Stena Line has signed an agreement with DFDS to acquire its Belfast to Liverpool (Birkenhead) and Belfast to Heysham routes.
The acquisition, which amounts to approximately £40M, will enable Stena Line to improve its service on the Irish Sea by offering several different alternatives for transportation between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
In recent years, Stena Line has invested heavily in significant improvements across the whole of its route network. Irish Sea area director Michael McGrath believes the latest acquisition reflects Stena Line’s commitment to the Irish Sea and will improve service and frequency for passengers and freight.
"These new Irish Sea routes will complement our existing services perfectly and enable us to offer our customers even more options for ferry transport across the Irish Sea,” said McGrath.
“At the same time, we are strengthening Belfast as a transport hub for freight and passengers to and from Northern Ireland," he added.
Included in the purchase from DFDS are four ships which include the chartered Lagan Seaways and Mersey Seaways on the Belfast-Liverpool route and the freight carriers Scotia Seaways and Hibernia Seaways, all of which are now to be taken over by Stena Line.
"We will continue to develop the routes and look at the capacity we will need in the future,” said Stena Line CEO Gunnar Blomdahl. “During the last 10 years, we have invested approximately €250M in our Irish Sea operations and, going forward, we will continue to invest in the development of our services between Ireland and Britain.”
The transaction between Stena Line and DFDS will be notified to the Irish and UK competition authorities.
In a separate announcement, Stena Line also revealed that, following a decision made some time ago, it will close its Larne to Fleetwood operations due to ongoing losses on the route.
“Since we acquired the route in 2004, we have made progress in terms of improving the quality of service to our customers but, despite all the hard work of everyone associated with the route, we have continued to trade at a significant loss, and it is not envisaged this position will change,” said Irish Sea area director Michael McGrath.
“The route operates with older tonnage which can be problematic but investment in newer tonnage is not an option as the higher capital costs would make our losses even worse.
“No business can continue to carry such losses on an ongoing basis so there is no alternative but to close the route at the end of this year,” he added.
“The decision to close Larne to Fleetwood was taken some time ago on the basis of the current and projected performance of the route, and before the opportunity arose to buy these other routes,” he explained.
For further information, please contact:
Nigel Tilson, Stena Line Communications Manager (UK):
028 9088 4036 or 07501 462677
Michael Rafferty, Duffy Rafferty Communications:
028 9073 0880 or 07768 336169
Eamonn Hewitt, Stena Line Communications Manager (ROI):
00353 1 2047617 or 00353 87 2411293