Safety first truck and van

Your Guide to Freight Ferry Safety

Safety comes first. Especially when you’re travelling by freight ferry.

To make sure you take all the necessary precautions when travelling, we've put together a quick checklist for you.

Because of the dangers that can arise while onboard or at the port, it is incredibly important to observe the following safety rules when driving through the terminals and when boarding the ferry.

  1. All passengers must be declared

In the event of an emergency, it is important that the operator has an accurate record of everyone on board.

While many operators will allow additional passengers on certain routes at no extra cost, failing to declare all passengers is a breach of the terms and conditions and your trip may be cancelled as a result. Please note that the lack of a valid ID may also result in refusal to enter the port facility.

All drivers should also declare the combined weight of the trailer and its contents when asked at check-in.

  1. Take note of speed limits

When you arrive at the terminal, you should take note of (and adhere to) speed limit and traffic regulations. At some terminals, local traffic laws are enforced by police.

Similarly, all ferries will have a speed limit on board the vessel, which can range from 6 to 10 mph. Following this mandatory speed limit is important to help avoid accidental damage to the ship or other vehicles, and to prevent harm to other passengers and crew members.

  1. Mobile phone regulations

The use of mobile phones while moving around the terminal area and on ships is prohibited. This is to ensure everyone at the port is focused on their surroundings, therefore preventing accidents caused by visitors or port workers not paying attention.

Additionally, for the health of other passengers and the prevention of onboard fires, all operators have a strict no-smoking policy. Only designated areas should be used for smoking.

  1. After loading, turn off all electrical devices in your cabin

Faulty electrical equipment can be a major cause of fire on ferries. Faulty wiring can cause a spark that can ignite the cabin. It is important to ensure that any fuel-operated heaters, Auxiliary Power Units (APUs), fuel cells or batteries are disconnected and are safely stowed on board the vessel.

  1. Don't stay in your vehicle

Staying in the driver's cabin during transport is strictly prohibited and is against maritime law. After boarding the vessel, all drivers must leave their cabins and go to the freight driver's quarters. When unloading at the port of arrival, vessels with an accompanying driver must leave the port immediately with the declared trailer.

  1. Reflective vests

High-visibility vests may be required in some terminals or areas. It is the customers' responsibility to ensure that drivers or agents acting on their behalf have received them. They should be worn when needed, not just placed over the back of the driver's seat.

Any driver or contractor who fails to provide proof of having a reflective vest/jacket at the entrance to the terminals may be refused entry.

  1. Make sure your fuel cap is secured in place

When refuelling your vehicles prior to shipment, leave sufficient reserve (space) in your tanks to ensure no fuel leaks - which can cause fires, damages or injuries onboard - occur.

  1. Labelling dangerous units

All hazardous units presented for shipment must be properly labelled.

  1. Do not leave animals unattended

If allowed on board (operator rules vary for freight drivers), pets should be secured throughout the journey, preferably on a leash. They must not be left alone in the driver's cabin or outside the car, as this is a potential threat to both the animal and other passengers.

  1. Be prepared for security checks

Under the International Ship and Port Facility (Security) Regulations , operators have a legal obligation to facilitate screening procedures for freight vehicles presented for shipment, depending on the security level at which the port operates.

This means that drivers may be searched and/or questioned by security personnel upon arrival at the port.

This check, which is performed at random, may consist of one or more of the following:

  • search of the interior of the cabin along with its contents
  • body inspection of the driver and any passengers (subject to national regulations)
  • external and internal inspection of the vehicle

Drivers who refuse this search, or avoid questioning, will not be allowed access to the port facility.

For more information on ferry regulations and safety conditions, check the individual operators' websites and our Ferry Operator Terms & Conditions page.

Download the DFDS Ferries Safety Checklist PDF

24 May 2023

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