Stena Line has confirmed that four new ferries are to operate on Irish Sea routes from Belfast.
The four vessels are being built in China with a planned delivery schedule during 2019 and 2020.
The contract also contains an option for another four vessels to be ordered.
Stena Line chief executive, Niclas Mårtensson said: “The routes to and from Belfast are strategically very important to Stena Line and during the last number of years we have made significant investments in ports and vessels to improve and develop our capacity offering a frequent high quality service for our customers to and from Belfast.
“Looking ahead, we intend to continue our ambitious development plan for our business in the region and the new vessels are a part of this strategic plan.
“During the last few years we have seen a steady growth in freight and passenger volumes and we believe this will continue.
“These new vessels will be the largest ferries ever to operate between Belfast and Great Britain.”
He added: “The new RoPax vessels will be among the most fuel efficient in the world with approximately 25% lower CO2 emissions per cargo unit than current RoPax tonnage.
“Our aim is to lead the development of sustainability within the shipping industry and set a new industry standard when it comes to operational performance, emissions and cost competiveness.
“The vessels will run on traditional fuel, but are designed to the class notation “gas ready” and are also prepared for scrubbers as well as catalytic converters, giving us flexibility for the future.”
Belfast Harbour commercial director Joe O’Neill said: “We are delighted that Stena Line is planning for Belfast as the location for its next generation of vessels in what is a significant investment in and enhancement of Northern Ireland’s premier freight and tourism gateway.
“Belfast Harbour has worked in close partnership with Stena Line over the last two decades to help it expand its Belfast routes into a flourishing hub and this very welcome investment news comes on the back of a record year for Stena Line’s freight business in Belfast Harbour.
“We look forward to welcoming the new vessels and the associated benefits they will bring to Belfast Harbour and the economy of Northern Ireland.”
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