9 0 UK and European ports and ferry operators have responded well to the challenges of lockdowns, seasonal surges and Brexit COMMENTARY The future of ferry travel Michael Grey highlights how ferry operators and ports in the UK and Europe are adapting to operational changes prompted by both Covid-19 and Brexit MICHAEL GREY Michael Grey is a master mariner turned maritime journalist and has edited both Fairplay and Lloyd’s List in a career spanning more than 60 years. R egardless of what has been thrown at them over the past year, it is clear that ferry operators and ports in the UK and Europe have responded well. Lockdowns, seasonal surges and the pre- and post-Brexit challenges have been dealt with in a highly professional manner, despite the forecasts of chaos. The way that half a dozen large ships’ worth of lorries swallowed up the vast lorry parks in Kent, England with commendable speed deserved more publicity than it ever received. But it is only bad news that gets noticed. The adjustments ferry operators had to make to cope with the disappearance of passenger traffic was clearly painful, yet efficiently undertaken, demonstrating the flexibility of the ferry fleet and management skill. Some routes have been suspended, but will probably return in time, while the opportunity has been taken to move ships around and offload some which have become less economic to operate. New tonnage, ordered before the word “pandemic” had become common currency, has also been delivered. It is very interesting to see the new choices that are available to those Irish hauliers who have previously run their road services across the Irish Sea and the Channel, with the “land bridge” of the UK en route to Europe. They now have the option to sail direct to the Continent, with several ferries offering what remain as intra-European routes shorn of the bureaucracy and additional paperwork necessary following the UK’s departure from the European Union.