Pride Of Rotterdam
In 1996, P&O took over the ferryservices from Rotterdam Europoort to Hull and from Zeebrugge to Hull, that were operated under the name North Sea Ferries from 1965 onwards. P&O already owned a large ferrynetwork in western Europe, spread out over several brands. P&O Scottish Ferries of course sailed services to and from Scotland, P&O Irish Sea served between England and Ireland, P&O Portsmouth had the lines across the English Channel towards France and now the last frontier to surround Britain, the North Sea, was also covered with the properly named P&O North Sea Ferries. When P&O took over, the company that was partially Dutch and partially English owned, sailed with four large passengerships. The older Norland and Norstar served the route between Zeebrugge and Hull and the Norsun and Norsea, built in the mid 1980's, served the route between Rotterdam Europoort and Hull. Next to those four ships, the company also operated the three freighliners Norcape, Norbay and Norbank, all introduced in the early 1990's.
Below, Pride Of Rotterdam is seen at the center of Rotterdam close to the cruiseterminal during the cities Harbour Festival in 2004. This was a special sailing from the Europoort Terminal and back that was sold as a minicruise type of sailing and very popular.
The route's were quite profitable, so P&O didn't wait long to invest and they did so on a grand scale. In 1998, the company ordered two carferries for the most important route from Rotterdam and announced that the ships would be the biggest ferries in the world, being very close to 60.000 tons. They needed to be this big, because they were not only going to replace the passengerferries but also the freightferries on the route. In fact, the new ships were designed as passengerferries built on top of several decks of space for freight, without losing their own form of attractiveness. This is also why the ships ended up quite high in appearance.
The keel of the first ship, that was going to sail under Dutch flag, was laid at the 1st of march 1999 by Fincantieri in northern Italy, a wharf with a great know-how of building passengerships. Originally, she was intended to become the Pride Of Hull, introducing the P&O name-styling that had come along with the P&O take-over of European Ferries/ Townsend Thoresen in 1988. During building, the ship, then just under yardnumber 6065, was renamed Pride Of Rotterdam. She was launched at the 29th of september of the year 2000, and handed over to the company after completion at the 12th of april 2001 in Venice, close to the builders yard at Monfalcone. Her total tonnage measurement was 59.925, making her indeed the largest ferry in the world. She has a lenght of 215,44 meters, a width of 31,85 meters and a draft of 9,04 meters. With 12 decks, she turned out to be quite high indeed, where it has to be said that the lower half of the ship was reserved for freight and lorries, with space for 250 vehicles. Next to this, 1360 passengers can be ferried, staying the night in one of the 530 cabins, of which six are reserved for the disabled, five for families and six are suites and 9 are deluxe suites. The homeport for the ship was to be Rotterdam and she was named by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands at the 27th of april 2001 and she sailed her first Rotterdam to Hull crossing a few days later, the 30th of april, a day that happened to be Queens Day in The Netherlands too.
There was one slight problem in Hull, though. As the new ship was wider then the older ships of the line, a new terminal in the English port had to be built. The older ships were able to pass the lock, but the new one didn't and the terminal was located behind the lock. The new Rotterdam Terminal at Hull had cost around 14,5 million English Pounds, also giving away the confidence the new owner had in the route. The Norsea and Norsun were transferred to the Zeebrugge route, a normal sceme inherited from the old owner, where also the new ships had always been introduced to the Rotterdam route first.
With their introduction, the new ships, her sistership Pride Of Hull was introduced one year later, only had the name P&O painted on their sides, instead of the former North Sea Ferries addition. Mostly, because P&O merged all of their ferrylines into the newly recovered P&O Ferries name where-in all ships recieved a new look with the white colour of the upperworks pushed down the blue colour of the hull. The name P&O was now placed in blue on the white, instead of the other way around.
P&O Ferries itself was restructured and scaled down over the year, when all services across the English Channel and the route to Bilbao from Portsmouth were ended due to a cost-saving measure. The northsea route became the most important ferryservice for P&O after its purchase and the ships sailed on without many interruptions or problems. On the 3rd of december of 2008, there was an incident when one of the crewmembers of the ship went overboard and a rescue-effort didn't bore fruit. Of course, the ship was delayed because of the incident. A highlight in the ships carreer were the special sailings towards the center of Rotterdam during the Harbour Festival that is held each year and for the public thios also was an opportunity to again see a large passengership in the city, as the recent growth in large cruiselinervisits to the port wasn't that frequent at that time.