Overview of Stena Superfast VII & III
STENA SUPERFAST VII and STENA SUPERFAST VIII are the current Stena Line Belfast to Cairnryan ferries. They were originally built for Attica Group subsidiary Superfast Ferries as SUPERFAST VII and SUPERFAST VIII for a new Baltic Sea service between Hanko (Finland) and Rostock (Germany) by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft in Kiel, Germany. SUPERFAST VII and SUPERFAST VIII were part of a series of 4 ships built to the same design which were delivered to Superfast Ferries in 2001 and 2002 by the same yard (the other 2 are currently in service as Marine Atlantic’s ATLANTIC VISION (originally named SUPERFAST IX), and Stena Line’s STENA SUPERFAST X). The order was part of a six-ship order placed in two parts with the HDW yard in 1998/99.
The HDW yard was mainly a Naval yard, but they were keen to break into the ferry market and so reportedly took a loss on the contract price of the ships in order to try to establish themselves in the market. In 2006 the Finland – Germany Superfast operation was sold by its Greek parent Attica Group to Tallink, and the ships transferred to Tallink ownership.
In March 2011 it was announced that Stena Line had agreed to charter both vessels, which were losing money operating for heavily in debt Tallink. The initial charter was for 3 years, however, on 5th February 2014 Tallink announced that they had agreed to continue the charter to Stena until Autumn 2019.
STENA SUPERFAST VII and STENA SUPERFAST VIII replaced HSS STENA VOYAGER as well as the two previous conventional ferries, STENA CALEDONIA and STENA NAVIGATOR, which had operated between Stranraer and Belfast. On the introduction of the Superfast’s, Stena moved their Scottish port a few miles closer to the mouth of Loch Ryan, to a purpose-built new development at Old House Point named Loch Ryan Port, just north of Cairnryan.
Rebuilding for Stena service
As the Superfast twins were designed as overnight ferries (for a 27 hr crossing) and Stena Line intended to place them on the new 2hr 15min Belfast to Cairnryan (Loch Ryan Port) crossing (which was replacing the Belfast to Stranraer link), an extensive refurbishment/conversion overseen by Stena Ro-Ro and Knud E Hansen was undertaken at the Remontowa Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland. This was rumoured at the time to have cost a total of €14m.
During this refurbishment, much of the original interior designed by Attica Group house designer Molindris+Associates was replaced though some areas, such as the Guest Services counter, are instantly recognisable from the Superfast Ferries days. Deck 8 is almost totally unrecognisable having been transformed from a cabin deck to a public deck.
In order to be able to accommodate full-height
The limited existing passenger areas towards the bow end on deck 6 were also removed to allow the upper vehicle deck to have the same free height in the central lanes throughout its length, and allow for full drive-through loading and unloading. Previously the forward central area of the upper vehicle deck only had enough height to accommodate passenger cars in the central lanes, due to the intrusion of the deck 6 passenger area. There are 2 car decks below the main vehicle deck (deck 1 and deck 2) however these will rarely be used on the Cairnryan to Belfast service due to there being ample space for cars on the other 2 vehicle decks on all but the busiest sailings.
Deck 8 was converted from a cabin deck to a public deck housing the ‘Truckers lounge’, cinema, ‘pod lounge’, ‘living room’, ‘news room’, ‘magazine lounge’, ‘barista’ coffee bar, and ‘Stena Plus’ lounge. This involved removing a total of 128 cabins and installing new larger windows in place of the small cabin windows originally installed. A limited number of cabin “suites” where retained on deck 10 and are available for the use of travellers for an additional fee. Also on deck 10 is the pairs standout feature – the ‘Pure Nordic Spa’, billed as the only spa on the Irish Sea.
The majority of deck 7 is occupied by the Taste restaurant and the Met Bar (which has slightly raised flooring at the front of its lounge in order to accommodate the extra height required by the car deck below) with guest services, a children’s play area, Stena shopping, and a video game arcade occupying the remaining space. Deck 9 is inaccessible to passengers and is for crew use only. The new interior was designed by Figura Arkitekter with outfitting in Gdansk undertaken by Newry based MJM Marine.
