Final HSS 1500 craft Stena Explorer sold for future use.
Stena Line have officially confirmed that the final HSS 1500 vessel, Stena Explorer, has been sold to Turkish buyers and is due to leave Holyhead for the last time tomorrow, weather permitting, under the escort of tugs. Stena have however not confirmed what Stena Explorer’s future use will be, though they have said that she will continue her career under new ownership.
The anchor handling tug Bluster arrived in Holyhead earlier this week, with the task to tow Stena Explorer to Turkey. Another tug, Afon Cefni, arrived in Holyhead this morning. It is assumed she may assist Bluster and Holyhead’s own tug St David in manoeuvring HSS Stena Explorer from her berth in Holyhead.
Operating at up to 40 knots, the HSS 1500 class could accommodate uo to 1500 passengers and their vehicles, and a limited amount of freight (unlike other fast-craft at the time). HSS Stena Explorer was the first of 3 £65m HSS 1500 vessels built at Aker Finnyards in Finland, exclusively for the use of Stena Line. The class remain the largest car carrying catamarans ever built, and where truly cutting edge when introduced in the mid-nineties. However, rising fuel costs and a shift in traffic patterns towards freight (not to mention the impact of low cost airlines) have meant the class have been uneconomic to operate for some time. It is understood that maintenance costing millions of pounds would need to be carried out on HSS Stena Explorer, just to allow her to continue in revenue earning service.
The other two vessels in the class, HSS Stena Voyager and HSS Stena Discovery (later HSS Discovery), have already been “recycled”, the former by Stena themselves (Stena Metall) in Sweden, while the latter is currently in the final stages of scrapping at Aliaga in Turkey, having previously been sold for a service in the Caribbean which failed to materialise. During Stena service, all 3 HSS 1500’s had been regular visitors to Belfast’s Harland and Wolff, which was the sole dry-docking facility for the class.
Since her introduction in April 1996, 126.6m long HSS Stena Explorer carried some 15 million passengers between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire. Captain Andrew Humphreys, Stena Line’s Safety Manager for the UK had the honour of bringing the vessel into Holyhead on Feb 6th, 1996 and can recall the event vividly. Captain Humphreys said: “I can remember everything about that special day. Holyhead, a port used to virtually every shape and size of vessel had never seen anything like it.”
“The Stena Explorer was the most beautiful and innovative looking vessel we had ever seen and to have the opportunity to Captain this superb vessel was an honour that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I’m delighted she has found a new lease of life working in Turkey.”
Ian Davies, Stena Line’s Route Manager (Irish Sea South), said: “It is an emotional day for all of us at Stena Line who have worked on the vessel and the route in support of the Stena Explorer over the last number of years.
“We are delighted to see that she will continue her working career in another part of the world and would like to take this opportunity to wish her new owners every success with what is a very special vessel.”
He concluded: “It is an emotional day for all of us at Stena Line who have worked on the vessel and the route in support of the Stena Explorer over the last number of years. We are delighted to see that she will continue her working career in another part of the world and would like to take this opportunity to wish her new owners every success with what is a very special vessel.”
19,638gt HSS Stena Explorer has effectively been replaced by the 29,800gt ro-pax, Stena Superfast X, sailing from Dublin instead of Dun Laoghaire. Stena Superfast X also replaced the smaller Stena Nordica, which is currently chartered out to DFDS as Malo Seaways. Stena Superfast X was built as a sister to Stena Superfast VII and VIII, though she differs dramatically in her internal layout.