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Heysham Port's New £10m Ro-Ro Ramp Linkspan Berth Installed for Growing Irish Sea Freight

27th March 2018
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Heysham Port's newly installed £10m ro-ro ramp linkspan (berth No.2) in use by Seatruck Ferries Clipper Pennant. At the adjacent ramp berth No.3 is the Seatruck owned Stena Performer which is on charter to Stena Line. Heysham Port's newly installed £10m ro-ro ramp linkspan (berth No.2) in use by Seatruck Ferries Clipper Pennant. At the adjacent ramp berth No.3 is the Seatruck owned Stena Performer which is on charter to Stena Line. Photo: Seatruck - facebook

#FerryNews - Heysham Port in recent weeks has had a new ro-ro ramp linkspan installed bringing to three berthing facilities serving the growing Irish Sea trade through the Lancashire port, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The £10m investment by the Peel Ports operated harbour has created a dedicated loading berth and allows a much greater schedule reliability for chief customer Seatruck Ferries and Stena Line.

The ramp linkspan constructed in the Netherlands was towed to the port. At close to 100m long, the ramp is designed to deal with the large 10m rise and fall in tide that is experienced at Heysham.

Seatruck has routes to Warrenpoint, Co. Down and Dublin Port. A twice daily service is operated to Warrenpoint and single sailing to the Irish capital. Together three freight-ferries operate these routes. They are Seatruck Panorama, Clipper Pennant and Seatruck Pace which alone serves the Dublin route.

Rivals, Stena Line operate to Belfast Port, using chartered tonnage from Seatruck. The ro-ro freight ferry on this second of the Heysham-Northern Ireland routes is served by Stena Performer. 

According to Seatruck, the funding in Heysham Port, will also see a new pontoon built to support offshore crew transfer vessels. In addition the construction of a new port entrance and various improvements to the port IT and terminal operating systems.

A third port user, Isle of Man Steam Packet operate a passenger and freight service to Douglas. This year-round route is the main service link between the UK and the island.

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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. 

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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