Ferry company Stena Line has confirmed rumours that it is to start a brand-new route from Dublin earlier today. The new once-weekly route, which will link the Irish capital with Cherbourg in France, is aimed at giving hauliers an additional option to bypass Great Britain following Brexit. It is expected to operate on a temporary basis in response to what the company believes is a temporary shift in the flow of freight traffic on the Irish Sea.
Demand on direct routes to the rest of the EU from Ireland continues to remain strong two weeks after the UK fully left the European Union. Various factors are at play, but the most significant are the new paperwork and checks required on goods passing between Great Britain and the EU and the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test for drivers entering France. Just yesterday, France stopped accepting “rapid” tests as evidence people are free of COVID-19. It appears as though freight drivers may be exempted from this for the time being, however.
Stena Line already has one route between Ireland and France, linking Rosslare with Cherbourg. That route has also recently had capacity boosted, with a second ship added. More recently, Stena Embla was also temporarily redeployed to the route due to “short-term market distortion“. That ship is much larger than the ship she replaced, STENA HORIZON. The latter is undergoing maintenance in Belfast at present.
The new Stena Line weekend-only Dublin – Cherbourg route will compete directly with Irish Ferries. The Irish Continental Group owned company has similarly increased sailings on it’s Dublin – Cherbourg route.
Having already upped driver capacity by redeploying W.B. YEATS from the Dublin – Holyhead route, EPSILON has also been allocated to an additional round trip between Dublin and Cherbourg this weekend. To enable this, eight sailings between Dublin and Holyhead are cancelled.
Replacement ship for DFDS
Newcomer DFDS has sourced a replacement vessel for its two-week-old Rosslare – Dunkerque route. There have been reports that the company has left freight behind in Rosslare on a number of occasions due to overbooking. It is understood, however, that this is due to a lack of cabin capacity rather than freight capacity.
A new ship, Destination Gotland’s DROTTEN, is due to join the route soon in place of DFDS’s owned OPTIMA SEAWAYS. The sister-ship to VISBY, which is already in operation on the route, DROTTEN is equipped with more cabins than the ship she replaces. KERRY, chartered from Stena RoRo, completes the trio of vessels on the new route.
The deployment of DROTTEN would also appear to be only temporary, however, with the ship only chartered from owner Rederi AB Gotland until around easter. By then, it is likely she will be required on Destination Gotland’s own route. The company has a public contract to deliver a minimum service level. As the ship will be supplied to DFDS only partially manned, additional crew are being recruited through an agency at present.
NI volumes recovering but ROI services reduced
While there has been anecdotal evidence of volumes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland recovering as pre-new year stockpiles run low, traffic on routes between ROI and GB remains well below normal levels. In response, both Irish Ferries and Stena Line have cut services on routes from Ireland to Wales.
P&O Ferries is also running a reduced service between Dublin and Liverpool. Just two of their four ships have been running on the route, NORBAY and NORBANK, though the chartered STENA FORECASTER has now returned from layup. P&O’s “live” online freight schedule indicates that the route will be maintained by STENA FORECASTER, NORBANK, and CLIPPER PENNANT next week. Seatruck-owned CLIPPER PENNANT returned to P&O from dry-dock yesterday.
The Liverpool route is historically particularly popular with drivers using the UK as a landbridge to the continent. Many of these drivers which now appear to be using direct routes from Ireland to France instead.
Both Stena Line and Seatruck are operating additional sailings between Heysham and NI this weekend due to increased demand.