Stena Line, the Irish Sea’s leading ferry company, has announced that it is constructing two new bespoke

Stena Line, the Irish Sea’s leading ferry company, has announced that it is constructing two new bespoke freight ferries for its expanding Belfast-Heysham freight service.

The multi-million-pound investment will significantly increase freight capacity on the route.

Each of the two new 147-meter vessels has been designed to maximise freight volumes and will provide 2,800 lane meters of capacity which is an 80% increase on current ship capacities.

The new vessels, the first of which is due to enter service on the route in autumn 2025, will be equipped to carry 12 passengers and 26 crew.

The ‘NewMax’ vessels will be able to operate on methanol fuel. Stena Line is currently working closely with the supply chain of methanol and has secured future volumes of e-methanol to fulfil its strategic ambition of shifting to renewable fuels and cutting 30% of its CO2 emissions by 2030.

Future-proofing of the new vessels for electrification will also be another priority during construction, providing in-built technologies that can take advantage of both battery propulsion and shore power, where this is available.

The unique tidal systems prevailing in Heysham can be challenging, so each vessel will be fitted with a bespoke marine technology configuration making it more resilient to the prevailing weather conditions. Three bow thrusters will provide optimum manoeuvrability and reliability, and a specially designed engine/propeller configuration will further enhance berthing capability in extreme weather.

Paul Grant, Stena Line Trade Director, said: “This is a very significant day for Belfast – Heysham freight traffic.  By adding an extra 80% capacity to the route, Stena Line has responded to growing demands from customers. 

We have operated a very popular service on Belfast-Heysham for several years now, but with restricted capacity, it has been challenging to meet increased market growth.  With the extra capacity, we will now be able to significantly enhance our service on this route and complement our Birkenhead, Cairnryan and Holyhead services.”

Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour, said: “We are delighted to welcome today’s announcement by Stena Line that two new vessels will support the increased volume of RoRo traffic moving through Belfast Harbour.

“We are committed to working in close collaboration with our long-standing and much-valued partners at Stena Line as we work together to invest in port infrastructure and develop as a world-leading regional port.  We share Stena Line’s ambitions to meet increased market growth and exceed customer expectations and will continue to support them at this exciting time for the Belfast-Heysham freight route”.

Stena Line is the largest ferry operator on the Irish Sea, with the biggest fleet offering the widest choice of routes, including combined passenger and freight services from Belfast to Cairnryan and Liverpool, Dublin to Holyhead, and Rosslare to Fishguard routes, as well as this dedicated freight only route from Belfast to Heysham, a total of up to 238 weekly sailing options between Britain and Ireland.

Stena Line also offers a direct service from Rosslare to Cherbourg and will be introducing an upgraded ship, Stena Vision, to this route for summer 2023, making this route the most frequent service from Ireland to France with 12 sailings per week.