet to 25, the ship was coming more and more up and starting to look "normal" again from the dock. However, within the last 2 weeks the level dropped again slightly. With the ship moving more than 6 meters up, the temporary entrance constructions over the sundeck had to be removed. Now, passengers and crew enter the ship via it's regular entrance door on Deck 5. "We came almost as high to use the entrance on Deck 4", Juha Rautavirta explained, the current master on board. The gage height in the Missisippi river is expected to rise further in the next months.
In the end of January, Finnjet's "passengers" were even lucky enough to be on a "voyage" by ship - even if it lasted only a few minutes and the total distance was only about 200 meters further upstream. Finnjet was pushed forward with the help of 2 tugs, as the current is brisk at the moment and Finnjet is not a river ship.
The reason for the berth-change was a cargo ship that needed the dock for discharging. As an interesting point, the MV Kent Mariner came from Rostock and had a captain from Finland! The ship transported a load of gypsum walls, called "sheet rock".
On board things have not changed, most crewmembers are Philippinos, the info desk is mostly in the hands of Romanians and Estonians, the operating crew is still completely Finnish. The only opened restaurants are the Buffet Silja on Deck 4 and the Seaside Café on Deck 6. The other restaurants are equipped with power supplies and wireless network hubs, offering working space for the students.
"The boat is a big reminder that you're not where you're supposed to be!"
|Sources: Businessreport GBR, Helsingin Sanomat, Thomas Grangärd, Turun Sanomat|
Finnjet has been docked at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge for more than 2,5 months now. Both Crew and Students have got used to this situation, and they can continue to be: The charter contract with LSU was extended by 2 months and the ship will not leave Baton Rouge until the beginning of June. By then, the waterlevel of river Mississpippi can rise by more than 12 meters, which would make it impossible for Finnjet to pass the bridges on the way to open sea. According to press articles, already on the way to Baton Rouge the crew had to dismantle the tallest antenna to keep it from hitting the bridges.
Passengers = Students
About 600-700 students are currently using the Finnjet as temporary home. Their accomodation is completely free including meals. This is also the reason why many of the "passengers" are very satisfied with their housing even if it's not all just fine. "The boat", as most residents call Finnjet, offers a very good study environment and not many possibilities to do something else. Smoke and alcohol-free, not only the nightclubs and entertainment bars are closed, but also watching TV or listeing to the Radio is not really worth doing. "I get one channel on my television and it's not even worth watching. The radio is similarly devoid of options, every time I turn it on it's got to be Abba!", one student notes. Anyway most students are happy with these issues. "Nobody wants to party here" says another student. In fact many students live on Finnjet only when classes are, if they have the possibility, many leave the ship on weekends to visit families and friends. Entering the boat still remains to be a big reminder that things are not as they are supposed to be.
The crew on board is currently consisting of 89 persons, of which 65 are Philippinos and 21 Finns, only 3 are of a different nationality. Captain Rautavirta welcomes the extension of the contract. Towards Helsingin Sanomat he said that "this is a good and valuable conclusion to Finnjet's illustrous career with Silja Line". Also, he is very happy about his current passengers, noting that there have never been any disturbances so far. Even if the crew put up christmas decorations on board, many of the residents can't get into any christmas mood this year as problems are still far from solved.
The Atlantic Crossing was one of the most special sailings of the vessel and it's no surprise that Calle Stenius, Chief Engineer on board, proudly tells, that "it was certainly the fastest transatlantic crossing ever on a Finnish ship." In fact, Finnjet crossed the Atlantic at a speed of almost constantly 24 knots. Before the ship could go for the long voyage, an additional Inmarsat satellite tracking device had to be installed on the roof of the tallest deck. The cardeck was loaded with several supplies and some of the furniture on board was tied down in case of rough seas.
The British ship broker Galbraith's (www.galbraiths.co.uk) has been engaged with the sale of Finnjet and other Seacontainers ships, such as Silja Opera, Walrus and SuperSeaCat One. According to Finnish media, a final price of 13-17 Million Euros is expected. Accordingly there have been several companies interested in more details about the ship. Although the ship is on charter until June, selling might happen before. In this case, the charter contract will be transferred to the new owners
|Author: Torsten Kathke|
One confession; I would not have thought that these kind of news could make me this nostalgic: The Finnjet, former biggest and fastest passengership on Earth, will not be in service anymore next year.
