A series of photos taken on the occasion of the maiden arrival of Spirit of France in Dover Harbour.
The result of an unprecedented investment of over three hundred million pounds, Spirit of Britain and her twin sister, Spirit of France mark a new chapter in the story of P. & O. Ferries (and its predecessor, Townsend Thoresen) at Dover. Twenty four years had passed since the last major new buildings for the Calais service (Pride of Dover and Pride of Calais). Although Pride of Burgundy came along more recently, she did not embody the quantum leap that these giant ferries represent for P. & O. From a functional point of view, the 'Spirit 2' offer double the capacity of their predecessors, for the same amount of fuel per crossing. Quite a remarkable technological feat indeed.
The original 'Spirit Class' of 1980 revolutionised the Dover/Calais service with innovations such as twin level vehicle decks and 'free-flow' passenger accommodation. Three decades later, the 'Spirit 2' introduce a third vehicle deck, with total garage capacity for over a thousand cars. At well over two hundred metres in length they are the largest ferries that can fit the ports they serve.
It is possible to see certain similarities in external appearance to the also Finnish-built Rodin of 2001. However, cosmetic appeal has come a definite second to operational demands. P. & O. have clearly not sought to win any beauty contests with their big new ships. Instead they hope to impress passengers with the creature comforts to be found inside. The vessels' interiors have been finished to a high standard, with attractive features such as marble floors and free standing upholstered chairs. This represents a significant improvement on the fixed 'wipe-down' plastic seating and laminate flooring found in their older fleetmates.
Whilst extremely impressive in terms of sheer size and quality of facilities, the greatest disappointment presented by these record-breaking vessels is the extremely restricted outside deck space. Regrettably their vast promenade decks are out of bounds to the public. An exceptionally small area of open deck at the stern end is made available for passengers, but they must contend with clouds of cigarette smoke and salt spray-covered glass screening interrupting the view. It would seem that the Company would prefer its passengers to stay inside amongst the revenue-earning amenities.
P. & O. Ferries is all the more about mass transportation and mass consumption these days, and that is embodied in the design of the 'Spirit 2'. In simplistic terms these ships could be described as giant motorway service stations at sea; a vast lorry and car park with all the facilities you would expect to find at a roadside rest area on top. And with it all the noise and hectic atmosphere that such places are renowned for. For those who yearn for a quieter, more relaxing 'mini-cruise' experience, it is advisable to upgrade to the 'Club Lounge'. Here you will find luxurious surroundings, steward service, and even an exclusive open deck that looks over what once upon a time would have been known as the 'steerage' section.
Spirit of Britain suffered a troublesome first season, plagued with excessive vibrations attributed to the layout of her engines. Unusually, instead of being positioned side by side, they were located one behind the other. This was intended to improve her chances of still being able to move under he own power in the case of collision damage. Her builders struggled to find a cure for the problem and consequently P. & O. refused to take delivery of Spirit of France until the design fault could be successfully rectified. The latter vessel was effectively completed in June 2011, but was not accepted until January 2012, after extensive trials and remedial work. Spirit of Britain was returned to S. T. X. Europe Shipbuilders, Rauma, Finland in April 2012 to have similar modifications made to suppress her engine vibrations. During this work she also had her funnel exhuast uptakes heightened to match her newer sister. Externally and internally Spirit of Britain and Spirit of France are virtually identical. In a break from fleet tradition, their funnels are white, instead of 'P. & O. Blue'.
M. S. Spirit of Britain & Spirit of France
Builder: STX Europe, Rauma, Finland.
Yard numbers: 1,367 and 1,368.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 210.0 x 30.8 x 8.5 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 49,000.
Engines: Four MAN & B&W diesel.
Power: 30,400 kW.
Speed (knots): 22.
Passenger certificate: 1,750.
Car capacity: 1,079.
Lane metres (for vehicles): 2,700.
5.1.11: Spirit of Britain delivered by S. T. X. Europe Shipbuilders to P. & O. Ferries.
9.1.11: Spirit of Britain arrives at Dover for the first time.
21.1.11: Enters commercial service.
24.1.12: Spirit of France delivered by S. T. X. Europe Shipbuilders to P. & O. Ferries.
28.1.12: Spirit of France arrives at Dover for the first time.
9.2.12: Enters commercial service.
How the 'Spirit 2' class were depicted in an artist's impression.
Image: ę P. & O. Ferries.
Having been floated out of her dry dock Spirit of Britain is seen still awaiting the finishing touches. She presents a somewhat sleeker bow end compared with the P. & O. vessels of the early 1990s.
Photo: ę P. & O. Ferries.
A selection of close-up views taken of Spirit of Britain whilst in her builder's dry dock.
Photos: ę P. & O. Ferries.
The view of Spirit of Britain from Langdon Cliffs and The Prince of Wales Pier during her first day at Dover.
Five days later Spirit of Britain is found berthed alongside the twenty four year old Pride of Calais. The contrast in size is highly tangible.
Photo: ę Captain Steve Johnson (P. & O. Ferries).
A selection of views taken during and after a first season Spirit of Britain crossing.
Here Spirit of Britain is seen at sea in her first summer of service.
A series showing Spirit of France leaving Dover's Admiralty Pier for the Eastern Docks whilst on trials at the beginning of February 2012.
Photos: ę Ian Boyle (Simplon Postcards).
The new Spirit of France and her earlier sister are captured on a crisp February day in 2012.
Now a year old, Spirit of France heads into the Channel from Calais on an overcast February day in 2013.