Following the delivery of three environmentally friendly ro-ro ferries from China, Grimaldi-owned Finnlines has been looking for new route opportunities. The company has now confirmed previous reports that it will open a new service between Zeebrugge (Belgium) and Rosslare (Ireland) next month. This will add to options for hauliers who can already choose from routes to Continental Europe operated by DFDS, Stena Line, and Brittany Ferries from Rosslare.
The arrival of the three new freight ferries, FINNECO I – III, means that Finnlines now has spare vessels in its fleet. The company is also expecting the delivery of two large new Ro-Pax ferries, FINNSIRIUS and FINNCANOPUS from next year.
The new route linking Rosslare with Zeebrugge could be particularly attractive to hauliers, given that much of the traffic travelling on the existing routes to France heads east to Belgium and beyond. Units will also be able to be forwarded to and from destinations in Scandinavia, Germany, and Spain via Finnlines Zeebrugge hub.
One large Irish Haulier, Nolan Transport, earlier confirmed that it had been lobbying Finnlines to start such a route. Finnlines Rosslare – Zeebrugge service will operate from 23 July. Two weekly sailings will be offered from both Zeebrugge and Rosslare.
The 3,259 lane metre capacity ro-ro FINNPULP will be allocated to the route, becoming the highest capacity vessel serving Rosslare. The 20 year-old vessel is currently in service on the Travemünde – Helsinki route. Finnlines’ sister company Grimaldi Lines already has an existing twice weekly service linking Cork with Zeebrugge and calling at Antwerp once a week.
Announcing the new route, Antonio Raimo, Line Manager at Finnlines said:
“We are delighted to support the growing post-Brexit Irish trade to the Continent and provide transport operators with an important alternative route, which will greatly benefit all stakeholders and the Irish economy. Finnlines provides cost-efficient and high frequency liner services to its customers with the lowest CO2 emissions per transported cargo unit, “Antonio Raimo, Line Manager at Finnlines (Finnlines press release)
More Competition for Dublin Port
The new Finnlines Rosslare – Zeebrugge route will be competition for CLdN’s established operation at Dublin which serves Rotterdam as well as Zeebrugge. CLdN also has a twice weekly service linking Cork with Zeebrugge. As with Finnlines, CLdN can also offer transhipment through its continental hubs. While freight traffic passing through Rosslare to Continental Europe has seen impressive growth since 2019, Dublin remains the market leader. The largest port in the country continues to handle more than double the combined EU ro-ro freight volumes of Rosslare and Cork.
The new Zeebrugge – Rosslare route will mainly be for unaccompanied freight, though up to 12 drivers can be accommodated on the vessel. Around 70% of ro-ro traffic to and from Ireland is now unaccompanied, a trend that has increased in recent years. This has been driven, at least in part, by a switch to longer routes between Ireland and both Great Britain and the continent, and a Europe-wide driver shortage.
DFDS Rosslare – Dunkirk Service Changes
The French press recently reported that DFDS will open its Rosslare – Dunkirk route to leisure traffic. Since it was established at the start of 2020, the route has only carried freight traffic.
After around a month on the route, the Ro-Pax OPTIMA SEAWAYS completed service on the Ireland – France service at the weekend. The DFDS website, suggests that, at least in the short-term, that a two-ship service will be offered for the time being, using the VISBORG and REGINA SEAWAYS.
Whilst we are coming into the quieter (for freight) summer period, it remains to be seen if further tonnage is again added later in the year. Various tonnage changes have taken place since the route began, which has seen up to four ships deployed for a period during Spring 2021.