It was forseeable for a longer time already. The world into which the ship was built in the mid-70s does no longer exist. It was the same one where somewhere else a supersonic Concorde was planned and where you could still show your Status by owning a colour TV. 1973, the year in which the (for that time huge - Titanic was only 50 meters longer) ferry was ordered is the same one in which an ingenious inventor invented the automated teller machine (ATM) and in which Watergate appeared on a public Radar for the first time.
Because of the oil crisis, the innovative gas-turbine propulsion (where the prefix G.T.S. comes from) was soon no longer profitable. Addionial Diesel engines helped to get by in slower operations. More than twenty years, from 1977 until 1998, Finnjet served the route she was built for, from Travemünde to Helsinki. Later the German harbour was moved to Rostock and Talinn was added as stopover, then in the end Helsinki was exchanged by St. Petersburg. But she continued sailing.
From the outside the ship was maybe not elegant, but it's special Charme for the Passengers came from numerous smaller specifics and details of the experience "Finnjet-trip". The knowledge to be at sea faster than almost anybody else, the rattling bottles in the duty-free shop, the deck's vibration at full speed, the multilingual announcements, primed by Francis Lais' kitsch-classic "Un homme et une femme", a melody of Silja Line, who operated the ship since 1986. Everytime one ate one's fill at the Scandinavian Buffet, walked around the Deck several times to be able to lean against the airstream, bought several useful and useless things in the shops. For example a Revell-Model kit of the ship, pens and stickers, books, postcards, finnish glas design classics, cheap key fobs and soft toys. As children we took a deep look at the persons surrounding us during dinner, to be able to recognize them again during the progressing voyage. It was all part of it and it got caught in my mind.
I don't remember exactly when I walked down the resonant metal stairs down to the cardeck last time to be driven off board later on, but I saw her last time in summer 2003 during her approach to Helsinki, one of her last ones. The yore masterpiece of technology, freshly renovated in 2004, is now in use as hotel-ship in Louisiana and offers housing for students of the LSU Medical School that was seriousely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. I would have loved to cross the Atlantic once on board this vessel. Only roughly 30 crew members can tell this of themselves. The company is in financial troubles, and before the ship gets finally sold, it offers humanitarian aid in Baton Rouge. Nobody knows yet what the future brings. But, independent of her future, if in the Caribbean, the Baltic Sea or the Mediterranean, I have one plea: Do not change her name. That is history.
Somewhere in the port of Baton Rouge "Un homme et une femme" will echo for the last time sooner or later. Godspeed, grand lady. Maybe see you somewhen.
Torsten Kathke, www.lebenoderso.de
FINNJET starts "Hotel service"
|Sources: LSUHSC Website, AFP|
Last Wednesday afternoon Finnjet arrived in Baton Rouge. While the weather was fine during the Atlantic crossing, the US-Coast Guard Inspection of the ship took about 2 days, keeping the ship from arriving in time.
"All the crew is very excited about this", Håkan Fagerström told towards AFP. Fagerström is most probably going to be one of 2 captains of the ship while it's docked in Baton Rouge. During the operation in Louisiana, dining rooms will turn into student cafeterias, a restaurant will turn into an auditorium and the Ocean Club on Deck 6 is going to be a classroom. Since arrival, the crew has been working and arranging contracts for groceries, laundries and terms to meet local regulations.
Also Louisiana State University has meanwhile published more precise news. Accordingly, students and residents will board the ship today on 10th October while faculty and staff is a bout to follow tomorrow. The future residents got the cabin numbers and boarding times sent by email. The port area turned into a restricted area with need of Photo-Identification cards. Police officers of the campus will be stationed at the area around the ship. A specail parking area will be connected with the ship by a bus-shuttle, same as the bus connection that will shuttle between the ship and different studying sites in Baton Rouge. While it is not allowed to take more than 2 pieces of luggage on board because of space reasons, it is not permitted to take children and pets on board.
