Spirit Of Britain
A strange place to see a ferry for the Dover to Calais route is Zaandam, The Netherlands. Here, the Spirit Of Britain had her annual overhaul at the Damen Yards in Amsterdam in january of 2020 and so she is spotted on the Northsea Canal on her way back home at the 20th of january.
For the modernisation of the classic and very profitable P&O Ferries route between Dover and Calais, one of most competitive and busy seastraits in the world, P&O Ferries ordered the two largest ferries for the route with Aker Yards in Rauma, Finland on the 8th of august in 2008. The new ferries were going to replace the Pride Of Dover and Pride of Calais, who had been with P&O Ferries on this route since their introduction in 1987. Originally ordered for Townsend-Thoresen, these ships were taken over by P&O just after their introduction. This take-over and re-branding was hastened because of the Herald Of Free Enterprise disaster at the 6th of march of 1987, just before the introduction of these new ships. In this disaster, the Herald Of Free Enterprise capsized on route between Zeebrugge and Dover and some 193 people perished. It was the end for the Townsend-Thoresen name, a household name on the route's across the English Channel. For the new ships, a new naming strategy was chosen as london was going to host the 2012 Olympics. So instead of the 'Pride' names (that were introduced by Townsend-Thoresen for the Pride of Dover and Pride of Calais by the way) the new P&O ships were going to be named Olympic Spirit and Olympic Pride.
A little name-battle
Ah, the good old Olympic name. Meant to bring people together. But, as we have seen with the controversy in Royal Olympic Cruises around the year 2000, Olympic Committees are not very fond of other companies using the Olympic name. Royal Olympic Cruises had to change its name and the names of their ships after a fierce battle with the Olympic Commitee and so now P&O tried it again and also failed. The London 2012 Olympics organising committee was also very edgy about the choice of names as they raised around 2 billion pounds from the private sector for the organisation of the games and so they claimed the name Olympic to be theirs. They won and P&O had to change the names of the ships even before launch. So the first ship, Olympic Spirit, became the Spirit Of Britain and the second ship, Olympic Pride, became the Spirit Of France.
Construction and general statistics
At the 3rd of march in 2009, the first steelplate for the then still Olympic Spirit was cut by P&O Ferries chief executive Helen Deeble. The new ship was going to become 47.592 tons, making her the biggest ferry ever for the Dover to Calais route. Her lenght was 210 meters, she was 31,4 meters wide and her draft reached 6,5 meters. On her 2700 lane meters, the ship was to be capable of ferrying 180 lorries or 1059 personal cars, and her passenger capacity was 2000 people. Propelled by two controllable pitch propellers and three bowthrusters which were powered by 4 MAN-designed diesel-engines, normal servicespeed was 22 knots.
As said, the ship was built at the STX Europe Yards at Rauma, Finland under yardnumber 1367 and she was going to fly the British flag with Dover being her home-port. Logical.
On the 25th of august in 2009, the ships keel was laid and several coins were laid under her keel to wish her good fortune, as is a good maritime tradition. Her final namechange to Spirit Of Britain came during construction and was announced at the 13th of may in 2010. This was just one month before the ship was docked out which happened at the 8th of june, 2010.
With environment-friendliness in mind, Spirit Of Britain was designed to Lloyd's Register's 'Green Passport', making her much more fuel efficient then the late 1980's ships used untill then on the route. The hull-form was hydro-dynamicly designed just to save fuel-usage and these new P&O Ferries also were the first ferries in the world complying with the International Maritime Organisations's new 'Safe Return To Port' requirements. This means that in case of an emergency at sea, the ships systems have to stay operational so she can return to port safely. Those systems include fire-fighting, power supply, propulsion, steering and navigation. Also, basic services have to be provided in those situations to all passengers aboard. The requirements only came into being for vessels built after the 1st of july 2010, but P&O already went ahead and implemented them to these ships, technically built before the required date.
At the 23rd of november in 2010, the ship departed Rauma for her first seatrials and was finally accepted by P&O Ferries in december of 2010. Delivery took place at Rauma at the 5th of january in 2011, as planned. That same day, she departed Finland for Dover under escort of the icebreaker Nordica untill she reached Stockholm. This due to the heavy ice conditions in the Baltic Sea at the time. Four days later, she arrived at Dover and carried out her berthing trials in Dover as well as Calais at the 14th and 15th of january. Her first commercial sailing commenced at the 21st of january inder command of Captain David Miller. Just three days later, she had to visit the ARNO wharf at Dunkerque as her bow spade had to be extended a bit at deck 5 and deck 3 for a better fit in the port of Calais.
Some technical problems came in february, but nothing too severe and she was able to be officially named by Dame Kelly Holmes at Dover's Eastern Docks at the 24th of march in 2011. Dame Kelly Holmes was already chosen as her Godmother when the ship was still to be planned to become Olympic Spirit. She is the British Gold Medal holder of the 2004 summer Olympics of Athens as a middle-distance runner on the 800 metres and the 1500 metres. she also set British records on several distances. In 2008, she had also founded her own charitytrust, working to support young athletes and help the lives of young people facing disadvantage across the UK.
At january the 23rd in 2016, some 350 refugees mostly from the Middle East were encouraged by western anarchists to storm the port of Calais from the so-named Calais Jungle, which was an un-authorised refugeecamp for refugees trying to make it to the United Kingdom. Around 50 refugees finally made it onboard the Spirit Of Britain, but they were later arrested by the police and denied entry into the UK. Eight of the British anarchistst from the left-wing group No Borders were among the arrested people who boarded the ferry and faced trials for their involvement.
Speaking about borders, due to the United Kingdon leaving the European Union in 2020, P&O Ferries had both the Spirit Of Britain and the Spirit Of France reflagged to Limassol, Cyprus in 2019 as they feared the higher costs under the 'new' British flag after Brexit.