The new route to Loch Ryan Port, Cairnryan includes a new £80m ferryport terminal which will be served by the 30,000 gross tonnes sisters, the largest ever ferries on the North Channel. Stena Superfast VIII is currently in the Skagerrak off northern Denmark and follows her sister Stena Superfast VII which arrived over the weekend, having also undergone refurbishment at the Romentowa shipyard.
The relocation of Scottish terminal from Stranraer to Loch Ryan Port is seven miles closer to the open sea and sailing times are to be reduced to 2hrs and 15minutes. The new terminal is to be officially opened on 25th November when First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness will join Dan Sten Olsson, Chairman of Stena Line.
As for the 15,229 gross tonnes Stena Navigator, she made her Stranraer-Belfast sailing yesterday, after de-storing at the VT4 ferry terminal, only completed in 2008, she proceeded to berth at Albert Quay, the location of the former city-centre ferry terminal.
In the interim period to the opening of the new Belfast-Cairnryan route, the sailing schedule on the Belfast-Stranraer service are been maintained by another conventional ferry, Stena Caledonia and fast sailings by the HSS Stena Voyager.
HSS Stena Voyager is expected to lay-up at VT4 after making final sailings to and from Stranraer this Sunday. It is expected Stena Caledonia will also be withdrawn that day and berth at Albert Quay. In the process she will pass Harland & Wolf shipyard, where she was launched in 1981 as the St. David, the last of the quartet of Saint-class ferries commissioend for Sealink/British Rail.
The career of Stena Navigator on the North Channel was short as she only entered service two years ago. She was built in 1984 as Champs Elysees first served for SNCF/Sealink's jointly run Dover-Calais route, followed by a brief spell under Stena Line as Stena Parisien on Newhaven-Dieppe sailings.
She returned to the Straits of Dover route but this time as SeaFrance Manet under the control of SeaFrance. In 2008 SeaFrance introduced SeaFrance Moliere, the former Superfast X, ironically another sister of Stena Line's 'Superfast' ships. This Superfast vessel along with two custom built newbuilds entered SeaFrance service in recent years which led to the eventual replacement of SeaFrance Renoir and her half sister SeaFrance Manet.