Ferry company Stena Line has confirmed that it plans to launch a new freight service between Dublin and Birkenhead (Liverpool) starting mid-February 2024.
The new service will initially operate with one ship. This will depart Dublin early in the morning and make the return journey from Birkenhead in the evening.
Stena’s new route will follow P&O Ferries’ closure of its Liverpool to Dublin route before Christmas. The final P&O sailing on the route is due to be undertaken by the vessel NORBANK on Friday 21 December.
The closure of P&O’s route is due to a failure between the company and Peel Port to renew the company’s contract for the terminal at Gladstone Dock in Liverpool docks.
NORBANK is due to cover for the overhaul of the Hull – Rotterdam ships PRIDE OF ROTTERDAM and PRIDE OF HULL in the New Year. Her future after this is unclear though there are reports of her being used on P&O’s Zeebrugge routes. Sister-ship NORBAY is currently on a six-month charter to Irish Ferries.
Stena Line will use its existing berths at the 12 Quays terminal in Birkenhead for its new Dublin service. The company extended its agreement to operate the 12 Quays terminal until at least 2100 earlier this year.
Dublin Port Company selected Stena Line to operate the route from Dublin to Merseyside following a call for proposals in September to replace P&O Ferries at Dublin’s T5 terminal. As a consequence, the new Birkenhead service will operate from T5 rather than Stena’s existing terminal at T2 which is used by the company’s Holyhead service.
Services to Holyhead were explicitly ruled out in the selection criteria for the new operator of T5. The Anglesey port is already served by both Stena Line and Irish Ferries from Dublin.
Sailings to increase with demand
While the new Dublin to Birkenhead route will initially be served by a single vessel, Stena Line has said that it intends to expand the service as demand rises.
Niclas Mårtensson, CEO, Stena Line said:
“The launch of our new freight service between Dublin and Birkenhead secures an important trade route on the UK/Ireland corridor and further strengthens our position on the Irish Sea. Stena Line will now operate two routes out of both Dublin Port and Birkenhead establishing key logistics hubs, connecting freight flows across the Irish Sea and creating efficiencies for port users.”
With our extended operational contract with Peel Ports at Birkenhead and the expansion of our operations at Dublin Port, this route further demonstrates our commitment to our customers in the region and we are confident it will be a success, offering direct access to the UK, Ireland and into Europe,”Source: https://news.cision.com/stena-line/r/stena-line-to-launch-new-freight-route-from-dublin-to-birkenhead–liverpool-,c3894241
Publicly Stena Line has said that it is currently assessing ship deployment options for the new Merseyside to Dublin service. However, it is understood that the current plan is for STENA HORIZON to serve the Dublin to Liverpool service initially.
Stena Line has already confirmed that the STENA HORIZON will be absent from her usual Rosslare to Cherbourg service between January and early April 2024. The initial part of this absence is to allow the vessel to operate on Stena Line’s North Sea Harwich – Hoek Van Holland route. According to Stena Line Freight Timetables, STENA HORIZON will replace STENA HOLLANDICA from the night sailing from the Netherlands on 8 January. She will then cover for the STENA BRITANNICA drydock from 25 January until 10 February. Throughout, Horizon will remain on the night sailing ex Hoek Van Holland, daytime sailing ex Harwich schedule.
The use of STENA HORIZON or a similar vessel on its new ferry route would allow Stena to truly replace the P&O Liverpool to Dublin service by offering significant accompanied freight capacity which was a key differentiator for P&O versus the competing Seatruck route. However, Stena hasn’t yet clarified if the new Dublin service will be focussed on unaccompanied or mixed freight traffic. If a RoPax is deployed, it seems possible that a passenger service could follow later.
During STENA HORIZON’s absence the Rosslare to Cherbourg route will continue to be served by the cruiseferry STENA VISION with no cover ship provided.
Seatruck moves Heysham terminal
As part of the selection process undertaken by Dublin Port Company, unaccompanied freight specialist Seatruck and parent company CLDN will also expand and develop their services between the Irish Capital and the UK.
Seatruck will move its existing Dublin to Heysham service back to Dublin’s Terminal 5 in January. This will allow Seatruck to offer at least four sailings a day in both directions on its Dublin to Liverpool route from Terminal 4, increasing choice for users of the route.
The extra departures will be offered by an additional vessel supplied by CLdN. Seatruck previously used the T5 terminal for all of its services before switching to T4 earlier this year, with P&O Ferries moving from T3 to T5 at the same time.
Seatruck Ferries said that they are looking forward to further developing their partnership with the Dublin Port Company.
Alistair Eagles, Managing Director of Seatruck Ferries said:
“We very much welcome this decision by Dublin Port. CLdN and Seatruck’s unaccompanied freight business on the Irish Sea has been growing steadily over recent years and more than 70% of all Irish Sea ferry freight now moves on an unaccompanied basis. The use of both Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 will enable us not only to further increase capacity but also to optimise the efficiency of our operations at the port. We look forward to growing our links with DPC as a stable and reliable partner and to further expanding our offer to customers.”Source: https://www.dublinport.ie/dublin-port-company-confirms-stena-line-seatruck-ferries-for-terminal-5/
Florent Maes, CEO of CLdN, said:
“We very much welcome this decision by Dublin Port. CLdN’s unaccompanied freight business on the Irish Sea has been growing steadily over recent years and more than 70% of all Irish Sea ferry freight now moves on an unaccompanied basis. The use of both Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 will enable us not only to further increase capacity but also to optimise the efficiency of our operations at the port. We look forward to growing our links with DPC as a stable and reliable partner and to further expanding our offer to customers.”Source: https://www.cldn.com/news/cldn-further-expand-dublin-services
As part of a new long term agreement with Liverpool Port operator Peel Ports, CLdN will also increase the size of its Liverpool terminal at Brocklebank Dock to deal with the continued growth of its operation. The new land area, which is directly linked to the current terminal by a refurbished swing bridge across the channel to Alexandra Dock, has space for over 300 trailers.
Seatruck is already the largest mover of freight between Dublin and Great Britain. CLdN is one of the largest shippers of RoRo cargo between Ireland and the rest of the EU and offers services from both Dublin and Cork.
Shared freight terminal agreement
In a press release, Dublin Port Company states that its decision to award a shared licence to both Stena Line and Seatruck Ferries at Terminal 5 “maximises the port’s existing infrastructure by pushing more truck and container freight through the terminal’s footprint,”.
Furthermore, with Dublin Port already operating at close to capacity, DPC says that this move supports the Port Company’s objective of adding capacity where possible given the constraints on port lands.
Commenting on the conclusion of the selection process, Barry O’Connell, CEO, Dublin Port Company, said:
“It’s essential for Ireland’s economy that we have strong availability and competition on direct shipping routes between Dublin Port and the UK. We are pleased to welcome Stena Line’s new Dublin-Birkenhead route which brings choice to the market, and to continue working with Seatruck Ferries and CLDN on growing its Dublin-Heysham service.”Source: https://www.dublinport.ie/dublin-port-company-confirms-stena-line-seatruck-ferries-for-terminal-5/