Plug pulled on Scots-Euro ferry  21 | 08 | 2010

    AFTER GENERATING "significant losses", despite "good" summer bookings, DFDS Seaways has pulled the plug on Scotland's sole international passenger ferry link with Europe. As from December 15 this year, the Rosyth-Zeebrugge route will operate solely as a freight-only crossing.

    While the decision by DFDS is a blow to the hundreds of Scots drivers who used the ferry to cross to Europe for holidays, it's a boost to the Scottish freight industry. The company's new plans mean the route will be operated by two freight ferries, sailing four times a week rather than the current three.

    The North Sea crossing has been floundering on choppy waters almost since it was launched. Original operator Superfast abandoned the route in 2008 after six years and DFDS said the service had lost £6 million in its first eight months alone.

    One of the problems identified by leading ferry experts was the 491-passenger Scottish Viking ferry had been too small for the long route, making it uneconomical. But what probably finally scuppered the Scots route was when its operator Norfolkline was taken over by DFDS earlier this year; DFDS already runs a rival Newcastle-Amsterdam service.

    A matter of deep regret

    "As the current combined concept of passengers and freight has been a constant loss-maker, and with no prospect of the position changing in the longer term, the company has been left with no option but to withdraw the passenger service from mid-December 2010," a DFDS spokesman said. His views were echoed by DFDS group vice-president Andreas Teschl.

    "We are aware the ferry service has provided an important link between Scotland and the continent," Teschl explained, "so it is a matter of deep regret we have had to take the decision. "However, we do believe the route has a future as a freight-only service. We not only want to keep the route alive, but we want to enhance the service we offer to the freight industry."

    It's believed DFDS will now introduce much larger roll-off freight ships as it strives to maximise its planned expansion of the direct Scottish route for freight. It's the use of such large ships which will create the much-needed economies of scale.

    One of the Scots industries which is poised to benefit most from the new freight-only service is whisky, which currently wastes millions of pounds as a result of empty container positioning costs.

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