At the start of October, Stena Line began a new chapter as former Deputy CEO Niclas Mårtensson assumed the position of CEO. Here in the UK, Ian Davies, Stena Line’s Route Manager for Irish Sea South, has spoken of the company’s continued growth and the opportunities presented to Stena Line, Holyhead port and the wider economy on Anglesey, North Wales from the various developments proposed on the Island.
The economic downturn of 2007-08 brought a marked decline to Stena Line’s freight market across the Irish Sea in just three months, but Ian Davies claims that the company is now approximately 20% ahead of economic downturn volumes.
Explaining this immense growth, Ian Davies said: “It is down to the way logistics work in the UK. Supermarkets, for example, used to have warehouses in Ireland and supply shops in Ireland. Nowadays, the UK and Ireland are treated as one within the logistics industry, so most Irish supermarkets are fed from the UK Midlands. A large customer such as one of the main supermarkets might send 12,000 freight loads through Holyhead every year. Anglesey is therefore truly at the hub of the logistics chain in the UK.”
Non-freight passenger numbers travelling through Holyhead are now stable despite a previous decline caused by factors such as the emergence of low cost airlines, an increase in fuel cost and the demise of duty free. The latter, claims Ian Davies, led to Stena Line “losing around 25% of its revenue stream overnight”. The company cites maintaining a balance of freight and other passengers as part of its business model, due to the fact that freight customers need the service for 12 months of the year, whereas passenger traffic is more seasonal with peaks during summer, Christmas and Easter.
Stena Line, which is represented on the private sector-led board of the Welsh Government’s Anglesey Enterprise Zone, is optimistic about the Island’s future. Ian Davies explained: “Anglesey is right on the main artery of Inter-European trade, with the A55 and Holyhead being very much in the middle of that flow.
“However it’s not just about geographical location. As a company, service is extremely important to Stena Line Ferries. We employ local people on our ferries and in our ports and we find that one of the key factors here is that our Welsh employees are excellent in terms of providing service. Our local team adds value and a point of difference from our competitors, giving our offering a truly Welsh feel. The local team is a big part of who and what we are and we’re proud to be able to offer people great careers so that they are not only able to live in one of the most magnificent places in the country but thrive here too. We are a Swedish Company but we cherish and value being part of the Holyhead, Anglesey and Welsh community.
“Add to that the commercial opportunities open to our business by capitalising on developments in the private sector (particularly the energy sector) here on Anglesey and the future looks very bright.”
Speaking of how these developments could benefit industry, Ian Davies noted: “With all major energy investment projects such as those proposed within Anglesey Enterprise Zone come associated developments and we’re already working with specific companies, encouraging them to use the facilities we have in the port.
“Working with the Welsh Government, we created a Port Masterplan. Ferries used to berth in the old harbour (inner harbour), but nowadays ferries are three times the size that they used to be, making parts of the port redundant for that purpose. So we looked at this situation and asked ourselves what we could do with this asset. Do we just tarmac it and create parking spaces? Or do we look further and ask ourselves what industries are emerging locally? We took inspiration from the Anglesey Energy Island initiative and investigated how we could support that agenda. Ultimately, that exercise has shaped our masterplan as we aim to service innovative renewable energy companies coming into the Island by looking to develop facilities for them as they grow.
“Everything is done by economics. At the end of the day, our Owner, Mr Olsson, is an entrepreneur and if he sees a viable, sustainable opportunity which upholds the Company’s values, then he will look to develop it. The ferry industry, generally, is quite a mature industry in Europe and therefore if we want to look towards real growth we need to be innovative and capitalise on opportunities such as those presented to us on our doorstep here on Anglesey.”