August 29 2014 Latest news:
Duncan Brodie, business editor
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
A passenger ferry service which has operated out of Harwich for nearly 140 years is to end in September.
DFDS says the withdrawal of its Harwich-Esbjerg route is due to a combination of dwindling demand and high costs, with the level of investment required to meet new environmental standards coming into force next year being the deciding factor.
The service, which began in 1875 when the port of Esbjerg opened, will cease at the end of the main summer season on September 29.
DFDS says that the Sirena Seaways, the vessel which has operated on the route since 2003, will be transferred to other duties and its 110 crew members are expected to be redeployed elsewhere within the company. However, eight shore-based jobs at Harwich and six in Denmark are expected to go.
A company spokesman said that the historic route had been “struggling for a long time”, despite efforts to cut costs, including a reduction in crew numbers, fuel economy measures and a reduction in sailings, and the addition of freight to help the passenger-based service pay its way.
However, with passenger demand continuing to be eroded by the growth of low-cost airlines, with a knock-on effect on duty-free sales, and freight volumes between the UK and Denmark declining, the route route was now unable to bear the additional cost that a forthcoming change in environmental law would entail, estimated at around £2million a year.
“This is what the new environmental law and the requirement to use low-sulphur oil will cost based on current oil prices from January 1, 2015,” said DFDS chief executive Niels Smedegaard.
“The route is of particular historical significance to DFDS so it’s a very sad day for us all. Our regrets go to our many passengers who must now see the last passenger ferry route between the UK and Scandinavia close.”
DFDS said it would now focus its effort to secure the future of its two-vessel freight route between Esbjerg and Immingham, on Humberside.
In contrast with the DFDS Harwich-Esbjerg route, Stena Line’s Harwich-Hook of Holland services have seen an increase in demand following the introduction of the Stena Hollandica and Stena Britannic super-ferries on the route in 2010.
In January, Stena Line reported record annual passenger and car volumes on the route, with the passenger total of 568,000 for 2013 representing an increase of 47,000 or 9% compared with the previous year.
Harwich International Port is also attracting more cruise business, with a total of 43 cruise ships expected to call at the port this year.