Axe Falls On Another P&O North Sea Ferry Route

By: NI Ferry Team
Last updated:
ESTRADEN. Image: Bore.
ESTRADEN. Image: Bore.

P&O Ferries has announced the closure of another of their ferry routes.  

The Teesport – Rotterdam Europoort service ceased with the departure of the ESTRADEN from the Dutch port yesterday morning (21 January) at 1040.  The vessel arrived at Teesport this morning around 0530.

ESTRADEN departed Teesport for the last time at 1322 this afternoon on a sailing to Zeebrugge.  She will arrive tomorrow at 0800.

The vessel goes off-hire and leaves the fleet on Wednesday 25 January 2022.  It isn’t clear yet what is next for ESTRADEN when she is returned to owner, Bore.  A potential is that the vessel could end up in service with Transfennica, which, like Bore, is part of the Spliethoff Group. ESTRADEN’s until recent running mate BORE SONG has followed this fate.

The 1999-built ESTRADEN has been on charter to P&O Ferries since January 2015.

ESTRADEN. Image: Norsepower.
ESTRADEN. Image: Norsepower.

Three Ships Gone

The departure of the ESTRADEN brings to three the number of charter ships removed from the P&O Ferries fleet in the past month.  CLIPPER PENNANT and BORE SONG had already departed the Liverpool and Teesport services respectively.  Removing the charter expense of three vessels seems to illustrate P&O Ferries continuing to attempt to reduce costs.

The Teesport – Zeebrugge route currently remains.  However, this service is now only offered twice weekly from both ports.  For most of the history of the route there have been six sailings per week in each direction.  The NORSKY and NORSTREAM will maintain this route.  This is on a triangular basis alongside the Tilbury – Zeebrugge route.  

NORSTREAM at Tilbury 2  RoRo Port.  Image: Forth Ports.
NORSTREAM at Tilbury 2 RoRo Port. Image: Forth Ports.

The future of the Teesport service must, however, now be questionable due to the costs of having such a limited service to the port.  Additionally, The Times reported in September 2022 that PD Ports is suing P&O Ferries for damages of £910,843.  P&O is alleged to have failed to meet contractual obligations at Teesport. 

It also remains to be seen how long P&O will use the NOSTREAM and NORSKY on the Teesport service at the expense of a more intense Tilbury – Zeebrugge route.  At the time of the opening of the new Tilbury 2 facility there was considerable talk of larger tonnage and an ability for the port to accommodate 500,000 freight units per year.  The current maximum of 18 sailings per week on the route seems to make such growth impossible.

The disappearing routes

Despite once being the market leader, P&O Ferries’ North Sea operations are now significantly smaller than the much larger operations of DFDS, CLdN and Stena Line.   This pattern is reflected across the UK ferry footprint of P&O.

Since 1990, the following routes have disappeared from the P&O ferry business.

European Envoy pictured on a rare visit to Larne. © Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence .
EUROPEAN ENVOY pictured on a rare visit to Larne. She left the P&O fleet after the closure of the Dublin – Mostyn route. © Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
North SeaMiddlesbrough – Goteborg
Teesport – Rotterdam/Europoort
Hull – Zeebrugge (Only Lolo container service remains)
Felixstowe – Zeebrugge
Felixstowe – Rotterdam/Europoort
Ipswich – Rotterdam/Europoort
Eastern ChannelDover – Boulogne
Dover – Zeebrugge
Dover – Ostend (partnership with RMT)
Tilbury – Calais
Western ChannelNewhaven – Dieppe (P&O Stena Line)
Portsmouth – Le Havre
Portsmouth – Cherbourg
Portsmouth – Caen
Portsmouth – Bilbao
Irish SeaBelfast/Larne – Ardrossan/Troon
Larne – Fleetwood
Larne – Liverpool
Belfast- Liverpool (3 months in 1991)
Dublin – Fleetwood
Dublin – Cherbourg
Dublin – Mostyn
Rosslare – Cherbourg
ScotlandAberdeen – Stromness/Lerwick
Scrabster – Stromness

The only route to be added (and survive) in the same period is the Tilbury – Zeebrugge service.

To give a size comparison, the UK and Ireland fleets of big ferry operators look as follows at January 2023.

DFDS25 ships 
Stena Line24 ships
P&O Ferries13 ships
Brittany Ferries12 ships

What Remains Of P&O Ferries?

P&O Ferries route network.  Teesport - Europoort route is now closed.
P&O Ferries route network. The Teesport – Europoort route is now closed.
Teesport – ZeebruggeNORSTREAM, NORSKY
Hull – ZeebruggeFREYA (Lolo container)
Tilbury – ZeebruggeNORSTREAM, NORSKY
Liverpool – DublinNORBAY, NORBANK

*P&O PIONEER is shortly due to be delivered for the Dover – Calais route shortly.  She will be joined later in the year by the P&O LIBERTE.  Their arrival will see the PRIDE OF CATERBURY and PRIDE OF KENT leave the fleet.

The PRIDE OF BURGUNDY was withdrawn from the fleet in late 2021 and has been laid up at Dunkerque since, awaiting a buyer.

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