Stena Line’s acquisition of DFDS Irish Sea routes from Belfast to Birkenhead and Heysham has been approved by the Competition Commission. Although the findings were not originally expected until 25 July, the green light for Stena came before the end of June, the Commission finding that the £40 million deal has not resulted or is likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition on freight and passenger services between north-west England and Northern Ireland, or for Irish Sea services ingeneral.

Michael McGrath, Stena’s Irish Sea area director said: ‘We will now engage in a process of evaluation and integration in terms of the wider Stena Line business. We have always believed that the DFDS acquisition would make a perfect fit and are looking forward to implementing our extended route network on the Irish Sea.’The deal, approved by Irish Competition authorities in April, also includes four ships from DFDS, the chartered Lagan Seaways and Mersey Seaways serving Birkenhead, and freight ro-ros Scotia Seaways and Hibernia Seaways out of Heysham.

This gives Stena six Irish Sea routes, with the former DFDS services added to existing Stranraer-Belfast, Holyhead-Dublin and Dun Laoghaire and Fishguard-Rosslare links. Stena has closed its Fleetwood-Larne route and the June departure of former vessels to new Russian owners closed a 35-year chapter in Irish Sea ferry history.

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