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Stena Embla makes maiden voyage from Rosslare ahead of Belfast return

Stena Line’s newest ferry STENA EMBLA made her maiden commercial voyage from Rosslare yesterday.  The ship released STENA HORIZON from the Rosslare – Cherbourg route for maintenance.  Horizon arrived in Belfast this morning and is currently alongside at D1 (Belfast Cruise Terminal).  Although widely reported as a “Brexit busting” move, STENA EMBLA is currently expected to return to Belfast next week.

STENA HORIZON leaves Belfast on the morning of New Years Day 2019 while providing dry dock cover for STENA LAGAN. Copyright © Scott Mackey.
STENA HORIZON leaves Belfast on the morning of New Years Day 2019 while providing dry dock cover for STENA LAGAN. Copyright © Scott Mackey.

Yesterday, Stena Line’s PR & Communications Manager, Carl Mårtensson, told Shippax that the introduction of STENA EMBLA on the Rosslare – Cherbourg route was not a long-term solution but rather a temporary one. 

“We are monitoring the market distortion created by Brexit closely and will review the situation week by week,” 

At present, STENA EMBLA is scheduled to release STENA EDDA for maintenance at Harland and Wolff from this coming Wednesday, January 20.  Once this maintenance is completed, STENA EDDA is expected to return to the Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead) route to sail opposite STENA EMBLA.  This will allow STENA MERSEY to leave Belfast for Turkey where she will be rebuilt as the new STENA BALTICA.  

STENA MERSEY needs to leave Belfast by the end of the month to make her slot at SEDEF shipyard.  Work continues on sister-ship STENA LAGAN (soon to be renamed STENA SCANDICA).  She is currently expected to be in service on the Nynashamn – Ventspils route during March.

It has been reported by RTE that Stena Line are looking to switch STENA ESTRID to the Ireland – France route.  That ship, which was the first of Stena’s E-Flexer class to be delivered, completed her first year of service on Wednesday.  Volumes on her Holyhead – Dublin route are down by 70% according to figures revealed on twitter by Stena Line.  

Stena Line's STENA ESTRID seen sailing from Dublin Port on 03.03.20. Copyright © Robbie Cox.
Stena Line’s STENA ESTRID seen sailing from Dublin Port on 03.03.20. Copyright © Robbie Cox.

It is not yet clear when (or if) STENA ESTRID will move to the Cherbourg route, however.  Stena Line has cancelled a number of Holyhead sailings next weekend which could allow them to fit in a Dublin – Cherbourg roundtrip, though nothing has been published or announced.

Freight volumes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland appear to be recovering as suppliers and hauliers get used to new processes and demand increases as stockpiles are exhausted.  Seatruck has added an additional round trip on its Warrenpoint – Heysham route this weekend in response to customer demand, while photos online suggest that Stena Line sailings between Belfast and Heysham have been full.  This Sunday, Stena Line is offering two round trips between the two ports rather than the usual one. Ancedotal reports also indicate that traffic is healthy on Larne – Cairnryan.

SEATRUCK PANORAMA. Copyright © Scott Mackey..
SEATRUCK PANORAMA. Copyright © Scott Mackey..

Although traffic between Belfast and Birkenhead is reportedly down by 26%, the route also has less capacity at present than normal.  The dedicated freight ship on the route, SEATRUCK PANORAMA, is currently deputising on the Belfast – Heysham route for STENA HIBERNIA.  ‘Hibernia’ has been in dry dock at Harland & Wolff since the start of the year and is not expected to leave until next week.  

While demand remains high on direct services between Ireland and the EU, it is understood that this has been for accompanied traffic. Earlier this week, Ireland became the country with the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the world. Should COVID-19 testing become mandatory, as it did between the UK and some EU countries towards the end of last year, this demand for direct routes could fall.

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