Stena Line’s Japanese-built Ro-Pax STENA NORDICA will return to the Irish Sea in 2019, reprising the role she has taken as refit relief vessel in previous years. Her duties start with covering STENA HORIZON on the Rosslare to Cherbourg route from January 3rd 2019 according to the Stena Line booking website. This will allow the latter vessel to release STENA LAGAN and STENA MERSEY for dry-docking at Harland and Wolff. The booking engine would appear to confirm information previously received by NI Ferry Site that STENA LAGAN would be first to enter dry-dock on New Years Eve, with STENA NORDICA replacing her on the schedule from January 1st (there are no sailings on New Years Eve). The Belfast to Birkenhead roster returns to normal on January 24th, suggesting that STENA LAGAN and STENA MERSEY will get a combined four weeks in dry-dock. At present STENA HORIZON returns to her normal Rosslare to Cherbourg route on January 29th. It is not yet clear which route STENA NORDICA will cover once released from the French route.
STENA SUPERFAST VII and STENA SUPERFAST VIII are also expected to dry-dock in 2019, having only had a brief weekend dry-docking each for annual inspection and maintenance this year. STENA NORDICA has covered their Belfast to Cairnryan route before and proved a good fit, with suggestions she was a better replacement than even STENA SUPERFAST X which provided refit cover in 2016. STENA NORDICA is of course a larger part-sister to P&O Ferries Larne to Cairnryan vessels EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY and EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER having been built for them as EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR. With STENA SUPERFAST X also due to dry-dock in 2019, it is possible that Stena Nordica will cover for all three of STENA SUPERFAST VII, STENA SUPERFAST VIII, STENA SUPERFAST X.
Rosslare to Fishguard veteran STENA EUROPE is also likely to dry-dock in 2019, though it is not yet clear where with yard sources suggesting it won’t be at Harland and Wolff. STENA EUROPE has previously used other yards such as Falmouth and Cammell-Laird, though there has been speculation in the past that there could be plans to send her to a yard in the Mediterranean (or elsewhere) for life-extension work. This has never been confirmed by Stena Line however, and previous plans to modernise her Welsh port of Fishguard so it can accept larger modern tonnage have been shelved due to cost. With the inability of Fishguard to handle newer tonnage for the foreseeable future, rumours have resurfaced stating that STENA EUROPE will receive the life extension refit in 2019. In previous years Stena Line have sometimes purchased space on Irish Ferries competing Rosslare to Pembroke Dock service rather than providing a vessel to cover STENA EUROPE, though at present there is no indication that this will happen with no changes yet made to the booking engine. Although she was dry-docked last year, STENA EUROPE‘s age means it is a given that she is dry-docked annually in order to ensure compliance with stricter regulatory requirements for vessels over 35 years of age.