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So Where Did that Stena RoRo Go? Having Called 'Twice' to Dun Laoghaire Harbour

10th June 2018

#FerryNews - Stena Carrier, the ro-ro freight-only ferry that made a notable call to Dun Laoghaire Harbour at the end of April, finally departed the former Stena HSS ferryport last week for further charter work with P&O, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 21,000grt Stena Carrier, easily the largest ever ro-ro ferry ever to enter Dun Laoghaire Harbour had undergone survey work and loading of stores. On completion of works the freight-ferry remained in port though eventually had to vacate the berth at Carlisle Pier, to facilitate the annual Red Bull Flugtag event held almost a month ago. This led to an anchorage spell in Dublin Bay of the Stena ship that at that stage awaited news of charter work, before returning to the harbour.

All this though was to change on 30 May when Stena Carrier finally departed Dun Laoghaire Harbour following the securing of the charter to P&O Ferries, who previously deployed Stena Carrier on their Dublin-Liverpool service until 22 April. This was initially followed by anchoring off Dun Laoghaire before the freight-ferry made a first ever call to the south Dublin Bay harbour which as alluded took place in April. The imposing Stena 4Runner class sister built in 2004 as the last of a quartet in Italy, dominated the harbour's waterfront. 

Further details of Stena Carrier's departure from Dun Laoghaire last week, Afloat reveal as the 182.77m (the longest ro-ro to visit the harbour) was monitored making a late afternoon departure between the pierheads. The ship set a northerly course to round Scotland and continue the voyage bound for Teesport. The English port on the North Sea (relatively close to the Scottish border) is from where Stena Carrier took up charter this month on P&O's Dutch route to Rotterdam (Europoort).

The deployment of Stena Carrier which has 2,715 freight lane metres, led to P&O displacing the 18,000grt Estraden from the route onto their second Teesport service, the link to Zeebrugge. In turn the tonnage significantly boosts capacity on the UK-Belgium connection as Estraden is twice the size of the vessel it replaces, the Mistral. 

Estraden's entry on the Belgium service involves working in tandem with the route's other existing ro-ro the Bore Song. Together, according to Ships Monthly they form the fastest and most conveninent gateway to Scotland for exporters to and from the continent. Noting Afloat's coverage in April of the closure of the only direct Scotland-Belgium ro-ro route by Danish operator DFDS that ran between Rosyth and Zeebrugge.

One of the other Stena 4Runner sisters, Afloat has previously encountered when covering Celtic Link Ferries final Rosslare-Cherbourg round trip crossings in 2014 operated by Celtic Horizon. It was during the outward sailing and when in the English Channel was spotted Stena Forecaster, see report. Then Dutch operator Transfennica introduced the ro-ro ship on a new Spain-UK-Belgium route, however the service no longer operates. 

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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