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LONDON: January 16, 2018. The UK short-sea ferry industry is spending over £1 billion on new ships, port and service facilities in the next four years, according to its industry body Discover Ferries.

The 11-member group that links the UK with Ireland, Spain, France, Belgium and Holland includes Brittany Ferries, Caledonian MacBrayne, DFDS, Irish Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, MBNA Thames Clippers, P&O Ferries, Red Funnel, Stena Line and Wightlink.

According to Discover Ferries director Emma Batchelor, investment highlights this year include a 55,000-tonnes cruise ferry, currently being built in Germany at a cost of £128 million, for introduction between Holyhead and Dublin by Irish Ferries. Next year, the new 'W. B .Yates' vessel, with capacity for 1,200 cars, will also add capacity between Dublin and Cherbourg to ensure a daily departure in both directions.

Irish Ferries UlyssesAs part of a £275 million investment, the company has ordered a second new cruise ferry to operate between the UK and Ireland from 2020. To be built in Germany at a cost of £147 million, the new 67,300-tonnes ship will be the largest cruise ferry in the world with space for up to 1,500 cars or 330 trucks.

Also in 2018, Caledonian MacBrayne will take delivery of the UK's first LNG-powered RoRo vessel in a £97 million contract on behalf of Caledonian Maritime Assets. The 102-meter ferry will carry up to 16 trucks or 127 cars plus 1,000 passengers.

Last year Stena Line ordered four 'RoPax' vessels for delivery in 2019 and 2020 from the AVIC Shipyard in China with an option for four more. The vessels will be 50 percent larger than existing RoPax vessels and operate between Belfast and the UK mainland. The company has also launched a new RoRo freight service between Gdynia, Poland and Nynäshamn, Sweden six times a week.

Meanwhile in March 2019 Brittany Ferries will introduce its £175 million, 42,400-tonnes LNG-powered 'Honfleur' ferry between Portsmouth and Caen carrying 130 trailers or 550 cars plus 64 trailers.

Discover Ferries said its members carried 4.57 million trucks and trailers in 2016, an increase of 3.5 percent year-on-year and a 19.1 percent rise since 2011.

The most popular freight crossing between Dover and Calais/Dunkerque saw a 2.1 per cent increase to 2.59 million during the year, as Dover set a record of 10,500 vehicles in one day. With less than 15 months before Britain's proposed exit the EU, freight traffic has risen 25 percent in the past four years on this route with Dover seeing trade valued at £119 billion moving through the port each year.

The industry group said it expects ferry freight to grow further over the coming decade, driven by the Port of Dover, although this is dependent on the UK remaining part of the European Customs union or "finding a solution that will not hamper the flow of goods through UK ports".

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