The Port of Belfast has begun work on the new £35 million Stena Line ferry terminal which will cut journey times and literally bring Belfast closer for those travelling from Scotland.
The three-storey, 35,000 sq ft facility is being built on reclaimed land at the edge of the existing Port, enabling Stena Line to relocate its Belfast operations over two miles closer to the Scottish coast. The terminal is due to open just before the busy 2008 summer season.
The development is the most expensive project to be undertaken by the Port in its 400-year history and will cover a 32-acre site, an area over 20 times the size of Belfast City Hall.
Such is the importance of the scale of the investment taking place here, the Stena Line Executive Board travelled from the company’s headquarters in Sweden to mark the occasion at an event hosted by Belfast Harbour Commissioners.
Speaking at the launch of construction work, Len O’Hagan, the Port’s Chairman said, “To ensure that those travelling from and to Scotland do so in the quickest time possible, the Port has physically moved itself closer to Scotland. 80 years ago the Port began reclaiming part of Belfast Lough with millions of tonnes of stone and sand, creating a site that will allow Stena Line to relocate its Belfast operations nearer to Scotland.
“In addition the Port will also build a new dual carriageway directly linking the new terminal with the M2 at Fortwilliam to provide easy access for drivers and hauliers. This investment is being funded directly by the Port - at no cost to the taxpayer - as part of a £140m investment programme to enhance what is Northern Ireland’s primary gateway to the world.
Stena Line’s global CEO, Gunnar Blomdahl added, “The Irish Sea is a key part of Stena Line’s international business and also one of its strongest growing markets. Together with a new proposed facility in Cairnryan, the new Belfast terminal will reduce travel time by 20 minutes and allow Stena Line to provide additional sailings.
“Despite the impact of low cost airlines and a volatile fuel market, we have continued to grow our business and nowhere is this more evident than on the Irish Sea. Our strategy of a rolling investment programme, which has included £150m in this route alone over the last ten years, has been matched by our commitment to customer service. I feel that this exciting development will only serve to further enhance our offering in this market.
“This is an ambitious engineering project, but nothing I believe compared to the efforts of one ‘Finn MacCool’ who went to the bother of building a causeway to Scotland. Hopefully today he’d take the more relaxing option of catching the Stena HSS!” joked Gunnar.
Roy Adair, the Port’s CEO added, “For many people the Port of Belfast is their first impression of Northern Ireland and it is fitting that they will soon be disembarking at one of the most modern terminals in these islands. This is good news for both tourists and commercial traffic, and sends out the message that this is a city and a society which is confident of its future.”
The new terminal will include a restaurant, lounges, a viewing gallery and dedicated facilities for HGV drivers. Design and build work is being carried out by Newtownabbey-based McLaughlin & Harvey and will be project managed on behalf of the Port by Mouchel Parkman.
In addition to providing 75 jobs, construction of the new terminal will use, among other things, 600 tonnes of reinforced steel, 1,850 tonnes concrete and enough bitumen to build a theoretical one metre wide causeway from the Scottish coast to Belfast.