Leading International Maritime Magazine

Ferry freight boosted by recovering economy

Traffic rises 3.5 per cent in 2016 and for fifth consecutive year.

Ferry freight carried on UK ferries rose by 3.5 per cent in 2016 as an indicator of a recovering economy in the UK and Ireland, according to annual figures published today by the ferry industry. 

Some 4.57m freight vehicles were carried on ferries in 2016 with increases on three main sectors surveyed between the UK and Ireland or continental Europe.

Ferry freight has grown for the last five years and has risen by 19.6 per cent since 2011.

The data comes from the 2016 Ferrystat* figures released today by Discover Ferries, the industry body for ferry operators.

The most popular freight sector - on routes between Dover and Calais/Dunkerque – saw a 2.1 per cent increase to 2.59m units. Freight on these routes is up 25% in the last four years, with Dover seeing £119bn of trade moving through the port each year.

A further factor in the strong performance has been in the improvements in late 2016 to security at the port of Calais, including the closure in October of the “Jungle” migrant camp by French authorities.

Bill Gibbons, director of Discover Ferries, said: “These are strong figures and are an indicator of the recovering Irish and British economies and show the continuing success story of ferry freight. Ferry freight which has risen in the last five years. This is a very positive story in this sector and one that should continue despite the uncertainly surround Brexit.”

Mr Gibbons said ferry freight was forecast to grow further over the coming decade, driven by Dover, although this was dependent on the UK remaining part of the European customs union or finding a solution that will not hamper the flow of goods through UK ports.

The Port of Dover recently revealed it enjoyed its busiest day ever for freight in November with more than 10,500 freight vehicles crossing in one day.

Freight on the Irish Sea routes rose by six per cent to 1.72m units including 500,000 units on routes to Belfast from Heysham, Cairnryan and Liverpool, a record year for freight on these routes. Western Channel** routes were also up by 2.4 per cent to 254,000 units.

The freight survey does not include the North Sea and domestic routes.

Discover Ferries member ferry operators include Brittany Ferries, Caledonian MacBrayne, DFDS, Irish Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, P&O Ferries, NorthLink, Red Funnel, StenaLine and Wightlink.