The production of the first of the two huge ferries ordered by P& O Ferries started on the 3rd of March 2009 by cutting its first steel plate on STX Europe's yard in Rauma, Finland.

The roro-passenger ferries to carry freight and cars are scheduled for delivery in 2010 and 2011 for entering into Dover-Calais service.

Becoming the largest ferry in the English Channel means a 49,000 GT vessel with the length of 210 metres and having 2,700 lane metres of vehicle space.

There will be space for more than 180 freight vehicles and additionally for up to 195 tourist vehicles. The vessel will be capable of carrying up to 1,750 passengers.

The vessels will be the first passenger ferries in the world to comply with the new International Maritime Organisation "Safe Return to Port" requirements ahead of the international compliance date.

These rules require that, in the event of a ship becoming a casualty, basic services are provided to all persons on board and that certain systems remain operational for safe return to port. Performance standards are stipulated for a wide range of ship systems including fire-fighting, power supply, propulsion, steering and navigation. The requirements come into force for vessels built after 1 July 2010.

The ships will have the Lloyd's Register class notation of PSMR (Propulsion and Steering Machinery Redundancy) which will be assigned where the main propulsion and steering systems are configured to ensure that, in the event of equipment failure, the ship retains availability of propulsion power and manoeuvring capability to provide a safe return to port.

The ferries will also be as environmentally friendly as possible, offering significant advances in fuel efficiency through a hydro-dynamically efficient hull form that will optimise vessel performance with minimum fuel consumption.

As the leading ferry builder in the world, STX Europe has for years set new standards in vessel design, size, and comfort, both in the ferry transportation market. Twelve of the 20 largest ferries in the world have been built by STX Europe.