Danish ferry company DFDS have today announced that they are to take delivery of one of Stena’s E-Flexer class RoPax ferries in 2021. Initially the vessel will be chartered for a period of 10 years, with an option for DFDS to purchase the vessel at the end of the charter.
It is not yet clear whether this vessel will be one of the initial four vessels originally ordered for Stena Line services, or if Stena have exercised an option to build up to four further vessels of the class at the Chinese AVIC Weihai yard. Update: Stena RoRo CEO Per Westling has been quoted in a Swedish article on the sjofartstidningen.se website as saying this is a fifth vessel, with 3 of the series going to Stena Line and one each to Brittany Ferries and DFDS. At present this new vessel is set to be the largest (in terms of vehicle capacity) in service across the Dover Strait when it arrives.
Although built to the Stena E-Flexer design, the DFDS vessel will be highly customised for the intensive Dover to Calais route. For instance a third bow thruster has been added to increase manoeuvrability, and the passenger spaces will be customised to suit cross-channel traffic. Passenger capacity will remain at 1000, like the original design. The DFDS Stena E-Flexer is likely to replace CALAIS SEAWAYS, the smallest and oldest vessel in the DFDS cross-channel fleet.
The announcement of the charter of this vessel follows DFDS signing a contract with Guangzhou Shipyard International (GSI) in China earlier this year for the construction of two new RoPax ferries for Baltic services. These 4,500 lane meter 600 passenger vessels are scheduled for delivery in the first and third quarters of 2021.
This is the second vessel in the E-Flexer class that Stena RoRo have agreed to charter to an operator other than Stena Line, with Brittany Ferries chartering what is believed to be the third vessel in the initial order of 4. Brittany Ferries intend to deploy this example on the Portsmouth – Le Havre and Portsmouth – Bilbao/Santander routes, replacing the charted (coincidentally from DFDS) BAIE DE SEINE. It had previously been announced that Stena Line intended to place all four of the initial members of the E-Flexer class on their routes from Belfast, but with the purchase of STENA SUPERFAST VII and STENA SUPERFAST VIII from Tallink for €135m and the chartering out of at least one of the first batch of four vessels, this now appears to no longer be the case.
DFDS CHARTERS NEW SHIP FOR THE ENGLISH CHANNEL IN 202124 April, 2018 Copenhagen
The Channel is a big and important market for DFDS. Every year, five million passengers, one million cars and 1.2 million trucks travel between Dover – Calais and Dover – Dunkerque on DFDS’ ferries. And to continuously meet the customers’ demands, DFDS has decided to deploy a new ship specially designed for the services in the Channel from 2021. The ship will be built in Avic Weihai shipyard in China.
“Since the ship has not yet been built, we have great opportunities to make sure that it is designed to give our guests the best possible experience with a completely new ship. We will charter the ship from Stena RoRo and operate it for 10 years with an option to buy it after that. And since we are considering replacing the fleet on the Channel in 2031, the timing is really good,” says Peder Gellert, EVP of the Shipping Division in DFDS.
Four DFDS captains have been testing in simulators how to navigate the future ship to make sure that the new ship is best fitted out for the conditions on the Channel. “When sailing on the Channel, we need to ensure that the ship is at least as fast in arrival and departure situations as our current ships. Therefore, we have made modifications to increase maneuverability,” says Henrik Tidblad, Commercial Fleet Director.
The ferry will be highly efficient and environmentally friendly with an expected reduction in oil consumption of around 25% compared to current ferries. It will be able to carry 3,100 lane metres of cargo and 1,000 passengers. With this capacity, it will be the largest of the ships on the Channel.
“I am really looking forward to getting this fantastic ship to boost the business on the Channel. This new ship gives us excellent opportunities to develop our business on the commercial side. A newbuild ship will give us the flexibility to make room for tax-free shopping, depending on the outcome of Brexit. Together with an architect, we will design the interior of the ship to make sure we maximise our opportunities,” says Kasper Moos, VP of Business Unit Channel in DFDS.
The initial plan is for replacement of the oldest of the ferries, Calais Seaways, which was built in 1991. Market developments will determine the final deployment plan, which will be announced in 2020.