On 16th December 2019 Finnlines placed an order for two Superstar Class Ro-Pax newbuilds, each with a lanemetre capacity of 5,255. The subsidiary company of Grimaldi Group selected China’s Merchant Jinling Shipyard for the contract, with delivery set for 2023. The brand of Oy Finnlines Ltd was founded in 1947 as a subsidiary of Merivienti Oy, which operated liner services for the forestry product trade.

As early as the 1950s, Finnlines adopted the Finn prefix for its fleet of vessels with a service to the UK opening in 1955. The company first began carrying passengers in 1962, when the car ferry Hansa Express opened a new service linking Hanko, Finland, to Travemünde, Germany, via Visby in Sweden. The route was revised to Helsinki-Kalmar-Travemünde in 1963 and took delivery of the sisterships Finnhansa and Finnpartner.

The latter was sold in 1969 as the 2 ships could not be sustained year-round. Ro-Ro services then commenced, and in 1973 Finnlines purchased the Stena Atlantica from Stena Line and renamed her Finnpartner, serving alongside the Finnhansa. In a bid to generate revenue, the Finnpartner was sent cruising to the Mediterranean during winter. Finncarriers was formed as a joint freight operator in 1975 with the Finland Steamship Company whilst the latter’s Finland-Germany passenger services were merged into Finnlines’ services, bringing the Finlandia to the fleet. The Finnpartner was then chartered to Olau Line, the Finlandia and Finnhansa maintained a year-round service to Germany whilst the Bore Star was chartered from Bore Line for cruising operations over the winter seasons of 1975-76 and 76-77. Finnlines took delivery of the famous and quite unique GTS Finnjet in May 1977. She could operate at up to 31 knots and her interiors and accommodation were superior to those of any ferry at the time. The Finlandia was rebuilt into the cruise ship Finnstar but she ceased operations in 1980. In 1981 the Finnjet was rebuilt with additional diesel engines, allowing for more economic operations during the off-peak season.

In 1982 the first of 4 new Ro-Ro ships was built for the Finland-United Kingdom service, but a series of considerable changes affected Finnlines/Finncarriers over the coming years until the new Finnlines Group was born in 1990 after Finncarriers separated the passenger operations from the Ro-Ro business. In 1997 Finnlines fully acquired Poseidon Schiffahrt (Finland-Germany service previously shared) and took full control of Finnlink. A Finland-Sweden service opened in 1997, namely the Naantali-Kapellskär route. The stop-over at Långnäs on the Aland Islands was added in 2013. Two years later the Finnclipper and Finneagle were delivered whilst Finncarriers was absorbed into Finnlines in 2001 along with Team Lines. Further adjustments saw Finnlink and Nordö-Link merge into the Finnlines brand plus 5 large Ro-Pax ships were ordered and were delivered in the 12 months from August 2006 as the Finnstar (Helsinki-Travemünde), Finnmaid, Finnlady, Europalink and Nordlink.

In January 2007 the Grimaldi Group of Italy became the largest shareholder in Finnlines and expressed a desire to purchase the entire company. The takeover was not entirely successful in 2006 but conditions in October 2015 were more favourable and Grimaldi achieved 100% ownership. The Group’s £500 million newbuild project included Finnlines and, in 2018, the trio of Finneco Ro-Ro newbuilds was ordered from the Nanjing Jinling shipyard in China. As already mentioned, the Superstar duo followed on from this order in 2019. The Ro-Pax services operated are the Helsinki-Travemünde, Malmö-Travemünde and Naantali-Långnäs-Kapellskär routes linking Finland, Germany and Sweden whilst the Ro-Ro network of Finnlines and the Grimaldi Group forms a vast web of operations across Europe. Up to 2023, the Naantali-Kapellskär service, the focus of this feature, had been operated by the following tonnage: 13,730gt/1972-built Finnmaid (broken up as the Mermaid), the 14,297gt/1973-built Finnfellow (broken as the Rail Trader-1),the 20,921gt/1987-built Finnsailor (now Sailor), tthe 29,940gt/1996-built Finnarrow (now Polferries’ Mazovia), the 33,958gt/1999-built Finnclipper (now Grimaldi Line’s Igoumenitsa) and the 30,144gt/1999-built Finneagle (now Corsica Linea’s Vizzavona).

