DFDS Seaways have announced they are to close the last passenger ferry service between the UK and Scandinavia later this year. The historic Harwich to Esbjerg route will be closed on 29 September 2014. The ferry service also carried freight and cargo for many years.
The UK to Denmark route dates back to 1875, but has been struggling with high costs, falling passenger numbers and the migration of freight to shorter sea, longer road travel despite the operators efforts to cut costs.
Creating a combined freight and passenger service, cutting the number of crew on board, decreasing the departure frequency and introducing slow steaming have all been tried but passenger numbers have fallen from 300,000 to 80,000 with cargo levels also dropping.
DFDS have blamed the new sulphur rules which take effect from 1 January 2015, claiming the route cannot sustain the additional costs the rules will bring. DFDS CEO Niels Smedegaard said “Unfortunately we haven't been able to reduce costs enough to enable the route to bear the very high additional costs of around £2m a year. This is what the new environmental law and the requirement to use low-sulphur oil will cost based on current oil prices from 1 January 2015. "The route is of particular historical significance to DFDS so it's a very sad day for us all. Our regrets go to our many passengers who must now see the last passenger ferry route between the UK and Scandinavia close. It's also regrettable that up to 130 jobs on board and ashore will be affected by the closure, even though we are fortunate that we can offer jobs to everyone onboard on other routes."
DFDS have pledged to do everything they can to secure the future of the Immingham Esbjerg freight route, which will remain open. The Immingham route has daily departures in each direction. Niels Smedegaard added that "This route will also be hit by the substantial extra costs as a result of the new sulphur rules. We therefore need to keep a tight focus on costs to prevent the transfer of freight to road transport that will otherwise become a consequence of the new sulphur rules. We will therefore step up negotiations with employees, partners and other stakeholders to find solutions to reduce costs and increase flexibility. That will help us ensure the route's development as an important transport route between the UK and Denmark - and also as an important employment base."
The ferry which operates on the Harwich Esbjerg route – the Sirena Seaways – will be deployed on other duties.