Stena Line’s newest ship on the Irish Sea made its inaugural crossing on the Belfast-Liverpool service last night. STENA EMBLA will ultimately replace STENA MERSEY on the Belfast – Liverpool route. This will increase freight capacity by 20% and raise passenger capacity by 33% on the popular service.
Commenting on the inaugural crossing, Paul Grant, Stena Line’s Irish Sea Trade Director said:
“Stena Embla will make one daily return trip between Belfast and Liverpool. We have now invested over £400m in our ferries and port facilities on the Irish Sea in recent years. The Belfast-Liverpool route is one of the most popular Irish Sea crossings for both freight and leisure traffic so having a second vessel of the calibre of STENA EMBLA, with a host of high-quality passenger facilities, will further increase its appeal and expand our capacity. In March 2020 we launched our new build STENA EDDA onto the Belfast-Liverpool service and the feedback from our freight and leisure customers was extremely positive. Now we will have two ships offering identical services and facilities which will help take our service levels on the route to new heights. We have real confidence in the future of our Belfast services and our Irish Sea routes in general, which is why this region has attracted three brand new ships in the last 12 months alone.”
Amongst the passengers on the first crossing were freight drivers Daniel Ferris, Dean McAuley and Johnny Spence. All three were transporting meat from Northern Ireland to England.
STENA EMBLA is initially filling in for sister-ship STENA EDDA which is undergoing some minor work ahead of STENA MERSEY leaving for lengthening and rebuilding in Turkey.
Freight demand has been normal to higher than usual on NI to GB routes since the UK fully left the European Union at the end of last year. This is in contrast to routes between the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain which have seen a dramatic fall in freight traffic as a result of increased bureaucracy.
It’s not all good news for Northern Irish routes, however, with many trailers returning from Great Britain empty as a result of companies avoiding sending deliveries to Northern Ireland. Passenger traffic remains much lower than usual on all routes as a result of continued COVID-19 restrictions.