Free Enterprise IV
Free Enterprise V / Pride of Hythe / Laburnum



The distinctive funnel of a post-1969 'Free Enterprise' class vessel is seen here at Zeebrugge. The striking white 'T. T.' logo was to last just four seasons before being eradicated in favour of the P. & O. flag emblem. Also removed was the illuminated 'TOWNSEND' legend postioned forward.
Photo: Ferry Fantastic Collection.


Townsend Car Ferries had previously built the first British bow and stern loading 'drive through' ship in the form of Free Enterprise II in 1965. Her low headroom for lorries was a grave error and hindered her ability to take advantage of the fast expanding roll-on/roll-off business on the Channel. Free Enterprise III of 1966 was constructed with greater headroom, but it was the design of Free Enterprise IV in 1969 that was so successful, four nearly identical sisters followed in the space of five years.

Although not to everybody's taste, Free Enterprise IV featured a rather pleasing modern profile, with her wheelhouse, forward deck and bow visor slanted in harmony with each other. A modest slim funnel was propped perfectly amidships, with a mainmast positioned above a panoramic lounge, and life boats neatly stowed beneath. The nicest touch was the facility of an open deck to view the sea from in front of the bridge. She was definitely worthy of the description of ‘miniature liner’.

She was employed on the Dover/Calais/Zeebrugge routes until the arrival of the next generation Spirit of Free Enterprise saw her free to transfer to the Scotland/Northern Ireland operations. She returned to Dover in 1986 to spend her last two years of Townsend Thoresen service crossing to Boulogne. The arrival of Pride of Calais was to see Free Enterprise IV put up for sale. It was another five years before the last of her sisters disappeared, thus ending the long running presence of the faithful Free Enterprise class ferries on the Dover Straits.

Free Enterprise V, an exact repeat of Free Enterprise IV, was delivered in 1970 and operated on the Townsend Thoresen routes from Dover to Calais and Zeebrugge until the early 1980s when she was spare to transfer to the Western Channel to augment capacity on the routes from Portsmouth.

1986 saw her return to operate with Free Enterprise IV on the Dover/Boulogne services recently acquired from P. & O. Normandy Ferries. They replaced the smaller Tiger and Panther. By a twist of irony (or what some rumoured to be an ingenious ‘master plan’), P. & O. secured an unexpectedly rapid return to Cross Channel activity when it seized a majority shareholding in the European Ferries Group by December of that year. Townsend Thoresen was consigned to history as of 21st October 1987, and a radical name changing policy took effect which was to see all trace of 'Free Enterprise' erased. Free Enterprise V became Pride of Hythe and continued to serve Boulogne until 4th January 1993 when the loss making route was closed (by strange coincidence, the eight anniversary of the sale of P. & O. Ferries to Townsend). She was sold to Cypriot interests.

Never expected to be seen again on the Dover Straits, she made a surprising come back as Laburnum, operating between Ramsgate and Oostende for Trans-Europa Ferries. Who'd have thought the little old ’F. E. V’ would come back at the grand old age of thirty two years?! Her spell was to be only brief, though, being returned to the Mediterranean sphere of her owner’s operations in 2003.


M. S. Free Enterprise IV & Free Enterprise V
Builder: I. C. H. Holland, Werf Gusto Yard, Schiedam, Holland.
Yard numbers: 719 and 755.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 117.51 x 19.44 x 4.28 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 5049, 1945, 1132.
Engines: M. A. N. Diesel.
Power: 12,240 kW.
Speed (knots): 19.
Passenger certificate: 1,200.
Car capacity: 280.

1.3.1969: Free Enterprise IV launched.
28.5.1969: Delivered to Townsend Car Ferries, Dover.
1.6.1969: Entered service: Dover/Calais/Zeebrugge.
5.1976: Cairnryan/Larne.
3.8.1986: Dover/Boulogne.
5.12.1987: Laid up at Chatham.
9.3.1988: Sold to Atlantic Link Trading Limited, Nassau, Bahamas. Renamed Falster Link.
1.6.1988: Gedser/Travemünde.
1.4.1990: Gedser/Rostock.
20.4.1997: Laid up for sale.
26.2.1998: Sold to El Salam Shipping & Trading, Cairo, Egypt. Renamed Tag El Salam.

