Two of the main Irish Sea ferry competitors have joined forces in a rare act of unity to call on the Government to reopen the Common Travel Area (CTA) between Britain and Ireland as soon as possible.

In a statement, Irish Ferries and Stena Line said that with virus levels now low in Ireland and the UK and vaccination programmes progressing in both, the Government and industry stakeholders need to urgently look at restoring connectivity under the CTA.

"In the UK for example 66% of adults have now received their first dose and almost 30% have had both, so there is now a real need to focus on solving some of the economic impacts of the pandemic, and an obvious starting point are the hard-hit tourist, hospitality and travel sectors," said Paul Grant, Stena Line's Trade Director for the Irish Sea.

"With the restoring of travel between the islands of Ireland and Britain, we can start to rebuild these sectors locally in advance of the full resumption of international travel, which may take more time to agree and deliver."

The two operators say they need clarity so they can begin preparations for the resumption of travel, which will take time to implement.

Currently anyone arriving into Ireland from England, Scotland or Wales must show evidence of a negative Covid-19 PCR test conducted within 72 hours prior to departure.

They must also comply with mandatory quarantine requirements for two weeks or until they receive written confirmation of a negative or 'not detected’ PCR test result taken no less than 5 days after their arrival here.

However, the UK government does not have similar testing or quarantine requirements in place for people travelling from anywhere on the island of Ireland to Britain.

While people living in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland can move freely backwards and forwards across the border.

Last week Tánaiste Leo Varadkar referred to the possibility of restoring the Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain as an "initial first step" for the travel and tourism sectors.

"With the current UK infection rate of 48 cases per 100,000 population comparable to the lowest in Europe, we need to acknowledge the shared land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and eliminate the discrepancies and loopholes on travel restrictions on the island," said Andrew Sheen, Managing Director for Irish Ferries.

"Irish Ferries and Stena Line welcome the Tánaiste’s recent comments on the possibility of restoring the CTA in advance of the full resumption of international travel and would urge the Irish Government to prioritise its implementation."