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DFDS Seaways Makes Final Irish Sea Departure

1st February 2011
DFDS Seaways Makes Final Irish Sea Departure
The Anglia Seaways became the last vessel of the DFDS Seaways fleet to depart Dublin yesterday, following the official closure of the operator's Irish Sea services at the weekend, writes Jehan Ashmore.
In January DFDS announced the closure of the Dublin-Liverpool (Birkenhead Twelve Quays Terminal) and the freight-only Dublin-Heysham routes with the loss of 200 jobs to include 50 shore-staff based at the Irish terminal.

The ro-pax Dublin Seaways made a last crossing with a Saturday morning arrival at Birkenhead. After disembarking passengers, vehicles and freight traffic, the 21,856grt vessel immediately departed the Mersey for a short-term deployment on the company's North Sea Rosyth-Zeebrugge service.

Sistership, Liverpool Seaways also completed her last crossing to Birkenhead with an overnight Saturday sailing. This was the final scheduled sailing under DFDS Seaways ownership and marked the last foot-passenger crossing on the Liverpool route as rival operators P&O (Irish Sea) and Seatruck Ferries do not cater for this market.

The vessel returned to Dublin yesterday from Birkenhead; this was to facilitate the loading of drop-trailers and terminal based tugmasters (engine-driven truck/cabs) that tow unaccompanied trailers on the roll-on roll-off vessels. After a short turn around at the terminal, Liverpool Seaways departed Dublin, bound for Immingham. The UK east coast port is where DFDS operate an extensive freight route network across the North Sea.

DFDS_SEAWAYS

The ro-pax Liverpool Seaways and freight-ferry Anglia Seaways berthed in Dublin Port yesterday prior to sailing away from the Irish Sea. Photo Jehan Ashmore / ShipSNAPS

In addition the 13,704grt Anglia Seaways also docked in Dublin yesterday from Heysham to perform similar duties like the Liverpool Seaways. Several hours later, the 114-trailer capacity vessel set a southbound course past The Muglins, bound for Avonmouth.

DFDS cited its decision to exit entirely from Irish Sea sector due to the sharp decline in the Irish and UK economies in 2008 and 2009. The company suffered continuous losses on its remaining routes and the issue of over-capacity, particularly on the north Irish Sea.

Only last December, the Danish owned shipping operator sold its other two Irish Sea routes to Stena Line in a £40m acquisition deal. This is all the more remarkable considering DFDS Seaways purchased the previous route operator, Norfolkline's Irish Sea division of their four routes and seven vessels, in July 2010.

The sale to Stena covered the three terminals used on the Belfast routes to Birkenhead and Heysham, which is another freight-only service. In addition the acquisition involved the sale of the South Korean built freight-ferries Hibernia Seaways and Scotia Seaways; like the Anglia Seaways they were all former Norfolkline / Maersk Line vessels.

Interestingly the acquisition is to include the purchase of the chartered 27,510grt ro-pax sisters Lagan Seaways and Mersey Seaways. When the Visentini built sisters were completed at the Italian shipyard, they were placed on the Belfast-Birkenhead route in 2005.

On 1 December Stena Line UK Ltd acquired DFDS Seaways Irish Sea Ferries Ltd (since renamed Stena Line Irish Ferries Ltd). Although the acquisition of SL ISF by Stena Line has been completed and DFDS no longer owns SL ISF, Stena Line await formal approval from the Irish competition authority and the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to integrate SL ISF into the wider Stena Line business.

In the meantime during this transitional period, it is business as usual for customers using the Belfast-Birkenhead and Belfast-Heysham routes. Online bookings continue to be accepted on www.dfdsseaways.com or tel: (01) 819 2999 and in the UK tel: 0871 230 033

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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