The Hankyu Ferries in the Philippines

The Philippines, in decades past, was the destination, after sales, of two pairs of Hankyu Ferries. The four were actually sisters ships but it was not obvious at the start. What was apparent was each pair were sister ships as each pair arrived at the same time in the Philippines and they looked the same and were of the same size. Each pair arrived after several years apart and the main reason was because they were also built several years apart in Japan.

The first pair to come here were the Ferry Harima and the Ferry Seto. They came into the fleet of Sulpicio Lines in 1988 where they were known as the Cotabato Princess and the Nasipit Princess. The second pair to come were the Hankyu No.24 and Hankyu No.32. They were added to the fleet of Negros Navigation where they were known as the St. Joseph The Worker and the St. Peter The Apostle, respectively. They arrived in the Philippines in 1995. The pair was the biggest in the Negros Navigation fleet when they came.

Hankyu Ferry is a Japan shipping company that is still extant and operating until now. They are a shipping company based in Kitakyushu, Japan in the northern tip of the southernmost main island of Kyushu astride some main shipping lines.

Each pair in the set of pairs were born in Japan in the same year. Ferry Harima and Ferry Seto were both built in 1970 by the Hayashikane Shipbuilding & Engineering Company in their Shimonoseki yard. Hankyu No.24 and Hankyu No.32 were built by the Kanda Shipbuilding Company in their Kure yard in 1975.

In superstructure, the two sets have plenty of similarities if one looks closely. Both had bow ramps and stern ramps. The height was also about the same. However, in the stern, the latter pair was fuller up to the transom (the stern end of the ship). Probably this was the reason why the latter pair had original gross tonnages of 6,939 for St. Joseph The Worker and 6,950 for St. Peter The Apostle whereas Cotabato Princess had an original gross tonnage of only 6,521 and Nasipit Princess had 6,523.

All four had very prominent raked bows especially when the ships were riding high in shallower waters. As refitted here, all four had three passenger decks. All had two masts and two side funnels. Where Cotabato Princess and Nasipit Princess were 149.1 meters in length over-all, St. Joseph The Worker and St. Peter The Apostle both had 151.5 meters in LOA. In breadth all had 22.8 meters. Amazingly, in depth all the four had 7.3 meters!

In the engines, all four were equipped with Mitsubishi-MAN diesels. Cotabato Princess and Nasipit Princess only had 15,200 horsepower total each (the same as the Mitsubishi-MAN diesels of SuperFerry 2 and SuperFerry 5 which were also sister ships that went to the same company too). Meanwhile, St. Joseph The Worker and St. Peter The Apostle both had 20,000hp Mitsubishi-MANs. The older pair can do 20.5 knots tops when new and the pair that went to Negros Navigation had a slightly higher top speed of 21 knots when new.

Nasipit Princess was the second-biggest liner of Sulpicio Lines when she arrived in 1988 as she had a bigger gross tonnage here as refitted at 8,209 while Cotabato Princess only had 7,977. In refitting here, scantling and decks were added to St. Joseph The Worker and St. Peter The Apostle but “miraculously” their gross tonnages shrank courtesy of the MARINA “magic meter” (which is the “3M” of the Philippines). The first had a GT of 6,093 and the second had a GT of 6,090. So on paper, the sisters ships of Sulpicio Lines were “bigger” than the sister ships of Negros Navigation. And to think the Sulpicio pair had only two-and-a-half passenger decks to the three of the Negros Navigation pair. Though the Negros Navigation pair was really bigger, it was the Sulpicio Lines pair that had bigger passenger capacities.

In sailing, Nasipit Princess was mainly used in the overnight Cebu-Nasipit route. Funnily, when she was fielded there in 1988, she was much bigger than the liners coming from Manila to that port. The reason for this was the weak condition of her engines and sometimes she can’t even sail. So among the four she was the first to reach the breakers in 2005.

Cotabato Princess, though she was “equal” biggest in the Sulpicio fleet sailed the Manila-Estancia-Iloilo-Zamboanga-Cotabato route. Since both Negros Navigation sister ships also called in Iloilo, they sometimes might have seen each other there.

As the best ships of Negros Navigation in the middle of the 1990’s, the sister ships were made to run at 19-20 knots since their competition had liners that sail at 20 knots. Cotabato Princess had a more leisurely pace but at the Estancia-Manila leg she sailed at 18 knots.

Except for the Nasipit Princess I would say all four liners were successes. Though the Nasipit Princess had shortcomings in reliability, the passengers of Nasipit Princess liked her big interiors, the many amenities and the good passenger service which were notches above an ordinary Visayas-Mindanao overnight ferry. St. Joseph The Worker and St. Peter The Apostle, meanwhile, survived the many culling of ships in the Negros Navigation fleet when the company experienced financial distress and illiquidity. They survived even up to the creation of 2GO.

Cotabato Princess was next to be sent to the breakers and not really by will. In 2008, she stopped sailing when the passenger fleet of Sulpicio Lines was suspended in the aftermath of the sinking of the Princess of the Stars, which raised a public outcry. In 2010, she was sold to a Cebu breaker even though she was still perfectly capable of sailing.

St. Joseph The Worker and St. Peter The Apostle reached the end of their lives in 2014 when one after the other 2GO culled them from their fleet. Both were broken up in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Now, the twin pairs are just memories.