FerriesPast and PresentSealinkStena LineStena RoRoTruckline Ferries

MV Speedlink Vanguard – Past and Present

IMO Number: 7325241

MV Boa Vista

ex Bonavista, Normandie Shipper, Kirk Shipper, Stena Shipper, Karibe Express, Speedlink Vanguard, Stena Shipper, Alpha Express, Union Wellington, Stena Shipper

© Frank Heine

Speedlink Vanguard – © Frank Heine

Steel twin screw motor vessel, built in 1973 by A Vuyk & Zonen’s Scheepswerven B.V Capelle a/d, Ijssel, Holland, (Yard No. 864), for Stena Ab, Göteborg as a roll-on/roll-off vehicle ferry

Technical Data

  • Length: 115.32 – 142.27m (overall) – 128.25m (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth: 16.41 – 18.60m
  • Depth: 11.41 m
  • Draught: 4.50 – 5.926 m
  • Tonnage: 2638 – 2940 – 4078 gross/798 – 1245 – 1799 net/3816 – 5555 deadweight
  • Engines: Two 6-cylinder S.C.S.A. Werkspoor-Amsterdam diesels
  • Power: 5371 kW/7200 HP
  • Speed: 18 knots (max)
  • Capacity:  12 passengers, 36 (after rebuild), 12 trailers, 36 (after rebuild) 56 railway wagons (Speedlink Vanguard)
  • Call Sign:  SYDO, C6FH4, H8VI
  • IMO Number: 7325241
  • Official Number: 731995
  • Port of Registry: Gothenburg/Sweden, Germany, Piraeus/Greece, London/UK, Hamilton/Bermuda, Caen/France, Georgetown/Cayman Islands, Nassau/Bahamas, Brevik/Norway, Panama
  • Sister-Ship: Stena Sailer, Stena Seatrader


June 16th 1973: Launched.

Stena Shipper

September 24th 1973: Delivered to Stena Ab, Göteborg.

September 21st 1973: Chartered under a “Demise charter” agreement to Union Steamship Co of New Zeeland. Transferred to the New Zealand ships register.

November 2nd 1973: Renamed UNION WELLINGTON.

© John Clarkson

Union Wellington – © John Clarkson (Nigel Thornton Collection)

1975: Completion of charter and the vessel left for Europe.

1976: Lengthened by 32m at Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft AG, Kiel, Germany.

1976: Chartered under a “Demise charter” agreement to Arghiris Line, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed ALPHA EXPRESS.

January 26th 1977: Transferred to the German ships register for testing after rebuild.

January 27th 1977: Transferred to the Greek ships register.

1979: Her owners experienced financial difficulties and she was arrested in Mombasa.

January 1st 1980: Transferred to Stena Cargo Line Ltd, Hamilton, Bermuda, renamed STENA SHIPPER.

May 4th 1980: Arrived at Smith’s Dock, Middlesbrough, England for rebuild to a combined Train/RoRo Vessel and side-spoons were added together with railway lines on her vehicle deck.

© Peter Coupland

Stena Shipper – © Peter Coupland

August 1980: Redelivered from yard and renamed SPEEDLINK VANGUARD.

August 1980: Chartered to Sealink UK Ltd, London, England.

Nigel Thornton Collection © Peter Coupland

Speedlink Vanguard – Nigel Thornton Collection (Left) and © Peter Coupland (Right)

August 20th 1980: Berthing trials at Harwich.

August 21st 1980: Commenced service for Northern Coasters Ltd (Sealink), between Harwich – Zeebrügge.

© Tony Garner © Bob Scott  

Speedlink Vanguard – © Tony Garner (Harwich 25/09/1980)(Left) and © Bob Scott(Harwich July 1981)(Right)

Speedlink Vanguard –

December 19th 1982: Collided with the Townsend Thoresen ferry EUROPEAN GATEWAY some 2.5 miles off Harwich. Cut a 20 ft. gash in the side of the TT vessel which, as a result of the collision, rolled over onto her starboard side and sank. Six lives were lost. The Sealink vessel returned to port with major damage to her stem and was withdrawn for repairs. The court of enquiry later found that, if the two captains had been in direct communication by VHF radio, the collision would have been avoided.

© Derek Sands Nigel Thornton Collection  

Speedlink Vanguard – © Derek Sands (Left) and the Nigel Thornton Collection (Right)

© Peter Coupland

Speedlink Vanguard – © Peter Coupland (Showing temporary repairs until annual dry-docking)

December 29th 1982: Returned to service.

© Simonwp

Speedlink Vanguard – © Simonwp (Harwich 17/06/1984)

July 18th 1984: Sale of Sealink U.K. to Sea Containers Ltd, Bermuda. Company changed name to Sealink British Ferries U.K. In readiness for privatisation, on their reappearance from overhaul, units of the Sealink U.K. Ltd fleet all appeared without the B.R. double arrow on their funnels.

