Stranraer ferry gets new port of call
Northern Ireland looks set for the end of more than a century of transport links with a small Caledonian town as plans gain momentum for Stena to relocate to a new Scottish port.
Stena Line yesterday announced the Scottish Parliament had approved a harbour empowerment order to allow the creation of a new port at Loch Ryan near Cairnryan, around eight miles from Stranraer.
The new port for travel and freight is expected to open around October next year, three months later than planned due to the prolonged planning process.
A spokesman for the ferry company said the relocation would shave 25 minutes from the present three-hour duration of the Belfast-Scotland conventional ferry journey, while also shortening onward road journey times to Glasgow by about 15 minutes.
It has also set aside £120m to go shopping for two ‘super fast conventional’ ferries for the route to shorten crossing times to just over two hours.
Two conventional ferries in the company’s fleet, the Navigator and the Caledonia, may be employed temporarily on the new route. Due to high fuel costs the high speed HSS will not be used.
A spokesman for the company said the investment was securing around 500 jobs already in Stranraer, as well as creating around 900 construction jobs.
He described it as a “long-term and strategic” decision which could even create jobs in the future if the new port attracts the bigger ships it hopes to.
Dan Sten Olsson, chairman of Stena Line, said the announcement marked a “historic day”.
He said: “The investment we have announced will provide Scotland with a first class port facility which underlines and enhances the port’s prominence as the third largest gateway in the UK.
“The link between Scotland and Northern Ireland provides a huge number of benefits for both countries. Tourism and freight business between Scotland and Northern Ireland has seen significant growth in recent years and despite the current difficult trading conditions, we are confident that an investment of this magnitude will pay dividends over the medium to long-term.”
Politicians in Northern Ireland and Scotland gave the announcement a warm welcome. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “This is a significant day for transport and investment in Scotland, and today’s announcements highlight the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to working with investors to support jobs and the economy, and to keep Scotland moving.”
The civil engineering arm of Northern Ireland business McLaughlin & Harvey has emerged as the preferred bidder to build the 28-acre Scottish port in a £200m contract worth around £50m to the Mallusk-based business.
Stranraer has been the main Scottish port for Irish ferries since the late 1800s. The route was operated by British Rail, then Sealink, until acquired by Stena Line in 1990. Stena said the Stranraer route carries 1.16m passengers between Ulster and Scotland annually. It’s hoped the town could emerge as a pedestrian-friendly seaside town free of freight lorries.