Viking Venturer was launched on the 1st June by Mrs Ustered Svenson, wife of the former Chairman of Thoresen car ferries.

The Launch of Viking Venturer

The new ships boasted four decks for passengers, First Class cabins on 'B' deck, more cabins on 'D' deck and most of 'C' deck was taken up with shops, bars, restaurant, cafeteria and bank. Large seating areas for hundreds of passengers was also available on 'C' deck and on 'A' deck there was a large Observation Lounge.


Viking Venturer

Built: 1975 by Aalborg Vaerft A/S, Aalborg, Denmark.
Tonnage: 6, 387g, 2, 918n, 1, 616dwt.
Engines: Triple Screw, 2 8 Cylinder TM410 Werkspoor Wing Engines and 1 x 9 Cylinder TM410 Centre Engine. Wing Engines 4, 500 BHP each, Centre Engine 5, 300 BHP- Shaft Alternator, Service Speed 18 Knots.
Passengers: 1, 200, cars 275.
Launched 1st June 1974, completed 15th January 1975.Yard No. 203

Viking Venturer sailed from Aalborg after being handed over and sailed for Southampton like the Viking III she encountered severe weather conditions. On arrival she was greeted by the Chairman of European Ferries Mr. Keith Wickenden, Keith Wickenden and his brother Roland had taken over George Nott Industries a few years previously. The Venturer entered service on the Le Havre run on the 22nd January running opposite Viking III, Viking I was then released for charter work at Felixstowe. The next Super Viking to be launched was Viking Valiant, the ceremony was performed by Mrs Roald Auckener wife of a Company Director on the 4th October 1974. Valiant's port of registry was Southampton and she had been originally intended to serve in that port but in an attempt to boost passenger numbers it was decided to send her to Felixstowe instead.


Viking Valiant

Built: 1975 by Aalborg Vaerft A/S, Aalborg, Denmark.
Tonnage: 6, 387g, 2, 918n, 1, 590dwt.
Engines: Triple Screw, 2 8 Cylinder TM410 Werkspoor Wing Engines and 1 x 9 Cylinder TM410 Centre Engine. Wing Engines 4, 500 BHP each, Centre Engine 5, 300 BHP- Shaft Alternator, Service Speed 18 Knots.
Passengers: 1, 200, cars 275.
Launched 4th October 1974, completed 18th May 1975. Yard Nos 204..

Viking Valiant arrived in Felixstowe on the 21st May and replaced Viking I which had been operating the service with Viking II.

Viking Voyager was launched on the 14th June by Mrs Josephine Briggs wife of the Commercial Freight Director and it was decided to place the Voyager at Felixstowe thus releasing the Valiant to proceed to her port of registry, Southampton. Viking III was chartered to Fred Olsen Line in October of 1975 for service between Kristiansand, Norway and Hirtshals in Denmark. With the arrival of the Venturer in early 75 the Viking II had been chartered to lion Ferry from as early as April until the November the Super Vikings were making their presence felt. The last of the four Super Vikings The Viscount, was launched on the 7th November by Mrs George Nott wife of a former Director of European ferries, three months later the Voyager arrive in Felixstowe and entered service to Zeebruge on the 20th January 1976.


Viking Voyager

Built: 1975 by Aalborg Vaerft A/S, Aalborg, Denmark.
Tonnage: 6, 386g, 2, 918n, 1, 616dwt.
Engines: Triple Screw, 2 8 Cylinder TM410 Werkspoor Wing Engines and 1 x 9 Cylinder TM410 Centre Engine. Wing Engines 4, 500 BHP each, Centre Engine 5, 300 BHP- Shaft Alternator, Service Speed 18 Knots.
Passengers: 1, 200, cars 275.
Launched 13th June 1975, completed 17th January 1976. Yard Nos 205.

