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P&O Ferries (formerly P&O European Ferries) is a constituent company of DP World (which took over its parent company, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) in March 2006). P&O Ferries is registered in Dover, Kent. P&O Ferries also operates a number of routes in the Irish Sea under the name P&O Irish Sea.

P&O Ferry Pride of Rotterdam one of the Hull-Rotterdam sister flagships of P&O Ferries



In 1987, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Company purchased the ferry company, Townsend Thoresen. The operations of Townsend Thoresen were renamed P&O European Ferries with operations from Portsmouth and Dover. Following a consultation with the Competition Commission in November 1996, P&O European Ferries split into three separate subsidiaries: P&O Portsmouth, P&O North Sea and the creation of a joint venture between P&O and the Swedish ferry company Stena to create the P&O Stena Line operations in Dover. [2]

Following the sale of Stena Line's 40% share of the Dover joint venture, the Portsmouth and North Sea operations, previously operating as North Sea Ferries, merged with the Dover operations to create P&O Ferries which were jointly managed from Dover.

In September 2004, P&O Ferries conducted a business review that concluded with the announcement of closure of several of its long term Portsmouth based routes, leaving only the Portsmouth – Bilbao route in operation. These closures were predominantly blamed on the expansion of Low-Cost airlines and the increasing usage of the Channel Tunnel as a faster alternative to ferry operations. [3]

Dover – Calais

P&O Ferries currently operates a fleet of 5 multi-purpose passenger ferries and 2 freight only vessel.

The MV Pride of Dover and MV Pride of Calais were originally ordered by Townsend Thoresen as purpose-built vessels for the DoverCalais route. Following the purchase of Townsend Thoresen during construction, they were delivered to P&O European Ferries in 1987 and began operating soon after. They were built by Schichau Unterweser in Bremen-Vegesack, Germany.

Pride of Burgundy, Pride of Canterbury and Pride of Kent were originally ordered as three of four freight vesselss for the Dover – Zeebrugge route with the names European Causeway, European Pathway and European Highway respectively. The Pride of Burgundy was converted mid-construction and entered service in 1993. The European Pathway, European Highway and the fourth vessel European Seaway were completed and entered service with the Dover – Zeebrugge route.

Following the closure of the Dover – Zeebrugge route in 2002, European Pathway and European Highway returned to their builders and were converted to full passenger mode, eventually re-entering service as the Pride of Canterbury and the Pride of Kent. The fourth vessel, European Seaway was transferred to the Dover – Calais route in early 2005 where she still operates as a freight-only replacement to Pride of Provence.

Two other ships, Pride of Aquitaine and the Pride of Provence were withdrawn from service as part of the review of P&O Ferries operations announced in September 2004.

On December 17 2007 the Dover fleet was joined by the European Endeavour, a new freight ferry to complement the European Seaway. This ship previously saw service at Dover with Norfolkline as the Midnight Merchant.

It was announced on 8 August 2008 that P&O Ferries had placed an €360 million order with STX Europe for two new ships to replace the Pride of Dover and Pride of Calais. The new ships will be 49,000 gross tonnes and 210 metres in length making them the largest ferries on the English Channel. They will also be the first ships on the world to comply with the new SOLAS "Safe Return to Port" requirements.[1] The first of the new ships is scheduled to be delivered in December 2010 and the second in September 2011.[2] The construction of the first vessel begun on 3 March 2009 at STX Europe's shipyard in Rauma, Finland.[1]

Portsmouth routes


Portsmouth – Cherbourg

The route began under Thoresen Car Ferries in 1965 with the revolutionary 'Viking' class fleet of ferries. P&O European Ferries took over in 1987 with two Mark 2 Viking class vessels, Pride of Cherbourg (formerly the Viking Voyager) and Pride of Winchester (formerly the Viking Viscount) and remained in operation until 1994 when they were replaced by the two 'Super Vikings', the Pride of Cherbourg (formerly the Pride of Le Havre and the Viking Valiant) and the Pride of Hampshire (formerly the Viking Venturer) which served the route until their eventual replacement by Pride of Cherbourg (formerly the Isle of Innisfree) of Irish Ferries in 2002.

