#Ferry - Across Northern Ireland businesses continue to be disadvantaged by poor road access to their key markets in the UK.
Ferry operator Stena Line has raised concerns with local political and business stakeholders to increase the focus and necessity of addressing a critical infrastructure deficit which impacts a range of key NI business sectors including manufacturing, food production and tourism.
Whilst road connections in Northern Ireland have been better at keeping pace with economic development, a situation which will be greatly enhanced once work starts on the York Street Interchange project. The same cannot be said of key roads in Scotland, specifically the road network to and from Loch Ryan Port (Cairnryan), which handles approximately 45% of NI trade (through Belfast Port) with the rest of the UK.
Paul Grant, Stena Line’s Trade Director (Irish Sea North) said: “We have been working hard over a number of years to try to get key road improvements made on the A77 and more importantly the A75 heading south from Scotland. Despite significant investments by ferry operators between NI and Scotland, including Stena Line’s new £80m port and terminal facility at Cairnryan, which included the introduction of two larger ferries, successive administrations have been unable to commit the necessary capital resources to carry out these vital road upgrades.
“Access to and from Scottish ports is severely lacking compared with other UK hubs. Journeys could be made easier and travel times shortened which would help to reduce NI’s remoteness and help support key economic contributor groups such as hauliers and tourists. Investments have been made to roads at Holyhead and Heysham and these are already providing tangible benefits to business and tourism levels in their regions.”
Paul Grant added: “Local politicians need to engage with other stakeholders to get the Scottish and Westminster governments to work collaboratively to push for a fit for purpose road network system on both sides of the Irish Sea. The dualling of the A75 will be a long-term infrastructure project which could take a number of years to plan and complete. As it stands however, the clock isn’t even ticking so if we want NI to remain a competitive, forward thinking economy which can attract major investments in the future, we need to start the process of change and work collaboratively now to get the commitments and resources in place before a shift in trade away from NI becomes irreversible.”
Leading ferry company Stena Line’s appeal hearing that was originally scheduled for July at the Lands Tribunal for Scotland has now been delayed until late November.
Stena Line has been involved in protracted discussions in relation to the rates assessment of its Loch Ryan Port and terminal facility at Cairnryan. As Afloat.ie reported in May, Stena Line made a significant capital investment, in excess of £80m, when it opened the new state-of-the art ferry port and terminal at Cairnryan in 2011 to replace its former Stranraer facility, an investment which has provided South West Scotland with the largest and most modern freight and tourism gateway in the area. Stena Line has appealed to the Lands Tribunal against the assessment of its non-domestic rates for the new port.
Paul Grant, Stena Line’s Route Manager said: “Stena Line is robustly challenging what is sees as an unfair rates assessment on what is a significant asset for the people and business of Scotland and welcomes the opportunity to put its case before the Lands Tribunal for Scotland in late November.”
Stena Line’s main concern with the current assessment is that it adds significant additional running costs for the company and may impact negatively upon future investment plans at Loch Ryan Port. Stena Line has received support from political representatives on this issue and has engaged Senior Counsel in an appeal against the assessment, which it maintains is without any proper legal basis, at the Lands Tribunal for Scotland.
#FERRY NEWS- Stena Navigator which served on the former Belfast-Stranraer route, has been sold to overseas buyers. She was one of three ferries made redundant following the switch pf ports to a new ferry terminal in Cairnryan and introduction of larger vessels, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Having only been introduced on the North Channel in late 2009, Stena Navigator (PHOTO) is now set to embark on a new career in the Mediterranean with Spanish operator Baleària. The company operates routes linking the islands to the Spanish mainland in addition to the Strait of Gibraltar, where the ferry is to start service.
The 1,650-passenger, 280-vehicle capacity vessel is currently berthed at Albert Quay, Belfast, before she makes her delivery voyage.
Launched in 1984 as Champs Elysees at Dubigeon Normandie, Nantes Saint Nazaire, for SNCF's Dover-Calais route. She then spent service Stena Line as Stena Parisien between Newhaven-Dieppe before been sold to SeaFrance. This saw her return to the Dover Strait as SeaFrance Manet until eventually sold back to Stena Line.
