The newest member of the Stena Line fleet, STENA FORWARDER, is due to arrive in Belfast late tomorrow afternoon.
STENA FORWARDER sailed from Ostend yesterday afternoon, 21 October, having been at the Belgian port since 22 September. According to Belfast Harbour’s vessel movements, she will carry out trials at Belfast’s Victoria Terminal 1. STENA FORWARDER will then move to the D1S berth on the Holywood side of the port on Tuesday morning.
It seems that ownership passed to Stena RoRo on 18 October with the name changing from FRIJSENBORG to STENA FORWARDER on the same day. At the same time the ship moved from being registered in Venice, Italy to Copenhagen, Denmark. Stena RoRo is a Stena group company that supplies tonnage to both Stena and external customers.
Although, there has been no official word from Stena Line as yet, reports first started circulating a few weeks ago that the Swedish company was about to purchase the vessel. The vessel had been owned by Visemar Levante SRL, a related company to the ship’s builder Cantiere Navale Visentini.
Leading brokers, Navitaship report the sale price as 37 million Euro.
The vessel is the third STENA FORWARDER in Stena Line’s history.
The first STENA FORWARDER was the 2001 Visentini RoPax, which operated the Holyhead – Dublin route from 2001 until 2003. Today, this vessel is the AF CLAUDIA of Adria Ferries.
The second was the current MSC BRIDGE. The 1998-built RoRo was named STENA FORWARDER from 2005 to 2007.
Having been designed by the same designer, NAOS Ship and Boat design, and built at the same shipyard, the latest STENA FORWARDER has a similar silhouette to the the former STENA LAGAN and STENA MERSEY.
Looming Stena freight fleet changes
As yet there has been no formal word from Stena Line as to the use of the STENA FORWARDER. However, with STENA FORETELLER being shown on freight timetables as transferring to the North Sea, industry information indicates STENA FORWARDER will operate the freight-only shoulder schedule on the Belfast – Birkenhead route.
STENA FORETELLER is showing as sailing on the Harwich – Rotterdam route as from 26 November. This will reunite the vessel with sister-ship STENA FORERUNNER. It appears that the Foreteller will replace the chartered SOMERSET. SOMERSET has been on charter to Stena Line since 2018 and owned by a CLdN company, raising the potential that the vessel will see service on one of their routes.
Advance timetables reveal that STENA FORETELLER will see refit cover on the Hoek van Holland – Killingholme route.
Whilst, STENA FORWARDER is expected to operate Birkenhead – Belfast, there is no indication which vessel or vessels would be used if Stena Line opens a Birkenhead – Dublin service. As previously reported, Stena has expressed an interest in doing so.
End of nomadic lifestyle for FRIJSENBORG
Completed at the Italian Visentini yard in 2016, the FRIJSENBORG together with 2014-built sister-ship WEDELLSBORG were long-term chartered when new to Nordana. Due to losses, in spring 2017 the company, by then Weco RoRo, closed their liner services between the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Latin America and the United States Gulf and East Coast.
A brief 4-month charter quickly followed to Ekol/Alternative Shipping on their Turkey – EU services. FRIJSENBORG was then chartered to the Louis Dreyfus Airbus project for three years. For this work, the ship became SPIRIT OF MONTOIR. Returned to Visemar, the ship again became FRIJSENBORG in late 2020.
A short-term charter to Smyril Line began in early 2021 whilst NORRÖNA was undergoing a significant refit. Summer and autumn work with GNV and COTUNAV followed. However, a three-month charter to deep sea project cargo specialist Intermarine in late 2021 didn’t go to plan when the ship suffered an engine room fire on Christmas Eve. This seen the vessel stranded on the other side of the Atlantic until April 2022. Fully repaired, the vessel began another charter to GNV during summer on their Genoa – Termini Imerese route.
In October 2022, FRIJSENBORG joined CLdN and seen service across their network, including the Dublin – Santander route, making her no stranger to the Irish Sea. Upon completion of that charter, the vessel moved to Ostend to be prepared for handover to her new owner.
Sister vessel also set to be sold
STENA FORWARDER has a slightly older sister vessel, WEDDELSBORG. The two vessels are understood to be largely identical. However, the ex FRIJSENBORG was slightly upgraded when built by the installation of open-loop scrubbers and other improved environmental measures.
WEDDELSBORG is also set to be sold in the near future. Current charterer Grendi is believed to be buying the vessel in a joint venture with shipping company Finaval. The sale is expected to complete in early 2024.
A larger version of the pair, ML FREYJA, was built by Visentini in 2017 and is on long-term charter to Mann Lines. ML FREYJA has a length of 191 metres and a capacity of 2754 lane metres, compared to the 179 metres and 2546 lane metres of the STENA FORWARDER / WEDDELSBORG.
Stena Forwarder key facts
|Gross Tonnage||21,970 tonnes|
|Max Speed||About 20 knots|
|Lane metres||2,546 lm|
Update 23.10.23: The original version of this article stated that STENA FORWARDER was built in 1996 – this was a typographical error which has since been updated to read 2016. The NI Ferry Team apologises for any confusion this may have caused.