Car Ferry Viking I / Viking I / Viking Victory,
Car Ferry Viking II / Viking II / Earl William,
Viking III

Car Ferry Viking II is seen from the air in her maiden season for Thoresen Car Ferries. She is passing Spithead fort en route from Le Havre to Southampton. The clumsy 'Car Ferry' prefix to her name was necessary whilst there was another Viking II on the Norwegian ship register. It was applied in minute lettering and disappeared altogether once the preferred identity became available to use.
Photo: © Fotoflite

Where better to start than the birth of the first 'drive through' stern and bow loading car ferries to operate across the English Channel. It was not the British who were first to deliver this concept. Instead it was a Norwegian entrepreneur, Otto Thoresen, who took the initiative to respond to the abandonment of British Rail's continental passenger services from Southampton by ordering two identical and highly advanced car ferries to operate to Cherbourg and Le Havre.

British Rail still believed in stern end only loading ferries and relied on steam turbine propulsion for its early 1960's built car ferries. Thoresen opted for modern technology; stern and bow doors facilitating fast and easy roll-on roll-off operation. Diesel engines were also chosen for their fuel economy. Other innovations included a garish but easily recognised livery of orange hull and green funnels (later adopted for by Townsend ships after the two companies merged), as well as an open plan arrangement of facilities inside.

Viking I and Viking II entered service in 1964 and were so successful at capturing the thriving car ferry trade, a Viking III was delivered a year later. She was slightly modified in design, with a wider wheelhouse and differing window arrangements on the forward face of her superstructure.Thoresen proved that where British Rail's approach failed, his pioneering enterprise was an undoubted winner.

Traffic on the Southampton/Le Havre/Cherbourg services grew steadily and necessitated the construction of the 'Super Viking' series to succeed the original trio. Viking I became Viking Victory when she operated the first Townsend Thoresen services from Portsmouth in 1976. Viking II was sold to Sealink U. K. Limited and opened services from Portsmouth to the Channel Islands under the name Earl William. These lasted until 1986 after which she operated an unsuccessful link between Liverpool and Dun Laoghaire (near Dublin). All of the original 'Vikings' are now in foreign waters.

M. S. Viking I & Viking II
Builder: Kaldnes Mekaniske Verksted A. S., Tönsberg, Norway.
Yard Numbers: 158 and 160.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 99.5 x 18.32 x 4.42 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 5,440, 1,785, 1,092.
Engines: Two 12 cylinder, Pielstick-Lindholmens diesel.
Power: 10,200 kW.
Speed (knots): 18.5.
Passenger certificate: 940.
Car capacity: 180.

31.1.1964: Viking I launched.
29.4.1964: Delivered to Otto Thoresen Shipping Company A. S., Oslo, Norway.
3.5.1964: Entered service Southampton/Le Havre.
17.6.1976: Renamed Viking Victory. New service between Portsmouth/Cherbourg. 13.9.1981: Withdrawn from service.
1983: Sold to Euphoria Navigation S. A., Limassol, Cyprus, Renamed Sun Boat.
4.1985: Sold to Red Sea Line S. A., Limassol, Cyprus, Renamed Caravan.
19.4.1986: Sold to Bluebird Shipping Company Limited, Limassol, Cyprus, Renamed Vasmed.
1986. Registered for Sharo Shipping Company Limited, Limassol, Cyprus. Renamed Sunny Boat.
7.1990: Chartered to European Seaways. Renamed European Glory.
7.1991: Sold to Regonti Navigation Limited, Piraeus, Greece.
9.1991: Chartered to Hellenic Mediterranean Lines Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Neptunia.
1992: Sold to Hellenic Mediterranean Lines, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Media II.
8.3.2002: Sold to Mediterranean Freedom Marine, Limassol, Cyprus. Renamed Media V.

30.4.1964: Viking II launched.
15.7.1964: Delivered to Otto Thoresen Shipping Company A. S., Oslo, Norway.
19.7.1964: Entered service: Southampton /Le Havre.
22.12.1976: Sold to Lloyds Leasing Limited, London (Sealink U. K. Limited). Renamed Earl William.
16.1.1977: Portsmouth/St. Peter Port (Guernsey)/St. Helier (Jersey).
27.7.1984: Sealink U. K. Limited acquired by Sea Containers.
1.1985: Renovated at Ålborg, Denmark.
3.1987: Chartered to the Home Office for use as a refugee detention centre at Harwich.
25.4.1988: New Sealink service between Liverpool/Dun Laoghaire (near Dublin).
12.1.1990: Laid up at Milford Haven.
5.4.1992: Sold to Ardonis Shipping Company, Valletta, Malta. Renamed Pearl William.
10.4.1996: Sold to P. & L. Ferries, Valletta, Malta. Renamed Mar-Julia.
1997. Sold to Lucky Shipping S. A., Kingstown, St. Vincent. Renamed Cesme Stern.
2000. Sold to Windward Lines, Kingstown, St Vincent. Renamed Windward II.

M. S. Viking III
Builder: Orenstein-Koppel und Lübecker Mach A/G, Lübeck, Germany.
Yard Number: 618.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 99.50 x 18.32 x 4.42 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 3,824, 1,823, 1,199.
Engines: Two 12 cylinder, Pielstick-Lindholmens diesel.
Power: 10,200 kW.
Speed (knots): 18.5.
Passenger certificate: 940.
Car capacity: 180.

10.3.1965: Launched.
23.6.1965: Delivered to Otto Thoresen Shipping Company A. S., Oslo, Norway.
25.6.1965: Entered service Southampton/Cherbourg/ Le Havre (regular charter work in low season).
14.9.1974: Used as a tender for the liner, France, at Le Havre.
9.3.1978: Felixstowe/Europoort.
25.10.1979: Opened an abortive Leith/Kristiansand Townsend Thoresen service.
1980: Chartered to Sealink Manx Line for Douglas/Heysham.
10.1981: Laid up at Göteborg.
1982: Sold to Da-No Linjen A. S. Oslo, Norway. Renamed Terje Vigen.
1986: Sold to Rederi Narko A. S., Askim, Norway. Renamed Scandinavia.
2.1990: Sold to Europe Cruise Line A. S., Bergen, Norway. Renamed Fenno Star.
4.1992: Sold to Koncern Værft A. S., Sandefjord, Norway. Renamed Sandefjord.
1.1.1999: Registered for Color Line A. S., Oslo, Norway.
10.2000: Sold to Los Cipres S. A., Montevideo, Uruguay.
28.2.2003: Sold to Saga Linie, A. S., Fredrikstad, Norway. Renamed Sagafjord.

In 1976 Viking II was sold to British Rail. After a protracted refit, she emerged as Earl William and opened a new route from Portsmouth to the Channel Islands. She is seen her ten years later with 'British Ferries' branding as opposed to that of Sealink.
Photo: © Brian Fisher