The year 1966
In the year 1966, the expansion of the Stena Line ferries is intended to continue. When the new ferry to Germany is delayed, the year becomes instead a period of consolidation of what has been achieved thus far. There are also clouds on the horizon, and prospects for the future are changing. In 1967, a 24-hour rule will be introduced, which means that a passenger must have been away for a 24-hour period in order to be allowed to bring home duty-free goods.
Success for the Stena Danica
The success of the car ferry service to Frederikshavn continues. It is clear that Stena Line has hit on a great travel concept, with a combination of leisure travellers and holiday-makers, as well as trucks. Full restaurants and a full car deck make this type of transport very profitable. Even passengers on day-trips can still buy their duty free ration of cigarettes and alcohol. The jingling of full coffers pleases the shipping company.
STENA DANICA withstands competition from the Sessanlinjen ferry without problems and this ferry is just as popular with the people of Gothenburg as the previous passenger ships ever were. Competition from Lion Ferry’s route to Grenå is not a problem either. The market for travel to Denmark seems almost insatiable this year.
Over a few weeks in the spring, STENA DANICA is supported by the newly-built small ferry STENA BALTICA. She was originally scheduled to be deployed on the shipping company’s Nakskov-Kiel line, but Stena Line is considering phasing out that route and, once delivered, she is put to work on the Frederikshavn route instead. For a while, there are also plans for a ferry line between Gothenburg-Skagen, but they are never carried out.
However, STENA BALTICA is not left to grow old on the Frederikshavn route. Instead, Lion Ferry charters her from 1st June 1966, as their VARBERG has capsized during a shipyard inspection. STENA BALTICA is quickly given a yellow chimney with a B and is put to work on the Grenå-Halmstad-Copenhagen line.
These events show the complex relationship between Stena Line and the parent company which owns the ships. Ferries are leased or are put to work where they generate the most revenue.
In the autumn, STENA BALTICA is sent back to the Frederikshavn route, which then has the same number of departures as its rival ferry service, Sessanlinjen. STENA DANICA’s capacity is fully comparable with the Sessan ferries. However, STENA BALTICA is much smaller and does not have the same profitability or popularity.
No maiden voyage for the Germany ferry
Stena had ordered a ferry to be deployed on the Gothenburg-Kiel route in 1964. Just as with the STENA BALTICA, the new ship and its sister were to be delivered by Langesunds Mekaniska Verkstad in Norway.
Launching a ferry service to West Germany is, in itself, not an original idea at this time. The country has miraculously risen from the ruins of the Second World War. With its democratic government and modern society, West Germany is both an important trading partner and an increasingly popular tourist destination.
The German TT-Line had already started a route between Trelleborg and Travemünde in 1962. Three years later, the State Railways (Statens Järnvägar) followed suit. In 1966 traffic to Travemünde explodes, with Lion Ferry from Halmstad, Trave Line from Helsingborg and Finnlines, which goes to Lübeck from Nynäshamn and Karlskrona.
While the other operators in the transport to West Germanany have a major focus on transporting trucks, Stena Line plans to be more focused on passengers. It is thought that West Germany could be a new destination for the people of Gothenburg, who may already have visited Frederikshavn a number of times.
The choice of a German port for the route is naturally based on the shortest distance. From the beginning there is an ambition to be able to make two trips every day. Kiel is therefore the obvious destination for the line. The decision has certainly helped to create good contacts among the local authorities which Stena has built up as a result of its routes to Nakskov as well as Fåborg and Kiel.
Stena builds a new terminal in Skandiahamnen for the new ferry service. Stenpiren has no capacity to accommodate an additional ferry. The new terminal can also be used by STENA DANICA for loading trucks on the way to Frederikshavn.
Unfortunately, there is to be no ferry service between Gothenburg and Kiel in 1966. The new ferry experiences a mechanical breakdown during construction and will be a year overdue. Stena Line’s large, new projects for 1966 therefore
come to nothing.
