The Stena Line Belfast – Liverpool service offers a direct link from Northern Ireland to the Twelve Quays terminal on the River Mersey between Birkenhead and Seacombe. The service uses two vessels the Stena Lagan and the Stena Mersey. The crossing time is approximately 8 hours with a choice of both day and night sailings.
I watched an early evening Stena Mersey arriving in Birkenhead on a drizzly grey day. The Stena Mersey was built in 2005 and has been recently refurbished. It is 177.4m long and can take up to 85 cars and 980 passengers.
The Twelve Quays ferry terminal is owned by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company which is now part of Peel Ports. Twelve Quays was opened in Summer 2002 at a cost of £25m. The terminal is used by passengers and freight between Merseyside and Belfast in Northern Ireland and Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. The terminal replaces facilities at Brocklebank docks and Canada docks across the Mersey in Liverpool. The new roll on roll off terminal reduces voyage times between Liverpool and Ireland by an hour and a half.
Twelve Quays has a floating landing stage in the river that can take two ro-ro ferries at the same time. The terminal provides vehicle parking space on the site of the filled-in former Wallasey Dock. The rest of the Twelve Quays area is a developing high-tech business park.
The Stena Mersey arrived on the high tide. When the tide was out you could clearly see the remains of an upturned car in the river bed close to the ferry stage. As the tide rose and the ferry arrived, an army of workers walked along the floating dock and the stanchions that secure the ferry to the dock as it berths. Once secured the ferry doors are lowered and the cars and lorries are able to drive off the ship along the floating pontoons and floating bridge assembly onto shore.
This part of the River Mersey is due to change over the coming years. Peel have a number of developments planned as part of what they are calling the Ocean Gateway, which will be a £50 billion investment programme over 50 years for 50 separate developments along the Manchester Ship Canal and River Mersey between the cities of Liverpool and Manchester. The project will involve the construction of two new ports: Port Salford and Liverpool 2 and two mixed use developments known as Liverpool Waters in North Liverpool and Wirral Waters along the Birkenhead docks system.