The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has launched a public consultation as it considers operating services to and from the Port of Larne to help boost visitor and other traffic.
The ferry company currently operates into Albert Quay, Belfast, but is investigating the merits of relocating to Larne, which could provide a service for heavier vehicles such as vans, motorhomes, coaches and freight that cannot be accommodated through Belfast.
A professional research company has been engaged to conduct a public survey, which it is hoped people who have used the Douglas-Belfast route will respond to.
“We constantly review our routes to ensure the best passenger experience possible is offered,” said CEO Mark Woodward.
“We have identified that Larne could deliver an enhanced service compared with the Belfast facilities, but we want to know what our passengers think. ‘We would like anyone who has used the route, or might intend to, to share their views. We want to hear all opinions on Albert Quay and Larne, good and bad, as passenger feedback will be a central factor in the final decision.”
Larne Port, which is already used by P&O Ferries for passenger services and has been used during the TT in the past, is a 30- minute drive from Belfast. It offers passenger facilities including a coffee shop, newsagents, cash machine and car parking, and is adjacent to a range of restaurants, shops and a supermarket.
The port is also well connected to the Causeway Coast and to the A8, a major route which gives easy access to the Northern Irish road network, including the M2 motorway.
Mr Woodward said: ‘The type of vehicle traffic we can carry on the Northern Ireland route is restricted by the facilities in Belfast.
“At Larne we would be able to look at opening up travel for larger vans, motorhomes and coaches, which could help boost tourism to the Isle of Man as well as being a benefit to Island residents. We would also be able to look at providing new freight capability which could be a boost for businesses too.”