Mv Via Mare
ex Begonia, Regina I, European Pathfinder, Panther, European Clearway
Roy Thornton Collection (© Cees de Bijl)
Steel twin screw motor vessel, intended primarily as a commercial vehicle ferry, built and engined by Schichau Unterweser A.G., Bremen (Yard No. 2263) in 1975 for the Monarch Steamship Company, like Townsend’s, a subsidiary of the European Ferries Group
- Length on Deck: 118.15m (388 ft) (overall), 111.56m (352.9 ft) (between perpendiculars)
- Breadth of Hull: 20.27m (66.5 ft) (extreme), 19.9m (65.3 ft) (moulded)
- Depth: 11.65m (38.2 ft) (moulded)
- Draught: 5.81m (19 ft)(maximum)
- Tonnage: 8,023 gross (ITC 69), 1,070 net (pre ITC 69), 2,406 (ITC 69), 2,387 deadweight, 3927t
- Engines: Two 5,700 bhp 9-cylinder Stork-Werkspoor TM 410C four-stroke single-acting diesels
- Power: 8386 kW/5700 bhp
- Speed: 18.5 knots
- Capacity: 132 passengers, 76 x 15m commercial trailers
- Number of crew: 36
- Call Sign: GUYN (1975), J8B2698 (2003), ESRL (2005 – 2012), 5B7147 (2012 – ), TCA9018
- IMO Number: 7411258 Official Number: 366034
- Registered Number: 03930Y
- Registry: London (1976 – 1996), Hamilton – Bermuda (1996 – 2002), Kingstown – St Vincent and Grenadines (2002 – 2005), Tallinn – Estonia (2005 – 2012), Sierra Leone (2012 – 09/2017 ), Turkey (01/10/2017 – )
- Sister Vessels: European Trader, European Enterprise, European Gateway
October 10th 1975: Launched as the third “European” class.
January 16th 1976: Delivered to Townsend Car Ferries Ltd., Dover (Monarch Steamship Co, Ltd), England.
January 18th 1976: Arrived at Dover
© Bob Scott
January 19th 1976: Sailed to Felixstowe
January 21st 1976: Maiden voyage between Felixstowe – Europoort.
© Cees de Bijl
February 15th 1976: Returned to Dover for Calais/Zeebrugge services.
February 18th 1976: Commenced service between Dover – Zeebrugge.
Chatham dockyard, November 1982 © Ken Larwood (both)
1984: A new TT logo, in white, was introduced on the funnels.
© Brian Fisher
1984: Refitted at Thames ship repairers at Chatham Dockyard. Had her fans on her main vehicle deck fitted with a reversing gear thereby enabling exhaust fumes to be pushed out rather than just sucking fresh air in.
1987: Following the “HERALD” disaster, from spring onwards, pale blue funnels with P&O flag logo became the norm.
© Brian Fisher
August 28th 1987: After overhaul, returned to Dover in half new livery (dark blue funnel with P & O flag, P & O letters below the bridge wing and a horizontal dark blue stripe along the white superstructure. The ship’s hull was still orange.
Trevor Kidd Collection
October 1987: There was a change to P&O European Ferries navy blue hull and funnel.
Nigel Thornton Collection
December 31st 1987: Registered to P&O European Ferries Ltd, Dover, England.
© Fotoflite (both)
February 1988: Laid up owing to seamen’s strike
© Brian Pawley
June 1988: Resumed service Dover – Zeebrugge.
July – August 1988: Operated between Dover – Boulogne (freight only).
© Andreas Wörteler
March 15th 1991: Sold to Abbey National Leasing.
July 18th 1992: Commenced service between Portsmouth – Le Havre.
April 27th 1993: Final day in service with then laid up in Chatham.
July 28th 1993: Cherbourg for berthing trials.
July 30th 1993: Sailed to Rosslare for berthing trials
October 1993: After £2 million refit commenced service between Cherbourg – Rosslare. Registered for Pandoro Ltd, Hamilton, Bermuda.
© Andreas Wörteler
July 25th 1994: Due to enter dry-dock at Birkenhead to have fin stabilisers fitted.
January 1996: Renamed PANTHER.