Students and authorized family members live on board for free. Faculty and senior administrative staff will pay a service fee of 300$ per Seaside-cabin and month on Decks 3-6. The Commodore cabins cost 450$ per month and cabin. Other staff pays 150$, probably for an inside cabin, also per month and cabin. All these prices and also the free housing of the students include basic meals on board, which means a simple breakfast and a simple dinner. Further meals, beverages and snacks can be bought on board at own cost. The fees will be valid from 1st November on and should not be seen as cabin rental prices but as service charge for the meals and service.
The "Guidelines" for Students and Staff tell the people what to do on board and what not. Failure to comply with the "Contract for Emergency Housing", the "Safety Regulations" (both issued by Silja) or the "Vessel Access Agreement" (issued by LSU) will result in immediate and permanent removal from the vessel and dock, as well as possible action taken by LSUHSC. Furthermore, the special role of the ship's captain is emphasized who has the exclusive charge over the vessel. The US-regulations also require everyone housed on board to attend one or more safety briefings and drills. Alcohol will be generally not served on board and is only permitted in usual quantities for private use in the rooms. Like at airports, the luggage will be screened before entering the ship. Visitors are not allowed in the harbour area and on the vessel at this time. Finally the guidelines explain the fact that the ship's voltage is 220V, leading to usual american electronic devices with 110V to stop working or get damaged even with adapters.
There she is! Finnjet arrived in Baton Rouge
|Sources: own research|
About one hour ago, on 5th October at 2:55 PM local time the FINNJET finally arrived in Baton Rouge. The scheduled arrival was set for 2nd October already when leaving Rostock, the reasons for the delay still have to be found out. Last night at 1 AM local time Finnjet has passed New Orleans. The continuing voyage to Baton Rouge along the 116 nautical miles of river Mississippi took further 14 hours. In total 15 days have passed since her departure departure from Rostock. The total distance from Rostock via Ponta Delgada and Freeport to Baton Rouge was nearly 6.000 nautical miles. By travelling this, Finnjet has successfully finished her first transatlantic crossing. I will publish more details as far as I know.
Baton Rouge gets ready
|Sources: LSU, PR Newswire, The Daily Reveille, NOla.com|
In these days Finnjet is probably stopping on the Bahamas, after actually completing the real Atlantic crossing. Due to the lack of Information resources and Port online Information sites we are sorry to be unable to give any more details about the stops on the Azores and Bahamas at this stage.
Sure is anyway that FINNJET passed the English Channel on 21st and 22nd September. On 22nd, SeaContainers organized a Helicopter to take some aerial shots of the ship (see left and right photos). The expected arrival to Baton Rouge was now changed to 3rd October. Boarding of students and faculty staff will start on Tuesday, 4th October.
Getting the permission for the ship to dock in Port Allen near the USS Kidd was not the easiest task, according to Louisiana State University, Port of Greater Baton Rouge officials had originally been hesitant to allow the ferry to dock there because of sewage, power and safety concerns. "While there were some misunderstandings early on about arrangements to bring the ship to Baton Rouge, the port commissioners have been very cooperative in designing a plan for the use of the dock, which will provide convenient and safe access for our students, faculty and staff.", Ray Lamonica, General Counsel of the LSU system told towards PR Newswire. Furthermore he stressed the importance of Governor Kathleen Blanco's assistance, saying the Governor and her staff were "very helpful" in brokering the arrangement.
The need for housing was "just critical to survival" Lamonica said further, since many students and faculty would have moved to other states and this would have left no other option open than to shut down for a year. Since Baton Rouge has been fully filled with evacuees scooping up all the available housing, it was impossible to find a place for 1.700 students and personnel. Finnjet was the only quick solution for the LSU system to organize large amounts of housing, a spokesman said.
