Three German-built ro-ro sisters which spent more than 30 years on Irish Sea freight services for P&O and later Stena Line before final spells with Russian operator Antship fittingly ended their days together after arriving at Aliaga, Turkey for scrapping during February.
They were built at the J.J. Seitas yard in Hamburg to a Stena AB order with delivery in 1975, but at an early stage hulls 555 and 556 were bought by P&O to launch a Pandoro service between Fleetwood’s newly opened ro-ro terminal and Larne, debuting as Bison and Buffalo. Yard no.557 went to the United Steamship Co for Australian service as Union Melbourne until joining Pandoro as Puma in 1978.
The trio were lengthened by 15m to 141m overall on the Tyne in the early 1980s, with Buffalo stretched by a further 15m in 1989, a year in which P&O Irish Sea branding was introduced. Then, in 1989, there were new names for the trio, with Bison becoming European Pioneer, Buffalo being renamed European Leader and Puma renamed European Seafarer.
Stena Line bought the Fleetwood route and the three vessels in a £50 million deal in 2004 that also included Japan-built twins European Ambassador and European Envoy from P&O’s failed Mostyn-Dublin route. The Fleetwood trio became Stena Pioneer, Stena Leader and Stena Seafarer and continued to trade to Larne until Stena closed the operation in 2010.
Although the 35 year-old veterans were expected to go for scrap, they were bought by Russian operator Antship and sailed under the Moldovian flag from November 2011, the former Bison becoming Ant 1, Puma sailed as Ant 2 with Buffalo finishing her career as Anna Marine.