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Displaying items by tag: HSS Stena Explorer

Irish Sea fast-ferry Stena Lynx III (1996/4,113grt) which has been laid-up in Dun Laoghaire Harbour since last month has been sold to interests in South Korea. Renamed Sunflower 2 and flying the flag of the Far-Eastern nation, she departed yesterday afternoon on a delivery voyage expected to take around twenty-five days, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The Dublin Port pilot cutter Camac was in attendance as the 650 passenger/153 vehicle fast-ferry departed at 16.20hrs. She is re-registered in Busan, South Korea's second largest city, located in the south-east, where she is to operate to the island of Jeju off the country's south-west coast.

Sunflower 2 is to make bunker calls on the repositioning voyage, firstly in Valletta, Malta before she transits the Suez Canal to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Columbo, Sri Lanka. From there she transits the Strait of Malacca then through the South China Sea followed by the East China Sea before finally entering the Strait of Korea to her homeport of Busan.

Since 1999 she has served Stena Line's fast-ferry high-season Rosslare-Fishguard route sailings taking 1 hour 50 minutes in tandem with conventional ferry Stena Europe (1981/24,828grt) which currently maintains the year-round 3 hours 30 minutes route. It is believed that Stena Line will not be operating high-season fast-ferry services in 2012.

Prior to her Dun Laoghaire departure, her South Korean crew have been preparing the craft over the last three weeks. Notably there was the removal of all Stena Line corporate livery markings on the hull. Her new name and port of registry were painted at the stern though she retained her original name at the bow which included both symbols of an Irish shamrock aptly to starboard (green) and the Welsh dragon to port (red) to reflect her Irish Sea southern corridor route.

Stena Lynx III departing Dun Laoghaire last year, note her starboard 'Shamrock' at the bow.

In recent years on the St. Georges Channel route she was marketed as the Stena 'Express'. Her final sailing this year was 4 September and three days later she docked Dun Laoghaire at St. Michaels Pier. On the adjacent berth which is designed specifically for and only capable of accommodating the HSS 1500 class fast-ferries.

Stena Lynx III also ran several shoulder season stints on the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead route with the HSS Stena Explorer (1996/19,638grt) only running during the busier summer months. During this summer all sailings were maintained by HSS Stena Explorer until the route became a seasonal-only service for the first time this year when the last sailing took place in mid-September. The HSS remains in layover for the winter in Holyhead at her dedicated berth. The route is due to re-open in April or May.

The 35 knot Stena Lynx III was launched from fast-ferry catamaran specialists InCAT Pty based in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart. Early in her career the 81m wave-piercing catamaran (WPC) craft served Dover-Calais followed by two seasons between Newhaven-Dieppe when renamed P&O Elite for joint operators P&O Stena Line.

Her predecessors the WPC InCat 74m Stena Sea Lynx, became the first car-carrying catamaran to operate Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead sailings in 1993. The pioneering water-jet propelled craft was replaced in subsequent years by the larger InCAT 78m Stena Lynx II.

She was replaced in 1996 when the revolutionary four gas-turbine engine water-jet propelled HSS Stena Explorer was introduced. A further two sisters of the HSS 1500 class (High-speed Sea Service) were completed by Finnyards in Rauma.

Published in Ferry
At 13.07hrs Stena Line's HSS 1500 fast-craft ferry HSS Stena Explorer pulled away from her berth for the last time this year on the Dun Laoghaire Harbour-Holyhead route, as she headed for the harbour mouth several crew members waved from the stern to shore-based colleagues on the link-span, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Only yesterday, sailings on the daily single-round trip operated route had to be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions on the Irish Sea caused by the tail end of Hurricane Katia. The decision with today's closure was made well in advance and comes as no surprise as the Stena Explorer (1996/19,638grt) "has traded at a financial loss for several years" according to her owners Stena Line. Around 53 staff in Dun Laoghaire will be affected by the decision.

The core reason to withdraw the HSS on the 120-minute route which is not to re-open until the 2012 season, rests with the high operating costs of the fuel-thirsty fast-ferry which is powered by four gas-turbine engines. In addition the route's generated most of its turnover during the period May-September, leaving the remaining months unsustainable, as such the company wants the route to be seasonal-only in the long-term.

HSS_Stena_Explorer

HSS Stena Explorer departs Dun Laoghaire Harbour on her final sailing this season. Photo: Jehan Ashmore

Passengers and freight customers will instead need to use the company's other Dublin Bay route between Dublin Port and Holyhead. The 3 hour 15-minute central corridor route is served by two ro-pax vessels, Stena Adventurer (2004/43,532 grt) and Stena Nordica (2000/24,206 grt) which operate to a year-round schedule, for times click HERE.

What is not certain is the precise date for resumption of Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead services as Stena Line have only indicated that they hope to reopen in April or May nor it is outlined as to what type of fast-craft would operate the route next year.

