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Silja Line

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Silja Line (Tallink Silja Oy or Tallink Silja Line) is a Finnish shipping company owned as of 2006 by the Estonian ferry operator Tallink. Silja Line was previously owned by the shipping company Sea Containers LLC. Silja operates multiple ferry lines on the Baltic Sea. It is among the biggest operators transporting about five million passengers and over 300,000 cars every year. Now that Silja is owned by Tallink many of the formerly branded Silja Line ferries now operate under the name Tallink Silja Line. Due to their simular routes Silja Lines biggest rival is Viking Line Ferries.

   
 

Silja Line Ferries - Further Information on Silja Line Ferry Services

Silja Line Routes

Silja Line offers daily sailings, all year round between

  • Finland and Sweden
  • Finland and Estonia
  • Estonia and Sweden
  • Sweden and Latvia
  • Finland and Germany
  Silja Line

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Silja Line Fleet

MS Silja Serenade

MS Silja Serenade is a cruiseferry operated on a route connecting Helsinki, Finland to Stockholm, Sweden via Mariehamn. She was built in 1990 by Masa Yards, Turku, Finland.

The ship was ordered on October 26, 1987 by Effoa for Silja Line traffic. The ship had a revolutionary interior layout, a promenade-street running alongside the central axis of the ship for nearly her full length. This allowed amongst other things for a larger number of cabins with windows (today such promenades are found in the most recent ships of Royal Caribbean and Color Line). Before the ship was completed Silja Line's owners Effoa and Johnson Line merged to form EffJohn, and it was to EffJohn that the Silja Serenade was delivered on November 15, 1990. On November 18 she began service on the route Helsinki - Stockholm route. Her original homeport was Helsinki, but in 1992 she was reflagged to the Ålandian shipregistry, her homeport altered to Mariehamn. This allowed Silja to make more money from her onboard slot machines and casino, due to legislation differences between Åland and the Finnish mainland. When Silja Line acquired MS Silja Europa in 1993 the Serenade was moved to the Turku - Mariehamn - Stockholm route. The Serenade was somewhat ill-suited for this route, her accommodations were not designed for daytime crossings and reportedly she steered poorly in the narrow archipelagoes of Stockholm, Åland and Turku. In 1995 it was decided that the Europa and Serenade switch routes, returning the Serenade to her original route, again sailing parallel to her sister ship Silja Symphony. In order to keep tax free sales on the Stockholm - Helsinki ships when the EU changed its tax free legislation, a stop at Mariehamn was added to the route in July 1999. In early 2006, just prior to the sale of Silja Line to Tallink, Serenade and her sister had their interiors extensively rebuilt at Luonnonmaan telakka, Naantali.

There are some minor differences between the Serenade and her sister. The Serenade's funnel is constructed of steel whereas the Symphony's is made of aluminium. There are also some purely cosmetic differences: the outer decks of the Serenade are painted green (blue on Symphony), the light box with the ship's name is blue (white on Symphony) and the seal's eye in the funnel is white with a blue outline (solid blue on Symphony).

Silja Line MS Silja Symphony

MS Silja Symphony is a cruiseferry operated on a route connecting Helsinki, Finland to Stockholm, Sweden via Mariehamn. She was built in 1991 by Masa Yards, Turku, Finland.

While the Silja Symphony was being built the shipyard building her (Wärtsilä Marine) went bankrupt, and as a result she was delivered several months behind schedule on May 30, 1991. On June 1 she was put on the route Helsinki - Stockholm. The new ships, the first ones to have a centerline promenade inside the ship, were highly popular but also proved to be somewhat expensive to operate. Unlike her sister, MS Silja Serenade, the Symphony's funnel was constructed of aluminium, which made the ship less heavy.

