Stena Line has confirmed that the first of its new RoPax ferries currently under construction in China is planned to enter service on its Dublin - Holyhead route early 2020.
Last year Stena (Stena Line’s parent company) announced a new build contract for a new generation of RoPax ferry vessels, Stena E-Flexer, with planned deliveries during 2020 and 2021. Stena has ordered the construction of six new vessels from the AVIC Shipyard in China and the plan is to locate three of these ships on Stena Line’s Irish Sea routes. The other three will be chartered out to external parties by Stena Line’s sister company Stena RoRo.
Compared with when I left Ireland for Australia in 1999, it really is quite staggering to look at a ferry route map of the Irish Sea today. By cross-pollinating those traditional southern, central and northern corridors, ferry companies can literally deliver their cargoes and passengers to pretty much anywhere they need to land.
Development has been breathtaking and having weathered the perfect storm that was the GFC and collapse of Ireland’s economy traffic levels are maintaining steady increases. The expansion and upgrade of services reignited in recent years continues apace with the June confi rmation by Stena Line that three of the six E-Flexer RoPax vessels ordered with AVIC Shipyard in China will enter service on the Irish Sea.
The first of its new ferries is planned to enter service on the Holyhead to Dublin route early 2020. Hardly surprising, the news follows Irish Ferries’ January announcement of a new €165.2m 1,800 passenger, 5,610 lane metres RoPax ship for Holyhead to join the Ulysses which in turn will replace the chartered Epsilon in 2020. In September, Irish Ferries will introduce their new cruise ferry W.B. Yeats into service on its Dublin to Holyhead/Cherbourg routes.
The Stena Superfast X will be replaced at Holyhead by the new ship, resulting in a 22 percent increase in Stena Line’s freight capacity. The new ship will provide capacity for 1,000 passengers, 3,100 freight lane metres plus 120 cars. The two other vessels, (two and four of the six ship order) will be assigned to the Belfast to Birkenhead service planned for spring of 2020 and early 2021. The introduction of the E-Flexers will most likely lead to a reshuffle in the Stena Line fleet and it remains to be seen what will become of the “SFX” and the current Birkenhead pair, the Visentini class Stena Lagan and Stena Mersey.
The new vessels are being built in line with Stena Line’s strategic business focuses on sustainability and digitilisation with the aim of providing state-of-the-art efficiency, flexibility and customer service. The company says the new RoPax ferries will be among the most energy efficient in the world with significantly lower CO2 emissions per freight unit against comparable RoPax tonnage. The vessels will run on traditional fuel, but are designed to the class notation ‘gas ready’ and are also prepared for catalytic scrubbers, thus providing increased flexibility for the future.
In addition to the three ships for Stena Line, two vessels will be long-term chartered by Brittany Ferries for their Spanish services from Portsmouth and one by DFDS for the Dover to Calais service, illustrating the extreme flexibility of the design.