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Ferry industry shows customers it is watertight as sector continues to invest in passenger and freight services

family on board
  • Eleven new ships to come in service before 2023 – six launching before 2021
  •  Equating to more than £1bn investment reported at ABTA Travel Convention in Japan

(9 October 2019) The ferry industry continues to show customers it is open for business with eleven new ships coming into service before 2023 and six launching before 2021 says industry body, Discover Ferries. The news, announced during the travel industry’s annual ABTA Travel Convention represents significant investment from the ferry sector totalling more than one billion pounds in new ships and ports.

Emma Batchelor, director of Discover Ferries, says: “The continued investment in new passenger ferries and port facilities is not only great news for the millions of holiday makers who value comfort and space when they travel, it also underlines the industry’s commitment to providing a high quality, efficient service regardless of what happens post-Brexit.

“This news clearly demonstrates that ferry travel is not only here to stay, but it is continuing to thrive as passengers discover the fantastic array of ferry routes and services on offer from the UK, Ireland and British Islands. It also sends a clear message that passengers should book their ferry with confidence, regardless of a deal or no deal Brexit scenario, whether they are sailing across the Irish Sea, around London, the British Isles or into mainland Europe.”

Chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, Bob Sanguinetti, commented: “The UK shipping industry is vital to the UK economy, contributing £14 billion annually and supporting an estimated 86,000 jobs. It is wonderful to see the ongoing investment in new passenger ferries and ports. This money will not only ensure holiday makers continue to receive first class service, but the investment in new greener, low carbon ferries will also help us tackle climate change, a top priority for the UK Chamber of Shipping.”

The latest industry figures show that in the past year more than 38 million passenger journeys[1] are made by ferry to the British Isles and Ireland, France, Spain and The Netherlands. The new ships include three state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly passenger ferries, as well as three freight-only ships designed to safeguard the timely transportation of freight to and from the UK.

Brittany Ferries new €175 million ferry named Honfleur, is due to be delivered later this year and will enter service on the popular Portsmouth-Caen route in 2020. The cruise ferry, which is being built in Germany, will be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), with lower carbon emissions than diesel engines and no smoke. It is also entirely free of sulphur and produces very low emissions of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. This quieter and more efficient form of power delivery reduces vibration, meaning an even smoother ride for passengers and the most advanced sustainable travel option. Passengers will be able to benefit from free Wi-Fi, which will come as standard in all cabins and public spaces, and a digital information lounge will serve as her focal point. Quiet lounges, panoramic views and reading areas will complement cabins designed to sooth and reflect the unique ambience of a short voyage by sea. For the latest updates please visit destinationhonfleur.com.

Honfleur render
Credit: Brittany Ferries

A second ship, Galicia, which has been built in China, is set to join Brittany Ferries’ long-haul routes connecting Portsmouth to Santander and Bilbao in northern Spain at the end of 2020. She is the first of three new sister ships that will be chartered by the French ferry operator from Stena RoRo, along with sister ships, Salamanca, which is due to join her in spring 2022, and Santoña, which will arrive a year later. The three 42,200 tonne E-Flexer-class ships will be among the biggest in Brittany Ferries’ fleet, each at 215 metres long with capacity for around 1,000 passengers in 340 en-suite cabins. The ships’ three passenger decks will contain Spanish-style shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.

Looking ahead to 2021, DFDS will introduce the largest ferry it has ever operated on the English Channel, Côte D’Opale, at 3,100 lane metres. The ferry, which is being built in China for Stena Line and chartered by DFDS, will be able to carry 1,000 passengers. It will also behighly efficient and environmentally friendly with an expected reduction in oil consumption of around 30%. The ferry will be equipped with a host of exciting new features for passengers, including a shopping mall, innovative digital experience and re-configured premium lounge.

Irish Ferries most recent build, the W.B. Yeats, has been in service since February 2019 to great acclaim including being awarded the title Ferry of the Year at the Annual Ferry Shipping Summit. The company is currently investing a further €165.2 million to create what will be the largest cruise ferry in the world in terms of vehicle capacity. The ship will serve the busiest route between the UK and the island of Ireland – Holyhead to Dublin – and will accommodate 1,800 passengers and crew with capacity for 5,610 freight lane metres (330 freight units per sailing). Design features include three-tier freight bow loading for quick turnaround times in port. Passenger facilities across three decks will include a choice of state-of-the-art entertainment options and cinemas, a dedicated Club Class lounge with direct access from the car decks and a superb choice of restaurants.

