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Danish Shipping Giant With Irish Services DFDS Celebrates 150th Anniversary

11th December 2016

#[email protected] - DFDS celebrates its 150th anniversary today, the giant Danish ferry and freight operator is northern Europe’s largest integrated shipping and logistics company which includes container operations connecting Ireland, writes Jehan Ashmore.

On 11 December 1866, the famous Danish industrialist Carl Frederik Tietgen formed Det Forende Dampskibs-Selskab (The United Steamship Company) DFDS, following the merger of three of the nation’s largest steamship lines of the day. DFDS became a domestic and international shipping company, carrying both goods and passengers throughout the North Sea and the Baltic, later expanding to the Mediterranean. For decades, DFDS also sailed routes to the Americas, but closed in 1935 albeit a brief return to the US with a New York-Bahamas-Miami service in the early 1980's.

The DFDS Group currently has a network of around 30 routes and 50 passenger ships and freight ships involving ports in Ireland, the UK, France, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Baltic region. Afloat in the summer reported on the North Sea Tall Ships Race 'Parade of Sail' hosted by the Port of Blyth where DFDS Seaways cruiseferry Princess Seaways made a special excursion for spectators to view the ‘Parade of Sail’.

A sister, King Seaways (see photo above) also operates the Newcastle-Amsterdam (Ijmuiden) route. Beforehand she was an Ireland-France serving ferry, Val de Loire of Brittany Ferries which was introduced in 1993. Prior to entering service the bow was rebuilt to cope with notably notorious Bay of Biscay weather conditions when also operating UK-Spain services and a France-UK link.

A slanted forward superstructure was also added. Having made a crossing from Ireland this area revealed an internal observation zone. While on the deck directly above this too was a viewing area but exposed to the open elements.   

One of the Danish shipping group's subsidiaries, DFDS Logistics operates container services connecting Ireland, Belgium and The Netherlands. This involves a network of ports: Dublin, Cork, Waterford (see previous coverage) and Belfast with European ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam.

A decade ago in 2006, DFDS had acquired Norfolk Line Containers BV, the Dutch operator having previously introduced a pair of newbuild sisters given names to reflect the geographic regions they served. They were Maerk Westland and Maersk Waterford which was aptly named at the Port of Waterford (Belview). An opportunity arose to board the brand new vessel was taken months later at its namesake port where Irish owned former Bell Lines were once the 'Kings' of a similar service.

The south-east port is Ireland's nearest to that of mainland continental Europe, noting in the early stages a joint Norfolkline / Marline service saw en-route calls via Cherbourg.

Four years after DFDS acquired the Dutch container subsidiary, the Danes for first time entered the Irish Sea ferry marketplace in 2010. This arose following DFDS largest and most important decision in its history by acquiring the remaining businesses of Norfolkline, from another yet even larger Danish clongomerate, AP Møller-Maersk. These pale-blue hulled ships are very much a familiar sight as they operate worldwide.

The purchase transformed the DFDS Group into a major shipping company. Albeit the presence of the ‘Maltese’ cross symbol synonymous with the company would only be around a mere six months.

Another Scandinavian shipping heavyweight, as Afloat reported almost six years ago was Stena's £40m acquisition deal of DFDS Irish Sea's unprofitable routes over the winter of 2010/2011. The Swedish-based ferry operator took over freight-only Belfast-Heysham route along with Belfast-(Birkenhead) Liverpool but not the closed Dublin-Heysham /Liverpool links.

It was on the Dublin route that sisters Dublin Seaways and Liverpool Seaways served, however the ropax pair are now operating far away from the Irish Sea.

Dublin Seaways is serving in the southern hemisphere for operator Bluebridge linking New Zealand’s north and south islands. The Cook Strait service is where other former Irish Sea ferries operate.

As for Liverpool Seaways (for photo at Dublin Port, scroll down page) she surprisingly still retains the Mersey link name. In addition she remains with DFDS in Scandinavia plying the Baltic Sea between Kapellskär, Sweden and Paldiski, Estonia.




Published in Ports & Shipping
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

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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