P&O Ferries launching new London to Netherlands ferry service

By: NI Ferry Team
Dublin gets its first sight of the new P&O Ferries livery as NORBANK arrives on 04.04.15 for the first time since going to dry-dock the previous month. © Gordon Hislip.
NORBANK which will launch P&O Ferries' new Tilbury - Rotterdam ferry service. Image: Gordon Hislip.

P&O Ferries has confirmed that a new freight ferry service will begin in March, connecting the ports of London (Tilbury 2) and Rotterdam (Europoort).  According to information on the P&O Ferries Freight website, it will be a RoPax service (i.e. carrying freight drivers). The route had been expected after a developer version of the P&O Ferries website displayed the route recently.

The service will share the Tilbury port with the existing P&O Ferries service to Zeebrugge.  DFDS opened a service between Tilbury 2 and Calais in June 2023, however, the service closed at the end of 2023 due to “operational difficulties and a challenging market development”.

The route can be seen as a clear sign of P&O Ferries’ parent company, DP World’s increased involvement in the company.  DP World is the operator of Tilbury’s London Gateway port and the new route will provide another option to the integrated logistics hub, connecting it to the major and rail-connected port of Rotterdam.

NORSTREAM at Tilbury 2 RoRo Port. Image: Forth Ports.
NORSTREAM at Tilbury 2 RoRo Port. Image: Forth Ports.

P&O Ferries North Sea Hubs

The new service adds to the freight hubs already established by P&O Ferries.  With the start of the new route, the company’s North Sea network will consist of;

HullHull – Rotterdam (Europoort) (RoPax), Hull – Zeebrugge (LoLo)
Rotterdam (Europoort)Rotterdam (Europoort) – Hull (RoPax), Rotterdam (Europoort) – Tilbury (RoRo)
TilburyTilbury – Zeebrugge (RoRo), Tilbury – Rotterdam (Europoort) (RoPax)
TeesportTeesport – Zeebrugge (RoRo)
ZeebruggeZeebrugge – Tilbury (RoRo), Zeebrugge – Teesport (RoRo), Zeebrugge – Hull (LoLo)
Table showing P&O Ferries North Sea Freight routes.

Peter Hebblethwaite, P&O Ferries’ CEO, said:

“The opening of our new route between London and Rotterdam gives P&O Ferries a unique network in the North Sea. We now have five hubs: Hull, Teesport, Tilbury, Zeebrugge and Europoort, connecting the North East and South East of England with the Continent.

We will offer our freight customers the earliest arrival on the Thames from Rotterdam, along with swift access to the M25 and terminal rail connections.

The opening of the London – Rotterdam route will mark another significant step in our business transformation and further contribute to the end-to-end logistics service offered by our parent company, DP World.”

P&O Ferries Press Release 9 January 2024

Initial schedule

Expected to start on 10 March, the route will be served by P&O Ferries’ owned RoPax NORBANK.  The vessel has a capacity for 125 freight units and previously operated on the closed Liverpool to Dublin RoPax service.  NORBANK carried out berthing trials at Tilbury on 4 January, her first visit to the Thames port.

NORBANK is currently covering the refit period on the Hull – Rotterdam route.  Returning to the route for which she was built, NORBANK’s first sailing was on 7 January from the Netherlands in place of PRIDE OF HULL.  Following a short maintenance period, PRIDE OF HULL returns to service on 11 January.  NORBANK then covers for PRIDE OF ROTTERDAM from the evening sailing ex Rotterdam on 12 January until the Hull departure on 5 February.

It is unclear what use will be made of the NORBANK in the period between cover duties at Hull ending and her new Tilbury route beginning.  It seems possible for her to have a maintenance period or cover for other vessels such as the Hull – Zeebrugge RoRos NORSTREAM and NORSKY.

P&O Ferries NORBANK trialling the berth at Mostyn, North Wales, on the morning of 19.04.20. Hans Smits
Ariel view of P&O Ferries NORBANK when trialling the berth at Mostyn, North Wales, on the morning of 19.04.20. Image: Hans Smits

NORBANK will offer a morning sailing from Tilbury with an overnight sailing from Rotterdam (Europoort).  The 0745 arrival will, P&O say, allow on-time local deliveries in the London area.

NORBANK’s sister-vessel NORBAY is currently on a six-month charter to Irish Ferries which started in November.  It remains to be seen if NORBAY joins her sister on the Tilbury – Rotterdam route to provide the all-important nightly departures in both directions.

The new schedule for P&O Ferries’ London (Tilbury) – Rotterdam (Europoort) route will be as follows:

Sunday   2345
P&O Ferries’ Tilbury – Rotterdam (Europoort) schedule from March 2024

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