A STENA Line Senior Master has described his appointment as captain of the passenger ferry Estrid as the "highlight" of his sailing career.

Captain Matthew Lynch has taken the helm of the ship which starts service on the Holyhead to Dublin route in January.

At 215 metres in length, the Estrid will carry up to 120 cars and 1,000 passengers.

It has a freight capacity of 3,100 lane meters, representing a massive 50 per cent increase in freight tonnage on the Holyhead to Dublin route.

Captain Matt, 40, is an experienced seaman of 24 years.

He is currently steering Stena Estrid on its 10,000 mile journey from the AVIC Weihai Shipyard in China, where it was built, to the Irish Sea.

He said: "Basically, I’m the man in command with responsibility for implementing Stena Line’s policies and ensuring that service standards are put in place and maintained, whilst providing the crew with all the support and assistance they need while away from home.

“The best bit though is that I get to drive the ship!”

Capt Matt has worked on seven cruise ships, with 17 years spent on ferries.

He said: "On first boarding the ship, I was struck by the quality of the build and finish.

"Everywhere you go on board, spaces are bright and airy with large picture windows and the skylight bringing in lots of natural light. Even the car decks are bright from the LED lighting.

“She’s very smooth and quiet at sea, so much so that I was standing on the bridge before we departed China and I had to double-check the engineering team had actually started the engines!

“At present, as we make our way to the Irish Sea with a much-reduced crew of 27 and no passengers.

"I’m pleased to say that Estrid is a very capable and comfortable ship at sea, performing well in all the conditions she has faced so far.

“A couple of weeks into our journey, I’m still amazed at how little engine power the ship uses to propel itself, which shows an excellent hull design and importantly ensures that less fuel is burned, resulting in fewer emissions.

“I’m really looking forward is driving the ship into Holyhead for the first time and welcoming the rest of my crew on board to see their reaction to Estrid!

"I am confident they will be just as impressed as I am with the ship. Equally, I cannot wait to see how the ship is received by our guests. I believe they are going to be blown away by it!” he added.

Part of a multi-million-pound investment in the Irish Sea region, Stena Estrid will be amongst the most advanced vessels in operation and larger than today’s standard RoPax vessels.

She is the first of five next generation Stena Line RoPax vessels to be completed at the AVIC Weihai Shipyard with a further two ‘sister’ ships also scheduled to join her on the Irish Sea – both operating on the Liverpool to Belfast route.

Stena Edda is expected to arrive next spring with a third vessel Stena Embla to be introduced on the in early 2021 – increasing freight capacity between Liverpool and Belfast by 20 per cent.