Swedish ferry operator Stena Line has announced the beginning of construction on its first NewMax hybrid ferries at a shipyard in Weihai, China. 

The new freight ferries, which will be used on the Irish Sea route between Belfast, Northern Ireland and Heysham, England, were announced last year and will be the first of their kind in Stena Line’s fleet with the capacity to operate on methanol fuel when they enter service in autumn 2025. 

Paul Grant, Stena Line’s Irish Sea trade director, said he was excited to mark the steel cutting of the vessels for the important trading corridor, he said: “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 futureproofed fossil free shipping corridors.” 

Construction of the new vessels is part of a wider plan to improve the sustainability of the operator’s Irish Sea services, along with an agreement with Heysham port owner Peel Ports to provide additional electric capacity to prepare for using shore power on the new ships. Stena Line said it is committed to Heysham until at least the end of the century. 

The NewMax vessels, being built through Stena RoRo, will include technology allowing them to use both battery propulsion and shore power. The operator said its new stock would be futureproofed with a “progressive propulsion configuration” to allow for decarbonisation down the line. 

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Phil Hall, Mersey port director at Peel Ports, highlighted the group’s 25-year history with Stena Line: “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.” 

In addition to their more sustainable power systems, the NewMax vessels have been designed with an efficient hull form to maximise freight volumes, boosting capacity by 80% on the Belfast to Heysham route. 

Stena Line has been looking to decarbonise vessels across its fleet in recent years, including signing a contract with Wärtsilä to convert some of its ships to operate on methanol fuel.