Ferry news: Haddock blockade; Condor rising; ferry fuel row ‘logjam’; DFDS dip – Stena up; Valletta

A protest over exhausted haddock quotas saw seven French trawlers attempt to blockade Brittany Ferries berths at Roscoff yesterday. The ship, inbound from Plymouth, diverted to Brest, 40 miles away. There were delays later but no cancellations. Roscoff is Brittany Ferries’ home port. Successful talks were held afterwards with more due later. French fishermen have been increasingly feisty recently. Last month saw a standoff between British and French ships further up the coast in the Baie de Seine near Le Havre, now subsided. There were threats that British ports could be blockaded. Brittany Ferries’ services were also disrupted by (internal) industrial action in late September.

From next July, Condor’s fast ferry services between Weymouth, Poole, the Channel Islands and St Malo, France, will increase substantially. Crossings to France will increase 19%. The day return trip to Guernsey or Jersey will be reintroduced. According to the BBC it’s because the end of the Brittany Ferries contract Cherbourg-Poole frees up additional ships. The popular Barfleur returns to Cherbourg-Poole next year.

Following last week’s warning from Brittany Ferries that higher costs due to new EU ferry fuel rules from 2015 will affect its services, the same row has erupted in Scotland over DFDS’ apparently marginal freight-only Rosyth-Zeebrugge, Belgium, route. The Herald has seen a secret report which says the costs associated with low sulphur fuel will make the already struggling route uneconomic. Both the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association warn the route’s closure could create log jam on the roads with trucks having to drive as far south as Dover.

A drop off in North Sea freight business dampened DFDS’ third quarter results. Pre-tax profits fell by 18% to $46.6m. Those freight volumes were down 7.7% while passenger numbers fell by 6.2% on the Newcastle-Amsterdam route due to the Dutch recession. Passenger numbers overall were up substantially due the company’s new Dover-Calais route. DFDS says service levels and timetable reliability Dover-Calais will be improved.

Meanwhile, Stena Line – which operates the 6.5h Harwich-Hook of Holland with two new superferries – has seen numbers of cars increase by 4.2% so far this year (total passengers by 1.4%). The bumper month was September when the operator celebrated its 50th anniversary, heavily promoted. Car numbers increased by a whopping 17.2%. We sailed on one of these new ships in September (£165 two+car, oneway standby ticket) and spent the voyage lolling on huge leather sofas. It was great.

Finally, Valletta, capital of Mediterranean island Malta, has been named European Capital of Culture 2018. Let’s hope they have fitted guardrails at the edge of the quays by then, and improved ferry standards generally. Valletta will share the accolade with an as-yet-to-be-named Dutch city.

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