Calling it the “end of an era”, DFDS Seaways announced that it will stop its passenger service between Esbjerg and Harwich, England on 29 September. The route has been in service since the opening of the port in Esbjerg in 1875. The final crossing in September will mark the end of all passenger ferry services between the UK and Denmark.
The company blamed the loss of tax-free sales and increasing competition from low-cost airlines for a drop in passenger numbers that have plummeted from a peak of about 300,000 to around 80,000 customers annually. The death knell for the passenger line were the new sulphur emission regulations due to come into force in January 2015.
“The consolidation of the two routes is part of DFDS's strategy to adapt to the introduction of new sulphur emission rules,” the company said in a statement. “The new rules will considerably increase the costs operating the Esbjerg-Harwich route, making it no longer sustainable.”
The Sirena Seaways ferry currently deployed on the Esbjerg-Harwich route will be deployed elsewhere. The company said that the ship's crew would be offered new positions within DFDS. Some land-based support positions, however, will be cut.
Freight route remains open … for now
DFDS tried several strategies including combining freight and passenger services, aggressive marketing and cutting crew size and departures to rescue the historic route, but to no avail.
“Unfortunately we haven't been able to reduce costs enough to enable the route to bear the very high additional costs of the new environmental laws and the requirement to use low-sulphur fuel starting in January 2015,” said DFDS chief executive Niels Smedegaard.
Noting that the volume of freight being transported between the UK and Denmark has also declined, the company said that it is focusing on its freight efforts on its route between Esbjerg and Immingham in northern England.
"This route will also be hit by the substantial extra costs as a result of the new sulphur rules,” said Smedegaard.
“We therefore need to keep a tight focus on costs and will step up negotiations with employees, partners and other stakeholders to find solutions to reduce costs and increase flexibility.”