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Freight Traffic Hits Six-Year High on P&O Ferries North Channel Service

9th January 2018
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European Causeway bound for Cairnryan while off the Scottish coast. European Causeway bound for Cairnryan while off the Scottish coast. Photo: JEHAN ASHMORE

#FerryNews - The highest volume of freight traffic in six years was carried on P&O Ferries Larne-Cairnryan service during 2017.

The ferry and logistics company, which operates between Northern Ireland and Scotland, carried 210,533 lorries and trailers on its ships during the last 12 months. The figure represents a 1.3 per cent increase on 2016 and is the best result since 2011.

P&O Ferries operates seven sailings a day between Larne and Cairnryan. The service on the North Channel is operated by the 22,000 ton sister ships European Highlander and European Causeway. The pair provide a bridge for goods being transported between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and Britain, and also on to the continent via P&O Ferries' connecting services from Dover, Tilbury, Hull and Teesport.

Neal Mernock, P&O Ferries' Sector Director for the Irish Sea, said: "These outstanding volumes illustrate the vital importance of our service to the thousands of businesses and millions of consumers who rely on the efficient and reliable transportation of goods across the Irish Sea."

"Larne is fast establishing itself as the gateway of choice for anyone exporting to or from Ireland, thanks to its outstanding connectivity via road and rail, and also the fact that it is nine miles closer to Scotland than the port at Belfast."

"The reliability of our service was exemplified in the spring when we brought one of our English Channel ferries, European Seaway, to cover the route while the other two ships went into dry dock for annual maintenance. The feedback from our customers was that they hadn't noticed any difference, which is the ultimate compliment."

In 2017 P&O Ferries saw strong volumes of agricultural and dairy produce, building materials, consumer goods, machinery, peat and household coal being transported on its two Irish Sea crossings, Larne-Cairnryan and Dublin-Liverpool, see Afloat's related coverage.

P&O Ferries is a leading pan-European ferry and logistics company, sailing 27,000 times a year on eight major routes between Britain, France, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands and Belgium. It operates more than 20 vessels which carry 10 million passengers and 2.2 million freight units annually.

Together with its logistics division, P&O Ferrymasters, the company also operates integrated road and rail links to countries across the continent including Italy, Poland, Germany, Spain and Romania. P&O Ferrymasters also owns a rail terminal in the Romanian city of Oradea, which facilitates the onward movement of goods to Britain from Asian countries via the Silk Road.

Afloat adds the operator is also examining opening a North Sea service linking Scotland and Scandinavia.

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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