Category: News

Eliminate “packing anxiety” this Christmas

Eliminate “packing anxiety” this Christmas – the ferry industry shows the extraordinary items passengers can take on board without extra luggage costs

  • Full-size dinosaurs, donkeys and even the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree traverse British waters by ferry

Luggage fees are travellers’ biggest gripe1, with tight restrictions and hefty excess baggage charges proving particularly challenging at the most magical time of the year. Heavy jumpers, winter coats and Christmas presents can all add to the weight of getting away during the festive season but ferry passengers need not worry as Discover Ferries, the ferry industry body, highlights that there is space for packages of all shapes and sizes.

Abby Penlington, Director at Discover Ferries says: “Owners of sports equipment, parents of small children and people with specialist hobbies are choosing to travel by ferry so they can holiday with the things that don’t fit in their suitcase. From a suit of armour (which would certainly set metal detectors off!) and beloved family pets to sports equipment such as kayaks, yoga mats, snowboards and even a boat – ferry passengers have the freedom to bring more than just the essentials. And this will become even more prominent in 2024 as the trend for hobby-led holidays grows.”

Suited up on Red Funnel

Free from exorbitant excess luggage fees and the reassurance that luggage won’t get lost en route – a fear almost half (49%) of British travellers face2 – ferry travel means passengers don’t have to fret about packing for their festive trip.  

Penlington continues: “Packing for time away can be extremely stressful but travelling by ferry can alleviate this anxiety as there are no concerns over luggage weight, transporting liquids or making sure it fits in your suitcase. Especially for those sailing with a car, passengers can fill their boots so they can pack in those extra Christmas gifts and Duty-Free. Not only is it easier to take larger items away on a ferry but it also offers peace of mind, as travellers don’t need to worry about the potential loss or damage of items such as expensive road bikes in transit.”   

You wouldn’t believe what we saw on holiday…!

Proving that sightseeing can begin from the moment you arrive at the port, in addition to wildlife-spotting from the deck for potential sightings of dolphins, whales, and seals, ferry passengers may have also caught a glimpse of even more unusual sights.

Blessed with large areas for cargo and wide ramps for easy loading and unloading, it’s no surprise that ferries regularly transport sizeable items – verifying that any passengers’ luggage requests can be accommodated. Some of the largest and most unusual items seen on board include a replica, full-sized harbour porpoise named Harry and life-like dinosaur robots destined for an amusement park.

Some cinematic stars have even been spotted on board, with Stormtroopers from the Star Wars franchise, the iconic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and even Daleks crossing the Solent to visit the Isle of Wight.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang sails to the Isle of Wight aboard Wightlink

Bringing a Ferry Merry Christmas home

As well as transporting thousands of people (and their presents) to reunite and celebrate with loved ones over the festive period, the UK ferry industry is also responsible for bringing the spirit of Christmas to the British Isles with services bringing festive food, decorations and gifts to our homes.

Fresh vegetables, such as AOP Roscoff onions, Lamb’s lettuce and cauliflower grown by the Breton farmers who founded Brittany Ferries still arrive by sea. Stena Line ships many special products from Ireland on behalf of its customers including 7,000 palettes each of turkeys and Pigs in Blankets and 22,000 palettes of festive favourite, Baileys Irish Cream. Already this year, Wightlink has delivered more than 2,700 Christmas trees to the Isle of Wight.

Furthermore, commuter services from Hovertravel and Uber Boat by Thames Clippers are easing the load for Christmas shoppers who are looking to take the weight off their feet away from the crowds after a day of searching for the perfect gifts. Hovertravel staff will even help passengers to carry their heavy loads on board.

Penguins, donkeys and a group of elves have all hitched a ferry ride in recent weeks, so passengers should keep their eyes peeled when travelling – lucky travellers may even get to see Father Christmas himself.

Penlington adds: “At this time of year, it’s important to remember that so many of our beloved Christmas traditions reach the British Isles from overseas. One of the most celebrated Christmas items the ferry industry brings to our shores is the iconic Christmas tree that sits in Trafalgar Square and is transported across the sea by DFDS. Gifted by the Norwegian people, the spruce is over 20 metres tall and travels more than 1,700km and its arrival signifies the start of the festive season for the capital.”

