Saturday, December 22, 2018


Halifax pilotage operations were suspended again today for a  time due to weather. That weather consists of high winds and seas. There is also sometimes near zero visibility in rain and heavy fog, the latter brought on by unseasonable high temperatures.

Time therefore for some more deep background.


 The name Stena has become synonymous with ferries world wide. They always seem to be building and selling ferries, and Stena has become one the great success stories in the shipping world.

Stena was named by its founder Sten Allan Olsen when he started his ferry service between his native Sweden and Denmark in 1962. Already well established in the scrap metal business, since 1939 and in a small way with cargo ships since 1946, Olsen entered the market when road transportation really took off. Trucks, containers and trucks carrying containers became the preferred means of transportation and more and more people were travelling in their own cars.

Bigger and bigger ferries on more and more routes, catering to freight and passengers created an almost insatiable demand, and Stena was there to cater to it. Eventually Olsen's business spread to tankers, offshore supply and drilling and investments in non-shipping companies, making Stena and its various subsidiaries, known as Stena Sphere, one of the largest corporations in Sweden.

Stena developed and perfected what are now called RoPax ships: Roll On/ Roll Off Passenger ships, but also RoLo: Roll On / Roll Off - Lift On / Lift Off, that could carry containers and trucks / cars. Some of the ships catered to cars, trucks and passengers, and others to trucks only, with limited accommodation for their drivers.

When other operators saw the success of Stena, Olsen was ready to charter out or sell his ships, giving him leverage to build more and better vessels.

A number of those charters and sales were to Canadian operators, particularly to what has become Marine Atlantic. Its mandate is to connect Newfoundland with mainland Canada by sea. That role was defined in the terms of Newfoundland Confederation when it joined Canada in 1949. The Newfoundland Railway, and its ferry service, was taken over by the Canadian National Railway in 1949. In 1977 CNR formed its CN Marine division as the ferry operator. In 1986 that operation, which also included Northumberland Strait and Bay of Fundy ferries, was spun off as a separate crown corporation and named Marine Atlantic. A crown corporation is to be run as a business, with the government of Canada (the Crown) as sole shareholder. The Crown also names the Board of Directors, and in the case of Marine Atlantic, also subsidizes the operation with tax payer funds.

Marine Atlantic's main service to Newfoundland was between North Sydney, NS and Port aux Basques, NL. [The official name of the province is now Newfoundland and Labrador - abbreviated hereinafter as Newfoundland or NL]. Freight had traditionally been carried as break bulk, then in rail cars, laboriously converted from standard to narrow gauge at each crossing. As roads in Newfoundland improved the demand to carry trucks exploded. The rail road did adapt to containers, but never did convert to standard gauge and was closed down in 1988.

To keep up, Marine Atlantic chartered and purchased ships to supplement those it had built domestically. As the cost of Canadian built ships increased over the years, it has relied on charters and purchase of second hand tonnage, almost exclusively from Stena.

Stena Trailer,  Jarl Transporter

The first Stena ships that CNR used were two small cargo only RoRo vessels. Stena Trailer and Jarl Transporter (launched as Stena Transporter). Built on 1972 and 1973 respectively they measured a modest 1306 grt. They carried truck trailers exclusively.
In February 1974 when ice was particularly heavy in the Sydney Bight they operated from Halifax for two trips each. Normally when ice was heavy CNR moved its ships to Point Tupper, on the Strait of Canso, but that port had no RoRo or container handling facilities.

Stena Trailer in foreground is still loading.\

Jarl Transporter appears ready to sail. The ships look like miniature versions of ships built 20 or more years later.
Both ships were built by Akers Tronhhjems in Norway, with Jarl Transporter sold on delivery to Det Nordenfjelske, and soon after reacquired by Stena, without change of name.
The ships were used for a year by CN Marine and returned to Stena. They later carried several names each either under charter or for new owners.
Stena Trailer became 74: Nopal Sky, 77: Stena Tailer, 78: Kirk Trailer, 80 Caribbean Trailer and was delivered to Aliaga for scrap in August 2009.
Jarl Transporter was renamed Stena Transporter in 1975 then 76: Leon R.E., 83: Weymouth, 84:Nusa Dharma for Indonesian owners. It may still be operational. 