With today's break in service for at least the next six months, this is the most significant absence of the revolutionary HSS (High Speed Sea Service) 1500 fast-ferry which made her official maiden voyage on the route from Dun Laoghaire on 10th April 1996. The only other notable occasions when the HSS was off-service was for the short spells to allow for annual dry-docking, refit, repairs or when the route in recent years was partially operated by Stena Lynx III.

The 1500 referred to the number of passengers the Stena Explorer could accommodate. She was the first of the three Finish-built HSS 1500 catamaran vehicle capable carrying craft to enter service on three routes from the UK. The next sister completed HSS Stena Discovery entered service in the same year between Harwich-Hook van Holland and the final of the trio HSS Stena Voyager entered the Belfast-Stranraer route in 1997. Several years ago the HSS ceased operating on the Dutch route and the HSS currently serving on the North Channel is due to be replaced by conventional ferries in mid-November as previously reported on Afloat.ie, to read more click HERE.

On the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead service the HSS enjoyed the boom years, and at its peak there were five daily round trips. From 2006 onwards the routes fortunes began to decline due to the ending of duty-free sales, competition from low-cost airlines, and the increasing cost of fuel.

In order to stave off further losses, a series of cost cutting measures were implemented over the next five years. Firstly the sailing frequency was reduced then the passage times were increased to reduce fuel consumption at the expense of faster crossings. In addition the company resorted to withdrawing the Stena Explorer during the shoulder months surrounding the summer and as previously mentioned these sailings were covered by the Stena Lynx III.

When the Stena Explorer returned for the summer months, the Stena Lynx III switched to her normal high-season spell on Rosslare-Fishguard sailings in tandem with regular route vessel Stena Europe. This year she served as usual on the St. Georges Channel route with the last high-season sailing completed on 4 September.

Stena Lynx III remained initially at Fishguard until making a repositioning voyage to Dun Laoghaire via the Kish Lighthouse last Wednesday. She berthed adjacent to the now disused HSS berth link-span on St. Michaels Wharf. The Tasmanian built craft has spent previous winter layover periods in Dublin and last year in Dun Laoghaire whereas the Stena Explorer is expected to do so in her home port of Holyhead.

At the neighbouring Carlisle Pier, the former terminal where numerous steam-packets, 'mailboats' and the conventional Sealink/British Rail car-ferries served (the last being the Stena Adventurer better known as St. Columba built in 1977) there are plans for a national diaspora museum.

The centrepiece landmark building would form as part of the masterplan proposed by the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company as part of a concerted effort to offset the reduced role of ferry operations. The masterplan is also to attract cruiseship business amongst other proposals envisaged.

Published in Ferry
Stena Line are to reduce its HSS fast-ferry between Dun Laoghaire Harbour and Holyhead next month, according to RTE.ie
The decision by the company for pulling the HSS Stena Explorer from service was because of the high operating costs and that "it traded at a financial loss for several years". The central corridor route generated much of its turnover between May and September.

Stena Line said the fast craft service would operate until 13th September and would then be suspended until the 2012 season. Two conventional ferries will continue to operate year-round on the company's neighbouring route between Dublin Port and Holyhead.

Stena said it hoped to start the service again in April or May although no decision has been made on an exact date.

Area Director for Stena Line's business on the Irish Sea Michael McGrath said: "Despite all our attempts to reduce operating costs over the last few years, it has not been possible to return the route to profitability.

"We regret that this decision will have an impact amongst our ship's personnel and our port operations staff in Dun Laoghaire but this is a decision that has to be taken for the benefit of the overall business. We simply cannot continue to sustain these levels of financial losses.

"We will now embark on a period of consultation with our staff and their union representatives to discuss the implications of the proposed changes with them."

Stena says it hope to start the service again in April or May, although no decision has been made on an exact date. It is believed around 53 staff will be affected by the decision.

Published in Ferry
Fast-ferry catamaran Stena Lynx III is to resume offpeak sailings on Wednesday (15 September)
on the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead route, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The 'Lynx' had spent the high-season on St. Georges Channel in tandem with conventional
ferry Stena Europe on the Rosslare-Fishguard route. Prior to then the Lynx craft also served Spring
sailings on the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead service as a replacement vessel of the HSS Stena Explorer.

The reasoning for the change of vessels on the central Irish Sea route during the Spring and
forthcoming Autumn /Winter seasons is a cost-cutting measure on behalf of operators Stena Line.
The larger HSS craft is becoming increasingly more expensive to run using fuel thirsty gas-
turbine engines, compared to the smaller capacity Stena Lynx III, which can be used instead
during the quieter months.

Stena Explorer is to be withdrawn with the last round trip sailing tomorrow (14 September)
departing Holyhead at 10.00hrs and arriving at Dun Laoghaire at noon. Correspondingly the HSS departs
the Irish port at 13.15hrs and returns to the Welsh port two hours later.

On the following day (15 September) the Stena Lynx III will make her first outbound departure
from Holyhead at 10.00hrs arriving Dun Laoghaire at 11.50hrs. After a turn-around period in the Irish port
the Lynx departs at 13.15hrs with an arrival to the Anglesey port at 15.05hrs.

Published in Ports & Shipping
Page 2 of 2

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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