The conventional route ran 3 times a day under Townsend Thoresen and later P&O, with two day sailings (morning and mid-afternoon) running 5 hours and one overnight sailing running 8 or 9 hours. From 2002, the new vessel ran twice daily, sailing in the morning (4 hrs 45 mins) and the evening (5 hrs 45 mins), with shorter night sailings as she was faster but had less capacity. On Friday night 'Cabaret Cruises' the Viking class vessels were assisted (since 1993) by the larger Pride of Bilbao, with capacity for 2500.

Additionally, between 1998 and 2004 a three times daily FastCat service (3 hours) ran between Portsmouth and Cherbourg, which initially began between 1998 and 2000 on Superstar Express, which was chartered from Star Cruises. In 2000 the Superstar Express was replaced by Catalonia which was chartered from Buquebus and traded under the name of "Portsmouth Express" until 2002. For her 2003 season she was painted in standard P&O Ferries livery and her trading name was shortened to "Express" with her official name becoming Catalonia A. In her final season in 2004, the vessel was officially renamed Express but adopted the trading name "Cherbourg Express".

Following the announcement of the 2004 P&O Ferries business review, the Portsmouth - Cherbourg fastcat service ceased operation in October 2004 and the ferry route closed in January 2005. It is was run solely by P&O's rival company Brittany Ferries until October 2009 when Celtic Link began operating a daily service on the route.

Portsmouth – Le Havre

The route began under Thoresen Car Ferries when they decided a second route from their Southampton base was required to meet growing traffic demand. Using the Viking class ferries, they operated a three-times daily service, sailing in the morning and afternoon (5 hours 30 minutes) and one overnight sailing (eight hours). All three vessels used both the Le Havre route and the shorter Cherbourg route.

In 1967 Normandy Ferries opened their route in competition to Townsend Thoresen, sailing twice daily with one morning and one afternoon sailing (night sailings and cabins were not offered). This now put the two British groups in a three-way competition with French rivals Brittany Ferries. P&O bought out Normandy Ferries becoming P&O Ferries and maintained its twice daily schedule. By 1985, the three-way competition became a head-to-head struggle with Brittany Ferries after P&O sold their services to Townsend Thoresen. In 1987 P&O returned and bought the pioneering Norwegians to form P&O European Ferries.

P&O European Ferries, having bought Townsend Thoresen, continued a three-times daily schedule to Le Havre. The need for bigger ships was in high demand especially due to the Vikings' low passenger and vehicle numbers. In 1991 it was decided that the Mark 1 European class freighters (minus European Gateway) should move to back up the freight side. The back-up fleet went down to two in 1993 with the departure of European Clearway to Rosslare. By 1994 the two remaining Mark 1 European class freighters stayed until the introduction of two German-built vessels, the Pride of Le Havre and the Pride of Portsmouth.

The demand for bigger ships with higher freight and passenger capacity had now been met, the opposite being the less need for back-up. The two remaining Mark 1 European class freighters moved to Ireland in 1995 to back up Pride of Rathlin, a former cross-Channel vessel.

The two modern German-built vessels also had higher passenger numbers, which proved more than ideal for a route which had out-grown its previous vessels. They had a five-knot speed advantage over their predecessors which meant the shortest crossing time in good seas was on average 5 hours 10 minutes. The former Scandinavians had almost double the capacity of the Vikings before conversion (1200).

P&O Ferries closed its route to Le Havre in late September 2005. Pride of Portsmouth (formerly Olau Britannia) and Pride of Le Havre (ex Olau Hollandia) were laid up in Falmouth until January 2006 when they left for their new owners SNAV in Italy. The were renamed SNAV Lazio and SNAV Sardegna respectively and now operate from Civitavecchia to Palermo, in Sicily.

LD Lines now operates a one-ship service following the removal of the Norman Voyager, from Portsmouth to Le Havre with theNorman Spirit. Norman Spirit was formerly P&O's Pride of Aquitaine (ex PO Aquitaine, P&OSL Aquitaine, Stena Royal and Prins Filip).

Portsmouth – Bilbao

Pride of Bilbao, an archetypical cruiseferry. Built for Viking Line and now operated by P&O Ferries between Portsmouth in the UK and Bilbao in Spain.

The Bilbao route was launched in 1993 using the Pride of Bilbao (formerly Olympia). It is the only surviving P&O route out of Portsmouth.

Pride of Bilbao was probably the biggest vessel in Cherbourg at the time of her Cabaret Cruises. She has more than double the capacity of the unconverted Viking twins previously sold.

