Stena Nordica Overview
The Stena Line RoPax Ferry STENA NORDICA is a part-sister to P&O Ferries’ Japanese built Larne to Cairnryan ships EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY and EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER. She was built as the EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR for P&O’s Dublin-Liverpool and (now closed) Dublin-Mostyn routes, and is an enlarged version of EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY with passenger cabins, whereas the Larne vessel has none. EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR became a Stena ship in a transaction related to, but not part of, the Stena acquisition of P&O Irish Sea’s Fleetwood-Larne operation in 2004. This was as she was no longer required by P&O following the closure of the Mostyn route, which along with Liverpool – Dublin, P&O were prevented from selling to Stena by the UK competition authorities. EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR had also previously been used on the Rosslare to Cherbourg route, which P&O closed in December 2004 but which was restarted by Celtic Link ferries early the following year. She would later return to that route as STENA NORDICA in a relief capacity after Stena Line took over Celtic Link in early 2014.
Stena Line originally deployed STENA NORDICA to the Baltic (Karlskrona – Gdynia route), and she received an extensive Stena refit which included modifications to improve loading and unloading before being transferred to the Swedish flag. She returned to Dublin in 2008 to run opposite STENA ADVENTURER to Holyhead in place of the STENA SEATRADER, following a successful stint earlier in the year as refit relief vessel on the route. The following March she received a further €2.2M refit to bring her into line with the rest of Stena Line’s Irish Sea fleet including new passenger lounges and bar, a new Stena Plus lounge, a Food City restaurant, a new freight drivers area and refurbished seating and flooring.
Over the years STENA NORDICA has proved herself a very versatile ship, having operated to Liverpool, Mostyn, Cherbourg and Holyhead from Dublin, between Belfast and Cairnryan and Rosslare to Fishguard as a relief vessel for Stena, and also between Karlskrona and Gdynia as mentioned above. In addition she also served the Dover -Calais route for DFDS as MALO SEAWAYS and operated in the Mediterranean for GNV.
STENA NORDICA provided refit cover on the Belfast – Cairnryan (Loch Ryan Port) route in 2013, thus competing with her part-sister ships operating for P&O. Like Stena’s other Irish Sea ships, Stena Nordica has also been a visitor to Harland and Wolff for refits. It had been widely expected that STENA NORDICA would return to Belfast to provide cover for STENA SUPERFAST VII and STENA SUPERFAST VIII in March 2015 whilst they were dry docked. However during January 2015 DFDS announced that they had agreed to charter Stena Nordica from Stena RoRo for a period of 18 months to operate their Dover-Calais service as MALO SEAWAYS, filling the role previously undertaken by DIEPPE SEAWAYS (now STENA SUPERFAST X) before she left DFDS for conversion to replace Stena Nordica at Dublin.
Following DFDS’s acquisition of the former RODIN and BERLIOZ on charter from Groupe Eurotunnel, MALO SEAWAYS became surplus to requirements, and her charter was terminated early following rumoured technical problems. It was not clear where STENA NORDICA would next operate at this stage, however a charter to the Mediterranean had been touted in the Italian shipping press.
After the conclusion of her DFDS charter, MALO SEAWAYS was again renamed STENA NORDICA and was chartered to Mediterranean operator GNV for summer 2016. When that charter finished, STENA NORDICA returned to Stena Line to operate the Travemünde – Liepaja Baltic sea service between Germany and Latvia opposite veteran ferry URD. However, STENA NORDICA made a brief return to British and Irish waters in early 2017 as the designated refit relief ship until April 2017. Stena Nordica provided cover for six RoPax vessels in total, including releasing STENA HORIZON from the Rosslare – Cherbourg route so she could herself release near-sisters STENA LAGAN and STENA MERSEY for their dry docking’s, and the ship which replaced her on the Dublin – Holyhead route STENA SUPERFAST X. After again relieving STENA SUPERFAST VIII and STENA SUPERFAST VII she then returned back to her new ‘home’ route in the Baltic. On October 5th 2018 STENA NORDICA was reflagged from the UK (London) to the Bahamas (Nassau) in preparation for a return to the Karlskrona – Gdynia route as an additional ship. It is common for vessels with Polish crews to be flagged in the Bahamas or similar rather than Poland, and is a practice which even takes place on Polish state owned vessels.
During December 2018 NI Ferry Site revealed that STENA NORDICA would again be returning to the Irish Sea as the designated refit relief vessel, arriving initially to release STENA HORIZON to cover STENA LAGAN and STENA MERSEY on the Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead) route in the same way as she did in 2017. With STENA SUPERFAST X, STENA SUPERFAST VII, STENA SUPERFAST VIII, and STENA EUROPE all expected to dry-dock in early 2019 it is likely that STENA NORDICA will cover all of these vessels as well given how she proved herself in 2017. STENA NORDICA arrived in Belfast on the morning of 10.02.19 ahead of taking up service in place of STENA SUPERFAST VII the following morning with the 11:30 sailing ex Belfast.