Pride of Calais / P. & O. S. L. Calais / Pride of Calais / Ostend Spirit (II)
& Pride of Dover / P. & O. S. L. Dover / Pride of Dover

A legend on the Dover Straits: Pride of Dover will be fondly remembered by many of the millions who travelled on her during her twenty three years of service.

These two remarkable sister ships have easily carried more passengers across the Channel than any other ferries in the history of the crossing. This is, no doubt, a testiment to the the fact they have so successfully served the route that they were built for over two decades ago.

Pride of Calais and Pride of Dover were very much an evolution of Townsend Thoresen's German built 'Spirit Class'. They were a product of the same shipyard and the Company's own naval architects were responsible for the design that was remarkably in keeping with the styling of the earlier vessels, both inside and out: The superstructures were sloped and slanted in the same distinctive fashion, along with the large external windows. Interiors were fitted out with an abundance of leather, brass and mahogony, as before. The most notable difference, though, was their vastly increased space for vehicles and passengers. It was noteworthy that only seven years had lapsed since the contruction of Spirit of Free Enterprise, yet market growth had already required substantially larger capacity to be provided. Described as 'Chunnel Beaters' at the time, Pride of Dover and Pride of Calais set the standard in terms of size and range of facilties for the following two decades.

Pride of Dover was the very last vessel delivered to Townsend Thoresen and saw a departure from the 'Free Enterprise' nomenclature in favour of the now familiar 'Pride of...' names that have become a trademark of P. & O. Ferries. She completed her maiden voyage on 2nd June 1987. Although worthy of great fanfare, the arrival of Dover's largest ever ferry was kept a very low key affair, the appalling tragedy of Herald of Free Enterprise capsizing off Zeebrugge still sending shockwaves throughout the ferry industry at that time. To mark her debut with the usual celebrations was deemed insensitive under the circumstances. Her identical twin, Pride of Calais, was delivered to the new P. & O. European Ferries in December of that year. Together these excellently designed ships gave P. & O. a critical advantage over its competitors on the Short Sea routes.

After the merger of P. & O. and Stena Line's Dover operations, the names of the twins were clumsily adjusted to P. & O. S. L. Dover and P. & O. S. L. Calais. Fortunately they reverted back to the original identities soon after Stena's involvement ceased.

In the twilight of their Channel careers, they had proven themselves to be unsurpassed throughbreds with an outstanding track record of reliable service. They remained popular with Cross-Channel travellers, even if their interiors seemed out of fashion compared with more recent vessels.

Sadly, as with all things in life, nothing lasts forever and Pride of Dover was earmarked as the first of the twins to be retired from service upon the planned entry of the huge new Spirit of Britain in January 2011. Her last commercial sailing took place on the evening of 14th December 2010, returning 'light' early the next morning for de-storing. A day later she left Dover for the final time, destination Tilbury where she would await her fate.

After languishing unwanted for two long years, Pride of Dover was renamed just Pride, a sale to a "German shipping concern" having been disclosed. Her engines were inoperable (possibly having been plundered for spare parts to service her sister) and so she was taken on an epic tow by the tug Eide. Her expected destination was Turkey, although there was speculation as to whether she was to be repaired or broken up. Sadly, at just twenty five years of age, she was to meet an untimely demise on the beaches of Aliaga.

Pride of Calais was to fare slightly better. By the time she completed her very last commercial sailing from Dover on 20th October 2012, it had been calculated that she had carried a total of around forty million passengers and travelled two and half million miles. Within a couple of months of finishing P. & O. service she was taken on a three year charter to TransEuropa Ferries - who had been seeking larger, newer tonnage for a considerable length of time (after their abortive tie-up with L. D. Lines). Her reincarnation as the second such named Ostend Spirit turned out to be a false dawn sadly: Having been sent to Antwerp for repainting in TransEuropa Ferries colours, she made her first arrival at Ramsgate on 1st February 2013 with a curiously incomplete livery - the trading name was missing on her starboard side, and only partially applied to her port side. Had TransEuropa failed to pay the shipyard for the work?

Ostend Spirit's brief period of operation on the Ramsgate/Oostende route was reported to be spasmodic at best; "technical difficulties" being blamed for her irregular pattern of service. Then came the sudden cessation of all TransEuropa sailings in mid April 2013. Whilst the true reason for the Company's closure had yet to be declared, Ostend Spirit was hurriedly repossessed by a P. & O. crew and taken back to lay-up at Tilbury. Clearly her owners wished to avoid the possibility of their ship becoming embroiled in another company's financial troubles. Once the bankruptcy of TransEuropa Ferries had been announced, it transpired that P. & O. had yet to receive any charter fees for Ostend Spirit. To add insult to injury, P. & O. found themselves, through a strange quirk of maritime laws, liable to pay off the TransEuropa crew who had staged a sit-in on board the vessel in protest at having been unpaid for the duration of the charter.

