Townsend Thoresen

Townsend Thoresen

Townsend Thoresen was a ferry operator based in the United Kingdom formed by the merger of Townsend Brothers Ferries with Thoresen Car Ferries in 1968. It was renamed P&O European Ferries in 1987.

Pre merger companies

Townsend Brothers Ferries

Townsend Brothers Ferries was set up in 1928 to transport cars between Dover and Calais. Their first purpose-built roll-on/roll-off passenger and vehicle ferry entered service in 1962. She was named " [ Free Enterprise] ", celebrating Townsend's private-sector status, in competition with the government-run services of British Railways and SNCF on the Dover-Calais route.

Subsequent vessels entered service in 1965 (" [ Free Enterprise II] ") and 1966 (" [ Free Enterprise III] "). With their increased fleet size Townsend began a service from Dover to Zeebrugge from 1966.

Thoresen Car Ferries

Thoresen Car Ferries began operation in 1964, with routes from Southampton to Cherbourg and Le Havre. The company was set up by the Norwegian Otto Thoresen, and the names of their original vessels "Viking I" and "Viking II", and the subsequent "Viking III" and "Viking IV", reflected the company's Scandinavian origins.

Townsend Thoresen

The two companies merged in 1968, forming Townsend Thoresen. In turn, Townsend Thoresen Car Ferry Company was a part of the European Ferries Group (EFG).EFG's primary concern was in passenger shipping, however they owned considerable amounts of land in the USA and the Spanish Resort La Manga at the time of the P&O Purchase.The EFG company naming would be continued into the takeover by P&O in 1986, when the name TT was dropped in favour of P&O European Ferries, post Herald of Free Enterprise disaster.

Acquisition of Atlantic Steam Navigation Company

In 1974 Townsend Thoresen acquired Atlantic Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. which traded under the name Transport Ferry Service. Atlantic Steam operated a North Sea service out of Felixstowe and a service to Northern Ireland from Cairnryan. After their acquisition their ships carried Townsend Thoresen livery. Their ships' names carried the suffix "ferry", as in "Europic Ferry", "Doric Ferry", "Baltic Ferry" and "Nordic Ferry".


The company's routes were concentrated in four areas:

;Strait of Dover (former Townsend routes)
* Dover - Calais
* Dover - Boulogne-sur-Mer
* Dover - Zeebrugge

;western English Channel (former Thoresen routes)
* Southampton - Le Havre (until mid-1980s)
* Southampton - Cherbourg (until mid-1980s)
* Portsmouth - Le Havre (after mid-1980s)
* Portsmouth - Cherbourg (after mid-1980s)

;southern North Sea
* Felixstowe - Zeebrugge (passenger)
* Felixstowe - Rotterdam (Europort) (freight)

;Irish Sea
* Cairnryan - Larne


Former Thoresen vessels

Townsend Thoresen also ordered two new vessels which entered service in 1987 as the "Pride of Dover" and "Pride of Calais"; these arrived after the P&O takeover.


In 1985 and 1986 four ships were rebuilt in a jumboisation project in order to increase their capacity. The 'Free Enterprise VI' and the 'Free Enterprise VII' were the ships of the Dover - Zeebrugge route which were rebuilt. The 'Viking Venturer' and the 'Viking Valiant' were the ships of the Portsmouth - Le Havre route which were rebuilt.

The design of these new ships endured many negative reactions. Many people thought the aesthetics of the ships was lackingFact|date=December 2007 however, their extra capacity provided additional revenue.


Townsend Thoresen had several different liveries during the history of the company. Former vessels from Townsend Brothers Ferries remained in their original livery, a greenish blue with white combination, while former vessels from Thoresen Car Ferries remained in their original brownish orange with white livery. From 1974 to 1976 the company used a greenish blue in combination with white for almost its entire fleet. The brownish orange livery was introduced in 1976 for the entire fleet and is probably the most recognized livery.


* The "Free Enterprise 1" was used in the 1969 original version of The Italian Job (around 40' into the film)
* In 1982, the Townsend Thoresen vessels Europic Ferry, Nordic Ferry and Baltic Ferry were requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence to assist with the Falklands Campaign.

Acquired by P&O

The company was acquired by P&O in 1986. Following the sinking of the "Herald of Free Enterprise" outside Zeebrugge in 1987, which saw the Townsend Thoresen logo broadcast around the world on the side of the capsized ship, the name of the company was changed to P&O European Ferries later that year.

External links

* [ Townsend Thoresen images]
* [ Detailed fleet list (In Swedish)]

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