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Irish Government Seeks Answers on Irish Sea Routes as P&O Ferries Suspends Services

18th March 2022
Security and severance personnel board P&O Ferries ropax European Causeway in Larne Port, Co Antrim. P&O have two routes from Ireland, Larne-Cairnryan and Dublin-Liverpool. Both services serving Scotland and England are suspended after P&O said it was ceasing operating temporarily which also includes their UK routes from Hull and Dover to mainland Europe. Security and severance personnel board P&O Ferries ropax European Causeway in Larne Port, Co Antrim. P&O have two routes from Ireland, Larne-Cairnryan and Dublin-Liverpool. Both services serving Scotland and England are suspended after P&O said it was ceasing operating temporarily which also includes their UK routes from Hull and Dover to mainland Europe. Credit: The Irish Times-facebook

The Irish Government has contacted P&O Ferries seeking details of the impact on its Irish Sea operations of the decision by the UK-based company to suddenly suspend all services and sack its 800 seafaring crew.

P&O currently operates two routes from Ireland, including a Dublin Port-Liverpool route comprising mostly freight traffic along with passengers in cars, and Larne in Antrim to Cairnryan in Scotland, which carries passengers and freight. Both services are suspended after P&O said it was ceasing operating temporarily.

It is understood that P&O accounts for close to 10 per cent of all unitised freight movements through Dublin Port. Sources at the port suggested it was unaware of what is happening.

The Department of Transport said had contacted the company but it had not yet received any details about the Irish impact. It suggested that if services on the Irish routes are affected, other shipping companies will step in to replace it.

Earlier on Thursday P&O Ferries suspended all services and ordered its ships back to port as it announced it was making 800 staff redundant. Unions said the company had sacked all its UK sailors.

The Irish Times has more on the operator's Irish Sea ferry services and those serving UK-mainland Europe routes. 

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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