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The recent introduction of Stena Estrid, the brand new ferry on Stena Line's Dublin-Holyhead led to the direct replacement of a ferry that from today will temporary serve on the operator's Ireland-France route, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Stena Superfast X with notable colourful interiors, had sailed on the Irish Sea route since making a debut in early 2015. The then newcomer joined Stena Adventurer (which remains in service) is to sail tonight on the Rosslare-Cherbourg route. This will be the first 'Superfast' series ferry to serve on the route and will enable Stena Horizon to go-off service to undergo a scheduled annual maintenance dry-docking in what is a quiet time of the year.

According to the operator's freight website, Stena Superfast is scheduled to maintain the Ireland-France service till early next month, with a final sailing arriving in Rosslare on 3rd February, a Monday. On such days a routine 'lay-over' period of the ferry takes place and consequently no sailings return on those days to France.

The covering of crossings carried out by the 'Superfast' also easily represents the largest Stena ship ever to serve on the continental route. The overnight service had been acquired by the Swedish ferry giant from Irish based Celtic Link Ferries (see final voyage) as Afloat reported in 2014.

Returning to Stena Superfast X, which since its departure from Irish Sea duties was soon actively deployed onto the operators's Belfast-Cairnryan route where sisters Stena Superfast VII/VIII took it in turns for scheduled inspections at Harland & Wolff's Belfast Dry Dock.

The pair recently returned to the North Channel service linking the North and Scotland, however Stena Superfast X did remain in Belfast Harbour until yesterday following a drydocking too at the BDD facility. Albeit unlike fleetmate sisters, the call to the dry-dock was brief. 

A repositioning voyage from Belfast was today tracked by Afloat which saw Stena Superfast arrive this morning to Rosslare Europort. Also Stena Horizon completed a final inward bound crossing from France prior to the forthcoming drydocking at A&P Falmouth, Cornwall. In addition this evening saw Stena Europe (see life-extending refit) arrive from the Welsh port of Fishguard.

The trio of ferries at time of writing remain berthed in Rosslare before the expected arrival later this evening of rival operator, Irish Ferries whose Isle of Inishmore competes also on the Welsh run but using Pembroke Dock. This ferry is due to arrive this evening at 18.46.

As for the Stena Superfast's inaugural sailing later tonight, this is scheduled for a departure from the Wexford ferryport at 21.30. An arrival in Normandy tomorrow afternoon is set for 16.00.

As for the future of the ferry, Afloat has noted that the ship is listed available for charter as part of the Stena RoRo fleet, this consists of 3 RoRo's and 9 Ropax vessels. 

Published in Ferry

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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