Meanwhile, preparations are progressing for the entry into service of the first of the four newbuildings. “Seatruck Progress” was launched in August and will enter service on the Liverpool-Dublin route in December (to be joined in mid-February by “Seatruck Power”). The remaining new vessels are scheduled for delivery during the first half of 2012. They are likely to be deployed on Seatruck’s key Irish routes. Seatruck’s progress on the Irish Seamarket is a remarkable business success story. The company now offers 80 sailings per week on four routes linking strategically placed ports: Liverpool-Dublin, Heysham-Dublin, Heysham-Warrenpoint and Heysham-Larne. Freight volumes doubled in the past two years. Seatruck now has 20 per cent of the Irish Sea market (as against 3.7 per cent in 2004).
Commitment to the Irish Sea
Alistair Eagles, Seatruck’s Managing Director, Irish Sea, has no doubt about how this success was achieved: “We are the only Irish Sea operator dedicated solely to the carriage of unaccompanied freight. This is what the operators want in a tough economic climate. Cost control is vital, but with no compromise on service. We provide operators with real economies, as the unaccompanied trailer is the most cost-effective way to move goods. Driver-accompanied movements are much more expensive. Our solution also reduces road mileage. Heysham and Liverpool – our primary UK ports – are much closer to the origin and destination of goods, when compared to traditional routings through Scotland and Wales.
“As a result of this winning formula, our volumes have risen by 425 per cent in the 2004-2011 period, despite the fact that overall volumes have declined. The message is clear and we have taken it in. We intend to meet continued growth in demand for unaccompanied movements by deploying new ships which reduce crossing time, thanks to a service speed of 21 knots, and offer more trailer capacity. With Seatruck Progress and Seatruck Power in operation over the next few months, capacity will rise by 70 trailers daily in each direction. In 2011 Seatruck volumes have risen very steeply.”
The new ships
The four new ro-ro ships have a length of 142m, breadth of 25m and a deadweight of 5,300 tonnes. They will each have a capacity of 150 units, 35 more than Seatruck’s current P Series vessels. The four-deck newbuildings (offering freight capacity of 2,166 lane metres) will be the biggest ships operating out of Heysham port. This year Seatruck will ship 300,000 units on the four Irish Sea routes. With fleet expansion, this total will grow substantially in 2012.
Seatruck’s business model is based on operating some ships in own service and some with external charterers. Seatruck continues to explore new opportunities, where the freight-only model can be rolled out to new destinations. The company is well-positioned in the charter market, operating a very young fleet of smaller-sized freight only Ro-Ros. There is a declining global fleet of this vessel type - with an average age nearing 30 years.
Alistair Eagles adds: “The backing of Clipper, our parent group, has galvanised our continued expansion. We blend the resources of a big group with an unusually close relationship with our customers in the haulage industry.”