BIRGER JARL’s Grace Period Ends? — Updated

BIRGER JARL’s Grace Period Ends?
by Kalle Id

BIRGER JARL arriving in Stockholm on February 9, 2011, while sailing under a special exemption from SOLAS 2010. Photo © Kalle Id.

Ånedin Linjen’s small classic liner BIRGER JARL, which for the past 22 years has made short cruises between Stockholm, Sweden and Mariehamn, Finland, faces an uncertain future. For the past six months, the 1953-built ship has been sailing under a special exemption to 2010 SOLAS regulations granted by the Finnish and Swedish governments.  That exemption has now ended and the ship is laid up in Stockholm, awaiting whatever fate her owners have in store.

Reportedly, the company have four different options available: 1) Remove all wooden details and rebuild the interior to meet the current SOLAS regulations (a costly task for such a small company); 2) Treat all wooden parts with a special fireproofing medium; 3) Increase fire protection by adding more sprinklers; or 4) Retire the BIRGER JARL and replace her with a newer, SOLAS-compliant ship. The matter is further complicated by the fact that the BIRGER JARL was declared historically important (“K-marked”) by the Swedish State Maritime Museum in May 2010. What actual effect this will have on the ship is uncertain, but at least theoretically it can block the ship from being sold outside Sweden.  But it can also mean that any attempts to radically rebuild the ship would violate her historical value and could be blocked.

BIRGER JARL in Silja Line colours in the early 1970s, prior to the rebuildings carried out during that decade. Postcard from the Kalle Id collection.

The BIRGER JARL was built in 1953 by Finnboda Varv in Nacka, near Stockholm, for Stockholms Rederi AB Svea. She was placed on a joint service maintained by Svea and two Finnish shipping companies linking Stockholm to Helsinki during the summer months and Stockholm to Turku during the winters. The three companies would eventually go on to form Silja Line, one of the two major players in Finland-Sweden traffic. The BIRGER JARL and her Finnish near-sisters AALLOTAR and BORE III were traditional liners, with quadruple-expansion steam power plants, class-divided accommodation and no ro-ro car decks.

In 1971 the BIRGER JARL was replaced on the Helsinki-Stockholn service by new icebreaking ro-ro ferries and she was for the time being placed on short cruises from Stockholm to Mariehamn. In 1973 she was renamed BORE NORD, rebuilt with a ro-ro car deck and spent the next five years sailing on different routes on the Baltic, as well as a stint as an accommodation ship in Norway. In 1978-79 she was rebuilt as a cruise ship in Turku and renamed BALTIC STAR, entering service for her current owners Ånedin Linjen in 1979 on the Stockholm-Mariehamn short cruise circuit. She lost her original steam power plant in 1982, when a diesel engine was retrofitted in its place. In 2002, the ship got back her original name and was moved back to Swedish registry (having been Panamanian-registered since 1978).

In the beginning of October 2010, when the new SOLAS regulations came into effect, the BIRGER JARL was briefly laid up in Stockholm, but within a few days she received a six-month exemption from the regulations. It was hoped that a solution that enables her to keep sailing could be reached within those six months, but this does not seem to have been the case and the BIRGER JARL is now again laid up in Stockholm, awaiting an uncertain future.

Update: Ånedin Linjen’s website states that the BIRGER JARL will be back in service from April 18 onwards following a “technical upgrading” of the ship.

MaritimeMatters welcomes guest blogger Kalle Id, a Finnish history student and photographer with an interest in passenger shipping amongst other things. See his blog at http://kships.blogspot.com/

– Martin Cox

Kalle Id

Kalle Id

Kalle Id, MaritimeMatters' Helsinki correspondent, is a Finnish maritime historian, photographer and journalist, with a Master's Degree in history from the University of Helsinki. His early-age exposure to ferry travel led to a lifetime fascination with passenger ships, both the cruise ferries of his home waters and the cruise ships and ferries of further afield. Kalle maintains his own ship photography blog at kships.blogspot.com. Contrary to the popular belief, he writes under his real name.
Kalle Id
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