James Smith


When the Argentinian scrap merchants landed on South Georgia in early 1982 this action ultimately led to a short but bitter War between Britain, who held sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and Argentina, who for some time had claimed sovereignty over the same area, which they referred to as the Malvinas.

Tensions had steadily risen over these disputed islands and Argentina had made increasingly bellicose noises over a number of years which had resulted in Britain despatching warships to the area in a show of strength on occasions. The scrap merchants’ actions on South Georgia served as a precursor to an all-out Argentinian offensive which, at its height, saw a force of around 15,000 men plus their equipment established in the area. Although the Falkland Islands were 8000 miles away from Britain, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered that a Task Force be sent to dispel the invaders and to retake the Islands and so the Falklands Conflict erupted

It soon became very obvious that the Royal Navy, with no friendly bases within 5000 miles of the Islands nor any Repair Ships of their own, would need to look elsewhere to obtain a suitable ship (or ships) to act in this capacity in the event of any battle damage. The offshore industry at that time had a number of modern, flexible ships which, with a modicum of conversion, could possibly ideally suit this purpose. Their eyes fell upon suitable ships which belonged to the Swedish Stena Line, one of which was named STENA SEASPREAD which, along with her near sisters, had been designed as a multi-purpose diving and support ship.

1 Stena Seaspread



She was a product of Oresundsvarvet of Landskrona in Sweden and was launched on 12 October 1979 and completed on 25 March 1980 for Stena Atlantic Line Ltd and was registered in Aberdeen. The Class were fitted with a computerised dynamic positioning system which enabled them to automatically hold their position with an accuracy of 3 metres in winds of up to Force 9, using a choice of 3 different methods for maintaining this accuracy. With a helicopter deck above her bridge, a fitted workshop, craneage facilities of up to 100 tons and welding facilities she was an ideal choice. She was working in the North Sea when requisitioned on 10 April 1982 and proceeded to Portsmouth, arriving there on 12 April, for conversion into a fully-fledged Repair Ship which only took 4 and a half days, during which additional storage space, naval and satellite communications equipment, an additional heavy machinery workshop, facilities for supplying electric power to other ships alongside plus accommodation and domestic facilities for an increased complement. She sailed from Portsmouth on 16 April for Ascension Island, arriving there on 28 April to embark further stores and personnel before heading for South Georgia where she arrived on 16 May.

Her embarked Naval Party quickly reactivated the long-abandoned whaling repair facilities ashore and she was soon opened for the business she had been specifically converted for. During the following weeks that she spent both at South Georgia and later at San Carlos Water until she sailed for home on 24 July, she assisted in repairing battle damage to 11 warships plus providing routine maintenance to 24 other warships, RFA’s and merchant ships. 

2 Stena Seaspread



In the meantime the MoD had requisitioned her near sister STENA INSPECTOR to fulfil the same role and they in fact later purchased the ship and renamed her RFA DILIGENCE, When that particular ship had to return home for refit a 3rd near sister named STENA PROTECTOR was hired, renamed BAR PROTECTOR, to fill the vacuum until RFA DILIGENCE returned.to the Falklands.

The British Government presented Stena Line with a pure silver tankard as a “Thank You” for their assistance during the Falklands Conflict.