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Belfast Harbour Welcomes Stena Forerunner to Increase Capacity On Liverpool Route

30th August 2018
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At a plaque ceremony held on board Stena Forerunner to mark the inaugural call of the ro-ro freightferry to Belfast which took place on 26 August. The 4Runner Mk II class freightferry boosts capacity on the route to Liverpool (Birkenhead). Afloat adds in the background is another North Sea freightferry transferred to the Irish Sea, Stena Scotia though which operates on the route to Heysham.   At a plaque ceremony held on board Stena Forerunner to mark the inaugural call of the ro-ro freightferry to Belfast which took place on 26 August. The 4Runner Mk II class freightferry boosts capacity on the route to Liverpool (Birkenhead). Afloat adds in the background is another North Sea freightferry transferred to the Irish Sea, Stena Scotia though which operates on the route to Heysham. Photo: Stena Line

#FerryNews - Captain Marcel Schaar of the ro-ro freightferry Stena Forerunner was welcomed to Belfast Harbour this week by the port's CEO Joe O’Neill and Anna Breen, Stena Line's Freight Commercial Manager (Irish Sea North).

The inaugural call of the 4Runner Mk II class freighter was marked by a plaque ceremony ahead of the ferry’s first sailing from Belfast to Liverpool.

The 3,000 lane metre Stena Forerunner (tracked by Afloat from the North Sea at the weekend: see related safety award) has been introduced as a result to growing market demand. In addition the need for increased capacity will increase weekly freight capacity on the service by almost 10%. 

Paul Grant, Stena Line Trade Director commented: “We are delighted to welcome the Stena Forerunner to Belfast and the introduction and investment of this larger vessel demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the freight market. This year we’re experiencing strong growth of 6% on the Belfast to Liverpool route and future plans include the introduction of two new build ferries on this service during spring 2020 and early 2021.”

Afloat adds the introduction of Stena Forerunner, which previously operated Harwich-Rotterdam follows the deployment earlier this month of another North Sea freightferry, Stena Scotia, see related coverage. The 1,692 lane metre capacity vessel which incidentally served the Irish Sea returned to familiar waters initially to cover sister Stena Hibernia when drydocked in Harland & Wolff.  

 

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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. 

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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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