As first reported on the Irish Travel Trade News website on 11th August, Stena Line has now publicly confirmed its plans to reduce the current HSS fast-ferry Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead operation to a seasonal service.
Michael McGrath, Area Director for Stena Line’s business on the Irish Sea, said: “The fast craft service operating between Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead has traded at a financial loss for several years. The high operating costs of the HSS Stena Explorer, particularly in terms of fuel costs and gas turbine maintenance, has been a major factor in this and despite all our attempts to reduce operating costs over the last few years, it has not been possible to return the route to profitability.
“The vast majority of revenue from the fast craft service is generated from car and coach guests and is received during the peak summer trading period. In 2010 for example, 73% of the turnover on this route was generated between the months of May and September. This is a similar trend to previous years.”
Stena Line added that, unlike the Ropax vessels operating on other routes, there is very little revenue from freight customers on the Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead route. Freight is an important source of revenue on the Ropax services, bringing important income 52 weeks a year. Stena Line considers that the long-term solution for the fast craft service is to operate on a seasonal basis each year, and it is planned to operate the HSS Stena Explorer until 13th September 2011. The craft will then lay-by over the winter period until the 2012 season. The company believes this is the only way to continue the Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead service and is the best way to ensure the overall financial success of the Central Corridor.
Michael McGrath added: “We regret that this decision will have an impact among our ship’s personnel and our port operations staff in Dun Laoghaire, but this is a decision that has to be taken for the benefit of the overall business. We simply cannot continue to sustain these levels of financial losses. Going forward we believe the combination of our two Ropax vessels operating from Dublin to Holyhead, combined with this seasonal fast craft service between Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead, will provide our customers with the capacity and frequency that the market requires. We will now embark on a period of consultation with our staff and their union representatives to discuss the implications of the proposed changes with them.”