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Newest Ferry For Irish Sea Stena Service On Delivery Voyage from Shipyard in China to Wales

29th November 2019
Newbuild leadship of Stena's E-Flexer class, Stena Estrid departs the AVIC Weihai Shipyard, Shandong in China, bound for its new home on the Irish Sea between Ireland and Britain. Manned by a much-reduced crew of 27, with no passengers on board, the ship will undertake a delivery voyage of well over 10,000 miles, taking just over one month and making a number of stops on the way, before finally arriving in Wales from where it will start service in January on the Holyhead to Dublin route. Also above AFLOAT adds is Brittany Ferries chartered-in E-Flexer tonnage (top-left) for UK-Spain service and a pair of Stena E-Flexers. Newbuild leadship of Stena's E-Flexer class, Stena Estrid departs the AVIC Weihai Shipyard, Shandong in China, bound for its new home on the Irish Sea between Ireland and Britain. Manned by a much-reduced crew of 27, with no passengers on board, the ship will undertake a delivery voyage of well over 10,000 miles, taking just over one month and making a number of stops on the way, before finally arriving in Wales from where it will start service in January on the Holyhead to Dublin route. Also above AFLOAT adds is Brittany Ferries chartered-in E-Flexer tonnage (top-left) for UK-Spain service and a pair of Stena E-Flexers. Photo: Stena

The newest ferry bound for Irish Sea service, Stena Estrid has departed the AVIC Weihai Shipyard in north-western China and is making its delivery voyage to Wales from where it is to operate on the Holyhead-Dublin route.

Stena Estrid is the first of five next generation Stena Line 'E-Flexer' RoPax vessels to be completed in the Asian shipyard and from where Afloat adds the newbuild departed a week ago. 

According to the ferry company, Stena Estrid is manned by a much-reduced crew of 27, with no passengers on board the voyage which will travel well over 10,000 miles, taking just over one month and making a number of stops on the way.

The first stage of the voyage is a week-long 2,657 nautical miles trip across the South China and then East China Sea to Singapore (Afloat adds, where today the ship is anchored offshore) having travelling at an economical speed of 17 knots. This is unique to Estrid and sister ships, where they can achieve by running on just one of its 12,600kW main engines, thus minimising fuel consumption.

Having refuelled and stocked up on fresh provisions, Estrid will then proceed at a speed of 15 knots through the Malacca Straits to Galle in Sri Lanka, before crossing the Indian Ocean and making its way to the Suez Canal.

Once through the Suez Canal, the ship will head west across the Mediterranean Sea, continuing at 15 knots until it reaches Gibraltar where it will stop for more fuel and provisions. In addition and most importantly from there it will welcome onboard more crew members who will undertake familiarisation and training during the final leg of Stena Estrid’s journey. This will involve a passage through the Atlantic Ocean, across the Bay of Biscay and finally to the Welsh port of Holyhead, where, all being well, it is expected to arrive just before or after Christmas.

Once in Holyhead, final preparations will begin to get Estrid ready to start service on the route in mid-January.

Speaking from the ship’s bridge, shortly after departure, Senior Master Matthew Lynch said: “After six years of planning and construction, we are so excited to be finally on board Stena Estrid and departing China on our way home to Britain.

“At this precise moment, we’ve only travelled approximately 70 miles but it was an interesting start to our journey as we passed a fleet of over 100 Chinese fishing vessels! We obviously have a very long way to go but we’re really looking forward to it and to meeting with our colleagues in Gibraltar, before embarking the final leg of our journey to Holyhead,” he added.

At 215 metres in length, Stena Estrid will provide freight capacity of 3,100 lane meters, meaning a 50 per cent increase in freight tonnage, and the space to carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers and crew.

A further two of the new ferries are also destined for the Irish Sea with Stena Edda and Stena Embla. Afloat adds in the above photo includes Brittany Ferries chartered E-Flexer tonnage for UK-Spain service is seen in the background berthed on the left.

Stena Edda is expected to enter Belfast-Birkenhead (Liverpool) service next spring, leaving the third sister, Stena Embla to be introduced on the same route in early 2021. The introduction of the pair will increase freight capacity on this Irish Sea route by 20 per cent.

Published in Ferry
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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