Image by Vincent Paul Sanchez
The second MV Trans-Asia (the first was the one sold to Cokaliong Shipping Lines where she became the MV Filipinas Tandag and as later the second MV Filipinas Maasin upon renaming) and third MV Asia China (the first was sold to Roble Shipping where she became MV Queen Belinda and MV Hilongos Diamond and the second was sold to White House Shipping where she became the MV New york City) are sister ships bought by Trans-Asia Shipping Lines from Sado Kisen in Japan in 1993 and 1995, where they were known as the the MV Kogane maru and MV Otome Maru, respectively. Though they are the size and have the power of the liners of the 1980’s, they were just fitted to be overnight ferries but their amenities and comfort match the smaller liners of the early 1990’s. They actually have a striking and handsome lounges and first class passageways. To complement that they have luxurious suites and first class cabins equal to those found in the better liners.
These sisters played the role of pillars for Trans-Asia Shipping Lines when great pressure was exerted by the emergence of Cebu Ferries on the first day of 1996. Cebu Ferries was the spin-off of the Great Merger of William Lines, Gothong Shipping and Aboitiz Shipping Lines which created WG&A Philippines. Surplus liners were transferred to Cebu Ferries and some of these were actually still new. These were combined with the old overnight ferries of Gothong Shipping and William Lines to ply the Visayas-Mindanao routes. The best and fastest of these ships were assigned to the prime Cebu-Cagayan de Oro route, the most prestigious of all the routes in the Visayas-Mindanao area. Being former lines, it is hard to match with them in size, amenities, comfort and speed. That was what the second MV Trans-Asia and third MV Asia China battled starting in 1996. Among the best Cebu Ferries ships they competed with were the MV Our Lady of Lipa, the MV Our Lady of Good Voyage and the MV Our Lady of Sacred Heart. That does not include the big and fast MV Princess of the Ocean of Sulpicio Lines and the liners of WG&A that plied the Manila-Cebu-Cagayan de Oro route. Big for an overnight ship, sometimes the sisters ships of Trans-Asia Shipping Lines would look small in dimension but internally, they were not giving up anything on the competition.
MV Trans-Asia (IMO 7212652), the second, and MV Asia China (IMO 7302213), the third, were built by Kanda Shipbuilding in Kure, Japan in 1972 and 1973, respectively. From records, it looks like MV Trans-Asia is the smaller of the two (it is not unusual for ships in a series that the latter will have alterations). MV Trans-Asia dimensions are 94.0m x 17.7m x 4.2m with an original Gross Register Tonnage (GRT) of 3,025 (3,797 Gross Tonnage and 2,734 Net Tonnage as refitted in the Philippines). Meanwhile, MV Asia China dimensions are 100.0m x 17.3m x 4.8m with an original GRT of 3,512 and 3,991GT and 2,704NT as refitted in the country. Both ships have steel hulls, raked stems and transom sterns and are RORO (Roll On-Roll Off) ferries. Both have two masts, four passenger decks and passenger capacities of over 1,100 in four classes (Suite, First Class Cabin, Tourist and Economy). These ships were equipped with four Niigata diesel engines with synchronizers powering two screws. The sister ships have an original top speed of 19 knots which was reduced to 17 knots here due to age and the heavier weight upon refitting. But for an overnight ferry that was still fast (and as fast as some SuperFerries) though not as fast as the Cebu Ferries and Sulpicio competitors in the route. Speed is the second measure of competition aside from amenities and with that one can imagine how tight was the competition in the Cebu-Cagayan de Oro route (in this route arriving early means a lot for passenger still having to do long land connecting trips like those going to Davao City, General Santos City, Tacurong City and Cotabato City).
In the overnight ferry wars provoked with the coming of Cebu Ferries, Trans-Asia Shipping Lines showed fortitude and great will. Though underdogs at the start, they eventually prevailed over the competition. Now, Cebu Ferries is gone and so do Sulpicio Lines (although for a different reason). MV Asia China shouldered on until 2013 and MV Trans-Asia until 2014 although in her last years MV Asia China’s engines became problematic. They were eventually sold to local breakers although there are no shows they are already decrepit (MV Trans-Asia interiors were actually still sparkling). It is the engines that did them in when making 12 knots was already difficult for them. Nevertheless, and more importantly, they bowed unconquered and as victors in the Visayas-Mindanao ferry wars.