P&O Ferries launched a new daily freight ferry service linking Calais with the Port of Tilbury on 24 September. The ferry operator has chartered vessel Caroline Russ, which operates two eight-hour sailings every week day and one sailing on Saturday and Sunday. The ship has capacity for 100 units of freight and is designed to improve the fluidity of freight on the English Channel by offering freight not accompanied by a driver a direct route to a port located just 25 miles from Central London. The route saves up to 75 road miles each day compared with the traditional Calais-Dover crossing, meaning that customers save on fuel and land on the doorstep of London. By prioritizing the fast discharge of the ship, the freight can be on the M25 from 5.30am, thereby enabling time-sensitive loads to continue their journey before the rush hour starts.

The ferry operator has also announced that it has ordered two new passenger ferries for its Dover-Calais service, which will be built in China. The double-ender vessels, designed to give economic and environmental efficiencies, will be the largest ships to sail on the Channel and represent an investment of €260 million. These are expected to join P&O’s fleet on the English Channel in 2023, will have capacity for 1,500 passengers and will be the most sustainable ships ever to sail on the English Channel.

The first two vessels from Stena Line’s ambitious fleet investment programme, are set to enter service next year with Stena Estrid due to start operating on its Dublin to Holyhead route in early 2020 and Stena Edda scheduled to sail on its Belfast to Liverpool route later in 2020. A third new ship, which will also operate on the Belfast route, is set to join the fleet in 2021. These E-Flexer vessels will be bigger than today’s standard RoPax vessels at 215 metres long with a freight capacity of 3,100 lane metres and the space to carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers.  They will also be among the most energy efficient ferries in the world with significantly lower CO2 emissions per freight unit against comparable RoPax tonnage. In addition, Stena Line has also ordered a further two E-Flexer RoPax vessels with a larger design, to be deployed within Stena Line’s network in 2022. These larger ships will be 240 metres long with a total freight capacity of 3,600 lane metres, and passenger capacity of 1,200.

Following the launch of its biggest-ever catamaran Venus Clipper, which was constructed by the Wight Shipyard Co in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, Thames Clippers is expanding its service eastwards as it adds the brand new Royal Wharf Pier in the Royal Docks to its London network. The extension to Thames Clippers’ offering will not only serve residents of Ballymore and Oxley’s Royal Wharf development, but will also provide a direct service from central London to popular destinations such as London ExCel and London City Airport­. This marks the latest investment in Thames Clippers’ busy network of routes, which is currently in its twentieth year of serving the capital’s commuters and visitors.

In addition to the ferry operators, Portsmouth International Port is also embarking on an impressive £19m investment plan to dramatically improve the functionality of the port for ferry customers. Changes include critical work to replace the current passenger boarding tower with a brand new building that incorporates an air bridge, as well as essential levelling work on one of the berths to accommodate ships more comfortably. Significant redevelopment plans for the terminal itself are also scheduled for next year, which will see the creation of an additional annexe to handle an increase in cruise and ferry passengers. 

These investments follow the introduction of several new vessels earlier this year, including Red Funnel Ferries new £10m state-of-the-art freight ferry, which launched in spring this year. The new freight ferry, Red Kestrel is the first freight-only roll-on-roll-off vessel to operate between Southampton and East Cowes and operates four daily sailings on this route, providing year-round freight capacity. To minimise the environmental footprint, the hull shape has been designed specifically to reduce wash and a propulsion package has been selected to make her highly fuel efficient.

“There has been much discussion around the ability for people to travel to and from Europe post Brexit,” added Emma. “The reality is that holiday-makers and other passengers will still be able to travel in comfort and with ease by ferry, wherever they want to go, regardless of a deal or no deal scenario. Although there are likely to be some changes in travel document requirements when travelling to Europe, travel will still be straightforward and ferries will continue to operate great services both on domestic routes across Scotland and the British Islands, as well as over to Ireland and Continental Europe.”

Discover Ferries’ Brexit FAQs, which are designed to help passengers plan their travel with confidence, can be found at www.discoverferries.com/faqs. This includes the latest guidance on all related topics from pet travel to passport validity, travel insurance and driving documents.


Media contacts:

Abby Penlington, [email protected] 07763 806 459 or Emma Batchelor, [email protected], 07971 014 821.

[1] Source Discover Ferries IRN FerryStat