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Stena Line Adds Third Ship to Cairnryan Route in Response to P&O Crisis

Update 23.03.2022: STENA NORDICA entered service last night with her first sailing as third ship on the Belfast – Cairnryan route. As Stena’s route is currently the only ferry service between Northern Ireland and Scotland, sailings are sometimes running with delays due to the sheer volume of traffic to be loaded and unloaded. On Friday 25 March, STENA NORDICA will offer three round-trips for freight instead of two. For the latest sailing information, please check the Stena Line website here (for passengers) or here (for freight).

Swedish ferry operator Stena Line is to boost capacity on its route between Scotland and Northern Ireland in response to heavy demand following rival P&O Ferries suspending services.  The STENA NORDICA is to transfer to the Belfast to Cairnryan route from tomorrow NIFS understands.  

The move follows a speech by the Transport Secretary Grant Schapps in the House of Commons earlier today where he stated that Stena Line was to add additional capacity between Scotland and Northern Ireland from tomorrow.  Demand for Stena’s Northern Ireland – Scotland service has surged since P&O Ferries suspended its services. Different customs rules for goods transiting to the Republic of Ireland since Brexit mean that there is a lack of alternative options for hauliers.  

According to local reports, Stena Line has already been using parts of P&O Ferries’ Cairnryan Harbour terminal to store trailers as their own Loch Ryan Port facility is at capacity.  P&O Ferries normally carries around half the Ro-Ro freight moving between Northern Ireland and Scotland.  This includes a significant proportion of the loads for major supermarkets such as ASDA and Marks & Spencer.

STENA SUPERFAST VII inbound to Belfast, 26.06.2021. © Steven Tarbox.
STENA SUPERFAST VII inbound to Belfast from Cairnryan, 26.06.2021. © Steven Tarbox.

STENA NORDICA is currently acting as a relief vessel on the Holyhead – Dublin route, covering the absence of STENA ADVENTURER which is presently in dry dock.  Her last sailing on the route is expected to be from Dublin to Holyhead at 02:15 on Tuesday morning (22 March).  This will reduce Holyhead – Dublin to a single ship service until the return of ‘Adventurer next Tuesday 29 March.  

Competitor Irish Ferries is presently running at reduced capacity on the route after EPSILON was transferred to the Dublin – Cherbourg route to cover the damaged W.B. YEATS.  The latter vessel is expected to leave Belfast, where temporary repairs have been undertaken, tomorrow.

After arrival in Belfast, STENA NORDICA will make her first sailing to Cairnryan at 17:30, arriving in Stena’s Loch Ryan Port terminal at 20:00.  STENA NORDICA is expected to add an additional two round trips to Stena Line’s offer on the route, leaving Belfast at 01:30 and 17:30 and Loch Ryan Port at 05:30 and 21:30.

STENA SUPERFAST VII and STENA SUPERFAST VIII will continue to offer six sailings in each direction on the Belfast – Cairnryan route. The addition of the STENA NORDICA will increase Stena’s sailings on the service to sixteen per day.

Having successfully provided refit cover on the Belfast – Cairnryan route on a variety of occasions in the past, the STENA NORDICA should provide a reliable additional ship that will be welcomed at ensuring the integrity of Northern Ireland’s supply chain.

In recent days, Stena Line had already added additional sailings. An extra overnight sailing in each direction was offered on the Belfast – Cairnryan route on Sunday morning. Today, unusually for a Monday, STENA EDDA and STENA EMBLA operated daytime sailings on the Belfast – Birkenhead service.

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