While satisfying a short term need, the two RoRos were a stop gap until more ships could be brought in or converted to carry trucks. Then began a long series of larger Stena RoPax ferries, most of similar design.

Marine Nautica

Still in Stena colours, but renamed Marine Nautica the ship is berthed stern in at Port aux Basques in this photo.
In 1974 CN was pressed for additional capacity and chartered Stena Nautica and immediately renamed it Marine Nautica. The ship was just out of the Rickmers, Bremerhaven shipyard, the second of four sister ships built by Stena for charter work. With effect in 1980 CN Marine acquired the ship through a bareboat charter arrangement with Roylease (the leasing arm of the Royal Bank of Canada.)

Marine Nautica diverted to Halifax due to ice in March 1980. It had been repainted in CN Marine blue hull with gold stripe, but was sadly worn from service harsh winter conditions.

 Winter traffic was mostly freight, and trucks lined both sides of the piers waiting to load.

Bow in at the North Sydney marine terminal, the ship forms a backdrop for two wooden trawlers, Jean Coleete and Mario G out of Caraquet, NB.
The ship ran year round between North Sydney and Port aux Basques until 1986 when it was sold to Tourship Co and operated between Livorno and Bastia as Corsica Marina II, later renamed Corsica Marina Seconda. The ship is still in operation.

Marine Atlantica

Marine Atlantica arrives off North Sydney.

Also in 1974 CN chartered another sister ship, which was launched as Stena Atlantic, but renamed Marine Atlantica on delivery. In 1979 CN Marine acquired the ship through financing in the form of bareboat charter from Roylease. In 1986 when Marine Atlantic was formed the ship was sold to Italian owners and became Corsica Vera and in 1987 Sardinia Vera. Although it was chartered for work on the English Channel for a time, it continues to operate between mainland Italy and Corsica.

Stena Nordica

In 1975 CN Marine chartered the newly built  Stena Nordica, the first of four vessels built by Rickmers, Bremerhaven for charter work. CN Marine used the ship during the peak summer seasons from 1975-1979 and again in 1981. The ship was renamed Hellas each winter for service in Greece. When CN wanted the ship back for 1982 Stena declined. CN Marine then took Stena to court over the terms of the charter and CN was awarded ownership of Stena Jutlandica. [see below]
Stena Nordica was renamed Stena Nautica in 1981 then sold in 1983 to the Government of Belgium and renamed Reine Astrid for cross-Channel service. In 1997 Onorato Overseas Transportation bought the ship which became Moby Kiss, but was chartered to Moroccan owners, Cie Marocaine de Navigation,  the same year, then purchased by them in 1998. Renamed Al Mansour it ran between Algeçiras and Tangier until 2015 when it arrived in Aliaga where it was broken up in August.

Stena Normandica

In 1976 CN Marine took up a brief charter with Stena Normandica, built by Rickmers, Bremerhaven, another of the four sister ships that Stena built for charter work, but also used from time to time on their own ferry routes as relief vessels. The ship made only one call in Halifax according to my records. It loaded some Atco mobile buildings in February 1976. The ship went on to a long career with Sealink as Saint Brendan. In 1990 it was sold to Moby Lines for service as Moby Vincent running between Italy and France. Except for a charter out in 1993-94 as Wasa Sun the ship has served Moby Lines up to the present day.

Jutlandica / Bluenose

When Stena Nordica was not available for North Sydney - Port aux-Basques service in 1983, Stena provided Stena Jutlandica, which was renamed Jutlandica. At the end of that summer, CN Marine took ownership of the ship for use in another of their services - the Yarmouth, NS to Bar Harbour, ME run across the mouth of the Bay of Fundy.

Built in 1973 in Yugoslavia it originally ran on Stena Lines' Goteborg-Frederikshaven service. In 1977 it was rebuilt with a second trailer deck, making the ship look even boxier than before, and necessitating the addition of hull sponsons for stability.

