Silja Line

Silja Line is a cruiseferry brand operated by the ferry company AS Tallink Grupp, for car and passenger traffic between Finland and Sweden. The former company Silja Oy - today Tallink Silja Oy - is a subsidiary of Tallink Grupp, handling marketing and sales for Tallink and Silja Line brands in Finland as well as managing Silja's ship employees. Another subsidiary, Tallink Silja AB, handles marketing and sales in Sweden. Strategical corporate management is performed by Tallink Grupp which also own the ships.

As of 2009 four ships service two routes under the Silja Line brand, transporting about three million passengers and 200,000 cars every year. The Silja Line ships has a market share of around 50 percent on the two routes served.


The history of Silja Line can be traced back to 1904 when two Finnish shipping companies, Finland Steamship Company (Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolaget, FÅA for short) and Steamship Company Bore, started collaborating on Finland—Sweden traffic. The initial collaboration agreement was terminated in 1909, but re-established in 1910. After World War I in 1918 a new agreement was made that also included the Swedish Rederi AB Svea. Originally the collaboration agreement applied only on service between Turku and Stockholm, but was also applied to the Helsinki—Stockholm in 1928. As a precursor to the policies later adopted by Silja Line, each of the three companies ordered a near-identical ship for Helsinki—Stockholm service to coincide with the 1952 Summer Olympics, held in Helsinki. Eventually only Finland SS Co.'s SS Aallotar was ready in time for the olympics. At this time the city of Helsinki constructed the Olympia Terminal in Helsinki's South Harbour, that Silja Line's ships still use.

Realising that car-passenger ferries would be the dominating traffic form in the future, the three collaborating companies decided to form a daughter company, Oy Siljavarustamo / Siljarederiet Ab. The new company started out with used ships which weren't particularly well-fitted for the role they were meant for, but that was about to change when in 1961 Silja took delivery of the new MS Skandia, the first purpose-built car-passenger ferry in the northern Baltic Sea. Skandia's sister MS Nordia followed the next year and the era's giant MS Fennia in 1966. Two more ships based on the Skandia design, MS Botnia and MS Floria were delivered in 1967 and 1970, respectively.

Despite the establishment of Silja, FÅA, Bore and Svea also continued to operate on the same routes with their own ships. This led to a somewhat complex situation where four different companies were marketed as one entiry. In Finland they went by the name Ruotsinlaivat (‘Sweden's Ships’ or ‘Ships to Sweden’) whereas in Sweden the preferred terms were Det Samseglande (roughly ‘the ones that sail together’), Finlandsbåten (‘Finland's Ships’) or Sverigebåten (Sweden Ships). In both countries the names of all four companies were usually displayed alongside the group identity.

In 1967 three of Silja's rival companies had formed a joint marketing and coordination company, Viking Line, which was to become Silja Line's main rival for the next two decades. FÅA, Bore and Svea soon realised that a similar arrangement would be preferrable to their current fragmented image, and in 1970 a big change was carried out within the organisations: Silja Line was established as a joint marketing and coordination company between FÅA, Bore and Svea, and the ships of Siljavarustamo were divided between these three. All Silja Line's ships were painted in the same colour scheme, with a white hull and superstructure, with the dark blue ‘Silja Line’ text on the side, alongside the now-famous seal's head logo. Each company retained their own funnel colours, so it was easy to distinguish which ship belonged to which company even from a distance: Svea's funnels where white with a large black S on them, FÅA's were black with two white brands around the funnel, and Bore's were yellow with a blue/white cross.

Already before the reorganisation Silja had ordered two new ships from Dubegion-Normandie S.A., Nantes, France to begin year-round traffic from Helsinki to Stockholm (up until that point the route was summers only). In 1972 these were delivered to FÅA and Svea as MS Aallotar and MS Svea Regina, respectively. Passenger numbers on the Helsinki route grew fast and already in 1973 it was decided that the three companies would each order a ship of identical design from the same shipyard to replace the current Helsinki—Stockholm ships. The first two of these was delivered in 1975 (MS Svea Corona and MS Wellamo). The last sister, MS Bore Star), was delivered in December of the same year. However, there weren't enough passengers during the winter for all three ships, and as a result the Bore Star was chartered to Finnlines during the winters of 1975-1976 and 1976-1977. In 1976 Finland SS Co changed its name to Effoa (the Finnish phonetic spelling of FÅA). During the latter part of the 1970s Effoa's old ferries MS Ilmatar and MS Regina made cruises around Baltic Sea, Norwegian fjords and the Atlantic (from Málaga) under the marketing name Silja Cruises.

