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Irish Ferries to Enter Competitive Cross-Channel Market

Ferry operator to commence sailings between Dover and Calais during June

Irish Continental Group subsidiary Irish Ferries took many by surprise this morning with the announcement that they will open a new ferry route between Dover and Calais during June. The move means that hauliers can access an inclusive service on the Dublin – Holyhead, Rosslare – Pembroke and Dover – Calais routes booked directly with a single operator. The Common Transit Convention means that paperwork for goods using the U.K. landbridge to move between EU countries is greatly simplified.

Company owned vessel ISLE OF INISHMORE will be allocated to the route according to the announcement. ISLE OF INISHMORE currently serves the Rosslare – Pembroke route but will be released by BLUE STAR 1 which is being chartered for the purpose.

Painting continues on BLUE STAR 1 with further Irish Ferries branding applied to the ship during Monday March 22. Notably her funnel was painted green rather than white as used on the former OSCAR WILDE which had a similar livery. Image: © Voyager Shipspotting.
Painting continues on BLUE STAR 1 with further Irish Ferries branding applied to the ship during Monday March 22. Notably her funnel was painted green rather than white as used on the former OSCAR WILDE which had a similar livery. Image: © Voyager Shipspotting.

Competition

The Dover – Calais route already has two ferry operators, P&O Ferries and DFDS. The latter also has a route between Dover and Dunkerque. P&O Ferries presently has four ships dedicated to the Calais route, while DFDS has three each on its Calais and Dunkerque routes. Irish Ferries has stated that they intend to add additional capacity to ISLE OF INISHMORE. It is unclear presently where this will come from. The company had previously been rumoured to be interested in P&O Ferries’ laid up PRIDE OF BURGUNDY and EUROPEAN SEAWAY, but these reports came to nothing.

Doug Bannister, Chief Executive, Port of Dover, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Irish Ferries to Dover.  This announcement gives the millions of customers across the UK and the Republic of Ireland who value the intrinsic benefits of the shortest sea crossing to Europe, the prospect of even more choice.  We believe the inclusive landbridge product will be popular with Irish exporters and will strengthen the just in time supply chain into the European Union.   This is a clear signal of market confidence in the Dover route and will complement the resilient services currently provided.  We wish Irish Ferries every success and look forward to having them on the route in the summer and working together as part of the Dover team building the future success of the Short Straits.”

DFDS's COTE DES FLANDRES at Calais. Image: © Gary Andrews
DFDS’s COTE DES FLANDRES at Calais. Image: © Gary Andrews

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, Chairman, Port of Calais, said: 

“the commencement of the service operated by Irish Ferries emphasises the strategic position of the port of Calais in the trade between Ireland, the United Kingdom and the continent. It is a clear sign of confidence just a few weeks before the opening of the new port of Calais”.

Irish Ferries’ move will also put them into direct competition with Eurotunnel. With a 40% share of freight and a 70% share of car traffic, Eurotunnel is the market leader on the Dover Strait. Irish Ferries also intends to offer passenger services on the Dover – Calais route, but this offer will be dependent on COVID-19 restrictions.

ISLE OF INISHMORE. Image: © Scott Mackey.
ISLE OF INISHMORE. Image: © Scott Mackey.

Modifications

ISLE OF INISHMORE will potentially need modified to suit the berths at both Dover and Calais. It is also possible that the ferry will be fitted with exhaust gas scrubbers to comply with stricter emissions limits on the channel. Irish Ferries had planned to add scrubbers to ISLE OF INISHMORE last year, but this was deferred due to likely delays due to COVID. With the arrival of BLUE STAR 1 during April, there may be sufficient time for this work to be undertaken ahead of the introduction of the new route.

Steven Tarbox

Steven is a ferry blogger and photographer from Belfast. He founded NI Ferry Site in 2014, and still acts as the editor. Steven also looks after all of the technical aspects of the website.
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