DFDS celebrate takeover of Spain – Morocco ferry routes

By: NI Ferry Team

Today marked the completion of Danish Ferry and Logistics Company, DFDS’ takeover of the FRS Iberia/Maroc ferry companies.

Announced in September, the acquisition spent recent months obtaining legal and competition clearance.

FRS Iberia/Maroc is one of the leading operators on the Strait of Gibraltar and the acquisition expands the DFDS route network to the region. 

With growth of 3.2% in 2024, the Moroccan economy is expected to see significant expansion in the coming years, supported by the nearshoring of supply chains closer to Europe.  DFDS quote an expected annual trade growth of 8% between Morocco and Europe for the next five years.

Torben Carlsen, CEO of DFDS said;

“We are excited to start the integration of FRS Iberia/Maroc and look forward to applying our joint capabilities to grow the business while continuing to provide reliable, efficient ferry services to both passengers and freight customers”

DFDS Investor Release 10 January 2024

It is expected that the newly acquired routes will eventually be fully branded as DFDS.

Combined DFDS/FRS imaging. Image: DFDS.
Combined DFDS/FRS imaging. Image: DFDS.

The other FRS Group (formerly Förde Reederei Seetouristik) ferry routes around Europe and beyond will remain under the control of the Flensburg-based company. 

Three routes added to network

FRS Iberia/Maroc has three routes, employing a total of 850 staff, of which just over 400 are own employees. Revenue for 2023 was DKK 1.0bn (preliminary).

Joining the DFDS network will be FRS’ Algeciras – Tanger Med, Algeciras – Ceuta, and Tarifa – Tanger Ville routes. FRS Iberia/Maroc expected to transport a total of 2.3m freight lane metres, 1.9m passengers, and 370k cars in 2023.

The busiest route is that between Algeciras and Tangier Med which has a 50/50 revenue split between passenger and freight traffic. The route is served by four vessels. FRS Iberia/Maroc owns two of these ferries, the sister-ships TANGER EXPRESS and KATTEGAT. A third RoRo vessel, MIRAMAR EXPRESS, is chartered from another company within the FRS group. Meanwhile, the DFDS’ owned RoPax, PATRIA SEAWAYS, was chartered by FRS Iberia/Maroc in November 2023 for interim deployment on the Algeciras-Tanger Med route.  The schedule for the RoPax ships can be found here.


FRS Iberia/Maroc also operates five fast ferries – CUETA JET, ALGECIRAS JET, TARIFA JET, LEVANTE JET, and the recently acquired PONIENTE JET. The Algeciras – Ceuta and Tarifa – Tanger Ville services are normally served by two catamarans each. Both the Ceuta and Tanger Ville routes have crossing times of 60 minutes.

The takeover comes at a time when Algeciras – Tanger Med and Tarifa – Tanger Ville rival, Intershipping appears to have all but ceased trading. The Moroccan-owned company currently has no service on the Tarifa – Tanger Ville route.  Intershipping are offering only a single roundtrip daily on Algeciras – Tanger Med using the Ukrferry chartered KAUNAS, ironically an ex-DFDS vessel.  Intershipping’s owned vessels DETROIT JET and MED STAR have both been out of service for some time.

Meanwhile, Naviera Armas Trasmediterránea and Baleària also compete on both the Algeciras – Tanger Med and Algeciras – Ceuta routes and Africa Morocco Link only on Algeciras – Tanger Med.


Part of a DFDS growth strategy

DFDS plan to use the Danish company’s existing freight and passenger capabilities to grow and optimise the operations.

An integration process is expected to be completed within three years. Synergies are expected to be driven primarily through growth as limited cost synergies are expected.

The integration of the passenger business is expected to benefit from the sharing of operating and yield management capabilities, not least from the similarly crossing timed English Channel short-sea routes. The company also plans to increase the share of online bookings through the optimisation of digital distribution channels.

Freight activities will be strengthened by becoming part of a pan-European freight ferry network.  This brings expertise in operations, product development, and customer service.  The integration of the freight activities is also expected to benefit from a customer overlap and cross sales opportunities. DFDS’ much-expanded Logistics arm is also likely to bring positive effects.

FRS Iberia/Maroc will become part of the DFDS Ferry Division.  The acquired company’s co-Managing Directors Ronny Moriana Glindemann and Tim Gädecken have joined DFDS and will continue to manage the business.

Future opportunities

DFDS already has a large network in the Mediterraean.

There is an extensive RoRo freight route network from Turkey to France, Italy and Greece.  Additionally, North Africa is already served by the Marseille – Tunis route, again this is a RoRo operation.

However, the Italian press has recently reported on the potential of new services linking Trieste, Italy with Morocco and Egypt.

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