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Fuel Costs Increased and Sterling Uncertainty Impact ICG Results

8th March 2018
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Intended for service on the Dublin – Holyhead route in 2020, this second new vessel (after W.B. Yeats) will be the largest cruise ferry in the world in terms of vehicle capacity with accommodation for 1,800 passengers and crew. Vehicle decks (5,610 freight lane metres), capable of carrying 330 freight units per sailing – a 50% increase in peak freight capacity compared to current flagship Ulysses (see link below to Irish Times photo). Intended for service on the Dublin – Holyhead route in 2020, this second new vessel (after W.B. Yeats) will be the largest cruise ferry in the world in terms of vehicle capacity with accommodation for 1,800 passengers and crew. Vehicle decks (5,610 freight lane metres), capable of carrying 330 freight units per sailing – a 50% increase in peak freight capacity compared to current flagship Ulysses (see link below to Irish Times photo). Photo: ICG

#FerryNews - Fuel costs increased and a weaker sterling led earnings at Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group (ICG) to fall 3 per cent, results for the year ended December 31st 2017 show.

As The Irish Times reports, despite revenue growth of 3 per cent to €335.1 million on the back of volume growth across the group’s operations, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation fell to €81 million.

Company chairman John B McGuckian flagged the year as a successful one before noting group fuel costs increased by 25.2 per cent to €40.3 million.

Early in the financial year Irish Continental sold its MV Kaitaki which yielded a profit after tax of €24.9 million. Early this year the company sold its Jonathan Swift vessel.

Additionally, the company entered into an agreement this year for a new ferry, which will cost €165.2 million, that will be delivered to the group in 2020 and will be used on the company’s Dublin to Holyhead services.

Although the company’s EBITDA performance won’t thrill shareholders, it was ahead of analyst expectations while profit before tax increased by 45 per cent to €87.8 million. Additionally, the company has moved from a €37.9 million net debt position in 2016 to a net cash position of €39.6 million last year.

Irish continental operates in two divisions; the ferries division which offers passenger and roll-on roll-off freight services, and the container and terminal division.

Despite Brexit associated headwinds, the overall car market to and from the Republic of Ireland grew by around 1.7 per cent in 2017 to 807,400 cars.

Irish Ferries’ car carryings “performed strongly”, up 2.4 per cent to 424,000 cars. The company carried 1.65 million passengers in the period, up 1.7 per cent, thus outperforming growth in the wider market where numbers edged up 1 per cent to 3.13 million passengers.

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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. 

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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