Stena Nautica (I) / Reine Astrid
& Sardinia Vera

Reine Astrid seen in mid-Channel on Ramsgate/Oostende sailing in July 1994.
She was increasingly unpopular with passengers when compared with the modern
Prins Filip

Stena Line ordered a quartet of identical multi-purpose ferries for its Scandinavian routes in the mid 1970s. These featured, in particular, two capacious lorry decks designed for twin level loading. This very rectangular profile was first seen on the Channel in 1982, when Stena Nautica (previously named Stena Nordica) was chartered to R. M. T. for their Dover/Oostende service. Against her rather old fashioned and diminutive fleet mates, she was a revolutionary arrival, with massive lorry capacity. She was acquired outright the following year and christened Reine Astrid in line with the Belgian royal family scheme. Her major pitfall was her weak engines which could only manage 17 knots even in calm seas. Her sailings were advertised as 45 minutes longer to the bemusement of passengers.

By the time the Oostende service had transferred to Ramsgate, Reine Astrid was no longer a flagship. Here she is caught in mid Channel bound for Belgium in July 1994. Her rusty appearance does little to disguise her two decades of service. Oostende Lines was wound up in early 1997 and Reine Astrid was disposed of forthwith.

Meanwhile, in 2001, a most unlikely entrant into the cut throat Channel market emerged in the form of French state owned Transmanche Ferries and their chartered Sardinia Vera, formerly Stena Atlantica (a sister of Stena Nordica). She opened a new conventional ferry service between Newhaven and Dieppe, filling the void left by the departure of P. & O. Stena Line two years before. Her garish colour scheme, with a predominately yellow hull and funnel, was in fact a cheaply modified version of her Mediterranean owner's livery. Transmanche simply slapped on a turquoise 'T' in a circle, and added a navy blue pinstripe along her superstructure. The unattractive stability tanks attached to her hull were added to keep her within the requirements of the Safety of Lives at Sea (S. O. L. A. S.) legislation. She lasted until the arrival of the purpose-built Côte d'Albâtre in March 2006, upon which she returned to her namesake.

M. S. Stena Nordica & Stena Atlantica
Builder: Rickmers Werft, G. M. B. H., Bremerhaven, Germany.
Yard number: 381 and 382.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 120.88 x 19.51 x 5.3 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 5,443, 2,765, 2,793.
Engines: Two 12 cylinder, M. A. K. diesel.
Power: 14,120 B. H. P.
Speed (knots): 17.5.
Passenger certificate: 1,200.
Car capacity: 450.

18.12.1974: Stena Atlantica launched.
30.5.1975: Delivered to Stena Line A. B. Chartered to Marine Atlantic, Canada. Renamed Marine Atlantica.
10.1979: Sold to Roylease Limited, Montreal, Canada.
6.1986: Sold to Tourship Company S. A., Nassau, Bahamas.
1987: Registered for Medinvest S. A., Genoa, Italy. Renamed Corsica Vera.
30.6.1987: Sold to Nuova Trans Tirreno Express S. R. L., Olbia, Italy. Renamed Sardinia Vera.
4.3.2001: Chartered to Conseil General de Seine Maritime, Dieppe, France.
11.4.2001: Opened Transmanche Ferries Dieppe/Newhaven service.

16.5.1975: Stena Nordica launched.
28.11.1975: Delivered to Stena A. B., Göteborg.
9.1978: Chartered to Hellas Ferries, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Hellas.
4.1979: Renamed Stena Nordica.
4.1980: Chartered to Hellas Ferries, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Hellas.
9.1980: Renamed Stena Nordica.
16.10.1980: Chartered to B. & I. Line, Dublin, Ireland. Pembroke/Rosslare.
6.5.1981:Chartered to Marine Atlantic, North Sydney, Canada.
10.1981: Chartered to Hellas Ferries, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Hellas.
2.1982: Renamed Stena Nautica. Chartered to Regie voor Maritiem Transport, Oostende.
8.4.1982: Oostende/Dover.
28.3.1983: Sold to Regie voor Maritiem Transport. Renamed Reine Astrid.
14.2.1984: Sent to Mercantile Engineering, Antwerp, Belgium for the fitting of stability tanks.
1.1.1994: Oostende/Ramsgate.
31.10.1996: Laid up at Oostende.
3.2.1997: Sold to Onorato Overseas Transport Maritima Limited, Funchal, Madeira. Renamed Moby Kiss.
5.1998: Sold to Compagnie Marocaine de Navigation, Casablanca, Morocco (Comanav). Renamed Al Mansour.

A video clip from 1989 showing Reine Astrid departing stern first from Oostende Harbour.

Wearing a vivid livery of yellow hull with turquoise and blue lettering, Sardinia Vera is seen here during her spell at Newhaven.