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Leadship of New Stena E-Flexer Class Completes Trials in China Ahead of Irish Sea Debut Next Year

30th October 2019
Stena Estrid, the first of three next generation RoPax ferries destined for the Irish Sea, has successfully completed sea trials in China’s Yellow Sea. The newbuild built at the AVIC Weihai Shipyard is pictured during sea trials and is now on schedule to start operating on the Dublin to Holyhead route in early 2020.  Stena Estrid, the first of three next generation RoPax ferries destined for the Irish Sea, has successfully completed sea trials in China’s Yellow Sea. The newbuild built at the AVIC Weihai Shipyard is pictured during sea trials and is now on schedule to start operating on the Dublin to Holyhead route in early 2020. Photo: Stena

Operator Stena Line has announced that the first of its three new E-Flexer class ferries destined for the Irish Sea, Stena Estrid has successfully completed sea trials in China’s Yellow Sea.

Following three days of extensive testing, the new vessel performed excellently across a wide range of stringent test criteria and is now on schedule to start operating on the Dublin to Holyhead route in early 2020 (see float-out as Afloat previously reported)

Stena Estrid is the first of five new Stena Line next generation RoPax vessels that are being constructed at the AVIC Weihai Shipyard in China, three of which will be introduced on the company’s Irish Sea routes from Dublin to Holyhead and Belfast to Liverpool.

Sister ship Stena Edda is due to enter on the Belfast-Liverpool route in spring 2020, with the third vessel Stena Embla expected to be introduced on the same route in early 2021.

Part of a multi-million pound investment in the region, the new Stena Line ships will be amongst the most advanced vessels in operation and larger than today’s standard RoPax vessels (*details below).

The sea trials are designed to ensure that all systems are fully operational and in line with strict specifications outlined by Stena Line, including areas such as engine performance and fuel consumption, navigation and radio equipment, emergency systems, speed tests, manoeuvrability, engine and thruster tests, and safety tests.

“Today the first of our five next generation ferries achieved a very important milestone” said Stena Line’s Paul Grant, Chief Commercial Officer, Irish Sea and North Sea.

“Sea trials are a critical phase in a new ship’s development, as our first opportunity to take a new vessel out to sea, put her through her paces and test that she is up to the high standards required by Stena Line.

“We systematically go through all aspects of the new ship and I am pleased to say that Stena Estrid has successfully completed every trial. We now look forward to the full handover of the vessel by the shipyard and to starting her journey to the Irish Sea,” he added.

Stena Line CEO Niclas Mårtensson said that the introduction of Stena Estrid and her sister ships reflected the company’s commitment to the Irish Sea.

“The Irish Sea is very important to Stena Line’s global business and represents a significant part of our overall revenue,” said Mr Mårtensson.

“We strongly believe that our ferry business on the Irish Sea will continue to grow and it remains a key region for the company, as evidenced by our continued investment and the addition of three new vessels, underscoring Stena Line’s commitment to our Irish Sea operations and our determination to deliver the best possible freight and travel experience to our customers.

“Stena Estrid will bring many benefits to our customers including speedy and efficient loading and 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 great use of panoramic views,” added Niclas.

“This is a very exciting time for our business and I’m proud that as Europe’s largest ferry company, Stena Line continues to shape the industry for the next generation of freight and travel customers,” he concluded.

At 215 metres in length, Stena Estrid and her sister ships for the Irish Sea will be larger than today’s standard RoPax vessels and will provide freight capacity of 3,100 lane meters and the space to carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers and crew.

Next up for Estrid is an official handover ceremony at the shipyard before she sets sail on the long journey from China to the north Wales port of Holyhead.

STENA ESTRID FAST-FACTS

The name Estrid is connected to Stena Line’s Scandinavian heritage. It is an Old Norse eastern-Nordic version of the name Astrid. Estrid is commonly found on old runestones and means ‘divinely beautiful’.

Builder: AVIC Weihai Shipyard Co (Weihai, China)

Type: Ro-Pax ship

Ferry route / homeports: Dublin-Holyhead

Speed: 22 kn / 41 kph / 25 mph

Length (LOA): 215 m / 705 ft

Beam (width): 28 m / 92 ft

Gross Tonnage: 42400 gt

Lane Metres: 3,100

Passengers: 1000

Cars: 120

Freight vehicles: 210

Cabins: 175

Stena Line is the largest ferry operator on the Irish Sea, offering routes between Ireland and Britain including Dublin-Holyhead, Rosslare-Fishguard, Belfast-Cairnryan, and the Belfast to Liverpool and Heysham (freight only) routes. In addition a direct route to mainland Europe, Rosslare-Cherbourg with three return crossings a week.

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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