British and Irish Steam Packet Company (B&I Line)FerriesPast and PresentSealinkSealink Dieppe FerriesSociété Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF)

MV Senlac – Past and Present

IMO Number: 7235915

MV Apollon

ex  Express Apollon, Apollo Express, Senlac

Nigel Thornton Collection

Senlac – Nigel Thornton Collection

Steel twin screw motor vessel built at the Arsenal de Brest , (Yard No. CF 3), for the British Railways Board in 1972

Technical Data

  • Length: 118.09m (387.3 ft) (overall), 110.19m (361.5 ft) (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth of Hull: 19.84m (65 ft) (extreme),  19.20m (63.2 ft (moulded)
  • Depth: 11.23m (36.8 ft)(moulded)
  • Draft: 4.117m (mean loaded)
  • Tonnage: 5,590  gross,  2,008 net, 1,030  (deadweight)
  • Engines: two 16-cylinder Pielstick PC2V400 four-stroke single-acting diesels
  • Power: 11,030  kW/15,000 s.h.p. @465 r.p.m.
  • Speed: 19.5 knots
  • Cabins: 24
  • Capacity: 1,400 passengers and 256 cars (or 38 lorries and 80 cars)
  • Call Sign: GQAX, SYSQ, J8B3637
  • IMO Number: 7235915
  • Official Number: 358855
  • Registry: London/UK 🇬🇧, Dieppe/ France 🇫🇷, Piraeus/Greece 🇬🇷, Kingstown/St Vincent & Grenadines 🇻🇨
  • Sister Ships: Hengist (CF 1), Horsa (CF 2)


The third of a trio of ships built in 1972 specifically for the short sea routes and, at the time, the only ferries to have ever been built in a French Navy dockyard

December 1st 1972: Launched.

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Senlac – Nigel Thornton Collection

March 3rd 1973: Christened.

April 1973: Delivered to Sealink UK Ltd, London, England.

© Brian Fisher © Fotoflite  

Senlac – © Brian Fisher (left) and © Fotoflite (Right)

April 5th 1973: Arrived in Newhaven.

April 26th 1973: Coastal cruise, Dieppe to Etretat.

April 27th 1973: Coastal cruise, Newhaven to Selsey (taking in Brighton, of course)

April 28th 1973: Coastal cruise, Newhaven to Hastings, including officiating at a powerboat race.

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Senlac – Courtesy of Jim Ashby

May 2nd 1973: Commenced service between Newhaven – Dieppe.

© Ken Larwood © Ken Larwood © Ken Larwood © Ken Larwood

Senlac – © Ken Larwood

© A G Jones   

Senlac – © A G Jones (left) and Nigel Thornton Collection (right)

December 31st 1975 – January 14th 1976: Operated between Dover – Boulogne – Folkestone.

© Derek Longly

Senlac – © Derek Longly

June 28th 1977: Took part in a floating parade to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee.

© Ambrose Greenway

Senlac – © Ambrose Greenway

© Derek Longly © Derek Longly  

Senlac – © Derek Longly

June 13th 1980: A fire in the ships alternator room while alongside at Dieppe caused the immediate evacuation of almost 1,000 passengers. The ships internal sprinkler system extinguished the flames, but she had to be withdrawn from service and sent to Avonmouth for repairs.

August 1980: Also operated to and from Cherbourg.

October 4th 1981: Link-span collapsed in Dieppe throwing a Spanish lorry into the harbour and killing its driver. The service was immediately suspended.

January 4th 1982:Following the inability of the Anglo-French partners to negotiate the joint service agreement, Sealink UK Ltd announced that they would withdrawing from the service and would leave it solely to the French. SENLAC would be sold. Her crew promptly responded by occupying the ship and blocking the ramp at Newhaven. The dispute quickly spread and the officers refused to move the vessel. The town of Newhaven supported their ferry with food and other essentials necessary for the ‘occupation’. Large banners stating “Save our Senlac” and “Thanks Newhaven” were draped across the ship’s funnel and side.

© Ken Larwood © Ken Larwood  

Senlac – © Ken Larwood

February 1983: Refitted at Holyhead. Also had extensive work carried out on her passenger accommodation.

July 27th 1984: Registered to Sea Containers Ltd., Sealink British Ferries.

January 31st 1985: “Made her last crossing between Newhaven and Dieppe under the British flag… The crossing, the usual British leg a a three-ship operation, departed 10.00 hrs from Newhaven returning at 22.00 hrs from Dieppe. Senior Master Captain John Payne .. brought the vessel alongside at Dieppe to be greeted by the town band and a party of local officials and representatives….”

Sealink News

Sealink News, Spring 1985

On her return to Newhaven she then de-stored and sailed to Le Havre for her annual dry-docking and repainting with her new funnel colours and registered in Dieppe.

Roy Thornton Collection

Senlac – Roy Thornton Collection

January 31st 1985: Sold to Overseas Equipment Co Ltd (Societe Nationale Des Chemins de fer Française) SNCF, Dieppe, France. Commenced service between Newhaven – Dieppe.

1986 (late Spring): SNCF formed a subsidiary company Dieppe Ferries to manage the future of their Newhaven service.

Roy Thornton Collection   

Senlac – Roy Thornton Collection (left) and Bernt Anderson Collection (right)

January 13th 1986: Damaged her stern in Dieppe. Repairs took a month.

© Justin Merrigan

Senlac – © Justin Merrigan

June 19th 1987 – September 9th 1987: Chartered to B&I Line, Dublin, Ireland operating between Fishguard – Rosslare.

