The newly commissioned Irish Ferries ship W.B. Yeats arrives into Dublin Port (Niall Carson/PA)
The newly commissioned Irish Ferries ship W.B. Yeats arrives into Dublin Port (Niall Carson/PA)

Plans to launch nine new passenger ferries on UK and Ireland routes shows the industry is “continuing to thrive”, a trade body has claimed.

Irish Ferries, Brittany Ferries and Stena Line are among the operators expanding their fleets.

More than 38 million passenger journeys were made by ferry on UK domestic, Irish and Continental services in 2017, according to industry data.

The new ships include ferries for passengers and vehicles, as well as the largest catamaran to operate in London.

Emma Batchelor, director of trade body Discover Ferries, said: “The introduction of these nine new passenger ferries is great news, not only for the shipping sector but also for the millions of holidaymakers who value comfort and space when they travel.

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Insiders said it showed the industry is in great shape (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“These ships, which are set to enter service from this year, clearly demonstrate the confidence that the industry has in the future of ferry travel and its popularity.

“This also sends a clear message that ferry travel is continuing to thrive and passengers should book their ferry travel for 2019 with confidence, whether they are sailing across the Irish Sea, around London, the British Isles or into mainland Europe.”

Irish Ferries’ latest cruise ferry W.B. Yeats was launched last month, following months of delays and a controversy over the company’s announcement that it is “unlikely” to sail between Rosslare and France next year, with another due to start sailing between the UK and Ireland in 2020.

Brittany Ferries, which grew capacity on its Cork-Roscoff services and introduced a ferry route from Cork to Santander, will add the £175 million state-of-the-art ship Honfleur on the Portsmouth-Caen route in July.

The vessel has been designed to provide a smoother ride for passengers due to reduced vibrations, as well as having free wi-fi and quiet lounges.

Three new vessels are also being built in China for Stena Line, with the first due to begin operating Dublin-Holyhead services in early 2020.

The firm claims they will be among the most energy efficient ferries in the world.

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The DFDS Cote Des Dunes leaves the Port of Dover in Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

In other news, DFDS will introduce its largest ferry – featuring a shopping mall – on the English Channel in 2021.

MBNA Thames Clippers will launch its biggest-ever boat, Venus Clipper, by the end of March.

The catamaran will have a capacity of 222 passengers with 50 more seats than vessels introduced in summer 2017.

It emerged last month that the UK Department for Transport has signed contracts with Brittany Ferries, DFDS and Seaborne to charter extra ferries to ease potential problems in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Documents outlining the £107.7 million agreements say increased border checks in UK ports after Brexit could “cause delivery of critical goods to be delayed” in the event of no deal.

The Government has faced criticism for its agreement with Seaborne as the firm has not previously operated a service.

Press Association