Fierce competition and increasing operating costs are making life tough for P&O Ferries on the English Channel, North Sea and Irish Sea, annual reports for the company’s four ferry divisions reveal. Turnover on short sea services increased to £322 million during 2012 (2011 was £272 million), as a result of volume increases following the demise of competitor SeaFrance.

During 2012 freight carryings went up from 1.282 million to 1,068 million; tourist vehicles increased to 1.442 million from 1.307 million and total passenger numbers were up from 7.5 million to 8.4 million. Profit after tax for the year was £23.5 million (2011 £6.1 million) with an operating profit of £38.6 million (2011-£13.4 million).

P&O North Sea Ferries’ services from Hull to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, and linking Middlesbrough Teesport with Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, run jointly with subsidiary Dutch subsidiary P&O North Sea Ferries BV, suffered from over-capacity in the North Sea freight market, with a fall in revenue of £1.9 million, although the gross loss for the year was reduced to ten per cent, from 15.5per cent in 2011.

Serving Zeebrugge with two vessels from Tilbury, P&O Thames saw turnover drop from £25.5 million in 2011 to £24.5 million, with a gross loss for the year of £0.6 million, compared to a 2011 gross profit of £1.9 million. Although freight carryings went up from 130,000 to 144,000 units, the loss is blamed on both turnover reduction and increased vessel costs. There was also a drop in P&O Irish Sea turnover resulting from falling volumes in a declining market and intense pressure on rates.

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