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Brand New Stena E-Flexer Completes Maiden Delivery Voyage to Belfast Harbour

26th February 2020
Brand new ferry Stena Edda completed a maiden delivery voyage from China having arrived in Belfast Harbour this morning (as seen above) and docked at the VT2 Terminal from where it will operate to Birkenhead (Liverpool). On the left is Stena Lagan, one of a pair of existing tonnage which together will be replaced when a second new sister, Stena Embla debuts. Brand new ferry Stena Edda completed a maiden delivery voyage from China having arrived in Belfast Harbour this morning (as seen above) and docked at the VT2 Terminal from where it will operate to Birkenhead (Liverpool). On the left is Stena Lagan, one of a pair of existing tonnage which together will be replaced when a second new sister, Stena Embla debuts. Photo: Belfast Harbour-facebook

The brand new 'next generation' ropax ferry Stena Edda for the first time arrived into Belfast Harbour this morning following a 10,500 mile delivery voyage from China, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Afloat also tracked the Chinese built Stena Line E-Flexer ropax class yesterday at anchor in Belfast Lough having sailed up the Irish Sea. Following an overnight anchorage the 40,000 gross tonnage ferry made a maiden arrival in Belfast Port this morning having docked at the VT2 terminal for berthing trials.

Stena Edda is understood to enter the Belfast-Birkenhead (Liverpool) route next month and will become amongst the most environmentally sustainable vessels in the Irish Sea. At 215 metres in length, Stena Estrid is larger than today’s standard ropax vessels, with space to carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers, and a freight capacity of 3,100 lane meters. This will be a boost to the route as there is a 50 per cent increase in freight tonnage.

Introduction of Stena Edda will also result in the direct replacement of Stena Lagan. In addition another new sister, Stena Embla is also to debut on the Irish Sea route ultimately leading in the withdrawal of the route's second ship sister, Stena Mersey.

In order to accommodate the E-Flexers, a new double tier berth linkspan has been installed in Belfast Harbour. While in Birkenhead, further adaptive works as Afloat previously reported began at the Twelve Quays River Terminal on Merseyside. The route is the longest on the Irish involving a 8-hour passage time.

Already in service on the Irish Sea is the leadship of the E-Flexer class, Stena Estrid which entered on the Dublin-Holyhead route last month.

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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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