In response to growing market demand, Stena Line has upped freight capacity on the popular Belfast – Liverpool route.
The company has initially deployed the 3,000 lane metre Stena Forerunner from the Europoort-Harwich service before replacing it with a similar ship early in 2019 at which point the she will return to service in the North Sea.
The 24,688gt, Stena 4-Runner Mk II Class ship will operate as the third ship on the Birkenhead-Belfast route, supplementing the Visentini Class RoPax ferries Stena Mersey and Stena Lagan. At the time of writing, it was not clear what ship will replace the Stena Forerunner at Harwich, but Björn Petrusson, Stena Line’s Chief Commercial Officer, North Sea and Irish Sea said the company was actively seeking relief tonnage for the North Sea during this period. “We are fully aware that a reduction in the number of ships, though temporary, is not the optimal solution for our customers there,” he said.
The Stena Forerunner offers a significant increase in freight capacity over the vessel she replaces, the Stena Precision, which has completed her charter and has been returned to her owners, Seatruck Ferries. Also returned to Seatruck is the Stena Performer and in her place comes the Stena Scotia, joining sister Stena Hibernia on the Belfast – Heysham run, operating together from 23 August. Before that, the opportunity was taken to drydock the Hibernia at Harland & Wolff for some engine work and a general spruce-up.
Stena Line’s CEO Niclas Mårtensson said: “Demand for freight capacity from Belfast continues to increase and we believe it is vital that Stena Line provides the necessary capacity and frequency to enable that expansion to fl ourish. Stena Line will continue to operate seven vessels on its three routes to and from Belfast serving Cairnryan, Heysham and Liverpool and the introduction of the Stena Forerunner provides us with greater capacity and flexibility to service market demand.
Speaking of the changes, Stena Line’s Trade Director Paul Grant says the latest investment highlights the company’s commitment to the freight market. “This year we’re experiencing strong growth of 6% on our Belfast – Liverpool route. Future plans for the introduction of two new build ferries on this service during spring 2020 and early 2021, combine to demonstrate a signifi cant long-term commitment to the region by Stena Line. Belfast is now fi rmly established as the preferred hub for Northern Ireland freight. Stena Line’s unique ability to offer reliability, frequency and choice of routes for the accompanied and unaccompanied segments from a single location is a big advantage for the freight industry.”