Trafalgar Square Christmas tree shipped from Norway by DFDS

Editor’s notes

Luggage fees were named the biggest travel rip-offs in a survey conducted for Discover Ferries carried out online by Censuswide. A panel resulting in 2,042 responses from general UK consumers was questioned between 20th and 23rd January 2023. All the research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines.

2 Research into the Top Travel stresses was conducted for Discover Ferries carried out online by Censuswide. A panel resulting in 2,042 responses from general UK consumers was questioned between 20th and 23rd January 2023. All the research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Results were calculated from a combination of ‘Extremely stressful’ and ‘Quite stressful’ responses

Ferries are the best way to travel over seas with pets

Ferries are “pawsitively” the best way to travel over seas with pets

  • Discover Ferries partners with The Kennel Club to launch “A guide to paw-some pet-friendly getaways
  • A bell, sunglasses and Pawfume – Ferry operators reveal the most surprising items dog owners take on holiday

After identifying a significant rise in pet travel, Discover Ferries, the ferry industry body, has teamed up with The Kennel Club – organisers of Crufts – to highlight some of the best places for dogs and their owners to explore, and offer travel advice.

When surveyed, members of The Kennel Club community voted ferry travel as the easiest way to journey over seas in the British Isles and beyond with their dog1. The ability to travel with a car or motorhome, together with a range of pet-dedicated facilities on board ensures pets – and their owners – travel in comfort and arrive at their destination feeling relaxed.

Rise in pet travel

Since 2019, ferry operators have seen a vast increase in the number of dogs booked in for travel. In line with the rise of the staycation, domestic ferry operators have reported more pets on board. On average, operators have noted that pet travel is up by at least 20% on 2019 figures. Some routes have seen an increase of more than 73%. On Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services around Scotland’s west coast, pet travel has increased in the last year with over 54,000 pet crossings taken in 2023 so far.

The purchase of pandemic pups and increased home working is influencing the way owners spend their holiday, 95% of The Kennel Club community say they want to take their dog away with them. Increased interest in pet travel has encouraged more pet-friendly experiences to open up. With almost all of respondents (96%) travelling at least once a year and more than half of dog owners (55%) travelling at least three times a year, there is even more reason for operators to invest in pet travel to cater for this thriving market.

Abby Penlington, Director of Discover Ferries, says: “The ability to easily drive or walk on board with a dog makes ferry travel particularly appealing to dog owners. Since lockdown, ferry operators have seen a rise in pet travel and are investing in dedicated pet lounges, cabins and other facilities including pet promenades to give owners the opportunity to enjoy the journey with their pet as much as the time they spend at their destination.”

The most comfortable way to travel

Pet cabins, promenades, lounges, pet cleaning stations and even the now infamous “pee trees” on Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ships, give pups and their owners greater comfort during the journey. Brittany Ferries now has 138 kennels across its fleet, which has increased by 25% since 2019 and Stena Line has 15 pet-friendly cabins on board each of its ships that travel between the UK and the Netherlands. Six new cabins open on Condor Islander in October, uptake is already proving popular and Condor Ferries is already looking to install more on other ships.

Travel across the Solent is as much of a day out for dogs as it is hoomans. Hovertravel welcomes dogs aboard for the 10-minute flight from Southsea to the Isle of Wight and has a free Hover Paws bowl at the terminal so dogs can hydrate before they hop on. Four-legged passengers on Red Funnel can enjoy a lick of Doggie Ice Cream or indulge in some nutritious treats from new product partner Dewkes. Travellers on Wightlink ferries can pick up dog food from Paleo Ridge, based in Hampshire, so both pets and owners can eat locally sourced food while on board.

“Doggy bag” essentials

As well as making sure you’ve visited your vet well in advance of your trip, and are aware of all the necessary travel documents needed for your pet,, The Kennel Club and ferry operators have put together a definitive list of must-have items to pack to ensure your dog travels in comfort And you won’t need to limit the amount of liquids in your paw luggage – so no problems taking plenty of water, medicines, or pet shampoo. If travelling to the EU meat and dairy cannot be taken across, so, Discover Ferries advises taking vegan dog biscuits and fruits and vegetables such as carrots and bananas for your dog to snack on during the journey.

