Goodbye Buffalo, Puma, and Bison.
It is perhaps fitting that three ships which spent most their operational lives together from “birth”, have ended their lives together on the same beach in Turkey. The Ant 1, Ant 2, and Anna Marine (originally Buffalo, Union Melbourne (later Puma), and Bison) spent most of their careers operating to Fleetwood from Larne first for Pandoro/P&O and then Stena Line between 1980 and 2011. Buffalo and Bison (apart from a charter to B&I line for 4 years from 1989) had actually operated together to Fleetwood from their completion in 1975, and where joined in 1980 by the newly renamed Puma which had previously operated on charter to Union Steamship (also part of the P&O group) of New Zealand.
Although all 3 “sisters” were built by JJ Siestas of Hamburg West Germany in 1975, each ship was different due to Buffalo and Bison having both been significantly modified/stretched during their careers. They where originally built for Stena Line to their "Stena Seaporter" design, but never initially operated for them, with Buffalo and Bison being sold to Pandoro and Union Melborne going out on charter to Union Steamship when completed. However, in a twist of fate all 3 would operate for Stena (as Stena Seafarer, Stena Leader, and Stena Pioneer – P&O had previously renamed them European Seafarer, European Leader, and European Pioneer when they stopped operating the Fleetwood service as Pandoro) when they took over the Fleetwood operation from P&O in 2004.
The Fleetwood operation was closed at the end of 2010 and all 3 ships sold to Russian interests to operate for AnRussTrans between Turkey and Ukraine (Anna Marine also operated between Turkey and Saudi Arabia via the Suez canal). Reportedly the 3 ships were used to help prepare for the Sochi Winter Olympics. All three were beached at Aliaga in Turkey on the morning of 13/2/14, less than a week after the Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony. Below are a couple of YouTube videos and some pictures of the ships in their final guises.
Title Image: Puma in Pandoro livery. Copyright © Scott Mackey
Stena Pioneer demonstrating how tight berthing was at Fleetwood
Note: The beaching of these 3 vessels prompted the creation of this website due to the lack of coverage online at the time, and this was the first post on what would become NI Ferry Site. A longer article is being written to coincide with the 5th anniversary of the beaching of these 3 vessels together.