The pre-Superstar Class fleet has been the 33,724gt/2000-built Finnfellow, the 45,923gt/2007-built Finnswan and the 46,124gt/2007-built Europalink. The Europalink was replaced by the first Superstar Class newbuild on the Naantali service and returned to Malmö on 18th September 2023 whilst also resuming her Swedish flag registry. The ship holds a special place in the hearts of Malmö’s residents due to her long history in the city and has resumed on the Malmö-Travemünde route. The 218m long, 30.5m beam, 24 knot and 4,200 lanemetre capacity Europalink was built in 2007 by the Italian shipyard Fincantieri. The Europalink’s place at Malmö had been temporarily filled by the 29,968gt/1997-built Cruise Smeralda before she headed back to Ancona for Grimaldi Lines once more. The latter ship had entered service between Travemünde and Malmö on 13th April 2023 and on 2nd October was confirmed as sold to Adria Ferries as their AF Mia for services between Italy and Albania.

A Star is Born

Knud E. Hansen of Denmark designed the Superstar Ro-Pax ships that were intended to complete one day sailing and one overnight sailing per 24 hours. The concept process began in 2019 and the chosen design meets the highest technical and environmental standards and has been optimised for a service speed of both 16 knots and 19 knots. The design, with high focus on fast and efficient handling of cargo for short turnaround times in port, is concentrated around the scenic views through which the ship operates and a high level of onboard comfort, including entertainment, spa, café’s, lounges and working spaces. On 1st June 2021 construction began for the first new ship, to be named Finnsirius, with the traditional steel cutting ceremony held at the China Merchants Jinling Shipyard (Weihai) in China. The shipyard is by now well-known for constructing the Stena Ro-Ro E-Flexer ships for Stena Line, Brittany Ferries, DFDS and Marine Atlantic. Founded in April 1951, AVIC Weihai Shipyard in Jinling was taken over in 2019 by China Merchants (CMHI), now the 4th largest shipbuilding group in China following CSSC, CSIC, and Cosco Shipping Heavy Industry. The keel laying ceremony followed on 1st April 2022.

The steel cutting for the sistership, Finncanopus, was celebrated at the same yard on 8th October 2021 with the keel laying following on 1st September 2022. To follow on from their Superstar Class status, the two ships are named after the brightest stars in the night sky. The star that is Sirius is also called Alpha Canis Majoris or the Dog Star. It is the brightest star in the night sky, with an apparent visual magnitude of -1.46. It is a binary star in the constellation Canis Major. The bright component of the binary is a blue-white star 25.4 times as luminous as the Sun. The star Canopus, also called Alpha Carinae, is the second brightest star (after Sirius) in the night sky, with a visual magnitude of -0.74. Lying in the southern constellation Carina, 310 light-years from Earth, Canopus is sometimes used as a guide in the attitude control of spacecraft because of its angular distance from the Sun and the contrast of its brightness among nearby celestial objects. The Syrian Stoic philosopher Poseidonius used sightings of this star near the horizon in his estimation of the size of Earth.

Newbuilding W0276 (Finnsirius) was launched on 30th August 2022 with her sister (newbuild W0277) being likewise on 30th December 2022. The construction of each ship featured 451 steel blocks being put in place. Instead of doing all the work at the shipyard, the cabins were prefabricated by an external subcontractor. Prefabricated elements can be rapidly positioned onboard the ship, which accelerates installation works.

On 1st June 2023 the Masters for the Superstar ships were announced with Mathias Fröberg assigned to the Finnsirius having joined Finnlines in 2012. He had been serving aboard the Finnswan on the same route. Timo Dahlberg complements Mathias with over 15 years of experience working onboard various Finnlines Ro- Pax vessels. Furthermore, he gained valuable experience as a newbuilding supervisor for the Star-Class vessels in Italy in 2005-2007. He had been Master of the Ro-Pax vessel Europalink before moving to the Finnsirius. Johnny Forss was appointed as alternating Master/Linepilot for the Finnsirius.

The Finncanopus was allocated Ilkka Maunula who has sailed as a Master on Finnlines’ Ro-Pax vessels since 2013 and was most recently in charge of the Finnswan. Stefan Karell has moved from Viking Line, where he worked as a Senior Master onboard the Isabella, Amorella, Gabriella and Mariella. Alternating Master/Linepilot for the Finncanopus is Niklas Lindroos, who joined Finnlines in 2018 and was previously a Linepilot on the Finnswan. The sea trials in the Yellow Sea were conducted in June to verify the performance of the Finnsirius, such as speed, manoeuvrability, and comfort, and to test and prove the proper functioning of machinery and equipment in seagoing conditions.


