ON THE WATERFRONT: What became of the red-hulled Danish ferries?
Many Wearsiders will recall the sight of the distinctive red-hulled Danish ferries with white superstructure laid-up doubled-bank alongside North Sands shipyard during the 1980s.
These ships were products of an ill-fated North East Shipbuilders Ltd contract to build 24 ships (later cut back to 14) which foreshadowed the closure of the Wear’s last two surviving shipyards at Pallion and Southwick.
Readers may be interested to learn that most of these ro-ro passenger and car ferries are still in service.
Instead of a conventional engine room, four fixed-bladed thruster units were installed - two at either end.
All of the ships’ names began Superflex, being suffixed with NATO phonetic alphabet words Alfa (sic) to November. At 95 metres long, the Southwick ships were of 4,296 gross tons, while those built at Pallion were 4,101.
This week, we look at what became of these vessels and where they are today.
Superflex Alfa was first to enter the water, being floated out from Pallion yard on May 14, 1987. After leaving the Wear, she entered service on the Nyborg to Korsør run for Molarco Shipping of Denmark. After several name changes, including those of Difko Nyborg, Prokopios and Prokopios Fragkos, she now serves Malta with the Gozo Channel Line as Nikolaos and flies to Greek flag.
Superflex Bravo was launched from Southwick yard on August 10, 1987, also sailing between Nyborg and Korsør. After a name change to Svea Scarlett, she took her present name Mercandia VIII in 1996 and has been recently operating on the Helsingør - Helsingborg route between Sweden and Denmark for Swedish company ForSea.
Superflex Charlie, floated out from Pallion on October 10, 1987, was also engaged on the Nyborg - Korsør route, her name being changed to Difko Korsor in 1990.
Further renamings to Troll and Viire predated another change to Besparmak in 2010.
She presently operates as such between Cyprus and Turkey for Filo Denizcilik.
Superflex Delta was launched from Southwick yard on November 1, 1987, initially sailing with Molarco Shipping between Nyborg and Korsør. Renamed Difko Storebaelt in 1990, she became Gitte B with Easy Line in 1999, afterwards being renamed Gitte 3 under Storebaelt ownership. She was broken up by Fornaes Aps of Grenaa, Denmark in 2010.
Superflex Echo was floated from Pallion on November 27, 1987 and was also operated by Molarco Shipping of Denmark. She was renamed Difko Fyn in 1995, being transferred to the ownership of Transbordadores del Caribe, Mexico in 2003.
She was broken up for scrap in Cuba in 2016 under the name of Superflex Trader.