Construction begins on Stena’s hybrid ferries for Heysham to Belfast route

Steel-cutting ceremony on new hybrid ferries for Irish Sea takes place at Weihai in China

Image of how the NewMax hybrid ferry will look when it enters service on the Irish Sea next year (TommyChia)

Swedish ferry company Stena Line has had a landmark steel-cutting ceremony at Weihai in China, marking the start of construction on the first of  its ‘NewMax’ hybrid ferries destined for the Heysham to Belfast route and due to enter service in autumn 2025.

The 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 Stena Line’s journey to sustainable fuel as they will both be able to operate on methanol fuel.

Stena Line is currently working closely with the supply chain of methanol and has secured future volumes of e-methanol to fulfil its strategic ambition of shifting to renewable fuels.

In addition to the multi-million pound investment in the ships, Stena Line confirmed last month that it had signed an agreement with Peel Ports to operate in Heysham Port until the end of the century, reaffirming its confidence in the continued success of the route.

As part of the new agreement, Stena Line 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. 

A landmark steel cutting ceremony for the new Stena Line hybrid ferries takes place in China (NATSUKI)

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 that ultimately will allow the vessels to be decarbonised.

Paul Grant, Irish Sea trade director for Stena Line said:  “We’re excited to announce that the steel cutting has taken place for our state-of-the-art ‘NewMax’ ships for our Heysham to Belfast route. 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 capabilities of these new hybrid ships to operate on alternative fuel will also be instrumental in reaching Stena Line’s ambitious sustainability targets and achieving our goal of establishing future-proofed fossil free shipping corridors.”

Phil Hall, Mersey Port director at Peel Ports Group, said:  “We have worked in partnership with Stena Line for over 25 years, and this latest investment in the future of the Belfast-Heysham route is testament to the success of that partnership.

“We share a commitment to making our operations more sustainable, and we’re very excited to explore ways to use our port infrastructure to power these new vessels from the electrical grid, which will be a major step towards achieving our ambition to become a net-zero port operator by 2040.”

Stena Line is the largest ferry operator on the Irish Sea, with the biggest fleet providing up to 238 weekly passenger and freight sailings 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 route which is due to start in February.

Stena Line is one of Europe’s leading ferry companies transporting 6.5 million passengers with 39 vessels across 17 routes in Northern Europe operating 27,000 sailings each year.