Berthed ahead of the 15,229grt ferry is her former fleetmate Stena Caledonia, built at the nearby Harland & Wolff and upriver the HSS Stena Voyager is berthed at VT4 Terminal. Since been laid-up the vessels were transferred to a Stena subsidiary, Northern Marine Management (NMM).
#FERRY NEWS- In the space of two days, Stena Line opened a new ferry route between Belfast-Cairnryan today following yesterday's closure of services between Belfast-Stranraer, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Sisters Stena Superfast VII and Stena Superfast VIII inaugurated sailings on the 2 hour 15 minute with 12 crossings daily, and in which will use a new £80m ferry terminal at Loch Ryan Port, Cairnryan and the VT4 terminal in Belfast. The relocation of Scottish ports and terminal investment cost £200m.
The newcomers have a capacity for 1,200 passenger /660 vehicles or 110 freight units. They received a refit and upgrade in Poland where new luxurious facilities such as a Nordic Spa, interactive lounge zone with the latest in technology and free Wi-Fi access throughout the vessel and VIP lounges were installed. To read more click HERE.
At 204m and over 30,000 tonnes each the German built pair are easily the largest ever ferries to operate in the North Channel and will compete with rivals P&O Larne-Cairnryan route served by the 20,000 tonnes sisters European Causeway and European Highlander both built in Japan.
The introduction of the former Scandinavian serving sisters directly replaced Stena Caledonia and HSS Stena Voyager from the Belfast-Stranraer route which only started in 1995. Prior to then Stena Line had operated a service from Larne, which could trace ferry services for the last 123 years.
The Swedish ferry company decided to abandon the route in favour of Belfast. This development also saw the introduction of the second revolutionary HSS 1500 series catamaran ferry HSS Stena Voyager in tandem with various conventional tonnage used over the last sixteen years. The final sailings at the weekend marked the closure of nearly 140 years of several ferry operators running between Stranraer at the end of Loch Ryan and Belfast.
With the withdrawal of HSS Stena Voyager and Stena Caledonia yesterday, she joins former fleetmate Stena Navigator in Belfast, which stood down from Stranraer service last week as previously reported, to read click HERE.
The new route to Loch Ryan Port, Cairnryan includes a new £80m ferryport terminal which will be served by the 30,000 gross tonnes sisters, the largest ever ferries on the North Channel. Stena Superfast VIII is currently in the Skagerrak off northern Denmark and follows her sister Stena Superfast VII which arrived over the weekend, having also undergone refurbishment at the Romentowa shipyard.
The relocation of Scottish terminal from Stranraer to Loch Ryan Port is seven miles closer to the open sea and sailing times are to be reduced to 2hrs and 15minutes. The new terminal is to be officially opened on 25th November when First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness will join Dan Sten Olsson, Chairman of Stena Line.
As for the 15,229 gross tonnes Stena Navigator, she made her Stranraer-Belfast sailing yesterday, after de-storing at the VT4 ferry terminal, only completed in 2008, she proceeded to berth at Albert Quay, the location of the former city-centre ferry terminal.
In the interim period to the opening of the new Belfast-Cairnryan route, the sailing schedule on the Belfast-Stranraer service are been maintained by another conventional ferry, Stena Caledonia and fast sailings by the HSS Stena Voyager.
HSS Stena Voyager is expected to lay-up at VT4 after making final sailings to and from Stranraer this Sunday. It is expected Stena Caledonia will also be withdrawn that day and berth at Albert Quay. In the process she will pass Harland & Wolf shipyard, where she was launched in 1981 as the St. David, the last of the quartet of Saint-class ferries commissioend for Sealink/British Rail.
The career of Stena Navigator on the North Channel was short as she only entered service two years ago. She was built in 1984 as Champs Elysees first served for SNCF/Sealink's jointly run Dover-Calais route, followed by a brief spell under Stena Line as Stena Parisien on Newhaven-Dieppe sailings.
