The issue of ferry operation, subsequent to the UK leaving the EU, will rather, regretfully, but unavoidably, continue to feature in these pages for some time to come.
Given the continuing lack of any clear picture of the implications of the forthcoming changes, clear neither to the writer nor it would appear to ferry operators or, indeed, the UK government. Or its erstwhile Community partners. So it is intriguing that at least one ferry operator, Stena, is investing in UK routes and on some gearing up to increase capacity.
Last year, Stena Line’s parent company confirmed a £multi-million investment package to acquire Superfast VII and Superfast VIII on its Cairnryan – Belfast route. The ships currently operate under a charter contract agreement with AS Tallink and have done since they were deployed on the Cairnryan – Belfast route when it opened in November 2011. Since then, the vessels have proven highly reliable and extremely popular with Stena’s customers, hence the acquisition.
The ships are quoted as being “perfectly suited to the 2hr 15 min service between Cairnryan and Belfast and appeal equally well to freight and passengers. Belfast is said to be “a key European business hub for Stena and this latest investment signifies Stena’s commitment to developing the region further in the years ahead.” Stena took over formal ownership of the vessels in December.
_auto_generated_thumb_ To date, on the route, the Superfast vessels have made a total of 23,000 trips carrying 6.4m passengers, 1.4m cars and 1m freight units. The purchase of the Superfast vessels is part of Stena’s ambitious development plans which, of course, includes the construction of new vessels at the AVIC Shipyard in China.
Stena Line reminds us it is the largest ferry operator on the Irish Sea, with the biggest fleet and the widest choice of routes between Britain and Ireland including Belfast to Liverpool and Heysham, Belfast to Cairnryan, Dublin to Holyhead and Rosslare to Fishguard routes, a total of 228 weekly sailing options between Britain and Ireland. Stena Line also offers a direct service from Rosslare to Cherbourg with three return crossings a week and I would expect that link as it bypasses the newly divorced UK from the EU will pick up much diverted traffic.
Stena is boosting capacity between the continent and Harwich by chartering three quality freight ro-ro sisters from the Finnish shipping company Godby Shipping to long-term charter their three RoRo vessels: Misida, Misana and Miranda. The 166-metre vessels were built by JJ Sietas in 2007, the 11,407gt vessels having a RoRo capacity of 2,150 lane meters and a speed of 20 knots. Stena are also upgrading the Rotterdam-Killingholme route.