The arrival of the Stena Challenger on the Holyhead - Dublin freight service in September 1996 opened the fledgling freight route to passengers thanks to the ship's ability to accommodate up to 500 passengers. This proved its worth during the winter months when adverse weather affected HSS sailings of the Stena Explorer on the Dun Laoghaire run.
The ship was built in 1991 for Stena RoRo and upon delivery, she was immediately transferred to Stena AB's newly acquired Sealink subsidiary and allocated to the Dover - Calais service, arriving on 26 June of that year. In 1992, a review of Sealink operations saw the ship transfer to a new Dover-Dunkerque freight run, but by 1994 she was back on the Calais route.
On 19 September 1995 the Stena Challenger was on a night-time sailing from Dover to Calais with 172 passengers and 73 crew on board when she ran aground in the approach channel to Calais. Initial attempts to refloat the vessel failed. However with the aid of three tugs she was refloated at high water the following evening and subsequently proceeded under her own power into Calais. A substantial amount of bottom plating was damaged in the accident but the hull was not pierced and no pollution occurred.
Emerging from dry dock late in October the Stena Challenger became the first UK Stena Line ship to carry the new livery introduced following the ditching of the Sealink brand name.
Preparations for the ship's move to the Irish Sea began in August 1996 and on 17 September she entered service at Holyhead.
In July 1998 both she and the Koningin Beatrix were chartered to assist with the movement of people and equipment for the Tour de France. The Stena Challenger remained at Holyhead until her sale to Canadian operators in April 2001.
Fosen Yards, Norway, 1991.
1550 lane metres
Stern and bow
The vessel was purchased by the Government of Canada for its Crown corporation Marine Atlantic and underwent modifications in preparation for operating the 178 km route between North Sydney, Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador as the Leif Ericson.