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Text by Bruce Peter

KNUD E. HANSEN’s leading ship designer between the mid-1950s and the early-1990s, Tage Wandborg, died last week in the hundredth year of his life. He was undoubtedly the most significant designer of passenger ships – ferry and cruise – of this period.

Born in Snekkersten near Helsingør in 1923, as a teenager, he worked as an apprentice at the Helsingør shipyard, attending the local Technical College, from which he graduated in 1944. Because of the war, there was no work in shipbuilding, so instead he first got a job with Scandia of Randers in Jutland, where he designed railway vehicles. Next, his military service was in the Royal Danish Guard as a Second Lieutenant and, after that, he moved to Stockholm in 1947, where he joined the drawing office of the Finnboda Varv at Nacka. There, he helped to design the Baltic passenger steamer BIRGER JARL for Stockholms Rederi AB Svea. In 1955, he joined KNUD E. HANSEN for which his first projects were the Helsingør-Helsingborg shuttle ferries SUNDBUSS HENRIK and SUNDBUSS PERNILLE of 1958.

In the 1960s, Tage Wandborg either led the design, or was consulted as a stylist, for most of the ferries produced by KNUD E. HANSEN for various Swedish, Norwegian and Danish ferry operators – and also for ones in Morocco, Canada and elsewhere. He drew up the Thoresen ‘Vikings’, one of which still remains in Mediterranean service today. He designed all of the initial ships of Stena Line, including the passenger vessel POSEIDON, the first STENA NORDICA, the first and second STENA DANICA and the STENA GERMANICA and STENA BRITANNICA. All of Tage Wandborg’s designs were notable for their elegant silhouettes and smart interiors and many had his ‘speed whiskers’ symbol on the bow (which Stena continues to use as one of its trademarks).

In the latter-1960s, Tage Wanborg designed the SUNWARD, STARWARD, SKYWARD and FREEPORT, which offered short Caribbean cruises. The latter’s high-density layout showed how a cruise-ferry could be arranged to provide a substantial capacity, but with everybody berthed in en suite cabins. The Yugoslavian-built GOTLAND, VISBY, STENA DANICA (III), STENA JUTLANDICA, STENA SCANDINAVICA and STENA OLYMPICA offered capacity and comfort – but  cost half as much as the latest West German-built ferries.

Tage Wandborg also designed innovative cruise ships, including the SOUTHWARD and SPIRIT of LONDON and also the GOLDEN ODYSSEY. In the late-1970s, he produced an ingenious scheme to convert the trans-Atlantic liner FRANCE into the cruise ship NORWAY and he then devised the futuristic mega-cruise ship PHOENIX WORLD CITY which, although never built, predicted subsequent industry trends. The final realised project in which he was centrally involved was the CROWN ODYSSEY, today Fred. Olsen’s BALMORAL.

Tage Wandborg was a tall, charming, determined, elegant and authoritative gentleman who was greatly admired and respected in the shipping industry. Every project in which was involved bore his distinctive style signature. He made an outstanding and enduring contribution to the global reputation of KNUD E. HANSEN. Our thoughts are with his widow, Ingrid, and his family at this sad time.

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