European Mariner


European Mariner arriving at Larne from Troon in May 2003

Vital Statistics:

Gross Tonnage 5897 tons
Deadweight 3046 tonnes
Length /m  (ft) 116.3    (381' 6")
Breadth /m (ft) 18.2      (59' 9")
Draught /m (ft) 5.4        (17' 9")
Engines 2 x MaK 8 cylinder diesels
Combined Engine Power/ hp 5918
Service Speed /knots 15.5
Passengers 12
Freight /lane metres   (ft) 852    (2795')
Built 1978
Builders Rickmers Werft, Bremerhaven, Germany
Port of Registry Nassau, Bahamas
Notes ex Salahala (to 1990)
ex Merchant Valiant (to 1995) 
ex Lion (to 1998) 
ex European Highlander (to 2001)


Launched as the Salahala for Salahala shipping company of Hamilton, Bermuda.  She was immediately chartered out on completion to Gilnavi of Italy, entering service in January 1978.  She served on their route from Genoa, Italy to Alexandria, Egypt, sailing via Malta and Pireus, Greece.  In 1990 she was sold to Crescent ship managers of Nassau part of the Cenargo group.  She was renamed Merchant Valiant and placed on Merchant Ferries Warrenpoint to Heysham route.

When Merchant Ferries replaced the Merchant Valiant and her sister ship Merchant Victor on the Warrenpoint to Heysham service, the Merchant Valiant moved north to Larne on charter to Pandoro.  After trials at both Larne and Ardrossan the Merchant Valiant entered service in November, 1993 on the Larne to Ardrossan route in place of the Belard.  

After 2 years of service the Merchant Valiant was bought by Pandoro and she was renamed Lion on the 15th of October, 1995.  Just after purchase she was extensively refitted with the replacement of the cargo lift to the upper freight deck by a fixed internal ramp.  After the integration of all P&O's services on the Irish sea her name was changed to European Highlander under a new fleetwide naming policy in January, 1998.

In 1999, the Ardrossan route was expanded to a two ship service.  The European Highlander sailed from Larne to Ardrossan in the evening while either the European Trader or European Endeavour from the Cairnryan service did a day time round trip to Ardrossan.  Instead of the usual daytime lay up the European Highlander was employed on the Larne to Cairnryan service in place of the European Trader or European Endeavour.  This experimental service lasted only for the 1999 summer season and was not repeated from the autumn onwards.  The service was to make do with the just the European Highlander doing one round trip per day, with 2 on a Tuesday and Thursday.  She ran aground at Ardrossan on the 8th of November, 1999, highlighting the confines of Ardrossan harbour just about big enough to accommodate a ship the size of the European Highlander.

With ever increasing growth on the Ardrossan service P&O was continually looking for ways to increase capacity.  The restricted nature of Ardrossan harbour prevented the use of any vessel bigger than the European Highlander so P&O decided to move the service to a new facility built at the nearby port of Troon.  The move was completed on the 30th of June, 2001 and to mark the occasion and also to free up the name for the new Cairnryan vessel, the European Highlander was renamed European Mariner.  P&O finally increased capacity on the route in January 2002, when the European Navigator replaced the European Mariner.  Now being spare the European Mariner was sent to lay up in Barrow, but little time was spent idle.  She had a very nomadic existence during 2002 being chartered to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Seatruck Ferries, Color Line, Commodore Ferries and Norse Island Ferries allowing her to visit Heysham, Douglas, Warrenpoint, Barrow, Kristiansand, Hirtshals, Portsmouth, the Channel Islands, Aberdeen and the Shetland Islands.  She also returned to Larne a few times covering for refits of the European Pioneer, European Seafarer and European Navigator, during which times she has operated the Larne to Fleetwood service as well as the Troon route.  The European Mariner also covered fire damage to the European Pathfinder and put in a spell on the Larne to Cairnryan route while the Pathfinder was being repaired. 

She returned to Larne in a permanent basis at Christmas 2002.  After being laid up over the Christmas and New Year holiday she commenced operations on the Larne to Troon route once again in place of the European Navigator on the 5th of January 2003.  The European Mariner was more economical to operate than the larger European Navigator, the traffic levels on offer not justifying the larger vessel.  Also, the low height lower deck for export cars on the European Mariner allowed her to carry export cars without reducing her space for freight.  On the European Navigator the export cars had to take up valuable space used by lorries.

Updated 18/02/05


22/12/02: The Wandering Mariner Returns to Larne (go to the 22/12/02 story)

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