On February 7, 1996 the ship was grounded in the Stockholm archipelago. In December of the same year her engines were upgraded with so-called water-spray technology that greatly reduced nitrogen oxide emissions. In order to keep tax free sales on the Helsinki - Stockholm ships when the EU changed its tax free legislation, a stop at Mariehamn was added to the route in June 1999. On August 6, 2001 a swarm of fish got sucked in to the ship's cooling water intakes, which resulted in the engines shutting down due to overheating. Due to the engine problem the ship arrived in Helsinki some 1,5 hours late.

In January 2004 the ship made two special cruises to Tallinn, Estonia for the Finnish company SOK. Similar cruises were made again in January 2005. In January-February 2006, just prior to the sale of Silja Line to Tallink, the Symphony and her sister had their interiors extensively rebuilt at Luonnonmaan telakka, Naantali. During a storm on January 9, 2007 the Symphony accidentally rammed a boarding tube in the port of Mariehamn, resulting in approximately 600 000 euros worth of damage.

There are some small external differences by which the Symphony can be told apart from her sister: the outer decks on the Symphony are painted light blue (they are green on the Serenade), the eyes of the seal in Symphony's funnel is blue whereas it's white with a blue outline on the Serenade, and the light box with the ship's name on it is white on the Symphony but blue on the Serenade.

Silja Line MS Silja Europa

MS Silja Europa is one of the largest cruiseferries in the world. It was built at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany for the ferry operator Rederi AB Slite, a part of Viking Line. Main architect was Per Dockson, Sweden. The ferry was already painted in Viking Line's colors and almost ready to be handed over, when the Swedish krona was devaluated by 10%, which led Slite into economical difficulties. Slite could not pay for the ship so Meyer Werft kept it and soon managed to charter it to Viking Line's rival, Silja Line. It was put on the Helsinki—Stockholm route, replacing MS Silja Serenade which was put to the Turku—Mariehamn—Stockholm route, but Europa and Serenade had to exchange routes in 1995 as Serenade had troubles navigating in the Turku archipelago.

The world's first floating McDonald's restaurant was located onboard Silja Europa from its maiden trip until 1996 when it was closed down and replaced by Silja Line's own hamburger restaurant.

Silja Line MS Silja Festival

MS Silja Festival is a cruiseferry owned by Tallink Silja AB, the Swedish subsidiary of AS Tallink Grupp and operated under their Silja Line brand on a route connecting Turku, Finland to Stockholm, Sweden via Mariehamn/Långnäs. She was built in 1986 by Wärtsilä Helsinki, Finland, for Effoa as MS Wellamo for use on Silja Line traffic on the same route she sails today, and rebuilt in 1992 at Lloyds Werft, Bremerhaven, Germany.
Initially the Silja Festival continued on the same route as before, alongside her sister, but following the acquisition of MS Silja Europa and the subsequent fleet re-organisation there was no longer a need for the ship on the Turku route. As a result was placed on the Vaasa—Umeå route from March 20 to May 23 1993. When Silja Line began collaboration with Euroway in June 1993, Silja Festival was moved to their Malmö—Travemünde—Lübeck -route, sailing parallel to MS Frans Suell. From there on the service was maketed as Silja Line Euroway. A few months later the route was extended to Copenhagen.

After the Euroway service was terminated in April 1994, Silja Festival was moved back to the Kvarken to operate from Vaasa to Umeå and Sundsvall. Around this time Silja Line made an agreement to sell Silja Festival or her sistership Silja Karneval to Norwegian ferry operator Color Line. Although Silja Karneval was the ship finally sold to Color, the new owners had presumed they'd be getting Festival and had made promotional posters for their new ship accordingly. As a result the Silja Karneval was confusingly renamed MS Color Festival.

In September 2, 1994, Silja Festival was moved from Vaasa to serve the Helsinki—Tallinn route. For the summer of 1995, (June 26 to August 14) she served Vaasa—Sundsvall again, then returned to Helsinki—Tallinn. After the charter agreement of MS Silja Scandinavia ended in April 1997 On April 5, 1997, Silja Line switched the ship's flag from Finnish to Swedish and put her back on Stockholm—Mariehamn—Turku service, where she remains to this day.