31.1.1970: Free Enterprise V launched.
1.5.1970: Delivered: Townsend Car Ferries Limited, Dover.
31.5.1970: Dover/Calais/Zeebrugge.
20.5.1982: Portsmouth/Cherbourg.
5.6.1986: Dover/Boulogne.
21.10.1987: Registered for P. & O. European Ferries (Dover) Limited.
25.1.1988: Renamed Pride Of Hythe.
15.3.1991: Sold to Abbey National March Leasing, London. Bareboat chartered back to P. & O.
4.1.1993: Last sailing Dover - Boulogne. Laid up at Tilbury.
4.1993: Sold to Charterhall Shipping, Limassol, Cyprus. Renamed Laburnum.
1997. Sold to Prekokeanska Plovidba, Bar, Montenegro.
1997. Sold to Lavender Shipping Company Limited, Limassol, Cyprus.
20.7.2001: Entered service Trans-Europa Ferries Oostende/Ramsgate.
16.1.2003: Chartered to Compagnie Marocaine de Navigation (COMANAV), Morocco. Renamed Tadla.




A fascinating video clip recording a crossing from Zeebrugge to Dover on a 'Free Enterprise' vessel in the early 1980s.




Free Enterprise IV is seen at sea in the 1984 Townsend Thoresen livery.
Photo: © Brian Fisher.




Free Enterpise V departs from Portsmouth on an early evening sailing to Cherbourg.
Photo: © Brian Fisher.




Free Enterprise VI / Pride of Sandwich
& Free Enterprise VII / Pride of Walmer



Free Enterpise VII ploughs towards the Belgian port of Zeebrugge in her 'jumboized' state.
Photo: Brian Fisher.


Built respectively as Free Enterprise VI and Free Enterprise VII, these vessels were in service on the Dover/Zeebrugge route by 1973. Twelve years later they were the subject of an ambitious reconstruction designed to double their lorry capacity. This was considered a far more economical solution to capacity shortages rather than investing in new buildings: It was a complicated procedure; with the entire superstructure and the forward half of their hulls lifted away to enable a new bow end section to be joined to the original stern. The superstructure was then restored with an additional lorry height vehicle deck.

The two modified sisters resumed their sailings to Zeebrugge in 1986, looking particularly awkward as a result of their enlargement. They lasted another five years by which time P. & O. had invested heavily in large purpose built freight ferries for the route. 1988 saw the twins renamed in accordance with P. & O.'s 'Pride of...' scheme: They became Pride of Sandwich and Pride of Walmer. Upon the cessation of passenger sailings to Zeebrugge at the end of 1991, the two ships were transferred to the Irish Sea's North Channel to operate as Pride of Ailsa and Pride of Rathlin between Scotland and Northern Ireland. They have since been sold, having been replaced by purpose built vessels for that route. The former Pride of Ailsa sank in the Red Sea after a collision with another vessel in 2005.


M. S. Free Enterprise VI & Free Enterprise VII
Builder: I. C. H. Holland, Werf Gusto Yard, Schiedam, Holland.
Yard Numbers: 881, 882.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 117.5 x 19.1 x 5.2 metres After enlargement: 139.4 x 22.48 x 5.25 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 4,981/ 1,181. After enlargement: 12,503/ 5,941/ 2,136.
Engines: Three 8 cylinder, Werkspoor diesel.
Power: 12.600 B. H. P.
Speed (knots): 22. After enlargement: 19.
Passenger certificate: 1,132. After enlargement: 1,035.
Car capacity: 250. After enlargement: 370.

