P&O and DFDS reach Dover-Calais space charter agreement

The two leading ferry operators on the English Channel today announced that they have reached an agreement to make freight space on their Dover-Calais ships available to one another – “to maintain customer service levels on the route and ensure its continued resilience”.

Under the space charter agreement, freight drivers can arrive at either the Port of Dover or Port of Calais and board the next available sailing, irrespective of whether the ferry is operated by P&O or DFDS.

The Dover Strait is the single busiest route for trade between Britain and the EU. The agreement – which starts this summer – covers all eight ships on Dover-Calais including the P&O-owned Spirit of Britain, Spirit of France, Pride of Canterbury, Pride of Kent and Pride of Burgundy and the DFDS-owned Cote des Flandres, Cote des Dunes and Calais Seaways.

DFDS operates three combined freight and passenger ferries between Dover and Calais while P&O Ferries operates five ferries on the same crossing. In addition, DFDS will continue to operate three combined freight and passenger ferries between Dover and Dunkirk.

David Stretch, chief executive of P&O Ferries, said: “After the pandemic, during which we did everything we could to keep essential goods moving at a time of national crisis, the best way to ensure that we can continue to run vital freight services on Dover-Calais is to build on our relationship with DFDS and enter this space charter agreement.”

“It will ensure the continued resilience of the principal UK-EU trade route on which thousands of businesses and millions of consumers rely. It will also maintain service levels for our customers by reducing the time drivers spend waiting at the ports, giving them access to a departure every 36 minutes and reducing gate-to-gate journey times by an estimated 30 minutes.”

DFDS said the Dover-Calais agreement “is similar to space charter agreements entered into by DFDS on routes on the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and in the Mediterranean”.

Peder Gellert Pedersen, executive vice president for DFDS group and head of its ferry division, commented: “We are pleased to offer Channel freight customers more choice and flexibility as well as to improve the efficiency of this vital ferry infrastructure between the UK and the EU.”

DFDS said all commercial activities and relationships with freight customers “remain entirely under the control of each operator”. It said the move has been made “to enhance the ferry offering to freight customers through shorter waiting times, as well as improving the efficiency of the ferry infrastructure between the UK and the EU”.

At the time of writing, neither P&O nor DFDS had responded to questions about how their current service frequencies on Dover-Calais compare with last year and with 2019. However, ferry operators have been under considerable pressure since the start of the pandemic due to the collapse in demand for passenger ferry services, with further pressure due to volatile demand due to the pandemic and Brexit-related shifts in demand patterns.

The Port of Dover has welcomed the announcement, noting: “After a consistent period of smooth operations following the end of the Transition Period and continuous operations throughout the Covid pandemic, Dover has clearly demonstrated why it remains the market choice. Today’s news shows just how much determination there now is to preserve and maximise the unique advantages of high pace, frequency and capacity provided to supply chains on the shortest sea crossing between the UK and its principal global trading partner – the EU.”

Doug Bannister, Chief Executive for Port of Dover, said: “Developing the ferry product by maximising choice, capacity, flexibility and resilience in this way is a fantastic demonstration by the ferry operators of how the Dover route is responding to renewed market confidence. We look forward to seeing the benefits of this announcement being realised as the port and ferry operators continue to support the UK in getting back to normal and driving future economic success across the nation from Dover.”

Source: Lloyds Loading List