MV Millennium Express II
ex Med, Memed Abashidze, Charm M, Viscountess M, Ionic Ferry, Dragon
Dragon – © Skyfotos
Steel twin screw motor vessel, built in 1967 by Ateliers et Chantiers de Bretagne, Nantes (Yard No. 16/108), fitted out at Dubigeon-Normandie S.A., Nantes (Yard No 824) as a passenger and vehicle ferry
- Length: 134.63m (overall) 126.50m (between perpendiculars)
- Breadth of hull: 21.87m
- Depth: 11.74m
- Draught: 4.80m
- Tonnage: 6,141 – 5,776 – 8,888 gross/2,732 – 2,285 – 2,929 net/2,134 – 1,790 deadweight
- Engines: Two Vee Oil 4SA 12-cylinder Pielstick-Bretagne diesels
- Power: 9467 bhp/5,968 – 6964kW
- Speed: 17 knots (19 knots max)
- Capacity: 850 passengers (1,300 after rebuild), 250 cars, 350 (after rebuild)
- Call Sign: GWXU, P3RZ4, H3SJ
- IMO Number: 6710906
- Official Number: 333697/29268 – PEXT
- Port of Registry: Southampton/UK, Limassol/Cyprus, Valletta/Malta, Tbilisi/Georgia, Limassol/Cyprus, Panama
- Sister Ship: Leopard
The General Steam Navigation and the French Société Anonyme de Gérance et d’Armement (SAGA) decided to open a regular link between Le Havre and Southampton, joining their forces on an equal basis into a new company “Normandy Ferries”. The two identical ships were ordered from Ateliers et Chantiers de Bretagne, Nantes each of the two companies owning one vessel.
September 15th 1966: Keel struck.
January 27th 1967: Launched as the ‘Dragon’ and towed to Dubigeon-Normandie S.A., Nantes for fitting out.
May 31st 1967: Sea trials.
June 1st 1967: Sea trials.
June 12th – 13th 1967: Sea trials.
June 15th 1967: Delivered to General Steam Navigation, (P&O Group), Southampton, England.
June 18th 1967: Inaugural arrival at Southampton.
June 19th 1967: Formally inaugurated.
July 1st 1967: Commenced service with Normandy Ferries between Southampton – Le Havre.
Dragon – Andreas Wörteler Collection
Dragon – 🆕 © Steffen Weirauch Collection
October 25th 1968: Rebuilt with 50 new cabins at Chantiers de Normandie.
October 1st 1971: Registered to P&O Short Sea Ferries.
December 3rd 1973: Registered to Southern Ferries Ltd.
March 31st 1975: Registered to P&O Ferries.
Dragon – © Derek Longly (Left) and © Brian Fisher(June 1983)(Right)
Dragon – © Urbain Ureel (Portsmouth 26/07/1983)
Dragon – 🆕 © Steffen Weirauch Collection (July 1983)
January 3rd 1984: Commenced service between Portsmouth – Le Havre.
Dragon – © Bob Scott
January 4th 1985: Sold to European Ferries (Townsend Thoresen). After modernisation introduced between Portsmouth – Le Havre.
Dragon – © Ken Larwood (Chatham, Kent for refit and livery change, January 1985)
Dragon – © Ken Larwood (Both)
Dragon – © Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic)
Dragon – © Brian Fisher (Left) and ‘Chantry Classic’ postcard (Right)
Dragon – © Urbain Ureel (Portsmouth 22/02/1985)
Dragon – © Tim Webb
Dragon – 🆕 © Steffen Weirauch Collection (July 1985)
Dragon – 🆕 (15/05/1986)
July 8th 1986: Upon the take over of the company by P&O she was renamed IONIC FERRY.
Ionic Ferry – © Brian Fisher
Commenced service between Cairnryan – Larne.
1987: Following the “HERALD” disaster, from spring onwards, pale blue funnels with P&O flag logo became the norm.
December 31st 1987: Registered to P&O European Ferries (Felixstowe) Ltd.
Ionic Ferry – © Aubrey Dale
June 3rd 1987: Ran aground at Larne in thick fog.
Ionic Ferry – © Aubrey Dale
1988 (winter): Full repaint back into P&O colours. Instead of the light blue hull and funnel paint which weathered so badly a darker blue (called euro-blue) was chosen for the fleet, with the P&O flag logo applied to the funnel. The Ionic’s funnel logo was so small that it could hardly be seen.
March 18th 1991: Sold to Howill Shipping Ltd., London and re-chartered to P&O.
Ionic Ferry – © Aubrey Dale
June 11th 1992: Final day in service between Stranraer – Larne, then left for Falmouth and lay up.
June 18th 1992: Sold to Marlines, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed VISCOUNTESS M. (Registered to Matelot Shipping, Limassol, Cyprus).
Viscountess M – Ramsey Postcard
July 10th 1993: Introduced between Patras – Ancona/ Brindisi.
August 15th 1993: Helped evacuate 1000 Greek citizens from Abkazia during civil unrest.
Viscountess M – © Frank Heine (Igoumenitsa 24/07/1994)
August 1995: Registered to Cadet Shipping Ltd., Valletta, Malta and renamed CHARM M. Introduced between Patras – Igoumenitsa – Bari.
Charm M – © Frank Heine (Ancona 03/08/1996)
August 1996: Harbour authorities in Patras detained the vessel on safety grounds.
November 1997: Sold to GESCO (Georgian Shipping Company), Tbilisi, Georgia. Renamed MEMED ABASHIDZE.
November 24th 1997: Arrived at Tuzla for rebuilding.
1998: Commenced service between Batumi – Venedig.
December 1999: Sold to Access Ferries S.A., Kingstown, Cayman Island and renamed MED. Refurbished in Perama, Greece.
July 2000: Chartered to Access Ferries. Renamed MILLENNIUM EXPRESS II. Registered to Singelwell Shipping Ltd., Limassol, Cyprus. Introduced between Piraeus – Limassol – Haifa.
September 2000: Introduced between Igoumenitsa – Brindisi.
Millennium Express II – © Aleksi Lindström
October 2000: Laid up at Keratsini quay.
June 2001 – August 2001: Operated between Brindisi – Cesme.
Millennium Express II – © Frank Heine (Corinth July 2001)
March 2nd 2002: Whilst en route from Piraeus after refit, near to the Strophades Islands position 37 21.5N / 21 01.53E longitude, suffered a serious fire and was badly damaged.
March 4th 2002: Fire continued throughout the ship.
March 6th 2002: Fire eventually extinguished.
March 12th 2002: Towed to Eleusis Bay. Vessel being completely gutted.
April 9th 2003: Towed from Eleusis Bay to Turkish breakers.
Millennium Express II – © Selim San
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: Aubrey Dale, Brian Fisher, Frank Heine, Ken Larwood, Aleksi Lindström, Derek Longly, Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic), Selim San, Bob Scott, Urbain Ureel, Tim Webb and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in producing this feature.