On 15th January 2010, P&O Ferries announced they intend to withdraw the service between Portsmouth and Bilbao. The ship will be returned to the Irish Continental Group, from whom it has been used on charter.[3]

Portsmouth – Ouistreham (Caen)

Operated for one season between April and October 2004 using the Incat 91 model catamaran Max Mols from Mols Linien, trading under the name "Caen Express".

On September 28, 2004 P&O Ferries made the announcement that it would shut down all its Portsmouth services, except for Portsmouth–Bilbao. The "Caen Express" was returned to her owner and the "Cherbourg Express" was sent to P&O Irish Sea. The last crossing of Pride of Cherbourg for P&O was on January 14, 2005. The Le Havre service closed on September 30, 2005.

North Sea operations

Hull – Rotterdam

Previously known as P&O North Sea Ferries, and before as North Sea Ferries, the Kingston upon Hull to Rotterdam route is taken by P&O's flagships of the ferry fleet, sister ships Pride of Hull and Pride of Rotterdam. Before, it was ran by Norsea and Norsun (before then Norland and Norstar and before then, Norwind and Norwave). Both ships were built in Venice, Italy by Fincantieri's Marghera Shipbuilders, and were delivered to P&O in 2001. Both ships took 14 months to build, have an overall length of 215.1m, a gross tonnage of 59,925t, displacement tonnage of 25,113t and have a service speed of 22 knots. In terms of gross tonnage, these sister ships were the biggest passenger ferries in the world but this title is now held by the 75,100t Color Magic, they are however still the largest passenger ferries to operate from the United Kingdom. Pride of Rotterdam was launched by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on April 25 2001. Pride of Hull was named on November 30, 2001 by the then British prime Minister's wife Cherie Blair.

Hull – Zeebrugge (Eladdy Belgium)

Also previously known as P&O North Sea Ferries, and before as North Sea Ferries, this route is taken by two older ships, Pride of York (formerly Norsea) and Pride of Bruges (formerly Norsun). This route usually inherits stock transferred from the Hull-Rotterdam route.

Norsun was built in 1987 by NKK, Tsurumi, Japan, for North Sea Ferries. She entered service between Hull-Rotterdam, but following internal rebuilding, transferred to the Hull-Zeebrugge service in 2001 (after Pride of Hull and Pride of Rotterdam entered service), receiving P&O Ferries livery at the same time. In 2003 Norsun was renamed Pride of Bruges, and received the revised P&O colours, along with Pride of York.


Current continental routes

  • Dover – Calais
  • Portsmouth – Bilbao
  • Hull – Rotterdam
  • Hull – Zeebrugge

