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Nomadic Nordica’s Return for Stena On Irish Sea Relief Duties

5th January 2017
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Stena Nordica berthed at Holyhead in recent years has returned to Irish Sea duties this week to relief the fleet during annual dry dockings over the winter. On the right is a lifeboat from another ropax, Epsilon on charter to Irish Ferries Stena Nordica berthed at Holyhead in recent years has returned to Irish Sea duties this week to relief the fleet during annual dry dockings over the winter. On the right is a lifeboat from another ropax, Epsilon on charter to Irish Ferries Photo: JEHAN ASHMORE

#DryDockings – A former Irish Sea ferry Stena Nordica that served the busy Dublin-Holyhead service has returned albeit deputising as routine ships undergo annual winter dry-docking, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Stena Nordica (2000/24,206grt) as relief ferry for the operator’s Irish Sea fleet is however not currently covering in on the central corridor but is operating on the southern corridor having taken up Rosslare-Fishguard sailings. This allowed the routine Ireland-Wales route ferry, Stena Europe to be drydocked at Harland & Wolff, Belfast having arrived at the facility yesterday.

In order for the change of ferries on the St. Georges Channel service, Stena Nordica departed Dublin Port on Tuesday bound for Rosslare. The ropax, however previously made a far longer repositioning voyage to reach Ireland from Ventspils, Lithuania.

The Stena Nordica had been in the Mediterranean Sea this summer on charter to Italian operator Grandi Navi Veloce (GNV). During the charter only the letters of that company painted in blue appeared across the superstructure and hull of an otherwise all-white livery, except for logo on the funnel.  

The voyage from Latvia, was the first return to the Baltic Sea since Stena Nordica was deployed to serve Stena’s Scandinavian operations around a decade ago. The ropax was transferred on the Dublin-Holyhead route in 2008.  Larger tonnage in the form of Stena Superfast X was introduced in Spring 2015 resulting in replacing the ropax.

By coincidence, both these ferries were chartered by Stena to DFDS Dover-Calais service when the ‘Nordica’ was swapped with the ‘Superfast X’ which took on a new role on the Irish Sea. When serving Straits of Dover they were renamed. She partners Stena Adventurer on the Holyhead which has served since 2003.

Dublin’s Deep Water Quay / Berth No. 47

During the lay-over period in Dublin Port at the Deep Water Quay which began late last month, Stena Nordica had occupied the same berth (no. 47) to where tanker Iver Ability moored alongside. Afloat has covered the “issues” with unloading the ship’s cargo at the port.

The 129m tanker remains at anchorage in Dublin Bay having made a short visit for supplies before returning to the bay the day before Christmas Day with some 13 crew on board.

It is at this berth that Dublin Port use for vessels that have various other issues be it mechanical breakdown for example that are allocated to the southside quay. The quay is also known as the ‘Coal Quay’ but despite the description among the cargoes involved are scrap metal and molasses.

In covering stories for the marine media, a photographic opportunity arose as Stena Nordica shifted berths from Deepwater Water Berth while shortsea dry-bulker Arklow Racer remained alongside.

At that stage the photo published in ‘Ships Pictorial’ (Ships Monthly, February 2010 issue), depicted Stena Nordica having been on layby duties when sailings on Sundays were then reduced. The shifting of berths across the port channel to Dublin ferryport’s Terminal 2 was to facilitate in taking up a freed-up berth and begin loading for an afternoon sailing to Holyhead.

Rosslare’s Ropax Full Circle

Stena Nordica’s current duties out of Rosslare are not new as in fact during her original career as P&O Irish Sea's European Ambassador, the Japanese built ropax had made en route calls to the Wexford Port on an Ireland-France service as further detailed below.

In recent days Irish Ferries ropax Epsilon had sailed from Rosslare to Dublin Port and is currently working to a routine roster to and from Holyhead. Noting Epsilon begins the first sailing in 2017 of the Dublin-Cherbourg route this Saturday. 

During the tenure of P&O Irish Sea which operated a weekend round trip Dublin-Cherbourg service she occasionally called via Rosslare. A photograph of European Ambassador’s debut ‘en-route’ call to Rosslare Harbour in Spring 2004 (see Ships Monthly, July 2004) shows the ropax berthed at the ‘Europort’ before completing the capital continental connection to Cherbourg.

The call was also the first visit of the ropax to the south-eastern port prior to purchase by Stena Line. The new owners placed the renamed Stena Nordica on a Sweden-Poland route.

European Ambassador’s Rosslare calls where to facilitate freight but not motorist-passengers and on related note not one of the ferry’s Irish Sea routes and operators provided carriage for ‘foot’ passengers. Perhaps the only exception been during bad weather resulting in back-log of covering over capacity sailings.

Asides the Ireland-France service during the early noughties, European Ambassador kept to a routine roster on Dublin-Mostyn route in tandem with serves out of Liverpool. The Welsh service was short-lived given reasons among them the silting of the port on the Dee Estuary that borders England.

It should also be noted that upon delivery of European Ambassador, the newbuild firstly entered on the Dublin-Liverpool route. P&O Ferries operate this route using a trio of vessels and also on the North Channel, where a pair of smaller and almost identical sisters of the ‘Ambassador’ serve Larne-Cairnryan.

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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