New ferry service linking U.K. and Calais

By: NI Ferry Team
Last updated:

DFDS has announced a new Tilbury – Calais ferry service.  The unaccompanied freight service will begin in late June and replace the current service from Calais to Sheerness.

The route will largely continue in its current form with one daily sailing in each direction, six days a week.   

The vessel allocated to Tilbury – Calais will be the existing Sheerness roro, BOTNIA SEAWAYS.  Built in 2000, the vessel has a capacity for 115 freight units (1,899 lane metres).

The relocation of the route is attributed to;

  • a result of feedback received from customers
  • a demand for a more accessible route into the UK. 

A welcome back to Tilbury

The new services marks a return for DFDS to the Port of Tilbury.

In summer 2005, DFDS began a Tilbury to Gothenburg service following the awarding of the StoraEnso contract.  This route ran until October 2014.

Tilbury Port. Forth Ports.
Tilbury Port. Forth Ports.

On the news of the new Calais route, Paul Dale, Asset & Site Director, Port of Tilbury said:

“We warmly welcome DFDS back to the Port of Tilbury as we confirm that the busy Calais daily ro-ro ferry service will begin this month. This is a significant long-term agreement with DFDS, who we have previously worked with, and we are looking forward to receiving the first vessel into Tilbury end of June.

As London’s fastest growing port, DFDS’s customers will benefit from our strategic location on the Thames which is within easy reach of the London and the south-east markets, as well as access to our multimodal facilities including a dedicated freight rail operation with connections across the UK.

The new driverless freight ferry service further cements our position as a vital gateway to Europe and supports our focus on achieving Net Zero by helping to remove trucks from the UK’s congested road networks.”

DFDS Press Release 16 June 2023

Farewell to Sheerness

Forth Ports’ Tilbury’s gain is Peel Ports’ Sheerness’ loss

The existing service between Sheerness and Calais will cease operation at the end of June.

DFDS has had a strong partnership with the Port of Sheerness since the launch of its unaccompanied freight service at the port in June 2021. The two organisations collaborated to make the route a success, growing volumes and increasing capacity to meet customer demand over the two-year period of operation.

Jean-Claude Charlo, Route Director for DFDS said;

“We are very excited to be working with Tilbury Port on this new partnership to provide our customers with the service that they require and expect from DFDS”,

“Our decision to relocate our freight services to Tilbury has not been made lightly, but we have listened to the feedback provided by our customers and remain committed to providing an unaccompanied freight service that will continue to meet their needs. It has been a pleasure working with the Port of Sheerness these past two years and we have nothing but thanks and gratitude for the professional and excellent service that they have provided”.

DFDS Press Release 16 June 2023
GOTHIA SEAWAYS – the original Sheerness – Calais vessel. Image: DFDS.

DFDS launched the Sheerness – Calais route in June 2021 using the GOTHIA SEAWAYS (now MAXINE of CLdN).  Due to operational problems at Calais, the route was suspended in January 2022The service resumed on 14 March 2022, using the BOTNIA SEAWAYS.  The FINLANDIA SEAWAYS and PATRIA SEAWAYS have also seen service on the route.

Speculation about a move to Tilbury for DFDS had previously been sparked by berthing trials. ACACIA SEAWAYS visited the Tilbury 2 roro port on 15 August 2022 and the BOTNIA SEAWAYS on 29 December 2022.

Tilbury – Calais makes a return

The Tilbury – Calais route isn’t a new invention.

Blue Channel Line announced a Calais – Tilbury route in June 2021 but gave up on the idea a year later.

The Port of Calais.  Image: DFDS.
The Port of Calais. Image: DFDS.

P&O Ferries launched a Calais to Tilbury service in September 2019.   Unfortunately due to a lack of demand the route ceased by the end of the year.

From 1965 to 1967, Stena Line offered a Tilbury – Calais summer passenger and vehicle service.

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