Former NI Ferries of Sealink British Ferries/Sealink (British Rail)

Sealink/Sealink British Ferries

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Sealink was the ferry division of then nationalised British Rail.  As part of the preparations for privatisation a new livery designed by H&P associates to differentiate the operation from British Rais corporate l’s introduced on the newly acquired (on charter from Stena) St. Nicholas in March 1984.  On 27 July 1984 the British government sold the core passenger and vehicle ferry business of Sealink to Sea Containers for £66m.  The company was renamed Sealink British Ferries and used a modified version of the new livery.  In the spring of 1990 the majority of the business was sold to Stena Line following a hostile takeover bid (the sale excluded the English Channel hovercraft and Isle of Wight services though, which Sea Containers retained).  Stena would rebrand the services as first Sealink Stena Line, then Stena Sealink Line, before finally rebranding the operation as Stena Line in 1996.

Darnia in Sealink colours. Copyright © Alan Geddes.
The Larne – Stranraer ferry Darnia was a somewhat controversial acquisition, having been acquired from Stena when new (1977) and built in Austria rather than at a UK yard. It was arranged that she would be purchased by James Fisher instead of Sealink and chartered to Sealink, so as to avoid reduce the amount of controversy surrounding public owned Sealink acquiring a new ship not built in the UK. This arrangement would cost significantly more than Sealink purchasing the ship outright, and still caused significant political controversy in any case with questions asked in the House of Commons about the ‘Stena ship’.  In order to make Darnia more suitable for the Larne to Stranraer service (as she was built to a standard Stena design) she went straight to Harland and Wolff for rebuilding when she was delivered.  This rebuild included adding additional passenger accommodation to increase passenger capacity from 12 to 92, bow and stern access doors to allow double-deck loading, a new hydraulic lift to replace the 1 in 8 gradient ramp between decks, and the fitting of stabilising fins to increase passenger comfort.  A further rebuild at Immingham in 1982 increased passenger capacity to 412.  Darnia replaced the smaller Dalriada, which was also a Stena ship. She is pictured here in her original Sealink colours sometime after August 1982 when she returned from her second rebuild. Copyright © Alan Geddes.

 

The “Darnia” served on the Larne-Stranraer route from 1978 to 1991 until the introduction of Stena Antrim (St Christopher) by new owners Stena Line.  Albert Bridge [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AThe_%22Darnia%22_at_Larne_-_geograph.org.uk_-_631162.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>
The “Darnia” served on the Larne-Stranraer route from 1978 to 1991 until the introduction of Stena Antrim (St Christopher) by new owners Stena Line.  Albert Bridge [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The "Seafreight Highway" at Larne - geograph.org.uk - 631165
Pictured here at Larne during May 1998, the Seafreight Highway was one of many relief vessels which appeared on the Larne to Stranraer run over the years. At this time her normal route would have been between Dover and Zeebrugge. A ship with a varied career, she had a major rebuild 1990 having been sold by Sealink British Ferries towards the end of 1988 (in a deal that would see the ships that became Fantasia and Fiesta come the other way) and lengthening in 2001. She currently serves the Travemunde – Liepaja route as Stena Line’s Urd. Albert Bridge [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
St David nearing Completion at Belfast, July 22, 1981. St David would later become North Channel favourite, Stena Caledonia. Copyright © Alan Geddes.
St David nearing Completion at Belfast, July 22, 1981. St David would later become North Channel favourite, Stena Caledonia. Copyright © Alan Geddes.

 

St David nears completion at Harland & Wolff Belfast. Copyright © Alan Geddes.
St David nears completion at Harland & Wolff Belfast, 22nd July 1981. Copyright © Alan Geddes.

 

St David was a permanent addition to the Larne to Stranraer route from January 1986. Following the Stena Line takeover of Sealink British Ferries she was renamed Stena Caledonia. Sealink British Ferries (NIFS Archive).
St David was a permanent addition to the Larne to Stranraer route from January 1986. Following the Stena Line takeover of Sealink British Ferries she was renamed Stena Caledonia. She is shown here in the post-privatisation ‘Sealink British Ferries’ livery. Sealink British Ferries (NIFS Archive).

 

Built on the Tyne, in 1963, as a rail ferry for the Harwich – Zeebrugge service, the “Cambridge Ferry” spent a period as relief vessel during the 1990 winter overhauls of Sealink’s Larne – Stranraer ferries. Albert Bridge [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AThe_%22Bison%22_at_Larne_-_geograph.org.uk_-_632208.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>
Built on the Tyne in 1963 as a rail ferry for the Harwich – Zeebrugge service, the “Cambridge Ferry” spent a period as relief vessel during the 1990 winter overhauls of Sealink’s Larne – Stranraer ferries. Albert Bridge [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The "Antrim Princess" at Larne - geograph.org.uk - 565895
The “Antrim Princess” at Larne. The British Rail car ferry “Antrim Princess” arriving at Larne from Stranraer. This was in the run-up to privatisation of the BR ferry and harbours division (operating under the name “Sealink”) – the broken arrows had been removed from the funnel. Albert Bridge [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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