Silja Line MS Galaxy

MS Galaxy is a cruiseferry built in 2006 by Aker Finnyards, Rauma and was at the time the largest ship delivered to ferry operator Tallink. Between 2006–2008 she held the distinction of being the largest ship ever to be registered in Estonia; a title now held by her replacement sister-ship MS Baltic Princess. Galaxy currently operates on the Stockholm - Turku route under Tallink's Silja Line brand, opposite MS Silja Europa.

Silja Line Ferry

Silja Line History

1904-1957 - The history of Silja Line can be traced back to 1904 when two Finnish shipping companies, Finland Steamship Company (Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolaget, FÅA for short) and Steamship Company Bore, started collaborating on Finland—Sweden traffic. The initial collaboration agreement was terminated in 1909, but re-established in 1910. After World War I in 1918 a new agreement was made that also included the Swedish Rederi AB Svea. Originally the collaboration agreement applied only on service between Turku and Stockholm, but was also applied to the Helsinki—Stockholm in 1928. As a precursor to the policies later adopted by Silja Line, each of the three companies ordered a near-identical ship for Helsinki—Stockholm service to coincide with the 1952 Summer Olympics, held in Helsinki. Eventually only Finland SS Co.'s SS Aallotar was ready in time for the olympics. At this time the city of Helsinki constructed the Olympia Terminal in Helsinki's South Harbour, that Silja Line's ships still use.

1957-1970 - Realising that car-passenger ferries would be the dominating traffic form in the future, the three collaborating companies decided to form a daughter company, Oy Siljavarustamo / Siljarederiet Ab. The new company started out with used ships which weren't particularly well-fitted for the role they were meant for, but that was about to change when in 1961 Silja took delivery of the new MS Skandia, the first purpose-built car-passenger ferry in the northern Baltic Sea. Skandia's sister MS Nordia followed the next year and the era's giant MS Fennia in 1966.

Despite the establishment of Silja, FÅA, Bore and Svea also continued to operate on the same routes with their own ships. This led to a somewhat complex situation where four different companies were marketed as one entiry. In Finland they went by the name Ruotsinlaivat ("Sweden's Ships" or "Ships to Sweden") whereas in Sweden the preferred terms were Det Samseglande (roughly "the ones that sail together"), Finlandsbåten ("Finland's Ships") or Sverigebåten (Sweden Ships). In both countries the names of all four companies were usually displayed alongside the group identity.

1970-1980 - In 1967 three of Silja's rival companies had formed a joint marketing and coordination company, Viking Line, which was to become Silja Line's main rival for the next two decades. FÅA, Bore and Svea soon realised that a similar arrangement would be preferrable to their current fragmented image, and in 1970 a big change was carried out within the organisations: Silja Line was established as a joint marketing and coordination company between FÅA, Bore and Svea, and the ships of Siljavarustamo were divided between these three. All Silja Line's ships were painted in the same colour scheme, with a white hull and superstructure, with the dark blue "Silja Line" text on the side, alongside the now-famous seal's head logo. Each company retained their own funnel colours, so it was easy to distinguish which ship belonged to which company even from a distance: Svea's funnels where white with a large black S on them, FÅA's were black with two white brands around the funnel, and Bore's were yellow with a blue/white cross.

Already before the reorganisation Silja had ordered two new ships from Dubegion-Normandie S.A., Nantes, France to begin year-round traffic from Helsinki to Stockholm (up until that point the route was summers only). In 1972 these were delivered to FÅA and Svea as MS Aallotar and MS Svea Regina, respectively. Passenger numbers on the Helsinki route grew fast and already in 1973 it was decided that the three companies would each order a ship of identical design from the same shipyard to replace the current Helsinki—Stockholm ships. The first two of these was delivered in 1975 (MS Svea Corona and MS Wellamo). The last sister, MS Bore Star), was delivered in December of the same year. However, there weren't enough passengers during the winter for all three ships, and as a result the Bore Star was chartered to Finnlines during the winters of 1975-1976 and 1976-1977. In 1976 Finland SS Co changed its name to Effoa (the Finnish phonetic spelling of FÅA). During the latter part of the 1970s Effoa's old ferries MS Ilmatar and MS Regina made cruises around Baltic Sea, Norwegian fjords and the Atlantic (from Málaga) under the marketing name Silja Cruises.

