Holyhead's relief ship for the 2013 New Year is the chartered Finnlines vessel Finnarrow. The ship arrived in Holyhead on 16th January slotting in to the roster of the Stena Nordica which in turn moved to cover for the annual overhauls of ships at Belfast and Fishguard.
The Finnarrow has led something of a nomadic career. Ordered from the Indonesian yard of Pt Dok Kodja Bahri in 1990, it was some three years before the ship took to the water in September of 1993. It was not until April 1996 that she was eventually delivered to Rederi AB Gotland, Visby, Sweden as their Gotland.
In December 1997 the ship was sold to FG-Shipping, taking her current name. Growing cargo volumes on its Finnlines service between Naantali (Finland) and Kapellskar (Sweden) stimulated FG-Shipping to acquire the RoPax vessel and an extensive conversion was carried out to create an efficient freight carrier. The job was executed progressively from the end of 1997 while in service between Helsinki and Lübeck, and later in a drydock in Helsinki.
The ship was originally delivered as a 6,500 dwt RoPax vessel with stern access only and an internal ramp leading from the main deck (3) to the upper deck (5) and deck 7. FG-Shipping's conversion specification sought to open up the bow and achieve direct through-loading/unloading of both freight decks, calling for MacGREGOR to supply: a bow door; inner bow door (including coaming); front door (including coaming); bow ramp/door; a stern ramp and king posts; and one new hydraulic power pack. Conversion of the existing stern ramp on the main deck was also dictated. The Finnarrow emerged from the project with a RoRo system based on a bow ramp/door accessing the main deck, a front door in the superstructure accessing deck 5, and upper and lower stern ramps serving both decks. Major structural changes were necessary at the bow to create access for heavy vehicles and reinforcement to compensate for the loss of intact design strength. The side-hinged bow door, built from the original shell plating, encloses a weathertight three-section ramp and inner bow door in way of the collision bulkhead.
Further modifications were required forward to allow direct shore access to the upper freight deck via the new top-hinged door installed in the deckhouse front. The weatherdeck in way of the driving lane had to be cleared by relocating the deck machinery, bulwark and radar mast. Similar measures were undertaken aft to accommodate a new weathertight stern ramp and king posts dedicated to the upper deck.
Modification of the main girder on the centreline supporting deck 7 was carried out to provide a sufficient clear driving height aft on deck 5. The original winch-operated stern ramp serving the main deck was converted to hydraulic cylinder operation and its main hinges upgraded. A new hydraulic power pack was installed at the bow along with connecting pipelines to the original power pack at the stern to secure emergency back-up operation.
There followed a series of lucrative charters and workings, one of which was to Stena Line in April 2007 for the Gdynia - Karlskrona route. In December 2010 the Finnarrow found herself in service on the Hoek Van Holland - Killingholme route. It was then back to the Baltic for various workings culminating with a final Naantali - Kapellskär sailing on 11th January 2013 before taking up her latest Stena Line charter for Holyhead operations.
Unfortunately the Finnarrow's time on the run was brought to an abrupt end. The ship was arriving at Holyhead from Dublin on 16th February when her port stabiliser fin contacted the berth. Fins are usually retracted before the ship enters the port. The ship suffered hull damage below the waterline and the assistance of the local fire brigade was required alongside the ship. The 77 passengers, 43 crew and the vehicles onboard were safely disembarked a short time later. Operations at the port were disrupted as the ship blocked the berth normally used by Irish Ferries.
Stena Line moved quickly to reactivate the laid-up HSS Stena Explorer. The fastcraft, which was due to return to service in late March for the summer season, was pressed into service operating a daily single round-trip service, departing Holyhead at 10.30hrs and from Dun Laoghaire departing at 15.05hrs. Stena RoRo’s Belfast-based freight ship, Stena Scotia was chartered by Stena Line to assist on the route. The Finnarrow left Holyhead under tow during the early hours of 20th February, bound for drydock at Greenock.
An exceptional view of the Finnarrow leaving the Clyde on 21st March after repairs at Greenock. Despite suggestions that the ship might redeem herself by returning to service at Holyhead, the ship continued south in the Irish Sea, bound for Antwerp. © Kenny Whyte.