Belfast – Liverpool Freight ship leaves for layup in Sweden
Stena Line’s STENA FORECASTER left Belfast earlier today for the Swedish port of Uddevalla where it is understood she will be laid up. The freighter joined the Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead) route last February as a replacement for sister-ship STENA FORERUNNER which returned to her previous route on the North Sea. STENA FORECASTER has spent much of the past few months tied up at D1 in Belfast due to a drop in traffic resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. Although not confirmed, it is thought that the ship has returned to Stena RoRo. Stena Line has not, however, ruled out a return to the route for the vessel should freight volumes increase.
Like her predecessors on the Birkenhead route “shoulder” sailings, STENA FORECASTER‘s main function was to provide additional space for unaccompanied freight traffic. This in turn meant that space was freed up on the main vessels, previously STENA LAGAN and STENA MERSEY, for more accompanied freight. STENA LAGAN was replaced earlier this year by STENA EDDA. This increased the available passenger and freight capacity on the route. The arrival of sister-ship STENA EMBLA early next year will also further increase passenger and freight capacity.
STENA FORECASTER made a brief return to service on the Belfast – Birkenhead route last week, however. The RoRo ship provided additional capacity after STENA EDDA suffered an apparent engine issue last Friday morning, needing tug assistance to berth in Belfast. As a result “Edda” was taken out of service for a round trip. STENA EDDA returned the following day, however. She made impressive speed on her delayed sailing to Birkenhead and arrived only slightly late despite only leaving Belfast at noon.
When asked if the capacity reduction on the Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead) route was temporary or permanent, as Stena Line spokesperson said:
“The vessel has been removed in line with current market demand requirements which are reviewed on a constant basis to align Stena Line services accordingly.”
STENA FORECASTER will join sister-ship STENA FORETELLER at Uddevalla. Additionally Stena’s SASSNITZ and STENA SAGA ferries are also laid up at the port. ‘Foreteller’ arrived at Uddevalla on May 29 having previously anchored both off the coast of Ireland and Holyhead following service with Irish Ferries. SASSNITZ and STENA SAGA are currently not part of Stena Line’s future plans with both their routes closed earlier this year.
Also currently laid up at Uddevalla is Destination Gotland’s GUTE which is awaiting further orders. STENA FORERUNNER, the sister-ship ‘Forecaster’ replaced at Belfast, is also currently out of service and at anchor near Scheveningen in The Netherlands. A lack of freight demand means that operating partner SOMERSET has sufficient capacity for their Harwich – Rotterdam route on her own. As a consequence, all three of Stena’s “Forerunner MkII” class Ro-Ro’s, which at one time were considered the future of the company’s freight operations, are currently out of service.