Delivered to Olau Lines as Olau Britannia (a sister to MS Olau Hollandia ) on May 5, 1982., she was christened two days later by Princess Margaret in Sheerness and entered service on the Sheernessâ€”Vlissingen. Route. However, by the late 1980s she was too small for the toure, and Olau Line ordered larger replacements for the Olau Hollandia and Olau Britannia. Prior to the delivery of the new builds, the Olau Britannia was sold to NordstrÃ¶m & Thulin, Sweden on October 4, 1989, for delivery in 1990. However, before being handed over to there new owners she was sold again on October 11 to Fred. Olsen Lines.
In May 1990 she was handed over to her new owners and renamed MS Bayard. After a refit at Blohm & Voss, Germany, the Bayard was entered into service on the Kristiansandâ€”Hirtshals route in June 1990. For the winter season she was transferred to Osloâ€”Hirtshals service.
Fred. Olsen sold its Scandinavian ferry an operation to Colour Line in December 1990, and in January 1991 the Bayard was renamed MS Christian IV. The ship was kept on the Oslo â€” Hirtshals service until April 1994, when she returned to the Kristiansand â€” Hirtshals route. In March 1995 the ship temporarily covered the Mossâ€”Kiel route, after which she reverted back to her older route. The ship received a major refit in 1999 at Fredericia VÃ¦rft in Denmark, with additional restaurants and better conference facilities. She received another major refit in 2005, this time at Remontowa, Poland. In March 2008 she was replaced by the new MS Superspeed 1 on the Kristiansandâ€”Hirsthals route, and laid up at Sandefjord in April, but provided relief cover when needed.
On May 20th the Christian IV was sold by Color Line to Stella Naves Russia (trading as Stella Lines), a subsidiary of the Finnish freight shipping operator Stella Company Group, for â‚¬13 million. Briar Star Ltd, owners of Swansea Cork Ferries also made an unsuccessful bid for the ship.
She was delivered to her new owners in July 2008, and renamed Julia. On August 1st 2008 she entered service on Stella Lines’ new Helsinkiâ€”St. Petersburg route. Passenger numbers on the Julia were low due to the bureaucracy related to applying a visa in order to travel between Finland and Russia. Additionally due to restrictions imposed by the Port of Helsinki the Julia could not carry any freight on the service. On 2008-09-20 the Russian State Duma approved a law change allowing passengers arriving by scheduled ferry services to visit Russia for up to 72 hours without a visa. The precise ports where the new law applies has not been decided, but St. Petersburg is presumed to be one of them. The visa-freedom was expected to increase the number of Finnish passengers on the Julia.
However the Julia continued to struggle, and the change in legislation the Helsinkiâ€”St. Petersburg service was terminated due slower than expected growth of the passenger numbers, failure to acquire additional funding and larger than expected harbour expenses in St. Petersburg.
On 9 October 2008 Stella Lines CEO stated that the company would make the decisions about the future of the Julia within the next few days. According to Juvas the alternatives are selling the ship or utilizing the ship on a service between Kotka, Finland and SillamÃ¤e, Estonia. Russian interests (Morskoi Voksal, Inflot and the City of St. Petersburg) also planned to acquire a majority share holding in Stella Lines and recommence Helsinki â€“ St. Petersburg services with the Julia. However, on 3 November it was reported that the City of St. Petersburg had withdrawn from the consortium. On the same day Stella Lines stated the company are looking for other funders allowing the service to be restarted. These attempts failed and Stella Lines was declared bankrupt on 6 November 2008, with the ownership of the Julia passing to Stella’s creditors Aktia Savings Bank.
Several companies expressed an interest in buying the Julia, but none have been able to raise the capital needed to buy her. On 17 February 2009 it was reported that one of the potential buyers for the Julia is Irish ship-owner Frank Allen, who had acquired a loan from a Finnish bank to purchase the ship for use on a service between Cork and Swansea under the brand of B&I Line, which would be re-established for this service. A public auction to sell the Julia was held on 26 February 2009, but no bids were made. In a second auction held on 12 March 2009 B&I Line made the highest bid of â‚¬6 million, but confusion surrounded the initial undertaking of â‚¬1.5 million to secure the ship and she remained unsold. No further auction was held, instead the bankrupt’s estate negotiated directly with potential buyers. In addition to B&I Line, Greek Halkidon Shipping Corporation and two unnamed Finnish companies were reported to have shown interest in the ship.
The West Cork Tourism Co-operative announced on 2 April 2009 that they were close to agreeing on a deal to buy the Julia. On the 7 April 2009 the West Cork Tourism co-operative shareholders, meeting in Skibbereen gave their unanimous support to the deal and elected a Board of Directors with the power to conclude the deal with the Finnish liquidator. The co-operative is setting up the new ferry company to run the service, which will be called Fastnet Line after the Fastnet Rock lighthouse off the West Cork coast. The West Cork Tourism Co-operative announced on 5 May 2009 that they will launch the new ferry service on 1 March 2010 and they are going ahead with the purchase of the Julia Following a funding agreement with an unnamed Finnish bank, a preliminary sale agreement was signed between Fastnet Line and Julia’s owners on 15 July 2009 for an undisclosed price. The Finnish courts decided to sell the Julia and this was announced on 15 September 2009 following discussions with the creditors of Stella Lines, with her due to enter service on March 1st, 2010.
On September 16th the Julia departed Kotka, Finland, first for berthing trials in Swansea, and arrived docked on Horgans Quay on the 25th, where she is undergoing some maintenance work prior to entry to service.
Onboard â€“ 10/11/09
Shortly after delivery, the Webmaster was offered a tour of the vessel. The gangway emerges into a lobby on Deck 5. Aft is the former (and very large) â€œTax Free Supermarket,â€ a pattern repeated on other decks, with the accommodation forward and facilities towards the stern.
Deck 6 features the ships main Buffet style restaurant, and a small cafÃ© towards the stern. Continuing up, deck 7 features another, this time smaller self-service restaurant, what under Colour Lines was the â€œCaptains Grill.â€ With the â€œIrish Corner Pubâ€ and Sports Pub further aft, as well as the ships main venue, what was the Colorama.
The aft of deck 8 contains mainly crew facilities, while deck 9 contains the ships cinema, and conference facilities as well as the ships reclining seat lounge.
The ship also has a large amount of open deck space, from deck 9 up.
All of the ships cabins are in excellent condition, with the â€œowners suiteâ€ (since renamed the â€œWest Cork Suiteâ€) containing two bedrooms and a day room set to become available to passengers on entry to service. The ship also has a ten 4 berth superior cabins on deck 7, as well as 59 standard 4 berth cabins (21 with windows, and 28 inside) and a further 190 2-berth cabins (53 with windows, and the remaining 137 inside).
As delivered the ship needs very little work in her public areas (apart from updating the signage), with most of the ongoing work at the moment being the overhaul of the ships engines, with the car deck doubling up as a workshop for the moment.