Crossing the horizon

With a history dating back to 1962, Stena Line is a leading international transport and travel service company that specialises in transporting freight and passengers. As one of the largest ferry companies in the world Stena Line has a rich heritage and operates Europe’s most comprehensive route network, consisting of 22 strategically located ferry routes across Northern Europe, operating in Scandinavia, the Baltics, the North Sea and the Irish Sea with a fleet of 34 vessels. Stena Line is a registered ABTA member and is headquartered in the Swedish City of Gothenburg, from where the company employs approximately 5500 staff across Europe.

Every year over seven million passengers travel with Stena Line, while the company also transports 1.5 million cars and around two million freight units annually. With increasing demands on capacity through Horswillits network, Stena Line is committed to a programme of continued investment to ensure that capacity matches the requirements of its passengers across both freight and sailings. Since previously appearing in Shipping & Marine magazine during December 2014, Stena Line has introduced new vessels to its fleet and further developed its network between the UK and Europe. “During December 2014 we had just acquired the Celtic link route, sailing from Rosslare to Cherbourg. That route has since gone form strength-to-strength and we are delighted with the way that it has become an established part of the Stena Line network. During 2017 we also expect to see an increase in traffic travelling northbound between Rosslare to Cherbourg,” comments Stena Line’s Head of Freight for UK & Ireland, Richard Horswill. “We have managed to gradually increase the utilisation of the vessels sailing on the route, which is actually one of the few ways to reach the Continent from Ireland via direct link without land bridging through Britain. With the UK decision to exit the EU, the route could become the ‘Brexit Bypass.’ Although it remains to be seen what the consequences of those decisions might be, there are a lot discussions concerning trade agreements. From our own talks with industry members, from a trade perspective there will be a preference to keep administration down to a minimum and to keep the borders open.”

During 2015 Stena Line introduced the Superfast X on its Holyhead-Dublin route, as a replacement for the Stena Nordica. “From a freight point of view the new vessel didn’t provide any extra capacity, but was acquired to further position the company in the travel side of the business,” Richard says. “The Superfast X is a fully refurbished ship with excellent facilities on board, particularly for drivers with a comprehensive freight lounge that has proven to be very popular. Again, the route has continued to grow in strength and we have enjoyed double-digit figures in terms of growth during the year.”

In recent months Stena Line has also announced that as of 31 October 2016, it will double the number of departures from Rotterdam Europoort to Killingholme in central England to six times a week. The company will utilise the Ro-Ro ship Caroline Russ, which will provide a daily service together with its sister ship Stena Scotia. “We introduced the Stena Scotia to the Rotterdam-Killingholme around 18 months ago with the vessel working a return schedule, which has meant that there has not been a daily schedule in each direction,” Richard explains. “With the new ship we will be able to run a daily schedule in both directions that will sail overnight, six days a week. It will increase the amount of volume going through Europoort along with our other route between Rotterdam and Harwich, which should make the freight harbour at Europoort an even more attractive destination for our customers.”

Further to developing its network of crossings and vessels, Stena Line also invests in its port facilities to ensure that its customers’ crossing is as smooth as possible from embarkation to crossing and disembarkation. Stena Line has been present within Belfast for over two decades, since beginning operations from the port in 1995. This year and next year, the company will invest over £12m in ongoing ship refit contracts with Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff as part of its Irish Sea fleet upgrade. “During 2017 we will combine Victoria Terminals One and Two (VT1/2) creating one entrance and one exit, which will improve the traffic flow within the terminal, the layout in terms of drop-off and collection bays and hence operational efficiency for both Stena Line and our customers. The new entrance will reduce queuing times into the terminal and also improve safety as it will remove the need for any right had turns across main roads, as currently happens at our Westbank Road freight entrance. The new exit will a so have an improved flow into the main Westbank Road with the majority of our customers exiting in the same direction as the traffic flow on the main road,” Richard reveals. The port has grown significantly during the years, which has necessitated an investment in improved traffic flow.

Over the coming years Stena Line will continue to focus on further refining its service in line with feedback from its clients in both freight and passenger markets, while ensuring healthy returns for the company’s shareholders. “During next 12 months will be focused on filling capacity on the new ships sailing the North Sea. We also have some Irish Sea routes where off-peak sailing times are experiencing severe demand and one of the initiatives that we will be introducing on Cairnryan, will be to change 15:30 sailing times from either direction from an off-peak crossing to a peak sailing. This is really to help manage demand and to shift the load from off-peak sailings,” Richard concludes. “We need to support the business in terms of volume and probably rate increases. I think there will be rate increases in line with or slightly ahead of inflation to help support Stena’s recovery and its ability to sustain portability in the long run in what is increasingly proving to be an uncertain world.”

Stena Line
• One of Europe’s largest freight route networks
• Investment in both routes and fleet
• Provides excellent facilities to freight drivers