Ferry operator ICG’s sales fall 26% amid Covid-19 passenger slump

Cars down 67%, offset partly by increase in lorries carrying goods

Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group's (ICG) revenue slumped 26 per cent to €229 million during the first 10 months of the year, as a slump in passenger numbers and container shipments was partly offset by an increase in lorries carrying goods.

The number of cars travelling on the group’s ferries slumped almost 67 per cent during the period, while container freight declined by 8.9 per cent and terminal lifts at ports dropped 11.7 per cent. Still, roll-on, roll-off freight – covering trucks and lorries – rose 4.4 per cent, the company said in a trading statement on Wednesday.

The company, led by chief executive Eamonn Rothwell, has lobbied the Government during the Covid-19 pandemic, arguing that a requirement that people travelling to the State should self-isolate for 14 days is not consistent in the Common Travel Area (CTA) with the UK government's position that no such measures be taken by passengers travelling from the Republic to Britain.

"We continue to press the Irish Government on this issue," it said in the trading update.


Mr Rothwell has also called a temporary subsidy scheme – or so-called public service order (PSO) subventions – earlier this year to keep certain sea routes going during the pandemic a “waste of taxpayers’ money” and liable to distort the market. ICG has not participated in the initiative, which lasted between April and July.

“We committed, without any specific Government support, to continue operating our loss-making routes which provide a vital lifeline service to our island,” ICG said. “We will closely monitor the Government’s future response to assistance for shipping and aviation to promote against any potential funding mechanism that may lead to any market distortion.”

ICG has availed of staff retention subsidy schemes by governments in its markets.

The group also highlighted its exposure to Brexit amid crunch talks this week on a trade deal between the EU and the UK.

“The ferries division is highly dependent on trade flows between Ireland and the UK. Therefore any slowdown in either economy as a result of the exit of the UK from the EU will likely have an effect on Irish Ferries’ carryings,” said ICG.

“We continue to work with all relevant regulatory authorities to ensure that our systems are prepared for the end of the transition period. Our customers also need to be prepared for the administrative changes that will come about when trading with the UK from January 1st, 2021, regardless of a deal between the EU and the UK.”

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times