Free Enterprise II
& Free Enterprise III

An aerial view of Free Enterprise II in the mid 1960s, wearing the classic Townsend red funnel and 'Caronia' pea green hull.
Photo: © Fotoflite.

After Townsend Car Ferries had introduced the small stern loading Free Enterprise on the Dover/Calais route in 1962 there followed a significantly larger vessel three years later which was the company's first 'drive through' ship. Free Enterprise II was not destined to be a great success due to the short-sighted decision to build her with headroom too low for lorries. Earlier anticipated increases in freight carriage had not materialised and so it was expected that Free Enterprise II earn her keep as a purely tourist ferry. Such lack of flexibility made her an increasingly inefficient unit to maintain. Evidently, Townsend should have followed Thoresen’s example by opting for a high headroom vehicle deck regardless of expected demand.

In 1966, a heavily modified sister, Free Enterprise III, entered service on Dover/Calais, transferring to the newly opened Zeebrugge service by the following year. She was designed with previous lessons learnt, featuring an adequate headroom for lorries on her vehicle deck. She also presented a more pleasing profile, with her funnel positioned amidships, rather than squashed against her stern wheelhouse, as in the case of her earlier sister. But compared with Thoresen’s Viking series, Townsend’s new tonnage still looked a little old fashioned.

Free Enterprise II enjoyed surprising longevity with Townsend Thoresen, seeing out her final days on seasonal Southampton/Cherbourg sailings. She was sold to Italian interests and continues as Moby Line’s Moby Blu. From 1974, Free Enterprise III was used on T. T.’s Scotland/Northern Ireland services. She, too, ended up at Southampton before being acquired in 1984 by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. As Mona’s Isle, she spent an unsuccessful six months on the Irish Sea, plagued by technical problems caused by faulty modifications. She was abruptly disposed of to Egyptian owners and subsequently wrecked.

M. S. Free Enterprise II
Builder: I. C. H. Holland, Werf Gusto Yard, Schiedam, Holland.
Yard number: 502.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 108.1 x 17.9 x 4.9 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 5,956, 1,787, 457.
Engines: M. A. N. diesel.
Power: 11,326 kW.
Speed (knots): 17.
Passenger certificate: 1,200.
Car capacity: 230.

29.1.1965: Launched.
1.5.1965: Delivered to Townsend Car Ferries, Dover.
22.5.1965: Dover/Calais.
17.3.1966: Dover/Zeebrugge.
18.6.1970: Southampton/Cherbourg.
5.1980: Chartered to Sealink U. K. Limited for Weymouth/St. Peter Port (Guernsey)/St. Helier (Jersey).
14.10.1982: Sold to: Nav. Archipelago Maddalenino S. P. A., Naples, Italy (Moby Line). Renamed Moby Blu.

M. S. Free Enterprise III
Builder: I. C. H. Holland, Werf Gusto Yard, Schiedam, Holland.
Yard number: 538.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 109.2 x 18.6 x 4 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 6,889, 2,144, 909.
Engines: M. A. N. diesel.
Power: 8,250 kW
Speed (knots): 20.
Passenger certificate: 1,200.
Car capacity: 250.

14.5.1966: Launched.
1.7.1966: Delivered to Townsend Car Ferries, Dover.
22.7.1966: Dover/Calais.
1.2.1967: Dover/Zeebrugge.
1.6.1970: Dover/Calais.
1.7.1974: Cairnryan/Larne.
1981: Chartered to Sealink U. K. Limited for Dover/Calais.
19.4.1982: Southampton/Cherbourg.
5.1984: Laid up at Empress Dock, Southampton.
7. 1984: Sold to Mira Shipping Line, Valletta, Malta. Renamed Tamira.
10.1984: Sold to Isle Of Man Steam Packet, Douglas, Isle Of Man. Renamed Mona’s Isle.
4.1985: Douglas/Heysham.
5.10.1985: Laid up at Birkenhead.
7.4.1986: Sold to Sadaka Shipping, Suez, Egypt. Renamed Al Fahad.

Free Enterprise II is seen leaving Dover Harbour in the late 1960s.
Photo: © Ted Ingham.

From the air Free Enterprise III is captured in the early 1970s when Dover-based Townsend Thoresen vessels still sported green hulls, rather than orange.
Photo: © Fotoflite.

Free Enterprise III is found in Southampton Water during her final years with Townsend Thoresen.
Photo: © Brian Fisher.