In 1976 Thoresen's had decided that enough was enough with Southampton and decided to move its operations to Portsmouth. Not only would it reduce the crossing time by one hour, it would also reduce the Company's fuel bill. If my memory serves me correctly the shore side labour force in Portsmouth, who did amongst other things tie the ship up, were employed by Portsmouth City Council. Southampton's labour force were employed by the Port Authority and at that time seriously over manned and extremely expensive. As an example take for instance the ship's gangway which was winched aboard by the ship itself, it would have taken no more than one man shore side to place the sling on the hook, not in Southampton, it took three and then the same three had to unhook it. Multiply that for each ship, for each arrival and departure and you can see how expensive Southampton had become. Also the M27 led straight to the Ferry Terminal so with all those factors going for it Thoresen announced on the 21st April 1976 that the Viking I would commence a service to Cherbourg between the 17th of June to the 12th of September. Viking Viscount the last of the Super Vikings was handed over to the Company on the 16th of May 1976 and sailed to join her sister Voyager in Felixstowe and went into service on the 18th May.


Viking Viscount

Built: 1976 by Aalborg Vaerft A/S, Aalborg, Denmark.
Tonnage: 6, 386g, 2, 918n, 1, 616dwt.
Engines: Triple Screw, 2 8 Cylinder TM410 Werkspoor Wing Engines and 1 x 9 Cylinder TM410 Centre Engine. Wing Engines 4, 500 BHP each, Centre Engine 5, 300 BHP- Shaft Alternator, Service Speed 18 Knots.
Passengers: 1, 200, cars 275.
Launched 7th November 1975, completed 16th May 1976. Yard Nos 208.

The Valiant and Venturer remained in Southampton in 1976 and left the first season sailing from Portsmouth to Viking I which had been renamed Viking Victory just prior to the first crossing by the Chairman Keith Wickenden who said at the time " That it was a gesture to the people of Portsmouth who have welcomed us so warmly into their city ". With increased passenger numbers the Valiant operated a weekend service only from Portsmouth in the summer of 1977 and from 1978 onwards increasingly used Portsmouth in favour of Southampton. The Valiant was selected to represent the Company at the Queen's Silver Jubilee Naval Review which took place on the 28th June 1977, the ship had V.I.P.'s onboard who were provided with an excellent buffet washed down with champagne, in the evening the ship attended the firework display with a full compliment of passengers.

1977 Queen's Silver Jubilee Fleet Review

No longer needed within the Thoresen Fleet Viking II was sold to Sealink, renamed Earl William and entered service on the Portsmouth/ Channel Island service in 1976. Viking Victory was charted to Stena Line for their Gothenburg-Fredrikshavn route. The following year Viking III was chartered once again in Scandinavia, Viking IV in Felixstowe leaving Viking Victory the sole Norwegian ship serving on the Portsmouth-Cherbourg service. From 1978 to 1980 the Norwegian ships spent their time either on charter or as refit relief ships for the Super Vikings. In 1980 the event of the year was the French fishermen's blockade which affected all routes across the Channel, the overall effect varied from Port to Port and delays were inevitable. On a couple of occasions Venturer and Valiant spent over twenty hours at sea trying to break the blockade, Viking Victory spent over two days on one occasion but each ship always had to return with mission unaccomplished. The first Thoresen ship to break the blockade was Free Enterprise II who tied up with the aid of passengers who drove off the fishermen in Cherbourg, later both the Venturer and Valiant achieved similar success in Le Havre.

It's the Fleet you can't beat.

In 1981 during the summer the freight ship Viking IV was sold to Vroon Shipping of Breskens, Holland and was renamed Guernsey Express. She was used as a livestock carrier in The Middle East and was registered in Panama, her place was taken by the much larger Europic Ferry which had previously seen service in Felixstowe. Both the Viking III and Viking Victory saw further charter work in 1981 and limited work for Thoresens before both being laid up together in Gothenburg prior to sale.

Europic Ferry

Thoresen now operated morning sailings from Portsmouth and evening sailings from Southampton, the morning to Cherbourg and the evening to Le Havre all rather confusing for watch keepers, not to say the public.

In early 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and three of the Group's ships were requisitioned for the Task Force. I will endeavour to cover this episode in full later. To cover for the sold Viking Victory Free Enterprise V arrived from Dover and Gaelic Ferry transferred from Felixstowe to relieve the Falkland Islands bound Europic.

FEV departing Portsmouth for Cherbourg

Gaelic Ferry

The Gaelic Ferry couldn't be released from Felixstowe immediately due to Port commitments and Thoresens had to use one of the Super Vikings as a freight ship, using the aging FE III to run alongside the remaining Super 'V' on the passenger service. Now as some people may know engines propel objects along by a series of precision timed minor explosions confined to relatively small spaces within the engine block, the only problem with the FE III and her predecessor FE II was that these rules were broken on numerous occasions both to throw in the odd major explosion taking in most of the Engine Room.