The Kennel Club & Discover Ferries’ Doggy travel essentials
1. Dog bed and blanket
2. Towels
3. Bowls for food and water
4. Poo bags
5. Dog lead and/or harness
6. Favourite toys
7. Raincoat
8. Pet-friendly wipes
9. Treats and / or your dog’s preferred brand of pet food (unless travelling to the EU)
10. Dog travel carrier or crate, if required
11. Details for a local vet near where you are staying
12. A muzzle – some ferry operators require dogs to be muzzled when on board and outside your vehicle

While The Kennel Club recommends taking practical and familiar items from home and favourite toys to help keep pets calm and entertained, some survey respondents identified more unusual essentials that they’d never leave home without. One even said they played audio books to help soothe their dogs.

The most unusual items dog owners take on holiday
1. “Pawfume”
2. Sunglasses and a fan
3. A car plug-in sprayer to cool dogs down and rinse them off after muddy walks
4. A bell to hang on the door – so the dog can let owners know when they want to go out
5. A dog pram or pushchair
6. A vent lock – so owners can lock the car but still leave the boot slightly open for ventilation
7. A life jacket and a post-swim puppy robe
8. A body camera – to capture holiday memories from the dog’s POV
9. A fancy bow tie just in case!
10. Hair clips and a rechargeable hairdryer

Penlington continues: “We all like to pack essentials but also take our favourite clothes away with us and it is no different for our dogs. While it may be surprising to see some of the items owners deem essential on the list, travelling by ferry means they don’t have to compromise on what to pack as they have the space to bring extra items with them.”

The pawfect destinations

To inspire owners to explore with their dogs, Discover Ferries has compiled a list of the 10 best dog-friendly destination reached by water. The guide features favourite routes for walkies, the best beaches to pad around, historic and cultural attractions open to dogs and some specialist pet activities such as themed dog training workshops.

Read the full guide here. UK suggestions include the Scottish Isle of Arran, pet pampering spa and shopping trips in Chelsea, the Isle of Wight, Isle of Man and Isles of Scilly. Further afield, visitors can enjoy dog training classes on Texel in the Netherlands, Normandy and Waterford in Ireland.

Emma Dyer, Head of Marketing at The Kennel Club says: “Dogs are very much a part of the family so it’s not unexpected that so many people are keen to take their dogs with them on new adventures. People are often surprised just how easy it is to travel with their dog but, particularly following this summer’s heatwave in Southern Europe, want to be confident that the destination will be the right fit for their dog – including a comfortable temperature, as well as having plenty of activities and suitable walks to keep their canine companion occupied. We’re delighted to partner with passenger ferry operators to identify the best dog-friendly places across the UK, British Islands, Ireland and Europe – and the optimum time of year to visit.

“Autumn is a lovely time to travel with dogs as it is slightly cooler, quieter and often beaches drop any restrictions for dogs, although owners should always check local guidance before they travel. It’s also the start of the season for fireside dining in many pubs and restaurants, when dogs will enjoy curling up next to the fire after a long walk.”

Visit for more information on dog-friendly trips by ferry.


1 Discover Ferries received 1,355 responses from a survey run with The Kennel Club community in September 2023. Results showed 54% respondents voted ferries as “easy” or “very easy” to travel on with their pet. This compares with 35% for train travel and just 3% saying that air travel is easy or very easy. 

Swerve the most stressful part of travelling – other people!

Swerve the most stressful part of travelling – other people!

  • UK ferry industry reveals the top travel stresses and how to avoid them

Discover Ferries, the industry body for passenger ferry travel, reveals the most trying aspects of travel in a bid to highlight more relaxing ways to get away.

The survey of over 2,000 British consumers reports the most stressful[1] points in holidaymakers’ journeys and what will make the trip more enjoyable.

The top travel stresses

Understandably delays and cancellations featured as the number one irritation (65%). But it’s what comes hot on its heels at numbers two and three that raises an eyebrow.

