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Ferry operators have attributed the much publicised disruption on the route between Calais and Dover to a slip in passenger numbers.
The number of passengers who travelled on the 75 ferry routes in 2015 was 38.9 million, a drop of 0.6% on 2014. However, the number of cars that travelled on that route was up 1.3% to 8.61m.
Discover Ferries insisted that despite the drop, the number of passengers was still 800,000 up on the 38.1m who travelled in 2013.
The total passengers carried by P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways on routes to Calais and Dunkirk were down by 2.2% last year from 13.2million in 2014 to 13.01m in 2015.
Ferry routes to domestic destinations such as the Isle of Wight, Isles of Scilly, Isle of Man, Channel Isles and Scottish Islands were the top performing sector in 2015, with the total number of cars travelling up 4.5% to 3.69. Passenger numbers were also up by nearly 0.4% to 16m.
Isle of Wight ferry routes carried 1.2% more passengers than in 2014, with figures reaching 8.74m.
The number of cars travelling on the North Sea ferry routes run by Stena, DFDS and P&O Ferries increased by 3.9% to 445,000 in 2015, however the same number of passengers (2.18m) travelled.
Passengers on the three Irish operators of Irish Ferries, Stena Irish Sea and P&O Ferries were marginally down by 1.9% from 4.87m in 2014 to 4.78m in 2015.
Discover Ferries’ director Bill Gibbons said: “The 2015 figures show the ferry industry is resilient and adaptable. Domestic ferry routes carried nearly 16 million passengers – their best year since 2011 and despite the summer issues at Calais last year P&O Ferries’ and DFDS operators adapted their capacity and sailings to great effect, and other continental ferry operators took up any car customers who were able to re-route.
“In perspective, ferry sailings to the continent were down 8.5%, but passenger numbers in this sector only fell by 1%.”
Gibbons said other challenges included the government’s introduction of exit checks.
He added: “We expect a further surge in customer interest when the industry comes together again to promote National Ferry Fortnight (March 5-19) with offers to appeal to ferry first timers, and those trying a new ferry route with their car for the first time.”
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