Former German Train Ferry Sassnitz Sold for Demolition in Turkey

By: Steven Tarbox
Last updated:
SASSNITZ at anchor off Gibraltar. Image: © Tony Davis.

UPDATE 20.10.21: SASSNITZ was beached at Aliaga, Turkey, just after 11:00 (UTC) earlier today.

The former Stena Line train ferry SASSNITZ has been sold for recycling in Turkey according to Shippax.   Originally built for the East German Deutsche Reichsbahn, SASSNITZ spent her entire operational career in service between Sweden and Germany.

Unlike many East German ferries, SASSNITZ was built outside the Soviet bloc in Denmark.  She was largely constructed by Danyard at Aalborg and completed at Frederikshavn.  Her introduction to service during March 1989 took place just months before the fall of the Berlin wall, and ultimately the government organisation which commissioned her.

SASSNITZ at Sassnitz during March 2010. Image: Fuerbi1, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

SASSNITZ had originally sailed from a berth in the city of Sassnitz, but her service was moved to the larger terminal at Mukran in 1998.  This followed a rebuilding of the port for ferry traffic. Mukran had been one of the last major civil engineering projects of the DDR, but had been designed as a military and cargo facility with no public access. 

Stena Acquisition

In November 1999, Stena Line signed an agreement to acquire Swedish Railways stake in Scandlines AB , which by now was operating the Sassnitz (Mukran)  – Trelleborg route among others in cooperation with other Scandlines partners.  Scandlines-branded services were at the time operated as a cooperation between the Swedish, Danish and German railway companies. 

SASSNITZ at Trelleborg during January 2012. Image: Btr, GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

During 2012, following the privatisation of Scandlines, Stena Line purchased the remaining stake in Scandlines’ freight-focussed routes.  This included the Trelleborg – Sassnitz route and four others, three of which continue to form Stena’s Baltic network.  

SASSNITZ during August 2019 while still in service with Stena Line. Image © Gary Andrews.
SASSNITZ during August 2019 while still in service with Stena Line. Image © Gary Andrews.

SASSNITZ continued in service on her original route until Stena Line closed it during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.  She had also occasionally provided cover on the Trelleborg – Rostock service as well.

The Sassnitz route had been struggling for a number of years, with freight choosing other routes such as via the fixed link between Sweden and Denmark instead of the Sassnitz – Trelleborg route.  Even prior to the Covid crisis, the route had experienced several reductions to frequency with only a full schedule offered at peak passenger periods.

Route Closure

Despite rebranding inside and out after the Stena Line takeover, SASSNITZ retained much of her original character.  Her final commercial sailing took place on 14 March with Stena announcing plans to close the route permanently the following month.

Initially SASSNITZ was laid up at Mukran.  At the end of April 2020 she was relocated to Uddevalla, Sweden, where she joined another Stena Line ship whose route had been axed, STENA SAGA.  During July of the same year, SASSNITZ was moved to the Cypriot registry.  The following month, the ship made headlines locally due to the noise of her diesel generators constantly running.

The Final Voyage

On 29 September, SASSNITZ left Uddevala with an indicated destination of Gibraltar.  After taking on bunkers at Gothenburg, her indicated destination changed to Lisbon. SASSNITZ’s  next stop would actually be Brest, France, where she took on supplies on 4 October.  

SASSNITZ at anchor off Gibraltar. Image: © Tony Davis.
SASSNITZ at anchor off Gibraltar. ARMAS’ VOLCAN DE TAUCE can be seen in the background inbound for Tanger Med from Algeciras. Image: © Tony Davis.

Leaving Brest on 5 October, she made her way to Cueta for further bunkers. She then crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to anchor off Gibraltar. Around this time, SASSNITZ reverted to the Swedish flag.  This prompted rumours that the ship had perhaps been sold for further service. 

These rumours were short lived, however, as when SASSNITZ set off again on at 23:00 (local time) on 13 October, it was with the destination of Aliaga.  The beaches at Aliaga are the main destination for large EU tonnage to be demolished with alternative locations in India and Pakistan outlawed.

SASSNITZ at anchor off Gibraltar. Image: © Tony Davis.
SASSNITZ at anchor off Gibraltar, 12/10/21. Image: © Tony Davis.

Unless she is given a last minute reprieve, SASSNITZ looks set to be the first Stena Line ferry since HSS STENA VOYAGER to see no further service with another operator before recycling.  Like the aforementioned HSS, sister-company Stena RoRo was unable to find a buyer for the vessel other than ship dismantlers.

At 32 years of age, SASSNITZ is younger than many ferries which continue to sail on in Europe and elsewhere.  With merely surviving the priority for many operators, acquiring tonnage is not as high on the agenda as cutting costs.  As a result, demand for elderly ferries such as SASSNITZ is lower than usual while the scrap metal price remains attractive.  

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