Nearly as many travellers said being seated near irritating and noisy co-passengers like screaming babies was a major travel stress (61%). Hidden additional costs including excess luggage fees, transfer costs, airport parking and food & drink purchases on the journey completed the top three (57%).

Being in crowded spaces (49%) also featured highly in the list, suggesting that proximity to other travellers hugely impacts the journey experience.

When travelling by ferry, travellers can freely move around spacious ships and away from passengers that they would rather not sit next to. Likewise, people can easily distract children and restless infants by taking them outside on deck or to explore different parts of the ship. This eliminates the stress of keeping children entertained and confined to one seat for long periods. Parents are also less concerned about upsetting fellow passengers, alleviating the stress factor particularly when travelling with a newborn.

Children on deck on P&O Ferries

The ability to stretch your legs and access fresh air also scores highly as an ingredient for an enjoyable journey, as does the solace of a private en suite cabin. This is unsurprising when 48% of Brits find it stressful[1] to be confined to one seat with no access to fresh air for long periods. On commuter ferry services, it can also help travellers avoid the crowds and enjoy a more relaxing journey to work, enjoying the sights by sea and – in London – avoiding the cramped confined spaces underground.

What makes a “bon voyage”?

Top 10 ways to make your journey enjoyable
1Good food & drink
2Ability to stretch your legs
3A complimentary upgrade e.g., a seat or cabin upgrade
4No baggage fees
5Sightseeing opportunities and views on the journey
6Access to fresh air
7Not having to wait for baggage collection
8A private en suite cabin
9Travelling in your own vehicle
10The opportunity to see wildlife in its natural habitat

Abby Penlington, Director at Discover Ferries, says:

“With the space and freedom to move around on board, you can choose who you want to spend your journey with and who you would prefer to avoid. Furthermore, ferries offer spectacular views of the water and its wildlife making a stroll on board even more exciting. We have even created a Wildlife Map with marine life charity ORCA to help passengers spot whales, dolphins, and birds while they enjoy fresh air during their crossing.”

Freedom with baggage

Almost half of Brits (49%) cite fears of lost luggage, while 57% name hidden costs, such as charges for excess luggage, as top travel stresses[1]. This follows earlier research from Discover Ferries, which reported that holidaymakers see luggage fees as the biggest travel rip off – leading almost a quarter of respondents (24%) to say no baggage fees would make their trip more enjoyable. These findings show that hidden costs are not just an inconvenience but can cause travellers additional anxiety.

Penlington continues, “Ferry travel is the antidote to baggage woes and luggage allowances as restrictions do not apply, while taking your vehicle means you can pack as much as you can fit in. Travelling by ferry can alleviate the pressures of packing, being separated from your luggage and the pain of waiting for luggage upon arrival.”

It also negates the challenge of airport security, which 41% of travellers find stressful[1]. While rules around transportation of liquids are changing, the need to unpack, remove clothing and separate hand luggage is still a concern for many.

Penlington, concludes: “Holidays should allow you to get away from the stresses and strains of daily life and the journey should be the start of this experience. Ferry travel offers the benefits travellers seek to make their journey more enjoyable, including the opportunity to indulge in good food on the way. Ferry operators offer a range of culinary treats on board, from quick bites to gourmet meals in fine dining restaurants on larger ships, and ingredients increasingly sourced from local suppliers. When combined with a straightforward boarding procedure and a wide choice of routes to help holidaymakers reach their favourite destinations, we are encouraging more people to discover the joy of ferry travel.”


Results based on a survey conducted for Discover Ferries carried out online by Censuswide. A panel resulting in 2,042 responses from general UK consumers was questioned between 20th and 23rd January 2023. All the research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. 

[1] Results calculated from a combination of ‘Extremely stressful’ and ‘Quite stressful’ responses

Ferry travellers avoid the biggest travel rip off: Luggage Fees!

Family with their car in the port waiting to board the ferry

Ferry travellers avoid the biggest travel rip off: Luggage Fees!

  • Discover Ferries reveals the 10 travel costs Brits consider over-inflated

At a time when rising costs are at the forefront of everyone’s mind, Discover Ferries, the UK’s passenger ferry industry body, has revealed what Brits perceive to be the biggest rip offs when travelling1. The list reveals where consumers feel they are made to spend extra on travel.

