Larne is rapidly becoming the gateway of choice for anyone exporting to and from Ireland, it is claimed.
P&O Ferries saw the highest number of lorries and trailers travelling on its vessels between Larne and Cairnryan in the third quarter of the year than it has in any Q3 since 2011.
The company carried 53,305 lorries and trailers on its ships in the months of July, August and September - a 3.3 per cent increase on the same quarter last year.
Neal Mernock, P&O Ferries Sector director on the Irish Sea, said: “We are delighted that more and more freight customers are experiencing for themselves the benefits of transporting goods between Northern Ireland and Britain with us.
“Our port at Larne is fast becoming the gateway of choice for anyone exporting to or from Ireland. It has outstanding connections via rail and road, especially after the upgrading of the A8 dual carriageway, and is nine miles closer to Scotland than the port at Belfast.”
P&O Ferries operates seven sailings a day between Larne and Cairnryan using two 21,000 ton sister vessels, European Causeway and European Highlander. The regular daily service, the company notes, provides a bridge for goods being transported between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to Britain, and also on to the continent via its connecting services from Dover, Tilbury, Hull and Teesport.
The report is a further boost for the port which is being considered as the base in the province for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
In a statement this week, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said he had contacted the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company when it became known it was thinking of using Larne instead of Belfast for boats going to the Isle of Man.
Welcoming the respoonse from the firm’s chief executive, Mr Wilson said: “There are mutual benefits in such a development. It would increase the shipping from the Port of Larne, it would be a quicker route, both from the Isle of Man to Northern Ireland and from Northern Ireland to the Isle of Man and would have significant tourist potential.
“Mid and East Antrim Council are backing the bid and I am pleased that the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is now conducting its own survey with its passengers regarding Larne as the main Northern Irish port.
“Given the length of time that it takes the ships to slowly sail down Larne Lough and the improved A8 from Belfast to Larne I believe that this move would considerably decrease the time of the journey between Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. Hopefully a positive decision will be made by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company so that the route can be started next year.”