Reason for Mersey visit unclear
Stena Line’s STENA NORDICA made a surprise call at Birkenhead yesterday. The Ro-Pax ferry, which is currently covering Stena Line’s planned Irish Sea dry-docking’s, sailed from Fishguard on Saturday after being released by STENA EUROPE. After a period looping around off the North Wales coast overnight, the Japanese-built vessel arrived at 12 Quays Birkenhead’s southern berth at about 9am. Her call was brief, with the ship leaving around 45 minutes later.
It is not yet clear why the ship made her call at Birkenhead, but witnesses say that the upper ramp of the linkspan was clearly obstructed from being lowered by the vessel’s raised bow visor. This means that should Stena Line want STENA NORDICA to use the berth in future, she will only be able to load and discharge through her bow on the lower level.
The south berth is used by both Belfast ferries STENA EDDA and STENA MERSEY, with the former only able to use this berth due to her size and twin-level loading requirement. No attempt was made to berth the vessel stern-first on either of the two berths at the port.
Speculation online has suggested that Stena Line may be looking at starting a Dublin – Liverpool route. However, the use of the southern berth and not the northern alternative suggests it is more likely that either the company were assessing the ship’s suitability as possible cover on the Belfast route in future, or that the visit was for a different reason entirely.
Despite a number of visits to the Irish Sea when not a permanent member of the local fleet as a relief vessel, STENA NORDICA has until now not covered the Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead) route. In previous years she has released STENA HORIZON from the Rosslare – Cherbourg route to cover the route instead. The only other route the ship has not covered is Belfast – Heysham as she does not fit within the constraints of Heysham harbour.
STENA NORDICA has now sailed to Holyhead and is expected to indirectly release STENA ADVENTURER for dry-docking. She is scheduled to take up the Holyhead – Dublin schedule today with the 08:55 ex Holyhead. This would normally be operated by STENA ESTRID.
STENA ESTRID should take over STENA ADVENTURER‘s schedule from this afternoon. The latter vessel is expected to be absent from the route for around three weeks for maintenance. This is the second time this year STENA ESTRID has been released by ‘Nordica’ to allow STENA ADVENTURER to dry dock. According to some reports, ‘Adventurer’ will dry dock in France rather than Belfast as earlier reported.