As originally designed SUPERFAST VII and VIII had an operating speed of 28.6kn (and were capable of 30kn), though Stena
The more efficient propellers also allow the vessels to operate at their service speed on just two of their four Wärtsilä-Sulzer 16-cylinder Diesel engines, in
As the new port in Scotland had a TTS automated mooring system installed the ships were also adapted to work with this by adding 3 steel bollards on the starboard side bow. This removes the need for traditional mooring lines to be used, though in practice they still are at both ports. Theoretically, no shore personnel are required to operate the automated mooring system as it is operated from the ship’s bridge.
The two Stena Superfast’s are the largest ferries currently operating to Northern Ireland with a gross tonnage in excess of 30,000 and a length in excess of 200m. Prior to conversion the ships could accommodate just 717 passengers (though the majority of these had cabins), whereas post conversion the ships can accommodate some 1200 passengers and 660 cars. A third sister, renamed STENA SUPERFAST X and with a different layout and facilities, entered service on the Dublin to Holyhead route in March 2015. STENA SUPERFAST VIII was voted the top ship in the Stena Line fleet 2013 and 2014 based on customer feedback. STENA SUPERFAST VII took the the award in 2015 and 2016, with the award for 2017 returning to STENA SUPERFAST VIII.
During March 2015, some areas of STENA SUPERFAST VII and STENA SUPERFAST VIII were refurbished whilst the ships where individually dry docked at Harland and Wolff. As part of this work, the colour schemes in the Met Bar and Stena Plus where changed to reflect the latest Stena corporate style. Both ships where individually dry-docked at Harland & Wolff again in February 2016, this time with STENA SUPERFAST X providing cover.
During her 2016 dry-docking period the upper vehicle deck onboard STENA SUPERFAST VIII was modified by removing some of the supporting pillars and undertaking significant structural work to retain the strength and rigidity of the structure above and the ship as a whole. From a passenger perspective the most noticeable changes from the 2016 refits were a refurbishment of the Spa, the provision of outside seating on Deck 10, new 60” TVs installed in the Met Bar and upgrades to the passenger lifts. Routine maintenance and painting was also carried out on both ships to refresh them after a busy 2015 season. In 2017 it was STENA SUPERFAST VII‘s turn to have some of the supporting pillars on the upper vehicle deck removed in a similar way to her sister.
For 2018 both vessels only received brief a dry-docking at Harland & Wolff for annual inspections (see below), though some refurbishment took place while in service in March. On 23rd March 2018, the new premium Hygge Recline Lounge was opened for the first time. This is located in the area aft of the Taste restaurant previously used as a conference area and overspill for the restaurant. The same area on STENA SUPERFAST X is used for the Quiet Lounge.
Change of ownership
On the 31st December 2017, the ownership of the Superfast vessels transferred from subsidiaries of AS Tallink Grupp to Stena subsidiary Stena North Sea Ltd. This followed the sale of the vessels to Stena in a transaction worth €133.5m earlier in 2017. On the 2nd and 3rd weekends of January 2018 both vessels were briefly dry-docked for maintenance and surveys, with interior refurbishment taking place while in service. This was the first time since the vessels joined Stena Line that one of them didn’t have a scheduled dry-dock taking around two weeks. Until then it was standard for one vessel to get around 2 weeks off service and the other a week in alternate years. The weekend dry-dockings also meant no relief vessel was required from elsewhere in the Stena fleet.
- On STENA SUPERFAST VII, when viewed from above, the uppermost deck is coloured blue. On STENA SUPERFAST VIII this deck is sand coloured. This is one of very few differences between the two sister ships. STENA SUPERFAST X also has this deck coloured blue, however she can be distinguished from her Stena sisters by the lack of ‘wing tips’ on her funnel and some additional accommodation aft either side of her funnel. From a passenger accommodation perspective, the most noticible difference between VII and VIII is the provision of an upright sandwich fridge in the Met Bar on STENA SUPERFAST VII, something her sister does not have. STENA SUPERFAST X has an entirely different interior layout which reflects both her unique history and the different requirements of her route.
