The year 1964
It is often said that the relative stability of the 1950s ended in 1964. England replaced the United States as a cultural role model for the rest of Europe. Behind the change was the breakthrough of the British pop culture with The Beatles as their main representatives. At the same time, the United States escalated their war efforts in Vietnam which lead to protests. The social climate became more open and free but also less calm, according to Anders Bergenek and Rickard Sahlsten. Below they tell us more specifically our history in the year 1964.
For Stena Line´s predecessor, Skagenlinjen, this was an eventful time. The shipping company got its first ever new built passenger ferries POSEIDON and AFRODITE. In addition to this Skagenlinjen purchased one of the German ships that had previously been hired. Further, orders were put out for no less than five car ferries for 1965-1966. Quietly, the cheeky upstart is about to become the leading ferry operator. Meanwhile, the successful purchase traffic with passenger vessels continues. What we witnessed was a fast-moving, creative, and daring enterprise. The company was constantly trying out the possibility of creating new itineraries. Vessels were being ordered without any obvious plans for where they might be used.
Continued success in Gothenburg
During the winter of 1964 the German HEIN GODENWIND line traffics Gothenburg-Skagen and also, the German MAY DAY VON HAMBURG line traffics Gothenburg-Frederikshavn. The latter ceases on April 5 when MAY DAY VON HAMBURG had to return to its ordinary service between Hamburg and Helgoland. Skagenlinjen´s traffic is now firmly established. It was very popular and experienced great profit margins during this time.
June 26 HEIN GODENWIND is replaced by Skagenlinjen´s own newly built HEIN POSEIDON which then continues all year to alternate its traffic between Skagen and Frederikshavn. The company has now received a ship which has been planned by them and in her you can see a lot of the future Stena Line´s thinking. All areas on board are being used for sales of different sort. Kiosk spaces are large. This was a ship constructed to earn money. At the same time, it was a modern, stylish ship that attracted both young and old travellers.
During the summer, Skagenlinjen tries a new service between Gothenburg and Læsø. It is the former acquaintance SEEBAD WARNEMÜNDE that has now been put on this line. However, Læsø´s attractiveness proved unable to compete with Skagen and the traffic stopped after the season.
In 1964 Skagenlinjen started a new purchase line from Gothenburg, the so-called Norgepilen. The company had high expectations for this line between Gothenburg and Sandefjord. The premier trip with the leased German vessel HELGOLAND takes place on September 30. A few weeks later she is replaced by WAPPEN, purchased by Stena from a German subsidiary. She was of course identical to the previously leased WAPPEN VON HAMBURG.
To drive a purchase line between Gothenburg and Norway was a brilliant idea. Traffic goes between two high cost countries in terms of alcohol, and thus attracts travellers from both markets. It doesn’t matter that Skagenlinjen´s concept for this traffic is quickly copied by its competitive Rederi AB Krysspilen. The profitability was still good.
In Norway whether the traffic should continue was being debated. Politicians do not look kindly upon the liquor traffic across the Skagerrak. There is a rapid response in the Swedish and Norwegian financial departments and on March 1, 1965, the rules were changed so that the import rights were severely restricted. With the new rules the Norway traffic became less interesting and WAPPEN makes its final journey at Sandefjord by the end of February 1965.
Another year in Lysekil
When the charter for Skagenlinjen expires in September 1963, SKAGEN I regains the name BRYNHILD. Already in December, the bank began to lose patience with the ship’s owners in Gävle and a forced sale takes place. The old steamer is bought for as little as 255,000 Swedish kronor by Nils Berg and Roland Erkenberg, representing a Stena company. BRYNHILD regains the name SKAGEN I, and gets equipped for yet another season. On May 15 she began her services on the Lysekil-Skagen line. SKAGEN I is then significantly larger and more nicely furnished than the ships which sailed the same route the previous year. The outcome was positive.
Further out on the Baltic Sea
Halmstad and Uddevalla were this year considered “expired” harbours by Skagenlinjen. Instead, the company was looking for new areas of business and their interest was now pointing towards
the Baltic Sea. The previously mentioned ÖSTERSÖEN traffics the Simrishamn- Allinge line during the summer season. However, on this short line there are no tax-free shopping opportunities for the passengers. The import regulations of the Baltic Sea apply from the south all the way to Karlskrona. Along the free route, north, Bergkvara was the first harbour able to accommodate vessels of adequate size.
In June 1964 SKAGEN II initiates traffic between Viktoria quay in Bergkvara and Allinge in Bornholm. The Harbour Board are surprised by the rapid decision but played along and had a Customs Visitation building constructed in just one day. Despite lousy weather at the opening ceremony where Sten A. Olsson talks about the possibility of having a car ferry in traffic by the next year, the line is operated for eight weeks. The venture is not a fiasco, nor an immediate success. Many families from Eastern Småland like the idea of this line as a day trip destination, but the purchasing interest is not quite as large as on the West Coast. On the contrary, some people were bothered by the selling and consumption of cheap alcohol on board. The travellers on the Öland ferries were not accustomed to this. Import regulations were tightened during the autumn and Skagenlinjen has no interest in continuing the traffic on this line.