In the 1979 Svea and Effoa decided again to order new ships for the Helsinki—Stockholm route, which would be the largest ferries of their time. Bore however decided not to participate in building new ships, and in 1980 opted to bow out of passenger traffic altogether (Bore Line still exists as a freight-carrying company today). Their two ships were sold to Effoa and their shares of Silja Line split between the two other companies. In Finland, and later in Sweden, a large maritime strike in spring 1980 stopped ferry traffic completely. This also prompted Effoa to terminate the Silja Cruises service.

Despite the difficulties Silja's first real cruiseferries MS Finlandia and MS Silvia Regina entered traffic in 1981, which led to a 45% raise in passenger numbers. Late in the same year Johnson Line purchased Rederi AB Svea, and the former Svea ships received Johnson Line's blue/yellow colours. The good experiences gained from the new Helsinki ships prompted Effoa and Johnson Line to order two ships built on a similar principle for traffic on the Turku—Stockholm route, which were delivered in 1985 and 1986 as MS Svea and MS Wellamo. Although similar in proportions and interior layout, the new ships sported an attractive streamlined superstructure instead of the box-like superstructure of Finlandia and Silvia Regina.

1987 was a very eventful year for Silja. Effoa had purchased the famous GTS Finnjet the previous year and from the beginning of 1987 the prestigious but unprofitable ‘Queen of the Baltic Sea’ joined Silja Line's fleet. Later in the same year Effoa and Johnson Line jointly purchased Rederi Ab Sally, one of the owners of their rival Viking Line. The other Viking Line partners forced the new owners to sell their share in Viking, but Effoa and Johnson Line still got Vaasanlaivat / Vasabåtarna, Sally Cruises, Sally Ferries UK and Commodore Cruise Line. Although the purchase of Sally had no effect in Silja Line's traffic for the time being, it proved to be important later. Finally 1987 saw the order of new ships for Helsinki - Stockholm route (again), which would be the largest ferries ever built (again), eventually named MS Silja Serenade and MS Silja Symphony. Not revealed at the time, the new ships had a 140-meter promenade-street running along the center of the ship, a feature never seen before in a ship (these days promenades are commonly found on Royal Caribbean International's and Color Line's newer ships).

In late 1989 Wärtsilä Marine, the shipyard building Silja's new cruiseferries, went bankrupt, which led to the ships being delivered later than had been planned. To ensure the delivery of their ferries Effoa and Johnson Line both purchased a part of the new Masa-Yards established to continue shipbuilding in Wärtsilä's former shipyards.

The year 1990 saw the realisation of an old vision: Effoa and Johnson Line merged to form EffJohn. As a result the seal's head logo gravitated into the funnel, replacing the old colours of each individual owner company. In November of the same year the new MS Silja Serenade made it's maiden voayge from Helsinki to Stockholm, approximately seven months after the original planned delivery date. MS Silja Symphony was delivered the following year. Despiste being highly popular and sporting a successful design, the new ships had also been very expensive. Coupled with the depression in the early 90's EffJohn was forced to cut costs, which resulted in Wasa Line and Sally Cruises being merged into Silja Line in 1992. The year also saw Svea and Wellamo being modernised in Silja Karneval and Silja Festival, respectively.

MS Silja Europa, the largest cruiseferry in the world 1993-2001, was built for Viking Line but chartered on delivery to Silja Line by the shipyard.

The year 1993 began with a bang. In January it was reported that Silja Line had chartered MS Europa, a ship under construction for Rederi AB Slite, one of the owners of Viking Line. Due to financial troubles Slite could not pay for their new ship, and the shipyard decided to charter it to Silja instead. Later in the same year Silja joined forced with Euroway on their Malmö—Travemünde—Lübeck route. The route proved to be unprofitable and was terminated in spring 1994.

MS Sally Albatross was grounded outside Helsinki in spring 1994 and suffered major damage, which prompted Silja to give up traffic on her. September 1994 saw the largest peace-time maritime disaster on the Baltic Sea, the sinking of MS Estonia. Silja Europa, Silja Symphony and Finnjet all assisted in searching for survivors from the disaster. Silja Festival was berthed opposite the Estonia in Tallinn the day before the sinking, but she was in Helsinki when Estonia sank and didn't come to assistance. Sinking of the Estonia led to passenger numbers dropping, which did not help Silja's precarious situation. The company was now the largest on the Baltic Sea, having finally overtaken Viking Line in 1993, but financially it wasn't doing too well. In 1995 Effjohn changed their name into Silja Oy Ab. Three years later the name was changed again, this time to Neptun Maritime.

