European Ferries Group (EFG)FerriesIsle of Man Steam Packet Company (IoMSPCo)Past and PresentSealinkTownsend Car FerriesTownsend Thoresen

MV Free Enterprise III – Past and Present

IMO Number: 6611461

MV Al Fahad

ex Mona’s Isle, Tamira, Free Enterprise III

FE II © Bill Burton

© Bill Burton

Steel twin screw motor vessel, built by N.V. Werf “Gusto”, Schiedam, (Yard No. CO 538) Holland, for Townsend Bros. Ferries Ltd., in 1966 as a passenger and roll-on roll-off car and commercial vehicle ferry. Engined by J. & K. Smit, Kinderdijk

Technical Data

  • Length: 117.51m (385.5 ft) (overall)
  • Breadth of Hull: 19.08m (62.6 ft) (extreme)
  • Draught: 4.06m (13.6 ft) (maximum)
  • Tonnage: 4,657 gross (1966), 6,889 (1986) 4,630 (1992/ 1,899 net (1966), 2,144 (1986) 1,990 (1992/ 899 deadweight (1966), 909 (1986)
  • Engines: Two 12-cylinder and two 6-cylinder Smit-M.A.N. four-stroke single acting diesels, with hydraulic coupling geared to two screw shafts.
  • Power: 8,488 kW/3850 bhp
  • Speed: 20 knots
  • Capacity: 1,114 passengers, 221 cars.(1966), 1,200 passengers, 250 cars (1986)
  • Number of crew:76
  • Call Sign: GSNA (1966 – )
  • IMO Number: 6611461
  • Official Number: 307718
  • Registry: Dover/UK 🇬🇧, Douglas/Isle of Man 🇮🇲, Jeddah/Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦


November 23rd 1965: Keel struck.

May 14th 1966: Launched.

© Bill Burton  © Bill Burton  

© Bill Burton  

© Bill Burton

July 21st 1966: Delivered to Townsend European Ferries, Dover, and England.

Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV  Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV

Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV  Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV

Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV  Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV

Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV  Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV

Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV  Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV

Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV  Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV

Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV  Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV

Gemeentearchief Schiedam / IHC Gusto BV

July 21st 1966: Arrived at Dover flying the IHC flag and Dutch Tricolour, thereafter flying the British flag.

July 22nd 1966: Maiden voyage between Dover – Calais.

October 4th 1966: Returned to its builders for part removal and re-positioning of the insulation around the funnel uptakes.

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection

January 15th 1967: Transferred to Dover – Zeebrügge.

Courtesy of Arjan van Gelder

🆕 Courtesy of Arjan van Gelder

February 1st 1967: Inaugural trip to Zeebrugge.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

November 1968: Lorry carrying liquid nitrogen spilled some of its contents onto the ship’s vehicle deck causing considerable damage to the deck and crossbeams. In this period off service she had a quiet lounge added to her Bridge Deck (immediately forward of the funnel). The ship was off service for almost a month.

The `FE III' after the fitting of her quiet lounge in 1968, © Fotoflite, Stéphane Poulain Collection  © Ken Larwood  

© Fotoflite, Stéphane Poulain Collection (Left) and © Ken Larwood (Right)(After the fitting of her quiet lounge in 1968)

© Ted Ingham

© Ted Ingham

© Ian Collard © Ian Collard

© Ian Collard (Both)

1968: Townsend European Ferries joined with Thoresen ferries to become Townsend Thoresen European Ferries

May 31st 1970: Displaced on the Zeebrugge service.

© A G Jones © Bob Scott  

© A G Jones (left) and © Bob Scott (right)

July 1st 1970: Returned to run the summer Calais link.

March 16th 1971: Suffered a minor engine room explosion.

October 11th 1971: Transferred back to Dover – Zeebrugge.

© Fotoflite, Roy Thornton Collection

 © Fotoflite

1972: “Townsend Thoresen” was added in small white letters on the hulls and TTF logo appeared on funnels in pale green in 1972 and during the summer she maintained the Dover – Calais service with the FREE ENTERPRISE I.

1974: Dark green hulls were adopted with company name in large white letters

Nicolas Levy Collection

Nicolas Levy Collection

June 29th 1974: Commenced trials on the then new Cairnryan – Larne link.

July 1st 1974 – October 19th 1974: Continued Cairnryan – Larne.

October 21st 1974: Season closed and she returned to Dover to replace the FREE ENTERPRISE I.

1976 – 1977: Thoresen orange hulls were adopted for all ships and funnels eventually became dark green with orange TTF logo although initially they did not have black tops.

© Brian Fisher © John Clarkson  

© Brian Fisher (Left) and © John Clarkson (Right)

July 7th 1978: Made a special crossing to Calais to celebrate 50 years of car ferry services across the English Channel.

© Steve Salter

 Steve Salter Archives (1978)

© Steve Salter

Steve Salter Archives (1980)

October Steve 1980: Left Dover and sailed to Le Havre for lay-up.

June 24th 1981 – July 10th 1981: Being spare, she was chartered to Sealink UK Ltd for service on their Dover – Calais/Boulogne seasonal rail-connected links. Broke down twice in her first week of service.