© Mike Sartin

Senlac – © Mike Sartin

September 1987: Short “lay up” in Calais

September 1987: Survey at Fishguard.

Roy Thornton Collection

Senlac – Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection   Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection   Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection   Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection   Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection   Roy Thornton Collection

Senlac – Roy Thornton Collection (all)

September 1987: Laid up in Dunkerque.

November 21st 1987 – November 24th 1987: Operated between Newhaven – Dieppe.

November 25th 1987: Sold to Ventouris Sons Shipping Co, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed APOLLO EXPRESS. Left Dunkerque for Greece.

Nigel Thornton Collection Nigel Thornton Collection  

Apollo Express – Nigel Thornton Collection

© Bernd Crause

Apollo Express – © Bernd Crause

1988: Commenced service between Piraeus – Paros – Naxos – Ios – Santorini.

© Frank Heine

Apollo Express – © Frank Heine (Piraeus 20/07/1990)

1993: Renamed APOLLO EXPRESS 1.

© Frank Heine

Apollo Express – © Frank Heine (Piraeus 16/07/1994)

October 1995: Her owners suffered financial difficulties and the vessel was laid up in Piraeus.

August 1996: Sold to Agapitos Express Lines, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed EXPRESS APOLLON.

© Ton Grootenboer

Express Apollon – © Ton Grootenboer

November 8th 1999: Sold to Minoan Flying Dolphins, Piraeus, Greece. Operating for Hellas Ferries services.

© Ton Grootenboer

Express Apollon – © Ton Grootenboer

© Frank Heine © Frank Heine

Express Apollon – 🆕© Frank Heine (Piraeus, 15/07/2001)(Left) (Piraeus, 19/07/2001)(Right)

June 13th 2003: Commenced service between Piraeus – Kythnos – Serifos – Sifnos – Milos – Folegandros – Sikinos – Ios – Santorini.

© Andreas Wörteler © Andreas Wörteler  

Express Apollon – © Andreas Wörteler

Express Apollon – © Ken Larwood

December 28th 2003: Collided with a cutter in Serifos harbour whilst carrying 266 passengers.

September 2004: Laid up in Drapetsona, Greece.

January 2005: Company adopted the new name of Hellenic Seaways, Greece. The fleet were re-liveried with blue hulls.

© Andreas Wörteler © Andreas Wörteler  

© Andreas Wörteler © Andreas Wörteler  

Express Apollon – © Andreas Wörteler

June 2005: Introduced between Piraeus – Paros – Naxos – Ios- Santorini.

November 14th 2005: Some 206 ferry passengers were delayed for nearly 24 hours on a trip from the eastern Aegean island of Samos to Athens when the vessel encountered technical problems. About 100 travellers on the ship refused to get off the boat after being informed that it needed to return to Athens for repair work without passengers. The passengers left the island for Athens aboard another ferry.

January 12th 2006: Final day in service.

January 13th 2006: Laid up in Piraeus.

© Aleksi Lindström

Express Apollon – © Aleksi Lindström

November 14th 2006: She was sold for further service to either the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf.

November 27th 2006: Information that she was sold to Arkoumanis (former owner of European Seaways in the late 80’s) who intend to use her between Italy and Albania.

January 31st 2007: Taken over by her new owner and registered in the St Vincent & Grenadines, home port Kingstown. Renamed APOLLON.
In the event, after weeks of confusion/speculation, she entered service for European Seaways this Summer between Italy and Greece rather than Albania, namely Brindisi -Corfu -Igoumenitsa, with twice-a-week trips further down to Zante.

June 18th 2007: Arrived in Brindisi.

June 21st 2007 – September 2nd 2007: Commenced service for European Seaways between Igoumenitsa – Korku (Zakinthos) – Brindisi.

June 26th 2007  – July 1st 2007: Owing to “Safety Deficiences” she was detained in Igoumenitsa.

© Frank Heine © Frank Heine  

Apollon – © Frank Heine (Igoumenitsa 03/08/2007)

August 2007: Registered Owner: Apollonas Maritime SA, Ship Manager: European Seaways Inc, in Service.

September 2nd 2007: Laid up in Igoumenitsa.

May 31st 2008: Arrival at Chalkis for dry dock and annual refit.

July 12th 2008 – September 7th 2008: Operated European Seaways services between Igoumenitsa – Korku (Zakinthos) – Brindisi.

© Frank Heine

Apollon – © Frank Heine (Bari 28/07/2009)

December 2008: Remains in service from Bari in Italy to Durres in Albania.

© Aleksi Lindström

Apollon – © Aleksi Lindström

August 29th – 30th 2010: Laid up in Salamina her final round trip to Zante from Brindisi over the weekend being cancelled as a result of major mechanical problems

September 30th 2010: Left Salamina bound for breakers at Aliaga.

© Selim San © Selim San  

© Selim San © Selim San  

Apollon – © Selim San

October 1st 2010: Beached at Aliaga

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: Bernd Crause, Brian Fisher,Ton Grootenboer, Frank Heine, A G Jones, Ken Larwood, Derek Longly, Aleksi Lindström, Justin Merrigan, Selim San, Mike Sartin and Andreas Wörteler.

Special thanks also go to Jim Ashby, Terry Conybeare and the World Ship Society, East Kent Branch for their assistance in compiling this feature.

Article © Nigel Thornton and Ray Goodfellow (Dover Ferry Photos Group)

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