Following on from yesterday’s photo feature marking 10 years since the closure of the Belfast – Stranraer route and the closure of the Port of Stranraer, today marks a decade of Stena Line operations from the state-of-the-art Loch Ryan Port and the Belfast – Cairnryan route.
I have included some photographs I took at the time while working for the company in an on-board services role, leading up to the introduction of the new ships and the opening of the new port, as well as a few from the days following.
Once the first of the new ships, STENA SUPERFAST VII arrived in Cainryran from the Remontowa Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, all crew were trained, type-rated and familiarised with the vessel before she entered service, along with her sister.
On 21 November 2011 at 0730, the first sailings took place between Belfast’s Victoria Terminal 4 and Loch Ryan Port. The transition from three different vessels, STENA CALEDONIA, STENA NAVIGATOR and HSS STENA VOYAGER to two identical sister-ships, STENA SUPERFAST VII and STENA SUPERFAST VIII took place without any interruption to service on the vital North Channel corridor.
The inauguration of a new route with new ships and a new port was the result of a £200+ million investment in the key transport supply route between Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The new port and ships for the service came, in large part, due to the shallow channel leading up to and inside Stranraer Harbour. This severely restricted the size of vessels that could be operated on the route. Stena Line had been considering ways in which to develop new facilities in the area to enable larger vessels to be operated. At one stage the company held discussions with P&O Ferries to look at the possibility of developing a joint facility for both operators, but these discussions did not result in any progress being made.
Another key factor influencing the decision to introduce large ships was the move towards increasing numbers of high-cube or double deck trailers. The three previous vessels had restricted headroom on their vehicle decks which prevented the carriage of these units; something that was addressed with the two Superfast sisters.
A Success Story
A decade on, the twin Superfast ferries and the modern port facilities at Loch Ryan and Belfast VT4 have firmly established themselves as a considerable success story for Stena Line. As someone who worked onboard the company’s ships at the time, it was a very interesting and fulfilling experience to be part of.