The construction of Stena Line’s new Heysham to Belfast ferries began in China last week. Steel cutting for the first of the two units, yard number W0320, commenced on 05 January at the China Merchants Jinling (Weihai) shipyard.
The two vessels, which Stena says will boost freight capacity by 80% while also slashing emissions, are expected to be delivered during 2025. They are built to Stena’s “NewMax” freight RoRo design, developed in collaboration with NAOS.
The NewMax class is designed to maximise the amount of cargo space available within a ship which can fit the constraints of Heysham harbour, thus reducing the number of trips required to move the same amount of cargo as a smaller vessel such as the existing ships on the route, STENA HIBERNIA and STENA SCOTIA. Crucially, the new hybrid NewMax vessels will be able to run on methanol or diesel as well as their 9 MWh battery backs.
Stena Line and Heysham Harbour owner Peel Ports recently signed a new port operator agreement. As part of this, the pair aim to secure the shore infrastructure to provide additional electrical capacity in order to facilitate the future goal of powering the new ships by shore power, making the vessels zero emission while alongside.
When delivered the NewMax class will become the first ferries in the UK designed to run on methanol, a fuel which burns cleaner than diesel. According to Stena Line and engine manufacturer Wärtsilä, the NewMax pair will also be the first methanol-fuelled hybrid RoRo ferries in the world. In 2015 another Stena Line vessel, STENA GERMANICA, became the first ship in the world to use methanol as a marine fuel.
Stena Line is currently working closely with the supply chain of methanol on securing future volumes of e-methanol to fulfil its strategic ambition of shifting to renewable fuels. Unlike conventional methanol, e-methanol is produced using renewable sources, reducing carbon emissions by up to 95%. Unlike traditional fossil fuels such as oil which are extracted from finite reserves, methanol can be manufactured.
Paul Grant, Trade Director Irish Sea, Stena Line said:
“We’re excited to announce that the steel cutting has taken place for our state-of-the-art ‘NewMax’ ships for our Heysham to Belfast route – a landmark moment for the service. An important trading corridor across the Irish Sea, we have seen significant growth in the service in recent years and the extra boost in capacity that the ships will provide will help us to meet customer demand.
“The capabilities of these new hybrid ships to operate on alternative fuel will also be instrumental in reaching Stena Line’s ambitious sustainability targets and achieving our goal of establishing future-proofed fossil free shipping corridors.”
Stena’s 147m long NewMax class will be able to accommodate 2,800 lane metres of freight and 12 passengers. The first vessel is expected to be in service for Autumn 2025 with the second following some months after.
Welcoming the investment in the two new ferries, Phil Hall, Mersey Port Director at Peel Ports Group, said:
“We have worked in partnership with Stena Line for over 25 years, and this latest investment in the future of the Belfast-Heysham route is testament to the success of that partnership.
“We share a commitment to making our operations more sustainable, and we’re very excited to explore ways to use our port infrastructure to power these new vessels from the electrical grid, which will be a major step towards achieving our ambition to become a net-zero port operator by 2040.”