Companies that are supposed to be arch competitors share and pass ships around as if they were all one big happy family.
Commencing with DFDS/Stena relations: looking good in her Stena livery after refurbishment in Gdansk, and with her DFDS Dieppe Seaways 30,551,’02 name duly painted out, Stena Superfast X arrived in March to great fanfare in Dublin.
There she has displaced Stena Nordica 24,206,’00 so increasing the capacity and quality of the Stena vessels on this route which is strategic both for the company and for Ireland. She has capacity for up to 1,200 passengers as well as almost 1900 lane ms for vehicles. I am not sure yet whether the crossing will be any quicker, ferry companies these days being exercised by fuel economy rather than cutting minutes off the crossing time, but the ship has a reserve of power giving her 28 knots to catch up the schedule should there be delays. Her arrival should settle the tonnage on this route for several years to come. It also goes some way to recovering prestige after the decision made in February to withdraw the loss making HSS Stena Explorer and leave Dun Laoghaire.
This brings Stena’s ‘Superfast’ fleet to three, Superfast VII and VIII running Cairnryan-Belfast. On these routes I feel the Superfast vessels have really come into their own, with sea distances long enough for their size and speed to be an asset, but with rather easier and less congested crossings and terminal ports than, say, the Dieppe Seaways experienced between Dover and Calais.
If it has taken time for the Superfasts to settle on a suitable route, the same can be said of Stena Nordica which has performed on so many, but usually for only a brief period. Of course, she started in P&O livery as European Ambassador and first proved an ill fit on the Liverpool-Dublin service. Next she was a pioneer to test the Mostyn-Dublin link which failed and then she seemed to have no real role for P&O. She passed to Stena who seemed to use her as a stop-gap, spare ship, in the Baltic and on all the Irish routes. However, I believe she has looked far better under Stena’s colours than her former rather drab P&O ones, making her appear lighter and smaller than she is.
She is now on DFDS charter for 18 months so I wonder whether she will prove herself there; or will she soon be moving on again? Ironically, she will be competing against P&O for whom she was built, though for their Irish Sea division. In retrospect, I wonder why the P&O group could not have made better use of her. As I write, Stena Nordica is working in competition against her near sisters, P&O’s European Highlander and European Causeway on the North Channel out of Cairnryan, to Belfast and Larne respectively, but she must soon be heading for the South Coast. She has undertaken more positioning voyages than most ferries I can think of. Anyway, I look forward to seeing how she appears in DFDS Seaways livery.