Update 17.08.22: Stena Line has confirmed that STENA ESTELLE will be introduced to the the Karlskrona- Gdynia route on 4 September.
Update 14.08.22: STENA ESTELLE sailed to Poland overnight and arrived at Gdańsk this morning. According to sources in Poland, she is there to undergo final prepartions for service at Remontowa S.A.
After a journey from her builders yard taking ten weeks, Stena Line’s newest ferry STENA ESTELLE has arrived in Sweden for the first time. The ferry, which is the largest of Stena’s E-Flexer class delivered to-date, is expected to enter service on the Karlskrona – Gdynia route in the coming weeks. She is the first of two sister-ships being deployed to the route.
While based on the design and layout of the lead vessel in the class, STENA ESTRID, STENA ESTELLE is some 25.2m longer. This has allowed her freight capacity to increase from 3,100 lane metres to 3,600, and an additional 200 people to be carried onboard. The number of cabins has also been increased from 175 to 263.
Unlike Stena Line’s other E-Flexer ferries, STENA ESTELLE has a shore power connection onboard which can be used at both Gdynia and Karlskrona. This means that the new ferry should not need to run her diesel generators throughout while alongside in port, slashing both emissions and noise.
At present there is no shore power facility available at any of the Irish Sea ports the other members of the class serve, but should this become available, the ships can easily be retrofitted with a connection.
An additional bow thruster has also been fitted to STENA ESTELLE in order to improve manoeuvrability of the almost 240m long vessel at low speeds. As a result of her greater passenger capacity, an additional lifeboat is also carried on each side of the ship.
STENA ESTELLE has taken longer to arrive in Europe than the other members of the class to be delivered so far. This was partially because she brought cargo to the UAE and the Netherlands en route, and also partially due to continuing COVID-19 restrictions in China.
While the ship was the quickest in the class to be assembled and apparently delivered ahead of schedule, taking just 105 days to assemble the blocks which form the structure of the ferry before floating out, Covid entry restrictions meant that her Stena delivery crew had to join the vessel in Korea. A Chinese crew sailed STENA ESTELLE to Incheon where the Stena delivery crew, led by Captain Andrew Parker, took control of the vessel on 4 June and sailed her to the Chinese port of Yantai. There, the Chinese crew disembarked and a cargo of vehicles, including trucks, coaches, and construction equipment, was loaded onboard.
As with the other vessels in the class, STENA ESTELLE then sailed to Singapore to make a stop for bunkers and stores, arriving on 21 June and not leaving until 9 July. Unlike the previous six deliveries in the class, she then sailed for Jebel Ali on the outskirts of Dubai. While there she offloaded cargo and took on more destined for Europe on behalf of NMT Shipping.
Arrival in Europe
STENA ESTELLE’s next stop was Gibraltar which was reached via the Suez Canal. While at anchor in the Bay of Gibraltar/Algeciras, she took on further bunkers from the tanker WHITDAWN. This was also the final destination for the delivery crew which had been with the vessel since her stop in Korea, and STENA ESTELLE’s regular crew from the Karlskrona – Gdynia route took over command of the ship.
The first European port STENA ESTELLE actually berthed at was Vlissingen in the Netherlands (rather than Antwerp as previously expected) on 10 August, it is a busy port for vehicle import and exports. There, the remaining cargo from China and the UAE was discharged and a course was set for Karlskrona.
STENA ESTELLE took the long way to the southern Swedish port, sailing around Jutland instead of transiting the Kiel canal. A brief stop was made at Goteborg anchorage before the vessel arrived at Karlskrona anchorage at around 20:30 (UTC) last night. At about 08:30 this morning, STENA ESTELLE made her maiden call at Karlskrona, berthing bow-in at the Stena Line terminal.
Introduction to service
It is currently unclear how Stena Line intends to change its vessel line up on the Karlskrona – Gdynia route over the medium to long term. Officially, Stena Line has not said which of the existing ferries employed on the Gdynia-Karlskrona line will be replaced.
However, the Karlskrona timetable as it stands at the time of writing requires all ships to spend periods laid up – something the company is likely to see as unsustainable going forward.
With STENA ESTELLE’s sister-ship STENA EBBA (not to be confused with STENA EDDA on the Belfast to Birkenhead route) due to be deployed on the route at the end of the year, Stena’s longer term plan for the route may not become fully clear nearer that time. It seems likely that at least one of the current local fleet will depart.