She returned to the Straits of Dover route but this time as SeaFrance Manet under the control of SeaFrance. In 2008 SeaFrance introduced SeaFrance Moliere, the former Superfast X, ironically another sister of Stena Line's 'Superfast' ships. This Superfast vessel along with two custom built newbuilds entered SeaFrance service in recent years which led to the eventual replacement of SeaFrance Renoir and her half sister SeaFrance Manet.
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The New Superfast leaves Gdansk
The 30,285grt newcomer and her sister Stena Superfast VIII will become the largest ever ferries running on the North Channel , though prior to entering service on 21 November, they will undertake berthing trials and crew training.
For the next two-years the sisters are on charter from Scandinavian operators Tallink, and are to operate the new 2 hour 15 minute route with 12 crossings daily. The ten-deck ships can carry up to 1200 passengers, 660 cars or 110 freight units. The sisters will be re-gistered in their new homport of Belfast.
The relocation of Scottish ferry port and the introduction of the Superfast sisters will replace the existing pair of conventional ferry tonnage, Stena Caledonia and Stena Navigator (1984/15,229gt) the latter vessel is believed to be sold. In addition HSS sailings will cease causing the HSS Stena Voyager to become redundant, she was the second of the trio of pioneering HSS 1500 craft built.
When Stena Superfast VII departed Gdansk, she passed the Stena Vision which operates Stena Line's Karlskrona-Gdynia route, the Baltic Sea city lies to the west of Gdansk. Also in Gdansk was the Stena Feronia, the former Irish Sea serving Visentini built ro-pax Dublin Seaways, which was operated albeit briefly by DFDS Seaways last year on the Dublin-(Birkenhead) Liverpool service.
She served under her new Scandinavian owners but the firm's first foray into the Irish market lasted a mere six months. DFDS Seaways sold their Irish Sea network to Stena Line (to read report click HERE) with the exception of their Dublin-Birkenhead service which closed. In addition the Dublin-Heysham freight-only route which closed until re-opened by Seatruck Ferries. The route is currently served by Anglia Seaways, the freightferry which DFDS previously used on the route is on charter to the operator.
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"We are moving into a very important time for Stena Line's operation between Northern Ireland and Scotland. On November 21 we are scheduled to start our new Belfast to Cairnryan service which will also see the introduction of two new vessels, Stena Superfast VII and Superfast VIII, the largest ships every to have sailed between Northern Ireland and Scotland," he continued.
Stena Line's switch of Scottish terminal from Stranrear to the new purpose built facility in Cairnryan which is some 8-miles closer to the open sea along Loch Ryan will reduce sailing times by 35 minutes down to 2 hours 15 minutes.
The 30,285grt Stena Superfast VII and Superfast VIII sisters can carry 1,200 passengers, 660 cars and 110 freight-unit / trucks. In addition they have a novel Nordic Spa facility incorporating a sauna and Jacuzzi.
The 206m pair will compete with rivals P&O (Irish Sea) which operates also from a neighbouring terminal in Cairnryan where another pair of sisters European Highlander and European Causeway provide 2-hour sailings to Larne.
Currently Belfast-Stranraer sailings are served by conventional tonnage ferries Stena Caledonia and Stena Navigator which lost engine-power on 14 October, to read more click HERE.
In addition fast-sailings are run by the expensive to operate HSS Stena Voyager which manages a faster crossing time on the existing route by shaving 15 minutes off the link between Loch Ryan and Belfast Lough. In 2008 the terminal in Belfast was relocated downriver to Victoria Terminal 4 (VT4) on the eastern edge of the port from the older inner-city terminal at Albert Quay.
Stena are to lease the 'Superfast' pair for three years from Scandinavia operator Tallink and they are to directly replace both the HSS and conventional ferries.
Apart from the novelty factor of this on board feature the 30,285grt vessels will also the largest ever deployed on any North Channel route. In addition the region will see the opening of the new £80m ferryport of Loch Ryan Port, located close to rivals, P&O (Irish Sea) at their terminal in Cairnryan.
