FerriesPast and PresentRegie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT)TransEuropa Ferries (TEF)

MV Prinses Maria-Esmeralda – Past and Present

IMO Number: 7357555

MV Al Arabia

ex Aqaba Express, Beni, Beni Ansar, Wisteria, Beni Ansar, Wisteria, Prinses Maria Esmeralda

© Bob Scott

© Bob Scott

Steel twin screw motor vessel, built by Cockerill yards, Hoboken (Yard No. 877) in 1975 for Regie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT) Ostend service as a passenger and roll-on roll-off car and commercial vehicle ferry

Technical Data

  • Length on deck : 118.42m (385.5 ft) (overall)(1975),(1985)/110.75m (365.3 ft) (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth of hull: 20.68m(67.8 ft) (extreme)(1975), 23.3m(1985)
  • Depth: 6.38m (20.9 ft)(moulded)
  • Draught: 4.50m(14.7 ft) (maximum)(1975), 5.05m(1985)
  • Tonnage: 5,635 gross (1975),6,276(1985)/3,307 net(1975), 3,959(1985)/1,474 deadweight (1975), 2,039 (1985)
  • Engines: Two 18-cylinder Atlantique/Pielstick four-stroke single-acting diesels
  • Power: 13,240 k W
  • Speed: 22 knots
  • Capacity: 1200 passengers (1975), 1,475 (1985), 300 cars (1978),or 37 lorries and 46 cars, 420 cars (1986),or 55 lorries and 46 cars
  • Call Sign: ORAO, CAN3923
  • IMO Number: 7357555
  • Registry: Ostend/Belgium 🇧🇪, Limassol/Cyprus 🇨🇾, Nador/Morocco 🇲🇦, Moroni/Comoros 🇰🇲
  • Sister Ships: Princess Marie-Christine (878)Prins Albert (887)


Nigel Thornton Collection Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection Nigel Thornton Collection Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection

January 28th 1975: Launched. 

Postcard  Postcard  Postcard  Postcard 

Postcard (all)

© Brian Fisher  © Fotoflite

© Brian Fisher (Left) © Fotoflite (Right)

© Ken Larwood    

© Ken Larwood (both)

May 1975: Delivered to Regie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT) (Registered to Cobelfret S.A., Conim S.A. & Ubem S.A.).

May 24th 1975: Maiden voyage to Dover, then continued Ostend – Dover.

© Ken Larwood

November 28th 1975: Badly damaged at Dover during the course of a gale, crashing into No.2 car ferry terminal at the Eastern Docks and rendered her bow door unserviceable.

April 11th 1978: Hit the Southern Breakwater at Dover, damaged herself above the waterline on arrival from Ostend.

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby  

Courtesy of Jim Ashby

May 30th 1979: In collision with the German coaster ELEONORA in the Channel near the Goodwin Sands. The German vessel, sailing from Casablanca to Felixstowe, sank within about 15 minutes.

March 3rd 1985: Re-opened the Admiralty Pier ramp at Dover after modifications.

© Ken Larwood

1985: The news of a stretching programme, or “jumboisation” as it is often known, was announced, but it only originally planned to deal with the PRINSES MARIA-ESMERALDA and the PRINCESSE MARIE-CHRISTINE, leaving the PRINS ALBERT untouched. By cutting the ships horizontally and inserting an extra lorry deck, their capacity was raised from 46 to 55 pieces of freight. The “PME” had her work completed at the end of May 1985 while the “PMC” re-entered service in January 1986. All work was carried out at Boelwerf Vlaanderen (Boel Yard Flanders) (the former Cockerill Yards at Hoboken) .

© Bob Scott  © Bob Scott  

  © Bob Scott

©  Bob Scott (as noted) © Urbain Ureel (as noted)


Nigel Thornton Collection (Last)


Courtesy of Julien Tahon

May 29th 1985: Sea trials after rebuild

June 9th 1985: Resumed in commercial service Ostend – Dover.

© Fotoflite, Nigel Thornton Collection  © Ken Larwood  

© Fotoflite (Left) and © Ken Larwood (Right)


© Ken Larwood (both)

© Phil Smith

© Phil Smith

October 25th 1985: Belgians entered into negotiations with Townsend Thoresen and an agreement was concluded.

© Brian Fisher    

© Brian Fisher (both)

April 23rd 1986: Suffered a minor fire in an electrical locker and the damage was repaired at Boelwerf, Antwerp.

January 15th 1987: Collided with a container ship, and suffered minor damage to her stern and one of her propellers.

January 17th 1987: Sailed to Mercantile, Antwerp for repairs.

October 1987: The agreement with Townsend Thoresen (The European Ferries Group) was duly passed on to P&O European Ferries and was due to end in December 1990: The Ostend ships all received the Townsend Thoresen orange colours and carried their trading name.

© Brian Fisher  © Mike Sartin  

© Brian Fisher (Left) and © Mike Sartin (Right)


© Ted Ingham (both)

© Kamiel Loontiens © Kamiel Loontiens © Kamiel Loontiens © Kamiel Loontiens

🆕 © Kamiel Loontiens

1987/88 (refit): A completely new livery reflecting that carried by the P&O European Ferries fleet was adopted. For the first time in the history of the Dover-Ostend service, the buff (later changed to a lighter shade of yellow) funnels were painted- out in favour of a shade of blue.

