) is the vessel purchased by BC Ferries in September 2006 to replace the sunken
Queen of the North
. In mid-November, a crew from British Columbia is scheduled to sail the
from Greece, arriving in Victoria in mid-December. Once in Victoria, the ferry will be drydocked at Victoria Shipyards and given an extensive $9 million refit. Work to be done includes engine work, painting, new safety equipment, car and passenger deck modifications, modification of vessel's stern, change of registry, and change of name. BC Ferries hopes to have the
ready for the spring of 2007.
BC Ferries searched for several months for a replacement to the
Queen of the North
before they settled on the
. To find a ship with a similar capacity, one that would fit, or even nearly fit, BC Ferries docks, and one that would meet new regulations was challenging. Ferries in Europe and other parts of the world do not usually load and unload the same way as BC Ferries does. The
, for example, has her own ramps attached to her stern. Also, she has two ramps, one on either side. Cars apparently load from one side, turn around at the bow, and come out the other side. Also, unlike the
Queen of the North
does not have a bow visor to enable loading from the front of the ship. BC Ferries will be modifying the stern to fit BC Ferries docks but is unlikely to modify the bow.
Most sources claim the ship was built for the Italian Tomasos Transport and Tourism Lines (TTT Lines) in 2004. However, reliable sources also list the ferry registered under the name
on September 24, 2001. This name is likely a "hull name" given by the builder, as it carry's the same name as the Atsalakis Shipyard, where she was built. Atsalakis Shipyard is located in Perama, Greece, a suburb of Athens and connected to the ancient port of Piraeus, the center of the Greek shipping industry. While still under construction, the ferry appears to have been renamed
on August 4, 2003. By the time the ship was apparently completed in July of 2004, she was renamed again, this time as
For the first few months, the
operated under the Greek flag between Naples, Italy and Olbia, Sardinia. After only a couple months, the ferry was forced out of service because of major engine problems. Most sources would indicate that on October 19, 2004, the ferry was renamed
again. A series of confusing changes occurred in the following weeks. On November 1st, the ferry was registered in Italy. On November 8th, she was reflagged again, this time in Greece. Also on November 8th, the
On November 15th, she was sold to Italohellenic Tourist Ent. of Italy. Just over a month later, on January 6, 2005, the ferry was sold again to TTT Lines of Italy and again registered under Italian flag. On January 11, 2005, the ferry's registration was moved again, this time in the Bahamas. If there is a story behind this odd series of events, I would love to hear it!
Meanwhile in December 2004, the
was chartered to the government of Trinidad and Tobago to operate between the two Caribbean Islands. However, the arrangement here is somewhat confusing as well. The vessel was owned by TTT Lines of Italy. TTT Lines had "bareboat chartered" the vessel to Florida-based Achieva Shipping Ltd.. Achieva Shipping in turn hired International Shipping Partners Inc. (ISP) to manage the ship. ISP in turn, arranged with the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Works and Transport to provide the
for use between the two islands. (Felix-Henry, Lynette -
Facts surrounding lease of the Sonia
The Trinidad Guardian
. May 12, 2005, Online Edition.)
maiden trip between Trinidad and Tobago took place on December 29, 2004. The route she operated on connects the Port of Spain, Trinidad to Scarborough, Tobago, about a 5 hour crossing. From the beginning, the
was dogged by political scandal. First there were suggestions that the chartering of the
was used to buy votes in an approaching national election. Later, accusations were made that the government was paying too much to lease the vessel ($24,000 US per day) and that there might be a possible conflict of interest between the owners and brokers of the ferry (Browne, Juhel.
"Mark: Too much $$ for MV Sonia"
The Trinidad Guardian
. April 13, 2005, Online Edition.).
Interestingly, for at least part of her time in the Caribbean, the
, a high-speed ferry that operates part-time between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Portland, Maine. In the middle of her time serving Trinidad and Tobago, the
was sold again. On August 8th, the ship was sold to Achieva Shipping Ltd., who up to this time had been chartering the vessel. The ferry continued operating on the same route until January 22, 2006.
Apostolos Ship Photos
Equasis - Ship Information
Sonia Timeline and Photos (in Swedish)
Tomasos Transport & Tourism Lines
A week and a half after leaving the Caribbean, the ship arrived in Gibraltar and in mid-March she was chartered to Balearia (an offshoot of Eurolineas Maritimas) of Barcelona, Spain. The
was repainted in Balearia colors and began operating on April 14, 2006 between Barcelona and Sant Antoni on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza. The
made one round trip per day, with each crossing taking approximately 8 hours. On August 7, 2006, the ferry was sold to Balearia and renamed
. At the same time she was registered in Spain. The vessel operated out of Barcelona for 2 more months, until October 5.
Meanwhile negotiations were underway to sell the vessel again. On September 18, 2006, BC Ferries announced that they had reached an agreement to buy the
from Balearia for about $50.6 million (Canadian). On October 19, 2006, BC Ferries took possession of the ferry and transferred her to Piraeus, Greece for engine modification and a new paint job. Records show that on November 6, the ship was renamed
, registered in the Bahamas, and registered under BC Ferries ownership.
On the morning of November 19, the
departed Piraeus for her new home. After a month-long voyage including a stop at the Canary Islands, transiting the Panama Canal, and a stop in Manzanillo, Mexico, she arrived in Victoria on the evening of December 18. On her way up the Pacific coast, she also picked up a new name: the
. Following her arrival, the ferry was drydocked and given an extensive $9 million refit at Victoria Shipyards. The refit included the modification of the ship's stern to accomodate BC Ferries terminals and the gutting and refurbishing of the ship's interior. After a series of public "open houses" in mid-March, the ferry took over the northern service from the
Queen of Prince Rupert
with her maiden voyage on March 31.
Several problems dogged the
during her first few months in service. These included false emergency alarms, a faulty PA system, a malfunctioning elevator, outside deck flooding, and grey water backup. The ferry was taken out of service after just over a month on the north coast for minor repairs and new radar and fire alarm systems.
On January 3, 2008, the
was forced out of service due to oil contamination, which shut down the vessel's engines. The ferry had to wait at Bella Bella while new oil was trucked to Bella Coola and ferried to the site via the
. Most of the passengers were flown to Port Hardy and the ferry returned to service two and a half days later.
Origin of Name
- Likely named after the shipyard where she was built: Atsalakis Shipyards in Perama, Greece.
- A important Greek historical figure during the turn of the 19th century. He is famous for his literary works, his promotion of freedom and democracy, and his work to revive the Greek language.
- Unknown. Probably named after a pretty Greek girl!
- Adventures in the North! The
's new name was announced on December 15th as she sailed northward off the coast of California. Although many thought the ferry should be named the "Spirit of Hartley Bay" in memory of the town's heroic efforts in rescuing the crew and passengers from the sunken
Queen of the North
, the company instead decided to give the new ferry a nice new, sterile, corporate name for "marketing purposes".