Alongside the Machine Shop Wharf, workers are repairing rust and and spot priming Jutlandica
It is already carrying the CN Marine funnel mark.

Refitting continues in the Graving Dock, with the new name Bluenose already applied.

Emerging from the Graving Dock, the hull sponsons are visible, as is the extra steel inserted when the second truck deck was added - it appears as a slightly darker band below the line of portholes on the original truck deck.

Refitted at Halifax Shipyard it became the second Bluenose, replacing a ship of the same name built in 1955. In 1979 CN Marine became Marine Atlantic and ownership was transferred to the Minister of Transport, with Marine Atlantic as operators. In 1997 Marine Atlantic gave up the route to Bay Ferries and they bought and operated the ship for the 1997 season only.

Despite being slightly boxier because of the extra truck deck, the ship still made a good impression as its sailed into Yarmouth harbour. When the hull was painted blue the painter gave the ship a bit of shear which did not actually have.

After layup in Shelburne and a renaming to Hull 309, Bay Ferries sold the ship and it sailed to Spain in the spring of 1999. Becoming Euroferrys Atlantica it ran between Algeçiras and Tangiers. In 2010 it was renamed Ace II when sold to Indian breakers. It arrived at Alang December 22, 2010.

Scotia Prince

Scotia Prince started life as a sister ship to Bluenose, but was lengthened and did not get the extra car deck. It was a better looking ship as a result, but never as elegant in white and faded denim stripes.

Another ferry service operated from Yarmouth, NS to Portland, ME, also acquired a Stena ship, Stena Olympica, built in 1971 in Yugoslavia, for Goteborg-Keil service for Stena Lines. Renamed Scotia Prince for the seasonal operation starting in 1982 it ran under the 'Prince of Fundy Cruises' banner.  In 1986-87 it was lengthened 18m. With more cabin space it was then marketed more as a cruise ship than a ferry.
It found winter work running between Tampa, FL and Tampico, MX, and in 2002 -2003 from Tampa to the Yucatan as the 'Yucatan Express'.
At the end of the 2004 season, the Portland Terminal was found to be contaminated with mold and the Yarmouth-Portland service was discontinued.
The ship was used by the US government's Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] in New Orleans in 2005-2006, then went to the Mediterranean where it served a variety of routes and carried out humanitarian evacuations from Libya in early 2011. It finally arrived in Colombo in March 2012, renamed Prince, and the next month arrived in Chittagong where it was scrapped.

For more photos of these Stena ships see:

Stena Grecia / Atlantic Freighter

Still in Stena livery, alongside at North Sydney, the future Atlantic Freighter loads cargo in its first season with CN Marine.

CN Marine's needs also extended to freight only and they again turned to Stena in 1986, chartering Stena Grecia. a 5465 grt RoRo with capacity of 75 drop trailers/ 110 TEU , it was built as Tor Felicia by Hyundai, Ulsan in 1978 and ran as Merzaro Grecia from 1978 to 1983 until acquired by Stena Gulf Line Ltd. CN Marine chartered the ship for 150 days from April 1986 for its drop trailer service.

 In Marine Atlantic colours, and renamed, the ship sits out most of the winter season in North Sydney. Other ships can carry the traffic until the busy summer season. However the ship was brought out of layup from time to time to clear backlogs.

During that time CN Marine became Marine Atlantic, and at the end of the charter Marine Atlantic purchased the ship renaming it Atlantic Freighter. Although it had capacity for 12 passengers, it did not normally carry any.
In December 1990 the ship was chartered to the US Military Sealift for Persian Gulf war service. It was returned in April 1991 having made the one trip, spending the rest of the time on standby in Italy.
Plans to replace the ship had been in the works since 1998, but the ship was kept in service, even though it was laid up over the winter of 2007-2008 for asbestos removal, then refitted at Halifax Shipyard.
It was finally sold in 2010 and renamed Pelagitis first for Panamanian, the Greek owners. It is reported to be still in service.

