DFDS to close ferry route

High costs and sulphur laws cause closure of Harwich-Esbjerg route
DFDS to close ferry route

By Rebecca Gibson |

Fewer passengers, increased competition from low-cost air lines and higher operating costs caused by new sulphur regulations have forced DFDS to close its route between Harwich, UK, and Esbjerg, Denmark.

Opened in 1875 with the inauguration of the port of Esbjerg, the Harwich-Esbjerg route will close on 29 September 2014, causing the loss of 130 jobs. Sirena Seaways, which has served on the route since 2003, will be moved to other duties.

“The route is of particular historical significance to DFDS so it’s a very sad day for us all,” said Niels Smedegaard, CEO of DFDS. “Our regrets go to our many passengers who must now see the last passenger ferry route between the UK and Scandinavia close. It’s also regrettable that up to 130 jobs onboard and onshore will be affected by the closure, even though we are fortunate that we can offer jobs to everyone onboard on other routes.”

DFDS has faced increased competition from low-cost airlines and the loss of tax-free sales, which have caused passenger numbers to fall from 300,000 to around 80,000. The line has implemented a number of cost-cutting measures in an effort to ensure the route remained competitive, despite the new costs associated with the sulphur regulations. The line has combined the freight and passenger service, reduced the number of onboard crew and introduced slow steaming to save fuel. It has also decreased the number of departures and centralised sales to increase passenger numbers.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to reduce costs enough to enable the route to bear the very high additional costs of around £2m a year,” said Niels Smedegaard, CEO of DFDS. “This is what the new environmental law and the requirement to use low-sulphur oil will cost, based on current oil prices from 1 January 2015.”

DFDS Seaways will continue to provide daily Newcastle-Amsterdam service on the North Sea and frequent cross-Channel services from Dover to Dunkirk and Calais in France, which comprise up to 44 sailings a day. The line will also continue operating its two daily ferry routes from Newhaven to Dieppe and Portsmouth to Le Havre.

In addition, the line will maintain its major freight route between Esbjerg and Immingham, continuing to offer daily 18-hour crossings each way on two vessels.

“This route will also be hit by the substantial extra costs as a result of the new sulphur rules,” said Smedegaard. “We therefore need to keep a tight focus on costs to prevent the transfer of freight to road transport that will otherwise become a consequence of the new sulphur rules. We will therefore step up negotiations with employees, partners and other stakeholders to find solutions to reduce costs and increase flexibility.”

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