“Over the last five years Stena Line has placed overall investment in the region of £250 million into the Irish Sea area, which demonstrates our confidence in the continued growth of the ferry service market. We have received fantastic feedback from our customers, both on the freight and passenger side of the business, which tells us that the decisions we have made in terms of upgrading our ports, ships and route network choices have been the right ones,” says Richard Horswill, Stena Line’s head of freight for UK and Ireland. “The last 12 to 18 months have been challenging but due to these investments we have been able to stimulate growth in the market, particularly on the freight side of the business.”
Since last appearing in Shipping and Marine magazine in December 2011, Stena Line has seen a steady increase in its freight market share following the acquisition of the Belfast – Liverpool/Heysham routes and the opening of Loch Ryan Port. The company has also enjoyed sustained growth across most Irish Sea routes and there are positive indications that the economic climate is to improve, giving Stena Line a strategic advantage in being well placed to help its customers when demand increases. “Despite the challenging economic climate, we continued our commitment to the Irish Sea region as it is a strategically important part of our business,” highlights Richard. “In order to grow our current and future business levels it is important to invest in our infrastructure and fleet to provide our customers with a service they are happy to return to again and again.”
Voted Top Ferry Company by Northern Ireland Travel & Tourism Awards every year for the past 21 years, Stena Line has achieved a significant and prominent position in the travel and tourism sector. Based in Sweden, the company operates internationally through Europe’s most comprehensive route network, which offers connections between eight countries and 19 routes around Scandinavia and the UK. With three core geographical markets: Scandinavia, the North Sea and the Irish Sea, the company has invested heavily in acquiring routes to enhance its services in these areas dramatically. In December 2010 Stena Line announced its acquisition of DFDS’ Liverpool to Belfast, and Heysham to Belfast routes for approximately £40 million. This development enabled Stena Line to offer several transportation alternatives between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and has resulted in the company today being the first choice for the UK automotive industry moving new cars to Northern Ireland via Birkenhead.
“Specialist receiving facilities at Birkenhead ensure efficient and secure reception of unaccompanied trade cars moving to Northern Ireland with around 70 cars on each sailing. Birkenhead Port has worked with the automotive industry to ensure approved secure handling methods and we regularly achieve 100 per cent in customer audits,” states Richard. “This is just one example of how Stena Line works towards adding value for our customers who work in a wide range of industries.” Another example of this is Stena Line’s investments into the controls and procedures it has in place for the handling of temperature controlled freight, as Richard adds: “Making further investments in this area means we will remain the first choice for the food and pharmaceutical industries as well; understanding the market and shaping our business to leverage the maximum opportunities will continue to be a key strategic focus for us.”
With an unrivalled five routes on the Irish Sea, including the Belfast – Cairnryan route that was officially opened in November 2011, Stena Lines makes taking the ferry to Ireland easier than ever before for both passengers and customers in freight. On top of its investments in new routes, the company also replaced three existing vessels with two superfast vessels; these additions to its fleet enabled Stena Line to accommodate freight vehicles of all shapes and sizes and attract new freight customers. “These developments have certainly shown a switch in emphasis towards our growing freight business on the Irish Sea, however, this doesn’t mean Stena Line’s travel customers have suffered. On the contrary; we have continued to invest in our onboard services, which has benefitted our customers across the Irish Sea over the last two years,” Richard said.
In line with the expanding freight sector, Stena Line introduced new F-class roro ships in September 2012 on its Belfast – Heysham freight service. The increased capacity of 30 per cent has proven popular with customers, with mid-week sailings immediately reaching full capacity. “For now our focus is on increasing awareness of our extended and growing network of routes in the North and Baltic areas,” says Richard. “Looking further ahead, we think intermodal integration with rail networks into Europe will be of interest to UK and ROI customers. We are actively discussing longer term arrangements with a range of companies to drive efficiency and lower overall shipping costs.”
Despite market conditions remaining challenging, Stena Line has already achieved sustained growth in freight volumes and expects this trend to continue over the coming years. “As confidence steadily grows in the economy we are strategically placed to help facilitate increased economic activity and the resultant volume increases. We have seen an increasing proportion of unaccompanied traffic and this trend is set to continue,” concludes Richard.
World’s leading ferry company
Invested approximately £250 million into the Irish Sea area
Has been voted Top Ferry Company for the last 21 years