Ponte Ferries’ catamaran HSC ARTEMIS arrived yesterday Monday 19th June at Algeciras, Spain after she was sold to the Spanish company FRS Iberia after winning the bid from two interests. Other one was from Greek interests.
HSC ARTEMIS was acquired from Fred Olsen, a leading ferry operator in Spain that specializes in inter-island routes aboard high-speed vessels. as BONANZA EXPRESS in late 2020. On Sunday 12th December she was floated out with her new colours of Ponte Ferries emerging as HSC ARTEMIS homeported in Valletta, Malta (MLT) from ASTICAN ( Astilleros Canarios S.A.) as per images by my friend Nicolas Arocha –
On Thursday 17th December she left the Spanish port of Morro Del Jable at Canary Islands, Spain bound to Valletta, Malta of which she entered on Monday 21st December at 0949 hrs though she arrived in our territorial waters by 0722 hrs.
Ponte Ferries was a joint venture between Magro Brothers Investments Ltd and Merill Invest Ltd, owned by entrepreneurs brothers Michael and Julian Zammit Tabona, and businessmen Mario Muscat and Fabio Muscat.
She was built in 1999 by Incat as Hull 051 and renamed BONANZA EXPRESS a 96 metre wave piercing catamaran with 717 passenger capacity; 170 cars and a speed of 38 knots. She’s 95.47 metres long with 26.60 metres beam with maximum draught of 4.03 metres.
Upon her arrival, she berthed at Pinto 3 Wharf, close to Pinto 4 part of Valletta Cruise Port with duty pilot Joe Brincat and drone filming from a rib with 2 souls.
Ponte Ferries, which acquired the 600 passenger high speed craft catamaran HSC ARTEMIS to challenge Virtu Ferries started operations only last year. But the company suffered port arrests, technical trouble, sudden crew resignations and gross timetable delays, stern curtain, crossing to Augusta , Sicily with 1 engine and/or vice versa, trip cancellations etc.
She was damaged during Storm Helios last February 2023 while she was berthed at Wine Wharf, part of Valletta Cruise Port – Her mooring ropes snapped and damage was done at her aft.
The company was also hit with several court-issued arrest warrants over hundreds of thousands of euros it owed various service providers, with last one settled on Monday 12th June, 2023.
Then on Wednesday 14th June FRS Iberia issued a press statement that they acquired HSC ARTEMIS to strengthen its operations in the Strait of Gibraltar and was renamed PONIENTE JET.
In the morning of Thursday 15th June a funny VHF call was heard – Radio Officer to VTS asking permission to waterpaint (NBAJJAD !!!) the ship side…..VERY PROFESSIONAL…
Passenger capacity is of 640 with 180 CEU’s and up to 330 lane meters. She was homeported at Limassol (CYP) therefore the Maltese National Flag as the courtesy flag had to be flown on her since she was no longer a Maltese vessel.
According to FRS Iberia this acquisition reinforces the commitment to providing high quality services to its customers, thus consolidating its presence in the region. The company will announce further details regarding the schedule in the coming weeks. FRS Iberia continues to prioritize excellence in its operations, and the addition of the high speed craft PONIENTE JET HSC demonstrates its commitment to providing better maritime travel experiences in the Strait of Gibraltar.
And at the end of Week 24 for this year she left breakwaters for the last time.