NOVEMBER 2012 ISSUE
The new cross-Channel operator My Ferry Link started running in mid-August, operating three former SeaFrance ships on the route for which they were built. We wish the new company well as they battle with increasingly competitive and difficult market conditions in the ferry industry, where operators constantly review capacity, routes and ships as they deal with the impact of the recession.
I travelled on the Harwich-Hook of Holland route recently, on both Stena Britannica and Stena Hollandica, and was highly impressed by the quality of the on-board facilities, the cabins and the food, and wondered: where next for the ferry industry? How much better can ferries get? Ro-pax ships able to offer an all-round service to a wide range of customers on long overnight crossings have a relatively stable future, as their customer base is large and the ships are usually well-suited to the route. Indeed, ro-pax is king in the ferry world, with companies wanting to operate one ship that can do everything.
But while some routes are in a reasonable position to weather the recession, it is not the same everywhere. P&O Ferries are to launch a major business review, blaming the tough conditions on the deepening economic crisis in Europe. Many routes are feeling the pinch, with ships being moved around on the Irish Sea and freight routes being down-sized, while fast ferries seem to be on their way out. None are being built, and only a few routes remain, with none on the Dover-Calais crossing any more.
The depression has affected the freight traffic sector and this is often the bread and butter for many operators. So while in many cases the ships themselves might be better than ever, the loading procedures more slick and the crews more efficient, trading conditions and the depression have had a major impact on services and operators.