Top 10 Travel rip offs 
1Luggage fees
2Paying to sit together with friends and family
3Airport parking
4 =Booking extra leg room
4 =Credit card booking fees
5Paying for additional hand luggage
6Travel fares
7Travel insurance
8Entry to local attractions
10Car hire

Avoid shelling out big bucks for baggage

Recent changes in hand luggage allowance for some forms of transport means more travellers will need to pay for additional bags or luggage to take their essentials with them. With some operators charging £40 each way for additional hand luggage, hold luggage costs ranging from £12 to £110 per bag2 and extra fees for excess and overweight baggage, this can add substantially to the final bill. Charges vary greatly depending on destination and departure date, and aren’t revealed until the point of booking, making it difficult to budget in advance.

Ferry travellers do not encounter the same limitations and costs. In general, ferry passengers don’t need to consider the number of bags they take, or the size and weight of their luggage as they can have “as much as they can carry” within a standard foot passenger or vehicle crossing fare.   

Vehicles boarding a Brittany Ferries ferry. Credit Brittany Ferries

No reservation over seat reservation

Travellers also begrudge having to pay to sit with their family and friends or for seats with extra leg room. Many short haul air operators now charge passengers to reserve seats together, which can vary from a couple of pounds to over £50 per seat, each way.

Discover Ferries points out that allocated seating costs do not apply for ferry travel. Ferries boast spacious lounges, on board cafes, bars and restaurants as well as access to fresh air on deck. With the freedom to move around the ship during the journey, groups can easily find somewhere to sit together.

Credit: Condor Ferries

Swerve soaring car hire and parking fees

A global shortage in hire cars saw rental rates soar last summer, which has remained front of mind for many Brits. Furthermore, with parking charges at some airports increasing by 128% in December3, travellers may reconsider how they are getting to and from their departure point or whether they are able to take their own vehicle on holiday in a bid to save money. As a result, the number of ferry passengers travelling with a vehicle grew by 54% last year4.  

Escape the hidden costs bumping up holiday prices

The survey shows that the biggest travel rip offs are often the hidden extras, which are less visible in the planning process and therefore less likely to be factored into travel budgets. As well as luggage, seat allocation and credit card fees, respondents also cited single person supplements as unnecessarily steep. Rather than optional extras, these costs are essential for consumers to experience the journey they expect. Opting for modes of transport that give greater value within tickets helps travellers to keep track of their spend and focus their budget on experiences rather than less fun costs.

Abby Penlington, Director of Discover Ferries, comments: “In the current climate value for money has never been more important, while people understand the need for price increases, it is the unexpected charges that make travellers balk. We wanted to see where British travellers feel they are being exploited in a bid to help them find the best value breaks and stretch holiday budgets further.

“Luggage handling fees are evidently the biggest bug bear but for ferry passengers travelling in their own vehicle, the term fill your boots is never truer. Of course, taking your own vehicle also means you have the freedom to explore your destination without the added fees of car rental or airport parking. Furthermore, there is no concern over being charged to sit together during the journey, the space on board enables passengers to stretch their legs, grab a bite to eat and relax as a group. Travelling by ferry means passengers can avoid the top rip offs and reduce their spend on journeys to popular locations including France, Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland, and British Islands.”


1 Top 10 results based on a survey conducted for Discover Ferries carried out online by Censuswide. A panel resulting in 2,042 responses from general UK consumers was questioned between 20th and 23rd January 2023. All the research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines.

2 Charges from a range of airlines including Aer Lingus, British Airways, EasyJet, Enter Air, Ryanair, Vueling and Wizz Air

3 Research from Your Parking Space, November 2022

4 IRN Ferry Ferrystat Monthly Ferry Passenger Statistic, December 2022

A hybrid future for the ferry industry

Ferry stern and ship wake

A hybrid future for the ferry industry

  • Ferry industry invests in greener and more comfortable ships
  • A total of 20 new ships will be in service within next 5 years

(10 November 2022) Industry body, Discover Ferries, announces that the UK passenger ferry industry will introduce fuel-efficient, hybrid-powered ferries to reduce carbon emissions and improve passenger experience. Six new ships have already entered service in the past two years and a further 14 will join fleets by 2027.

