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Northern Ministers Tour Stena Line Port Operations

24th August 2016

#MinistersTour - Northern Ireland's Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard and Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir toured Stena Line’s port operations in Belfast Harbour.

The Ministers on Monday had the opportunity to see the impact of significant investment by Stena Line operations in the North including their £5 million ship refit investment programme. The work having been carried out locally at the Harland & Wolff shipyard.

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, whose department has responsibility for ports policy said: “Our ports are the gateway to the global economy so it is essential that they are effective and efficient. This enables them to compete internally and connect with the rest of the world.

"Stena Line’s significant investment demonstrates a clear commitment to their operations here in the north and the key role they play in the maritime sector.

“It makes sense to have a strong link between public sector infrastructure priorities and private investment plans. I want to deliver improved transport links between ports and their hinterlands to core transport routes in the north.”

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: “Today’s visit is a welcome opportunity to see first-hand the significant contribution Stena Line is making to the maritime sector. This latest investment signals their continued commitment to operations here and highlights the vital role Stena Line plays in maintaining our strategic trade links with the rest of the world. Furthermore, it demonstrates the important impact investing in our infrastructure can have, not only as a boost to the wider economy, but to local communities who benefit through job creation and skills development.”

Paul Grant, Stena Line’s Route Manager said: “Stena Line is pleased to welcome both Ministers to its port operations in Belfast. Over the last number of years Belfast has become an increasingly important hub for Stena Line freight and tourism volumes into Northern Ireland so it’s important that we communicate this ongoing development to key figures in the NI Assembly such as Ministers Hazzard and Ó Muilleoir.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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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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