THE ST CHRISTOPHER STORY
PART TWO: IRELAND, NEWHAVEN & MOROCCO, 1991-
e-mail: matt@hhvferry.com
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1990 saw Sealink British Ferries taken over, in hostile fashion, by Swedish ferry giant Stena Line. There followed a major re-appraisal of the entire network and the ships which operated it: Dover eventually received the Stena Invicta and the new Stena Challenger, whilst the 'Christopher' was transferred to the North Channel route between Stranraer and Larne, effectively replacing the Darnia. There, renamed Stena Antrim, she joined the two others of the four Harland & Wolff near-sisters, Stena Galloway (ex-Galloway Princess) and Stena Caledonia (ex-St David).

She stayed at Stranraer for a further five and a half years before the arrival of the new HSS
Stena Voyager and the transfer of the Northern Irish port to Belfast. A move back to the English Channel followed, this time to the Newhaven-Dieppe route in place of the failed Stena Pegasus fast monohull. Operating initially in conjunction with erstwhile former Dover-Calais fleetmate Stena Parisien (ex-Champs Elysees), then briefly with sister Stena Cambria (ex-St Anselm) and in Summer 1997 with the InCat Stena Lynx III, the ĎAntrimí was taken over by the new P&O Stena Line when the two operators merged their Short Sea interests in March 1998. Her career with P&O Stena was to be brief however and she was despatched for lay up in Zeebrugge in April 1998, being replaced at Newhaven by the Stena Cambria, released from Dover. Sale to Moroccan operator Limadet followed later in the Summer and the ship was speedily renamed Ibn Batouta and put into service between Tangier in that country and Algeciras on the Spanish mainland. Limadet were taken over by the state-owned COMANAV in 2003, but the ship's owners retained their independence within the pool of operators on the Tangier run.
Above: Stena Antrim in Sealink Stena Line livery.
Above & below: Two views of the Ibn Batouta arriving at Algeciras in early May 2003.
Above: Stena Antrim in Stena Sealink livery approaching Stranraer from Larne in the closing years of the old railway route, prior to the transfer of Stena services to Belfast. The windows visible here at the stern above the upper car deck were reinstated after the ship was transferred to the Irish Sea, having been filled-in upon the extension of the duty-free shopping areas in the 1980s.
Above: Stena Antrim in profile, departing from Larne. Picture courtesy Gary Andrews
Above: The Stena Antrim at Newhaven during her couple of years running on the Dieppe route.
Above: The Ibn Batouta at her regular berth in Tangier.
Above: The Stena Antrim alongside at Stranraer. Picture courtesy Joe Canavan
Above: The Ibn Batouta at Algeciras in mid-April 2006 showing the new livery she received in that year's refit, which reflected for the first time COMANAV's ownership of Limadet. Picture courtesy Emilio Mesa/www.navegando.info
Above: The Ibn Batouta alongside at Algeciras in September 2006.