Devastating blow for town struggling to stay afloat
IT started as a mail route, turned into a passenger ferry during World War I and continued to sail the Irish Sea through the recession.
But the Stena Explorer Route between Dún Laoghaire and Holyhead is no more.
Stena Line said the decline in passengers aboard the Explorer came with "the withdrawal of duty free shopping", which eventually made the service "unsustainable".
The news has been described as another devastating blow for a town that has struggled in recent years. The Explorer was first established in 1996, but the Dún Laoghaire to Holyhead route itself has been in operation since 1811, meaning the end of a 204-year route.
Dún Laoghaire resident and Maritime Museum owner Peader Ward said the closure was "a big loss for Dún Laoghaire as it was the entry point for tourism in Ireland".
"When it was first introduced they would have ferries going five times a day at the peak," Mr Ward told the Irish Independent. "It's certainly a huge loss and was central to the harbour," he said.
The Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Chamber of Commerce conceded that the closure "will undoubtedly have a negative impact" on its members, particularly those in the services and tourism sectors.
However, Chamber President Dr Josephine Browne called the situation "an opportunity for the key stakeholders in Dún Laoghaire to collaborate in maximising the business opportunities now presented by the Cruise Liners."
The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company called the announcement "disappointing" but said the news would not affect jobs in the area. Another resident, Ann Joyce, said: "It was part and parcel of life here, and everyone depended on it, from B&B's to local shops. It was tradition in Dún Laoghaire. Lots of people moved to Holyhead and would come back and forth between the two," she said.
In recent years, there has been a huge decline in passenger numbers in the harbour - down from 1.7 million in 1998 to less than 200,000 now. Where the ferry service had once made up to five trips a day, it had become a seasonal service, operating only in the summer.
Stena Line has said that it intends to "consolidate" its services from Holyhead to Dublin, while withdrawing the HSS Stena Explorer from Dún Laoghaire. Ian Davies, Stena Line's Route Manager for Irish Sea South, said: "With two services operating approximately 10 miles apart, we needed to make a decision in relation to what operation best serves the needs of our customers now and in the years ahead, and that operation is Dublin Port."
While there are now currently no routes operating from Dún Laoghaire to Holyhead, both Irish Ferries and Stena Line continue to operate from Dublin Port.
CEO of Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, Gerry Dunne, said that he is now seeking "alternative providers to operate a seasonal service on the route" at the harbour.
Read more: Stena Line axes Dun Laoghaire ferry service