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Shipping giant DFDS which this date next month launches a new direct Ireland-mainland Europe ro-ro freight ferry route to bypass Brexit congestion, continued a decades old tradition in transporting from Norway a Christmas Tree to the UK, writes Jehan Ashmore

The operator based in Copenhagen, Denmark which has an extensive route network in Europe (in addition services to Turkey) includes a service to Associated British Ports (ABP) Port of Immingham which welcomed the arrival of the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree.

Delivery of this unique cargo of a 23m tall Norwegian Spruce affectionately regarded by forestry workers as the "Queen of the Forest" was loaded onboard DFDS 340 truck-trailer capacity freighter Ficaria Seaways. The ferry with cabins for 12 accompanied drivers, sailed across the North Sea to the UK’s largest port by tonnage, handling around 46m tonnes of cargo.

The team at DFDS Seaways terminal in Immingham also welcomed the delivery of the UK's most famous festive tree is a token of gratitude from the people of Oslo and government of Norway, for Britain’s support during World War 2. The gift of the tree is in recognition of the UK's assistance of the Norwegian royal family which for five years lived as exiles in London.

The gift of a tree from the Nordic nation has been an annual tradition that began in 1947 and for the past 25 years the delivery has been handled by DFDS. This year marks the 73rd year of such commemorations. To put this timescale into perspective, Afloat has noted the Norwegian Embassy in the UK said it takes 60 -100 years for a tree to grow to about 21 meters.

So the Christmas tree for 2020 will exceed this height and stand proud in one of the most famous landmark and tourist attractions of the UK capital.

Following the tree's transportation by road to Trafalgar Square, preparations began for a 'virtual' lighting-up ceremony which is to take place tomorrow, Wednesday, 3rd December.

Decoration is in traditional Norwegian style and adorned with energy-efficient lights. As for the virtual ceremony, this is to feature performances from the Salvation Army, the Poetry Society and the St Martin-in-the-Fields Choir.

Published in Ferry

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, TD and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton today called again on businesses, freight logistic companies and hauliers to review their contingency preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31st December 2020.

In particular, the Ministers urged businesses who have not already done so, to assess how they will get their goods to European markets from 2nd January 2021 and to consider switching to direct shipping services to the continent.

EuRoRo are today announcing new direct services between Rosslare and Dunkirk from 1 January 2021.The announcement of a new RoRo (roll on roll off) service is a welcome addition to the other new direct ferry services and increased sailing frequencies outlined by the shipping sector over the last number of months.

Since May a number of new services and increased sailings have come on stream, including new RoRo services from Ireland to Zeebrugge (Belgium), Santander (Spain) and Portugal by CLdN. In addition increased frequency by Irish Ferries and Stena Line on the Ireland/Cherbourg routes.

New LoLo (lift on lift-off) and Bulk services have also been added in the period. Such announcements reinforce the findings of the recent report (here) of the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) that the shipping industry is resilient, responsive and capable, of adjusting to and satisfying market demand, without State intervention,.

90% of Ireland’s international trade in volume terms is imported and exported by sea through our network of ports. Given the importance of maritime connectivity and our maritime supply chain to our economic wellbeing, a priority of Government has been to ensure that all the elements of this vital supply chain continue to function when the Brexit transition period comes to an end.

Welcoming details of the new Rosslare to Dunkirk service the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan T.D. said: “This new service, operated by EURoRo Seaways and DFDS from Rosslare to Dunkirk, is a welcome addition of capacity as the Brexit transition phase comes to an end. Together with the increased sailing frequencies to Cherbourg announced by both Irish Ferries and Stena Line and the new direct routes launched by CLDN, the shipping sector has once again shown its resilience and its willingness to respond to changes in the market. I urge business to take advantage of these new routes as a real alternative to avoid the inevitable delays that will be experienced on the UK Landbridge."

Minister for State Hildegarde Naughton added: "I welcome all the additional capacity that has been put in place by the shipping industry recently, and I urge business to look again at their routes to market in light of the full range of options now available - Assess your supply chain, Communicate with the shipping operators and Trial new route options now. ACT now and Prepare to Switch.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked tirelessly over the last number of months and years to secure Ireland’s maritime connectivity post Brexit and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The dedication of those working in our ports, agencies and Government departments has been vital to ensuring that Ireland maintains its strategic connectivity post Brexit.”

The Taoiseach and Ministers have stressed again this week that regardless of whether a deal is agreed between the EU and UK, the new arrangements from the end of the transition period will inevitably create delays for Irish RoRo traffic. These delays are because those using the Landbridge will be required to engage with customs, health and agriculture authorities in Ireland, the UK and across the EU for all goods transiting through Britain.

Switching to direct maritime routes to the continent should be carefully considered by business, freight logistics companies and hauliers because there is capacity; it’s reliable; and will help to avoid the procedural delays involved in transiting through the UK. The continuing new route announcements from the shipping industry means businesses have a broader range of direct sailing options available to them than ever before. Connectivity to European markets is strengthened by the suite of options that now exists for Irish importers and exporters across shipping routes and modes.

Published in Ferry

#HolyheadDebate - The Wales Office minister Guto Bebb reports BBC News, has said the UK government shares concerns about the future of the Port at Holyhead after Brexit, in a response to a question from Labour MP Albert Owen. 

Mr Owen, MP for Ynys Mon (Anglesey) said an Irish ferry company had suggested a new route to Holland and Belgium, "circumnavigating Britain". 

"These concerns have been heard in the Wales Office," Mr Bebb said, "our intention is to ensure a frictionless border in Holyhead, in the same way as in Ireland."

Last week, Brexit Secretary David Davis said Wales' main port for Ireland may have "an extra layer of complexity" after Britain leaves the EU.

To see footage broadcast on the debate discussed from the UK's House of Parliament, click this link. 

Afloat adds that the Welsh politician had raised these concerns previously, for more click here.

Published in Ferry

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!