June 24th 1981: Arrived at Dover Western Docks.

© A G Jones © Simonwp

© A G Jones (Left) © Simonwp (Right)

June 25th 1981 – July 10th 1981: Continued Dover – Calais/Boulogne.

16th July 1981 – September 6th 1981: Sailed to Portsmouth to cover on the Le Havre route.

© Brian Fisher  © Ken Larwood  

© Brian Fisher (Left) and © Ken Larwood (Right)

1982: Introduced freight only between Southampton – Cherbourg.

April 19th 1982: Commenced full service between Southampton – Cherbourg.

May 10th 1982: Suffered an engine room explosion in which two members of crew were seriously injured and the ship to lose power. She drifted down Channel and eventually reached Southampton the following day. She was then repaired and laid-up in Southampton with FREE ENTERPRISE II.

© Ken Larwood

© Ken Larwood

January 10th 1983 – January 17th 1983: Unsuccessfully used on a freight only service from Southampton followed by a further lay-up at Ocean Dock.

© Phil English

© Phil English (Ocean Dock, Southampton, Summer 1983)

May 1984: Laid-up at Empress Dock, Southampton………..

July 1984: Sold to Mira Shipping Line, Valletta, Malta

August 24th 1984: Renamed TAMIRA

August 24th 1984: Left Southampton for Valletta.

September 2nd 1984: Arrived at Valletta, but was never used by the company

© Emmanuel. L. Stafrace © Emmanuel. L. Stafrace  

© Emmanuel. L. Stafrace

© Emmanuel. L. Stafrace (all)

October 19th 1984: Sold to Isle Of Man Steam Packet, Douglas, Isle Of Man for £600,000

October 24th 1984: Renamed MONA’S ISLE.

Valetta 06/12/1984 Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection(Valletta 06/12/1984) 

December 6th 1984: Left Valletta for the Clyde

December 13th 1984: Arrived on the Clyde where she entered Clyde Dock Engineering for rebuilding.

April 3rd 1985: Arrived at Douglas, sailed “light” to Dun Laoghaire and returned the following day. She then went to Clyde Dock Engineering, Govan for modifications to her loading ramp.

April 21st 1985: Took up Douglas- Heysham service.

© Ron Baker

© Ron Baker

1985: Suffered many operational problems (such as being “overweight” after rebuild, thereby lowering her capacity)

© Ian Collard  © Ian Collard  

© Ian Collard

© Simonwp

© Simonwp (Douglas, July 1985)

October 4th 1985: Made her final sailing to Heysham, then went to Birkenhead.

October 7th 1985: Arrived at Birkenhead and laid-up for sale.

March 14th 1986: Sold to Hasan Sadaka Hitta, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

March 21st 1986: She had routine maintenance at Birkenhead on March 21st.

March 25th 1986: Renamed AL FAHAD.

© Ken Larwood

© Ken Larwood

 © Ian Collard  © Ian Collard © Ian Collard  © Ian Collard  

🆕© Ian Collard (All)

© Bill Burton 

© Bill Burton

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

April 7th 1986: Left for the Red Sea where she was employed between Jeddah – Suez and was re-registered to Sadaka Shipping Lines (Sameer Establishment for Trading), Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

© Ken Larwood

© Ken Larwood

© Frank Heine © Frank Heine  

© Frank Heine (Jeddah 05/04/1990)

November 16th 1990: Reported that the vessel lost her rudder and fouled a propeller. She was taken in tow to Suez.

December 16th 1990: Repairs completed and resumed service.

December 20th 1992: Whilst en route between Suez and Jeddah she collided with the ferry MECCA I , while berthed at Port Ibrahim. Damage was sustained to her starboard side promenade deck, but she sailed the same day.

July 22nd 1998: Laid up at Suez.

© Google Earth/Digital Globe 2007

© Google Earth/Digital Globe 2007

March 2004: Ran aground on the Saudi coast near Jeddah, abandoned after taking a heavy list. Left in situ.

© Janneke Holiday courtesy of Mark Hardaker  © Janneke Holiday courtesy of Mark Hardaker

© Janneke Holiday courtesy of Mark Hardaker © Janneke Holiday courtesy of Mark Hardaker  

© Janneke Holiday courtesy of Mark Hardaker (Taken during a wreck diving trip near Jeddah)

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: Micke Asklander (Faktaomfartyg), Ron Baker, John Clarkson, Ian Collard, Phil English, Brian Fisher, Ted Ingham, Mark Hardaker, Frank Heine, Janneke Holiday, A G Jones, Ken Larwood, Nicolas Levy, Simonwp, Stéphane Poulain, Arjan van Gelder, Andreas Wörteler and Google Earth/Digital Globe for their assistance in compiling this feature.

Special thanks go to Fotoflite, Steve R Salter and Emmanuel.L. Stafrace (Malta).

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

One Comment

  1. Funny that the wreck shows in imagery which, according to Google Earth, is from 31-7-2003 when it supposedly ran aground only in March 2004?

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