And so whilst inward bound on the 10th May from Cherbourg one of the ships two engines did just that severely injuring both crew members down below. I was onboard Viking Valiant that day and we arrived to lay off with HMS Southampton if assistance was required. The 2/E Tom Jibson and myself along with two A.B.'s readied one of the lifeboats in anticipation of going over but a short time later was stood down when the ships Chief Engineer indicated that the situation was under control and that he'd proceed to Southampton on the remaining engine.

Briefly the Company chartered the Lady Lucienne to run alongside Gaelic ferry until the Europic Ferry returned from the Falklands. The Europic Ferry arrived to a tumultuous welcome in Southampton on the 17th July and after a brief stay left for refit at the shipyard of Jeffreys in Avonmouth where amongst other things she was given a new coat of paint. Whilst in the Falklands it had been pointed out to the ship's Captain, Chris Clarke, that the hull colour of Europic being bright orange made something of an excellent target for incoming Argentinian aircraft many hours were spent camouflaging the ship with grey paint until they had covered as much of her as possible, she returned once more to the Le Havre freight run on the 26th August.

The FE II had been finally sold and renamed Moby Blu for service in the Mediterranean, FE III was also up for sale but due to freight demand was once more pressed into service in the January of 1983. I was in a group of reluctant Engineers press ganged into service to run this heap backwards and forwards for just over a week. Management had fitted mist detectors to the engines (no faith whatsoever) and doubled up the Engineers on watch, all that really meant was that instead of affecting one Engineer on watch the engine could have a go at two. Much to our relief the ship was once more laid up in Southampton after the Company chartered Stena Ionia to take over the freight run

FE III alongside in Southampton, up for sale.

With the Viking Venturer in the Persian Gulf on charter to the Ministry of Defence promoting the sale of British armaments Thoresen's chartered the Stena Ionia for their freight operations.

Stena Ionia

Merchant Navigator was chartered in early 1983 to run alongside Gaelic Ferry for its summer freight service to Le Havre.

F.E.V at Berth 3 with bow of Dragon in foreground Southampton

During the summer of 1983 Thoresens reduced further its connection with Southampton leaving only two sailings a day and in August finally sold the FE III to a Maltese Company who renamed her Tamira. The Merchant Navigator was replaced by the Viking Trader (Oyster Bay) and placed on a five-year charter.

Viking Trader.

New Year's Day saw the departure of all passenger ships from Southampton leaving just the Viking Trader operating from the port. Townsend Thoresen announced plans to jumboize four of its ships, they were the FE VI, FE VII, Venturer and Valiant, the contract for the work went to the German yard of Schichau Unterwesser A.G. of Bremerhaven. The FE VI and FE VII were converted in 1984/85 with the two Super V's scheduled for the winter of 1985/86.

In January of 1985 it was announced on the news that P & O Ferries had sold its interests in Dover and Portsmouth to European Ferries there had been no warning whatsoever to the people who actually sailed the ships for P & O and at the time there was considerable bitterness felt by the crews. It also came as something of a surprise to the personnel of European Ferries as we knew that P & O were interested in purchasing the Company but had been turned down by the Monopolies Commission, as it turned out a little later it was all part of a master plan!

So the Dragon and Leopard joined the Fleet in Portsmouth and ran alongside the chartered pair of Stena Sailor and Viking Trader leaving the Venturer and Valiant to operate the Cherbourg Service.


Leopard (P & O Library)

Passenger numbers in Felixstowe never attained what was hoped by the Company so it was decided to upgrade two of their freight only ships Baltic ferry and Doric ferry to passenger/ freight thus releasing the Viscount and Voyager for service in Portsmouth. The Doric had operated freight only service in Southampton for a brief period in the early eighties and is pictured below.

Doric laid over in Southampton.

Doric at the Freight Terminal Le Havre.

Once the two Felixstowe ships arrived in Portsmouth it was decided to send the Dragon to Cairnryan for sailing to Larne. It was announced in January 1986 by respective Governments to build the Channel Tunnel and it was felt at the time that it would adversely affect the future of the Ferry Companies, time was to tell that those opinions were to prove groundless.

Go To Jumboization and the Final Years