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Newbuild Quartet for Stena Planned for Belfast Routes

15th February 2017
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Claimed to be the world’s most fuel efficient RoPax vessels are a quartet of newbuilds for Stena Line who plan to introduce them on Belfast routes. Afloat adds that the current pair of ferries on the Belfast-Birkenhead (Liverpool) route are only 'stern-loading' vessels unlike the newbuilds. Claimed to be the world’s most fuel efficient RoPax vessels are a quartet of newbuilds for Stena Line who plan to introduce them on Belfast routes. Afloat adds that the current pair of ferries on the Belfast-Birkenhead (Liverpool) route are only 'stern-loading' vessels unlike the newbuilds. Photo: Stena

#NewbuildsBelfast - A newbuild contract announced last year by Stena for a quartet of ropax ferry vessels with a delivery schedule during 2019 and 2020 are planned for Irish Sea service. The vessels are being built at the AVIC Shipyard in China. The plan is to locate the ferries specifically on routes to and from the line's expanding Belfast hub.

The contract also contains an option for another four vessels to be ordered.

“The routes to and from Belfast are strategically very important to Stena Line and during the last number of years we have made significant investments in ports and vessels to improve and develop our capacity offering a frequent high quality service for our customers to and from Belfast. Looking ahead, we intend to continue our ambitious development plan for our business in the region and the new vessels are a part of this strategic plan. During the last few years we have seen a steady growth in freight and passenger volumes and we believe this will continue. Last year was a record year for us when we for the first time carried over 500,000 freight units through Belfast Port. These new vessels will be the largest ferries ever to operate between Belfast and Great Britain”, said Stena Line’s CEO Niclas Mårtensson.

Joe O’Neill, Commercial Director, Belfast Harbour commented: “We are delighted that Stena Line is planning for Belfast as the location for its next generation of RoPax vessels in what is a significant investment in and enhancement of Northern Ireland’s premier freight and tourism gateway. Belfast Harbour has worked in close partnership with Stena Line over the last two decades to help it expand its Belfast routes into a flourishing hub and this very welcome investment news comes on the back of a record year for Stena Line’s freight business in Belfast Harbour. We look forward to welcoming the new vessels and the associated benefits they will bring to Belfast Harbour and the economy of Northern Ireland.”

The new vessels are being constructed in line with Stena Line’s strategic focus on sustainability.

“The new RoPax vessels will be among the most fuel efficient in the world with approximately 25% lower CO2 emissions per cargo unit than current RoPax tonnage. Our aim is to lead the development of sustainability within the shipping industry and set a new industry standard when it comes to operational performance, emissions and cost competiveness. The vessels will run on traditional fuel, but are designed to the class notation “gas ready” and are also prepared for scrubbers as well as catalytic converters, giving us flexibility for the future”, says Niclas Mårtensson.

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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