It all started...
Ferry Gomera launched its ferry service in the island of La Gomera on 8 July 1974. The first vessel was christened Benchijigua in honour of a small village in the south of the island. The choice of its name also followed a tradition long-established by Fred. Olsen, by which all ships in the fleet should bear a name beginning with the letter B.
100 thousand passengers, a whole milestone
It is precisely this regular ferry route that has enabled La Gomera to become the island so popular today. Long-gone are the days when this destination remained sadly cut off from the rest of the world. In the early days, the Benchijigua offered three daily crossings in each direction, each one lasting 80 minutes and catered for 399 foot passengers and 60 cars. In just six months, more than 100,000 passengers travelled on board, many of them making use of an added bonus, the free coach service connecting the port of Los Cristianos with the capital city of Tenerife, Santa Cruz.
Without a doubt, these events marked the history of La Gomera and the first ferry Benchijigua accomplished its mission, soon becoming an essential part of day-to-day life for the people of the island. For example, it can even be said that this service saved more than one life; on various occasions the ferry set sail with just one ambulance and a patient on board, the journey often making the difference between life and death. The showcases of the Fred. Olsen company are replete with plaques and medals, awarded by the people of La Gomera as a token of their gratitude, not only for the excellent service offered, but also in recognition of the wealth of humanitarian acts carried out over the years.
More travelers, faster
Five years after the founding of this route, the Ferry Benchijigua was replaced by a larger, faster ship, the ferry Bonanza, already part of the Fred. Olsen fleet, but withdrawn from European traffic. The local people, unconditional fans and even friends of the company, received this second Benchijigua with open arms.
A gold in tourism
From an early date, Ferry Gomera also played an important part in promoting tourism to the island. The day trips offered from the island of Tenerife gave rise to a realm of secondary activities, ranging from the production of handicrafts and souvenirs, to the increase in restaurants, gift shops and car hire offices, and even taxi services.
From this point onwards, important European tour operators began to take an interest in this new destination. In 1984 the company celebrated its tenth anniversary. On this unforgettable occasion, in front of a large crowd gathered in the local harbour, Fred. Olsen received the honour of seeing both the avenues leading to the ports of San Sebastián and Los Cristianos rechristened with his name. Later, in 1988, the Regional Council for Tourism awarded the company a gold medal, the most important recognition in the tourist industry, "for its outstanding role in promoting tourism in the island of La Gomera and for creating this essential link with the island of Tenerife".
In September 1989, Ferry Gomera set up a new service between Los Cristianos y San Sebastián, this time introducing a vessel widely recognised as "fast and comfortable", the SES Sant' Agata, later known as the Gomera Express. In December of that year, on completion of the fleet, this vessel was returned to its original owners. The crossing with this ferry lasted just 35 minutes.
29 rounds around the world
One year later, on celebrating its 16th anniversary, Ferry Gomera had reached a grand total of 29,095 crossings, clocking up no less than 625,542 miles, some 1,163,800 kilometres or the equivalent of 29 trips around the world on the equator. Up to that point, the company had transported more than 504,000 cars, 130,000 trucks, 44,300 vans, 43,869 buses, totalling an overall weight of more than 1,085,000 tons. As well as the 890 patients who had been transferred urgently to the island of Tenerife on the regular ferry service, twenty additional emergency crossings had been made to transport patients in a critical condition. All this had consumed a massive 565,750 tons of fuel.
A record trip!
In August 1991, after 17 years of existence, Ferry Gomera beat its own transportation records, by adding to its totals just over 85,000 foot passengers and 10,000 cars, as well as some 35,000 foot passengers and 4,500 cars on the route between Playa Blanca and Corralejo, re-established two years before by means of the Ferry Betancuria. This meant an increase of almost 10,000 passengers over the figures reached the previous year. In 1994, during the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the launching of the connection between La Gomera and Los Cristianos, Fred. Olsen and the Canarian Postal Service signed an agreement to set up the first mobile post office on board the Ferry Benchijigua, as a symbol of the decades of collaboration between the two companies.
A close and special relationship!
On 23 June 1994, as part of its goal to remain at the head of the market in sea links to La Gomera and in order to improve its service, at the same time keeping fares as low as possible, the company added a fourth return journey at midday. This voyage opened up many opportunities to its users to combine their trip with connections to other islands and meant an increase in the company's offer of passenger and freight transport of 33%.
On 27 January 2000, in line with the company's policy towards modernisation, the Benchijigua Express sailed into the port of La Gomera. This impressive fast, wave-piercing catamaran was specially built in Australia and took 21 days to make the 23,000 kilometers crossing which separates that huge country from the tiny round island. With this vessel, as a gift to the people of La Gomera for their loyalty over 25 years, Fred.Olsen fulfilled his promise to bring to the island a vessel considered as "one of the most modern in the world in its class".
The best of the best
At the present day, Fred.Olsen's commitment with the island of La Gomera remains intact. Following the 30th anniversary of the company in the island, a new Benchijigua Express was introduced, this time a trimaran, the most modern type of vessel in the world. This spectacular ship boasts an overall length of 126 metres and carries more than 1,200 foot passengers and 340 cars. The use of this Fast Ferry represents yet another step forward in the services previously offered by the other Benchijigua Ferries, and provides La Gomera with an unbeatable vessel.
Fred Olsen Express operates La Gomera inland route again!
The company invests once again in the Columbian island, connecting Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago, and San Sebastián de La Gomera three times a day, and it has achieved that by building the Benchi Express in Barcelona, a comfortable passenger catamaran, and by creating a new business model, designed exclusively to make the quality and success of this route sustainable long-term, and without subsidies.
This 250-passenger ship, which can also transport bicycles and low-powered motorcycles, made its first trip during the summer of 2017, so that La Gomera’s residents and visitors have the opportunity to connect the busiest spots on board a Fred Olsen Express ship.