© Frank Heine

Speedlink Vanguard – © Frank Heine (Zeebrugge 29/07/1984)

© Ken Larwood © Tim Webb

Speedlink Vanguard – © Ken Larwood (left) and © Tim Webb (Harwich, August 1984)

© Peter Coupland

Speedlink Vanguard – © Peter Coupland (Zeebrugge, 24/08/1985)

January 31st 1987: Final voyage between Harwich – Zeebrugge, then to dry dock on Tyneside.

1987: Charter completed and returned to Stena Line.

1987: Renamed CARIBE EXPRESS.

1988: Renamed STENA SHIPPER.

1988: Renamed KIRK SHIPPER. Transferred to Northern Marine Inc, Cayman Island.

1988: Transferred to Stena Ferries Ltd, Cayman Island.

April 20th 1989 – June 16th 1989: Rebuilt at Lloyd-Werft, Bremerhaven.

© Frank Heine © Frank Heine  

Kirk Shipper – © Frank Heine (Bremerhaven April 25th – 28th 1989)

© Frank Heine

Kirk Shipper – © Frank Heine (Bremerhaven May 1989)

June 19th 1989: Chartered to Truckline Ferries, Caen, France. Renamed NORMANDIE SHIPPER. Transferred to the Bahamas ships register with home port being Nassau.

© Maritime Photographic © Urbain Ureel  

Normandie Shipper – © Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic) (Left) and © Urbain Ureel (Right)

June 1989: Commenced service between Caen – Portsmouth.

© Simonwp

Normandie Shipper – © Simonwp (Caen 01/06/1990)

© Frank Heine

Normandie Shipper – © Frank Heine (Ouistreham 24/05/1991)

February 1992: Commenced service between Poole – Cherbourg.

© Ken Larwood

Normandie Shipper – © Ken Larwood (Portsmouth, August 1993)

1994: Operated between Caen – Portsmouth.

October 1995: Laid up in Caen.

October 1999: Sold to Adecon Shipping Inc, Nassau, Bahamas. (Registered to Bonavista Shipping Corp. Nassau, Bahamas), renamed BONAVISTA.

April 5th 2000: Arrived Świnoujście (Poland) for rebuilding after which she was laid up.

© Frank Heine

Bonavista – © Frank Heine (Świnoujście 11/02/2001)

July 2001: Sold to Kyst-Link A/S, Nassau, Bahamas, and renamed BOA VISTA. Commenced services between Brevik – Holmestrand – Hirtshals.

June 2002: Transferred to Ändras Line between Langesund – Hirtshals.

March 26th 2003: Whilst “en route” to Hirtshals, in thick fog, vessel rammed the outer pier and grounded herself. No loss of life, remained grounded for nearly a couple of days. Eventually towed free with only minor damage (Source: Fisker Forum)

March 28th 2003: Sold to Trond A Kittelsen Shipping, A/S, Brevik, Norway operating the same services.

March 2004: Refit.

March 21st 2004: Returned to service.

June 2004: Laid up in Sandefjord.

© Frank Heine © Frank Heine  

Boa Vista – © Frank Heine (Sandefjord 28/06/2004)

June 16th 2004: Sold to Kittilsen Shipping, Panama.

July 2004: Chartered to HUAL (Hoegh-Ugland Auto Liners).

July 19th 2004: Arrived in Hamburg where trucks were loaded for Dubai.

April 2006: Arrived in Greece.

Boa Vista – © Aleksi Lindström (Drapetsona Bay 19/06/2006)

September 2006: Commenced services for Thraki Med RoRo Lines between Volos – Izmir.

June 2007: Arrived Navy Shipyard, Gdynia, Poland.

© Jacub Bogucki © Jacub Bogucki  

Boa Vista – © Jakub Bogucki (Gdynia 13/07/2007)

November 3rd 2007: Sold to Thraki Shipping Co SA, Panama and renamed BIRLIK I.

November 19th 2007: Left Gdansk.

December 2007: Registered to Birlik RoRo Isletmeleri AS, Istanbul, Turkey.

© Simonwp

Birlik I – © Simonwp (Felixstowe, 01/01/2008)

2008: Services between Zonguldak – Skadovsk.

June 1st 2013: Arrived at Aliaga, Turkey for scrapping.

© Selim San © Selim San

Birlik I – 🆕© Selim San

July 11th 2013: Broken up.

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: Jakub Bogucki, Peter Coupland, Tony Garner, Frank Heine, Ken Larwood, Aleksi Lindström, Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic), Selim San, Derek Sands, Bob Scott, Simonwp, Urbain Ureel, Tim Webb and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in producing this feature.

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


  1. Wow this is amazing. My dad was first mate on Speedlink vanguard. I spent many happy days on this ship. It was always so big as we went aboard and the decks of chained up railway trucks just was magical to me I was only 7/8 years old. Actually sad to see she was scrapped. Such a shame she was beautiful. This is me at the helm of the Speedlink vanguard. Photo attached

  2. My father was the electrician on the Vanguard. Like Danny, I spent some time during the school holidays going back and forth on her.
    It must have made an impression on me as I ended up as Chief Engineer on the Stena Britannica. Now semi retired and working part time on the tugs at Felixstowe.
    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

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