Noise and vibration levels were also monitored in various spaces and in the engine room, which must be unmanned for 4 hours without any warnings or alarms triggering. The performance of the Williamson turn is also a routine part of the trials. This turn is an alternative manoeuvre used to bring a ship that is under power back to a point she previously passed through, often for the purpose of recovering a casualty at sea. This turn was named after John Williamson, USNR, who first used it in 1943 to recover a man who had fallen overboard.

On 18th July, Finnlines took delivery of their first Superstar Class at the shipyard and accompanied by fireworks, the Finnsirius departed for her new home in northern Europe on 23rd July 2023. The ship conveyed new vehicles to Europe from China during her delivery voyage and on 25th August she called at Gioia Tauro in Italy to both unload vehicles and load a consignment of new vans to be delivered in Northern Europe. The ship had passed Port Said and transitted the 193km long Suez Canal on 22nd August and had passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and was heading north on 1st September. The penultimate stop was Antwerp to offload her wheeled cargo. The Finnsirius finally arrived at the Port of Naantali, Finland, to complete her delivery voyage on 8th September 2023.

A Ro-Pax fit for Cruising

The 65,692gt Finnsirius is 235.60m long with a 33.30m beam and a 7.00m design draught. The deadweight is 12,540, the net tonnage is 26,126 and the hull is built to the highest Finnish/Swedish ice class of 1 A Super. The newbuilds were designed to look attractive and to actively encourage potential passengers to travel on them, assisted by their fine, rakish lines. It was the intention to not just build a ferry for those wishing to sail A to B but to provide a travel experience for everyone. The four uppermost of the 12 decks offer the passenger accommodation for the 1,148 passengers. The majority of the 323 cabins are on Deck 9, plus midships on Deck 10. The ship has a crew of 64 with 64 crew cabins. Forward on Deck 10 is a large crew area and aft on this level is the Driver’s Lounge/Restaurant, Driver’s Terrace area and the Driver’s Sauna. Much of the series of cabins on offer are comparable to those aboard some modern cruise ships, ranging from basic compact cabins to luxury cabins and those which can accommodate 6 persons. The Owner’s Suite brings a whole new level of comfort to ferry travel in the region along with the LUX category. These have full-height picture windows. The other cabin grades are the Friends & Family Seaview, Friends and Family (Inside), Comfort Seaview, Comfort Seaview for Pet use and Comfort (interior). The public facilities are situated on Decks 10-12 and feature high-quality restaurants, a sauna and spa section, business and lounge facilities, extensive shopping areas and a variety of other services. The scenic views of the archipelago have been central in the design of the vessels, that also feature stylish interiors by the leading finish interior design studio dSign Vertti Kivi, specialising in ambience design. The scenery can be enjoyed through panorama windows and a spacious outdoor deck.

Not yet found aboard other ships in the fleet are some of the new cabin categories, the wellness facilities and an à la carte restaurant. Green values are not only emphasised in the technical construction of the vessels, but also in the interior design where recycled and ecological material choices are considered throughout the design process. Intelligent LED lightning management and smart air controlling system save energy by automatically adjusting lightning and air conditioning in the cabins. Low energy consumption is also considered in the equipment and furniture choices, for example by using furniture made from recycled materials. Printed products, such as menus, travel programmes and price lists, are replaced by digital self-service screens and smartphone apps. This minimises paper waste.

Local suppliers are also favoured in the retail and catering, meaning shorter delivery distances. Much like a modern cruise ship, two levels of the accommodation are located above the bridge level (Deck 10). On Deck 11 forward is the Cargo Buffet (Self Service), Fish Market & Grill (Bistro), Café and Bar. The Fish Market area is the ship’s most versatile restaurant with a cafe, beer garden, buffet, grill, and bar all in one. The bistro has a Family Zone designed for families and a separate area where passengers are welcome with pets. The décor throughout the ship is a pallet of natural colours, typical of Scandinavian design. The heart of the new vessels is the Arcade area mid-ships on Deck 11, including Finnlines’ largest Duty-Free Shop yet (approx. 400m2), a Kid’s Area and Guest Services.

The aft section of Deck 11 has the Barrel Bay Bar & Tapas Restaurant plus the Barrel Bay Terrace with indoor/outdoor seating. Deck 12 forward is the Stellar Lounge with glorious ocean views, a Duty-Free Corner and Me & Co.

