The subject of this book - Stena - will naturally be of great interest to the many ferry enthusiasts who visit the Irish Sea Shipping web site. This isn't surprising given the company's high profile on the Irish Sea covering southern, central and northern corridor routes.
However, Bill Harvey's second work on Stena, paints a much broader picture of Stena Group's extensive shipping operations which extend far beyond the high profile ferry business.
The author's first work on Stena appeared in 1989 commemorating the company's 50th Anniversary. Seventeen years on the company has expanded considerably. Likewise this new book produced to mark 60 years in the shipping business is a much larger volume than its predecessor.
Stena was formed in 1939 by Sten Allan Olsson initially trading in metals and materials. The company only entered shipping 60 years ago in 1946. The first ship was a 1925 built, three masted schooner, DAN. Today the Stena group operates one of the most technologically advanced fleets of ships in the world from the sophisticated high-speed HSS 1500 vessels operating on the Irish and North Seas, through to double skinned, twin rudder tankers such as the STENA VISION.
The highly diverse nature of the group's fleet is revealed by a glance at the contents of the book. These are arranged into four sections covering the spheres of operation and are presented as four chronological books within one cover. Each of of the four sections commences with an introductory narrative before leading into comprehensive details of the particular fleet.
Company Overview a concise chronological history of the company from 1939 to 2005.
Part One - Dry Cargo Operations
Part Two - Tanker Operations
Part Three - Passenger and RoRo Cargo Operations
Part Four - Offshore Support Operations
If one was not fully aware of the diverse nature of the company's shipping operations before seeing the contents list one soon realises that passenger and ro/ro services are just a component in a much larger organisation.
'Stena - A Group Fleet History' gives full details of 420 vessels, of which over 270 were owned, 130 chartered or either technically or commercially managed by Stena subsidiaries, with the remainder being part owned through associated companies.
Additionally, details are also given of vessels on order at the time of compilation (February 2006) as well as proposed and cancelled orders.
Vessels' previous and post Stena histories are also included where appropriate - thus there is considerable coverage of ships which have served in other fleets - such as Sea Containers, P&O, Townsend Thoresen etc.
Personally, I found of particular interest, details of proposed, ordered or even cancelled ships. Given the current scrutiny being placed on high-speed vessels at the present time in the light of soaring fuel prices it is interesting to note just how many high speed craft didn't make it into the fleet during the 1990s.
Many will be aware that only one of the smaller HSS proposed HSS 900 vessels the STENA CHARISMA saw the light of day. Construction of its sister being halted by the collapse of Westamarin. However, I was not aware that there was to have been a fourth HSS 1500 from Finnyards which was cancelled in 1996 as well as proposals for the same yard to construct four smaller HSS 700 vessels for delivery in 1997/8.
Overall the book is well presented and well laid out - and information on individual ships is easy to find following the usual WSS Fleet History format.
I must confess to having found a few slight niggles with the photographic content. There are a number of photographs - e.g. STENA ALEXITA, STENA WELLSERVICER, STENA VISION - which appear twice in the book - in both monochrome and colour. Additionally some of the photographs, in particular the monochrome ones, appear to lack definition and contrast.
Finally the usual misspelling of ISLE OF INNISFREE (INISHFREE) appears on a caption in the colour section. I say usual - as this ship and her subsequent Irish Continental Group replacement along with the ISLE OF INISHMORE appear to suffer greatly from "INNIS" and "INISH" confusion both in both the 'on line' and printed media!
However, don't let the few minor points concerning the photographs put you off. 'Stena - A Group Fleet History' is an excellent reference work which holds much essential information.
In the past anyone wishing to find information on the group's vessels would have had to consult a range of books covering Ferries, Cargo Ships, Tanker and Offshore Support vessels. Now, only this single volume is required!
Do ensure a copy finds its way on to your bookshelf soon and broaden your knowledge of this interesting Swedish shipping group.
John H. Luxton
May 25, 2006