Fears have been raised that the Larne to Troon ferry service could be axed next year due to falling passenger numbers.
Earlier this year,P&O Ferries announced it would not be renewing the hire of its Express ship in 2016.
The 300ft, wave piercing catamaran, which has been operated out of Larne since 2006, has now been relocated to Sweden.
But the company also offered assurances that the move was “a ship decision, not a route decision”, adding that a replacement ship was being sought for the route.
However, a reliable source close to the firm has now claimed the seasonal route will not return in the spring, citing “steadily dwindling passenger numbers” as the primary factor.
Our source, who did not wish to be named, said: “There is little doubt in my mind that the route will be axed.
“From a commercial perspective, the Troon route is losing money and I don’t see any real options for how the company could turn this around.
“The connection with Troon is very important to Larne and it would be a real shame to see the seasonal service go, not to mention the impact this would have on the 80 or so crew members employed on the route.”
The Larne Times asked P&O if it had any plans to remove the Larne to Troon route in 2016, and a spokeswoman said there had been no change in the company’s position.
“We are still searching for a replacement fastcraft for next year, and are also considering a number of other vessel deployments,” the spokeswoman concluded.