Ferry operator Stena Line has contracted two new bespoke freight vessels from Weihai, China, for its expanding Belfast-Heysham freight service on the Irish Sea.
Each of the two new 147m vessels has been designed to maximise freight volumes and will provide 2,800 lane metres of capacity, an 80% increase on current ship capacities. The new vessels, scheduled to begin operation in 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. Stena Line became the first ferry operator to run a ferry on methanol when the Stena Germanica was converted in 2015.
Future proofing the new vessels for electrification has been another priority during construction providing in-built technologies that can take advantage of both battery propulsion and shore power, where this is available.
Niclas Mårtensson, CEO Stena Line said: “This investment shows our dedication to sustainability and our strategy of moving towards new sustainable fuels. The NewMax vessels will also meet the growing demand from customers, adding significant capacity to allow logistics operators to grow their business in the region.”
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.
Stena Line is the largest ferry operator on the Irish Sea, with routes including, combined passenger and freight services from Belfast to Cairnryan and Liverpool, Dublin to Holyhead, and Rosslare to Fishguard routes, as well as the freight-only route from Belfast to Heysham, a total of up to 238 weekly sailing options. The company also offers a direct service from Rosslare to Cherbourg and will be introducing an upgraded ship, Stena Vision, to this route for summer 2023.