Closed routes

  • Portsmouth – Le Havre (previously ran from Southampton) (1954-1968 Thoresen Car Ferries. 1968 - 1987 Townsend Thoresen. 3 December 1984 - 4 January 1985 P&O Normandy Ferries, 1987 - 1998 & 2002-2005 P&O (European) Ferries, 1998-2002 P&O Portsmouth). Continued by Paris-based LD Lines (Louis Dreyfus Amateurs)
  • Portsmouth – Cherbourg (previously ran from Southampton) (1954-1968 Thoresen Car Ferries. 1968 - 1987 Townsend Thoresen. 1987 - 1998 & 2002-2005 P&O (European) Ferries, 1998-2002 P&O Portsmouth). Continued by Brittany Ferries.
  • Portsmouth – Caen (high-speed) (2004). Continued by Brittany Ferries.
  • Dover – Zeebrugge (1968-1987 Townsend Thoresen, 1987-1998 & 2002 P&O (European) Ferries, 1998-2002 P&O Stena Line). Closed in 2002 prior to conversion of European Highway and European Pathway.
  • Dover – Boulougne (1954-1968 Townsend Brothers Ferries, 1968-1987 Townsend Thoresen, 1978-1985 (P&O) Normandy Ferries), 1987-1993 P&O European Ferries). Closed in 1993 (after Hoverspeed's withdrawal) and re-opened by SpeedFerries with 86 metre Incat catamaran SpeedOne in 2004.
  • Dover – Ostend (Route ran by RMT in partnership with P&O) (1904-1994 R. M. T, 1972-1985 ran in partnership with Sealink, 1986-1987 in partnership with Townsend Thoresen, 1987-1994 in partnership with P&O European Ferries). Closed in 1994 (transferred to Ramsgate), re-opened by Hoverspeed in 1998, then closed altogether in 2003.
  • Newhaven – Dieppe (P&O Stena Line route) (1954-1972 British Rail (Southern Ferries), 1972-1984 Sealink UK, 1984-1986 Sealink British Ferries, 1986-1992 S. N. A. T. (Dieppe Ferries), 1992-1996 Sealink Stena Line/Stena Sealink Line, 1996-1998 Stena Line, 1998-1999 P&O Stena Line). Continued by Hoverspeed from 1999 until 2004, then continued by Transmanche Ferries.
  • Dublin – Mostyn (2001-2004). Closed in 2004 due to low passenger numbers and high freight numbers.
  • Rosslare - Cherbourg (1993-2005). Closed in 2005 after takeover by Celtic Link Ferries.
  • Dublin - Cherbourg (1997-2004). Closed in 2004 after vessel sale.
  • Felixstowe – Zeebrugge (1968-1971 Atlantic Steam Navigation Company, 1971-1987 Townsend Thoresen, 1987-2002 P&O European Ferries/P&O North Sea Ferries). Closed in 2002 after sale to Stena Line.
  • Felixstowe – Rotterdam (1968-1971 Atlantic Steam Navigation Company [Freight], 1971-1987 Townsend Thoresen [North Sea Freight], 1987-2002 P&O European Ferries Freight [North Sea]/P&O North Sea Freight). Closed in 2002 due to operating costs and financial problems at Felixstowe for Pride of Flanders and Pride of Suffolk. Transferred to Harwich by Stena Line.

Ships operated by P&O Ferries

Dover – Calais

Portsmouth – Bilbao

Hull – Rotterdam/Zeebrugge

Teesport - Rotterdam/Zeebrugge

  • European Trader (freight only)
  • Norqueen (freight only)
  • Norsky (freight only)
  • Norstream (freight only)

Former P&O ships

  • Pride of Portsmouth — ex Olau Britannia (1994-2005). Sold to Italian operator SNAV in 2006. Now operating as SNAV Lazio from Civitavecchia-Palermo.
  • Pride of Cherbourg (I) - ex Viking Voyager (1987-1994). Sold to Fred. Olsen Lines, renamed Banaderos, then renamed Barlovento in 2000. Sold to Greek operator SAOS Ferries in 2005. Now operating as Samothraki around the Greek islands.
  • Pride of Cherbourg (II) — ex Pride of Le Havre (I) and Viking Valiant (1987-2002). Sold to Egyptian operator El Salam in 2002, renamed Pride of Al Salam 1 and operated from Suez-Jeddah. Chartered to Moroccan operator COMANAV in 2003 and renamed Mogador operating from Almeria-Nador.
  • Pride of Cherbourg (III) (2002-2005) — Sub-chartered to Stena Line, renamed Stena Challenger and operated from Karlskrona (Sweden)-Gdynia (Poland). Chartered to InterIslander as Challenger, now Kaitaki, operating from Wellington-Picton.
  • Pride of Winchester - ex Viking Viscount (1987-1994) - Sold to L. A. N. E. Lines in 1994, renamed Vitsentzos Kornaros and operates around the Greek islands.
  • Pride of Hampshire — ex Viking Venturer (1989-2002). Sold to Egyptian operator El Salam in 2002, renamed Pride of Al Salam 2 and operated from Suez-Jeddah. Chartered to COMANAV in 2003 and renamed Oujda operating from Sete (France)-Nador. Her charter expired in 2006, and she now operates for owners El Salam Maritime.
  • Caen Express aka Max Mols (2004) - Returned to Danish owners Mols Linien after Portsmouth-Caen service ended in 2004.
  • Cherbourg Express — Now running with P&O Irish Sea on the Larne-Cairnryan and Larne-Troon routes.
  • Pride of Provence (formerly P&OSL Provence, Stena Empereur & Stena Jutlandica) - Now Pride of Telemark Currently laid up in Frederikshavn.
  • Pride of Aquitaine - Chartered then sold to LD Lines in 2005 to continue the Portsmouth-Le Havre route as Norman Spirit. From November 2009 is operating Dover-Boulogne


See also

External links


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