Overview of European Causeway and European Highlander
Designed by Danish naval architects Knud E Hansen and built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) at Shimonoseki in Southern Japan, EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY and EUROPEAN HIGHLANDERare the first and third of a series of 3 vessels (the second, EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR, later became STENA NORDICA), built for P&O Irish Sea (now part of P&O Ferries). They operate the Larne to Cairnryan service together for P&O Ferries and are the first purpose-built vessels to operate on the service. Previously the route had only had vessels cascaded from other routes.
As EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER and EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY were designed specifically to operate the Larne to Cairnryan link, their facilities reflect the short 105 minute crossing time they were designed for. At the time of writing, the advertised crossing time is now slightly longer at 120 minutes. EUROPEAN CAUSEWAYreplaced PRIDE OF RATHLIN as the conventional passenger ship on the route during August 2000. She was joined by EUROPEAN HIGHLANDERin July 2002, which replaced the veteran freighters EUROPEAN ENDEAVOUR and EUROPEAN PATHFINDER.
The “other” part-sister
The second (and largest) of the series of three vessels operated for Stena Line between Dublin and Holyhead until the start of 2015 as the STENA NORDICA, having previously operated the unsuccessful Dublin – Mostyn route for P&O until 2004 as EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR as well as Dublin-Liverpool and Rosslare to Cherbourg before a spell with Stena Line in Scandinavia. At the end of March 2015 having been replaced at Dublin by STENA SUPERFAST X, STENA NORDICA began a charter for DFDS on the English Channel, and so again became the only vessel of the series not to operate on Irish Sea services. She is currently back with Stena operating in the Baltic Sea following a spell as the refit relief vessel for Stena Line’s Irish Sea services in early 2017.
There are some differences between the two Larne to Cairnryan conventional vessels. EUROPEAN HIGHLANDERwas completed 2 years after EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY, having only been ordered 3 months after the earlier vessel was introduced. As a result, the opportunity was taken to make some tweaks to the design. This included extending the overall length of the vessel and making some revisions to the layout of the passenger accommodation. Perhaps most significantly a second passenger lift was added to EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER. From the outside EUROPEAN HIGHLANDERis slightly longer and has an extra lifeboat on each side, making it easy to tell the two vessels apart. This additional lifeboat either side replaces the MES system fitted to EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY.
Despite her additional length of EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER, the official passenger and vehicle capacity for both vessels is exactly the same. Vehicles are accommodated over 3 decks (Decks 1, 2 and 3) with 2 of those decks (2 and 3) directly accessible from the double-decked link spans at Larne and Cairnryan. Vehicle access between decks is possible via 1 x 50m long hoistable ramp, and a single fixed ramp to the lower hold (deck 1). All passenger facilities are located on deck 4. Both vessels were refurbished by Blu Marine whilst dry-docked at Cammell-Laird Birkenhead during 2017. These refurbishments involved installing a new Food Court, replacing and reupholstering furniture, and the replacement of the flooring in the passenger corridors.
EUROPEAN CAUSEWAYexperienced a total loss of engine power while approaching her berth at Larne on August 13 2002. The quick actions of the crew averted the vessel grounding by lowering her anchors, but a large yacht was not so lucky and experienced some slight damage having been clipped by the vessel. By the time the vessel was brought to a halt engine power had already been restored and there were no injuries to any passengers or crew as a result of the incident.
EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER was blown aground on the morning of Saturday January 8th 2005 while attempting to berth at Cairnryan at around 7am in what were described in the media as hurricane force winds. She was pulled from the shingle beach just south of the port the following morning at high tide at around 11am by two tugs. After sailing for Larne to load spare parts that evening she sailed for A&P Birkenhead for a full hull examination the following day. She was back in service on January 12th.
On December 18th 2018 EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY hit national headlines after several vehicles tipped over during stormy weather during a sailing to Cairnryan, damaging other vehicles on both of her vehicle decks in the process and triggering an emergency services response. The vessel was back in service less than 24 hours later, however. The MAIB later released a special safety bulletin regarding the incident ahead of the conclusion of the full investigation as at least six freight drivers had remained in their vehicles during the sailing, despite this being against international regulations and ignoring the instructions of the crew.
On March 31st 2019, there was an engine room fire onboard EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY while alongside at Larne. While three fire appliances were deployed to assist, the crew managed to extinguish the fire using the vessels own fire suppression system with no injuries reported.