Feasibility of New RoRo / RoPax Services between Ireland and Continental Europe

New service case study

Gerry Trant, Nautical Enterprise Centre Ltd.

This study, on the feasibility of new direct RoRo services between Ireland and Continental Europe, is carried out against a backdrop of thriving ferry and trucking services via the British Land Bridge. Approximately 90% of RoRo cargo movements with Continental Europe use the British Land Bridge network, which serves Ireland well by providing a very competitive and wide choice of services with over 30 sailings per day in either direction across the Irish Sea and considerably more across the English Channel. There are, however, forces at play that are putting the dominance of Land Bridge services under considerable pressure. The unit costs of Land Bridge deliveries to / from Continental Europe are relatively high, which reduces the competitiveness and geographical range of Irish exports and imports. Also, the effectiveness of long haul road freight is being progressively reduced by ever-increasing road congestion, safety regulations, weekend driving restrictions and restrictions on driving hours. 

The most powerful influence on Land Bridge services is the European transport policy, which is focused on curtailing long-haul road freight for reasons that are generally accepte
d:

  Road freight is growing rapidly and is contributing excessively to road congestion;
  Environmental damage from exhaust emissions has to be reduced;
  Road freight makes minimal contributions to infrastructures, unlike maritime freight that pays full commercial prices for its infrastructures;
  Road freight that transits intermediary states is generally viewed as an intolerable nuisance.

The question naturally arises – would direct RoRo / RoPax services be competitive with British Land Bridge services? The basic competitiveness issue is addressed in Chapter 4. The answer, of course, is conditional; it depends on the route, the ship and the technologies deployed. The “ship” and operational technologies are examined at some length in Chapter 3.

Given the most appropriate ship and “best in class” technologies, would a new direct RoRo service be competitive? This question is addressed by examining a specific case in some depth in Chapter 5. The study is concluded with Conclusions and Recommendations in Chapter 7, which indicate that a new direct RoRo service would be a major undertaking with some outstanding potential benefits and would be fraught with risk.