George Moore, a 14-year-old Brit based in the English Midlands, has for over a year been spearheading a campaign to bring back the Harwich-Esbjerg ferry route that DFDS discontinued in September 2014.
He has already attracted over a thousand signatures to his Reopen the Harwich to Esbjerg Group petition (sign here) to save the link, the last ferry passenger service between Denmark and the UK, and established a dialogue with the Danish ferry operator.
For my family
“I’m doing this for my family who are not tech-savvy!” he told the Copenhagen Post.
“I have been going to Denmark since I was a little boy, and all my family have travelled on the ferry, so I started this petition for them.”
Moore, whose other online exploits include the holiday reviews site britishflyers.com, contends that reopening the link is vital to both ports as it aids their local economies and makes particularly good sense in light of recent events.
“Considering the current migrant crisis with Calais, Esbjerg would be a viable solution for cargo heading with drivers to Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia,” he said.
Never going to happen
However, it is not an opinion shared by Dave Darlington, the British owner of the Randers-based company Food From Home, which has been supplying British and US food products to Danish supermarkets for the past 15 years,
According to Darlington, the up-from-France option has always been his and most Danish-based importers’ preferred method of bringing in British goods – because it’s cheaper and quicker.
“Just to give you an idea of price: a return ticket for a family of four in a car on the Harwich-Esbjerg ferry was 9,500 kroner, and that didn’t even come with a cabin,” he told the Copenhagen Post.
“And the journey was 19 hours long. They could have made the distance in something closer to 12, but it was conveniently timed to start just before dinner and finish just after lunch. You can drive a long way in 19 hours.”
According to Darlington, the route was closed due to economic reasons as more people were using alternative transport routes – via budget airlines mostly.
“The petition is a total waste of time,” he said. “It’s never going to happen.”
Preferred to flying
Darlington agrees the discontinuation of the link has affected a lot of private individuals, conceding he would even use it himself if it still existed.
And there are plenty more like him who have signed the petition. “We need the route to visit my parents and family on Denmark,” explained Anne Kristine Arbon from Salisbury in England on the petition’s website.
“My brother, a former UN soldier, suffers from PTSD and flying triggers his flashbacks. Please reconsider opening the route again.”
Karen Christmas from York agrees. “It’s so convenient taking the car that way especially with children and shifting belongings to and from countries,” she said.
“What a shame it closed – not everybody wants to fly!”
The ‘Bacon Boat’
But there is a ferry option, Darlington contends, and it’s operated by DFDS’s freight shipping division between Esbjerg and Immingham, which is near Hull.
Known by some as the ‘Bacon Boat’, the service sails every day, and depending on how much space there is, there can be room for private individuals, providing they are transporting cargo.
However, according to DFDS communications chief Gert Jakobsen, this is not a realistic option as there never is any space.
“There is a limit of 12 people who can travel on the freight service, and the places are taken by our regular customers,” he confirmed to the Copenhagen Post. “We don’t have the facilities to cater to more than that.”
Jakobsen is adamant that the Harwich passenger service will not be restored.
“A revision of duty free laws in 1999 saw passenger numbers fall from 200,000 to 80,000 a year, and meanwhile you have much cheaper air travel,” he explained.
“It was a hard decision as it’s such a historic route, but all the Scandinavian services to the UK have stopped.”
Nevertheless, Moore is confident his petition – which is marked for the attention of DFDS and three of its subsidiaries, along with two other local operators, Stena Line Ferries and Regina Line Ferries – will continue to gather signatures.
“Realistically we need about 80,000 to reopen the route,” he said.
“DFDS have basically said ‘never’, but they are running out of excuses.”