Irish Ferries owner warns of risk to Common Travel Area as revenue slumps

Covid-19 crisis hits Irish Continental Group as passenger and freight volumes decline

The Irish Ferries vessel “Ulysses” leaves Dublin port. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The Irish Ferries vessel “Ulysses” leaves Dublin port. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Revenues at Irish Continental Group fell more than 21 per cent in the first six months of the year as the coronavirus pandemic caused economies to shut down.

But the group said it remained in a strong financial position to weather the Covid-19 storm.

The ferry company said consolidated revenue for the six months to June 30th fell 21.6 per cent to €130.8 million, dragged lower by a 65 per cent decline in passenger volumes over the period. But net debt at the end of the period was €103.3 million, down from €129 million at the end of 2019.

The ferries division showed a sales decline of more than 33 per cent, with revenue at €61.6 million for the year. Passenger cars were down 65 per cent to 56,600, compared with 161,200 a year earlier.

The container and terminal division saw a 6.6 per cent fall in revenues for the six months, as supply chains were disruption by Covid-19. Over the year to July 25th, container freight volumes were 10.5 per cent lower at 178,300 20-foot equivalent units, with units handled at the Dublin and Belfast terminals down 13.6 per cent year on year to 160,100 lifts.

In the year to July 25th, Irish Ferries carried 68,900 cars, down 67.2 per cent year on year, with roll-on, roll-off freight down 1.1 per cent to 173,500.

In a statement, ICG said a key challenge of the pandemic had been maintaining shipping schedules, which had been critical to the supply chain on and off the island of Ireland for food, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and a high level of e-commerce goods. The ferries had also supported essential passenger travel, as the airlines cut back on scheduled flights.

Travel restrictions

“While we have been successful in meeting this challenge, the continuation of travel restrictions throughout our peak summer season has had a material impact on our passenger carryings on ICG’s Irish Ferries services,” the group said.

“We have raised our concerns with the Irish Government on the current policy of asking people from Britain who visit Ireland to self-isolate for two weeks, while allowing unrestricted transit via Northern Ireland. We believe this is clearly anomalous and puts the retention of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain at risk.”

ICG said its Irish Ferries subsidiary Dublin Ferryport Terminal has successfully won the public tender to operate a new container depot at the new Dublin Inland Port, signing a 20-year lease.

The new facility, located near Dublin Airport, will be used for the remote storage, maintenance and upgrade of empty container boxes. Civil works are expected to commence in August, and the facility is scheduled to become operational during 2021.