FerriesGA FerriesP&O European FerriesPast and PresentTownsend Thoresen

MV Free Enterprise VIII – Past and Present

IMO Number: 7368499

MV Romilda

ex Pride of Canterbury, Free Enterprise VIII

© Fotoflite, Roy Thornton Collection

© Fotoflite

Steel triple screw vessel built for Townsend Thoresen in 1974 by Verolme Scheepswerf, Alblasserdam, N.V., near Rotterdam (Yard No. 862), a part of Verolme United Shipyards. Engined by Stork-Werkspoor Diesel, Amsterdam. 

Technical Data

  • Length on Deck: 123.60m (385.5 ft) (overall), 110.00m (361.1 ft) (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth of Hull: 19.45m (63.9 ft) (extreme)
  • Depth: 11.13m (36.5 ft) (moulded)
  • Draught: 4.39m (14.4 ft) (maximum)
  • Tonnage: 5,170 gross, 2,635 net, 1,268 dead weight
  • Engines: Three 8-cylinder Stork-Werkspoor four stroke single acting diesels with double-reduction gearing, connected to three screw shafts.
  • Power: 9710 kW
  • Speed: 19 knots
  • Capacity: 1,200 passengers, 350 cars ,24 freight (60 from 1987)
  • Number of crew: 74
  • Call Sign: GUEN, SVAI
  • IMO Number: 7368499
  • Official Number: 362864
  • Registry: Dover/United Kingdom 🇬🇧,  Piraeus/Greece 🇬🇷
  • Sister Ships: Free Enterprise VII (CO882), Free Enterprise VI (CO881), Free Enterprise V (CO755), Free Enterprise IV (CO719)


“The final ship of the newly modelled “Free Enterprise” series. Unlike her sisters she was built at Verolme Scheepswerf and was six metres longer. In her early days, unable to fit Calais, spending her time on the Zeebrugge link”.

April 6th 1974: Launched.

July 1974: Delivered to Townsend Car Ferries Ltd., Dover, England.

© A G Jones

© A G Jones

July 18th 1974: Maiden voyage for Townsend Thoresen between Dover – Calais/Zeebrügge.

Courtesy of Brian Fisher

Courtesy of Brian Fisher

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.

Courtesy of Philippe Brébant

Courtesy of Philippe Brébant (Association Paquebots & Marine Marchande)

Courtesy of Simonwp

🆕Courtesy of Simonwp

© Steffen Weirauch Collection © Steffen Weirauch Collection

© Steffen Weirauch Collection (13/06/1983)

© John Jones  Nigel Thornton Collection  

© John Jones (Left) and Nigel Thornton Collection (Right)

© Ken Larwood  © Ken Larwood  

© Ken Larwood  © Ken Larwood  

© Ken Larwood (all)

1980: Commenced service between Dover – Zeebrügge.

© Kevin Hoggett  © Kevin Hoggett 

© Kevin Hoggett

1983: Accommodation up-rated to come in line with the new “Spirit” class.

© Simonwp

© Simonwp

1984 -1985: A new TT logo, in white, was introduced on the funnels.

Nigel Thornton Collection

🆕 Nigel Thornton Collection

© Brian Fisher  © Fotoflite  

© Brian Fisher (Left) and © Fotoflite (Right)

© Steve Salter © Mark Willis

Courtesy of Steve Salter(Left) © Mark Willis (Dover, 1985)(Right)

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

© Fotoflite, Roy Thornton Collection  © Pieter Inpyn

© Fotoflite, Roy Thornton Collection (Left) and © Pieter Inpyn (Right)

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

October 28th 1987: Renamed PRIDE OF CANTERBURY.

© Ken Larwood

© Ken Larwood

December 4th 1987: Commenced service between Dover – Boulogne.

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

January 1988: Damaged her stern while berthing at Boulogne. Sent to Vlissingen for repairs. Lost part of her damaged rudder and had to make for dry dock at Calais. Remained there owing to NUS strike.

February 1988: Laid up at Vlissingen Scheldepoort, owing to seamen’s strike.

April 1988: Laid up in Calais and offered for sale.

August 19th 1988: Resumed Dover – Boulogne.

March 15th 1991: Sold to Abbey March Leasing Ltd, London, England. Bareboat-chartered back to P&O European Ferries.

© Fotoflite, Roy Thornton Collection

© Fotoflite

© Nigel Thornton   © Nigel Thornton   

© Nigel Thornton (both)

© Ken Larwood

© Ken Larwood

© Andreas Wörteler  © Andreas Wörteler  

© Andreas Wörteler

January 4th 1993: P&O European Ferries announced the Closure of the Dover-Boulogne route. Final service between Dover – Boulogne. Sailed to Tilbury again offered for sale.

© Brian Pawley  © Brian Pawley  

© Brian Pawley

March 1993: Sold to GA Ferries, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed ROMILDA.

© Brian Pawley

© Brian Pawley

April 8th 1993: Arrived in Piraeus.

