The Pride of Calais was the 3rd generation of ship designed by Townsend Thoresen for the short sea crossing between Dover and Calais. The previous generation of ships had been that successful they soon became just too small for the route. The Pride of Calais was built by Schichau-Unterweser AG, Bremen-Vegesack in Germany, however despite the initial order being placed by Townsend Thoresen when the ship was delivered P&O had completed their full take over and as such the ship was delivered in P&O livery. The design of the ship was based upon a larger version of the Spirit Class (Pride of Free Enterprise, Spirit of Free Enterprise & Herald of Free Enterprise) which were designed and built only thirteen years earlier.
Both the Pride of Calais and her sister the Pride of Dover are considered by many as arguably the most successful ships ever designed for the Dover to Calais service over the years they were in service, literally dozens of ships came and went over the years but these two ships remained constant and never served operationally on any other route, yes they sailed to other ports with passengers but that was the result of French strikes closing the Port of Calais. The ships went through various liveries and various on-board modifications but what remained was their comfort at sea.
By 2007, 20 years after their entry into service the ships began to show their age not just outwardly but also on the vehicle deck having been designed for a different era when vehicles were smaller. Having worked the short sea service between Dover and Calais all their lives the ships had been worked hard and P&O made the decision to design new ships for the route and set the date for the withdrawal of these two legendary ships. Many passengers on-board could tell that they were the oldest on the route but what is often overlooked is the rest of the fleet at Dover is less than 5 years younger!
The Pride of Calais was the last of the two sisters to enter service and was the last of the two sisters in service, the ship was kept on after the Spirit of Francewas delivered not only to allow the Spirit of Britain to go back to the builders for modifications but to also one last time cover for the rest of the fleets annual refits. Throughout this time the ship could still outperform the younger fleetmates and could cross between Dover and Calais quicker and more times in a day than fleetmates "Pride of Kent", "Pride of Canterbury" and "Pride of Burgundy" all of which were younger. Only the new Spirit class of ships could match it.
However, on the 20th October 2012 sailed from Calais for the last time and then 3 days later on the 23rd October the ship departed Dover at 10:35 in thick fog for Tilbury and lay up and by 17:05 the ship was berthed in Tilbury and a career spanning 25 years came to an end. Given that sistership Pride of Dover never sailed again once laid up it was widely anticipated that the same fate would bestow the Pride of Calais, however a shock announcement in December saw the ship given a new life.
We've been pondering how many passengers the ship has carried since she came into service in 1987 and the consensus seems to be in the region of 40 million, with superb reliability and sailing something like 2,500,000 miles. Surely one of the most successful ferries ever built for the Dover strait.
P&O Ferries: Facebook 18th October 2012
The ship entered service in January the following year with TransEuropa, however the re-branding was not fully finished with one side of the ship not having the TransEuropaFerries text painted and the other side simply saying TransEuropa which naturally raised a few concerns amid the rumours of financial problems. Rumours that on the 18th April 2013 were proved true as the ship was repossessed in Ramsgate by P&O Ferries following unpaid charter fees. It was later revealed that no payment had been made throughout the charter. The ship sailed back to Tilbury and was laid up once again.
Many rumours and hopes over the next 6 months came and went but then on the 30th October 2013 the Pride of Calais now renamed Ostend Spirit by TransEuropaFerries sailed from the UK for the last time, and that evening passed its old homeport on a one-way voyage to the breakers yard. P&O Ferries did not have to look hard for a crew to take it as there were plenty of volunteers including the ships former Captain, then retired. The ship gave its all, right through to the end and despite being 26 years old the ship performed flawlessly and actually ended up at the breakers ahead of schedule and was forced to circle for many hours burning off fuel as the ship had not used as much as was expected!! The ship making a statement that it may be old but could still perform with the best of them.
On November 13th 2013 the ship turned towards the beach and the AIS transponder stated that the destination was Nirvana. The ship was beached on the second attempt and the ship was confirmed on the beach at 12:00GMT.
Finished with Engines was announced for the final time and a career spanning 26 years essentially on the same route as it was designed and built for came to an end. Truly an end of an era.