Birkenhead to Belfast ferry operator said the decision has been made in response to plummeting bookings on all of its 20 European routes. Tony McDonough reports
Irish Sea ferry operator Stena Line is to furlough 600 employees and make 150 people redundant as it struggles with a falling bookings due to coronavirus.
The decision comes just weeks after the Swedish company introduced a new multi-million pound vessel, Stena Edda, onto its Birkenhead to Belfast route. Stena Edda and Stena Mersey currently make two return sailings a day across the Irish Sea.
Stena says the decision to cut back on staff was unavoidable given the significant decline in both travel bookings and freight volume across all its 20 European routes. It estimates the business volumes will not return to normal until 2021.
The 150 redundancies will be made in the UK and Ireland and will affect both onshore ad sea-based workers. Consultation on furlough and redundancies with trade unions has started and it is not known yet where the cuts will fall.
Stena Line director Ian Hampton said: “The COVID-19 crisis has meant that Stena Line is experiencing a significant decline in passenger and freight volumes across all its 20 European routes. We are having to make some very difficult decisions, that we hoped we would never have to make.
“In order to secure the continuity of our freight operations, we have no choice but to reduce our costs . We are committed to keep vital supply lines open for UK and Ireland. Regrettably we must furlough employees on temporary paid leave and make redundancies, as we adjust to this new reality.”
Stena says furlough will also be used to help vulnerable employees, such those that need to self-isolate due to underlying health conditions, those that are pregnant, and where possible, those with caring responsibilities due to COVID-19.
The introduction of Stena Edda onto the Birkenhead to Belfast route in early March was the first part of a multi-million pound investment into the service. The vessel replaced Stena Lagan. It was planned that Stena Embla would be introduced later this year although it is not clear how the latest developments will impact on that timetable.
In a joint £17m project between Stena and Peel Ports, the Twelve Quays terminal has been upgraded to accommodate the new roll-on/roll off ferries, a familiar site for people on both sides of the river.
Stena Edda offers 40% more deck capacity, 40% more cabins and 30% more fuel efficient than current vessels on the route. It will accommodate up to 1,000 passengers, 120 cars in its dedicated garage deck and 3,100 lane metres of freight.