SPL Princess Anastasia in Stockholm Harbour
|Port of registry:|
|Route:||Saint Petersburg - Helsinki - Stockholm - Tallinn|
|Builder:||Wärtsilä Perno Shipyard, Turku, Finland|
|Laid down:||1 April 1985|
|Launched:||31 August 1985|
|Acquired:||26 April 1986|
|In service:||29 April 1986|
|General characteristics (as built)|
|Length:||177.10 m (581 ft 0 in)|
|Beam:||28.40 m (93 ft 2 in)|
|Draught:||6.51 m (21 ft 4 in)|
|Speed:||22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)|
MS SPL Princess Anastasia is a cruiseferry owned by Moby St Peter Line. Until September 2010, she was known as Pride of Bilbao, operated by P&O Ferries on their Portsmouth-Bilbao route. The vessel was built in 1986 as Olympia at the Wärtsilä Perno Shipyard in Turku, Finland for Rederi AB Slite, Sweden for use in Viking Line traffic. She was sold by Irish Continental Group to St. Peter Line in December 2010.
Olympia was built at the Wärtsilä Perno Shipyard in Turku, Finland, for Rederi AB Slite. The ship was launched on 26 April 1986 under the name Olympia, and operated between Stockholm and Helsinki for Viking Line. Olympia was built as a sister ship to MS Mariella.
In 1993 Rederi AB Slite suffered financial problems and was forced to declare bankruptcy. Olympia was sold to Irish Continental Group and chartered to P&O European Ferries who renamed her the Pride of Bilbao.
As of 1994, Pride of Bilbao has been registered in Portsmouth, since November 2008 she has been registered in Nassau, Bahamas.
In 2002 she received a major refurbishment, during which the vast majority of public spaces were updated and brought in line with P&O Ferries' new corporate branding of onboard facilities, as well as updating her livery.
The vessel operated between Portsmouth and Bilbao between 1993 and 2010, completing one return sailing every three days before this route was closed in September 2010.
She has also been previously used to provide a weekly service between Portsmouth and Cherbourg.
The Pride of Bilbao briefly featured in an episode of Only Fools and Horses called Strangers on the Shore which saw Del Boy and Rodney Trotter travel to the village of St. Claire a la Chapelle in northern France to represent Uncle Albert at a naval reunion.
On 15 January 2010, P&O ferries announced that the Portsmouth-Bilbao route would be closing, with the last crossing from Bilbao 27 September 2010, when the lease for MS Pride of Bilbao expired. P&O announced that the route was loss-making and they could not fund a new-build replacement for the vessel. Equally, no other existing ships were available for purchase or charter.
P&O stated that for the previous three years they had tried to do all they could to make the route profitable. As of 2019, Brittany Ferries continue to serve the route.
Following the closing of the P&O route Pride of Bilbao was renamed Bilbao in October 2010. The ship left Portsmouth for the last time on 30 September 2010, after all P&O merchandise and other equipment had been removed, and sailed to Falmouth for refurbishment. Whilst at Falmouth in December 2010 Irish Continental Group sold the vessel to St. Peter Line which acquired the ship for a new service between Saint Petersburg and Stockholm to commence in May 2011 after a refit of the vessel is complete. The ferry was said to bring an extra 400,000 tourists to Saint Petersburg in 2011.
She left Falmouth just after Christmas 2010 and made her way to Skagen in Norway arriving 31 December 2010 where she anchored off for a couple of days. On 2 January 2011 she made her way through the Baltic Sea to Klaip?da, Lithuania.
The SPL Princess Anastasia made her first voyage for the St. Peter Line in April 2011. She set sail from Saint Petersburg on 31 March and docked in Stockholm the next day on 1 April, completing her first passenger voyage since September 2010.
The ferry now operates on a circular service from Stockholm to St Petersburg stopping in Helsinki (Finland) on the outward journey, and both Helsinki (Finland) and Tallinn on the return journey.
Detectives and officers from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) and Hampshire Constabulary investigating the deaths of three yachtsmen examined the Pride of Bilbao when it arrived in Portsmouth on 29 August 2006. The ship was one of at least five that the MAIB inspected as part of their investigation. It is thought the ferry, or one of the other ships in the area, may have collided, or had a near-miss, with the 25-foot (8 m) yacht Ouzo off the Isle of Wight on 20 August, leading to the deaths of all on board. All of the men died from drowning. The MAIB and Police inspected the hull for damage and studied paperwork. P&O Ferries had previously handed over information from a data recorder on board the ferry which led to the follow-up inspection of the ship. The ship was inspected again on arrival in Portsmouth on 7 September 2006. After offloading passengers and vehicles from the Pride of Bilbao, the vessel was turned to allow the MAIB to inspect the port side and stern.
On 20 September 2006 a P&O Ferries employee from the Pride of Bilbao was arrested by police on suspicion of causing manslaughter through gross negligence. He was released on bail pending further inquiries, and then re-arrested and charged in February 2007.
The MAIB report into the sinking of the Ouzo was released on 12 April 2007. It concluded that the sinking of the yacht was due to the Pride of Bilbao colliding with her, or passing so close that she had been swamped or capsized by the vessel's wash.
On 28 October 2007 the trial of Michael Hubble, second mate of the Pride of Bilbao started at Winchester Crown Court in Hampshire. The prosecution alleged that Hubble, in sole charge of the ferry at the time of the alleged incident, failed to act properly in charge of a vessel. For example, he failed to inform the captain of the incident, failed to stop the ferry and failed to launch a search vessel - all actions it is claimed could have saved the lives of the crew of the Ouzo. All crewmembers had life-vests, and at least one of the crew survived for 12 hours after the incident. The defence contended that lights were visible astern of the ferry, encounters with yachts were common, and the Ouzo was not the vessel involved in the near miss. Hubble was cleared of manslaughter on 12 December 2007, with the jury accepting the defence case that the Ouzo was not the vessel involved. The following day he was also cleared of all charges of misconduct under the Merchant Shipping Act.
Pride of Bilbao (as the ship was known) is probably best known for its time operating the Portsmouth to Bilbao route by P&O Ferries. When the company took over the ship in 1994 this was the route she was primarily used for. During her time as part of the P&O Ferries fleet Pride of Bilbao received many refurbishments with a major refit in 2002. From 2006 Pride of Bilbao was the only P&O Ferries ship to operate from Portsmouth with her completing one return sailing every three days. The company in an attempt to encourage more passengers marketed "Mini Cruises" with passengers walking on to the ship without a car. When the ship arrived at Bilbao mini cruise passengers would briefly depart the ship while the ship was prepared for its return trip back to Portsmouth. However, all attempts to make the route profitable for the company were exhausted. Mainly because P&O Ferries competitor Brittany Ferries operated ferries to the nearby port of Santander in 24 hours whereas Pride of Bilbao took 36 hours to reach BilbaoP&O Ferries charter of the Pride of Bilbao ended on 30 September 2010 and prior to this in January of the same year the company issued a statement that they would not be continuing the charter of the vessel nor find an alternative ship to replace Pride of Bilbao as they claim to having been making losses on the route for some time. The Pride of Bilbao completed her last sailing on 28 September 2010.
On the evening of 6 November 2019 SPL Princess Anastasia ran aground outside Lidingö in Stockholm en route to Helsinki, after suffering a black-out on the ship's electricity. The ferry was hauled back to Stockholm and was inspected. It did not sustain any bigger damage, and could continue to Helsinki the next morning. There were 1065 people on board at the time of the accident. No passengers or crew got injured. The Swedish Transportation Agency believed the black-out to have been caused by a mixture of Russian and Swedish diesel oil creating a blockage.