The charter will cost Louisiana State University $75.000 per day, resulting in up to $30 Million for Silja Line if the charter contract will be extended to one year. This sum will be first paid by the University's annual budget of $3.5 Billion and later reimburced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Besides Finnjet, LSU also plans to put up 400 mobile homes on its River road property, which will be leased for $65.000 per year per home. According to a spokesman, the people who live in the ship and in mobile homes will be assessed a "minimal" charge, which has not yet been decided. The total amount of people to live on the ship will be between 1000 and 1400, resulting in the Budget Class cabins to remain empty. Breakfast and dinner meals on board will be included as part of the room and board package. The ship will not act as space for classes however, for this purpose the LSU found place in the Pennington Biomedical Research Center's Conference Center. It will be connected with Finnjet by a bus shuttle to and from classes. The Cardeck will remain unused in Baton Rouge, car parking will be available at the dock. The newest news and changes in plans can be always found from the FINNJETweb Forum!
With 25 knots to America - FINNJET has left the Baltic
|Sources: Magnus Slotte, own research|
Before, the ship has been made ready for the trans-atlantic crossing after ceasing the original St. Petersburg route unspectacularily on Monday. For example, the stern ramp extensions of the 33.000-ton Finnjet were removed on monday after the ship was turned with stern to the car ramp at Rostock's quay. "We don't need them anymore at Baton Rouge because there is no car-ramp at the quay anyway", captain Slotte explained on request. Later, the cut off parts of the stern ramp were stored on the ship's cardeck, secured by chains for the ocean journey. On board, all slot machines, the currency change automate, Cola-Automates and the Photo-PCs were removed, partly already during the last trip from Tallinn to Rostock. Starting a 50%-Discount-offer on most things sold in SeaShop in the last days of Finnjet's service, Silja tried to sell remainders of the shop stores on board.
Tuesday morning the preparations for the trip and the stay at Baton Rouge reached their top. It was only possible to embarkate via cardeck, and expectably lively it was there. Big crowds of the service-crew that had to leave the ship by 12:30 were waiting outside on the car ramp for their busses and taxis to take them either to airport Berlin-Tegel, Hamburg or Rostock main station. The completion party that ship's crew and the team of Silja working in Rostock had celebrated the night before was not completely invisible in the faces of some people there, some of them actually still seemed to celebrate while having a can of beer or something similar still at 10 in the morning. :-)
Different atmospehere on the bridge, anyway also crowded: Besides captain Slotte and his first officer Seppo Ylitalo, also captain Rautavirta was on the bridge for some time. He will alternate with Slotte in captains position during the trip to Baton Rouge. But also other Silja workers were around on the bridge, among them Mario Dammann, Silja's "embarkation manager" in Rostock, who wanted to get signatures of Slotte for his 2 special T-Shirts with lots of Finnjet-crew signatures, signatures of colleagues in Rostock and also FINNJET-Stamps. Further there was Rostock's pilot and other visitors, that gave Slotte a "Sachertorte" as farewell gift. Also Frauke Werner, leader of the Rostock check-in office of Silja did not miss to get to the bridge for a final time. The decision of the route closure is not being understood by the people working in Rostock. The utilization of the cardeck and also passenger volumes were very good this year according to Mario Dammann. "It's too bad that this is just shut down like this now!", Dammann continued. Above all comments of those people is surely also the unsureness about their jobs. "Looks bad for me.." was what could be heard here and there. Even if the office of Silja Lübeck will continue working, a continuation of Silja traffic to Germany seems unlikely at this time.
At about 11:30 AM Finnjet turned around again, so that special vehicles, trailers and trucks could enter the cardeck again, since the stern ramp was not usable anymore. Furthermore it was needed to pick up fresh water, the water source was anyway constructed so that Finnjet has to dock with starboard side to get water. The estimated time of departure was now set to 1 PM.
FINNJET's route across the Atlantic contains 2 stops, first in Ponta Delgada, capital of the portuguese Azores islands. Finnjet will call here on 24th September after a 4-days trip via Skagerrak, North Sea and the English Channel. The stop in the islands biggest harbour will take about 12 hours, in which Finnjet will bunker fuel and water again, as well as provisions for the next days. After about 5 more days, the ship arrives at the Bahamas. It's expected to stop in Nassau similarily like in Ponta Delgada. Typical speed will be 24-25 knots (1 Diesel, 1 Turbine) throughout the voyage, except for shallow waters in the Baltic Sea and the Mississippi river. From Bahamas the trip takes then only 3 more days, while even only the passage along river Mississippi to Baton Rouge will take about 24 hours. More details about the ships's position at Baton Rouge were not known on board yet. According to current press articles, the charter contract can be extended for a period as long as maximum one year. In Baton Rouge, most current engine crew members and mainly almost the complete this year's housekeeping crew will be on board. It remains to be hoped that the industrious Philippinos of the cleaning personnel on board will keep the ship in clean and proper condition also in Baton Rouge.