🆕© Frank Heine (Cherbourg 07/07/1996)
November 25th 1997: “Whilst en route from Rosslare to Cherbourg a fire broke out on one of her loaded freight trailers. The fire was extinguished and there was no damage. After returning to Rosslare a severe fire onboard almost resulted in the loss of the ship. The Panther was 35 miles out from Rosslare on passage to Cherbourg on the 26th of November 1997 when the fire was discovered in the early hours of the morning. The blaze broke out in one of the lorries stowed on the vehicle deck and was so intense that it burned out six lorries surrounding the vehicle at the focal point of the fire. The crew managed to contain the fire and eventually put it out while the ship returned to Rosslare at 0300. There were worries at the time that the heat of the fire had damaged the ship’s structure but after repairs at Liverpool the ship returned to service.”
January 1998: Transferred to P&O Irish Sea, renamed EUROPEAN PATHFINDER.
© Trevor Kidd
April 1998: Commenced service between Larne – Ardrossan substituting for EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER away on refit.
April 1998: Commenced service between Larne – Cairnryan substituting for EUROPEAN TRADER away on refit.
March 30th 2001: Final day operating between Cherbourg – Rosslare.
April 2001: Stern shelf was added at H & W, Belfast
April 19th 2001: Commenced services between Larne – Cairnryan.
February 13th 2002: Suffered a fire in an electrical switchboard in the engine control room. Repairs lasted one week.
June 12th 2002: One of her main engine’s crankshaft buckled. Carried on in service at a reduced speed of 10 knots then laid at anchor whilst repairs were attempted. With the imminent arrival of new tonnage/service costs cutbacks and the need for specialist parts only temporary repairs were done.
July 17th 2002: Last sailing ex-Larne.
July 19th 2002: Laid up in Liverpool. At this time she still had here extensive mechanical problems.
October 2002: Sold to Erato Shipping, Kingstown, St Vincent. Renamed REGINA I, but the sale never materialised.
October 28th 2002: Sold for £250,000 to TransEuropa Line, Kingstown, St Vincent. Renamed BEGONIA.
December 15th 2002: Arrived Ostend, laid up for major refit and refurbishment.
© Andreas Wörteler (both)
🆕 © Frank Heine (Ostend 02/06/2003)
January 2004: Dry docking in Vlissingen.
January 30th 2004: Arrived back in Ostend
© Andreas Wörteler (both)
February 2004: Commenced service between Ostend – Ramsgate.
© Nigel Thornton
July 2004: “It would appear that the Ipswich Way hit the Begonia while she was moored at a quay in Ostend. The Begonia was holed just above the waterline and will be at Vlissingen until she is repaired. The Ipswich Way appears to have some minor damage…”
June 4th 2005: “Very strong rumours suggest that the BEGONIA has made her final commercial sailing for TEF and has been sold to Estonian interests. She is due to leave within the next two weeks and will be renamed BALTIC TRADER. Nothing is official yet. No other news.”
July 2005: Sold to an Estonian company, renamed VIA MARE with Tallin as her home port.
© Tim Vogel
July 8th 2005: At 19.07hrs (EST) sailed from Ostend bound for Tallinn. New call sign.
July 2005: Laying in Kopli, Tallinn, Estonia.
August 15th 2005: Information ‘Equasis’ owners and managers, Baltic Scandinavian Lines A/S, 10 Meistri tn., Tallinn. Estonia
August 23rd 2005: Anticipated that will be installed between Paldiski – Västervik
© Tim Vogel
September 1st 2005: Announcement that the new vessel of Baltic Scandinavian Lines will sail on route Paldiski-Kapellskär-Paldiski-Västervik according to the next schedule.
September 1st 2005: Entered service.
November 21st 2005: Commenced service between Paldiski – Kapellskär.
🆕© Frank Heine (Paldiski 12/07/2007)
June 14th 2008: “Due to repairs, all trips of “Via Mare” will be cancelled. “Information about replacement ship and schedule will follow soon.”
June 2008 – August 2008: Refit in Liepaja, Lithuania.
© Frank Lose
© Aleksi Lindström
January 2012: Rumoured to have been sold for services between Turkey – Cyprus
January 18th 2012: Passed through the English Channel en-route to Portland for bunkers.
January 19th 2012: Left Portland showing a destination of Famagusta.
January 29th 2012: Arrived in Famagusta, Cyprus.
April 2012: Recorded Owner; Akgunler Shipping, Girne, North Cyprus. Operating between Mersin (Turkey) – Girne (North Cyprus)
© Ton Grootenboer
November 2017: Still active between Mersin (Turkey) – Girne (North Cyprus)
All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions found. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Brian Fisher, Ton Grootenboer, Frank Heine, Trevor Kidd, Ken Larwood, Aleksi Lindström, Frank Lose, Brian Pawley, Bob Scott, Tim Vogel and Andreas Wörteler their assistance in producing this feature.