Shares in Irish Ferries, which is owned by Irish Continental Group, sailed 7.9% higher in Dublin today after it said it will  start a new service on the Dover to Calais route from June.

Irish Ferries said it will use the Isle of Inishmore ferry on the route. It said that additional capacity will be added in the coming months.

It said that as part of its commitment to the movement of freight on and off the island of Ireland, the additional capacity on the Dover-Calais route will significantly strengthen the capacity and reliability of the landbridge for exporters and importers.

Hauliers will now have one operator providing an inclusive service on the Dublin-Holyhead, Rosslare-Pembroke and Dover-Calais routes. 

This will allow exporters and importers easier, cheaper, and quicker access to European markets via the Common Transit Convention, Irish Ferries said.

Irish Ferries also said it intends to offer passenger services on the route, adding that the initial level of passenger services offered will be dependent on the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Doug Bannister, chief executive of Port of Dover, said today's news gives the millions of customers across the UK and the Republic of Ireland who value the intrinsic benefits of the shortest sea crossing to Europe, the prospect of even more choice. 

"We believe the inclusive landbridge product will be popular with Irish exporters and will strengthen the just in time supply chain into the European Union," Mr Bannister said. 

"This is a clear signal of market confidence in the Dover route and will complement the resilient services currently provided," he added.

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, Chairman of Port of Calais, said the commencement of the service operated by Irish Ferries emphasises the strategic position of the port of Calais in the trade between Ireland, the UK and the continent. 

Irish Ferries also said today it would add the RoRo passenger ferry Blue Star 1 to its Rosslare to Pembroke Dock route. 

The ship is being chartered from the Attica Group and delivery is expected early next month. 

Blue Star 1 was built in 2000 by the Van der Giessen de Noord shipyard in the Netherlands, the same shipyard that in 1997 built Irish Ferries Isle of Inishmore. 

The Blue Star 1 has the capacity to carry up to 1,500 passengers, 100 freight vehicles and up to 700 cars depending on freight volume.  

Andrew Sheen, Irish Ferries Managing Director, said the new ship will be the fastest RoRo Passenger ship operating between Britain and Ireland, which will help ensure schedule integrity.  

"The introduction of this ship underlines our commitment to the Rosslare to Pembroke route, the primary shipping corridor between Ireland and South Wales," Mr Sheen said. 

"It also underlines our commitment to the significant contribution that this route makes in facilitating trade for both exporters and importers as well as facilitating essential passenger movements and future tourists as the country re-opens post Covid-19," he added. 

Shares in the company moved sharply higher in Dublin trade today.