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Plans to Remove HSS Ferry Linkspan As Cruise Berth Consultation Is Underway

7th April 2015
Plans to Remove HSS Ferry Linkspan As Cruise Berth Consultation Is Underway

#FerrytoCruisePlans – With increasingly mixed reaction on Dun Laoghaire Harbour's plans for a proposed new €18m cruise berth facility, what will happen to the existing albeit redundant Stena HSS fast-ferry linkspan berth, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Afloat.ie has inquired with Stena Line to confirm the status of the unique ro-ro port infrastructure on St. Michaels Wharf. The ro-ro linkspan berth was exclusively designed to serve the High Speed Seaservice (HSS) car-carrying and freight craft catamaran, Stena Explorer. She made her debut on the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead route in April 1996.

It is now almost seven months ago since the route to Holyhead closed with the final sailing departing Dun Laoghaire Harbour on 9 September. Stena say as part of their agreement with Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, they will have to remove the linkspan and that they are making plans to do so with the assistance of Stena Metall and Stena Teknik.

The end of the Ireland-Wales route, came as no surprise as there was widespread speculation in recent years over the service's ability to be viable. It was in February when Stena announced the permanent closure of the route and that there would be no service in 2015.

This led to Stena pulling out of Dun Laoghaire Harbour and concentrate instead out of neighbouring Dublin Port on the existing route to Holyhead and launch of Stena Superfast X alongside Stena Adventurer.

When the HSS Stena Explorer entered service almost two decades ago, the Dun Laoghaire linkspan was custom built for the fast-ferry. Incidently, she was the first HSS launched and would become the last of the trio of HSS 1500 series to remain serving Stena Line. 

When berthing at the linkspan, the HSS Stena Explorer did not require mooring ropes alongside St. Michaels Wharf, but instead satellite technology guided the 19,638 tonnes fast-ferry to the linkspan. Shore-based arms would clamp at the craft-stern upon arrival and released for the departing sailing on the 52-nautical mile crossing to Anglesey.

An Irish Sea serving sister, HSS Stena Voyager which served Belfast-Stranrear (since closed) had on occasions appeared on the central corridor route to cover for 'Explorer's dry-docking. As for the third sister, HSS Stena Discovery, she served on the southern North Sea on the Harwich-Hook van Holland route.

Currently, a public consultation process on the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company's cruise-berth proposal is underway with an expiry date for submissions / observations next Monday 13 April (for further details click HERE).

The consultation is in advance of an expected planning application by DLHC on behalf of the Dun Laoghaire Cruise Stakeholder Group to An Board Pleanala.

If the plan goes ahead the cruise facility would incorporate use of the former Stena ferry terminal on St. Michaels Wharf which was built in the 60's and originally featured a pair of ro-ro ferry berths.

The former Stena terminal as previously reported would also be transformed as the ferry vehicle marshalling area would be turned into coach, taxi and mini-bus parking use. 

In addition the project would involve constructing a new boardwalk overlooking the adjoining 820-boat marina.

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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