Ferry operator ICG sees revenues rise 8% in first half despite Covid-19 and Brexit

Increase in freight revenues helps offset decline in passenger business

Irish Ferries passenger revenues fell in the first half, reflecting a full six months of restrictions on non-essential travel. Photograph: Irish Ferries

Irish Ferries passenger revenues fell in the first half, reflecting a full six months of restrictions on non-essential travel. Photograph: Irish Ferries

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Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group (ICG) recorded an 8 per cent rise in revenues in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period last year, but earnings before interest and tax dropped as its passenger business continued to endure “exceptionally challenging” trading conditions.

The company reported group revenue of €141.6 million for the period, up €10.8 million on the first-half of 2020, but its losses widened by €800,000 to €10.3 million on an Ebit basis.

Passenger revenue fell 29.4 per cent to €10.1 million in the first half, with total cars carried down 47.3 per cent and total passengers falling 43.2 per cent to 132,800 on the same period in 2020. This reflected a full six months of pandemic-related travel restrictions this year.

Roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) freight travel was affected by new customs requirements following the UK’s exit from the European Union and declined 15.2 per cent in volume terms. But a change in yield mix saw ICG increase its RoRo revenues 7.8 per cent to €44 million.

“This increase in revenue is particularly encouraging as it is against the backdrop of both the Covid-19 pandemic and the introduction of customs requirements on the Irish Sea,” said ICG chairman John McGuckian.

“Still of concern to the group is the lack of implementation of appropriate checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from Britain, which are required under the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he added.

“To the extent that goods are destined for the Republic of Ireland, this is causing a distortion in the level playing field as goods that arrive directly into the Republic of Ireland ports from Britain are being checked on arrival.”

ICG said it had retained a strong liquidity position, with gross cash balances standing at €131.1 million, down from €150.4 million as of the end of 2020, while its net debt figure of €112.1 million is €23.6 million higher than at the beginning of the year. No interim dividend was declared.

Dover-Calais

The company began a new ferry service between Dover and Calais on June 29th, using its upgraded Isle of Inishmore vessel, while the first half of the year also saw it make further investment in environmentally-friendly port equipment at Dublin Ferryport Terminals and increased capacity from 2022.

Mr McGuckian said its passenger business had been “materially reduced” by travel restrictions.

“Despite this, as per the prior year, the group has maintained services on all of its shipping routes maintaining critical logistical links to the island of Ireland. These services have facilitated not only key logistical links to Britain and the European Union, but have facilitated passenger travel for essential purposes allowing for the movement of critical staff and the repatriation of citizens,” he said.

ICG said it welcomed the advent of the EU Digital Covid Certificate and the easing of restrictions on non-essential passenger travel, but added that the timing of its introduction on July 19th meant the benefits for its key summer season would be limited.

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