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Stena Explorer Makes Final Journey on Irish Sea & Heads for Turkey

28th October 2015

Stena Line's HSS vessel, the Stena Explorer, which operated on the Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire route between 1996 - 2014, is about to make her last journey on the Irish Sea as she makes her way to new owners and based in Turkey.

The Stena Explorer was first introduced in the middle of the '90s when the vessel and her sister vessels Stena Voyager and Stena Discovery were unique in their class. Since her first sailing almost 20 years ago in April 1996, the first HSS to take up service, the Stena Explorer has carried over 15 million passengers, 3 million cars and over half a million freight units on almost 29, 000 sailings between Britain and Ireland. The ship’s last commercial journey for Stena Line on the Irish Sea was in September 2014.

When commissioned by Stena Line, the HSS series of three ships, including the Stena Explorer, helped to revolutionise the look of the ferry industry. With its top speed of 40 knots and high quality onboard travel experience for 1,500 passengers and car capacity of over 600 vehicles, the ferry became an instant hit with customers. The Stena Voyager and her two sister vessels were designed by another company in the Stena Sphere Group, Stena Teknik and at the time were one of the most revolutionary designed and constructed ships in the world.

Ian Davies, Stena Line’s Route Manager (Irish Sea South) said: "Whilst the HSS class was a unique and highly innovative development for Stena Line at the time, the market has evolved significantly since her introduction in the mid 1990’s and today’s business model requires a more balanced mix of freight and car traffic all year round.

“That’s why earlier this year we introduced Stena Superfast X onto the route and consolidated our operation from Dun Laoghaire to Dublin. Stena Superfast X can accommodate 1 200 passenger and crucially provides over 2 km of vehicle lane capacity which allows us to achieve the ideal mix of freight and car traffic all year round.”

Captain Andrew Humphreys, Stena Line’s Safety Manager for the UK had the honour of bringing the vessel into Holyhead on Feb 6th, 1996 and can recall the event vividly. Captain Humphreys said: “I can remember everything about that special day. Holyhead, a port used to virtually every shape and size of vessel had never seen anything like it.

“The Stena Explorer was the most beautiful and innovative looking vessel we had ever seen and to have the opportunity to Captain this superb vessel was an honour that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I’m delighted she has found a new lease of life working in Turkey.”

Ian Davies concluded: “It is an emotional day for all of us at Stena Line who have worked on the vessel and the route in support of the Stena Explorer over the last number of years. We are delighted to see that she will continue her working career in another part of the world and would like to take this opportunity to wish her new owners every success with what is a very special vessel.”

The current schedule, weather permitting, is for the Stena Explorer to leave Holyhead tomorrow escorted by tugs on her journey to Turkey.

Published in Ferry
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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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