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Stena Line Remain Tight Lipped on Future of Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead Route and Type of Fast-Ferry

28th November 2014
Stena Line Remain Tight Lipped on Future of Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead Route and Type of Fast-Ferry

#StenaHSSroute? – has recontacted Stena Line if it is to resume Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead summer season service in 2015, given also their 'commercial and operational reasons' for cancelling Christmas sailings on this occasion, writes Jehan Ashmore.

When questioned on the discussions between Stena Line and Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, the ferry firm reiterated that they are currently engaged in on-going discussions with Dun Laoghaire Harbour in relation to the provision of a seasonal fast craft service in 2015.

Since the introduction of HSS fast-craft operations on the Irish Sea in 1996, this is the first time that no sailings will be provided over the festive and early New Year periods. Passengers with bookings or those planning to travel will according to the company "be accommodated on other sailings best suited to their travel requirements". The company operate conventional ferries on the Dublin Port-Holyhead service. also inquired if Stena Line are considering an alternative to replace the 1500 passenger /375 car HSS fast-craft Stena Explorer with their smaller 900 passenger /210 car Stena Carisma or another fastcraft option? The ferry operator did not confirm or deny as the response given was simply the same reply as to the first question posed above.

Earlier this year, Stena Line withdrew the Stena Carisma from the Gothenburg-Frederikshavn route on the Kattegat Sea linking Sweden and Denmark. The 2 hour crossing time by fast-craft on the Scandinavian route is similar to the Irish Sea route which takes an additional 10 minutes.

Should a smaller craft be introduced and not the HSS 900, the issue of port infrastructure would seem less likely to require berth linkspan adaptation. 

Unlike the 19,638 tonnes Stena Explorer built by Finnyards in 1996 and as the first of a trio of High Speed Sea-Service (HSS) 1500 sisters commissioned, the 'Carisma' was the only HSS 900 class craft completed for the Swedish owned ferry giant.

The 8,631 tonnes HSS 900 was built by the Westamarine Byggs yard in Norway. Work did take place on a sister however this ceased having only achieved 30% of construction.

The absence of the HSS Stena Explorer leaves only rivals Irish Ferries currently operating fast-craft services on the central corridor Dublin-Holyhead route served by Jonathan Swift. The 800 passenger/ 200 car Austal built fast-craft is similar to the passenger and vehicle capacity of Stena's Carisma.

As previously reported, Irish Ferries announced they are to boost capacity by bringing ro-pax Isle of Inishmore onto the Dublin-Holyhead route, which in addition to Jonathan Swift is served by flagship Ulysses and ro-pax Epsilon.

The chartered Epsilon also runs a Dublin-Cherbourg service but only by sailing a round-trip at weekends.


Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

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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