Stena Line is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the relocation of its ferry services to Belfast from Larne in 1995. During this time, the Irish Sea’s leading ferry company has achieved a number of key milestones including transporting in excess of 33 million passengers, 7 million cars and almost 7 million freight units.
When Stena Line established its Belfast operation on 12 November 1995, it operated just three ferries to one port in Scotland. Today, that service has significantly expanded to include seven vessels operating year-round services to Cairnryan, Birkenhead (Liverpool) and Heysham with a mix of freight and leisure traffic.
Throughout the 25 years, the company has invested significantly in its Belfast operations and now the Belfast Harbour hub is Stena Line’s largest port operation outside its home port of Gothenborg, Sweden. Stena Line’s Belfast operation has now transported enough vehicles that if laid end to end, would circle the globe three times.
On reaching this milestone, Paul Grant, Stena Line Trade Director (Irish Sea) said: “The last 25 years have been quite a journey for us. Each year we have managed to grow and develop our business which vindicates our initial decision to move our ferry operations to Belfast all those years ago. I have had the privilege to be with the company for all of those years and witness the many transformations that have helped to create the successful business model we have established today.”
“While there have been numerous milestones along the way a few standout moments for me include the introduction of the HSS Stena Voyager in 1996, the most advanced ferry in the world at that time; the opening of our new Belfast VT4 Terminal in 2008; the opening of our new purpose built Loch Ryan Port (Cairnryan) with the accompanying introduction of the state of the art Superfast VII and VIII vessels in 2011 and most recently (March 2020), the introduction of our new build Stena Edda onto our Belfast-Liverpool service with sister ship Stena Embla due to be introduced onto the same route early next year.”
“No amount of planning could have foretold 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 to Belfast, and Northern Ireland open 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 industry to see a return to pre-Covid trading, when it is deemed safe to do so. 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,” he added.
Stena Line’s newest addition to its Irish Sea fleet, Stena Embla, has successfully completed a comprehensive range of sea trials in advance of going into service on the Belfast-Liverpool route in early 2021. At 215 metres in length with a freight capacity of 3 100 lane meters, Stena Embla will join sister ship Stena Edda providing a combined increase in freight tonnage on the Belfast to Liverpool route of 20 per cent, and each ship also has the space to carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers.
Caption: Pictured left to right are Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive Belfast Harbour and Paul Grant, Trade Director (Irish Sea) Stena Line.