1980-1986 - In the 1979 Svea and Effoa decided again to order new ships for the Helsinki—Stockholm route, which would be the largest ferries of their time. Bore however decided not to participate in building new ships, and in 1980 opted to bow out of passenger traffic altogether (Bore Line still exists as a freight-carrying company today). Their two ships were sold to Effoa and their shares of Silja Line split between the two other companies. In Finland, and later in Sweden, a large maritime strike in spring 1980 stopped ferry traffic completely. This also prompted Effoa to terminate the Silja Cruises service.

Despite the difficulties Silja's first real cruiseferries MS Finlandia and MS Silvia Regina entered traffic in 1981, which led to a 45% raise in passenger numbers. Late in the same year Johnson Line purchased Rederi AB Svea, and the former Svea ships received Johnson Line's blue/yellow colours. The good experiences gained from the new Helsinki ships prompted Effoa and Johnson Line to order two ships built on a similar principle for traffic on the Turku—Stockholm route, which were delivered in 1985 and 1986 as MS Svea and MS Wellamo. Although similar in proportions and interior layout, the new ships sported an attractive streamlined superstructure instead of the box-like superstructure of Finlandia and Silvia Regina.

1987-1992 - 1987 was a very eventful year for Silja. Effoa had purchased the famous GTS Finnjet the previous year and from the beginning of 1987 the prestigious but unprofitable "Queen of the Baltic Sea" joined Silja Line's fleet. Later in the same year Effoa and Johnson Line jointly purchased Rederi Ab Sally, one of the owners of their rival Viking Line. The other Viking Line partners forced the new owners to sell their share in Viking, but Effoa and Johnson Line still got Vaasanlaivat / Vasabåtarna, Sally Cruises, Sally Ferries UK and Commodore Cruise Line. Although the purchase of Sally had no effect in Silja Line's traffic for the time being, it proved to be important later. Finally 1987 saw the order of new ships for Helsinki - Stockholm route (again), which would be the largest ferries ever built (again), eventually named MS Silja Serenade and MS Silja Symphony. Not revealed at the time, the new ships had a 140-meter promenade-street running along the center of the ship, a feature never seen before in a ship (these days promenades are commonly found on Royal Caribbean Cruises and Color Line's newer ships).

In late 1989 Wärtsilä Marine, the shipyard building Silja's new cruiseferries, went bankrupt, which led to the ships being delivered later than had been planned. To ensure the delivery of their ferries Effoa and Johnson Line both purchased a part of the new Masa-Yards established to continue shipbuilding in Wärtsilä's former shipyards.

The year 1990 saw the realisation of an old vision: Effoa and Johnson Line merged to form EffJohn. As a result the seal's head logo gravitated into the funnel, replacing the old colours of each individual owner company. In November of the same year the new MS Silja Serenade made it's maiden voayge from Helsinki to Stockholm, approximately seven months after the original planned delivery date. MS Silja Symphony was delivered the following year. Despiste being highly popular and sporting a successful design, the new ships had also been very expensive. Coupled with the depression in the early 90's EffJohn was forced to cut costs, which resulted in Wasa Line and Sally Cruises being merged into Silja Line in 1992. The year also saw Svea and Wellamo being modernised in Silja Karneval and Silja Festival, respectively.

1993-Today - MS Silja Europa, the largest cruiseferry in the world 1993-2001.The year 1993 began with a bang. In January it was reported that Silja Line had chartered MS Europa, a ship under construction for Rederi AB Slite, one of the owners of Viking Line. Due to financial troubles Slite could not pay for their new ship, and the shipyard decided to charter it to Silja instead. Later in the same year Silja joined forced with Euroway on their Malmö—Travemünde—Lübeck route. The route proved to be unprofitable and was terminated in spring 1994.

