Irish Ferries’ passenger numbers slump 60% due to Covid-19 restrictions

Ferry company’s owner, Irish Continental Group, has cancelled an order with German shipmaker FSG for a new vessel

People gathering at Poolbeg Lighthouse to watch the newly commissioned Irish Ferries ship WB Yeats arrive into Dublin Port in 2019. ICG has cancelled an order for a second vessel with the German shipyard that built WB Yeats.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

People gathering at Poolbeg Lighthouse to watch the newly commissioned Irish Ferries ship WB Yeats arrive into Dublin Port in 2019. ICG has cancelled an order for a second vessel with the German shipyard that built WB Yeats. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Irish Continental Group (ICG), the owner of Irish Ferries, said its passenger numbers have slumped 60 per cent so far this year due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The company also said in a trading statement that it has cancelled an order with shipmaker Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) to build a new vessel, after the German company filed for protection from its creditors in April.

ICG, led by chief executive Eamonn Rothwell, said that it has written to the Government arguing that a requirement that people travelling to the State should self-isolate for 14 days is not consistent in the Common Travel Area with the UK government’s position that no such measures be taken by passengers travelling from the Republic to Britain.

“There is nothing to stop people from Britain visiting Ireland by transiting via Northern Ireland without the requirement to self-isolate, which is clearly anomalous,” ICG said.

While ICG said that its freight business has remained relatively robust during the coronavirus pandemic, it is currently unable to estimate the full-year financial impact of the fall-off in passenger revenue. “The severity of this reduction in passenger revenue is dependent on the duration and nature of travel restrictions, particularly over the peak summer season,” it said.

Roll-on, roll-off freight volumes have fallen 4 per cent in the year to June 6th, while container volumes have dropped 13 per cent.

“ICG has been one of the key freight providers into and out of Ireland during the shutdown, with particular spikes for food retail but other areas such as e-commerce sales are likely to have supported demand despite the closure of so many industries including the construction sector,” said Goodbody Stockbrokers analyst Patrick O’Donnell. “In our view, the outlook remains strong for freight as the economy continues to open up.”

The termination of the FSG ship order comes less than two years after the German shipmaker created a major headache for ICG. Delays in 2018 in the delivery of a new vessel, called WB Yeats, from FSG led to the cancellation of thousands of Irish Ferries bookings that summer, with about 30,000 passengers affected.

ICG had paid a 20 per cent deposit - equivalent to €33 million - on the second ferry, with the remainder due on the delivery of the vessel. “This deposit was protected by third-party guarantees and has now been returned to ICG,” the company said.