Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Big Investments in UK Freight and Passenger RoRo and RoPax Ferry Services

Spending on Sea Crossings for 2018 Onward - To, From and Within Britain
Shipping News Feature
UK – EUROPE – Discover Ferries, an organisation which represents ten of the companies which serve the British market, has released an overview of what some of its partners are up to by way of extending and improving services and says there have been in excess of £1 billion of investments announced for new ships, port and service facilities in the next four years. These include national and international ferry links and cover a range of freight and passenger RoRo and RoPax services.

Many of the announcements we have reported previously, so here we present a rundown of what the ferry companies actually have in store in the run up to 2022. To see a more comprehensive picture on what is envisaged by each company check out the highlighted links which will open a new page to the original story.

We detailed plans by Red Funnel Isle of Wight Ferries last September to spend £7 million on a new high speed catamaran Red Jet 7 which will come into service between Southampton and West Cowes in early July this year. The company is also undertaking a £3+ million refurbishment of its RoPax ship Red Eagle to be completed before the Easter holiday and the company has also given the green light to a £10.5 million investment to extend and relocate its East Cowes ferry terminal. Phase 1 will be completed by the summer with the final phase delivered by 2020.

Staying with the island, new for summer 2018 is Wightlink’s Victoria of Wight, a new car ferry operating between Portsmouth and Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight. Powered by hybrid energy, the new ferry has a host of features to minimise the ship’s environmental impact. New double deck loading ramps have also been built at Wightlink’s ports at Portsmouth and Fishbourne as part of the £45 million investment, for faster loading and unloading times.

Caledonian MacBrayne, which picked up an award last year for its ‘Project Ecoship’ drive for fuel efficiency, is introducing the UK’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) passenger ferry, MV Glen Sannox later this year. The 102-metre, RoRo ferry, is designed to carry 127 cars or 16 HGVs or a combination of both and up to 1,000 passengers whilst operating on LNG and marine gas oil (MGO). LNG is significantly cleaner and will help to reduce emissions to meet ambitious Scottish Government targets.

Ferry travellers to the Clyde island of Arran will also soon be able to benefit from a major upgrade to the terminal facilities at the port of Brodick. The extensive redevelopment project represents a major investment of around £30 million, led by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), with support from Transport Scotland, North Ayrshire Council, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport and Coastal Communities Fund.

The Portsmouth – Caen route remains a popular choice for both freight vehicles and passengers travelling between England’s south coast to and from Normandy and the North West of France and in March 2019, work will begin on Brittany Ferries’ new £175 million state-of-the-art new ship named the Honfleur. As with so many of the new ferries the ship will be built in the Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellshaft shipyard in Germany and will be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Last year we told how Stena Line had ordered four new RoPax ships from the AVIC Shipyard in China to service its UK - Irish routes with Stena having an option on a further four vessels as part of the overall contract. The vessels will be 50% larger than today’s standard RoPax vessels and this significant investment will see a continuation of Stena Line’s RoPax concept which mixes freight and passengers as part of its operational business model. The new ferries will be amongst the most energy efficient in the world with significantly lower emissions compared to similar tonnage.

In 2017, Stena Line completed a multi-million pound investment package to acquire the Superfast VII and Superfast VIII ferries which operate on its Belfast-Cairnryan route as part of the company’s development plans. The vessels had been operating under a charter contract agreement with AS Tallink Grupp before Stena Line took over formal ownership of the vessels in December 2017.

Just this month we covered developments at Irish Ferries as it unveiled plans for its new vessel, reputedly the largest cruise ferry in the world, which is being built specifically for the Dublin - Holyhead service to operate in tandem with the MV Ulysses, which in turn will replace the currently chartered vessel MV Epsilon in the fleet. Prior to this, in mid-September 2018, the company will launch the new £128 million cruise ferry W.B. Yeats on the route.

The W.B. Yeats, at 55,000 tonnes will deliver additional capacity for 1,885 passengers and crew and 1,200 cars per crossing, onto the busiest ferry route between the UK and Ireland. She will serve until the new, unnamed vessel takes over the route which will free up the W.B. Yeats to sail between Ireland and France year round. In the interim period during the summer, the W.B. Yeats will offer Irish holidaymakers a cruise style travel experience, sailing between Dublin and Cherbourg. When coupled with the existing vessel the Oscar Wilde, which currently sails between Rosslare and Cherbourg and Roscoff, it will double the number of sailings between Ireland and France, with planned daily departures in alternate directions.

Not of relevance to the freight market, but still of interest to many working in the shipping industry in the capital, was the news that MBNA Thames Clippers introduced two new boats last year, the Mercury Clipper and Jupiter Clipper. This was a £6.3 million investment to meet demand as the growing business carried over 4.1 million commuters and visitors around London on the River Thames in 2017 alone.

MBNA Thames Clippers claims the largest commercial passenger fleet operating solely in UK waters and predicts it will carry over 6 million passengers by 2020. MBNA Thames Clippers started serving a new pier at Battersea Power Station on 1 November 2017, taking the total number of piers MBNA Thames Clippers serves to 22. The pier is the latest addition to London’s most popular river route RB6, which has seen an increase of 58% commuter traffic in two years and the company proposes to expand services to Royal Wharf, New Providence Wharf and Trinity Buoy Wharf as part of their continued investment in the river transport network. Commenting on the investment statistics, Emma Batchelor, Director of Discover Ferries, commented:

"More than 39 million passenger journeys are made by ferry to UK islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland, France, Spain and Holland, and those sustained numbers are enabling ferry operators to invest with confidence in new ships and new routes. Ferry travel today is transformed compared to a decade ago and enjoys a loyal following of travellers who value comfort and space. In the next four years the scale of this investment will see another step change in service for travellers.”

It is not just on the water that plans are in place to modernise ferry travel, whether cargo or passenger. Portsmouth International Port is investing for the future and this month, the all-important linkspan used to load and unload vehicles from ferries at Berth 4 at Portsmouth International Port is being replaced as part of a multi-million pound investment. In recent years, millions of pounds have been spent on a number of important projects which include lengthening Berth 2; removing the ‘floating dock jetty’ to improve navigation; dredging to increase depths for bigger cargo ships and moving HMS Bristol to increase the turning circle for larger vessels.

Red Funnel has worked with Hogia Systems to introduce a new centralised customer information service which ensures travellers receive timely and consistent travel information across all multi-media platforms used by Red Funnel. tHe ferry operator is now building on this initial investment by also integrating live public transport information, with the aim of delivering information on board about connections to both bus and rail services.

We have been keeping readers abreast of the developments at Tilbury2, set to include a new RoRo ferry terminal sometime in 2020 and P&O Ferries which last year returned its two newly refurbished ships on the Hull – Zeebrugge service, also introduced its VIP service for freight drivers travelling between the UK and Northern Europe.

Photo: Calmac passengers have a chance to view some of the world’s most beautiful scenery as they travel.