There has always been competition with CN Marine and later Marine Atlantic for freight service between the mainland and the island of Newfoundland. Since the advent of containerization and RoRo the competition has intensified, with the resulting company Oceanex as the last remaining competitor. It is in fact the result of various consolidations and mergers among some of the earlier shipping companies. It has three ships, two running from Montreal and one from Halifax, each on a weekly basis. When those ships are out of service for any prolonged period, Oceanex has to find substitutes.
It has used used two Stena ships to fill in. Stena Foreteller and Stena Carrier are similar ships with large stern ramps accessing several enclosed decks and an open cargo deck.

Stena Foreteller

An enlarged, but more attractive version of its 1970s predecessors, Stena Foreteller glides into Halifax for Oceanex.

Stena Foreteller was built in 2001 by Dalian Shipyard in China and also operated as Cetam Massilia from 2002 to 2003. A large ship of 24,688 grt, and 12,640 dwt, it has 3,000 lane meters of capacity. Following service with Oceanex from June to July 2004, when it operated weekly between Halifax, CornerBrook (since dropped as a port of call by Oceanex) and St.John's, the ship returned to the Baltic where it is still working. It has been reported sold however, but the new owners have not yet been revealed.

Stena Carrier

Equally as impressive, Stena Carrier sails up the St.Lawrence toward Montreal on a breezy day. It still bears the banner of a previous charter.

Stena Carrier was built in 2004 in Italy and is a 21,171 grt, 12,350 dwt RoLo. It was used by Oceanex in 2016 when Oceanex Connaigra was refitting. It has also since been sold, and since August has been operating as Mexico Star for Baja Ferries.

Leif Erikson

In 2000 Marine Atlantic purchased the ten year old Stena Challenger, built by Fosen MV in Rissa, Norway. Although normally used for commercial vehicles only, the ship does have capacity for 500 un-berthed passengers and 300 vehicles. There are berths for 92 truck drivers.

Marine Atlantic took delivery in 2001 and renamed the ship Leif Erikson to observe the anniversary of the arrival (perhaps) of the first European to North  America.

Leif Erikson passes the MacKay bridge in Halifax to take shelter in Bedford Basin while Tropical Storm Ophelia passes. It then went to drydock at Halifax Shipyard.

In 2010 Marine Atlantic announced an $18mn mid-life refit for the ship . That would indicate it may be replaced as soon as 2020.

When it became time to upgrade the passenger fleet Marine Atlantica turned to Stena again, and chartered two sister ships for year round passenger and freight service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques. The ships were built as Stena's Seabridger class by AO Baltijsky Zaved in St.Petersburg, Russia with final completion at Fosen MV in Rissa, Norway.

Before they were ready for service in Canada each was modified by taking the unusual step of shortening the ships by 12.5m and adding accommodations in the form of 96 more cabins in addition to the 100 already provided, and lounge space with 500 recliner seats. Also a third bow thruster was added by MAI in Bremerhaven.

One year before expiry of their five year charters, Marine Atlantic exercised its purchase option and bought the ships outright in 2015 for a reported total price of $100 mn.

Blue Puttees

 Blue Puttees in drydock in Halifax.
First to be taken over by Marine Atlantic  was the former Stena Trader, built in 2006. Renamed Blue Putttees after the World War I  Newfoundland Regiment, it entered service in March 2011.


Sister ship Stena Traveller, had operated between Hoek van Holland and Killingolme, England from 2007 to 2009. After modification it was renamed after the Cape Breton Highlanders regiment  and entered service for Marine Atlantic in April 2011.

Impressive ships, capable of 22 knots, and built for severe Baltic ice conditions, both have acquitted themselves well for Marine Atlantic.


What the future holds for Marine Atlantic is always a subject for speculation. Their flaghisp Atlantic Vision (never a Stena ship)  may be up for replacement as early as November 2019, and as stated above Leif Erikson may have as little as two years left in service. Will Marine Atlantic turn to Stena again?
Stay tuned.


1 comment:

  1. Nordamanica did not serve with cn, she was only one of the 4 sisters that did not, it was the nautica, atlantica and nordica