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MV Free Enterprise VI – Past and Present

IMO Number: 7204291

MV Pride of El Salam 95

ex Pride of Ailsa, Pride of Sandwich, Free Enterprise VI

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

Steel triple screw motor vessel, built by N.V. Werf “Gusto”, Schiedam, (Yard No. CO 881) for Townsends in 1972 as a passenger and roll-on-roll-off car and commercial vehicle ferry. Engined by Stork-Werkspoor Diesel, Amsterdam 

Technical Data

  • Length on Deck: 117.50m (overall)(1972), 139.40m (1985), 110.06m (between perpendiculars), 132.04m (1985)
  • Breadth of Hull: 19.00 ft (extreme)(1972), 22.48m (1985)
  • Depth: 11.33 ft (moulded)
  • Draught: 4.750 ft (maximum)(1972), 5.25m (1985)
  • Tonnage: 4,981 gross (1972), 12,503 (1985), 1,892 net (1972), 5,941, 3,750, 1,191 dead weight (1972), 2,136 (1985)
  • Engines: Three 8-cylinder Stork-Werkspoor TM 410 four stroke single acting diesels
  • Power: 12,600 bhp/1,475kW
  • Speed: 22.0 knots (1972), 19.0 knots (1985)
  • Capacity: 1,132 passengers, 250 cars, 24 freight (1972), 1,035 passengers, 370 cars, 50 freight (1985)
  • Number of crew:80
  • Call Sign: GQAL 
  • IMO Number: 7204291
  • Official Number: 357533
  • Registry: Dover/UK 🇬🇧Panama 🇵🇦
  • Sister Ships: Free Enterprise VIII (862), Free Enterprise VII (CO882), Free Enterprise V (CO755), Free Enterprise IV (CO719)


“The third ship of the newly modelled “Free Enterprise” series.”.

January 29th 1972: Launched.

                                                          © Werft-Gusto Museum  © Werft-Gusto Museum © Werft-Gusto Museum

© Werft-Gusto Museum

June 15th 1972: Arrived at Dover from Rotterdam, but was forced to return almost immediately for repairs because of a fault in the exhaust system of one of her engines.

June 28th 1972: Returned from Holland.

© John Clarkson © John Clarkson  

© John Clarkson (Roy Thornton Collection)

July (early): Commenced a regular service between Dover and Zeebrugge.

July 8th 1972: Made several scheduled trips to Calais.

© AG Jones © Philippe P Brebant

© AG Jones (Calais, 12/08/1972)(Left) © Philippe P Brébant (Right)

© Philippe P Brébant 

© Philippe P Brébant 

Courtesy of Brian Fisher

Courtesy of Brian Fisher

1974: Ships had hulls painted dark green with company name in large white letters.

© Michael Woodland  © Christophe Bonvarlet

© Michael Woodland (Left) © Christophe Bonvarlet (Right)

July 6th 1974 – September 8th 1974: Repeated the previous season’s Boulogne sailings operating on Saturdays and Sundays. Not repeated in 1975

1976 – 1977: “Thoresen” orange was for all ships hulls and funnels eventually became dark green with orange TTF company logo. For only two days during the transitional period she appeared with old Townsend funnel colours and then, initially, green without black top.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

© J K Byass

© J K Byass

© Fotoflite, Roy Thornton Collection  © Steffen Weirauch Collection

© Fotoflite, Roy Thornton Collection (Left) © Steffen Weirauch Collection

© Cees De Bijl   © Cees De Bijl  © Cees De Bijl © Cees De Bijl 

© Cees De Bijl 

May 8th 1978: Struck the East Pier at Calais and was holed amidships flooding part of the engine room. Returned to port, where she discharged passengers, before sailing to Rotterdam for dry-docking, repairs and re-wiring.

© Simonwp

© Simonwp (Calais 12/09/1978)

© Capt Jan Melchers  © Capt Jan Melchers 

© Capt Jan Melchers (Dover Strait, 10/06/1981)

1984: A new TT logo, in white, was introduced on the funnels.

February 10th 1985: Standard refit at Bremerhaven.

🆕 FE VI ver 4🆕  (Link to article pdf)

Free Enterprise VI – The memories of Mike Matthews (ex 1st Electrical Officer)

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection (Postcard)

June 1985: Sent to Schichau Unterweser AG (SUAG) at Bremerhaven for rebuilding. The 1,260 ton superstructure was lifted off by four mammoth cranes. The bow section of the vessel was removed and a new forward hull section was added. The keel for the new fore-bodies (also that of the FREE ENTERPRISE VII – yard numbers 2289 and 2290) was laid in January and was launched on 18th May by Margaret Ayres and Lauren Siddle whose mothers had launched the original ships. Measuring 135 metres x 22 metres, the two new bow sections were cut into two and welded onto the forward end of the original hulls before the superstructures were replaced, the work increased lorry capacity from 24 to 60.

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection  

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection  

Nigel Thornton Collection

© Steffen Weirauch Collection © Steffen Weirauch Collection

© Steffen Weirauch Collection

Schichau -Unterweser AG Bremerhaven, Roy Thornton Collection  

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection  

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection  

Nigel Thornton Collection

October 22nd 1985: Re-delivered from builders yard.

October 26th 1985: Arrived back in Dover and conducted sea trials at Calais.