The continued investment in new ships and improved port facilities underlines the industry’s strategy to cater for an increasing number of passengers, provide high quality, efficient and green transport at good value.

Abby Penlington, director of Discover Ferries commented: “This industry-wide investment is great news for the millions of travellers who value comfort, space and value for money but are also mindful of their environmental impact. The new vessels are important milestones in our journey towards a net-zero industry which operates across 80 passenger ferry routes from the British Isles.”

“This industry-wide investment is great news for the millions of travellers who value comfort, space and value for money but are also mindful of their environmental impact. The new vessels are important milestones in our journey towards a net-zero industry which operates across 80 passenger ferry routes from the British Isles.”

A hybrid now for an electric future

A zero-emissions Belfast commuter service is due to launch in 2024. Designed to fly above the water and use 90% less energy than conventional ferries, the ship is being developed by the Belfast Maritime Consortium with Condor Ferries, which will also inform plans for a future electric ferry for the Channel Islands.

Hybrid electric ferries are providing a stepping-stone towards zero emissions. Two new P&O Ferries ships, launching in 2023, are designed to run on battery power for carbon neutral sailings once charging systems are installed in the ports. Hybrid vessels are in development for routes operated by Brittany Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Travel, Caledonian MacBrayne and London’s Uber Boat by Thames Clippers – which is set to launch the UK’s first high speed hybrid ferries in 2023. The vessels can either run on fuel/biofuel or electricity or a combination of the two. As well as fewer emissions, they are significantly quieter and offer a smoother ride – great for passengers, residents near ports and marine life.

New hybrid vessel for the River Thames, Uber Boat by Thames Clippers

Wightlink already operates a hybrid electric ship; Victoria of Wight is the greenest ferry to serve the Isle of Wight. In a bid to reduce carbon by a further 7,500 tonnes per year, it is now aiming to launch the Solent’s first all-electric freight and passenger ferry within the next five years. Similarly, all-electric vessels are in development by Caledonian MacBrayne for the West Coast of Scotland.

Shore power ready, both Wightlink and Brittany Ferries’ plan for future vessels to be plugged in at port to recharge. The ferry operator commitment coincides with Portsmouth International Port’s investment in solar generation, which completes early 2023. It is the first UK port to install solar canopies; 2,600 panels sit above Brittany Ferries’ car lanes providing shade for the vehicles while generating power. Together with a 1.5 megawatt per hour battery to store unused power, the renewable energy project could contribute up to 98% of the port’s electricity consumption in ideal conditions.

Stena Line is developing its next generation of E-flexer vessels which will be dual-fuel methanol hybrids. The ferry operator is working with engine manufacturers to convert the vessels as well as develop the port infrastructure to support them. The newly converted ships will operate on key routes from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and from Belfast to Cairnryan.

Cutting carbon on the Channel 

Efforts are underway to reduce emissions on the world’s busiest shipping lane. Next year, P&O Ferries will launch the largest and most sustainable ships to sail between Dover and France, P&O Pioneer and P&O Liberté. The two new double-ender ferries allow for boarding and disembarkation at both ends to aid fast turn-around on the busy Dover-Calais service. With a capacity for 1,500 passengers each, they will improve economic and environmental efficiencies.

P&O Pioneer and P&O Liberté, P&O Ferries

The Port of Dover itself is targeting net zero emissions by 2025 and was recently awarded funding as part of the Green Corridor Short Straits (GCSS) consortium. This includes French ports Calais and Dunkirk, ferry operators Irish Ferries, DFDS and P&O Ferries among other partners. The feasibility study will take steps to establish the first zero-carbon trade route in the UK.  

Brittany Ferries, which operates services on the western Channel to France and Spain, will launch Santoña, a new liquified natural gas (LNG) -fuelled ferry, in the Spring. Sister to the Salamanca, which entered service this year, the ships reduce CO2 output by approximately 25% and drastically reduces emissions that affect air quality. Fuel agnostic, they can also run on even cleaner fuels such as bio-LNG and e-methane when infrastructure is in place.

