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Stena Purchase Former Irish Sea Ferry

8th February 2011
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Stena Purchase Former Irish Sea Ferry

The Dublin Seaways, one of the two ro-pax sisters that served DFDS Seaways Dublin-Birkenhead route, which closed down last month, has been sold to Stena Line, writes Jehan Ashmore.

DFDS Seaways sold the 21,856grt vessel to Stena North Sea Line for €24m. Stena operate the Killingholme-Hoek van Holland and Harwich-Rotterdam routes though it remains uncertain as to where the 1997 built vessel will be allocated to or possibly chartered.

Only last month, Stena entered into an agreement that offers their freight customers to use DFDS Harwich-Esbjerg and Immingham-Esbjerg routes. In essence Stena buys freight capacity from DFDS vessels through a so called 'space-charter' arrangement. Stena will be marketing the routes under their own brand.

In the meantime the Dublin Seaways is temporary running on DFDS Seaways Rosyth-Zeebrugge route in a freight-only capacity. The Scottish-Belgium route ended taking passengers in mid-December. The North Sea route remains the only ro-ro freight service operating between Scotland and to the continental Europe.

The second ro-pax that served on the Irish Sea route, Liverpool Seaways made a final call to Dublin port on 31 January (click here for picture and related story) prior to sailing for Immingham. She subsequently sailed on a repositioning voyage to the Baltic Sea, initially to take up service on the Kiel-Klaipeda route though the vessel is due to switch to the Karlshamn-Klaipeda route from 21 February.

Liverpool Seaways will be reflagged to the Lithuania flag and will replace the existing route ro-pax vessel, Lisco Optima which transfers to the Kiel route. Incidentally the Lisco Optima (1999 / 25,206grt) like the former Irish Sea sisters was also built at the Visentini shipyard in Donada, Italy.

DFDS Seaways exit of the Irish Sea ferry market also included the closure of the freight-only Dublin-Heysham route served by the 13,704grt Anglia Seaways. It was expected that the vessel would be transferred also to the Baltic, but the vessel remains berthed in Avonmouth Docks.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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