In mid-September 1964, AFRODITE initiates traffic on a new line between Trelleborg and Kopenhagen/Kastrup. The traffic goes via the Falsterbo Canal. The route may seem strange but it is a way to circumvent the rules which limited the purchasing opportunities of the Öresund traffic. It is somewhat surprising that the dominating nationality among the passengers is Danish. This traffic was very successful for a couple of years. In October 1964 AFRODITE was replaced by the significantly larger HELGOLAND which continued traffic until the winter break.
Traffic to Germany
The Nakskov-Kiel line continued its full year traffic with the old ferry ISEFJORD, under the company name KL-Line. At the same time, the competition rose as the Swedish ferry pioneer Linjebuss put a ferry on the line between Korsör- Kiel, offering combination traffic via the Swedish lines Helsingborg-Helsingör and Landskrona-Kopenhagen. However, the Germany lines were popular and the traffic base was enough for both companies.
At the end of March 1964 the Danish press announces that Stena in Gothenburg will start a new line called “Kielerexpressen” between Faaborg, Funen, and Kiel. The modern passenger ship GORCH FOCK is chartered from HADAG in Hamburg. Buses collect passengers in Odense, Nyborg, Middelfart, and Svendborg. In two months, the GORCH FOCK has 25,000 passengers. Summer trip plan included departure from Faaborg at 10: 45 am and from Kiel at 4.30 pm. The crossing time was three hours and 45 minutes. On Saturdays the timetable is postponed and the evening journey is organised as a dance cruise.
HEIN GODENWIND, which had been released from Skagenlinjen´s traffic on Gothenburg, was, at the end of June and throughout the year, put in traffic between Faaborg and Kiel. In October, the Executive Chef Hans Petersen showed the amazing smorgasbord in the aft salon at HEIN GODENWIND, which has been shaped as a silhouette of the ship. In order to enjoy this sight you had to pay 9.50 DKK. Some data also suggested that traffic may have been occurring during
shorter periods on the routes Faaborg-Flensburg and Sönderborg-Kiel.
A complementary line Faaborg-Kappeln with a travel time of 2.5 hours opened on July 12, 1964, with the brand new AFRODITE, departing most days from Faaborg at 9 am and 4.30 pm. The crossing time was two hours and 45 minutes. On Saturdays the last tour is postponed an hour. Saturdays, as well as on Sundays, because dancing to live music was offered in the Kattegat Lounge.
The times are good and the representatives from Faaborg make it no secret that they expect the car ferry traffic for Germany to continue. Stena has undoubtedly invested greatly in the little Danish municipality which has become something of a hub for the passenger lines bound for Germany. Worth noting was also how Stena already at this time was driving two lines for Kiel where they were able to build a strong foothold in the market.
While Skagenlinjen and KL-line are making big money at purchasing journeys the future of this traffic is indeed quite uncertain. The governments of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway do not like this type of traffic as it was not based on commercial transports, but financed by passenger´s tax-free purchases of alcohol and tobacco on board. A reasonable guess would be that limitations to the import of tax-free goods would be coming shortly.
In 1964 Stena took maximum advantage of the existing regulations by starting the lines from Bergkvara and Trelleborg to reach Bornholm and Copenhagen, destinations which were normally subject to restrictions in the tax-free importation. At the same time, they were of course aware that the traffic conditions were going to change. Perhaps it is in this light that we should see the Stena Line’s clear aim in 1964 to develop the car ferry traffic. No less than five ferries were ordered this year. A car ferry derives a substantial part of its revenue from lorries and passenger cars on car decks. Such vessels are not as dependent on tax-free sales as a traditional passenger ship would be.
Two of the new ferries ordered were made by the French shipyard Le Trait. One of them was intended for line Gothenburg-Frederikshavn. The use of the other was still not clear when the order was made. A small car ferry ordered on scenic Langesund Mekaniske Verksted to run on lines between Kiel and Danish Nakskov or Faaborg. On the same route they ordered two slightly larger ferries, one of which was slated for a new line between Gothenburg and Kiel. The other major ferry’s employment remained unclear.
By car ferry service on the lines of Nakskov-Kiel, Gothenburg-Frederikshavn and Gothenburg-Kiel Stena would, within a few years, be known as a major player as a ferry operator. The company does not give up the idea of running ships full of passengers, with maximum sales opportunities on board. What they do is to refine the idea by broadening their revenue by adding transport of passenger cars and trucks. /Anders Bergenek and Rickard Sahlsten.
So, that was 1964. Big thanks to Anders and Rickard for digging further into our history through the archives at Klubb Maritim in Gothenburg. If you wish to read their book, Stena Line- The history of a shipping company, click here. If you have further questions about 1964 or any other aspect of our history, please write your question in the comment field below and I will forward it to Anders and Rickard. /Ylva.