Saint Malo, Brittany Ferries

Increasing capacity in the British Isles and Irish Sea

In 2019 more than 37 million passenger journeys were made by ferry to the British Isles and Ireland, France, Spain and The Netherlands. The importance of comfort, value for money, and the desire to avoid airport queues, baggage fees and car rental costs is expected to increase the number of ferry travellers. To meet both passenger and freight demand, operators are investing in larger, more efficient ships.

Among the most energy efficient vessels in the world, three of Stena Line’s bigger E-flexer ships have already been deployed in the Irish Sea, these are the same model of ships as DFDSCôte D’Opale and Brittany Ferries’ Santoña, Salamanca and Galicia. Stena Estrid, Embla and Edda have boosted Stena Line’s capacity on the Irish Sea by a third and are 30% more energy efficient than the vessels they replaced. Recently added silicon coverings on the hulls have improved fuel efficiency further. 

The new Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ship can carry approximately 50% more passengers than the current ferry and features more cabins and a greatly enhanced passenger experience. Furthermore, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group is working towards replacing its passenger ferry and freight ships. The new passenger ferry, Scillonian IV, would accommodate up to 600 passengers, increasing capacity by more than 20%.

Manxman, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

Penlington adds: “As well as improved efficiency and a switch to cleaner fuels and hybrid propulsion, the new ships boast new onboard facilities and upgraded interiors to offer passengers and, increasingly, their pets a comfortable journey in a truly modern setting. Together with more sustainable engines, the improved onboard experience ensures future generations of ferry travellers, further cementing our industry’s future.”

“As well as improved efficiency and a switch to cleaner fuels and hybrid propulsion, the new ships boast new onboard facilities and upgraded interiors to offer passengers and, increasingly, their pets a comfortable journey in a truly modern setting. Together with more sustainable engines, the improved onboard experience ensures future generations of ferry travellers, further cementing our industry’s future.”

Onboard upgrades for four-legged travel

The investment also improves onboard experiences, to appeal to passengers’ needs and high expectations, strengthening ferries’ position as the most relaxing and comfortable way to travel.

With more space on board and access to fresh air on deck, it has always been easier and more comfortable to take pets away via ferry than by plane or train. With the growing number of pet owners and increasing cost of kennels, the trend for pet-friendly holidays is also expected to rise and operators have improved services accordingly. This year, P&O Ferries opened pet lounges on its cross-Channel services, which have space for pets and their owners to rest and access to an outside exercise area. Stena Line already offers dog kennels on routes to Ireland and Holland and new pet-friendly cabins on routes to Holland. Following requests from regular passengers, the new Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ship, Manxman, will feature two pet lounges. 

P&O Ferries Pet Lounge: Dover to Calais

Entry into Service Dates for New Ships

YearCompany and shipRoute
2020Brittany Ferries GaliciaPortsmouth-Santander and Bilbao
Stena Line Stena EstridDublin-Holyhead
Stena Line Stena EddaLiverpool-Belfast
2021Stena Line Stena EmblaLiverpool-Belfast
DFDS Côte D’OpaleDover-France
2022Brittany Ferries SalamancaPortsmouth-Santander
2023Brittany Ferries SantoñaPortsmouth-Santander and Bilbao
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ManxmanHeysham-Douglas
P&O Pioneer and P&O LibertéDover-Calais
Uber Boat by Thames Clippers – Earth ClipperCelestial Clipper and Mars ClipperThames river
2024Caledonian MacBrayne Glen SannoxArdrossan-Isle of Arran
 Caledonian MacBrayne MV Isle of IslayIsle of Islay
 Condor FerriesBelfast-Bangor
2025Brittany Ferries Saint MaloPortsmouth-St Malo
 Brittany Ferries Guillaume de NormandiePortsmouth-Caen
Caledonian MacBrayne MV Glen RosaScottish West Coast
Caledonian MacBrayne MV Loch IndaalIsle of Islay
 Caledonian MacBrayne – two new shipsScottish West Coast
2026-27Wightlink – first electric shipSolent
2026Isles of Scilly Steamship Group – replacement for Scillonian III and freight ships Gry Maritha and Lyonesse LadyPenzance-St Mary’s

Ferry sector delivers the goods, the people and significant value to the European economy

Sunset across the coast.

