From the photos on NI Ferry Site, the DFDS E-Flexer looks very smart. I am a confident she will prove to be a good vessel. She looks a good bit different from the Stena vessels - far less cabins and more passenger accommodation.
If it is the case Stena are deploying two vessels rather than three on the Irish Sea, then perhaps one will replace Superfast X (Holyhead - Dublin) and the second replace Stena Horizon (Rosslare - Cherbourg). Horizon could well become a third ship at Birkenhead.
Naturally, P&O won't be too pleased, but I'm confident they have two (possibly three) fine vessels in the pipeline. It'll be interesting to see if they choose a European / Scandinavian yard (Aker Yards, Fincantieri etc), or go with an Asian group.
As Rorie put above, Stena are still taking three - you aren’t going to get anymore official than Per Westling himself! There’s been no indication yet that Birkenhead isn’t getting two or that the remaining unit isn’t coming to the Irish Sea either. If Horizon is replaced with anything it’s likely to be one of the present Birkenhead units cascaded, and even that is if there is a strong enough business case to stop them from going to the Baltic for example of course (assuming further E-Flexers aren’t ordered for there). A third Visentini wouldn’t work at Birkenhead for a number of reasons, the main one being that a third departure time wouldn’t particularly suit accompanied traffic OR tourist passengers. Due to the time required for turnaround you are always going to have a departure either leaving or departing in the middle of the night or in the afternoon, in a similar way to how precision’s schedule operates at present - a schedule that exploits a window when the terminals are free. Unless a significant amount of accompanied freight or passengers are being carried there’s no point in putting another passenger vessel such as a Visentini RoPax on to be wasted and have higher costs. The Birkenhead route has been successful because the current departure times suit both hauliers and tourists, so there’s no sense in moving those times either to suit a third vessel and cannibalise existing business (even if it is possible).
The only way left to provide the needed increase in capacity after moving unaccompanied freight to a dedicated vessel (the point of deploying Precision) to free up space in the passenger ships is to replace the current Visentini units with something that has more capacity. At present the only realistic option for that is 2 E-Flexers.
P&O’s response will be interesting, but I’ve been told quite recently not to expect any newbuild announcement from them in the near future as the “project” is still some way off from being ready. Perhaps they’ll find a new sense of urgency now! It is perhaps worth bearing in mind though that DFDS are only replacing the smallest vessel (and arguably the weakest link) in the Dover fleet. Even so, the prides can’t go on forever and some would argue they are already knackered! I believe Kent has had some refurbishment work done during her 4 month (and counting) break, perhaps Canterbury and even Burgundy could get the same in the next year or so. Even then, there’s a lot of hours on these vessels mechanically and they can’t have many years daily service left.