At about 12:45 the whole passenger area of the ship appeared empty. From some cabins you still heard the radios that were left running, here and there open doors to lighted rooms. But anyway nobody visible anywhere except us 3 Finnjet-Fans, Martin Rogge, Helge Kleinschmidt and me. :-) Shortly later the announcement from the bridge: "All visitors and people who will not travel with us, please leave the ship in the next 10 minutes, thank you". Nice as we are we did this. On the cardeck it was anyway over with lonelyness, here you could still see lots of small vehicles moving around, a laundry truck where they were actually even welding something at it's loading ramp! Outside, nothing pointed to a quick departure in the next minutes, still there were all kinds of "Silja RoRo" trailers being loaded and then Rautavirta came out of the cardeck at least twice with a "FINNJET-bike". I have no idea what he was doing outside. By 1:30 PM the bow ramp was closed. The bow visor only by about 2/3 however. This was all until about 3:05 PM, when finally some movements became visible. The turbines were started and after some time the ropes were removed from the quay, FINNJET was about to start for a final time from Rostock! With a last wink from the bridge wing Slotte greeted the few people watching the ship leave the quay, gliding slowly towards the "Breitling", turned there for a final time and headed through the Warnemünde sea channel out into the world... All that was left besides us and a few people of Silja were some pins and bolts of the stern ramp extensions on the ramp, some broken Silja cabin keys, some "Robert's Coffee" cups and lots of empty cans and bottles. At the terminal tent, the "Silja Line" foil was removed already in the morning. Far away you could hear Finnjet greeting the people watching her last departure from the breakwaters in Warnemünde by sounding the fog horn 3 times. Photos: Mathias Saken and Helge Kleinschmidt. Big versions and even more photos of this day will be in the photo galleries soon!
GTS FINNJET to New Orleans as Lodging vessel
|Sources: Silja Line|
Plans changing daily, Silja gave out a press release today according to which Silja has signed a charter contract for FINNJET for minimum 6 months. The ship will be going to the New Orleans disaster area as lodging vessel, leaving Rostock on 20th September in the late afternoon.
Arrival at Baton Rouge is expected on 2nd October. The lay-up plans for Falmouth have been cancelled and the ship will be brought to Lousiana with 22 crew members on board during about 2 weeks. The last Rostock-St. Petersburg roundtrip had to be cancelled! Further details still have to be found out, on the left I have attached a schedule of events for the next daysand at the bottom follows the official press release of Silja Oy Ab.
The newest news and changes in plans can be always found from the FINNJETweb Forum!
FINNJET TO LOUISIANA DISASTER AREA AS LODGING VESSEL
GTS FINNJET to leave Silja fleet - An era is set to end
|Sources: Silja Line, Tuomas Nylund, Turun Sanomat, Magnus Slotte, Fairplay online|
Sometimes things go faster than you would expect. And so I have to tell some "horror news" to Finnjet-Fans already now, which was actually a surprise for me. But still it is true: The GTS FINNJET stops her almost 30-year old era on the Baltic Sea in Rostock! After the scheduled end of summer operations the ship will be laid up at Falmouth/England. There are no plans for the future of the ship. She will not return into Silja traffic anymore and SeaContainers, Silja's owner company will be responsible for the ship.