Ferry sector delivers the goods, the people and significant value to the European economy

  • £8 billion to European GDP, which is 17.3% of total shipping contribution
  • 109,000 jobs in Europe are in ferry companies, 16% of total jobs in shipping
  • Traveller sentiment towards ferries has improved: air has suffered (based on pre and post-Covid comparison)

(20 October 2021) Figures presented at Interferry, the global meeting of ferry chiefs in Santander Spain this October, reveal the significant contribution the sector makes to the European economy. It accounts for a direct annual contribution of £8bn to European GDP, 17.3% of the shipping sector’s £46.5bn contribution, and is responsible for 109,000 jobs. That’s 16% of all 685,000 European jobs in shipping. These, and other headlines were revealed to 260 member companies from 40 countries as part of a study by Oxford Economic, commissioned by Interferry1.

Ferry sector’s contribution to European shipping industry:

 FerryShippingFerry as % of shipping
Economic Value£8bn2£46.5bn317.3%

The figures underline the importance of ferries, beyond a pandemic where they have kept essential goods like medicines and food moving across borders and to island communities. Freight has kept rolling on and off ships, despite travel restrictions that have significantly hit passenger numbers. 

The good news is that, in a normal year, ferries carry around 4.2 billion passengers globally. That’s on a par with air transport. In the UK alone there are some 46.9 million passenger journeys in a year. There are also 15.07 million vehicles carried on ferries operating from the UK.4

European v global ferry sector – passenger and vehicles carried

 European ferry sectorGlobal ferry sector%
Passengers794 million4.27 billion18.6%
Vehicles199 million373 million53.3%

“These figures highlight a vibrant sector of the British and European economies that has operated under the radar for too long,” said Abby Penlington Director at Discover Ferries. “Our member companies are the arteries that run across water, maintaining the flow of essential goods and services, boosting employment and wealth, while offering passengers a real alternative to flying. There is no doubt that ferries will continue to punch well above their weight as travel restrictions ease and we return to normality.”

In terms of passenger volumes, domestic operators fared better than companies connecting international destinations this year. However better news lies ahead for all.

Households have built up around £50bn in lockdown savings, according to analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research and Scottish Friends. Travel and overseas accommodation were cited as the number one area where these savings are likely to be spent.

Furthermore, 69% of respondents to an L.E.K. Consultingsurvey of 1490 people said they intended to return to, or increase their frequency of travel next year, compared with 2019 levels. 21% said they intended to travel more with nearly half of those citing “to make up for lost time” as their reason.

Ferry v Air Travel

L.E.K. Consulting’s research also examined nearly 3 million social media posts pre- and post-Covid. This looked at the five international ferry operators in the UK and easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways. It revealed an increase in posts expressing joy in ferry travel and a significant reduction in posts expressing fear. The opposite was true for the airlines.

L.E.K. Consulting graph showing sentiment towards ferry travel improved during the pandemic whereas sentiment to air travel suffered
Brandwatch L.E.K. Analysis

Abby Penlington commented: “It is heartening to see in L.E.K. Consulting’s analysis the increase in consumers who value the relaxing experience that ferry travel offers. The opportunity to travel in your own vehicle, take in the views from the deck and a have bite to eat, as well as the use of large, open public spaces and access to fresh air throughout the journey not only gives travellers the confidence to get away, but also ensures they really enjoy their time on board.”  


  1. Interferry is a shipping association representing the ferry industry worldwide.
  2. Source: The Ferry Industry’s Impact in Europe, Oxford Economics 2021, original study in USD converted at an exchange rate of £1 = $1.37.
  3. Source: Economic Value of the EU Shipping Industry, Oxford Economics 2020:, original study in USD converted at an exchange rate of £1 = $1.37.
  4. Source: FerryStat & FreightStat, IRN Research. Passenger journeys include Uber Boat by Thames Clippers London River Bus and Woolwich Ferry passengers. Vehicles include cars, coaches and RO-RO freight units.
  5. L.E.K. Consulting report European Ferry Recovery and Outlook produced for the Interferry Conference, Santander, 4 October 2021.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Brian Smith