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First of Next Generation Stena E-Flexers ‘Floats’ in China

17th January 2019
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Leadship: Stena Estrid launched in China yesterday is to enter Dublin-Holyhead route in early 2020, as the first of three new E-Flexer vessels bound for the Irish Sea by 2021.  Leadship: Stena Estrid launched in China yesterday is to enter Dublin-Holyhead route in early 2020, as the first of three new E-Flexer vessels bound for the Irish Sea by 2021. Photo: Stena

#ferries - It was an important milestone for ferry operator, Stena Line as its major new fleet investment programme involved the ‘launching’ ceremony of the first of its next generation RoPax vessels that took place in China yesterday, 16th January.

The first new vessel will be named Stena Estrid which took to the water for the first time at the Avic Weihai Shipyard. The newbuild is scheduled to enter service on the Dublin to Holyhead route in early 2020 and represents the first of three new E-Flexer vessels bound for Irish Sea routes by 2021.

Stena Line CEO Niclas Mårtensson said: “Today the first of our new generation vessels achieved a very important milestone for Stena Line. The Stena Estrid successfully completed her ‘float out’ manoeuvre from dry dock at the Avic Shipyard and now enters a busy phase of works ahead of her Irish Sea launch early next year.”

All three vessels that are being built for the Irish Sea will be larger than today’s standard RoPax vessels at 215 meters long with a freight capacity of 3,100 lane meters and the space to carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers. This represents a significant multi-million investment by Stena Line and underscores its commitment to its Irish Sea operations and its determination to deliver the best possible freight and travel experience. Stena Line has a strong belief that Irish Sea ferry transportation will continue to grow and it remains a key strategic business region for the company.

“Stena Estrid will bring many benefits to ferry users including speedy and efficient loading/unloading operations plus further development of our Scandinavian inspired facilities including our restful and bespoke Hygge Lounge and the latest upgrade of our premium product, the Stena Plus concept. The new ships will be spacious, light and make use of panoramic views. This is a very exciting time for our business and I’m proud that as Europe’s largest ferry company, Stena Line continues help shape the industry for the next generation of freight and leisure customers,” concluded Niclas Martensson.

In addition to the three Irish Sea bound E-Flexer vessels, Stena Line has also ordered a further two E-Flexer RoPax vessels with a larger design, to be deployed within Stena Line’s network in 2022. These larger ships will be 240 meters long with a total freight capacity of 3,600 lane meters, and passenger capacity of 1,200. Stena Lines sister company Stena RoRo is managing all the E-Flexer building projects that are ongoing on Avic Weihai Shipyard.

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Jehan Ashmore

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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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