29.1.1972: Free Enterprise VI launched.
15.6.1972: Delivered to Townsend Car Ferries Limited, Dover.
7.1972: Dover/Calais/Zeebrugge.
6.1985: Sent to Schichau-Werft A. G., Bremerhaven for enlargement work.
26.10.1985: Returned to service.
1.12.1987: Renamed Pride Of Sandwich.
21.10.1987: Registered for P. & O. European Ferries (Dover) Limited.
4.1991: Sold to Howill Shipping, London. Bareboat chartered back to P. & O.
31.12.1991: Last passenger sailing Dover/Zeebrugge.
13.3.1993: Entered service Cairnryan/Larne. Renamed Pride Of Ailsa.
15.6.1996: Sold to El Salam Shipping & Trading Company, Suez, Egypt.
22.6.1996: Left lay-up at Belfast for Egypt. Renamed Pride Of Al Salam 95.

22.10.1972: Free Enterprise VII launched.
26.3.1973: Delivered to Townsend Car Ferries Limited, Dover.
3.1973: Dover/Calais/Zeebrugge.
15.11.1985: Sent to Schichau-Werft A. G., Bremerhaven for enlargement work.
1.2.1986: Returned to service.
21.10.1987: Registered for P. & O. European Ferries (Dover) Limited.
22.2.1988: Renamed Pride of Walmer.
18.3.1991: Sold to Howill Shipping, London. Bareboat chartered back to P. & O.
1.1.1992: Withdrawn from service.
15.1.1992: Relief duties Dover/Calais/Boulogne.
5.1992: Sent to A. & P. Appledore, Falmouth. Renamed Pride of Rathlin.
11.6.1992: Entered service Cairnryan/Larne.
12.9.2000: Laid up at Harland & Wolff, Belfast.
13.11.2000: Sold to Sungi Budi, Jakarta, Indonesia. Renamed B. S. P. III (Budi Sungai Perkasa III).




Pride of Walmer looks smart in her P. & O. colours as she leaves Zeebrugge for Dover.
Photo: © Brian Fisher.



Free Enterprise VII / Pride of Canterbury (I)



Pride of Canterbury arrives in Boulogne during her final chapter of Cross-Channel operations for P. & O.
Photo: © Brian Fisher.


The last of Townsend's trend setting Free Enterprise series was completed in 1974. Free Enterprise VIII featured a slightly longer bow than her elder sisters and also had her main mast positioned further aft (as did Free Enterprise VII). She took up service on the Dover/Zeebrugge route which she remained on for twelve years. The delivery of Pride of Calais in 1987 caused a considerable reshuffle of smaller units, seeing Pride of Bruges succeed Free Enterprise VIII on the Belgian link. She in turn was renamed Pride of Canterbury upon replacing Free Enterprise IV on the Dover/Boulogne service. Sailings to Boulogne survived until the New Year in 1993 where upon Pride of Canterbury was sold. By then she had been far overshadowed by newer additions to the fleet.


M. S. Free Enterprise VIII
Builder: Verolme Scheepswerf B.V., Alblasserdam, Holland.
Yard number: 862.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 123.6 x 19.45 x 4.39 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 5,170, 2,635, 1,268.
Engines: Three 8 cylinder, Werkspoor diesel.
Power: 9,710 kW.
Speed (knots): 19.
Passenger certificate: 1,199.
Car capacity: 350.

6.4.1974: Launched.
1.7.1974: Delivered to Townsend Car Ferries Limited, Dover.
18.7.1974: Dover/Zeebrugge.
28.10.1987: Renamed Pride of Canterbury.
4.12.1987: Dover/Boulogne.
21.10.1987: Registered for P. & O. European Ferries (Dover) Limited.
15.3.1991: Sold to Abbey March Leasing Limited, London, England. Bareboat-chartered back to P. & O.
4.1.1993: Last sailing Dover/Boulogne.
3.1993: Sold to G. A. Ferries, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Romilda.