Improvement works to both ports used by Stena Line’s Belfast to Liverpool (Birkenhead) route is well underway. The work is being undertaken in order to accommodate the brand new “next generation” Stena E-Flexer ferries STENA EDDA and STENA EMBLA. The first of these new vessels, STENA EDDA, is expected to arrive next year and will be followed by her sister the following year.
Unlike the current vessels on the route, STENA LAGAN, STENA MERSEY, and STENA FORECASTER the E-Flexer design incorporates both bow and stern loading on two levels. At present all vessels on the route are single level stern only ships. STENA EDDA and STENA EMBLA are also significantly longer than the vessels they replace. The new ships will allow Stena Line to increase both passenger and vehicle capacity, and have been designed and built specifically for Stena Line.
The Ro-Pax sister ships STENA MERSEY and STENA LAGAN are about 186.5m long, while STENA EDDA and STENA EMBLA are to be 215m long. The longest vessel to operate on the route to date, STENA FORECASTER, is also shorter at ‘just’ 195.3m long. In order to physically accommodate the new ferries, which are the longest to ever operate between Northern Great Britain, the berths at both ports have had to be modified and additional rendering installed.
Loading and unloading on two levels
Both Belfast Victoria Terminal 2 and Birkenhead 12 Quays are also getting twin-tier ramps for the first time. At 12 quays an additional bridge will connect to a new upper tier which is to be added to the existing pontoon linkspan on the south side. At Belfast, the existing linkspan at Victoria Terminal 2 will be replaced with a new twin-level structure. In the meantime, services to Birkenhead are using the single level linkspan at neighbouring Victoria Terminal 1. This has displaced the Belfast to Heysham ships to the former Stranraer ferry terminal at Albert Quay, as previously reported. The new twin-tier linkspans will reduce turnaround times by allowing simultaneous loading and unloading on multiple levels of the new vessels which have a much larger vehicle capacity than STENA LAGAN and STENA MERSEY.
Multi-million Pound Investment in Port Facilities
Some £15m is being invested at Belfast by the Harbour Commissioners and Stena Line, while at Birkenhead Peel Ports and Stena are investing £17m after a 25 year commitment to using the facility by Stena Line. David Huck, managing director – group ports from Peel Ports, has said:
“The past two years have seen heavy investment in the infrastructure at Twelve Quays to offer enhanced berthing facilities for larger, more modern vessels, helping reduce turnaround times and open up opportunities to grow the region’s import and export offering by expanding capacity by 20%.
“It’s also allowed us to extend our long-term partnership with Stena Line as it takes the next steps in its major fleet investment programme, with freight and travel customers able to take advantage of faster and easier loading and unloading.”
Northern Ireland Based Contractors
Belfast headquartered Farrans, a part of Dublin-based CRH Plc, is leading the work at Birkenhead. Dutch specialist Ravestein BV has already designed and fabricated the 55m long linkspan bridge to be used to connect the upper tier of the new linkspan at 12 Quays South to the shore under contract to Farrans. Ravestein will also install and commission the linkspan bridge once the site is ready. The work at Belfast, meanwhile, was awarded to County Down based GRAHAM Group. The Belfast work follows a £1.5m investment in reconfiguring and improving capacity at the landslide facilities at Victoria Terminal 2 which was completed earlier in the year. When the award of the contract was announced, Michael Robinson, Port Director, Belfast Harbour said:
“The upgrade of the VT2 ferry terminal represents another significant investment by Belfast Harbour in Northern Ireland’s transport infrastructure and will provide best-in-class facilities for Northern Ireland’s importers and exporters.
“The project includes the design and construction of a new two-tier ramp that will make it faster to load and discharge traffic, improve customers’ experience and enhance connectivity to one of Northern Ireland’s key markets. By supporting the introduction of larger vessels the investment also futureproofs Belfast Harbour’s ferry facilities and strengthens our long-term partnership with Stena Line.”
Stephen Hand, Pre-construction Director, GRAHAM, said:
“This major construction project will include new berthing infrastructure and the installation of a new double deck linkspan that will allow vehicles to drive simultaneously onto the ferry.
“The berthing facilities at VT2 need to be upgraded to accommodate new and bigger vessels. This project will create new berthing infrastructure and enable efficient vehicle access to ships.”
MacGregor has won the contract for the supply of the new twin-level linkspan. Work at both ports is expected to be completed in advance of the entry into service of STENA EDDA during the first half of 2020. The first Stena E-Flexer ship, STENA ESTRID, is expected to enter service between Holyhead and Dublin early in the new year with delivery expected at the end of this year.