1999 saw two big changes coming for Silja. Tax-free sales ended on routes between EU countries, which forced the Helsinki—Stockholm ships to start calling at Mariehamn in the Åland Islands. Although the Åland Islands joined the EU along with the rest of Finland in 1994, their autonymous status allowed them to stay outside the EU tax union and hence avoid the end of tax-fee sales. Bigger change than this was Sea Containers purchasing the majority of Neptun Maritime's shares. In 2000 the new owners brought one of their Super SeaCats on Helsinki—Tallinn traffic and Neptun Maritime again changed its name, this time to Silja Oyj Abp. In the same year the route between Vaasa and Umeå was terminated as unprofitable.

By 2004 Sea Containers owned Silja Line entirely. The company was doing well financially and all seemed to be going well. Unfortunately Sea Containers' other operations were not as profitable and in late 2005 they announced their intent to give up their ferry division completely, this naturally including selling Silja Line. In preparation for the sale the unprofitable GTS Finnjet and MS Silja Opera were taken out of service and transferred under Sea Co's ownership. Silja Serenade and Symphony were also rebuilt in early 2006 to make them more attractive to the potential buyer.

MS Galaxy was transferred from the fleet of Tallink to that of Silja Line in 2008.

May 2006 saw the sale of Silja Line to the Estonian Tallink. The SuperSeaCats trafficking between Helsinki and Tallinn were not included in the sale as their purchase would have given Tallink a dominant market position on the route, which would have resulted in the competition regulators of Finland and Estonia not approving the sale. As a result Sea Containers (that had barely a year ago announced their intention to give up the ferry business completely) continued operating them under the SuperSeaCat brand. In late 2006 the land organisations of Tallink and Silja Line were reorganised in Finland so that Tallink Finland and Superfast Finland were merged into Oyj Silja Abp, which now took care of all Finnish operations of Tallink/Silja. Shortly afterwards Oyj Silja Abp was renamed into Tallink Silja Oy. Similarly the land organisations in Sweden became Tallink Silja AB.

After the requisition of Silja, Tallink stated that it intended to keep the Silja Line brand separated from Tallink. However, most Silja Line marketing in Finland and Sweden has since the takeover been made under the combined Tallink Silja name.

In July 2008, the Tallink ship MS Galaxy replaced the Silja Festival on the Turku—Mariehamn—Stockholm route. The Galaxy was flagged to Sweden and the text Silja Line was painted on her hull sides. The Tallink logo has remained on her funnel and the Navitrolla-designed livery of the ship, which differs from the livery of other the Silja ships, was unaltered. The Silja Festival was in turn moved to Tallink's Stockholm-Riga, her funnel repainted in Tallink colors and the text Tallink on her sides. Silja Festival remained as her registered name even after the transfer.


Current fleet:

Ship Built Entered service Route Gross tonnage Flag Notes
MS Silja Serenade 1990 1990 —Mariehamn— 58,376 GT Finland  
MS Silja Symphony 1991 1991 —Mariehamn— 58,377 GT Sweden  
MS Silja Europa 1993 1993 Turku—Mariehamn/Långnäs— 59,912 GT Finland Ordered as MS Europa for Rederi AB Slite (Viking Line).
MS Galaxy 2006 2008 Turku—Mariehamn/Långnäs— 48,915 GT Sweden Transferred from Tallink.

