A clean, green and convenient way to travel

Michael Grey highlights why ferries are becoming a popular form of transport after the pandemic

A clean, green and convenient way to travel

Tallink Grupp

Holland Norway Lines has chartered Romantika to offer a new service between Eemshaven, Netherlands, and Kristiansand, Norway

By Michael Grey |

Aircraft can get people where they want to go faster, but in the aftermath of a pandemic, air travel is not without its stresses – from muffling in a mask for the trip itself, to the bureaucracy and less than hygienic crushes in the queues for the various regulatory processes as they get on and off the plane.

However, in what he described as the “battle of the modes”, Interferry CEO Mike Corrigan said that ferries “ranked highly as a safe form of travel”, while his organisation’s recent surveys suggest that the public now have a “much more positive view” of this mode of transport.

It is perhaps not difficult to see the advantages of a less fraught and frenetic way of travelling, with passengers having access to more space, better onboard services, more opportunities for social distancing and access to fresh air on ferries. Consequently, there is clearly an opportunity for operators to capitalise on their advantages of ferry travel post pandemic, particularly with the growing pent-up demand for travel among a public largely confined for the past two years.

Ferries also offer the convenience factor, which might be seen in the emergence of new ferry routes that will help travellers to circumvent land borders which have become more onerous to pass since the pandemic and political changes in Europe. At the beginning of April 2022, for example, a new route will open up between Norway and the Netherlands as Holland Norway Lines begins its three weekly sailings between Eemshaven and Kristiansand.

The line’s cruise-ferry Romantika, chartered from Tallink, offers this convenience to the driver who otherwise would have been flogging down European Route 3 taking in Sweden, Denmark and Germany en route to Holland. Holland Norway Lines, which has big ambitions of evolving from a single ship start-up to an operator offering both passenger and freight space, also cites the rail connections at each end of the sea passage as an advantage. Certainly, freight will be crucial if it is to operate year-round services, but this avoidance of land borders and any sort of delay is a useful incentive.

This convenience factor has been the driver of several successful routes which have opened up between the Republic of Ireland and Europe post Brexit, allowing passengers to avoid any delays in the transit through UK. Direct sailings from the UK to North Spanish ports have also maintained their freight levels and forward bookings indicate strong passenger growth in the coming season.

There is also an increased willingness among ferry operators to look more constructively at new routes that have the potential to grow into something truly viable. Ports and local municipalities show greater interest in supporting new routes and are willing to assist with the business of promotion and the provision of shore facilities. New routes in the Baltic and North Sea are examples of a growing confidence in the ferry as a local growth multiplier.

In addition, the ferry sector has clearly identified a demand among its potential clientele for greater sustainability in their travel options, something which was reinforced by the COP26 climate change conference in November 2021. Pressure on ferry ports to provide electric power on the berth is increasing, from both the public, which is more conscious than ever of the need for clean air, and ship operators. It is no coincidence that the owners of many of the ferries that are now on order or coming into service loudly proclaim their green credentials to the public. Ferries like P&O’s new big double-enders for the Dover-Calais route between England and France will have batteries big enough to provide carbon-free operations when manoeuvring and berthed. The emergence of LNG or methanol as credible fuels for ferry operation, along with smaller hybrid ships are a positive sign that the sector is responding to public demand; and that matters.

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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