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P&O Ferries Closes Larne-Troon Seasonal Fast-Ferry Service

14th January 2016

#RouteClosure - P&O Ferries has announced the closure of the Larne-Troon route following a comprehensive reviews of its options.

The decision to close its loss-making Northern Ireland-Scotland route is with immediate effect, however the company through this media statement has confirmed it will continue to operate its full Larne-Cairnryan route services throughout 2016 and into the future.

P&O Ferries has proudly operated this additional seasonal route since 2003, but the stark reality is that the company is continuing to make losses. Sadly the income from ticket sales is not sufficient to cover the annual vessel (fast-craft Express not to be chartered in 2016, as previously reported on Afloat) and port operating costs.

In a final attempt to make the route economic the company reduced the service in the off-peak months last year, whilst maintaining the full service in the peak months of July and August. Whilst this measure did significantly reduce the operating costs, the route remained loss-making.

Since the last sailing at the end of September, P&O Ferries has continued to negotiate with a number of suppliers and other organisations, including the search for a lower cost chartered fast-craft to be able to continue, but we have been unable to develop a solution for the company.

There will be no redundancies, with all permanent staff being found alternative roles within the company.

For customers, the company has confirmed that in 2016 the P&O Larne-Cairnryan service will continue to operate up to seven sailings each way every day of the year. These operations are to maintain its reliable service for freight, tourist and domestic customers, on what is still the shortest and most frequent crossing on the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The purpose-built European Highlander and European Causeway vessels will also be undergoing £500,000 of on-board improvements over the next 18 months, and before Easter this year will be adding over 50 seats to each ship. In addition to upgrading or updating a number of the passenger areas and facilities, including the provision of ‘Free Wi-Fi that Works’, and using more locally sourced produce and recipes for the food courts.

The company believes that this decision will enable a more secure future for its employees and for its customers on the Northern Corridor.

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!

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