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Spotlight on the short sea-crossing

THE latest visitor to Loch Ryan is the Stena Estrid, StenaLine's newest ferry which only entered service late last year. Initial information supplied to the paper was that the vessel – which normally plies the Holyhead/Dublin route – was temporarily adding capacity to the Cairnryan route as all ferry firms grapple with the problems caused by Coronavirus restrictions on movement. However, StenaLine have said the vessel is undergoing 'maintenance and outfitting' work. Her arrival coincided with concerns about the lifeline short sea-crossing from Colin Smyth, MSP. Scottish Labour's transport spokesman, Mr Smyth described the UK Government announcement of a £17million support package for ferry services between Northern Ireland and Great Britain as a step in the right direction - but warned more will be needed. The money will be made available to Stena Line, P&O and Seatruck to maintain five key trade routes, including Belfast to Cairnryan and Larne to Cairnryan. “This support is a long overdue step in the right direction. “The jobs at Cairnryan are not only vital to the local economy of Dumfries and Galloway but the ferry routes to Belfast and Larne are crucial to the wider economy. “In return for this support I would urge the companies to pull back from redundancies and cuts to staff terms and conditions. “It is clear that in the long term it will take time for services to recover and the need for social distancing will massively reduce passenger numbers even when people start to travel more. Further support will be required for ferry services, including tackling the long term poor transport links to the port which really would give the economy a boost.” Labour MP Ian Murray, Shadow Scottish Secretary, said: “Labour had been calling for financial support and this announcement is a welcome step in the right direction. “But the UK Government needs to do more to ensure the continued flow of goods during the coronavirus crisis. “This requires joint working with the devolved administrations in the interests of everyone in the UK.” Louise Haigh MP, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, said: “Labour backed calls for support and this limited announcement is welcome, but the UK Government must go much further to safeguard regional connectivity. “The next step has to be support for hauliers, who keep vital supplies moving and who are under serious pressure on Irish Sea routes. “And it is over a fortnight since NI airports warned support was needed ‘within days'; every day of delay puts them under further strain. The UK Government must act to ensure this public health crisis does not become a long-term crisis for regional connectivity.” The financial support for ferry operators will now be made available to Stena Line, P&O and Seatruck to maintain five key routes; Warrenpoint to Heysham; Belfast to Liverpool, Cairnryan and Heysham; and Larne to Cairnryan. This support is for a period of two months and is estimated to cost between £10.6 and £16.6 million. The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to cover 40pc of these costs. At 215 metres in length, Stena Estrid is one of the most advanced vessels in operation with space to carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers.

<< back Published: 04 May 2020, 14:16