The Farah II was a 2866 GRT Roll-On/Roll-Off (RO/RO) passenger ferry built at Aalborg Skipsværft A / S, Aalborg, Denmark Yard, No. 140, as the Prinsessan Margaretha for Swedish Rederi Ab Göteborg-Frederikshavn Linjen (The Sessan Line). Ordered in August 1961, the keel was laid on 09 April 1962. The ship was launched on 19 October 1963 and completed 22 March 1963 with a length of 91.3 meters, beam of 15.55 or 17.7 meters, and draught of 4.2 meters. Propulsion was provided by twin 6-cylinder Nohad-Polar Type M-66-T diesel engines for a speed of 16-18 knots.
The ship could carry up to 1034 passengers, 140 automobiles and 10 trucks. There were also 76 guest cabins available.
Oy Vaasa – Umeå Ab took possession of the ship on 18 December 1968, after which the Prinsessan Margaretha continued service on the Gothenburg-Frederikshavn route under charter to Rederi Ab Göteborg-Frederikshavn Linjen.
Service continued on this route until December 1969 when the ship entered a shipyard located in Rauma, Finland for overhaul. The following month, on 15 January 1970, the ship was renamed the Polar Express. After completion of the ship’s overhaul, she was placed in service on the Vaasa-Umeå, Sweden route for the first three weeks of May 1970. On 22 May 1970, the Polar Express was transferred to the Vaasa-Sundsvall, Sweden route where she remained until 01 March 1971 when the ship was once again chartered to Rederi Ab Göteborg-Frederikshavn Linjen and returned to the Gothenburg-Frederikshavn route until 25 March 1973.
On 05 May of the following year, the Polar Express resumed ferry service on these two routes until 31 August 1972 when service to Pori, Finland was discontinued.
In 1982, the Polar Express is sold to Oy Jakob Lines Ltd, Pietarsaari, Finland, for 6 million Finnish Marks and is placed on the Peitersaari-Skellefteå service route until being sold again in 1984 to the Gulf Star Shipping Co., WLL, Kuwait City, Kuwait where she was renamed the AL Faris 3.
On 06 March 1986, the ship was pierside at the port of Nuweiba, Egypt with passengers and crew onboard when a fire broke out in the crew accommodation area. Fire fighting efforts were unable to contain the fire which then spread to the upper accommodation areas and pilothouse. The passengers and crew evacuated the burning ship. The ship continued to burn out of control for the next few days. As a result of fire fighting accumulating in the bilge areas, the ship took on a pronounced starboard list. A decision was made on 08 or 09 March to tow the ship out of the harbour away from other vessels in port. Once outside of the harbor, with the Farah II still in flames, the ship drifted south towards the Myserique area and finally sank on 09 March 1986 at approximtae position 28.56N/34.39E in 80-110 meters of water.
Miramar Single Ship Reports for 5413044
http://www.vasabatarna.se/polarexp/polar_express.htm (Many more good ship photos here)
http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/Sessan.html#anchor61839 (Postcard photos of the ship)
“Modern Shipping Disasters”, Hooke, N. (1989), Lloyds of London Press, London. Lloyd’s Casualty Database