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First of Stena Line’s New Three E-Flexer Irish Sea Ships to Operate Dublin–Holyhead Service

13th June 2018
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At the announcement of the first Stena-E Flexer that is to enter service on the Dublin-Holyhead route, are pictured in the Irish capital, (L-R) Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland and Ian Davies, Stena Line’s Trade Director, Irish Sea South. The news of new tonnage follows the 2018 Best Ferry Company awarded to the ferry operator at the Travel Media Awards held also in the capital this week. At the announcement of the first Stena-E Flexer that is to enter service on the Dublin-Holyhead route, are pictured in the Irish capital, (L-R) Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland and Ian Davies, Stena Line’s Trade Director, Irish Sea South. The news of new tonnage follows the 2018 Best Ferry Company awarded to the ferry operator at the Travel Media Awards held also in the capital this week. Photo: Stena Line

#FerryNews - Stena Line has confirmed that the first of its new E-Flexer RoPax ferries currently under construction in China is planned to enter service on its Dublin - Holyhead route in early 2020.

Last year Stena (Stena Line’s parent company) announced a new build contract for the new generation Stena E-Flexer, with planned deliveries of the RoPax builds during 2020 and 2021. The order was for the construction of six new vessels from the AVIC Shipyard in China and the plan is to locate three of these ships on the Irish Sea. 

Afloat adds the first Stena E-FLexer on the Dublin-Holyhead route is to be followed by a pair on the Belfast-Birkenhead (Liverpool) route, see related story. 

The other three will be chartered out to external parties by Stena Line’s sister company Stena RoRo. Afloat adds that one Stena E-Flexer is to be chartered to DFDS for the Dover-Calais route and the remaining pair chartered to serve on Brittany Ferries UK-Spain services.

Stena Line’s CEO Niclas Mårtensson said: “Our Irish Sea routes are strategically very important to Stena Line and our customer, with the freight market between Ireland and UK experiencing significant growth over the last five years. That’s why we have invested almost £200m in our ports and vessels across the region to improve and grow our capacity to offer a frequent, reliable and high-quality service for our freight and travel customers. The deployment of three new vessels is a tangible example of our strategic growth plan for the Irish Sea”

Ian Davies, Stena Line Trade Director Irish Sea South commented: “Freight volumes have surpassed the Celtic Tiger peaks of 2007 and we are confident that this upward trend will continue. 2017 was a record year for Stena Line in the Irish Sea where we carried over 800,000 freight units on our routes to and from the Island of Ireland. We welcome the addition of the first of our new generation RoPax vessels on Dublin - Holyhead. It will significantly increase freight capacity and raise the service standards for travel and freight customers”

The new vessel being deployed on the Dublin - Holyhead route will have capacity for 1 000 passengers, 120 cars as well as 3 100 freight lane meters delivering 4 daily sailings with an estimated crossing time of approximately 3.5 hrs.

Eamonn O’Reilly, CEO of Dublin Port Company commented: “We are delighted that Stena Line has chosen Dublin as the location for its next generation of RoPax vessels in what is a significant investment in and enhancement of Ireland’s premier freight and tourism gateway. We look forward to welcoming the new vessel and the associated benefits it will bring to Dublin Port and the Irish economy.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO Tourism Ireland said: ““Stena Line’s decision to locate the first of its new generation of ferries on the Holyhead to Dublin route is a strong indication of its continued confidence in the future of tourism between Britain and Ireland. We look forward to working in partnership with Stena Line, to drive demand for its services and help grow visitor numbers from Britain to the island of Ireland in the years ahead.”

The new vessels under construction are being built in line with Stena Line’s strategic business focuses on sustainability and digitilisation with the aim of providing state-of-the-art efficiency, flexibility and customer service.

“Our new RoPax ferries will be among the most energy efficient in the world with significantly lower CO2 emissions per freight unit against comparable RoPax tonnage. Our aim is to lead the shipping industry in sustainability and digital development and set new industry standards when it comes to operational performance and emissions. The vessels will run on traditional fuel but are designed to the class notation ‘gas ready’ and are also prepared for catalytic scrubbers, thus giving us increased flexibility for the future. We are also placing heavy emphasis on developing a range of exciting new digital features which will provide our customers with unique additional services connected with their journey as well as developing a new, integrated digital onboard experience”, said Niclas Mårtensson.

Stena Line also operate other routes between Ireland and Britain, they are Belfast to Heysham (freight), Belfast to Cairnryan, Rosslare to Fishguard in addition a direct Ireland-continental service from Rosslare to Cherbourg.

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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