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The number of cars taken by ferry has increased from 8.6 million in 2015 to nearly 8.8 million in 2016, a 1.7% increase. This is the fourth successive year of growth according to the annual results of the ferry industry published today.

2016 Ferrystat* figures released today by Discover Ferries, the industry body for ferry operators, reports that growth for car travel by sea is up by 473,000 in the past four years; up from just 8.3 million car crossings by sea in 2012.

Discover Ferries member ferry operators include Brittany Ferries, Caledonian MacBrayne, DFDS, Irish Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, P&O Ferries, Red Funnel, StenaLine and Wightlink. Bill Gibbons, director Discover Ferries said: “Nearly 8.8 million car journeys are now made by ferry within the UK and to the near Continent and Ireland with a total of 38.6 million passengers  travelling by car, coach and on foot. The sustained growth in car carryings is particularly good news for the sector as we see more  people recognise the advantages of simply hopping into their own car and enjoying the flexibility, value and freedom of a break by sea rather than the pressure of travelling through an airport.”

Strong travel to UK islands and Ireland                                                      

Discover Ferries confirmed that the biggest growth in ferry travel in 2016 came from an increase in domestic travel within the UK. Total passenger ferry journeys within the UK increased from 16 to 16.7 million and the number of car carryings increased from 3.7 to 3.9 million year-on-year.

Travel in Scotland, particularly in Western Scotland, performed particularly well in 2016 with the number of passengers travelling by ferry increasing from 5.9 to 6.5 million, together with 1.79 million cars.

The Isle of Man (557,000 passengers and 177,000 cars) and the Isle of Wight (8.8 million passengers and 1.8 million cars) also saw strong traffic. More than 300,000 people also visited the Channel Islands with 84,000 car journeys by sea last year.

Ferry travel between Great Britain to Ireland and Northern Ireland totalled 4.7 million passengers last year and 1.2 million cars (1.3% increase). Coach travel to Ireland and Northern Ireland also increased from 22.9 to 23.5 million– a 2.5% increase.

3.5 million cars to Western Europe

More passengers travel between UK and France by ferry (14.6 million) compared to flying (10.8million) according to the 2016 Ferrystat report which includes an analysis of CAA 2016 provisional data.  In total, ferry travel accounts for one in ten travellers to Western Europe.  The Netherlands welcomed more than 1.8 million passengers by sea in 2016, while Belgium and Spain both welcomed more than 310,000 and 320,000 respectively.

Last year 3.65 million cars were carried on ferry routes between the UK and the near continent accord to the report published today. More than two million of these cars travel via Dover, one million via Western Channel ports** including Newhaven, Plymouth, Poole, Portsmouth and Weymouth and a further 450,000 cars are carried via Hull, Harwich and Newcastle.

Bill Gibbons “We’re delighted to report strong consumer travel by ferry. Our mission as an industry is to ensure that new generations of travellers understand the value and joy of starting their holiday by easily driving on board a ship with the heaviest luggage they like, safely packed in their own car or caravan. We want people to understand they can also travel as foot passengers on rail and sail packages, or consider the options for coach or caravan and motorhome touring. Over the past decade our ferry members and partners have constantly innovated and invested to ensure travel by sea is as superb experience and it’s exciting to see the results of that work coming through in our 2016 results.

Visit www.www.discoverferries.com –for up-to-date information and news about travelling by ferry.


Discover Ferries press office, Four Travel

Contact: Arthur Duncan/Debbie Hindle, Matthew Beard

Email: [email protected]   | Tel: 0203 697 4200


Editors’ Notes

* Figures from Ferrystat compiled by independent research agency, IRN Research, based on returns supplied by Discover ferry operator members.


**The western Channel is defined as any sea routes west of Dover from the South Coast of Britain.

Annual car carryings by ferry

2012 8,278  million
2013 8,368 million
2014 8,500 million
2015 8,610 million
2016 8,751 million

Source Discover Ferries IRN FerryStat

Discover Ferries is an industry body representing 11 ferry operators in the UK and Ireland operating more than 75 routes. Its role is to promote ferry travel and holidays and to campaign on behalf of its members and in the interests of ferry travellers. The carriage of freight vehicles is also a very important part of the Discover Ferries’ members’ business.


In 2016, Discover Ferries members carried 38 million passengers and 8.7 million cars as well as 151,360 coaches. Discover Ferries members are: Brittany Ferries, Caledonian MacBrayne, DFDS, Irish Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, Ferries, P&O Ferries, Red Funnel, StenaLine and Wightlink. Discover Ferries members serve the Isle of Wight, Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, Scottish Islands, Channel Islands, Ireland, Spain, France, Belgium and Holland.