Once a common sight in European harbors, the slow-moving vessels are now a dying breed, but the Unterelbe—one of the oldest cargo vessels in the Finnish merchant fleet—recently received honorable status.
Not only has Finnish National Museum included the ship on its historic vessels register, but the World Ship Trust has also added it to its list of preserved vessels.
Built near Hamburg, Germany, in 1939, when it was named the Danzig, the craft was immediately conscripted before being used for trading in German rivers and around the North Sea and Baltic coasts. Then, in 1988, it was sold to a Finnish buyer and traded solely along the Finnish coast.
For the last three years, however, the vessel has been undergoing a major restoration at its home port of Borgå in Finland. The work was designed to turn the Unterelbe into a permanent home, summer season cargo trader and regular participant in maritime events in the Baltic Sea area.
As part of the restoration, a complete coatings specification was provided by Akzo Nobel’s International Paint business in Finland, which included the painting of all the underwater hull, topsides, decks, bulwarks and masts.
During the lengthy lay-up, the ship’s accommodation area was meticulously rebuilt in teak, mahogany and brass. Even a sauna was fitted. Not something the original builders accounted for, but essential for the modern-day Finnish sailor!
Now regarded as a fitting tribute to the once large fleet of motor coasters and the age-old coastal shipping tradition, the Unterelbe is ship-shape once more and is ready to sail through the next 65 years.
(Released: March 17, 2004)