Higher fuel costs led to a drop in profits at Irish Ferries in 2017.

Earnings [EBITDA] fell by 4.8% to €67.3 million primarily due to increased fuel costs of €5.2 million.

However, EBIT rose by 48.8% to €77.8 million, mainly due to the sale of the vessel MV Kaitaki for a pre-tax profit of €28.7 million, parent company Irish Continental Group reported.

Total group profits came in at €81 million based on a 3% rise in revenues to €335.1 million.

Irish Ferries’ carryings performed strongly during the year, with a 2.4% rise year-on-year to 424,000 cars carried.

The total sea passenger market – car, coach and foot passengers – to and from Ireland rose by 1% on 2016 to a total of 3.13 million passengers, while the all-island market increased by 1.9%.

Irish Ferries’ passenger numbers went up by 1.7% to 1.65 million.

In the first half of the year, Irish Ferries passenger volumes grew by 1.7% and in the second half of the year, which is seasonally more significant, the rise in passengers was 1.6%.

The group agreed finance facilities together with cash from operations to be used to support long-term investment, including €309 million contracts for the delivery of two new cruise ferries, W.B. Yeats in June 2018 and a second vessel in 2020.

Irish Continental chairman John McGuckian said: In the period from 1 January 2018 to 3 March 2018, car and passenger volumes have benefited from additional high speed ferry sailings.

“Irish Ferries carried 35,600 cars up 9.1% while the number of passengers carried increased to 135,500 passengers, up 4.5%, compared with the same period last year.

“Due to prolonged bad weather in the period up to 3 March 2018 conventional sailings decreased 9% year on year.

“World fuel prices have strengthened over the last number of months offset by the positive benefit from a weaker US dollar. Overall euro fuel costs remain at manageable levels with our fuel surcharge mechanisms remaining in place.”

Addressing Brexit, he said: “Despite the uncertainty around the implications of the UK government triggering Article 50 of the EU Treaty in March 2017, the economic outlook in our sphere of operations continues to improve.”

McGuckian added: “We look forward to another year of volume growth in our markets of operation.

“The group is also set to benefit this year from the introduction of the new cruise ferry MV W.B. Yeats in the summer of 2018 which will bring additional earnings potential for the group.”

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