Prins Philippe
& Prince Laurent

An aerial view from 1973 as the new Prins Philippe crosses the Channel. The black paintwork on her hull was inexplicably lowered one deck for the following season, and consequently the 'Sealink' trading name was reduced in proportion too.
Photo: Fotoflite.

Nearly ten years after Townsend and Thoresen had introduced 'drive-through' car ferries, R. M. T. finally embraced the prevailing trend by ordering their first car ferries with stern and bow loading doors for the Dover/Oostende route. Prins Philippe was delivered in 1973 and was the first Belgian vessel to feature the newly adopted 'Sealink' brand in the livery. She was followed the next year by virtually identical Prince Laurent. The reason behind the inconsistent spellings of their titles was due to the fact bilingual Belgium liked to use French and Dutch variations on an alternating basis in the naming of their ships.

Although quite a leap as far as R. M. T. ship design was concerned, the two sisters still drastically lacked sufficient freight capacity. The fixed mezzanine car platforms on Prins Philippe's vehicle deck in particular precluded lorries from being carried in any great quantity. She was the first to be sold as early as 1986, whilst sister Prince Laurent survived until the entry into service of the huge Prins Filip in 1992. They were two of the fastest conventional ferries on the channel in the 1980s, doing the scheduled four hour crossing in less than three hours in favourable conditions. They had some cabins, a small duty-free shop where you had to ask for your goods at a desk, a Pullman lounge, a bar and a free-flow restaurant.

M. S. Prins Philippe & Prince Laurent
Builder: N. V. Boelwerf S. A., Temse, Belgium.
Yard numbers: 1,476 and 1,477.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 118.01 x 19.82 x 4.25 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 5,643, 2,429, 963.
Engines: Two 18 cylinder, Atlantique-Pielstick diesel.
Power: 13,240 kW.
Speed (knots): 24.
Passenger certificate: 1,302.
Car capacity: 243 and 170 (fewer mezzanine decks in Prince Laurent).

17.2.1973: Prins Philippe launched.
7.1973: Delivered to Regie voor Maritiem Transport, Oostende.
15.7.1973: Entered service Oostende/Dover.
6.5.1985: Chartered to Sealink U. K. Limited. Weymouth/Cherbourg.
22.5.1986: Chartered to B. & I. Line, Dublin. Fishguard/Rosslare.
25.9.1986: Laid up at Oostende.
14.11.1986: Sold to Navigazione Archipelago Maddalenino S. P. A., Naples, Italy. Renamed Moby Love.
1993: Sold to Ventouris Sea Lines, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Panagia Tinou 2.
1995. Laid up at Piraeus.
8.1996: Sold to Agapitos Express Ferries, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Express Athina.
8.11.1999: Sold to Minoan Flying Dolphins, Piraeus, Greece (Hellas Ferries).

6.2.1974: Prince Laurent launched.
7.1974: Delivered to Regie voor Maritiem Transport (R. M. T.), Oostende.
15.7.1974: Entered service Oostende/Dover.
4.2.1990: Chartered to Sealink Dieppe Ferries. Dieppe/Newhaven.
1991: Laid up at Oostende.
29.7.1992: Sold to Strintzis Line, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Ionian Express.
5.1993: Renamed Superferry II.

Here Prins Philippe arrives at Dover's Western Docks during the early 1980s, showing the aforementioned lowered black hull paintwork. Her British-flagged fleetmate, St. Christopher, can also be seen departing for Calais from the Eastern Docks in the background.
Photo: Tony Garner.

Having swung out of Oostende Harbour Prince Laurent prepares to head for Dover in this view from 1986-7.
Photo: Pieter Inpyn.

Here she found departing from the Western Docks at Dover during the same period.
Photo: Brian Fisher.

Prince Laurent is captured broadside as she crosses the Channel. She is wearing the R. M. T. colours of 1988 which saw a departure from the traditional buff/yellow coloured funnels of the Belgian Marine. Although P. & O. inherited from Townsend Thoresen the marketing agreement for the Dover/Oostende route, their trademark was not included in this livery.
Photo: Brian Fisher.

The former Prins Philippe looks very smart as Hellenic Seaways' Express Athina. Her lifeboats appear higher up due to the enclosing of her former boat deck. Both she and her sister found employment in Greek waters after the end of their Channel careers.
Photo: Brian Fisher.