© Ken Larwood (Dover 26/10/1985)(all)

© Mark Willis


© Mark Willis (Dover, 1985)

October 28th 1985: Re-entered service, Dover – Zeebrugge. Provided additional Calais services during the busy approach to Christmas.

© Ken Larwood  © Fotoflite, Roy Thornton Collection

© Ken Larwood (Left) © Fotoflite (06/06/1986)(Right)

Roy Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection (1987)

1987: Following the “HERALD disaster, from spring onwards, pale blue funnels with P&O flag logo became the norm.

© Pieter Inpyn

© Pieter Inpyn (01/08/1987)

October 1987: There was a change to P&O European Ferries navy blue hull and funnel.

December 1st 1987: With the formation of P&O European Ferries in October (1987) the ship was renamed PRIDE OF SANDWICH.

© Ken Larwood  Ferry Publications Postcard

© Ken Larwood (Left) Ferry Publications Postcard (Right)

December 31st 1987: Registered for P&O European Ferries Ltd., Dover, England.

February 1988: Laid up at Wilton Feijenoord, Schiedam Harbour, near Rotterdam, owing to seamen’s strike

June 1988: Resumed service Dover – Zeebrugge.

© Simonwp

© Simonwp (Immingham, 12/12/1988)

© Brian Pawley

© Brian Pawley

April 1991: Sold to Howill Shipping, England. (Registered for BMBF (No. 15) Ltd. U.K., Dover, England). Bareboat-chartered to P&O.

December 31st 1991: Final day operating as a passenger ferry between Dover – Zeebrugge.

Roy Thornton Collection

Ferry Publications Postcard

1992 (early): Continued on her previous schedules in a freight mode until 3rd January (1992) before finishing. The ship then sailed to Chatham for the fitting of a temporary stern-ramp.

1992: Relieved on the Felixstowe – Zeebrugge link.

1992: Commenced service between Felixstowe – Zeebrügge/ Europoort.

February 28th 1993: Arrived at Falmouth for modifications and refit. Work carried out included the removal of her hoistable car decks to give maximum height for freight, the removal of the Dover skywalk and cutting of a new passenger access point on E Deck, new stern arrangements for Larne, the refurbishment of the Club Class lounge behind the funnel and a new children’s play area in place of the original perfume shop. Renamed PRIDE OF AILSA.

March 12th 1993: Left Falmouth.

March 13th 1993: Arrived at Larne for trials before sailing to Cairnryan.

March 13th 1993: Commenced service between Cairnryan – Larne.

© Aubrey Dale  © Aubrey Dale  

© Aubrey Dale (Larne, June 1993)

August 5th 1993: Sustained engine damage after which repairs were completed at Belfast.

© Aubrey Dale

© Aubrey Dale (Out of service @Ballylumford power station, 07/08/1993)

Ferry Publications Postcard    

Ferry Publications Postcard (Left) and © Bernd Crause (Cairnryan, 11/05/1994) (Right)

June 15th 1996: Completed her final trip between Cairnryan – Larne. Missing the 08.00 from Larne (due to rudder problems), she worked the 15.30 to Cairnryan and 19.30 (retarded to 20.00) return. After discharging she sailed at midnight for Belfast (Harland & Wolff).

June 15th 1996: Sold to El Salam Shipping & Trading Co, Suez, Egypt. (Registered for Asia Shipping Mgt. S.A., Panama).

June 17th 1996: Handed over to her new owners.

June 22nd 1996: Left Belfast for Port Said. Renamed PRIDE OF AL SALAM 95 (Panamanian flag) for 40 hour service in the Red Sea carrying pilgrims between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Her upper vehicle deck was converted to cabin use and the passenger certificate raised from 610 to as many as 2,500.

1997: Commenced service carrying pilgrims between Suez – Jeddah.

© Jürgen Saupe  © Jürgen Saupe  

© Jürgen Saupe (both)

© Frank Heine  © Frank Heine  

© Frank Heine (17/05/1998, Suez) (both)

Nigel Thornton Collection

October 17th 2005: With 1,443 pilgrims on board she collided with Cypriot cargo M/V JEBEL ALI (entering Red Sea after crossing Suez Canal from Mediterranean) at entrance to Suez Canal late Oct. 17th . Collision caused a stampede among passengers that killed 2 people & injured over 40. The vessel began sinking after the collision which gouged a 5 meter diameter hole in her side into which sea water flooded her engine room. The location was described as being near Port Tawfiq, at Canal’s Southern entrance 80 miles East of the Egyptian capital Cairo. At least 20 rescue boats rescued the bulk of the 1,350 passengers from the ferry 95 before she sank 3 hours later.

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for errors and omissions. All items included in this article are subject to ©. We would like to thank: Christophe Bonvarlet, Philippe P Brebant, J K Byass, Bernd Crause, Aubrey Dale, Cees De Bijl, Frank Heine, Pieter Inpyn, A G Jones, Ken Larwood, Capt Jan Melchers, Brian Pawley, Jürgen Saupe, Simonwp, Mark Willis, Michael Woodland and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in producing this feature.

Sincere thanks go to Fotoflite and  Werft-Gusto Museum

Special thanks go to Michael Matthews and Mike Tilby (Society of Model and Experimental Engineers (SMEE).) for allowing re-production of their article.

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

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