So, regrettably, Ostend Spirit's new lease of life proved to be shortlived. She was to spend a further seven months laid up at Tilbury before news of her sale of Turkish shipbreakers was forthcoming. Unlike her sister, she was able to carry out her final journey under her own power, leaving Tilbury for the final time on 30th October 2013. On 13th November she was beached at Aliaga, her A. I. S. transponder indicating her destination as "Nirvana".
Some have asked how could it be possible for two such successful ferries to be broken up for scrap at such a relatively young age. The Pride of Dover and Pride of Calais's success could be attributed to the fact they were so perfectky suited to the intense, short sea, mass transit route they served for over two decades. They lacked overnight accommodation (as it wasn't needed) and did not feature any internal ramps linking their vehicle decks (as double deck linkspans existed at the ports they were built to serve). The popular destination of many previous retired Cross-Channel ferries, the Mediterranean, was not a viable possibility in this case due to economic constraints. The cost of conversion would have been considerable, and the recession was hitting operators in this sector very hard. So, inevitably the twins ended up in ferry heaven instead.

M. S. Pride of Dover & Pride of Calais
Builder: Schichau Seebeckwerft AG, Bremerhaven, Germany.
Yard number: 94.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 169.63 x 28.3 x 6.1 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 26,443, 11,399, 4,213.
Engines: Three Sulzer-C. C. M. diesel.
Power: 23,170 kW.
Speed (knots): 22.
Passenger certificate: 2,260.
Car capacity: 650.
Lane metres (for vehicles): 1,560.

2.9.1986: Pride of Dover launched.
27.5.1987: Delivered to Townsend Car Ferries Limited. (Stanhope Steamship Company Limited.), Dover.
28.5.1987: Left Bremerhaven for Dover.
2.6.1987: Entered service Dover/Calais.
21.10.1987: Registered for P. & O. European Ferries (Dover) Limited.
12.1998: Renamed P. & O. S. L. Dover.
3.2003: Renamed Pride of Dover.
15.12.2010: Withdrawn from service.
16.12.2010: Taken to Tilbury for lay-up.
28.12.2012: Arrived at Aliaga, Turkey, for demolition.

11.4.1987: Pride of Calais launched.
27.11.1987: Delivered to P. & O. European Ferries (Dover) Limited.
29.11.1987: Arrived at Dover.
4.11.1987: Entered commercial service Dover/Calais.
12.1998: Renamed P. & O. S. L. Calais.
15.10.2002: P. O. Calais.
2.2003: Renamed Pride of Calais.
20.10.2012: Retired from service with P. & O. Ferries.
23.10.2012: Left Dover for the final time, en route for Tilbury to lay-up.
12.2012: Chartered to TransEuropa Ferries and renamed Ostend Spirit.

A brand new Pride of Dover is seen departing from Dover on a June morning in 1987. Whilst her hull was painted in the unmistakable colours of Townsend Thoresen, her funnel markings were changed to P. & O.'s during fitting out. Other fleet members followed suit.
Photo: Francois Dupiech's Collection.

Here Pride of Dover is found approaching the pier head at Calais, wearing the comparitively sober colours of P. & O. European Ferries. Inexplicably the P. & O. trademark appeared not just along the hull, but on the superstructure too. Note the additional windows that were created below her wheelhouse during her major refit of 1990. These were provided to give her new Club Class lounge forward views.

A view from the port side promenade deck of Pride of Dover during October 1995. The ladder on her funnel was later resited on its forward facing end. This was necessary to be able to fit the wider joint service flag emblem of P. & O. Stena Line.

A view from the port bridge wing of Pride of Dover taken at dusk on a July evening in 1996. The wheelhouse was extended to enclose this area seven years later. Her name was removed during her service with P. & O. Stena Line.

During May 1997 Pride of Calais is captured backing towards her berth at Dover Eastern Docks. The flag of Stena Fantasia can be seen in the foreground.

Over a year later and Pride of Calais heads towards Calais wearing the livery of P. & O. Stena Line: This saw the lowering of her dark blue hull colouring and the introduction of a red pinstripe. Her wheelhouse window frames were always painted white as opposed her sister's, which were black. This made it easier to identify the twin vessels.

A selection of views of Pride of Calais during her final five years of service for P. & O. Ferries.

A selection of views taken of Pride (formerly Pride of Dover) and Pride of Calais during the short period they were laid up together at Tilbury.
Photos: ę Richard Seville.

A happy and rather unexpected new arrival at Oostende in late December 2012: Pride of Calais is revealed as the latest Ostend Spirit for TransEuropa Ferries.
Photo: ę Ralf Radermacher (