Equally unexpectedly, Stena continue to operate the summer line between Nakskov-Kiel, which had been threatened with closure during the previous year. It is the old ISEFJORD which begins on the route. Since she has already been sold to Italy, she is replaced during the summer by the small, chartered, Danish ferry AERÖBOEN.
A Bit of Luck for The Londoner
Stena has learned a lot by the start of their second season on the English Channel. The British agent is replaced by their own local administration with Roland Erkenberg at the head. STENA NORDICA is now chartered out and is replaced by “The Londoner” which is competitor Sessanlinjen’s hired PRINSESSAN CHRISTINA. Again we see how the atypical Stena handles questions of tonnage.
A British sailor strike in 1966 brings the season to a flying start at the beginning of April. When the British-flagged ferry fleet is eliminated, the PRINSESSAN CHRISTINA sails at full capacity. Cars can now be loaded on the tiny deck between the stern door and stern ramp.
However, the British are not fond of the ferry system, with its cramped car lifts to the lower car deck. These are loaded first and unloaded last, to the Brits’ great irritation. They are used to the “first on, first off” principle.
The season runs until 30th September and is considered very successful. Stena has used an inexpensive ship and carried large volumes of passengers.
In the early spring of 1966, it becomes clear that the West German shipping company HADAG want to buy back the WAPPEN for the Helgoland route for which she was built. The slightly younger HELGOLAND No. 2 has been given a long-term mission as a hospital ship in Vietnam for the West German Red Cross and therefore needs to be replaced.
The Mariehamn line opens for the season on 6th May 1966, with the POSEIDON replacing the WAPPEN. She will be the fourth, the last and most famous “Giant Finn”. She proves to be an ideal Åland boat for the 1960s public and will continue to be competitive on this line for another seven seasons. As a “Giant Finn”, she takes 582 passengers. Ticket prices are SEK 19 for a day cruise and SEK 25 for an open return. Half price applies to children and seniors, although POSEIDON
mainly attracts young travellers.
The ferry season of 1966 ends on 27th November. The competition gets tougher during the year. For example, competing shipping companies such as Bore Line launch summer cruises using older Finnish steamers. On the other hand, those cruises attract more mature travellers.
In May 1966, the Express Line, which is part of the Svea Group, take their thirty-year-old Ferry the MARINA from the Gräddö-Mariehamn ferry line cruises and launch it on cruises between Stockholm-Mariehamn, aiming at the party-minded, younger travellers who ride the POSEIDON. The MARINA sparks a price war on the route but is perceived as worn and dull in comparison with the freshly-launched POSEIDON, with its exclusive décor.
As a “Giant Finn”, the POSEIDON eventually emerges victorious and becomes an established name, appreciated by the public throughout the Mälardalen region. Stena has therefore introduced the concept that is today is called “the Åland Islands cruise”.
On the Trelleborg-Copenhagen line, the POSEIDON is replaced by the little AFRODITE after the winter break. After the autumn season, the ferry traffic stops altogether as a result of the new import rules introduced in the coming year which undermine the economic basis for the route. The same applies to the summer line between Lysekil-Skagen, which runs for the last time in 1966 with the SKAGEN II.
AFRODITE runs for eight weeks during the summer of 1966, and also makes a guest appearance up in the Gulf of Bothnia (Bottenhavet) on a line between Luleå and Kemi. This is not a cruise, as it is organised so that passengers take a boat in one direction and a bus in the other. In this way, the shipping company gets the full sale price for each trip. This route is also phased out after the summer.
The upcoming new import rules are practically the death of that which four years earlier had been the base for the Skagen Line – now Stena Line’s – travel business. It must be seen as a sign of skill and flexibility that Stena have succeeded to such an extent in developing shopping trips on car ferries with a broader and less vulnerable customer base. Onwards and upwards!
Anders Bergenek och Rickard Sahlsten