© Sebastiaan Toufekoulas  © Ken Larwood  

© Sebastiaan Toufekoulas (Left) and © Ken Larwood (Right)

1993: Commenced service between Piraeus and the Greek Islands.

© Benoit Donne

© Benoit Donne

March 16th 2004: Collided with the quayside in Naxos, suffered minor damage to her bow.

© Aleksi Lindström

© Aleksi Lindström

2007: Remains in service.

August 30th 2011: Towed from Piraeus bound for scrapping in Aliaga.

© Peter J Fitzpatrick

© Peter J Fitzpatrick

September 7th 2011: Noted as be beached at Aliaga.

© Selim San

© Selim San


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: Philippe Brébant (Association Paquebots & Marine Marchande), Benoit Donne, Brian Fisher, Peter J Fitzpatrick, Fotoflite, Kevin Hoggett, Pieter Inpyn, A G Jones, John Jones, Ken Larwood, Aleksi Lindström, Brian Pawley, Simonwp, Steve Salter,  Selim San, Sebastiaan Toufekoulas, Mark Willis and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in producing this feature.

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


  1. She had three shafts, or at least she had three combinators for three propellors, and after doing a couple of dry docks I’m sure she had three screws. Seriously, I sailed as second mate on her for about 18 months on the Dover Boulogne service, and she was a great little ship.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Thank you for commenting on the site. You are indeed right, she was a triple screw vessel, I have updated the page to reflect this typo. My late stepfather also liked working on the FE’s as a second officer during times of refit cover. I have a happy memory as a boy standing out on the foredeck below the bridge and being beckoned up to the bridge by the late Captain Terry Balfour.

      Best Wishes

  2. I started my P&O career working in the engine room on her in 1990.
    Great little ship, lots of great stories and memories.

  3. I worked on the eight, in catering B watch, wonderful crew and great times,will never forget. Love you all,

  4. These were lovely ships and i knew some of the captains on the Canterbury and the pride of Hythe

  5. My first ferry after 10 years of deep sea. What a change! Joined her early in 1980 and that summer she was struggling with no centre engine. Due to being longer than her predecessors a Senior Master at the time said that she was too big for Calais!

  6. I worked on FEVIII, C watch Catering, continuously from maiden voyage in July 1974 to Feb 1988 when we took her to be laid up in Chatham Dockyard for the strike, we were bussed back to Dover then had a week or so on FEIV. I started of as a lounge lizard, then winger, Head Waiter, barman, DFS steward and Cafeteria manager finally I was a trainee A/P till I took voluntary redundancy a week before the strike. As far as I can remember we did the Zeebrugge run from the outset. Don’t remember doing Boulogne before Feb 88 though.
    I remember her first refit in Rotterdam April 1975, then in May 76 we did 10 days, I think, in Flushing then a week in Calais where some more of the catering crew joined to paint the galley. I have photo’s from most of my 14 years on her and I can say that those were the best years of my working life. I started on Townsend aged 23 and now at 69 work part time for an IT agency.

  7. Lovely pictures. I used to love travelling on all the FE Class, but my favourite was FE V111.
    Something is baffling me with different pictures of FE V111. I have already emailed Nigel Thorton who is looking into this.
    I have attached 2 pictures to this reply both of FE V111 taken from this website.
    What is confusing me is there is a significant difference in the photos of her Port side, the differences are as follows.
    Photo 1, look at the widows on port side in her main lounge you will count 7 windows followed by 4 windows just before midship which are above the 10 oblong windows on deck 6.
    Now look at the next picture of the same ship FE V111 and you will count 7 windows in her main lounge followed by 5 windows just before midship & set further left above the 10 oblong windows below on deck 6. This is driving me mad as to the difference. Any Ideas.

    1. Mark, (A reply was sent to your email. P[ease check your “Spam” and “Trash”, as replies sometimes get misdirected)

      Ah, the dreaded “What’s the difference between the Free Enterprise” series!

      Well, firstly, IV, V and VI had aft masts on the veranda roofs. The remaining had this mast placed further aft (on the boat deck?).

      Secondly, with Townsend, I’m reliant upon photographic contributions so, based upon the earliest “professional photographs” which I have examined I would say this:

      Free Enterprise VII; (correct window order) 7, 4 above 10 (pre jumbo)/7,1, 5 above 10
      Free Enterprise VIII; (correct window order) 7 & 4 above 10/ 7 & 5 (extra window during change of funnel livery from orange to white) above 10 (P & O + later)

      All this leads me to believe the images contributed have lost quality when scanned or been badly edited/touched up.

      You will also see (in the two supplied images that a number of port side windows, under the lifeboats, are missing)

      I will attempt to edit the, what I believe to be, the offending photo!

      Nigel T

      1. Thanks Nigel & yes, I am now in receipt of your email response.
        Thank you so kindly for clarification on this, I thought my eyes were playing games with me.
        Once again thank you & thank you for an excellent website.

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