Ferry and port operator, Stena Line, has signed a significant deal with Peel Ports Group, a major UK port operator, to operate from Heysham Port for the next 77-years until 2100.
The Swedish ferry company runs a twice daily freight service from Belfast-Heysham providing a vital trade corridor between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The collaborative agreement demonstrates the strong working partnership between the two organisations and seeks to further strengthen their long-term relationship.
The news comes on the back of Stena Line’s announcement last week of a new freight service between Dublin and Peel Ports’ 12 Quays Terminal in Birkenhead.
Earlier this year, Stena Line and Peel Ports signed a similar agreement for the 12 Quays Terminal to operate from the port until the end of the century.
This year, Stena Line announced it is making a multi-million-pound investment in the Belfast-Heysham route with two new-build state-of-the-art ‘NewMax’ ferries, which will boost freight capacity by 80 per cent.
With the first vessel due to begin on the route in 2025, these hybrid ferries will be equipped to operate on methanol fuel marking a key milestone in Stena Line’s roadmap to sustainable shipping.
Peel Ports, working collaboratively with Stena Line, plans to invest in new terminal management and a ‘smart gate’ automatic check-in system to improve customer experience at the port, and will increase the parking for trailers to accommodate the additional capacity of the new vessels.
In addition, the parties will aim to secure the shore infrastructure to provide additional electrical capacity to facilitate the future goal of powering the new ships by green shore power. This will be a further step in a long-term ambition to establish a green shipping corridor.
Niclas Martensson, CEO of Stena Line, said: “Our business on our Belfast-Heysham route has thrived in recent years and is a vital connection for freight transport across the Irish Sea.
“With the upcoming introduction of our NewMax hybrid ships, this route represents a unique opportunity for Stena Line to offer our freight customers more sustainable transport between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and will be a key milestone in our sustainability journey.”
David Huck, Chief Operating Officer at Peel Ports Group added: “We have been collaborating successfully with Stena Line for many years and it’s fantastic to establish another long-term agreement with the business.
“This deal reaffirms our promise to continue developing and maintaining services across the Irish sea, while also showcasing our ongoing investment into our Heysham operation. We’re confident the route will continue to prove hugely successful for many decades to come.”
In October 2023, SSE Energy Solutions signed a strategic partnership with the owners of Peel Ports’ Hunterston Port and Resource Campus (Hunterston PARC) to provide renewable energy for the proposed development of the site.