Irish Ferries produced a strong performance last year, but with austerity programmes in place in Ireland and Britain, John McGuckian, chairman of the parent Irish Continental Group, predicts challenging times ahead. In the Group‘s annual report he comments: ‘The recent increase in the world price of fuel, which has been exacerbated by concerns over supply due to events in North Africa, will be a headwind in the current financial year.’

Irish Ferries increased operating profits by 54 per cent to €40.9 million in 2010, due mainly to a 7.8 per cent rise in passenger numbers on services to ports in Wales and France, and this growth has been maintained through the opening months of 2011. Last year turnover went up 3.2 per cent to €153.7 million, with a 7.8 per cent boost taking passenger figures to €1.538 million, compared to €1.427 million in 2009, this against a background of a 15 per cent overall decline in the number of visitors to Ireland by sea and air. The sale of the former Pride of Bilbao to St Peter Line also generated a profit of €9.4 million.

During last year car traffic dropped 2.4 per cent to 367,000 vehicles (376,000 in 2009) and ro-ro freight was down 9.2 per cent from 406,000 units to 397,000, a reflection in part of additional competing capacity.

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