Montenegro Shipping Lines Inc. (MSLI) has six basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs, the Maria Angela, Maria Beatriz, Maria Josefa, Marie Kristina, Marie Teresa and Maria Yasmina. There are no equal basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs in the fleet of their legal-fiction company Marina Ferries but it has two ferries, sister ships in fact, that has the dimensions of a basic, short-distance ferry-RORO but do not look like one. People will easily assume they are bigger than basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs and among the fooled was me. Smart design, if there was one. These two are the Reina Veronica and Reina Magdalena. I mentioned Reina Veronica first because I have already boarded her and was able to ask a tour from the Captain. She is also on a more prominent route.
Unlike basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs that have only one ramp at the bow the Reina Veronica and Reina Magdalena have ramps both at the bow and at the stern. Another distinguishing feature of the sister ships is their bridge is not located on the passenger deck level like the basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs but on a deck higher. This gives the sister a higher stance which I think contributed to them looking bigger than they actually are. The presence of a box structure at the bow also contributed to that illusion. The box structure is usually a feature of ferries next higher to them in size, those of the 40- and 50-meter class or even longer. Those box structure protects against rogue waves and lessens the ingress of rain in the car deck. In sunny weather it is also not that hot in the car deck unlike the LCTs.
Reina Veronica and Reina Magdalena were both built in 1984 but Reina Veronica was completed earlier. They were built by Nakamura Shipbuiding & Engine Works in Yanai shipyard, Japan. Reina Veronica has the ID IMO 8408143 and was first known as the White Marlin. Reina Magdalena has the ID IMO 8621771 and was first known as the Blue Marlin.
The sister ships had identical dimensions of 41.0 meters length over-all, 37.6 meters length between perpendiculars, breadth of 9.6 meters and a depth of 3.4 meters. Their depth is a little deeper than most basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs maybe because it was needed to compensate for the higher stance of the sisters. Their dimensional weights are 443 gross tons (their original GRTs are different) with 263 net tons. They have different DWTs however. Reina Veronica has 134 deadweight tons and Reina Magdalena has 117 deadweight tons.
The sister ships also has another difference from the basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs. They have two engines and two funnels and these funnels were the ones which fooled me because you can’t almost find a basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs with two funnels. Originally, the sisters had a pair of Daihatsu marine engines developing a total of 1,800 horsepower which gave them a top speed of 13 knots when new. One can’t find a basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs that has that power on tap and 13 knots in speed.
Reina Veronica and Reina Magdalena both have two masts. Since the bridges are on a deck higher and there is a sun deck that is accessible to passengers thereby adding to the available space for the passengers. Atop the box structure at the front of the ship there is a foredeck accessible from the bridge. All these also contributed to them looking bigger. Both have raked stems and transom sterns. At the stern the scantling of the two ships are not full.
The capacity of the car deck of the sisters is not big. Only two trucks can be loaded across and three the entire length. So if the load is all big trucks they can carry only six and that is the usual for a basic, short-distance ferry RORO.
In 1991 the sister ships were sold to South Korea to Dae Yang Car Ferry. In that company Reina Veronica became known as the Dae Yang Car Ferry No. 1 and Reina Magdalena was the Dae Yang Car Ferry No. 2. In 2009 the sister ships were conducted to the Philippines and they became part of Marina Ferries. Arriving here almost no part of the superstructures of the ships were modified. Anyway Montenegro Shipping Lines Inc. is always loath to do that.
The sister ships have an airconditioned Tourist section section at the front passenger deck and an open-air Economy section to the rear of that which is the typical arrangement for short-distance ferry-ROROs in the Philippines. The accommodations consist of benches. There is also a small canteen or kiosk which has pretty basic offerings and no meals. The total passenger capacity of the sisters is only 189 persons which is rather small and it would be hard to field them in routes which carry a lot of buses. Only Reina Veronica carries buses since she is in the Dumaguete-Dapitan route and she only carries one Ceres Liner bus. Reina Magdalena which is on the Surigao-Dapa (Siargao) route does not carry buses. They have almost permanent route assignments which is not the norm in Montenegro Lines.
The two has a reputation of having weak engines when they arrived here although they were built in the 1980’s (there are a lot of ferries built in the 1970’s that came here that still have strong engines). That might not be too surprising as South Korea has a reputation of not taking care of well of the engines of the ferries they acquired from Japan as they simply sell them to other countries after a few years of use and they have no plans of keeping them for the long term. Reina Veronica was the first to be re-engined and she now has a pair of Weichai engines that develops a total of 1,430 horsepower which was less than her original 1,800 horsepower. However, with such new engines she is back to 13 knots in speed where before she can only do 10 knots. At full trot she can even do better than 13 knots and surprise the ferry ahead of her by nearly drawing level before they reach Dapitan. Of course with new engines she is reliable.
It might not be long before Reina Magdalena is also re-engined but with spares from Reina Veronica she might shoulder on with her old engines for the moment especially since there is no competition in the RORO category in her Siargao route. For the passengers that want a speedier ferry, Montenegro Shipping Lines Inc. has a fastcraft on that route (and her competition has Medium Speed Crafts). So she is relative safe at the moment there while Reina Veronica has to fend off a lot of competition in her Dumaguete-Dapitan route which recently saw the arrival of the paradigm-changing FastCats of Archipelago Ferries that can do 17 knots and which arrived brand-new. In that relatively long short-distance ferry route that means a sailing of just a little over 2.5 hours and that will tell on the 4 hours of the 11-knot ROROs. Reina Veronica does that route in 3.5 hours but the difference is still telling.
Will she leave that route and will Montenegro Lines field a faster ship? Not necessarily because actually Montenegro Lines have few ROROs over 13 knots and the ones that are faster than that are already bigger and their current speeds are not much better than Reina Veronica. Maybe their Maria Oliva or Maria Ursula can do the trick but they are also needed in the Roxas-Caticlan route where Montenegro Lines is also under pressure by better competition that recently just came and that also included FastCats in the Bulalacao-Caticlan route and the new Starlite Ferries on the same route they are plying.
Whatever, Reina Veronica will not be wanting for routes. She is better than a basic, short-distance ferry-RORO especially with her new engines. Meanwhile, the Reina Magdalena is sitting pretty in Surigao.
Photo Credits: Nowell Alcancia, Ian Lasaca, Ramiro Aranda Jr., Mike Baylon, PSSS, Philippine Ship Spotters Society