We are excited to announce that we last week marked a milestone on our journey towards sustainable shipping with the Steel Cutting ceremony for the first of our ‘NewMax’ hybrid ferries as construction begins in Weihai, China.
Last year, we announced that two new hybrid freight ferries had been ordered from Stena RoRo destined for our Belfast – Heysham route, with the first due to enter service in autumn 2025. The Belfast – Heysham route is an important trading corridor across the Irish Sea, we have seen significant growth in the service in recent years and the extra boost in capacity that the ships will provide will help us to meet customer demand.
The ‘NewMax’ vessels are of a unique design with the most efficient hull form to maximise freight volumes and their addition to the route will boost freight capacity by 80% compared to current ship capacity.
The new hybrid ships will play a key role in our journey to sustainable fuel as they will both be able to operate on methanol fuel. We are currently working closely with the supply chain of methanol on securing future volumes of e-methanol to fulfil our strategic ambition of shifting to renewable fuels.
In addition to the multi-million-pound investment in the ships, we announced last month that we had signed an agreement with Peel Ports to operate in Heysham Port until the end of century, reaffirming our confidence in the continued success of the route.
As part of the new agreement, we and Peel Ports will aim to secure the shore infrastructure to provide additional electrical capacity to facilitate the future goal of powering the new ships by shore power. The new vessels will have in-built technologies that can take advantage of both battery propulsion and shore power. The ships will be futureproofed with a progressive propulsion configuration that ultimately will allow the vessels to be decarbonised.
We are the largest ferry operator on the Irish Sea, with the biggest fleet providing up to 238 weekly sailings offering the widest choice of routes including: combined passenger and freight services from Belfast to Cairnryan and Liverpool, Dublin to Holyhead, Rosslare to Fishguard, Rosslare to Cherbourg, in addition to the dedicated freight only route from Belfast to Heysham and the new Dublin – Birkenhead which is due to start in February.