A ferry operated by Spanish company Suardíaz Lines visited Merseyside on Monday, 16 October. The FRIEDRICH RUSS, a 1999-built RoRo freight vessel undertook trials at the Queen Elizabeth II Dock at Eastham in advance of opening a new link from Vigo to Liverpool yesterday, 21 October. The vessel is due to arrive on the Mersey in the early hours of Monday morning.
The non-tidal QE II dock is located behind a lock and so vessels are able to discharge at all states of tide. While it has previously been utilised for tankers, owner Peel Ports intends to use the QE II dock as an automotive hub following a £10m investment.
The Stellantis-owned Vauxhall factory is located in nearby Ellesmere Port.
Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port facility is the first factory in the Stellantis group to produce solely electric vehicles. The new hub at Eastham will reduce the emissions footprint of supplying parts to the facility from continental Europe.
It is expected that Suardíaz will initially offer a weekly service between the two ports. A second ship is to join FRIEDRICH RUSS, which is chartered for a minimum of one year, around the end of 2023. This will allow Suardíaz to offer a twice weekly service. The second ship is expected to be MISTRAL which Suardiaz has secured from the end of the year. MISTRAL is a sister-ship of FRIEDRICH RUSS and is currently on charter to Smyril Line.
The new link between Vigo and Merseyside is predicted to remove 14,700 lorry journeys off roads across the UK and continental Europe annually once. This will save approximately 17.5 million kilometres (c.11 million miles) in road trips. The FRIEDRICH RUSS has capacity for 1,600 lane metres of cargo, approximately 110 trailers, per sailing.
Stellantis already uses RoRo ships to ship parts and completed vehicles around Europe, including between Vigo and France. The company was formed through the merger of the French PSA group and Italian-American Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2021. Among others Stellantis owns the Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Opel, Vauxhall, Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and Maserati brands. The Ellsemere Port plant is expected to produce up to 51,000 electric light commercial vehicles per year for the Vauxhall, Opel, Peugeot and Citroën marques.
Owned by the German shipping giant Ernst Russ AG, FRIEDRICH RUSS has seen use with a range of European ferry operators.
Most recently, the ship has been operating for Marítima Peregar on their Malaga – Tangier Med route. After launching the service on 6 March, the vessel was replaced by the chartered TT-Line RoPax TOM SAWYER several weeks ago. Brokers previously reported a 12-month charter to Suardiaz in December 2022 followed by a 12-month charter to Maritima Peregar so it seems likely that the Malaga charter was a sub-charter from Suardiaz and she has now returned to them.