The latter is a series of meeting rooms as follows: Meeting Room S for 4 people (7m2), Meeting Room M for 6 people (14m2), Meeting Room L for 24 people (28m2) and Meeting Room XL for 48 people (55m2). Micke’s Wine & Dine is aft of Me & Co., an à la carte restaurant for lunch or dinner. The menu has been designed with top chef Henri Alén plus the ship’s Premium breakfast is also served here. An outside deck for pets is aft of the restaurant whilst further astern is the wellness area, consisting of a sauna, gym and yoga in The Höyry Spa, which also includes indoor and outdoor jacuzzis. Adjacent is the Spa Bar Höyry. Astern is Under the Stars on the top deck. This large 400m² covered terrace is ideal for year-round use and features a seasonal Stars Bar.

The Superstar ships, with a maximum capacity of 5,255 lanemetres for freight, are the largest Ro-Pax vessels in the Finnlines fleet. Passenger capacity is doubled, and freight capacity is increased by 1,000 lane metres compared to the previous ships on the route. The Finnsirius can carry approximately 200 cars and 300 HGVs per voyage and has four fixed vehicle decks (including the hold – Deck 1 and upper garage on Deck 7) and one hoistable mezzanine platform for cars (Deck 8). Access to the main vehicle garages on Decks 3 and 5 is via the stern ramps, clam shell bow doors, upper garage door and internal ramps, with the vast decks designed for speedy cargo handling. Around 90% of the Finnish and Swedish exports and imports are carried by ships and Finnlines’ new Ro-Pax vessels will ensure a more sustainable option for travel and transport of freight. Modern design and technologies together with economies of scale deliver lower emissions per transported unit. Several state-of-the-art technologies enable the Finnsirius to meet high environmental standards. The vessel’s route in the sensitive archipelago requires a quite modest speed. This provides a good starting point for environmentally sound traffic and low air emissions. Instead of simply running slowly, the Finnsirius has a specifically tailored propulsion system that takes account of low speeds without compromising propulsion efficiency. The route through narrow and shallow archipelago waters sets its own hydrodynamic challenges, and the Finnsirius’ hull shape is designed to navigate the fairways with minimum energy consumption and environmental impact in these special conditions.

To improve hydrodynamic performance, the ship is equipped with an air lubrication system from Silverstream Technologies that further reduces resistance and the power required to propel the vessel by creating a rigid carpet of micro-bubbles under the keel of the vessel. This same air lubrication system is fitted on Grimaldi’s GG5G Class of Ro-Ro ships and has resulted in a 5.1% saving in fuel and emissions. The ship is equipped with a shore power connection, meaning zero emissions and lower noise levels during port calls. Shore-side electricity also facilitates the charging of lithium-ion batteries, enabling the use of clean shore-side electricity at sea. A 5MWh Orca Energy battery pack is fitted to each vessel, supplied by Corvus Energy. Wärtsilä has supplied the propulsion system, comprising of a quartet of Wärtsilä 6L46F main engines, 3 bow thrusters and a state-of-the-art electric package. This includes a hybrid shaft generator system, comprising a fully integrated Multidrive capable of driving the shaft generators in both directions, as motors and/or generators. Each 7,200kW output Wärtsilä 6L46F main engine is 8,470mm long, 3,500mm high and 2,905mm wide. The cylinder bore is 460mm, the piston stroke is 580mm and the output per cylinder is 1,200kW. The operating speed is 600rpm and the weight of each engine is 97 tonnes.

The engines drive a pair of controllable pitch propellers via a pair of twin-speed reduction gearboxes. Other efficiencies include waste heat recovery by a hot water accumulation tank and an absorption chiller; Alfa Laval Aalborg ballast water management and UV-treatment; air quality driven cargo hold ventilation; water lubricated stern tube bearings plus an auto-mooring vacuum system also ensures faster arrivals and departures. Environmentally friendly oils are used in the bow thrusters, fin stabilisers and in the cargo access equipment.

The Finnsirius was christened on 13th September in Naantali. Tiina Ahola, representing the Ahola Group, acted as the godmother. The naming ceremony celebrated Finnlines’ and Ahola Group’s long-standing co-operation and commitment since both have served Finnish trade and industry as main carriers.

The ship entered service on the Finland-Sweden (Naantali-Långnäs-Kapellskär) route with her maiden voyage from Naantali on 15th September. On 20th September, the Finnsirius was awarded the Ro-Pax of the Year 2023 accolade by the Ferry Shipping Summit.




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