Princesse Astrid
& Roi Baudouin

A vintage view of Roi Baudouin at Oostende in the traditional colours of the Belgian Marine.
Photo: Ferry Fantastic Collection.

The Belgian Marine (latterly R. M. T.) was first to introduce a purpose built 'drive-on' ship at Dover. This was in the form of the stern only loading Car Ferry, later renamed Prinses Josephine-Charlotte, delivered in 1949. It was not until four years later that the Eastern Docks could provide linkspan facilities to enable cars to drive on to her. The next Belgian car ferries were the Artvelde of 1958 and Koningin Fabiola of 1962. They were all essentially based on the squat and old fashioned designs of the Belgian passenger ferries. The elegant Roi Baudouin entered service in 1965 and was joined by her twin sister, Princesse Astrid some three years later on the Dover/Oostende route. These two graceful ships represented a pleasing departure from stiff upright stems, masts and funnels, introducing a more refined profile.

The main similarity to the earlier Belgian car ferries was the low headroom vehicle deck which precluded the carriage of freight. Bow doors were also omitted, therefore adding to turn around times. The fact that R. M. T. could not envisage the explosion in lorry traffic was embodied in the design of the Princesse Astrid and Roi Baudouin. They were beautiful ferries but comparatively obsolete within a few years of entering service. The Belgians still considered rail connected foot passenger traffic important enough to justify the construction in 1966 of Prinses Paola, a passenger only carrying sister to Roi Baudouin. She featured two passenger decks in lieu of the garage provided on her car carrying counterpart. The two car ferries were disposed of within months of each other in 1983.

M. S. Roi Baudouin & Princesse Astrid
Builder: N. V. Cockerill Yards Hoboken, Hoboken, Belgium and J. Boel & Sons S. A., Temse, Belgium.
Yard numbers: 828 and 1,440.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 117.84 x 15.98 x 4 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 3,397, 1,919, 717.
Engines: Two 12 cylinder, Sulzer diesel.
Power: 7,061 kW.
Speed (knots): 21.
Passenger certificate: 1,000.
Car capacity: 190.

13.2.1965: Roi Baudouin launched.
6.1965: Delivered to Belgian Marine, Oostende.
13.6.1965: Entered service Oostende/Dover.
7.1982: Laid up at Oostende.
15.4.1983: Sold to Ventouris Group, Piraeus, Greece.
6.1983: Renamed Georgios B.
7.1983: Renamed Georgios Express.
10.1995: Laid up at Piraeus.

2.2.1968: Princesse Astrid launched.
8.1968: Delivered to Belgian Marine, Oostende.
15.8.1968: Entered service Oostende/Dover and Oostende/Parkeston Quay (Harwich).
1.11.1971: Regie voor Maritiem Transport (R. M. T.), Oostende, Belgium established.
7.1983: Sold to Ventouris Group, Piraeus Greece. Renamed Georgios B.
1984: Renamed Bari Express.
10.1998: Sold to Agapitos Express Ferries, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Express Hermes.
8.11.1999: Sold to Minoan Flying Dolphins, Greece (Hellas Ferries).

Roi Baudouin is captured from the air, wearing the R. M. T. livery circa 1973. This included the 'Sealink' brand name and R. M. T. monogram for the first time. Previously Belgian vessels sported plain black hulls and buff funnels without any trademarks.
Photo: FotoFlite.

The cathedral at Oostende looms in the background of this close-up view of Princesse Astrid.
Photo: Ferry Fantastic Collection.