Following the closure of Belfast Car Ferries’ (part of I.C.G.) Belfast – Liverpool route in 1990 as a result of the troubles, a group of Northern Irish haulers, convinced that there was a future in the service joined forces with a Scandinavian shipping company to launch Norse Irish Ferries in 1992, and launched services with the freight only ship, Norse Lagan, which was joined by River Lune in 1993.
In 1997 the company introduced the new Ro-Pax vessels Lagin Viking and Mersey Viking, which combined high trailer capacity with accommodation for 340 passengers each.·
In 1999 the company made its debut in Dublin, with the Dawn Merchant and Brave Merchant (each with space for 130 commercial vehicles, and accommodation for 250 passengers) entering the Dublin-Liverpool along the Isle of Man Steam Packet. Later that year, company was brought by Irish Sea freight operator Merchant Ferries, and the two companies merged to form NorseMerchant Ferries.
In 2002, the Dawn Merchant was replaced with a pure Ro-Ro vessel and sailings were reduced, meanwhile Liverpool finally received a river berth for Ro-Ro ferries, and on June 17 passengers were welcomed aboard the Mersey Viking by Captain Mario Piazza prior to NorseMerchant’s inaugural sailing from the new Twelve Quays terminal to Belfast. As the vessels no longer had to pass through Liverpool’s enclosed docks, the crossing time was greatly improved.
But trouble came in January 2003 when the holding company, Cenargo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US. The following month an administrator was appointed but seeing the strong position of the Irish company, operations continued as normal. However the Brave Merchant was chartered to the UK Ministry of Defence, with passenger sailings ceasing entirely until the end of the year.
In September 2003, Cenargo was restructured and trading under the NorseMerchant banner, had debits significantly reduced.
On June 29th, 2005 Maersk, the parent company of Norfolk Line announced its intention to acquire NorseMerchant Ferries, which was approved by the UK and Irish competition commission in November. In July the new Lagan Viking arrived from her Italian builders for the first time in Belfast Lough, while the Brave Merchant and Dawn Merchant were sold to Spanish Interests. The Mersey Viking arrived in November to operate along side her sister.
In May 2009, Maersk announced it was planning to sell of Norfolk Line, and other non-core activities, the ferry services were eventually taken over by DFDS SeaWays in July 2010, with the vessels being rebranded in DFDS colours. Then, in December 2010, the Belfast side of the Irish Sea operations was sold to Stena Line, with the Dublin operations closing.