It has been confirmed that the anchor handling tug, Bluster, is expected to arrive in Holyhead this evening, with the task of towing the remaining Stena HSS 1500 vessel Stena Explorer to Turkey. Speculation as to what future awaits the vessel has been rife online, with some expectant that the vessel will proceed straight to scrapping at Aliaga, rather than to Istanbul for conversion to static use as previously announced. No departure date for the remaining HSS 1500 vessel has been announced, however it is expected that she will leave Holyhead for the last time in the near future.
It is known that HSS Stena Explorer's engines have been started regularly, and it is expected that she may move under her own power one last time, in order to leave her inner harbour berth at Holyhead before being towed by the Dutch tug Bluster the rest of the way to Turkey. HSS Stena Explorer was of course the final (to date) ferry to serve the traditional Irish ferry port of Dún Laoghaire, closing the Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire route on 9th September 2014. It had been expected she would operate over Christmas 2014, however her sailings were cancelled with Stena Line announcing the following February that the prior Septembers final sailing was to be their last from the port. Although interest was expressed by a number of parties in restoring ferry services from the historic Irish port following Stena's announcement, to date no party has announced a resumption of any ferry service from Dún Laoghaire.
HSS Stena Explorer was the first of the HSS 1500 class to be built for Stena, with Belfast based HSS Stena Voyager, and Harwich based HSS Stena Discovery (later HSS Discovery) following her from the Aker Finnyards facility at Rauma in Finland. Stena Explorer is the sole survivor of the trio, with Stena Voyager recycled by Stena in 2013, and the renamed HSS Discovery currently in the final stages of scrapping in Turkey. A single smaller HSS vessel, HSS Stena Carisma, was also built. She is currently laid up at Gothenburg with what seems to be a very uncertain future.
Bluster was built in the Netherlands in 1988 for Maersk as Maersk Launcher, before her sale to the Tschudi group in 2008. She is powered by two Mak diesel engines producing a total of 12,000 bhp allowing her to achieve a bollard pull of 145 tons, and is currently operated by Tschudi Offshore & Towing.
Title Image: Stena Explorer docking in Dun Laoghaire during 2008. By StenaLine-StenaExplorer-DunLoaghaire-2008-04-07_5.jpg: Benjamin.nagelderivative work: Wexcan Talk [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons