Stena Line confirms end of Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead route
Operator to concentrate on expanding ferry service at Dublin Port
Stena Line has confirmed it is to end its seasonal passenger ferry service from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead.
Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company (DHLR) expressed disappointment at the news but said it was now actively seeking alternative providers to offer a service on the route and had received a number of informal approaches from ferry operators in recent months.
DHLR, which has issued a call for expressions of interest in operating an alternative service on the eTenders website, said it hoped a replacement passenger service would be in place for 2016.
A ferry service has been running between Dun Laghoaire and Holyhead since 1835. A small fast craft was introduced to the route in 1993, which was replaced by the world’s largest fast craft, the HSS Stena Explorer, in 1995
Stena said it will concentrate on expanding its existing ferry service at Dublin Port.
“With two services operating approximately 10 miles apart we needed to make a decision in relation to what operation best serves the needs of our customers now and in the years ahead, and that operation is Dublin Port,” said Ian Davies, Stena Line’s route manager for Irish Sea South.
Decline in passengers
The Dun Laoghaire service was successful for several years following its introduction, carrying more than 1.7 million passengers annually during its peak in 1998. However, Stena said that after the withdrawal of ‘duty free’ shopping and a reduction in passengers with cars, passenger numbers had fallen dramatically, with fewer than 200,000 travelling through Dun Laoghaire Harbour last year. The service was reduced to a seasonal operation five years ago.
“While we have enjoyed a very professional working relationship with Dun Laoghaire Harbour over many years, the economic realities of the current situation in relation to our business levels have left us with no choice but to close the service. Dublin continues to grow in importance, not only as the core freight port for Ireland but also as the key tourism gateway into Ireland,” said Mr Davies.
“Ireland remains a strategically important region for us which is why Stena Line has invested over £250million across our Irish Sea business in the last five years alone,” he added.
DHLC said it had held active discussions with Stena in recent days over resumption of the seasonal service but said the ferry company had been unable to secure a suitable vessel and had decided to ditch the service.
“In the event that Stena identifies a suitable vessel to meet passenger needs on the route, the Harbour Company would be receptive to any future approach from Stena,” it said in a statement.
The company said the importance of the passenger service business to Dun Laoghaire had declined in recent year.
DHLC said it did not envisage job losses at the harbour as a result of the move on account of new commercial activities, which include proposals for an urban beach and an international diaspora centre.
There are also plans to boost cruise passenger numbers with a planning application for a new cruise berth for ‘next generation’ cruise ships to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála in the coming weeks.
It is estimated that Dun Laoghaire will attract 100,000 cruise passengers and crew this year, with similar numbers expected for 2016 and 2017. It said that while ferry passenger spend last year totalled €800,000, it expects cruise passengers to spend about €7 million.