Irish Continental Group (ICG) plans to add its third cruise ferry on its fledgling Dover-Calais route in less than nine months, after agreeing to buy a vessel called Ciudad de Mahon.
The Dublin-listed Irish Ferries owner commenced services on the key UK-France link at the end of June as it moved its Isle of Inishmore vessel onto the route, before purchasing a ferry earlier this month that was called Calais Seaways, and subsequently renamed Isle of Innisfree. This is expected to commence services next month.
The planned purchase of the Ciudad de Mahon vessel from a unit of Italian shipping company Grimaldi Group, together with the Calais Seaways deal represent a combined investment of €35.5 million, ICG said. Ciudad de Mahon is on track to start services in the first three months of 2020, bringing Irish Ferries's sailings on the route to 30 per day.
ICG has set a strategic, post-Brexit priority on the new link to boost the capacity and reliability of the land bridge across Britain for exports and imports between the Republic and continental Europe.
The latest deal was unveiled as ICG said group revenue rose 22 per cent annually for the first 10 months of the year, to €279.7 million, amid an easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions. However, it said that the revenue uplift was partially offset by an increase in costs, primarily fuel which climbed by €17 million, or 60 per cent, due to increased sailings and higher global energy prices.
ICG said cars carried on its ferries rose 44.3 per cent to 176,500 vehicles in the year to November 20th, though they remained off the 369,000 units reported for the corresponding period in 2019.
“The recovery in car volumes witnessed in the ferries division post the easing of restrictions is further evidence of the existence of pent-up demand in the transport sector,” said Goodbody Stockbrokers analyst Nuala McMahon.
Roll-on, roll-off freight declined by 13 per cent, or 20 per cent when the new Dover-Calais route is excluded. However, container freight increased by 10.5 per cent.
The group, led by chief executive Eamonn Rothwell, said that it remains in a "strong financial position" with cash and undrawn committed credit facilities at the end of last month of €142.4 million and net debt of €114.4 million.
Shares in ICG rose as much as 2.5 per cent on Wednesday morning in Dublin, to €4.45.