The MV St. Leo The Great

The MV St. Leo The Great of

  • The MV St. Leo The Great of 2GO Travel shipping company was the MV SuperFerry 21 of Aboitiz Transport System (ATS) when she arrived in the Philippines in 2010. She was renamed when she passed on to 2GO Travel in 2012 when Negros Navigation Company (NENACO) and cohorts acquired Aboitiz Transport System. MV SuperFerry 21 arrived here just after MV SuperFerry 20 which was a sister ship. Both came from Kansai Kisen Kaisha, a big, respected and old Japan shipping company. Over a higher bid of a South Korean concern, the two were awarded to ATS because they respected this company’s care and ability to properly maintain their ships. The two sister ships were purchased for a reported $8 million only.

The MV St. Leo The Great was known as the MV Sun Flower Nishiki in Japan. She was built by Kanasashi Shipbuiding (Kanasashi Heavy Industries) in Toyohashi shipyard in 1992 (now Toyohashi Shipbuilding Company). Her keel was laid on May 13, 1992. She was launched in September 6, 1992 and completed in December 15, 1992. As built, she measured 150.9 meters in length over-all (LOA), with a breadth of 25.0 meters. The over-all volume of the ship expressed in gross tonnage (GT) is 9,611. Her carrying capacity expressed in deadweight tons (DWT) is 3,520 tons. She is powered by two Hitachi-Sulzer marine diesel engines (Sulzer engines built under license by Hitachi) developing 25,200 horsepower and her top speed was 22 knots.

The ship was issued the permanent ID IMO 9042764. Her other identification for AIS (Automatic Identification System) purposes is MMSI 548398100. She has a single mast, a single funnel, two passenger decks, a bulbous stem and a transom stern. Equipped with visor ramp at the bow and two quarter-stern ramps and two car decks she is hence a RORO (Roll-on, Roll-off) ship of about 180 TEU capacity. As built, her passenger accommodations in two decks are all-airconditioned. On the bridge deck are the accommodations for the crew, the radio room and airconditioning equipment.

When she came to the Philippines, she was first brought to the Keppel Batangas shipyard for refitting and modification. Since she came in the era when passenger patronage of liners was already ebbing there was not an attempt to increase her passenger capacity by much. Hence, her superstructure was no longer changed but cabins and bunks were erected to make her a multi-day liner. The cafeteria stayed pretty much the same along with the staircase. Although this ship has plenty of viewing deck space in the top deck, inside there was really not much room and amenities when compared to our great liners in the past. Having only two decks for the passengers contributes pretty much to that (the great liners of the past had up to four passenger decks). Her passenger capacity as modified here is only 859 persons which is just about a third of the great Philippine liners of the previous decades.

Here, amazingly, her gross tonnage climbed to 19,468 but her net tonnage (NT) is only 5,840 and that is a violation of the IMO rule that the NT should be automatically 1/3 of the GT, at least. With such GT, she rightfully belonged to the book “The Great Passenger Ships of the World” by Raoul Fiebig, Frank Heine and Frank Lose released just this year (2016). She is one of the few Philippine liners in that book, the photo of which was contributed by Philippine Ship Spotters Society (PSSS). Her DWT, meanwhile, remained the same. However, her rated speed now is down to 20 knots which is still fast by local standards. She is a very reliable ship. And she still has all-airconditioned accommodations.

Boarding the ship, one first comes across the upper wagon deck and a stair leads to the lower passenger deck. Here, a grand staircase connects the two passenger decks and opposite that is the front desk, the office of the Hotel Manager and a convenience store. In the lower passenger deck the restaurant cum cafeteria dominates. Aside from meals included in the ticket, the passengers have an option to have separate meals and they can order extra. The restaurant is open almost 24 hours and various kinds of foods and refreshments can be ordered. The restaurant also serves as the lounge of the ship.

Since the ship is all-airconditioned, the lowest class in the ship is the MegaValue which corresponds to airconditioned Economy. These are mostly concentrated in the middle portion behind the restaurant and in some parts of the sides and rear of the lower passenger deck. There is of course the usual Tourist class and this is mainly located at the sides of the first passenger deck with some in the upper passenger deck. The higher classes of this ship are located in the upper passenger deck. These consists of Cabin for 4, State Room for 2 and Suite Room for 2. Suite is the highest class but State Room is not far behind in comfort and size. In those two accommodations one has to pay for the entire room.

At the bridge level is the viewing deck for all the passengers. The forward half of that is off limits to the passengers and that is the reason why one can’t have a peek of the bridge. They also shoo all passengers from that area when the night gets deep. Lacking facilities for sitting, it is hard to stay long there or when the sun is already hot. Because of that, I still prefer the traditional viewing deck at the side of the ship but that is not available in MV St. Leo The Great. In St. Leo The Great, it is easy to get bored if one is not a sleeper because there is not much area for passengers to roam and amenities are lacking compared to the great liners of the past decades.

Originally, as MV SuperFerry 21 she was assigned the Manila-Zamboanga-General Santos-Davao route together with the MV SuperFerry 20. However, in about a year Aboitiz Transport System abandoned their Southern Mindanao liner routes. She was then assigned the Nasipit route of the company via Tagbilaran. Even when she became the MV St. Leo The Great of 2GO Travel her often route is still Nasipit but the intermediate port changes. Right now, her intermediate port is Cebu and that will probably stay for a long time since 2GO realized there is not much passengers and cargo in Tagbilaran now.

Aside from MV SuperFerry 20/St. Gregory The Great which is now gone (she grounded taking a shortcut and is now broken up), she also has two sister ships in the 2GO fleet, the MV St. Michael The Archangel and the MV St. Francis Xavier (this should not be confused with the earlier MV St. Francis of Assisi of Negros Navigation). However, those two ships were not built by Kanasashi Shipbuilding but by Shin Kurushima Dockyard (yes, sister ships can be built by different shipbuilders in different yards).

Having come from the great Kansai Kisen Kaisha of Japan and Aboitiz Transport System, MV St. Leo The Great still has great engines and a strong hull. With sufficient care, this ship is capable of sailing for many more years, knock on wood.

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