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Ferry Firm Stena Marks 25 Years of Dublin-Holyhead Service

18th November 2020
Stena Line celebrates today the 25th anniversary of its ferry operations of the Dublin Port-Holyhead service which has seen in excess of 12m passengers, almost 3m cars and 3.5m freight units on the route.  Earlier this year the E-Flexer newbuild Stena Estrid entered service as the first of three ‘next generation’ ferries commissioned for Irish Sea services.. Stena Line celebrates today the 25th anniversary of its ferry operations of the Dublin Port-Holyhead service which has seen in excess of 12m passengers, almost 3m cars and 3.5m freight units on the route. Earlier this year the E-Flexer newbuild Stena Estrid entered service as the first of three ‘next generation’ ferries commissioned for Irish Sea services..

Ferry operator Stena Line celebrates today the 25th anniversary of its Dublin Port-Holyhead service – a quarter of a century that has seen the company carry in excess of 12 million passengers, almost 3 million cars and 3.5 million freight units on the route.

In 1995 the company traded as Stena Sealink with the first vessel to sail on the new Ireland-Wales service the Stena Traveller.

The route today is operated by the Stena Adventurer and the recently-built Stena Estrid, the first of three ‘next generation’ ferries commissioned for the Irish Sea, accommodating a mix of freight and leisure traffic.

Over the last 25 years, Stena Line has invested significantly in the Dublin to Holyhead route as volumes have increased significantly both in freight and leisure travel numbers. In fact, if all vehicles that have travelled with the operator to and from Dublin Port were laid end to end, they would circle the entire globe.

“The establishment of our Dublin Port-Holyhead operation 25 years ago today has been something of a game changer for us on the Irish Sea,” said Paul Grant, Stena Line Trade Director (Irish Sea).

“Holyhead has been a strategically important commercial gateway between Britain and Ireland for well over a century. Back in 1995 it was clear that Dublin Port was able to offer Stena Line the future expansion opportunities we required to help develop our business potential in the region, and that vision has now been rewarded.

“Today the service is one of Stena Line’s best performing Irish Sea routes which is why it was chosen to receive the first of the company’s three new build ferries, Stena Estrid, in January of this year. At 215 metres in length with a freight capacity of 3 100 lane meters, Stena Estrid also has the space to carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers,” he added.

“However, no amount of foresight or planning could have factored in the devastating impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, but I am proud of the key role that Stena Line and my colleagues have played in helping to keep vital food and medical supply lines operational between Ireland and Britain throughout this crisis. We have worked hard to keep our guests and colleagues safe throughout this challenging time and are confident that the ferry industry will be one of the first sectors of the tourism sector to see a return to pre-Covid trading, when it is deemed safe to do so.

“As we move into 2021, Brexit will also provide a challenge for our business as it will for many others. We have been engaging constructively with authorities on both sides of the Irish Sea to ensure the free flow of goods through our ports and are assisting our freight customers as much as we can in their regulatory preparations for Brexit.

“As for the next 25 years, we have set a firm course on becoming the most sustainable global ferry operator, and I’m confident we have the vision and talent to achieve this ambition,” concluded Mr Grant.

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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