Having spent over twenty years in shipping operations between Loch Ryan (South West Scotland) and Northern Ireland, I still take a great interest in the exploits of the two modern day giants of the ferry industry on the Irish Sea - P&O Ferries and Stena Line.
P&O Ferries has just announced very healthy freight carryings for the third quarter of 2017. Back in the early 1970s, I was working for Sealink on their well established Stranraer-Larne route when competition on the North Channel route emerged in the form of Townsend Thoresen who commenced operations from the tiny village of Cairnryan, just a few miles further up the shores of Loch Ryan from Stranraer. Over the years, competition ebbed and flowed, but both companies, in their modern form, have invested millions in vessels and shoreside facilities (with both now located at Cairnryan) and it is heartening to hear that P&O's carryings continue to grow.
The ferry and logistics company – which operates the shortest, most frequent and most reliable ferry services between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain – carried 53,305 lorries and trailers on its ships in the months of July, August and September. This figure represents a 3.3 per cent increase on the same quarter last year.
Neal Mernock, P&O Ferries Sector Director on the Irish Sea, said: “We are delighted that more and more freight customers are experiencing for themselves the benefits of transporting goods between Northern Ireland and Britain with us.”
“Our port at Larne is fast becoming the gateway of choice for anyone exporting to or from Ireland. It has outstanding connections via rail and road, especially after the upgrading of the A8 dual carriageway, and is nine miles closer to Scotland than the port at Belfast.” “At just two hours in total the journey time on our sailings is up to 30 minutes shorter than if you travel with our competitors. This means that lorry drivers can spend less time on the ships and more time on the road.”
P&O Ferries operates seven sailings a day between Larne and Cairnryan using two 21,000 ton sister vessels, European Causeway and European Highlander. The regular daily service provides a bridge for goods being transported between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to Britain, and also on to the continent via its connecting services from Dover, Tilbury, Hull and Teesport.