© Mike Sartin  © Mike Sartin  

© Mike Sartin


© Brian Fisher (both)

© Ken Larwood © Ken Larwood  

© Ken Larwood (both)

© Kamiel Loontiens © Kamiel Loontiens

🆕 © Kamiel Loontiens

1991:The creation of a totally new marketing profile and the adoption of the name with which the line has officially been known since the early days, sees the fleet in its fourth livery in seven years. The first to receive it was the PRINS ALBERT during her overhaul at Ostend in November and December 1990.

1991: Commenced service for Dover -Oostende Lines.

© Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic)

© Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic)

© Andreas Wörteler  © Ken Larwood  

© Andreas Wörteler (Left) and © Ken Larwood (Right)

1992: Withdrawn from service.

1993 (end): Announced that the Belgian company did not intend to renew its marketing agreement with P&O European Ferries, but instead concluded a deal with Sally Line. With effect from the following January RMT became known simply as Oostende Lines , transferring all its Ostend services, including Jetfoil operations from Dover to Sally’s base at Ramsgate

1994: Laid-up in Ostend.

© Mike Sartin  © Andreas Wörteler  

© Mike Sartin (Left) and © Andreas Wörteler (Right)

1995: Sold to Denval Marine, (Registered to Celine Shipping Co. Ltd., Limassol, Cyprus) renamed the WISTERIA

© Andreas Wörteler  © Tropic, Nigel Thornton Collection  

© Andreas Wörteler (Left) and © Tropic Postcard (Right)

May 1st 1995: Left Ostend for Koper ,and used on the services between Trieste – Koper – Bar – Durres.

June 23rd 1995: Chartered to Cotunav, Tunis, Tunisia. Commenced service between Tunis – Genoa – Naples.

© Carlo Martinelli

© Carlo Martinelli (Genoa, 27/10/1995)

1995: Commenced service with Transeuropa Line between Trieste – Koper – Durres – Brindisi, occasionally between Bari – Durres.

1997: Chartered to Limadet Ferries. Renamed BENI ANSAR. Operated between Almeria – Nador.

January 1998: Returned from charter, renamed WISTERIA. Operated between Bari – Durres.

May 1999 – September 30th 1999: Operated services between America – Nador, chartered to Lignes Maritimes du Detroit (Limadet), Tangier.

May 1999: Operated between Almeria – Nador.

September 30th 1999 – November 30th 1999: Refitted in Dunkerque.

© Andreas Wörteler  © Andreas Wörteler  

© Andreas Wörteler

© Carsten Dettmer

© Carsten Dettmer

© Fotoflite, Nigel Thornton Collection  © Fotoflite, Nigel Thornton Collection  

© Fotoflite

© Frank Heine  © Frank Heine  

© Frank Heine (Almeria, 04/08/1997)

December 1999: Commenced service between Bari – Durres.

2000: Sold to Lignes Maritimes du Detroit (Limadet), Nador, Morocco. Renamed BENI ANSAR.

May 2000: Commenced service between Almeria – Nador.

© Frank Heine

© Frank Heine (Almeria, 28/07/2002)

© Juan G Mata

© Juan G Mata (18/02/2006)

© Tropic, Nigel Thornton Collection  © Tropic, Nigel Thornton Collection  

© Frank Lose (Tropic Postcards)

© Mike Barker  © Mike Barker  

© Mike Barker (Almeria 04/07/2007) (Left)(Almeria 07/07/2007)(Right)

© Mike Barker  © Mike Barker  

© Mike Barker (Almeria 14/07/2007) (Left) (Almeria 17/07/2007)(Right)(During this time she displayed the name BENI on her bow)

January 2007: Advertised for sale.

July 2007: Reportedly sold to India for scrap.

© Fred Wood  © Fred Wood  

© Fred Wood

August 23rd 2007:

“The ferry ‘Beni Ansar’ which has now been renamed ‘AQABA EXPRESS‘  has been impounded in Almería port by the Ministry for the Environment. The ship has been held there since July 12 as the Ministry tries to stop it being sent for scrap in India. Such scrapping is carried out on beaches in India, without any safety or toxicity controls, and the Ministry wants to ensure that before the vessel sets sale that oil, fuel, batteries and other chemicals on board are removed. It’s the first case of its kind in Spain and the ship scrap-yard is reported to be angry at the delays.T he ship owners say there is nowhere in the EU to scrap such a vessel, and they were planning to scrap the vessel in Romania and not India anyway.”

August 2007: Sailed for India under the name AQABA EXPRESS

October 2007: Reportedly renamed AL ARABIA.

October 27th 2007: Arrived Alang, India.

November 15th 2007: Beached at Alang and demolition commenced.

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Jim Ashby, Mike Barker, Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic), Carsten Dettmer, Brian Fisher, Fotoflite, Frank Heine, Ken Larwood, Kamiel Loontiens, Frank Lose, Juan G Mata, Mike Sartin, Bob Scott, Phil Smith, Julien Tahon, Urbain Ureel, Fred Wood and Andreas Wörteler.

Special thanks go to the World Ship Society (East Kent Branch).

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

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