Stena's decision to relocate to Loch Ryan Port which is only eight miles away from its existing Scottish terminal in Stranraer on the shores of Loch Ryan is to reduce passage times, fuel costs and road travel times. The closure of this port will also see the end of HSS fast-craft sailings served by HSS Stena Voyager and conventional vessels Stena Caledonia and Stena Navigator.
The Superfast sisters are on charter for two-years, where they will operated the new 2 hour 15 minute route which is due to be launched on 21 November. They will make 12 crossings per day and each of the ten-deck ships can carry up to 1200 passengers, 660 cars or 110 freight units.
Originally the pair, built in 2001 at the Howaldtswerde Deutsche Werft AG, Kiel for Attica Enterprises, were used by Superfast Ferries on their German (Rostock-Hanko) Finnish route. In 2006 they were sold to Tallink, where they operated on other Scandinavian services.
As for the remaining winter-serving fast-ferries they are Stena Line's HSS Stena Voyager (1996/ 19,638grt) between Belfast-Stranraer, in tandem with conventional ferries. Next month this route will close as the Scottish terminal relocates to a new ferryport nearby at (Loch Ryan Port) Cairnryan.
In addition two sister-ferries, which are undergoing modifications and an upgrade for their two-year charter on the North Channel, will directly replace the two-hour passage times it takes for the HSS fast-ferry and the ferries Stena Caledonia and Stena Navigator which take 2hrs 50 minutes.
With the introduction of the new tonnage to the Belfast-Cairnryan route, sailings times will be reduced to 2hrs 15mins. Ironically the new ferries which albeit will be the largest to serve on any North Channel route will actually be some 15 minutes slower on the newer-shorter distance route compared to the HSS fast-ferry operated Belfast-Stranraer sailings.
The second fast-ferry service is operated on Irish Ferries Dublin-Holyhead route using Jonathan Swift (1999/5,989grt) which is marketed as the Dublin 'Swift'. She runs year-round in addition to the cruiseferry Ulysses.
Also operating fast-ferry craft is the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's Manannan (1998/5,029grt) but this is on the none cross-channel route between Douglas and Liverpool.
Stena will lease the ferries for a three year period from Tallink, the Baltic Sea based shipping group. (Click here for photo of Superfast VIII in ice-flow waters). The charter arrangement includes an option to extend for a further year.
The distance between the new ferry terminal named the 'Loch Ryan Port' at Old House Point (which is just north of Cairnryan) is approx. 8kms apart from Stranraer taking the coastal (A77) road along the Loch that leads onto to Glasgow. At Cairnryan, rivals P&O (Irish Sea) who along with predecessing operators have run services on the route to Larne for several decades.
With a speed of 27-knots, passage times on the new Stena Belfast-Cairnryan route will take 2 hours 15 minutes, this compares to the existing time of 2 hours 50 minutes from Stranraer by conventional ferry and 2 hours taken by the HSS fast-ferry.
As a consequence of Stena operating from Loch Ryan Port, passage times by the Superfast sisters will be reduced by 35 minutes as the Belfast terminal was also relocated in recent years. Though despite the relocated ferry terminals, the Superfast sisters scheduled 2 hours 15 minutes sailings from the new port will be slightly longer compared to the HSS Stena Voyager's 2 hour sailing time from Stranraer.
Also serving the Belfast Stranraer route are the conventional ferries, Stena Caledonia (formerly Sealink's St. David built at Harland & Wolff) and Stena Navigator, that served SeaFrance on Dover-Calais sailings as SeaFrance Manet. When the Superfast sisters replace the HSS Stena Explorer and the conventional ferries, perhaps there will be a new a role for the two vessels in replacing expensive to run fast-craft operated elsewhere.
In the meantime the Superfast pair will maintain running on Tallink's 26-hour Helsinki-Rostock until mid-August. The 2001 German will then undergo an extensive refit of passenger facilities and a new freight-only deck will be incorporated to cater for haulage operators increasing use of higher vehicles and double-deck freight units.
The 'Superfast' vessel naming theme derives from the original owners, Greek operator Superfast Ferries, which sold their Scandinavian operations to Tallink in 2006.