Former ships
This list is incomplete

Ship In service Owner/operator Tonnage1 Status as of 2009
SS Silja 1957-1967 Siljavarustamo 1,599 GRT Scrapped in Helsinki, Finland, 1970
SS Warjo 1957-1964 Siljavarustamo 861 GRT Scrapped in Baia, Italy, 1983
MS Skandia 1961-1973 Siljavarustamo    
  1973-1974 Finland Steamship Company 3,593 GRT Sunk in the Atlantic, 1984
MS Nordia 1962-1973 Siljavarustamo    
  1973-1974 Rederi AB Svea 3,631 GRT Scrapped at Eleusis, Greece, 1988
MS Fennia 1966-1970 Siljavarustamo 6,396 GRT  
  1970-1984 Svea Line (Finland) 6,396 GRT  
  1993-2001 EffJohn; Silja Line 10,515 GT Since 2007 laid up in Vaasa as MS C. Express
MS Botnia 1967-1970 Siljavarustamo    
1970-1975 1970-1975 Steamship Company Bore 3,440 GRT Sunk outside Morocco, 2008
SS Bore 1970-1976 Steamship Company Bore 3,492 GRT Since 1987 MS Kristina Regina for Kristina Cruises
MS Ilmatar 1970-1974, 1978-1980 Finland Steamship Company 5,101 GRT; 7,155 GRT Since 1997 MS Palm Beach Princess for Palm Beach Casino Line
SS Birger Jarl 1970-1973 Rederi AB Svea 3,236 GRT  
SS Bore Nord 1974, 1976 Steamship Company Bore 3,236 GRT Since 2002 MS Birger Jarl for Ånedin Linjen
MS Floria 1970-1975 Finland Steamship Company 4,051 GRT Scrapped in India, 2008
MS Aallotar 1972-1977 Finland Steamship Company 7,800 GRT Scrapped in Alang, India, 2004
MS Svea Regina 1972-1978 Rederi AB Svea 8,020 GRT  
MS Regina 1979 Effoa 8,020 GRT Scrapped in Alang, India, 2005
MS Bore I 1973-1980 Steamship Company Bore 8,528 GRT  
MS Skandia 1980-1983 Effoa 8,528 GRT Since 2007 MS Rigel for Ventouris Ferries
MS Svea Corona 1975-1984 Rederi AB Svea; Johnson Line 12,348 GRT Scrapped in Aliaga, Turkey, 1995
MS Wellamo 1975-1981 Effoa 12,348 GRT  
MS Svea Corona 1984-1985 Johnson Line 12,348 GRT Since 2007 MS Jupiter for Royal Group Ltd.
MS Bore Star 1976-1980 Bore Line 12,348 GRT  
MS Silja Star 1980-1986 Effoa 12,348 GRT Since 2001 sailing for Cruise Ferries (a subsidiary of Star Cruises)
MS Wasa Queen 1992-2000 EffJohn 12,348 GRT  
MS Finlandia 1981-1990 Effoa 25,905 GRT Since 2008 laid up at Korsør, Norway as MS Queen of Scandinavia
MS Silvia Regina 1981-1991 Rederi Ab Svea; Johnson Line 25,905 GRT Since 1994 MS Stena Saga for Stena Line
MS Svea 1985-1992 Johnson Line 33,829 GRT  
MS Silja Karneval 1992-1994 EffJohn 34,694 GRT Since 2008 MS Mega Smeralda for Corsica Ferries
MS Wellamo 1986-1992 Effoa; EffJohn 33,829 GRT  
MS Silja Festival 1992-2008 Silja Line 34,414 GRT Since 2008 sailing for Tallink
GTS Finnjet 1987-2006 Effoa; EffJohn 32,490 GRT Scrapped at Alang, India, 2009
MS Silja Star 1990 Effoa 15,566 GRT Sunk in 1994 as MS Estonia
MS Sally Albatross 1992-19941992-1994 EffJohn 25,076 GRT  
MS Silja Opera 2002-2006 Silja Line 25,611 GRT Since 2007 MS Cristal for Louis Cruise Lines
MS Frans Suell 1993-1994 Euroway 35,285 GRT  
MS Silja Scandinavia 1994-1997 EffJohn 35,285 GRT Since 1997 MS Gabriella for Viking Line
MS Stena Invicta 1998 Silja Line 19,763 GRT Since 2000 MS Color Viking for Color Line
HSC SuperSeaCat Four 2000-2006, summers only SeaContainers 4,465 GRT Since 2008 laid up at Remontowa, Poland
HSC SeaCat Denmark 2000 SeaContainers 3,003 GRT Since 2006 HSC Pescara Jet with SNAV
HSC SuperSeaCat Three 2003-2006, summers only SeaContainers 4,465 GRT Since 2008 laid up at Remontowa, Poland
HSC SuperSeaCat One summer 2005 SeaContainers 4,465 GRT Since 2006 HSC Almudaina Dos for Acciona Trasmediterranea

*1 May be specified in gross tonnage (GT) or gross register tons (GRT).

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