- The remaining vessel in the Superfast VII quartet, originally named SUPERFAST IX, operates in Canada for Marine Atlantic as ATLANTIC VISION. She is the only vessel in their current fleet which has not yet operated for Stena. Their other vessels HIGHLANDERS, BLUE PUTTEES, and LEIF ERICSON were all originally built for Stena, with the former pair also the subject of a massive rebuild from freighters to luxury passenger ships by Stena RoRo to meet Marine Atlantic requirements. It is rumoured that had Marine Atlantic not taken HIGHLANDERS and BLUE PUTTEES on charter that they would have been converted for the Belfast to Cairnryan service instead, and that there would have been no Stena Superfasts!
To view a larger version of an image, please click it. Note that Deck 9 is a crew only deck and has no facilities which are accessible to passengers. Foot passengers enter the vessel mid-ships on Deck 7. Deck 7 is also the first public deck vehicle drivers and passengers reach after the vehicle decks.
|Stena Superfast VII||Stena Superfast VIII|
Stena North Sea Ltd (Stena Line)
Belfast – Cairnryan (Loch Ryan Port)
Initially part of a US$450m order for 4 ferries. The order was later increased for an additional 2 ferries, but split into two different designs with two ordered of Superfast V class and four of Superfast VII class. Total contract price of 6 ship order DM 1.2 billion (approx €615m).
Approx price of Superfast VII class US$112.5m each
Knud E Hansen A/S, Helsingor, Denmark
Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG, Kiel, Germany
|Delivery date (original)|
|In service (original)|
|Original Interior design|
Molindris+Associates, Glyfáda, Greece
Knud E Hansen A/S, Helsingor, Denmark
Stena Teknik, Gothenburg, Sweden
(for Stena Rebuild)
Figura Arkitekter AB, Gothenburg, Sweden
|Stena Rebuild interior fit-out|
MJM Marine, Newry, Northern Ireland
Gdańska Stocznia “Remontowa”
€14m for both vessels
|In service (Stena Line)|
|Call sign (Stena)|
|Machinery after Stena conversion|
• 4 x Wärtsilä-Sulzer NSD 16ZAV40S main engines producing 11500kW each (cylinder diameter: 400mm, stroke: 560mm), coupled to 2x 5.2m KaMeWa propellers via 2 x Schelde dual input single output gearboxes.
• 3 x MAN B&W 8L28/32H, producing a total of 1,848 kW each @ 510 rpm
• 3 x 925kW KaMeWa bow thrusters
• 1x 1350kW stern thruster
• 2 x Blohm+Voss fin stabilisers
|Power(Max/Pme @ 75%)|
|Operational speed (Tallink/Stena)|
28-29 knots maximum speed (pre-rebuild)
|Capacity (for Tallink)|
717 passengers (626 berths)
110 trucks and 85 cars
|Capacity (for Stena)|
1200 passengers and the following vehicles
• Deck 5 (upper): 58 trailers – 5.05 metres free height (4 lanes)
• Deck 3 (main): 52 trailers – 4.70 metres free height
• Deck 2 (lower): 43 cars – 2.20 metres free height
• Deck 1 (lower): 39 cars – 2.20 metres free height
1891 lane meters total (661 cars or 110 trailers or a mix of both)
|Vehicle access||Twin-level bow and stern loading directly to decks 3 and 5|
Internal hoistable ramps between decks 5 and 3
Lower hold ramps from deck 3 to 2 and deck 2 to 1
|Crew (for Stena)|
Between 55 and 76 depending on operational requirements
|Onboard Facilities in use (Apr 2018)|
|Homeport (Flag) [Operator]|
The above article is Copyright © Steven Tarbox, all rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction or distribution is strictly prohibited. All images are Copyright © of their credited copyright holder unless explicitly stated otherwise. With thanks to Scott Mackey, Diane Poole, Timo Selkälä, Captain Alistair McCarlie, and all the named contributors (and those who wish to remain anonymous).
Originally Published: 20.02.2014
Rewritten: TBC 2020.
Last Updated: 01.07.2018 (converted to Gutenberg Blocks 07.01.19)