Fred. Olsen Lines
As you might not know, Fred Olsen Lines is one of the oldest shipping companies in the world. The company was formed by the Norwegian shipowner Frederik Christian Olsen in 1848, so its history spans a time of more than 150 years. The first ships of the company were wooden schooners of no more than 50 tons, and a lot of accidents occured within the early years of the operations. Frederik had owned 22 ships in his life before he died in 1875, of whom 10 were lost. Frederiks brother Petter joined the company in 1852 and a thirth brother, Andreas, joined in 1860. These two brothers brought in several sailingvessels. But it was Thomas Frederik Olsen, the son of Petter, who really establised the company in Norway. His father gave him the management of two of his ships and slowly more ships were added to the fleet of this second Fred. Olsen in the years that followed. It was also this Fred. who ordered the first steamship Bayard for the company. After this ship, almost every newbuild had its name beginning with the letter B and the theme of the naming was Scandinavian heritage. They were a little late by starting with steam, the year was 1896. Just after this move, the companies headoffices were moved from the town of Hvisten to Christianna in 1899. Christianna is now of course known as Oslo, the Norwegian capital. Here, Fred. really established himself as a shipowner, where even a street was named after him and still is, Fred. Olsens Gate.
The involvement in passenger shipping started in 1901 when the Faerder Steamship Company was taken over. The ships of this company carried some 100 passengers each. But these ships still were small and the first bigger passengership was added to the fleet in 1926 and this ship was named Brabant. Her tonnage was 2335 and she could carry a considerable amount of cargo besides 100 passengers. The slum of the 1930's hit hard on the company and also Fred. died in 1933. But the company survived and in 1951 started sailing the ferryservice between Oslo and Newcastle with a ship named Blenheim. The second ferry for this route folowed two years later and was named Braemar.
In 1966, the company added two innovative ships, that were used both as ferry between London and the Canary Islands, but were advertized as cruiseships. Those were the sisters Black Prince and Black Watch. These ships were becoming very succesfull over the years, introducing the company to cruising. In 1986, Black Watch was sold and Black Prince totally rebuilt for cruising, being the first ship for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, the company we know today. Instead of growing very rapidly, the company expanded in a very slow pace, adding ships to the fleet every few years. Instead of building new tonnage, the company concentrated on buying older but still well-maintained ships and rebuilt them to their own specifications. As the customer that is attracted to the company expects, the ships offer a very informal, quiet style, sailing mostly European cruises.
After 2009, the company offers sailings on four ships, when the Black Prince had been sold to Venezuela. Next to the Braemar and Balmoral, the company also sails with two of the three original Royal Viking Line ships, a new Black Watch and Boudicca. These oldies, they are rated among the oldest large passengerliners in service nowadays, are kept up-to-date and are likely to stay in service for their new owner for several more years to come.