STENA Line is to cease operating a fast ferry service on the Harwich-Hook of Holland route from January, and will invest £70m ($132m) in lengthening and upgrading the two ro-pax ferries operating on the route, it was confirmed yesterday.
The decision to withdraw the high-speed catamaran Stena Discovery follows a review of the Harwich-Hook route earlier this year.
Yesterday Harwich International Port, which is owned by Hutchison Ports (UK), announced the signing of a contract extension with Stena which extends the relationship between the two companies until 2020.
However, the HSS was conspicuous in its absence from the announcement.
Stena is to invest £70m in the ro-pax vessels Stena Hollandica and Stena Britannica, which currently operate alongside the HSS.
They will each be lengthened to 240 m, the number of cabins will be doubled, and there will be extensive refurbishment, said Pim de Lange, Stena's route director for the North Sea. Stena says they will become the largest passenger and freight-carrying vessels in the world.
"We will withdraw the HSS from service by January 8," said Mr de Lange. "However, Harwich-Hook of Holland remains very important to us both for freight and passengers."
carried 700,000 passengers on the Harwich-Hook route last year well down on the one million it carried for many years. The combination of falling passenger numbers and rocketing fuel prices forced Stena to take a hard look at the service and in particular
the fuel-hungry HSS, which has operated on the route since 1997.
The Stena Discovery will be delivered back to its owner, Stena Ro-Ro, and is likely to be sold, said Mr de Lange. Chris Lewis, chief executive of HPUK, said: "We are extremely pleased to see Stena's ongoing commitment to the Harwich-Hook of Holland route, and look forward to working with Stena for many years to come.
"It is important that passengers can continue to travel fromHarwich, and the contract extension and vessel lengthening programme will ensure that Harwich International Port is able to offer this service in the future."