Swedish shipping company Stena Line says the freight-only Stena Panorama will begin sailing on the Birkenhead-Belfast route in September. Tony McDonough reports
Stena Line is to increase freight capacity on its Birkenhead to Belfast route from September to meeting growing demand.
Freight volumes fell significantly during the COVID-19 crisis which saw Stena reduce capacity in the Irish Sea. But the easing of lockdowns has seen volumes rise again and so the company is to introduce Stena Panorama on the Birkenhead-Belfast route on September 2. It will also call at Heysham.
Stena operates the service out of the Twelve Quays terminal in Birkenhead where currently Stena Edda and Stena Mersey make twice-daily sailings to Belfast. While those two vessels carry freight and passengers, Stena Panorama is a freight-only vessel.
Sweden-based Stena has also confirmed that in January 2021 Stena Mersey will be replaced by the larger Stena Embla on the route. Earlier this year Stena Edda replaced Stena Lagan on the Birkenhead to Belfast service.
During the summer months, Stena Line has seen an increase in freight demand and anticipates that extra capacity is required for the traditionally busy autumn period as well as the expected increase in pre-Brexit trade activity.
Paul Grant, Stena Line trade director (Irish Sea), said: “Adding a seventh ship to our Belfast operations will help us increase frequency, capacity and give us greater operational flexibility.
“This extra ship will be capable of operating to Liverpool and Heysham thus ensuring that we can better match demand and the needs of customers.
“It has been a very challenging time for the freight industry, but we are confident that having additional capacity available on these important trading routes between England and Northern Ireland will help us provide an enhanced sailing schedule for our customers.”