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Farewell as Stena Line’s ‘Lynx’ Fast-Ferry Sets Sail for South Korea

22nd October 2011
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Farewell as Stena Line’s ‘Lynx’ Fast-Ferry Sets Sail for South Korea
Irish Sea fast-ferry Stena Lynx III (1996/4,113grt) which has been laid-up in Dun Laoghaire Harbour since last month has been sold to interests in South Korea. Renamed Sunflower 2 and flying the flag of the Far-Eastern nation, she departed yesterday afternoon on a delivery voyage expected to take around twenty-five days, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The Dublin Port pilot cutter Camac was in attendance as the 650 passenger/153 vehicle fast-ferry departed at 16.20hrs. She is re-registered in Busan, South Korea's second largest city, located in the south-east, where she is to operate to the island of Jeju off the country's south-west coast.

Sunflower 2 is to make bunker calls on the repositioning voyage, firstly in Valletta, Malta before she transits the Suez Canal to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Columbo, Sri Lanka. From there she transits the Strait of Malacca then through the South China Sea followed by the East China Sea before finally entering the Strait of Korea to her homeport of Busan.

Since 1999 she has served Stena Line's fast-ferry high-season Rosslare-Fishguard route sailings taking 1 hour 50 minutes in tandem with conventional ferry Stena Europe (1981/24,828grt) which currently maintains the year-round 3 hours 30 minutes route. It is believed that Stena Line will not be operating high-season fast-ferry services in 2012.

Prior to her Dun Laoghaire departure, her South Korean crew have been preparing the craft over the last three weeks. Notably there was the removal of all Stena Line corporate livery markings on the hull. Her new name and port of registry were painted at the stern though she retained her original name at the bow which included both symbols of an Irish shamrock aptly to starboard (green) and the Welsh dragon to port (red) to reflect her Irish Sea southern corridor route.

Stena Lynx III departing Dun Laoghaire last year, note her starboard 'Shamrock' at the bow.

In recent years on the St. Georges Channel route she was marketed as the Stena 'Express'. Her final sailing this year was 4 September and three days later she docked Dun Laoghaire at St. Michaels Pier. On the adjacent berth which is designed specifically for and only capable of accommodating the HSS 1500 class fast-ferries.

Stena Lynx III also ran several shoulder season stints on the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead route with the HSS Stena Explorer (1996/19,638grt) only running during the busier summer months. During this summer all sailings were maintained by HSS Stena Explorer until the route became a seasonal-only service for the first time this year when the last sailing took place in mid-September. The HSS remains in layover for the winter in Holyhead at her dedicated berth. The route is due to re-open in April or May.

The 35 knot Stena Lynx III was launched from fast-ferry catamaran specialists InCAT Pty based in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart. Early in her career the 81m wave-piercing catamaran (WPC) craft served Dover-Calais followed by two seasons between Newhaven-Dieppe when renamed P&O Elite for joint operators P&O Stena Line.

Her predecessors the WPC InCat 74m Stena Sea Lynx, became the first car-carrying catamaran to operate Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead sailings in 1993. The pioneering water-jet propelled craft was replaced in subsequent years by the larger InCAT 78m Stena Lynx II.

She was replaced in 1996 when the revolutionary four gas-turbine engine water-jet propelled HSS Stena Explorer was introduced. A further two sisters of the HSS 1500 class (High-speed Sea Service) were completed by Finnyards in Rauma.

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. 

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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