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No Sign of Holyhead Ferry As Dun Laoghaire ‘Former’ Terminal Is to Let

1st April 2016

#FerryOrProperty? – April used to mark the opening of seasonal-only Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead ferry services until Stena Line withdrew operations in 2014, since then there has been no sign of a new operator to resume the service to Wales, writes Jehan Ashmore.

In response to queries from Afloat, Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company this week said they were not in a position to comment any further on the matter of a new ferry operation. The comment echoes a statement by DLHC as previously reported on Afloat earlier this year.

Notably, Dun Laoghaire Harbour’s St. Michael's Pier passenger terminal from where the HSS fastferry craft used to berth alongside is currently to let. The property agent describes the extensive two-storey building as the ‘former’ ferry terminal, where the arrival /departure hall is to let with a retail property area of (4,207.00 sqm).

The terminal complex has a further two properties to let, an office property (4,736.00 sqft) from where Stena are understood to have previously partly occupied.

Also on this second floor is a former restaurant (the Purple Ocean) with a retail property (2,325.00 sqm) which too is available to let.

To reflect on Stena’s decision to pull out of Dun Laoghaire, there were several reasons. Chiefly a continuous declining market on Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead route coupled by high fuel costs of the fuel thristly fast-craft HSS Stena Explorer, competition on the Dublin route and air travel.

In order to stave off costs on the loss making route, Stena in 2012 abandoned the year-round service to a seasonal-only April to September schedule. In addition frequency was reduced to just a single daily round trip coupled by an increase in passage times. Again this measure was to minimise on the expensive to run HighSpeed Sea Service (HSS) craft. 

It was not until early 2015 that Stena finally officially confirmed it was permanently pulling out of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. At that stage the HSS fastcraft had already been laid-up in Holyhead since September of the previous year.

The ferry firm instead consolidated existing Dublin Port-Holyhead operations and by introducing a second route ferry, Stena Superfast X that displaced a smaller ro-pax.

Effectively, the much larger ‘Superfast’ replaced the HSS albeit running out of the Irish capital.

Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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