Only about one year and 3 months have passed since Silja Line started a new route with the FINNJET. About one year ago Silja found out that the market between Germany and Russia was well overexpected and so the route was declared a seasonal summer route. Thanks to lower prices and better marketing Silja could well improve utilization this year. But that is not enough, SeaContainers and Silja Line are currently having financial problems, which you can read in SeaContainers' annual financial report. Increasing fuel costs and a changing market situation afflicted the company - Silja Line made strong losses in the last 12 months. To stop this trend, Silja has now started actions to improve profitability of the ferry business, since not only Finnjet was making losses. In the end of August, Silja then finally made the decision to get Finnjet completely out of service after 23rd september and very probably not to return her to traffic anymore. "Unfortunately the new route has not proven to be profitable. Not on a year round basis, and not even for the high season. We can assure that every possible alternative route and business opportunity has been studied and calculated. However sentimental we may be for the old lady, the cold numbers are definately against her.", says Tuomas Nylund of Silja Finland towards FINNJETweb. This year, a bit more than 80.000 Passengers will have travelled with Finnjet, this means a much better utilization than still last year. According to the booking numbers of 2nd September, about 500 Passengers will leave the ship in Rostock on 23rd September, afterwards there will be 2 days for the crew to get the ship and themselves ready for the trip to England and to leave the ship, since most of the crew will not be on board anymore. In the evening of 25th september, FINNJET will leave Germany for the last time,
more exact times are still to come. After a 4-days voyage across the Skagerrak and the North Sea, the ship will arrive at Falmouth on 29th September, 10 AM with about 20 remaining crew members on board. The turbines will not be used during this crossing except for meneuvering in the harbours. The exact position for the ship to be laid up is still to be found out. In Falmouth, the ship will be transferred to SeaContainers fleet. SeaCo, who are single owners of the Silja company for some years, already own the ships, in this case it will then also operate the Finnjet while laid up. FINNJETweb will follow and report about this last trip of the ship. For this purpose, there will be Martin Rogge and Helge Kleinschmidt at Rostock at the time of departure and Paul Byrne will welcome the ship at Falmouth to take some photos. "The plan for the lay-up has not been completed, we are still in discussions with the crew on the impact of the traffic stop to their employment conditions, but the lay-up should cost much less than in Rostock last winter.", Nylund continued. In fact, the lay-up at Rostock costed almost about 6 Million Euros last winter. Towards the question, if there will be any special events for the last trip of Finnjet from Tallinn to Rostock, Nylund said that there has not been planned anything yet. He added that Silja has not thought about this yet.
At the moment Silja Germany is also informing Bus travel agencies that Finnjet will "very probably not be in traffic next year". In public, Silja Germany is anyway not saying anything about the plans of Silja Finland, just as Silja Estonia.
The crew will be - as far as possible - transferred to other Silja ships, for the international Service Crew of Finnjet there will be no future in Silja however. All in all, Silja's action plan includes to axe up to 400 workplaces according to Fairplay online. Also the letter of intent to order 2 RoPax-ships was cancelled and even Silja's cargo division "SeaWind Line" will probably sell ships. According to rumours, even Silja Opera is for sale.
Who knows if and when the ship will get back in service after 29th september, it remains to be hoped that SeaContainers maintains the ship well and a good buyer can be found. With the ships current condition being so great, it would be definately sad if the ship would not return back to service. However, we had 28 wonderful years with this ship, which other ferry remains so long in traffic in the same waters on such a similar route? We should be happy and see what the future brings. Those of you who still want to make a Finnjet trip with Silja Line need to hurry up! On 22nd september will be the last departure (Tallinn-Rostock). The 5-days cruise to St. Petersburg from Rostock starts at 230€, a oneway-trip from Rostock to Tallinn/Helsinki or back starts at 56€ and a oneway trip from Tallinn to St. Petersburg or back starts even at 11€. All fares and details on www.siljaline.de or www.silja.com. Please note that you do not have to get off the boat in St. Petersburg if you do not want to obtain a visa or if you can not get one so quickly and anyway don't care about St. Petersburg. Furthermore the passport control in St. Petersburg is inside the terminal building, this means you can easily leave the ship there to walk around on the pier without actually entering Russia. Be anyway advised that on board won't be very much going on between 10 AM and about 5 PM in St. Petersburg. If you want to see St. Petersburg you will have to have a visa!
And last but not least a short notice on my own account: Of course this website will remain updated and active, whatever will happen to the ship!!!
note the sources! Responsible for the contents are the sources!
© Mathias Saken 2001-2006