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New Sulphur Rules Cause Closure of Last UK-Scandinavian Ferry Service

30th September 2014
New Sulphur Rules Cause Closure of Last UK-Scandinavian Ferry Service

#RouteClosure - EU sulphur rules to be introduced in 2015 have ultimately led to the closure in advance of the only ferry service linking between the UK and Scandinavia, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The DFDS Seaways service operated by ro-pax Sirena Seaways made her final sailing yesterday from Harwich to Esbjerg in Denmark, marking an end of era dating to 1875.

The Danish operators for a brief period in 2011 also operated Irish Sea services, had closed the North Sea route due to the inability to sustain substantial additional costs that would be accrued when the EU's new sulphur directive environmental law is effective from 1 January, 2015.

The North Sea route had been struggling in recent years with high costs and low utilization as passengers and freight switched to longer distance road transport. Another blow was the loss of tax-free sales and increasing competition from low-cost airlines with passenger totals falling from 300,000 to around 80,000 and a declining industrial cargo market between the two countries.

The service which was operated by the 22,000 tonnes ro-pax Sirena Seaways since 2003, is to be deployed to another DFDS service linking Estonia and Sweden.

Stena Line freight customers which had an agreement to use the DFDS route from the UK to Scandinavia will instead be focused on the operators other East England route, Immingham-Esbjerg. The 18 hour route is serviced by a pair of modern ro-ro vessels.

The emissions regulations will also have a significant economic effect for Stena Line. Their Scandinavian ferry operations will face more than £100,000 per day in extra fuel costs or around £41m annually having to use more expensive low sulphur fuel.


Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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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!