GTS FINNJET passed the Kiel Canal in 1981


Karl-Heinz Brueggmann

Ferry GTS Finnjet Kiel Canal 1981
The GTS FINNJET on her first passage through the Kiel Canal on her way to Amsterdam. The picture shows her at Brunsbüttel, where the high bridge was still under construction in 1981.

 The legendary GTS FINNJET was delivered by the Wärsilä Helsinki shipyard in 1977. The then revolutionary ship was developed especially for the Germany-Finland traffic. With its two Pratt & Whitney type FT4C-1DLF engines, which together produced 55,000 kW (74,779 hp), it reached speeds of 31.10 knots. This still makes it the fastest ferry built with a conventional hull.

 With this cruising speed of 30.5 kn, the FINNJET was able to cover the distance between Travemünde and Helsinki in 22 hours, compared to 36 hours with other ships. Thanks to her modern loading system, port lay times were only two hours. This made departures in a 48-hour cycle possible.

 The 215 m long and 25 m wide ship, with its 25,908 GRT, later 32,975 GT and a capacity of over 1,700 passengers, was not only the fastest but also the largest ferry ship in the world when it entered service. The vehicle deck could accommodate up to 400 cars.

However, the ship was quickly caught up in the oil crisis. The high fuel costs made it uneconomical, especially in the winter months. With a daily consumption of up to 180 t of fuel per gas turbine, the FINNJET consumed more than 300 t of fuel for a crossing. After less than four years, this led to rumours that the ship's owners, Enso-Gutzeit, wanted to take the ship out of service and sell it.  In 1981, it was decided to install two additional diesel engines. This was to reduce operating costs in the winter months, when passenger numbers are usually lower, and to reduce the cruising speed to 24 knots.

After a strike in Travemünde was settled, the FINNJET sailed from Travemünde on 24.10.1981 for a stay in the shipyard in Amsterdam. This voyage took her through the Kiel Canal for the first time.

 During her stay at Droogdock Maatschappij, two Wärtislä-Vasa 18 V 32 diesel generators and two electric motors were installed. With the combined 11,400 kW of diesel-electric propulsion, fuel consumption at 24 knots was reduced to only 40 tonnes fuel/day.  After another strike, and after the operation of the ship was guaranteed for one year, the FINNJET returned to Travemünde on 13 December 1981. She passed through the Kiel Canal for the second and last time.

In 1982, Effoa took over 75% of the shares in Finnjet. In the same year, Finnlines founded OY Finnjet Line Ltd.  In 1986, Effoa took over the remaining shares and the Finnjet Line.  From then on, the Silja flag flew in the radar mast and soon after, the hull colour, which had previously been blue, also changed to white. From 1989 to 1991, Partrederiet för GTS Finnjet was founded to operate the ship. From there she changed again to Effoa until 1993. In 1991 there were considerations to lengthen the ship by 20 m, but these plans were not realised. In 1993, Silja-Linie took over the ship. In 1994, HDW in Kiel carried out conversions such as the panorama bar. As a result, the Finnjet now reached 32,975 GT. By installing new gearboxes, it was now possible to use the gas turbines and diesel engines together. This meant that the propulsion system could be operated in various configurations. The maximum speed increased to 33.5 knots.

From 1999, the route to Helsinki changed from Travemünde to Rostock, with an intermediate stop in Tallinn. In the winter months, the ship operated between Helsinki and Tallinn. In the same year, the British Sea Containers Ltd took over the majority of Silja-Line's shares, which it took over completely in 2002.

From 2004, the FINNJET was deployed on the new Rostock- Tallinn- Saint Petersburg route. Due to the lack of profitability, the ship was laid up in the winter months. The 2005 summer season was her last in the Baltic Sea, the ship was taken out of service in September and put up for sale.

After Hurricane Katrina, the LSU Medical School, Louisiana, chartered her as a hotel and emergency accommodation. After the Atlantic crossing, she began hotel operations in October 2005. After the end of the charter in June 2006, she sailed for the Bahamas. At the same time, Sea Containers sold the Silja-Line to the Estonian Talink Group. In order to sell the ship, Sea Conatiners Ltd took over the Finnjet and re-flagged her to the Bahama register. The ship was laid up in Freeport in the Bahamas.

 In November 2007, the Dutch Club Cruise bought the ship. For conversion to a cruise ship, the FINNJET was transferred to Genoa in early 2008 and renamed DA VINCI. However, due to the high costs, the plan was not realised.  In May 2008, it was announced that she had been sold and was on her way to India under the name KINGDOM. On 19 June, the ship was beached in Alang, India. It was still possible to obtain a stay of the demolition work. But after all efforts to save the ship from being scrapped failed, demolition work began on 12 September.

One might draw parallels between the FINNJET and Concorde. When the contract to build the ship was signed in 1973, she too was a child of the technically possible. As with Concorde, its unique concept and speed were to accompany it with constant inefficiency and ultimately cause its demise. But one thing is likely to have remained, the memory of a legendary ferry.

 I would like to commemorate the GTS FINNJET with the picture of her first Kiel Canal passage.

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