MS Sally Albatross was grounded outside Helsinki in spring 1994 and suffered major damage, which prompted Silja to give up traffic on her. September 1994 saw the largest peace-time maritime disaster on the Baltic Sea, the sinking of MS Estonia. Silja Europa, Silja Symphony and Finnjet all assisted in searching for survivors from the disaster. Silja Festival was berthed opposite the Estonia in Tallinn the day before the sinking, but she was in Helsinki when Estonia sank and didn't come to assistance. Sinking of the Estonia led to passenger numbers dropping, which did not help Silja's precarious situation. The company was now the largest on the Baltic Sea, having finally overtaken Viking Line in 1993, but financially it wasn't doing too well. In 1995 Effjohn changed their name into Silja Oy Ab. Three years later the name was changed again, this time to Neptun Maritime.

1999 saw two big changes coming for Silja. Tax-free sales ended on routes between EU countries, which forced the Helsinki—Stockholm ships to start calling at Mariehamn in the Åland Islands. Although the Åland Islands joined the EU along with the rest of Finland in 1994, their autonymous status allowed them to stay outside the EU tax union and hence avoid the end of tax-fee sales. Bigger change than this was Sea Containers purchasing the majority of Neptun Maritime's shares. In 2000 the new owners brought one of their Super SeaCats on Helsinki—Tallinn traffic and Neptun Maritime again changed its name, this time to Silja Oyj Abp. In the same year the route between Vaasa and Umeå was terminated as unprofitable.

By 2004 Sea Containers owned Silja Line entirely. The company was doing well financially and all seemed to be going well. Unfortunately Sea Containers' other operations were not as profitable and in late 2005 they announced their intent to give up their ferry division completely, this naturally including selling Silja Line. In preparation for the sale the unprofitable GTS Finnjet and MS Silja Opera were taken out of service and transferred under Sea Co's ownership. Silja Serenade and Symphony were also rebuilt in early 2006 to make them more attractive to the potential buyer.

May 2006 saw the sale of Silja Line to the Estonian Tallink. The SuperSeaCats trafficking between Helsinki and Tallinn were not included in the sale as their purchase would have given Tallink a dominant market position on the route, which would have resulted in the competition regulators of Finland and Estonia not approving the sale. As a result Sea Containers (that had barely a year ago announced their intention to give up the ferry business completely) continued operating them under the SuperSeaCat brand. In late 2006 the land organisations of Tallink and Silja Line were reorganised in Finland so that Tallink Finland and Superfast Finland were merged into Oyj Silja Abp, which now took care of all Finnish operations of Tallink/Silja. Shortly afterwards Oyj Silja Abp was renamed into Tallink Silja Oy. Similarly the land organisations in Sweden became Tallink Silja AB.

Future of Tallink Silja Lines

Tallink has stated that it intends to keep the Silja Line brand separate from Tallink. Despite this, most promotional materials - including brochures and the company websites - are now shared by both companies.

In April 2007 Tallink announced that MS Galaxy will be placed on the Turku—Mariehamn—Stockholm route in 2008, following the delivery of her sister ship that will replace her on the Helsinki—Tallinn service. Conflicting statements have been made by Tallink representatives regarding the branding of the Galaxy in her new service: in early June Tuomas Nylund stated that she would be re-painted in Silja Line colours, but in October 2007 Enn Pant and Toomas Vilosius stated that the Galaxy's external livery would not be changed, and that she might enter service on the route under the Tallink brand, not Silja. Regardless of her new livery or the lack thereof, Galaxy will be re-flagged to Sweden upon the route change.

Also in April 2007 Tallink ordered a second sister ship to the Galaxy. At the time Keijo Mehtonen stated the new ship would "probably" be placed on the Turku—Mariehamn—Stockholm service, replacing Silja Europa. In October of the same year Enn Pant countered Mehtonen's statement, saying that no decisions had been made regarding the route of the third Galaxy-class vessel.

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